Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Devil's Advocacy

Herman Cain says, once again, that he didn't do it (but that he's "reassessing" his presidential candidacy [hat tip -- Christy Waters]).

And hey, who knows? Maybe this really is an orchestrated smear campaign against a guy who doesn't deserve it.

But, I'd like to take one component of that argument and aim it in the other direction. I'll grab said component from The Other McCain, because linking to him always pays for itself in added traffic, and because he's a fair example of how that component normally plays.

McCain quotes ABC News on the latest accuser, Ginger White:

Ginger White ... has liens and civil judgments in Kentucky and Georgia dating back to 1994.

Eleven of those liens have been filed since 2009, with nine in 2011. The owners of her apartment complex in Dunwoody, Georgia have sued her for non-payment of rent nearly every month since the beginning of the year.

And that seems to be typical of Cain's accusers -- a history of financial problems, marital problems and even prior or subsequent sexual harassment claims.

It looks pretty bad, doesn't it? It's easy to conclude that Cain's accusers are just habitual gold-diggers.


Just as predators in the wild kingdom look for the limping gazelle, human sexual predators look for the vulnerable woman.

The high school girl who gets sexually abused by a teacher isn't usually the head cheerleader or the student body president. She's the insecure girl without a lot of friends. Maybe she's a little overweight and doesn't feel attractive. Maybe she's only got one parent at home and is left to her own devices most evenings. Maybe she just had a bad breakup with her first boyfriend. Whatever it is, there's some niche in her armor that the adult can exploit.

Is it really any different in adulthood? The adult (non-murderous -- those look for different kinds of vulnerability) sexual predator doesn't go after the financially secure woman in a happy marriage. He goes after the woman with financial problems and an unsatisfactory love life, precisely because she seems like the easiest target to reach and manipulate. She's looking for a job; he can hire her. She's behind on the rent; he can help out. She's got no one occupying her bed; he wants to.

If Herman Cain is a sexual harasser and philanderer, I'd expect the women he's been involved with to look ... well ... exactly like his accusers.

But of course, if he is not a sexual abuser or philanderer, I'd expect the women accusing him to look like that too. Sexual predators aren't the only kind out there. Political predators hunt the same kind of game.

Cain may be a predator. Or he may be prey. Either way, he's done.

I Won't Stand in Your Way by Stray Cats on Grooveshark

Photo of Herman Cain by Gage Skidmore

Monday, November 28, 2011

QotD: Barney Frank

On his retirement from Congress and his plans for the future (via MSNBC):

I will neither be a lobbyist nor a historian .... One of the advantages to me of not running for office is I don't even have to try to pretend to be nice to people I don't like ... and the notion of being a lobbyist, and having to go and try to be nice to people I don't like -- it would be ridiculous.

To be fair, he's never been very well-known for trying to pretend to be nice to people he didn't like while in office. Which is one of his few redeeming qualities (but not the only one).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Moving and Winterizing ...

Like I said, I do not live in a tent ... but I sleep in one a lot. The hard ground seems to be better for my back, elevating my feet is supposed to help with both that and diabetic neuropathy, and I just plain enjoy it. I've slept outside all but a few nights for the last couple of months now.

But, it's getting colder -- below freezing tonight, according to the forecast, with possible snow next week. Soooo ...

Today I moved the tent to a gentler slope. The previous placement wasn't comfortable, as I tended to slide downhill while sleeping. The new placement has a gentler slope, and a more or less body-width plateau across the the back of the tent, so that I can sleep level when I want to.

The new position is also better sheltered from north winds by a wooden fence and a neighboring house, closer to my own door so I don't have to schlep through as many feet of bad weather 'twixt house and tent, and has the door facing south instead of north now.

While I was at it, I cut up an old tarp to create an extra layer of ground cloth. The rest of the tarp is available, if need be, to set up as a lean-to on the north side for even more wind breakage.

I used most of a can of water-proofing spray on the tent a couple of weeks ago, and even though there's been a good bit of rain I've had very little in the way of moisture problems since (I may do some seam-taping for good measure). The new arrangement should be even better -- the base of the tent on the uphill side is flush against a wooden fence footer that should deflect any water flow along the ground, and I also realized the rain fly was not symmetric and that I had it on backward; fixing that reduced rain exposure through a "window" screen.

My sleeping rig is a conventional temperate weather bag -- I'm looking for a good deal on a "mummy" style bag rated for zero fahrenheit and below -- atop a foam rubber mat and a horse blanket, and topped off with a World War II wool GI blanket, one more blanket and an old (not goose-down, unfortunately) quilt. Oh, and a couple of comfy pillows. I figure I'm good down into the teens if necessary.

I've got a battery-powered LED "lantern" and a flashlight (for more focused reading light) hanging from one of the gear loft cords. In the gear loft and on an old milk crate (I'm looking for a small waterproof storage box, or better yet an old military foot locker as a replacement) I keep another flashlight, an electronic cigarette, an alarm clock and some books. I've got a rag rug inside the doorway, and plan to buy a rubber doormat for outside next time I'm out at the cheap stores.

If I can find the right "mummy" bag (or even if not, probably), I think I'm set for my first all-winter sleeping-out attempt. Not "living" outside. I still spend days and evenings in the house. I'm not a hermit, and I'm not really interested in the problems involved with outdoor toilet and shower facilities and such. Been there, done that, for extended periods of time (Saudi Arabia, among other places). I've also camped out for one or two nights at a time in temperatures as low as 20 degrees below zero fahrenheit, but I haven't done so for extended periods, so this will be a new experience.

[Brief Update, 11/29/11: OK, I've slept this arrangement two nights now, in temperatures down to 32 fahrenheit and through periods of steady, sometimes heavy, rain. "Snug as a bug in a rug" -- dry, warm and comfortable. I still want a mummy bag and possibly some cheap "emergency blankets" to hang as extra tent insulation for the next stage of reduced temperatures, but in general I'm very happy with the setup.]

[Thrift Store Bonus Score, 12/01/11: Coleman mummy bag, $11.25 ($14.99, but it was 25% off night). Not sure (I believe it's an older model), but I think it's the equivalent of their Everglades 10-30 fahrenheit bag. I'm still keeping an eye out for a 0 degree bag, but this should do nicely for now.]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why Gingrich's Immigration Statement was a Smart Move

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gestures while speaking at the First Coast Tea Party town hall meeting at Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Florida November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Daron Dean (UNITED STATES - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS)
I don't agree with former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich on immigration -- hey, I'm an anarchist and he's still far too hung up on an issue that even the extremely statist US Constitution explicitly bars the federal government from any involvement in.

But: The polls say that majorities agree with him on, and sympathize with immigrants on, most of the positions he articulated in Tuesday's Republican presidential debate.

And the ones that don't have majority support at least have plurality support. Apply that to a multi-candidate race in which most of the candidates are going against those majorities and pluralities, and Gingrich is sitting pretty.

Republicans and Democrats alike have waited hand and foot on Know-Nothing voters for years now, giving them virtually everything they've demanded, from East German style border fences to attempted conscription of business owners as unpaid ICE agents ("E-Verify") to presidential sentence commutations for dirty cops who cover up attempted murder.

Hell, President Obama is on pace to deport more immigrants in his first term than George W. Bush did in his entire two-term administration.

The only two major-party presidential candidates who seem interested in the majorities and pluralities that favor moving away from totalitarianism and toward at least mild pro-freedom reform on the issue of immigration are Newt Gingrich and Texas governor Rick Perry, who has otherwise performed, to put it mildly, in a less than stellar manner.

Will the issue hurt or help Gingrich in the Iowa caucus? The conventional wisdom seems to be that it will hurt him. I suspect otherwise.

Iowa farmers and business owners are probably more likely than "man on the street" to actually show up on caucus day. They know that their enterprises' profitability depends to a non-trivial degree on the state's estimated 70,000 "illegal" immigrants. They've seen the devastating effects of Know-Nothingism on the economies of Arizona, Alabama and Georgia. And all things considered, they'd probably rather make money than lose money. Gingrich is probably picking up votes there.

Here's the debate segment:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Advantage Obama

Now that the "Super Committee" has failed, congresscritters are already talking about ways to get around the $2.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board budget cuts that start kicking in come 2013 if a deal doesn't get done. Anyone remember Gramm-Ruddman-Hollings? Much deficit-cutting sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The difference, if he sticks to his guns, is President Barack Obama, per WaPo:

My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts.

With one pull quote -- again, if he sticks to his guns -- Obama transforms himself into the alpha deficit uber-hawk -- and, more importantly, into the adult in the room, telling Congress that he's not going to rescue them from their own foolishness and that if they can't figure out for themselves how to play nice, their toys will be taken away.

When his Republican opponent attacks him as a budget blocker, all he has to say is "I'm the chief executive. It's Congress that has to legislate. All I can really do is insist that they legislate within their means on pain of veto, and that's exactly what I'm doing. The details are up to them."

When the constituencies -- including his own -- start howling about the coming cuts, all he has to say is "don't talk to me, talk to Congress."

And here's the secret:

When it gets down to the level it's headed toward, the entitlement constituencies are more powerful than the corporate welfare constituencies.

A congresscritter can afford to be Lockheed Martin's bitch and shamelessly whore himself out to K Street with near-impunity ... as long as Grandma's monthly Social Security deposit makes it to the bank.

But if it's one or the other, the grandmas' votes trump the lobbyists' campaign contributions.

It's just that simple.

All Obama has to do is maintain his cool and he'll not only win re-election but get the budget cuts he wants from where he wants them (the insanely bloated "defense" budget).

Algorithmic Exclusion and Bug Report Omission, Up With Which I Shall Not Put

It seems pretty obvious to me that I should be eligible for this Klout Perk:

I'm overweight, need to lose pounds, have health issues, use supplements, and have written about all of these things on Facebook, which Klout appears to track. Heck, I'm even rated an "influencer" on the topic of pizza, which should indicate a food orientation in dire need of SlimFast attention.

I want those shakes.

But I can't seem to find any easy way to say "hey, Klout, you're making a mistake here."

So I'm blogging about it. That'll show'em.

Dumb Idea of the Day

In today's Wall Street Journal, Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen call on US President Barack Obama to forgo a re-election campaign and step aside in favor of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Their arguments for the proposition are preposterous. Let's have a look.

When Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson accepted the reality that they could not effectively govern the nation if they sought re-election to the White House, both men took the moral high ground and decided against running for a new term as president. President Obama is facing a similar reality—and he must reach the same conclusion.

Neither Truman nor Johnson stepped down because they anticipated an inability to "effectively govern" if re-elected. Both withdrew their re-election bids only after it became clear that they had a tough row to hoe to get re-elected, and possibly even to get re-nominated.

Truman withdrew after Estes Kefauver beat him in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, and after Dwight D. Eisenhower won the Republican primary in that same state as a write-in candidate. At that point, re-nomination seemed difficult and general election victory impossible. So he got out.

Johnson withdrew after Eugene McCarthy polled 42% to Johnson's 49% in New Hampshire, and moreover, due to better organization in that state, captured 20 of the its 24 convention delegates, and after Robert F. Kennedy entered the ring. Running weak as an incumbent versus an insurgent in the Granite State, LBJ knew damn well that the popular brother of a popular, recently assassinated president would clean his clock in the nomination campaign. So he got out.

As much as I like to think that Darcy Richardson -- who, as it happens, was Eugene McCarthy's 1988 campaign manager (and for whom I hope to do a little volunteer campaign work) -- can give Obama a New Hampshire surprise, it's premature to suggest that Obama is anything short of unstoppable for re-nomination absent several things that haven't happened yet.

Truman and LBJ bowed out after opponents of stature made the first move. Caddell and Schoen are asking Obama to get on his knees for Hillary Clinton without requiring her to first kick him in the nuts.

Caddell and Schoen:

President Obama is now neck and neck with a generic Republican challenger in the latest Real Clear Politics 2012 General Election Average (43.8%-43.%).

An interesting number, except for one thing: "Generic Republican Challenger" isn't on any GOP primary ballot. In polls, voters tend to put the face of their preferred candidate on "Generic Republican Challenger," and are therefore more prone to support him or her. But the actual candidate will be a real person, and there's a very good chance that that real person will not look anything like most voters' imaginary "Generic Republican Challenger." The real candidate will alienate, or at least fail to energize/mobilize, a number of people who indicated an intent to vote generic Republican.

At this point in time, it doesn't look like the GOP is set to nominate anyone who might seriously contest the 2012 presidential election.

Truman especially, but also LBJ, bowed out in the face of likely general election defeat if re-nominated. Caddell and Schoen are asking Obama to forgo likely victory, not likely defeat.

Caddell and Schoen:

He should step aside for the one candidate who would become, by acclamation, the nominee of the Democratic Party: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

I don't know what planet Caddell and Schoen live on, but the idea that Clinton -- who lost the 2008 Democratic primaries to, um, Barack Obama -- could become the Democratic nominee "by acclamation" or anything close on this planet is just plain silly.

The same party fragmentations that hurt Obama -- the chasm between the Democratic Party's "left" and "right" wings -- are multiplied with respect to Clinton, who has a much longer and more distinquished record as a foreign policy hawk, a waffling "centrist," and a backroom dirty-dealer. She was unable to defeat the junior US Senator from Illinois in 2008, but now she'd be nominated by acclamation to replace that same guy, now the sitting President of the United States? Put down the crack pipe.

Obama standing aside for Clinton may not be dumbest political idea I've ever heard, but it certainly makes the short list.

Read more about this dumb idea at memeorandum.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Super Committee Crashing and Burning!

Did anyone not expect this?

The supercommittee last met Nov. 1 – three weeks ago! It was a public hearing featuring a history lesson, “Overview of Previous Debt Proposals,” with Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles, Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin. The last PRIVATE meeting was Oct. 26. You might as well stop reading right there: The 12 members (6 House, 6 Senate; 6 R, 6 D) were never going to strike a bargain, grand or otherwise, if they weren’t talking to each other. Yes, we get that real deal-making occurs in small groups. But there never WAS a functioning supercommittee: There was Republican posturing and Democratic posturing, with some side conversations across the aisle.

(L-R) Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici, co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force, arrive to testify before the U.S. Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 1, 2011. The bipartisan congressional committee formed to address the deficit issue and known in Washington as the "super committee" needs to break an impasse between Republicans and Democrats to reach a deal by November 23 to reduce the U.S. budget deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)
The "Super Committee" was never a serious body.

How do I know this? Look at its real name: The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

"Deficit reduction" is a term that has no legitimate meaning in a political context.

A startup business burning through investor capital for a few years as it rolls out its product or service, competes for market share and ramps up toward profitability projects "deficit reductions."

A 220-odd-year-old monopoly government isn't a business startup trying out a new product or service and hoping people like it and buy it. It has a captive market and great latitude as to which products and services it will force people buy and how much it will charge them (collecting at gunpoint if necessary) for those products and services.

In other words, a 220-year-old monopoly government has no excuse -- save, perhaps, unexpected war -- for failing to balance the checkbook in any given year, let alone for decades at a time.

The way to "reduce the deficit" is to get rid of it -- to stop spending more than you can reasonably expect to take in, not to appoint a "Super Committee" to come up with pie-in-the-sky plans that call for your successors to eventually stop spending more than they take in. This is especially urgent when you're past the point where said "Super Committee" can even come up with believable future sky pie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let Me Reiterate

Politicians who talk about "deficit reduction" are not, to co-opt one of the commentariat's favorite terms, serious, nor should they be taken seriously.

That is, when some yahoo presidential candidate is asked to address the issue of the US government's debt and his plan goes something like "right now, the US government spends a LOT more than it takes in each year; elect me, and by the end of my second term eight years from now, it will only be spending a LITTLE more than it takes in each year," you should scratch him or her off your list of serious applicants for the job (if you feel a need to fill the job in the first place; I don't).

The very first element of addressing the issue of the US government's debt is either abolishing the government or balancing the government's budget from here on out, and either repudiating the government's current debt or building debt service that actually reduces the principal into that balanced budget.

I'm all for, and all about, abolition/repudiation. Those who claim not to be need to quit fucking around and prove it. At 235 years, the United States of America is not a startup that needs some time to work its way into profitability. It fancies itself a going concern. And a going concern cannot spend more than it takes in in perpetuity.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A revolutionary situation?

After an NYPD riot cleared Tiananmen ... er, Tahrir ... er, Zuccotti Park this morning, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Lucy Billings issued a restraining order clearly barring New York mayor Michael Bloomberg from ordering NYPD to prevent the protesters' return.

Bloomberg is ignoring the order "while officials [go] to court to seek 'clarification.'"

Now that he's openly declared himself dictator of New York, I suggest that the protesters might want to forget Zuccotti Park and instead march on City Hall and Gracie Mansion to remove Bloomberg from power, by any means necessary, up to and including stretching the little bastard's neck.

h/t -- Glenn Greenwald

[Update: Yes, this post was mainly intended as Gene bait. Alas, he hit Carson's line instead]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Piling On (the Toppings)

As a presidential candidate, Herman Cain has frequently cited his experience as CEO of Godfather's Pizza, a franchise he turned around into profitability for Pillsbury, then headed up a buyout of and took independent.

So, the question had to come up sooner or later: Is Godfather's pizza any good?

ABC's Lauren Torrisi reviews it:

The cheese sticks were pretty good. Put cheese on something that tastes like it has been soaking overnight in butter and I'm game. Sprinkle some dried oregano on it and you've upgraded it to "fancy" fast food. Then, dip it in marinara sauce and you've got yourself a well-rounded meal. I was happy.

The "Humble" pie wasn’t as fantastic. I was hoping that their signature pizza would have more pizzazz.

Time for a second opinion. Mine.

Like Torrisi, I visited a convenience store Godfather's outlet -- a Huck's on the corner of I-170 and Natural Bridge just outside St. Louis ... a few minutes west of the main setting for this Nelly ditty (I live between the two points):

King's Highway by Nelly on Grooveshark

So anyway, I think more of the pizza than Torrisi does, but I don't go for the Humble Pie. If you're looking for pizzazz, the Godfather's pizza you want to order is the "Hot Stuff" -- pepperoni, beef, Italian sausage, jalapenos and onions. I usually add black olives to that, and get generous with the crushed red pepper. You want pizzazz? This will take the roof right off your mouth, but there's flavor in addition to just plain heat.

The standard Godfather's crust is roughly the equivalent of Pizza Hut's "hand-tossed," and I do mean roughly: Unlike the Pizza Hut version, it actually has, um, flavor. As Torrisi mentions with respect to the breadsticks, it's a sort of buttery flavor.

Godfather's is generous with the cheese and the toppings, too. The "mini" size is pretty much a full meal even for a big eater like me.

I live within a quick hop of (about the same distance as from Godfather's) Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, Cecil Whittaker's, Papa John's, et. al, and within the delivery areas of Domino's and Imo's, and there are some very good places within a reasonably close drive (Talayna's is the best, but also Racanelli's and Frank & Helen's and Bada-Bing).

But when I'm jonesing for a quick, convenient pizza (as opposed to one of the high-end sit-down experiences), I don't think twice -- Godfather's is my go-to joint. They're fast, they're courteous, they're inexpensive and they hands-down make the best pizza for anything like the price. The kids seem to like it too.

I still don't vote. If I voted, I still wouldn't vote Republican. And if I voted Republican, I still wouldn't vote for Cain. But I won't put down the man's pizza.

Godfather Theme by Godfather on Grooveshark

Nobody Knows Teh Intarweb Troubles I've Seen ...

Naturally my network setup picked Sunday afternoon to go berserk on me.

No Intarweb -- my Belkin F5D8236-4 v.3 router had a flashing light indicating that it couldn't talk to the modem correctly.

When I ran Ethernet directly to the modem from my Mac, no dice. But the lights on the modem indicated that the modem itself was copacetic with Teh Intarweb.

Conclusion: The modem's Ethernet port was finally done. This was not a surprise, as I'd had a few quick outages that had been "fixed" after unplugging/replugging/jiggiling cable before (I had also recently replaced the cable, so I knew it wasn't the cable itself).

So, off to Micro Center to buy a new modem. I selected the Zoom 5241, the cheapest model they had. I've used Zoom products for years and they've always delivered.

That was not my mistake. My mistake was in selecting an "open-box return" -- one that a customer had returned while it was still in warranty, that was priced $12 below new -- and buying late on a Sunday right before the store closed.

I've purchased a number of "open-box return" items, up to and including full computer systems, from Micro Center. They've always been good deals, no problems. The only difference between them and new is that there's a little less warranty time left.

But this time, I think what happened is, the people bought the modem, had a problem with it, assumed the problem was their incompetence or some obscure compatibility issue and not a bad modem, and returned it ... and Micro Center likewise assumed the item was just fine, and probably didn't have the facilities to rigorously test it in any case.

Took the Zoom home, plugged it in, let my ISP know the new MAC address, everything looked peachy ... except that the modem would theoretically connect to Teh Intarweb, then drop as soon as any attempt to start using the connection was made, or after a minute or so even if no data transfer was attempted.

After several re-sets, etc., the ISP (Charter) tech support gal, who had been wonderful, told me it might be my coax or something, and that they'd be glad to run out with a new modem and check everything out. But not, of course, on a Sunday evening.

So, I tested the coax theory by running different coax into the modem. No difference. And when I plugged the old modem back in, it appeared to have a sustained Intarweb connection, but of course still couldn't talk with the router.

Conclusion: Defective Zoom. I'm not complaining -- it happens, and if I wanted near-100% reliability I should have just gone new instead of "open-box return."

So, Micro Center is closed by now. Off to Wally World, where I picked up a Motorola Surfboard SB5101U.

Worked great. Called Charter with the new MAC, and bam, I was on Teh Intarweb ... but only direct from my Mac to the new modem via Ethernet. The router talked to the modem just fine, but couldn't work an Intarweb connection through it. No Xbox Live or Netflix for the family. Sucks to be them.

Anyway, good enough for the moment. I did what I could to catch up with work (Sunday is my Monday) and went to bed.

This morning I re-set the router to factory defaults and rebuilt the home network from scratch, and everything's working like a charm. My Mac and Liam's Windoze machine are connected by Ethernet, Daniel's laptop and Xbox and Liam's Wii by Wifi. Huzzah. All that's left is to return the Zoom to Micro Center for a refund and the original modem to Charter so they can stop charging me $3 a month to lease it.

You know, 15 years ago, this little evolution would probably have constituted the practical application exam for "Certified Network Engineer."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Not Exactly "Woman on the Street" Reaction, But ...

Tamara does her best not to pay any attention to the Republican primaries, but she happened to be looking over my shoulder here on the blog, and saw this picture by Gage Skidmore. Her immediate response: "He looks like he's about to tell a lie."

You Lied To Me Before by Paranoiacs on Grooveshark

Just sayin' ...

Some Thoughts on the Libertarian Party's 2012 Presidential Nomination

Several candidates have announced for the Libertarian Party's 2012 presidential nomination. Fewer are actually actively campaigning for it, and fewer still are "serious candidates."

At this point, I'd identify those who make it through my exclusionary sieve (declared, and active, and serious, i.e. not Teh Krazy and with any real shot at all) as, in alphabetical order:

Gary and Still make that cut hanging by their fingernails. Gary's debate performances haven't been as impressive as his record, and Still doesn't seem to even have a campaign web site yet (or maybe he does ... but I haven't found it, and a campaign site should be easy to find) [correction in comments] is centering his candidacy around monetary policy views which aren't in the Libertarian Party's version of mainstream. Nonetheless, both of them have appeared at one or more candidate forums, and neither of them is a dilettante or a loon.

If I were to make an endorsement (I don't plan to), and if I were to base that endorsement on ideology, it would be a tie between Gary and Wrights. If I based an endorsement on factors other than ideology, Wrights would be the clear winner for several reasons, among them that I have worked with him on a daily basis for a decade now and consider him nothing less than a brother. And, in fact, by way of disclosure, I am very informally advising his campaign on some "nuts and bolts" matters (not the only campaign I'm working with at the moment, but the only Libertarian presidential campaign I'm working with at the moment).

At this point, it looks like a Harris-Wrights race, and it looks like Harris is setting the pace ... but in the Libertarian Party things are, well, different. The presidential nomination contest is usually actually settled in a knockdown-dragout on the convention floor, sometimes with candidates announcing as little as a few weeks before that convention (and in one case, 1984, the candidate flying in in mid-convention after getting a phone call asking him to run) [note: See comments -- that was actually the same guy, but for veep in 1976; my bad]. In 2004, the distant third-place candidate going into the convention came out of that convention as the nominee. And None of the Above -- meaning NO candidate is nominated -- is an option. So I wouldn't advise placing any bets just yet.

Why is Harris setting the pace?

Well, Wrights is running a campaign that by "old LP" standards ain't too shabby at all -- he's contacting likely delegates, addressing state conventions, making financial contributions to state parties for their ballot access efforts, etc.

Harris, though, is definitely meeting the newer ground game standards -- more early direct mail, robocalls, actual professional phone polling, live online forums, etc. That translates into an advantage that's only partially mitigated by the fact that his positions are slightly out of phase with the Libertarian Party's direction. Specifically, he's very Ron Paulish, and the only one who gets away with being very Ron Paulish in the LP is Ron Paul himself.

If the field stays as it is, my guess is that it's going to come down to which one of these two puts the best convention floor team together. But, of course, the field may not stay as it is -- a "big name" (and you'd be surprised what qualifies as a "big name" in the LP) might jump in at the last minute, or even a smaller name might throw hat in ring in the next month or so.

So, anyway, here's a completely non-scientific Internet poll if you'd like to express your preference:

The Worst Threats to Data Security ...

... come from governments.

Especially the US government:

[A] federal judge today ordered Twitter to turn over private information related to the accounts of three of its users as part of the ongoing WikiLeaks probe.

No warrant, no cited probable cause, just a fishing expedition versus an Icelandic MP, a Dutch volunteer, and an American programmer.

Organizations which collected private/sensitive information on their customers owe it to those customers -- and to themselves -- to offshore their servers and, as much as possible, their entire operations, in more privacy-friendly states.

Or, if possible, to engineer things such that they don't have access to most of that data themselves, and therefore can't be pressured into turning it over.

Orwell's INGSOC operatives were pikers compared to today's nation-states. All the Thought Police had were omnipresent telescreens and audio bugs. In the real world, a great deal of our information is almost automatically stored in structures that make surveilling us much easier than Orwell ever imagined. Living in the US today is like living in Bentham's Panopticon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mel Hancock, 1929-2011

I'm not absolutely sure -- they say memory is the first thing to go -- but Mel Hancock was probably the last Republican I ever voted for for public office. He was certainly one of only a few. And he's absolutely the man who (unintentionally) convinced me that voting Republican will never, ever, ever lead to smaller government.

Among the good things I can say about Mel is that before he ever went to Congress, he wrote and promoted the Hancock Amendment, which made it harder for Missouri's various governments to raise taxes (when they abide by it -- they often don't). As a volunteer, I gathered petition signatures for a strengthened version of the amendment (that closed loopholes cities and the state were using to get around its intent) and handed those signatures to Mel myself.

Another good thing I can say about Mel is that he promised to term-limit himself and, unlike many other congresscritters, actually kept that promise. He served four terms in the US House of Representatives and then went home.

How did he convince me of the futility of looking to the GOP for smaller government?

That happened during the 1995-96 dust-up over Medicare that resulted in a short "government shutdown." At the time, I lived in Mel's congressional district, Missouri's 7th, and usually attended meetings of "The Breakfast Club," a Saturday morning conservative meetup at a local restaurant.

At this particular meeting, Mel was the guest speaker, and spent his time (while we sat eating our ham and eggs and drinking our coffee) bragging on the Republican Party and how they were standing up to Bill Clinton to cut the size and cost of government.

Then he left the restaurant's banquet room for a press conference in its lobby, where I listened to him tell a journalist that the GOP wasn't cutting Medicare, just prudently "limiting its growth."

If he'd been intentionally lying with one or the other of those statements, I might have written off Mel Hancock alone, and not the whole Republican Party.

But I didn't think he was lying. He really believed both statements. He had fallen into Doublethink: "[T]he act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct."

As I looked at similar statements of other Republican politicians, and listened to or read the same words from various Republican pundits, I became convinced that this Doublethink was viral and epidemic in the GOP. They really thought -- and if you look at the "deficit reduction plans" of most of this year's crop of GOP presidential candidates they obviously still think -- that "limiting the growth" of government is the same thing as "reducing the size and cost" of government.

Mel Hancock is probably the guy who did the most to convince me to close the book on the Republican Party for good. And for that, I am more grateful than I have words to express.

Mel died last Sunday. He was 82.

I'm Ambivalent

ambivalent \ambivalent\ adj. 1. undecided as to whether or not to take a proposed course of action; having feelings both for and against the proposed action.

Every year, around Armistice Day*, someone or another almost always forwards me a link to some collection of "special deals, discounts and freebies for veterans."

On the one hand, I'm an obsessive deal hunter. I hate paying MSRP for anything. I shop at thrift stores. I use coupons and Groupons and I watch for sales, oh my.

On the other hand ...

When I was in boot camp, one never said "thank you" to a drill instructor. If you made that mistake he'd curtly inform you (while you did bends and thrusts, pushups and so forth for your gall and temerity) that he neither needed nor wanted your gratitude. The Marine Corps thanked him twice a month with a paycheck.

The Marine Corps thanked me with a (taxpayer-funded) paycheck, too. And when I was on duty, it paid for my food, clothing, lodging, travel and medical care. I got to see a good chunk of America -- from California to Quantico, Minnesota to Mississippi, Nevada to North Carolina -- and other parts of the world as well, on the taxpayer dime.

It bothers me when people who earn their living from voluntary exchange feel the need to say "thank you for your service" when it was my pleasure and on their dime, whether they wanted to buy it or not.

It bothers me even more that some business owners go out of their way to reward me for long-past "service" in the form of going to far-off, exotic places, meeting exciting, interesting people ... and killing them. Which is the long and short of "military service," either directly or indirectly.

Do they do that once a year for coffee baristas? Or radiologists? How about bookstore clerks?

I like the buffet at Golden Corral and the specials at Applebee's as much as the next guy. But I think I'll probably just pay up. If I deserve any thanks, I already got my share and then some. And if I don't, well, I don't. Either way, this isn't something I want to gravy-train on.

* It's usually called Veterans Day now, but that militates against the spirit of the thing. It was meant to commemorate the long-awaited end of the Great War -- the laying down of arms -- not to honor everyone who ever took up said arms.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"You shouldn't have given Phillip that money"

He had a couple of lines before that, but it wasn't until that one (spoken during a crossfade with the actor unseen) that I realized it's Patrick Fischler playing Paul Larkin in Atlas Shrugged: Part I.

Fischler's been in TV and movies for more than 20 years now, and he's good in a way that I guess is bad for actors who aspire to be headliners: He is the character, so much so that if you notice he's the actor, it comes some time into the role, with an "isn't that the guy who  played ..." [Jimmy Barrett on Mad Men, Phil on Lost] double-take.

Presumably the studios like their lead actors to be of the more instantly recognizable variety, so that the actor, in addition to the plot, is an audience draw. NTTAWWT, and there are definitely exceptions. But I'm thinking that it sucks for Fischler and keeps him off the short list for lead roles in big box office productions precisely because he's so damn good.

Yeah, I waited for the DVD to watch Atlas Shrugged. Missed it on the big screen for various reasons. And after mixed reviews at best -- even from people I'd have expected to love it no matter what -- I was a little spooked. I didn't want to not like this movie.

I shouldn't have worried. It's a fine movie. Not perfect -- no film of a novel as much loved and hated as this one could be, if for no other reason than that we all bring our mental images of the characters to it, and all those images are different, and no production is going to come close to matching all of them -- but well-made, with good choices on how to streamline the complex narrative to film.

Personally, I think the casting was a real strength. It's a mix of "respected working actor, but not someone whose presence is going to overshadow the story" (Fischler, Jon Polito, Michael Lerner, Armin Shimerman, Graham Beckel, Matthew Marsden, Michael O'Keefe ) and "talented relative newcomer" (Taylor Schilling, Edi Gathegi).

Those casting decisions may have been involuntary -- e.g. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie dropping their interest -- but they work. The story is well-crafted enough to carry itself. Throwing major "star power" into one or two roles in a tale with multiple extremely strong characters would have just unbalanced things. It had to be either an all-star cast or a no-star cast. The budget wasn't there for the former, and the filmmakers did a helluva job with the latter.

The film was not a hit at the box office. It only made back a quarter of its budget. But I predict that it will perform strongly over time on DVD (and other retail formats), especially if the other two parts get made and made with equal skill, and that the third part will make good on the budgets of all three films in box office receipts alone. In that respect, it's less like the novel it's based on and more like Ayn Rand's previous work, The Fountainhead, which took several years to become a best-seller.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Romney

If I had to place a bet on the 2012 GOP nomination today, my money would be on Mitt Romney. Perry's senior moment in last night's debate was probably the final nail in that coffin.

As a betting man, that kind of saddens me. If Perry had his act together and got the nod, I might put money on the Republicans next November if I could get a 10-point spread.

With Romney, I won't touch that action. I'd set the Republican Electoral College Over-Under at 90, as follows:

Full value -- 53 electoral votes -- for the near-certain Romney carries: Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Texas and Wyoming.

Half value -- 27 of 54 electoral votes -- for the possibles: Florida, Georgia and South Carolina (Georgia if he picks Gingrich as his running mate, Florida if he picks Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, South Carolina in either case).

... and a 10 electoral vote fudge factor.

Unless there's some kind of major Obama stumble next fall, I'd probably bet the under.

But, of course, things could change between now and Iowa. There's always another surprise just around the corner.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Why Can't It Be Both?

I've still never managed to finish writing a novel myself, but I love coming up with plot elements for them. Here's one that kind of came together in my brain today. Feel free to use it (this blog is Creative Commons licensed -- see the sidebar -- so mi plot es su plot, but I'd greatly appreciate an acknowledgment, or even having a character named after me).

Inspiration one: A BBC story about a planned Russian probe of Phobos, thrown into today's RRND mix by Steve Trinward.

Inspiration two: A comment on said story from Rocky Frisco about old speculations that Phobos is artificial.

Inspiration three: The Wikipedia article on Phobos, which alludes to those speculations and dismisses them, but does allow as to how the moon is at least partially hollow.

So, the plot: Earth explorers eventually reach Phobos and discover that it is both natural and artificial. That is, it is an asteroid that was towed into Mars orbit at some point in the distant past and partially outfitted as a spaceship. Tunnels, living quarters and other cavities were drilled or blasted, including one just under the Stickney crater which was obviously intended as the compartment of a large engine for pushing Phobos through space.

Yes, I realize that so far there's at least some superficial similarity to Greg Bear's Eon, and probably other works as well. Hell, someone may have invented this exact plot before.

But anyway ...

Who built it? Were (are) there Martians or was (is) Mars orbit just a convenient ship construction yard for aliens from elsewhere?

Why wasn't it finished? Was there some sort of problem with it, or perhaps some Mars-surface cataclysm that killed off life there before it could be completed, perhaps in anticipation escaping said cataclysm? Or hey, what if it was actually a working craft before it got there, and was abandoned and stripped (or not stripped?!?) in Mars orbit?

Anyway, run with it if it strikes you as the basis for a good story.

Breaking the Silence

I just can't bear the burden of remaining quiet about this any more. Day after day, as new details have emerged, the weight of that burden has grown.

Therefore, I now choose to lay that burden down, in public, just to set the record straight and put an end to the rumors and whispers.

So, let me state unequivocally: I have never been sexually harassed by Herman Cain.

That is all.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

"State of Nature" My Ass

Shikha Dalmia at Reason:

I think from all of this we can conclude that so far at least the Zuccotti Park experiment is bearing Hobbes out.

Um, no.

First of all, the larger Occupy encampments are nothing like the "state of nature." Sure, there are anarchists involved, but the pathologies of statism, including the internal emergence and external impositions of the political class are very much on display as well.

Secondly, these small islands of relative freedom in seas of surrounding statism are natural attractants to those whom the state itself has generally failed to serve, suppress, or otherwise deal with: The homeless, the mentally ill*, the violent entrepreneurs produced by generations of prohibition, etc.

Occupy has a bigger per capita percentage of "problem children" to deal with than the state does, many of them produced by the state itself.

It's had less than two months to learn how to contend with the problems, while also contending with statism itself; the Westphalian nation-state has had 500 years.

And when it's all said and done, anyone would be hard put to argue that Occupy's doing any worse than the state has.

h/t -- Gary Chartier

* With Szaszian reservations as to the meaning of the term. Read: Those whose mental frame of reference falls outside state-prescribed norms.

If You Collect ClickTrackProfit Badges ...

Here's one for ya:

If you don't collect CTP badges yet, no time like the present to get started (and if you're not even sure what ClickTrackProfit is, feel free to grab my free PDF e-book about it).

Monday, November 07, 2011

I Do Not Live in a Tent ...

... but I often sleep in one, outside, even during the winter. I have back problems, and they seem to be best addressed by sleeping on a hard surface with a slight incline -- like my back yard. Also, I've just always liked camping. Back in my Marine Corps days, I often spent weeks living under canvas, and then went camping in my off-time.

My guess is that close to six months out of the year, depending on weather (I'm pretty good down to single digits fahrenheit, but below zero is a little brisk) I spend part or all of the night sleeping outdoors. The bed in the house is just too soft for comfortable all-night sleeping, although it does get used for other things (IYKWIMAITYD).

Anyway, the previous tent has a couple of years' hard use on it, so a couple of weeks ago I received an early birthday present:

Brief review:

About $25 at Wally-World (Ozark Trail is apparently a store brand). Quite nice!

The last tent almost immediately got a pranged zipper. The zippers on this one are sturdy and seem to be double-stitched around so that stuff doesn't tear.

The last tent required four poles, two for the tent and two skinny flimsy ones, which quickly broke, to arch the rain fly. This one only has the two, very sturdy, main frame poles. Exceptionally easy setup. I went ahead and spent a couple of bucks on heavy-duty pegs instead of using the flimsies that come with cheap tents.

I've already slept out in the thing several nights through hard rain. I never got the last tent properly waterproofed. Haven't had a chance to work this one over with seam sealant and waterproofing spray yet, but it's already more leak- and drip-resistant than the last tent at its best.

The tent has a built-in side pocket and a "gear loft" -- a small net that hangs from four hooks in the ceiling. It could be bigger, but it's sufficient to hold my Android tablet (the tent is parked within range of my wifi router, of course), flashlight, smokes, etc., and I've hung a little LED lantern thingie from the ceiling as well for general lighting.

I always considered the previous tent a temporary thing, but this is looking more like a permanent installation. For obvious reasons I don't plan to store valuable stuff in it, but my sleeping arrangement (vapor barrier mat, sleeping bag, pillows, WWII wool military blanket and an old quilt) leaves plenty of room, I think, for a small trunk or foot locker to store a few books and clothes in, a wind-up alarm clock, little floor rug for sitting and shoes, etc. Once I get those things in place and find a welcome mat and a decent camp stool, I really could almost live there if I wanted to.

Unless, of course, I need to eat or use the bathroom. But I have a cooler I could keep next to it, and it's near my little home-built brick barbecue pit. I will resist the urge to dig an outdoor latrine, though.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Update: Adventures in e-Reading

My little friend (the Velocity Micro Cruz Reader) is still quite friendly, but I wanted to update y'all on a few material changes in how I use it as an e-reader:

- Since I bought the Cruz, I've stopped doing business with Amazon. So far as I know the Kindle app still works just fine ... but I don't use it.

- Also since I bought the Cruz, Borders has gone out of business, so that app became vestigial and I uninstalled it.

- I've never been able to get the Barnes & Noble Nook app to work on the tablet. Never been able to figure out why, either. I'm guessing some fundamental incompatibility, seeing as how that app isn't available in the Cruz-proprietary "market."

But no, the Cruz is not a brick.

- I'm still using FBReaderJ (a fine, free app that I describe in another post) to read books that aren't encumbered by Digital Rights Management nonsense.

- I've installed the Kobo app on both the Cruz and my Mac desktop. As you may remember, Kobo was the company that Borders partnered with to produce e-reader devices.

The Kobo app runs beautifully (better on the tablet than on the Mac, IMO). I've downloaded some of the free books (mostly classics formatted by the Gutenberg Project), and purchased a wonderful short story by Ken MacLeod ("Earth Hour"). Everything -- purchase, download, syncing between reader and desktop, and of course actually reading things) runs smoothly. Highly recommended.

I've elected not to sign up for Kobo's affiliate program, but if you'd like a coupon for 20% off your first purchase from Kobo, send me an email via the contact form, and if they're still running that "tell a friend" thing, I'll send you one.

Note to Anjem Choudary

Go fuck yourself.

Other sites supporting Charlie Hebdo:

Si Vis Pacem
Libertarian [sic] Republican

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Total Dick Moves @ OccupyDC

You know that old Lefty protest chant, "the world is watching?" If it's true, is this really what you want to show them?

The capering, howling authoritarian in black at the beginning, jumping between reporter and prospective interviewees and ordering them to say notheenk, establishes that some kind of internal discipline, official or otherwise, exists and is at least tolerated if not always adhered to. That being the case, some of his co-protesters need to apply said discipline to him. I suggest that a swirlie in the nearest toilet might open the lines of communication in getting a "knock that kind of bullshit off, comrade" message through to him.

I'm sure some will argue the video has been edited to twist context. If that's true, well, I saw other cameras present, and if someone produces a differently contextualized version I'll be glad to embed it in this post as well. Unless such a video exists and is very persuasive, though, I'd say Occupy DC just gave itself and the entire Occupy movement a black eye.

h/t: The Other McCain
Related stuff @ memeorandum

Kathryn A. Graham, 1954-2011

Details, such as they are, at AngelEdit.

I first "met" Kate when she sent me a review copy of her book Flight from Eden. And like the novel, it was immediately clear that the novel's author was ... exceptional.

I later met her in person, and wish I could have done so more often. She was a great lady, and one of the greatest things about her was that she thought big and wasn't afraid to follow through on those big thoughts, win or lose.

The photo above is from her Facebook profile. It's an older photo, but completely representative of her lifelong spirit of daring and adventure.

Requiescat in pace, Kate. You're already much missed.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Cain Agonistes

Latest (per the Guardian):

The National Restaurant Association is expected to announce on Friday whether it will publish a statement from one of the women who accused Herman Cain of inappropriate behaviour when he was chairman of the organisation.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Just For Fun

A (naughty in at least two ways by some standards) pictorial cryptogram, inspired by a current news story. Solve in comments -- if this turns out to be popular, I'll do more and maybe offer prizes.

Update, 24+ hours later: OK, nobody got it, even with clues. Maybe I'm just too clever by half, and it's not soluble unless you know the solution in advance. Here it is:

A Note on Government Vocabulary

In today's Washington Post:

GlaxoSmithKline Plc agreed to pay $3 billion to resolve U.S. criminal and civil investigations into whether the U.K. company marketed drugs for unapproved uses and other matters, its biggest legal settlement.

Use of the terms "resolve" and "investigations into" (or, in the headline, "settlement") legitimizes things like this by treating them as if they were tort cases with real victims who will see some of that money as restitution for damages.

They're not. They're just cases of bureaucrats and regulators playing at extortion and bribe-seeking. In essence:

Nice company you got there -- be a shame if anything happened to it.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


One of the fun parts of any political campaign scandal is trying to figure out who leaked the thing to the press.

Speculation over who leaked such details as we now know about Herman Cain's sexual harassment settlements as CEO of the National Restaurant Association seems to be centered around whether the leak came from the Romney campaign or the Perry campaign.

My guess -- and I think we'll know at some point whether I'm right -- is that it came from either the Bachmann campaign or ... the Cain campaign.

Here's my cui bono logic:

- Romney is running neck and neck with Cain in Iowa. If he was behind this, it would have come out right before the Iowa caucus, so that Cain wouldn't have time to respond, and so that former Cain supporters wouldn't have time to coalesce around another candidate. If this thing came from the Romney camp, it was a rogue supporter, not a campaign operation.

- Perry is intentionally and specifically dialing back expectations in Iowa. He's not a contender there, so he's writing it off and focusing on later states. The best outcome for him would be for Cain to go into Iowa strong and hurt Romney badly there. It makes no sense at all for this thing to be coming from the Perry campaign.

There are two candidates who stand to benefit most, and one who stands to be harmed least, by this thing happening when it happened.

Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are both behind Romney and Cain in Iowa. This could help either or both of them, but if so, they need a few weeks to capitalize on it. In other words, the timing is perfect for them.

The whole thing isn't really Paul's style, but it is Bachmann's.

Iowa is, realistically, Bachmann's last stand. She romps there or she is out either that night or right after the New Hampshire primary. Paul's in it for the long haul regardless, because that's just how he rolls.

Finally, at least one DC lobby ("Concerned Women for America") that seems to be in the tank for Bachmann was primed and ready with pointed questions for Cain on the very evening the story broke.

Bachmann is the prime suspect. She has the most to gain, she's the most desperate to get back into contention, as a female she's best positioned to capitalize on allegations of another candidate's misogyny, and her backers seem to have been prepped to exploit.

The only other possibility I see is that the Cain campaign brought this thing out themselves. They knew it was going to come out some time in the next 12 months, and this was the least bad time for it to do so -- with their man on top and with several weeks to do damage control before the Iowa caucus. Better now than on the Friday before Super Tuesday, or on the last Friday in October 2012.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Perry sets up his Iowa excuse

Fox headline:

Perry Disses Ethanol in Iowa, Says Feds Shouldn't Pick Energy Winners and Losers

This doesn't really seem that headline-worthy. It's not like it's a new Perry position. He's always been against subsidies for anything except Texas's cash crop, oil. He made an issue of ethanol in 2008, and he stood by his position (in at least a half-assed way) during the period around his presidential announcement and the Ames Straw Poll.

But, says the Fox story, "Perry brought up ethanol during a jobs forum in Pella in response to a question about whether wind energy subsidies should continue." (emphasis mine).

So what this really amounts to is that he's trying to dial back expectations in Iowa, where he's already trailing badly in the polls and probably doesn't have time to catch up (even if time was the only thing he needed to catch up). He'll start shifting campaign resources out of the state (if he hasn't already), then try to write a poor showing in the Iowa caucus off to "they didn't like what I said about ethanol" and see if he can make his stand with a credible second in New Hampshire and some wins after that.