Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'm Generally Skeptical of "False Flag" Theories ...

... because most of them suffer from a lack of real, verifiable evidence to make them seem very likely.

But I have to admit that the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, by an as-yet-uncaptured lone gunman, in a town run by Barack Obama's former chief of staff, the week after she performed at Obama's second inauguration and just as he's really cranking up his victim disarmamament ... er, "gun control" ... initiatives, seems rather implausibly convenient. Especially when we take into account that Obama is the first American president to really be very up-front in claiming a power to order the murder of an American whenever he might happen to find such a murder politically useful.

No, none of that is real evidence, either. And I'm still skeptical. But if I was looking for Hadiya Pendleton's killer, I'm thinking maybe Obama's someone I might want to bring downtown for a chat, you know?

In the meantime, victim disarmament ... er, "gun control" ... advocates are already dancing on Pendleton's grave and screeching that what we really need more of are the victim disarmament ... er, "gun control" ... laws that have served Chicago so well. Why am I not surprised?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Surprise: Good Advice on Guns from Joe Biden

Official portrait of Vice President of the Uni...
The vice-president of the United States dispensed some zombie apocalypse self-defense advice at a Google Plus hangout last Thursday:

Guess what? A shotgun will keep you a lot safer -- a double-barrel shotgun -- than the assault weapon [in] somebody’s hands who doesn’t know how to use it .... it's harder to use an assault weapon and hit something than it is to use a shotgun, ok? So if you want to keep people away in an earthquake, buy some shotgun shells.

And you know what? He's right. If you don't want to spend the money on a top-notch main battle rifle or a good large-caliber handgun, and the time required to become proficient in its use, a 12-gauge shotgun is a cheap alternative with a shallow learning curve -- you just need to be able to point it and squeeze the trigger while leaning into it if you don't want a nasty bruise behind where the stock is resting -- that's just about perfect for anything you might run into at short range.

Of course, he started babbling nonsense after that. He's not qualified to decide what you "need" -- only you are -- and he didn't mention government organizations being willing to do without "fighter jets, tanks and machine guns."

But as far as it goes, the shotgun advice is pretty good. Especially if you keep in mind that he's also not qualified to tell you whether or not to saw the barrel off for close quarters work.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Logic Power Series Electronic Cigarette

Electronic cigarettes have come a long way in the past couple of years (Morey Straus introduced me to vaping back in 2010). Various models are available at most convenience stores these days, instead of it being a "look online or find a local club" thing.

I tend to fall of the vaping wagon and go back to regular cigarettes when I run out of "juice" or whatever and have forgotten to order more. One of my New Year resolutions was to get back on the vapor, and I did so concurrently with the move to Florida (a first step was a "no smoking in the new house" rule -- it's vape or go outside).

Because all my e-cigarette stuff was packed in storage totes that took a couple of weeks to get here, I went out and bought the Logic Power Series starter kit. My review is up at Epinions.

In other vaping news, I ordered e-juice from a company I hadn't used before -- Charlotte, North Carolina's MadVapes. No problem with the other companies I've done business with, but:

  1. Those other companies are out west, so I figured I'd get my juice more quickly by ordering closer to "locally;"
  2. The price was right; and
  3. I just happened to notice that MadVapes had started following me on Twitter, right about the time I was thinking about ordering some juice. You pay attention to me, I pay attention to you ;-)
No complaints. Like I said, the prices are right. I ordered on Thursday evening before a holiday weekend, the order shipped Friday by regular US Snail, and it arrived today (Wednesday). The juice is an 80% vegetable glycerine / 20% propylene glycol mix. It works. I'm not as happy with the flavor as I expected to be, but that's just a selection thing on my part (I should have read the reviews of the flavor I chose; next time I'll go with "Minthol" instead of "Menthol Tobacco").

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Mega: Brief First Impressions

So, Kim Dotcom has launched his new file storage service, Mega -- successor to MegaUpload, which was shut down, its servers and domain names stolen, etc., by US government thugs last year.

Mega offers 50Gb of free file storage and is apparently/allegedly (I'm not going to pretend to be tech-savvy enough to authenticate the claim myself) protected end-to-end with 2048-bit RSA encryption. The idea being to create a storage service not nearly as vulnerable to what happened to its predecessor.

My first impression of Mega -- and I've read other similar impressions, so I assume it's not just me -- is that the service really isn't ready for prime time yet.

Part of that may be due to heavy launch-time demand straining its servers, etc., but I did have trouble signing up the first day (it just kept churning -- came back yesterday and things worked), and so far I've been able to successfully upload only one small file (208Kb), while my other upload attempt (6.4Mb) has been sitting in the queue for quite a while at 0% and with an estimated upload time of "infinity."

According to Mega's blog, it's probably not worth bothering with the service unless you're willing to use the Google Chrome browser. Which, of course, I do (in fact, I use the Chrome OS).

If it wasn't for the who and why of all this, I'd recommend writing Mega off -- at least for the moment -- and going with other existing options (Dropbox, Google Drive, Mediafire, etc.) that already work pretty well, and that will accommodate your primitive, buggy, virus-ridden, exploit-vulnerable, rub-two-sticks-together-and-hope-for-fire "browsers."

But the who and why are important. The US tried to shut down Dotcom for no better reason than that some large US business interests find the services he offers ... inconvenient. He was briefly held as a political prisoner in New Zealand under threat of extradition to a rogue nation (the United States) with a pretty nasty record of denying due process, disappearing (and sometimes just plain murdering) people, torturing prisoners, etc. (fortunately New Zealand, unlike the US, still has courts that sometimes abide by, you know, the law and stuff).

I want Kim Dotcom to succeed because all the usual suspects are trying to ensure that he fails. So I hope you'll give Mega a chance -- use it from the very start, and use it more as it proves itself. I suspect that the problems will be ironed out in short order, unless the US government launches an illegal cyber-war of aggression to try and take the site down ... and hopefully even in that case.
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Maybe I'll Get Myself a Cowboy Hat and Busk

My beat-up but beloved guitar (an Epiphone PR-100 -- a pretty good instrument for the money) made it to Gainesville relatively un(further)-scathed in the shipping tote. There's a little divot out of the neck right below the 9th and 10th frets, but it doesn't seem to have hurt anything. Broke a string as soon as I started playing it, but it needed new strings anyway, so I got some.

Much as I've always fancied myself a rocker, I was brought up on, and started learning at, country and southern gospel. My fingers have never really been able to find the blues licks very well, and when trying to play and sing anything but a three-or-four chord country tune I just lose the rhythm. But I can knock out "Your Cheatin' Heart" or "Always Late (With Your Kisses)" or "Cup of Loneliness" or "Folsom Prison Blues" and actually keep time, manage the back-and-forth on the bass end, throw in the occasional run, etc. Heck, I think I even have a fairly convincing twang/yodel.

With a decent hat and some nice boots, maybe I could get sorta famous.

OK, maybe not ... but if I start feeling like I've earned it, I may treat myself to one of these.*

*My dad bought a 1962 Gibson Hummingbird, cherry sunburst ... in 1962. He had three sons, and said if any of us learned to play, that one would inherit it. I never got good enough to really rate it, and he eventually sold or gave it to my nephew, who does play, and who plays gospel music on it in church (something my dad greatly approves of). Of course, the Gibsons cost ten times as much now, and I doubt they're as good as the older models. But Epiphone makes a pretty good machine at a reasonable price. I think I could enjoy playing it. I may not be a great guitarist, but I despair of ever getting even passably good on the mandolin or harmonica, so I'm gonna roll with what I have some skill at.

OK, Sometimes Cheaper is Better

I drink tea these days. I drank it as a kid, decided at some unremembered point for some unremembered reason that I didn't like it any more, and only came back to it very recently because:

  1. I need to avoid sugar (diabetes) but like my caffeine; and
  2. I prefer to avoid aspartame and have trouble finding caffeinated diet sodas that are sweetened with sucralose or Stevia (Diet RC is; Publix, the main grocery chain in my new neck of the woods, has a store brand that is; but mostly it's aspartame out there); and
  3. Good coffee is expensive and I like to have it with creamers, sweetened condensed milk and other stuff I'm supposed to avoid, so ...
I drink my tea cold (brew it by the pitcher and stick it in the fridge -- when summer gets here I'll try "sun tea") and put stevia or sucralose and some flavoring (those sucralose-sweetened water flavorers, black cherry, cherry limeade, etc.) in it.

I started off with Luzianne green tea, which is very nice and which I occasionally treat myself to. Then I discovered that there are store brands of orange pekoe/black tea that are incredibly cheap, usually about $2 for 100 bags. And while they may not be quite as chock full of anti-oxidants as green tea, they seem to be reasonably healthy too.

Tonight, I saw Lipton orange pekoe/black on sale for not much more than that and figured I'd give it a try. I suspect it's quite good -- don't know yet because it's still cooling -- and may be even more flavorful than the cheap stuff.

But I doubt I'll be buying it again. Every bag comes in its own separate, semi-sealed envelope. It took me longer to get 15 bags of tea (for a 3-quart pitcher) out of the damn envelopes than it did to boil the water. Teapot is whistling on the stove and I'm still messing around with tea envelopes.

The cheap stuff doesn't have sealed envelopes. It doesn't have envelopes at all, or those little strings you use to hang the bag over the side of a cup or pitcher. For some brands the bags are even still stuck together in pairs.

That's easier. So unless the taste of the expensive stuff is just to die for, the cheap stuff it will be from now on. After I get through the other 85 bags of the expensive stuff, that is.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Gun Control for the Children?" No Sale.

From my latest piece at the Center for a Stateless Society:

It's not difficult to see why politicians support "gun control," which is more accurately described as "victim disarmament." What predator wouldn't prefer that its prey lack teeth or claws? In Barack Obama's world, events like the Newtown massacre are a small price to pay for the uncontested ability to do wholesale what Adam Lanza did retail.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I am not a Scientologist ...

... but I don't really get the outcry over The Atlantic's "sponsored content" relationship with the Church of Scientology [hat tip -- Stacy McCain], or for that matter the fear and loathing that both Scientology and "advertorials" inspire in some people.

Short version:

The Atlantic does the "sponsored content" thing. That is, it publishes advertisements that look like articles, in return for which the creators of those advertisements pay them. I don't see what the big hairy deal is ... but then, I've been known to do paid posting, etc. right here at KN@PPSTER. As long as there's disclosure of what it is, no biggie.

So anyway, yesterday one of those "sponsored content" pieces at The Atlantic was a Scientology piece, "David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year" (here's the piece at Scribd if you are interested), and all hell broke loose, resulting in ...

We have temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads.

... followed by an even more hair-shirtish statement later (there's a chronology of events at Slate).

I don't think that would have been The Atlantic's response to a similar reader/pundit tantrum over a sponsored piece from, just for example, Planned Parenthood or the Holy Roman Catholic Church or the Democratic National Committee.

Yeah, yeah, I've read the same horror stories about Scientology that you have (and I've read some of their literature, too, including Dianetics). At their worst, they make the church look ... well, no more weird and authoritarian than most churches, and considerably less authoritarian than the state-sanctioned psychology/psychiatry/"mental health" cult that they're famously at ongoing odds with.

Jesus on the cross, Buddha under the sacred fig tree, Xenu at the volcanoes, Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick. Auto da fe, Salem witch trial, the Meadows Massacre, "the hole" at Gold Base.

You say tomato, I say out tech, suppressive person, etc. Well, actually, I don't, but you know what I mean. Sometimes a cigar is just a Body Thetan.

The Atlantic might want to reconsider "sponsored content" if they find that it alienates their readers. But if they're going to accept it from religious or political groups, I don't see any real case for considering the Church of Scientology beyond the pale.

A different kind of Madoff v. Social Security comparison

The usual comparison, of course, is from the perpetration perspective. They're both "Ponzi schemes" -- that is, they are both fraudulent schemes in which earlier victims are paid off with the take from later victims rather than from real, legitimately generated profits.

From the perpetration side, there are two main differences between Madoff's scam and the Social Security con:
  1. Madoff's victims were "investors" (they thought they were buying pieces of legitimate enterprises and getting a cut of profits from the production of real goods and services), while Social Security's victims are "insured clients" (they think they are buying "Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance" and being paid out an actuarially sound amount in claims from a "trust fund").
  2. Madoff's victims were free to invest or not invest in his scheme, while Social Security's victims are compelled by law to "pay insurance premiums."
They're ever so slightly different confidence schemes, but they're both confidence schemes in which the perpetrator creates an illusion of honest dealing while actually paying off earlier victims with money cheated from later victims so as to keep the scam looking legitimate and viable.

Garry Reed's been paying a lot of attention to libertarian rhetoric on Social Security and taking issue with much of that rhetoric (particularly from Reason magazine, but this time from the Future of Freedom Foundation). In this latest piece, he considers the status of the frauds' victims:

Nobody blames Madoff's earliest investors for stealing from his more recent investors; everyone rightly blames Bernie Madoff.

Yet many, including some libertarians, blame seniors for "stealing" from recent workers instead of blaming government.

I have to take issue with Garry on this. Libertarians do blame government for perpetrating the Social Security fraud. What they don't do is blame the state proper -- the scam's administrative apparatus -- to the exclusion of other knowing, informed and active participants.

Suppose that Madoff's early investors, at some point, had become aware of the nature of his con. And suppose that instead of pulling out of the thing and attempting to shut it down and procure such restitution as might be possible for all of the victims, many of them just said "hey, we're getting ours." And suppose that they even formed organizations to pressure Madoff to keep the gravy train rolling, no matter the consequences and regardless of the costs to future victims.

That this did not (so far as I know) happen is the big difference between the early victims of Madoff's Ponzi Scheme and the current and near-future beneficiaries of Social Security.

False political advertising about the "trust fund" notwithstanding, everyone has known (or should have known, since the information has been readily and publicly availalable) for decades that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme which only remains solvent by defrauding new victims to pay off the old ones.

Might there have been a point in time when that knowledge was not readily and publicly available -- or to put it a different way, a point in time when the scam was still at least facially convincing?

Sure. But most or all of the early victims who might plausibly claim to have been completely defrauded, and in no way complicit in the fraud, are long dead.

Today, here and now, it just doesn't pass the laugh test to suggest that most of those agitating for the continuation of Social Security don't know what they're demanding: To be paid off by new victims of a scam that they know damn well is a scam.

Oh, I suppose there might be a handful of individuals with just enough gray matter to cobble together an "I want a check, dammit!!!" letter to their congresscritters or local newspapers without really having any meaningful understanding of where the money to back that check comes from.

But let's be realistic here:  The American Association of Retired Persons (to trot out the most obvious and prominent example) isn't run by such individuals. It probably collects annual dues from them, but it is run by intelligent people who have spent a lot of time studying Social Security and can't plausibly claim to not know that -- for example -- this piece is a steaming pile of Big Lie.

So when Garry Reed asks "why does government get a pass while Madoff gets blamed, and why do Madoff's earliest investors get a pass while the government's earliest victims, today's seniors, get blamed?" my response is "government doesn't get a pass, and today's seniors -- many of them at least, anyway -- are, as voters and citizen-lobbyists, not just victims ... they are also knowing, active, informed participants in the scam."

If I get mugged, I'm a victim. If, after getting mugged, I support the mugger's gang and encourage him shake down other passersby and pay me back out of their wallets, I'm not a victim any more. I'm a perpetrator. Or at least an accomplice.
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Monday, January 14, 2013


Our stuff -- three U-Haul moving totes full -- arrived today.

My guitar survived the trip. Heck, it arrived almost still in tune.

But anyway, ahem: We moved to FLORIDA. And we knew that was where we were moving.

So I have to wonder: Why have I already, just getting started on those totes, unpacked nine heavy winter coats, at least that many heavy winter blankets, and more than 23 (that's where I stopped counting) bulky winter sweaters?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Aaron Swartz, RIP

From my latest piece at the Center for a Stateless Society:

"How," John Kerry asked a committee of the US Senate (to which he himself would later be elected) in 1971, "do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

That question was among the first that came to mind last week when I heard that [Aaron] Swartz had hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment.


I sincerely hope that Swartz will go down in history as the last casualty of the war over "intellectual property" -- a 300-year war that, or all practical purposes, ended years ago in triumph for the forces of freedom and a total rout of those who rely, for their fortunes, on the power of the state to extract rent on people’s use of their own minds and bodies.

Read the rest here.
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Question for Harmonica Aficionados ...

Does anyone make an affordable harmonica with a wooden comb any more?

I'm not an expert player by any means -- just enthusiastic -- but I'm considering picking up a set. I've got a C Hohner Blues Band. I'm considering a full set of all seven (G/A/Bb/C/D/E/F) of those, or just maybe of the Hohner Piedmont Blues line, or their three-piece (C/D/G) Hoodoo Blues set (probably the Blues Band -- the reviews on the others are a little depressing).

All of those Hohner sets have plastic combs. Of course, they also come in at less than $25 for a set of seven harps, $10.99 for the three-piece set.

The Hohner Marine Band still comes with wood or bamboo comb, but it also runs $35 and up for each instrument. My enthusiasm for blowing and drawing on the things doesn't extend to an enthusiasm for spending that much on them. At that price, I could by myself a new guitar for what a seven-harp set would set me back (not a great guitar, but a guitar -- heck, I see they're selling a Peavey dreadnought at Wal-Mart for less than $100 these days; that's probably what I'll end up with if my Epiphone doesn't survive its trip south in a moving tote; I'm craving the Epiphone takeoff on its parent company's Gibson Hummingbird, but that's a little more than I'm in for right now).

The "high-end" harps by Lee Oskar and Suzuki and so on all seem to have plastic or metal combs as well. The obvious advantage is that they last longer, as wood combs tend to expand/contract and slowly disintegrate as they take on and lose moisture.

But I like wood. It's probably almost certainly just my imagination that a wood comb is easier to bend notes on, but imagining it is half the battle in my limited experience.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What Claire Said!

From her "open message to those who think it's time to take the guns:"

So you believe we’ll turn our guns and our lives over to you just because you demand it? Molon labe. Come and take them.

It really is just that simple. This is not negotiable. There is no "discussion of gun violence" to be had that ends with me surrendering my rights and my life to your whims. And no, dancing a merry jig on the graves of Newtown's children while attempting to force such a "discussion" won't change anything. So please stop doing it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Two Things That Start with "F"

Florida and Flux.

I'm in both at the moment.

We arrived in Gainesville a couple of days later than planned. No major road troubles, we just got a later start leaving due to last-minute packing taking a lot longer than planned (and discovering a nail in a tire and having to get a new one before leaving, etc.). We left Sunday afternoon, spent the night in Tupelo, visited Elvis's birthplace on our way out of town, and got into Gainesville a few minutes before the New Year.

We spent yesterday house-hunting, and hopefully will sign a lease on something and start moving in today or tomorrow.

Most of our stuff is in U-Haul "totes" and won't come down here until we can tell them where to bring it. We've got clothes, a few blankets and pillows, and the essential electronics, and that's about it.

I'm personally favoring a trailer between Gainesville and Archer (final living/dying place of Bo Diddley), but we've looked at a cabin out by Interlachen as well, and may have a couple of other places to check out. Presumably we'll be signing a one-year lease, so we want to get it right on price, location and quality. The Archer choices look pretty nice, and they are a straight shot/short commute for Tamara, who started her new job this morning. They're also in a location that gets cable, which is a plus for me (I'm skeptical of satellite Internet).

I've already had great barbecue (a little place down by the UF campus called Adam's Rib), but haven't seen any live alligators yet. There was a little lizard of some kind crawling across a window at one of the trailers, though.

Climate-wise and such, I'm already loving this place. I'll be fat and happy once we have something to call "home" so I can have reliable Internet and get back on my various jobs full-time instead of trying to keep up via hotel connections, McDonald's hot spots and so forth.