Monday, October 28, 2013

Two Things

For some reason I've been really bad the last year or so about forgetting to flog my op-eds at C4SS. Here are two from the last four days.

Thing one:

There are very few exceptions to these legal restrictions on what Philip Chism may do and what others may do with him. These restrictions are, their supporters claim, based on the notion that at 14, Chism is not mature or competent enough to do those things. He doesn't understand the implications and consequences. He’s a child, not an adult. He needs to be, in a word, protected.

But the instant he's accused of a crime, all that goes out the window. For the convenience of the state and the pacification of the mob, he is magically and retroactively transformed into an "adult."

There’s a word for that kind of thing, but I can't use that word in a family-friend publication (it has to do with what comes out the rear ends of male cattle).

If Philip Chism is a child when it comes to school attendance, contracts, sexual encounters, driving, voting, enlisting, drinking, etc., he's a child when he's thought to have killed someone.

If Philip Chism is not a child when he's thought to have killed someone, he's not a child with respect to any of those other matters, either.

Philip Chism is either a child, or he's not.

Read the rest of "Justice? Just Kidding!"

Thing two:

The strongest argument in favor of the fiction of "intellectual property" is consequential rather than moral: Creators of good things -- novels, songs, drugs, what have you -- we are told, will essentially go on strike if government doesn't guarantee their profits by vesting them with monopoly "rights" to ideas. Instead of writing that next blockbuster or producing a cure for cancer, they'll content themselves with flipping burgers or digging ditches for a living, and we'll all be worse off.

I’m not big on consequential arguments. Absent moral foundations, they're equivalent to noting that I can'’t make money as a bank robber unless the banks are required to leave their vaults unlocked. That may be true, but it's not a good reason to give me what I want, is it?

As it happens, though, even this "trump card" argument for "intellectual property" monopolies falls flat on its face when we stand it up against both history and current events.

Read the rest of "Market vs. Monopoly: Beating the 'Intellectual Property' Racket."

Patent Improvement Suggestion

Dear Google,

I hear rumors that you're finally implementing your patent on "floating data centers." That sounds really cool, for a number of reasons.

Unfortunately, one of those reasons may not be that plausible. As the Adam Smith Institute's Tim Worstall points out in the Chicago Tribune, barges in ports don't really get your stuff out of range of the NSA and other bad actors.

The obvious solution is to buy real seagoing ships, instead of barges, for your floating data centers. But I'd like to suggest a better way of going about it:

Stick with the barges. They're waaaaaaay cheaper.

But do buy one ship, or maybe a few. I'm thinking Typhoon or Delta class Russian ballistic missile submarines ... and this part is very important, so pay attention ... with the ballistic missiles. I bet you could pick up a couple fairly cheap (as such things go).

Once you've got those afloat, let the folks in Washington, DC know that unless they want a bunch of shiny new radioactive craters in their town, they should keep their greasy little paws off your data centers.

That's my patent improvement suggestion. No charge.

Best regards,
Tom Knapp

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Here We Go Again

A new study says that paying organ donors would save money (and presumably result in more patients getting transplants) instead of dying on the waiting list) versus the existing system.

And here come the alleged moralists and the people who support them ...

"Sometimes these things have unintended consequences," said Dr. Stephen Pastan, a board member for the National Kidney Foundation and a transplant surgeon at Emory University in Atlanta. "If we paid $10,000, a lot of altruistic donors would say that it’s just a cash transaction. Donations could go down."

I wonder if Dr. Stephen Pastan gets paid to perform transplants. Somehow I suspect he does. And I doubt he does fewer transplants because he gets paid for doing transplants.

The surgeons get paid. The nurses get paid. The anesthetists get paid. The "medical ethicists" get paid. The janitors get paid.

Everyone except the organ donor gets paid.

And they wonder why there are shortages of organs.


Monday, October 14, 2013

When the Media Helps the Government Lie ...

... it kinda sucks.

In this case I am thinking of the theater revolving around the politicians' "debt ceiling."

The media is assisting the politicians in their Big Lie that not raising that "ceiling" will force a "default" on their debt (which, of course, they also try to tell us is our debt).

As Brad points out over at, that's just flat false.

In reality, if the debt ceiling is reached and not raised, the politicians can avoid default by using their current streams of stolen revenue to make debt service payments, while cutting any future spending that there's not enough additional revenue to cover.

What the politicians are demanding is that they be allowed to continue borrowing and spending ever more money than they actually take in. And what they're promising in return is that at some unspecified future point they'll start stealing even more money from us to pay down the accrued debt. And if this doesn't sound like a good deal at either end to you, they say you must be some kind of damn anarchist or something.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Semi-Live-Vlogging-Thingie ...

I'm at the Students for Liberty regional conference in Gainesville, Florida this morning.  Didn't even know it was happening until yesterday when I learned that Charles Johnson, aka Rad Geek, would be speaking and running a left-market-anarchist book table. So I came out to help with the table and maybe do some video blogging, like this:

That's the first video. It may be the last -- don't know yet. Too loud in here for me to know how it came out just yet.

Update: OK, I see the first 20 seconds or so of the video got cut off -- probably my fault for not watching a timer, etc. Anyway, more later. Maybe.

Update, 10:30ish am: Currently speaking is keynoter  Justin Pearson, Florida director of the Institute for Justice, giving a fascinating presentation on what IJ does to protect entrepreneurs against overbearing government.

Update, 11:30ish am: Yeah, the video thing just isn't going to happen. I'm not in a good position to video the presentations, and on breaks it's just too loud to really have a talk or whatever. But it's great fun. I'm listening to a student panel on group-building right now ... and about noon I have to leave to see a man about a horse a family about a dog. So this will probably be the final update. If you can make it down to the UF campus this afternoon, Charles will be giving a talk and continuing to run the ALL Distro table. Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 11, 2013

GOP Snatches Defeat from Jaws of Victory, Episode #1017

As of the other day, Obama was willing to "negotiate," but only if the Republicans gave him everything he demanded first. He keeps using that word, "negotiate." I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

It shouldn't have worked. But apparently it's working.

I don't mind these temporary faux "shutdowns" at all -- my only problem with them is that they're way too short and don't go nearly far enough -- but I have to wonder why the Republicans bother if they're going to cave every damn time.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

A New Project, in Beta

I'm a big fan of negative social preferencing as a way to penalize force initiators -- especially, but not exclusively, bad actors who perceive themselves as enjoying a high degree of immunity/impunity because they work for the world's larger and more powerful criminal gangs, aka "governments."

When it comes to negative social preferencing, the more the merrier: It should be crowd-sourced. If I refuse to have anything to do with you, no biggie. But if you can't get a sandwich at your favorite deli, receive communion at your church of choice, etc. because everyone thinks you're an asshole and doesn't want to have anything to do with you, you've got a real incentive to stop initiating force against others, apologize for initiating force against others, and make restitution to those you've harmed.

And of course a pre-condition of effective negative social preferencing is "doxing" -- amassing/aggregating publicly available information on evildoers such that their social weak spots are identifiable. If our target lives in Tacoma, Washington and doesn't travel much, being banned from a nightclub in Santa Fe, New Mexico probably won't make a big difference to hir quality of life; if, on the other hand, our target is an observant Muslim and suddenly can't find any place to sell hir halal food, that smarts. In addition to shunning bad people, it's important to help identify those bad people and their weak spots.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you ... Dox & Shun, beta version.

I've begun identifying the first group of targets -- the Silk Road perps -- there.

If it strikes you as a worthy project, well, start doxing (legally, please!).

If the project takes off, I'll start looking at moving it off of free Wordpress hosting and onto a better framework on an offshore host.

If not, well, it won't be my first failed project.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Bleggity Bleggity Bleg

My friend and comrade Mike Gogulski -- whom you may remember as one of the early people helping put together the Bradley Chelsea Pvt. Manning Support Network -- is already hard at work setting up the same initial infrastructure (web site, legal defense fund, etc.) for Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts.

I've made a small, but hopefully non-trivial, donation. Now I'm asking you to go, and do thou likewise.

As with Manning, I expect an uphill battle. But we have to fight the bastards every chance we get.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What a Shutdown, Huh?

Apparently Internet piracy, restraint of trade, etc. are "essential" government functions.

As Usual: Boehner Attempts to Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

I vividly remember when I finally and forever gave up on the notion that the Republican Party could ever be a reliable force for "smaller government."

The year was 1996 and I had already begun self-identifying as a libertarian ... but in the face of evidence that ran completely to the contrary, I still embraced the notion that the GOP was something like "half right" on economic issues and could occasionally be counted on to oppose the growth of government.

Then came the 28-day "shutdown," beginning in December of 1995 and ending in January of 1996.

I really dug it. The Republicans were standing up to out-of-control spending! They were shutting the government down rather than acquiescing to runaway debt! Huzzah!

Then "my" Congressman (Mel Hancock, R-MO) came home for a meet and greet and in response to an audience question (it may have even come from me) explained that Republicans weren't really trying to cut Medicare spending ... they were just trying to slow its growth.

And when I looked at the situation more closely, I realized he was right. The fight was over whether Medicare spending would be increased by X% or by X+.000X%, with the difference being represented by a small increase in user premiums. Actually cutting government spending wasn't even on the table, and neither side wanted it there.

And after that, Newt Gingrich threw a public whine-fest about being treated shabbily during a trip on Air Force One. And it just went downhill from there.

The whole "shutdown" thing quickly became a matter of each side trying to set itself up as the "victim," with the other side as "bully."

At the time, I wrote -- I don't remember where, it may have been a local independent paper I was doing a column for around that time -- that if the Republicans wanted to win this thing, what they needed to do was OWN the "shutdown." Instead of trying to  transfer blame, they should claim credit. "You're damn right we shut the government down, and shut down it shall stay until we get what we want."

Because frankly, playing the victim is a game that always works to the advantage of the Democrats. They are built on "identity politics," constituencies --  the identification and recruitment of "victim" classes which can be put in political harness (and, not coincidentally, kept perpetually in their alleged victimhood for continued political exploitation).

John Boehner just stepped in that smelly pile of stuff once again.

The only difference this time is that I'm not surprised.

A Brief Note on the Varieties of Government Activity

The state only really does two kinds of things:

  • Things that nobody should ever do (and which are rightly considered crimes when anyone else does them); and
  • Things that get done badly because government is doing them instead of leaving them to be done by the "voluntary sector."
The state's defenders are the equivalent of those who say that al Qaeda isn't all bad because it builds some of the hospitals that it then fills up with bombing victims.

Criminal  gangs are criminal gangs -- no matter how big they get, no matter what side charities they engage in, and no matter whether they are called "the Bloods," "the Crips" and "MS13" or "the Legislature," "the Executive" and "the Judiciary."

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Katrina vanden Heuvel is a Coupk

Over at The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel is trying to resurrect a 1996 theme: "Government Shutdown as Coup d'Etat."

It was stupid when Sheldon Wolin pulled it out of his hat back then, and it's stupid now.

But my inbox says it's starting to catch on: I've got significant quantities of political spam rolling in -- "Stop the 1% GOP CRUZ COUP" and such-like.

It is not a "coup d'etat."

What it is is bad dinner theater. Or a commercial break during an interminable soap opera. Or the trash talk interval in "professional wrestling."

To the extent that it is a real issue at all, that issue is the continuing expansion of executive power.

It's supposed to be "Congress legislates, the president executes."

It's supposed to be "Congress appropriates the money, the president spends the money per Congress's instructions."

The exceptions to that were clearly intended by the framers of the Constitution to be rare and non-catastrophic. A veto now and again, and it either gets over-ridden or it doesn't, and life goes on.

But over the last hundred years or so it has more and more become "the president tells Congress what he wants them to legislate and how much money he wants to spend on stuff (that actually became a legal requirement in 1920), and either they rubber-stamp his demands or he throws himself on the floor and beats it with his fists and feet while they stand in the corner and hold their breath until they turn blue while both of them scream 'MOOOOOOO-OM! It's HIS fault!'"

And of course as I have already pointed out, it's not a "shutdown" either.