Thursday, January 30, 2014

An Idea Before Its Time, or a Guy Who's Fresh Out of Ideas?

Thing One:

Even among devotees of third party politics, "Robert Milnes" is probably not a very familiar name. He's a guy from New Jersey who's been riding a hobby horse -- the "Progressive-Libertarian Alliance Strategy" -- since about 2004 or so.

For a guy advocating a progressive-libertarian alliance, his ideas seem to be very much at odds with both schools of thought. For example, he suggests (or at least at one time suggested) paying all dark-skinned Americans to move "back" to Africa, and genetically engineering all light-skinned Americans to become Comanches, Sioux and Paiutes. And he thinks that Teddy Roosevelt was a libertarian (hint: Teddy Roosevelt was not a libertarian).

So anyway, Robert Milnes ran for the presidential nominations of the Libertarian and Green parties in 2008 and 2012, and one of his platform planks ran something like this:

I would construct a "smart fence" on both the northern and southern borders. Clearly delineate the border; fencing & nasty barbed wire would become superfluous. Webcams, infrared, motion & vibration (tunnel) detectors, surveillance (radar,drone, satellite) etc. Any intrusion could be promptly addressed. This should have been done long ago.

Thing Two:

Even among devotees of third party politics, "Wayne Allyn Root" is also only a mildly familiar name. After a career conning sports gamblers, driving sports gambling firms into insolvency and writing the autobiography Millionaire Republican, he showed up at the Libertarian Party's door seeking their 2008 presidential nomination (shortly after endorsing a McCain/Lieberman ticket for the GOP). A few years later he left the LP and went back to the Republicans, announcing that it was absolutely imperative to American freedom to elect Mitt Romney to the White House. These days he's one of those minor "hanging on by the skin of his teeth" Republican pundits. I look in on Wayne to see what he's up to every now and then, and I was surprised to see that what he's up to this week is ... channeling Robert Milnes!

This is 2014. We don't need to build a real wall. You can create a VIRTUAL WALL with high tech surveillance.

All we need is drones and cameras. Not one person could cross a border protected by drones -- with border patrol, or National Guard, or U.S. military positioned to swoop in the moment anyone reaches the border.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I bet Wayne thinks that Teddy Roosevelt was a libertarian, too.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's There to "Return?"

It seems like US Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper never tires of making himself look like an idiot in public. Now he's calling on whistleblower Edward Snowden to "return" information Snowden collected and shared with journalists, pertaining to the illegal and unconstitutional surveillance operations Clapper oversees.

There's nothing to "return," unless Clapper and Co. have been lying to us yet again. Snowden didn't "take" or "steal" the information, he copied it. Clapper and Co. still have it. It's just that the rest of us -- you know, the people who supposedly employ Clapper and Co. -- now have some of it too. Heaven forfend that some bureaucrat's bosses know what he's doing, right?

Missing the Point on Food Stamps

So Congress is set to pass another gargantuan ($100 billion per year) "farm bill."

And of course, the 500-pound gorilla is the "food stamp" portion of the bill, which is set to be cut by a whopping 1%, while the overall measure increases "farm bill" spending by 37% over that of its predecessor bill over its 10-year projected life (I say "projected," because the last "10-year" farm bill was passed six years ago).

I got that figure from Michael Tanner, who got it from Chris Edwards. Both of them are with the Cato Institute. And being able to get that figure from them was convenient, since it's Tanner's latest article on the "farm bill" that I'm about to take issue with. To wit, Tanner writes:

No doubt conservatives will complain about the food-stamp spending, but whatever one thinks about our ever-growing safety net, there is simply no excuse for the farm portion of the bill, which is pure corporate welfare.

Well, no. It's all corporate welfare.

"Food stamps" aren't about feeding people. They're about making taking money from people and then giving some of it back with the requirement that it be spent on farm goods instead of on, say, televisions or tennis shoes.

Ditto for WIC, "school lunch" programs, etc.

No, I'm not saying that these programs don't feed poor people. I'm just pointing out that the feeding of poor people is a fig leaf, an incidental side effect. The purpose of these programs isn't to feed people, it's to transfer money from your bank account to Big Ag's bank accounts whether that's where you prefer to spend your money or not.

Monday, January 27, 2014

WTF, Tarantino?

You're one of my favorite filmmakers. I've paid money to see (on the large screen and/or on DVD) every one of your films. And I would almost certainly have paid money to see The Hateful Eight, rough draft script leak or not. So ...

Why such a total dick move?

You're suing a web site for reporting the facts. That's beyond dumb. And it's completely evil. When you came pulling up in front of Gawker to serve them did you see the sign that said "Leaked Script Protection?" No? You know why you didn't that sign? 'Cause it ain't there, 'cause protecting leaked scripts ain't their f*cking business, that's why.

Also, if the lawsuit is accurately quoted in the linked news story, you need to brush up on apostrophe usage. Just sayin' ...
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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Something That Pisses Me Off ...

... enough so that I feel the need to rant just a little about it:

We've been thinking about getting a dog for about a year now, since shortly after we arrived in Florida. But we haven't got one yet.

I don't think we're particularly picky, but we do have certain standards, along the lines of:

  • We have a strong, but not completely unbreakable, preference for "adopting a rescued dog" or "accepting a puppy that otherwise might end up as a stray" rather than "buying a dog." First because we know there are plenty of dogs out there who need a good home, secondly because we don't care about AKC papers and stuff (we're looking for a family companion, not a show animal), thirdly because in theory it's much cheaper.
  • I have a strong preference for Shih Tzus, because the BEST DOG EVAH in my life was Beauregard, a Shih Tzu puppy my brother brought home when I was 10 or 11 (he was in the Marine Corps at the time -- he couldn't resist the puppy, but neither could he keep it in barracks). I think they're just the greatest dogs around. I don't have to have a Shih Tzu, and if I have a Shih Tzu it doesn't have to be registered/purebred, etc., and I'll look at any dog, but Shih Tzus are what I look for first.
So anyway, two events last week brought these two preferences into stark relief against some practices I don't like much.

Early in the week, Tamara spotted an ad on Craigslist for three half Shih Tzu, half Chihuahua puppies, just about to reach eight weeks of age and be ready to go to new homes. As is the practice, a "small re-homing fee" was mentioned in the ad (Craigslist forbids the selling of pets, but allows "small re-homing fees" to be charged, on the assumption that people who want to vivisect dogs, etc. won't pay for them).

I called the number on the ad, because that sounded right up my alley (one of the reasons we want a Shih Tzu, above and beyond me loving them, is that they are small, so this would fit that bill even more). The "small re-homing fee" was ... drum roll, please ... TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS PER PUPPY.

Then this weekend, we stopped by our local PetSmart, where a local group called Phoenix Animal Rescue was having an "adoption event." This event got right into my wheelhouse, because they had a bunch of female Shih Tzus who had been rescued from a puppy mill operation. These were older dogs, in bad shape, malnourished (at least two of them had lost their lower jaws, presumably after all their teeth fell out and their gums got infected) ... just a completely tragic situation. While that's not exactly what we were looking for when we walked in, we would have gladly taken any one of these poor sweet things home and given her a comfortable, loving rest-of-life situation with lots of lap time, walks when she was up to them, never a shortage of food, etc. We would have even paid a little money for the privilege.

"Adoption fee?" TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS for each of these poor, thin, sickly, obviously previously abuse/neglected little ladies.

Matter of fact, all of their dogs sported "adoption fees" of $150 to $250, and according to PAR's web site, that's a discount off a standard fee of $300.

Let me make this as simple and impossible to misunderstand as I can:

If you are charging $200 "re-homing fees" for puppies and $150 to $300 "adoption fees" for adult rescued dogs, you are not doing "re-homing" or "adoption." You are just SELLING DOGS. That's what you're doing. That's all you're doing, no matter how much you dress it up as an allegedly charitable activity for dogs in need or as concern that puppies not end up on dissection tables in labs.

Now, I don't have anything in particular against selling dogs. Hey, markets work. Markets put people together with what they want, and that's a good thing. In particular, if I wanted an AKC-registered, purebred Shih Tzu, particularly one from the same bloodline as Beauregard of my youth, markets are what would put me together with that.

But I don't like having smoke blown up my ass.

If you're trying to sell me a dog, just say you're trying to sell me a dog. Don't give me those ... well, those puppy-dog eyes ... about "rescuing" and "adoption" and "re-homing."

It's insulting.

It pisses me off.

And now I've got that off my chest.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Chicken Chronicles: Mystery Solved, End of an Era, Etc.

We no longer have chickens.

As previously mentioned, the weird-ass coop I built proved remarkably un-predator-proof. At some point after the last installment, I moved the coop back a little further from the house. We eventually got down to one chicken -- a traumatized rooster whom we gave away to some free-range folks -- after which I tore the coop apart.

But not before discovering the predator's identity, and how it was getting in the coop. One night I walked to our back door and watched, startled, as a raccoon moseyed up to the coop and began deftly removing the heavy clips I used to secure the door.

He noticed me and started sauntering away. I came out of the house with loaded .22 rifle and got a shot off at him. Then he headed up a 50-foot pine tree. I let Daniel have a shot at him. No dice (I hadn't fired a shot in anger in probably 20 years, Daniel never, and I can't remember the last time I checked the sighting on the .22 ... we'll be addressing that soon), and we had to be careful -- there's only about one direction to shoot from/in where you can be sure a miss won't come down in a place where people might be, so I ordered a cease-fire.

Over the next few days, I collected stories from the neighborhood. One neighbor had seen the ("giant" in her words) raccoon hanging about her back yard. Another neighbor had called the sheriff one night when she thought someone was trying to force her back door open. A deputy arrived and chased two raccoons off her back porch.

I'm planning some raccoon ... um, remediation ... activities for the near future. Given the nature of the terrain, I may invest in a 12-gauge shotgun. A miss with a .22 just travels too far.

As far as more chickens, yes, that's probably in the cards.

I didn't throw away the coop materials. I'm going to re-use them. The next coop will be smaller, less mobile (I plan to bury the bottom edges and build it near the house to minimize predator interest) and more secure (a real door with a heavy and/or complex opening mechanism instead of clips).

If Liam wants to hatch more chicks, I'll encourage him to do it for outside clients, as I don't want any more roosters. They don't lay eggs and they're annoying. We'll buy female chicks. I'm planning on an absolute maximum of five, so that they don't need a large enclosure (they'll get to free range for a few hours each day anyway).

So, no chickens for now. But soon.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Big Question is "Will it be Free?"

The tech media are abuzz with rumors of Windows 9. Most of the coverage relates to a perceived need on Microsoft's part to undo the infinite suckage of Windows 8. But in my opinion, Microsoft's real challenge is competing with the free operating systems: ChromeOS, Android, increasingly user-friendly versions of Linux and now even MacOS.

As I wrote in a recent piece at the Center for a Stateless Society:

Microsoft finds itself at a critical juncture and is reacting -- not just with the "Scroogled" propaganda, but with consideration of making some versions of the Windows operating system free to device manufacturers to combat Google's other free OS, Android.

The era of paying cash for operating systems (and most applications) is over. The era of free operating systems -- and networked/cloud-based computing -- is here.

Microsoft is going to have to find new ways of making money. Selling operating systems isn't going to be their bread and butter any more. The more quickly they realize this, the better their chances of remaining a big player in the PC market.

If I was designing an OS marketing future for Microsoft, I think I'd go with something along these lines:

  • Make bare-bones Windows 9 free for both OEM use and end user download;
  • Make after-market money by selling applications, support packages and maybe even making the free version OS into "adware" -- run Bing-powered ads on the desktop or whatever;
  • Offer an "enterprise edition" of the OS that comes bundled with some key apps (e.g. Office) and extended support for businesses; and
  • Get serious about competing in the hardware market, especially the business sector. Microsoft has proven it can do hardware with Xbox (and with the Surface tablet -- even if it didn't fly, they got it into production, didn't they?). A line of Microsoft-branded desktops and laptops, loaded with the "enterprise edition" of Windows 9, key apps, a support/warranty package ... these could be moneymakers on their own, and through extensions of the warranty/support stuff as time goes on. Lots of businesses would rather just pay up front to Microsoft for the perceived "stand behind our stuff" factor than go the cheap route and get nickeled and dimed after.
The "free" and "enterprise" editions would reinforce each other. The guy who uses Windows 9 "enterprise" all day at work will be comfortable with it and want it at home. The guy who uses Windows 9 "free/adware" at home will look favorably on the "enterprise" edition when making purchasing decisions for the office he runs.

What isn't going to work is expecting the average user to keep paying two- and three-figure prices for an OS. The only thing that's saved that approach so far is gaming, and  now that market is going to go soft as Steam's boxes and OS establish a beachhead.

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Election 2016: First Handicapping Foray

I made my first Election 2016 prediction yesterday over at Eric Dondero's Libertarian [sic] Republican blog. Might as well preserve it here for posterity. As my long-time readers know, I am often extremely accurate, but don't run from my failures when I'm not. So here's the prediction, taken from comments at the aforementioned post and edited for clarity:

If both New Jersey governor Chris Christie and California congressman Darrell Issa enter the race for the Republican Party's 2016 presidential nomination, Christie will whip Issa's ass, no contest. There might be some other candidate who will whip Christie's ass, but Issa won't break 5% in the Iowa caucus or 2% in the New Hampshire primary. ... Christie will beat Issa in every caucus/primary, and unless someone big, not yet thought to be in the race, comes along, Christie will lead the pack and outpoll Issa by a full order of magnitude in both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.


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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Finally, an Intractable Problem in Chrome

The Chromebox/Chromebook are kind of like Macs in the sense that most stuff just ... works. If you use Windoze, you're used to weird error messages and inexplicable system crashes. That stuff just doesn't happen much on Mac, nor in ChromeOS.

But, finally, more than a year in the ChromeOS world, I've run into a problem that doesn't seem to want to fix:

For quite some time, I've used a text editor called Sourcekit (in conjunction with Writebox -- that way I can have two editors open at once, which I need for certain things). One important feature of Sourcekit is that I can load/save files directly from and to Dropbox. But starting the other day, I get re-authorization requests to connect Sourcekit/Dropbox, and when I approve, nothing happens. I just get a blank tab, and the next time I open Sourcekit, I get the request again.

Writebox also integrates with Dropbox and is working just fine. But I tried out another app, Writekit, and got the same error (yes, I've noticed the kit/box/write ubiquity). So I'm thinking the problem is probably at Dropbox, not with Chrome/ChromeOS per se. Or maybe it's with my Chromebox in particular (haven't used the Chromebook recently); I think that may be the case because I haven't seen any recent panicked "why can't I ..." threads on the web about the problem.

Fortunately, there's an easy work-around -- I installed yet another text editor, Caret. It isn't integrated with Dropbox, which means there's some extra futzing around, but it gets the job done.
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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

JoliCloud: An Evolving Cloud OS Alternative

I discovered JoliCloud back in 2010 while looking for an alternative to the Windows XP that came pre-installed on a fairly under-powered ASUS "netbook." It worked out pretty nicely -- the OS was a gloss on Debian Linux, optimized for netbook uses (discovering and installing stuff from the web, keeping files in the cloud via Dropbox, etc.).

Joli has evolved more and more into a "cloud OS" over the years, while forking itself into a useful web-based personal organization. I haven't tested its latest downloadable/installable version, but the beta of the latest web version, JoliDrive, is actually my Chromebook/Chromebox home page and I'm using it quite a bit, if only to access my YouTube favorites and so forth.

Within JoliDrive, I have two dashboards: One for all my cloud storage/sync services (Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, MediaFire, SugarSync, etc.), another for various popular web services, especially social networking stuff (Facebook,  Google+, etc.), news feeds and so forth.

I may try the downloadable "full OS" version again some time soon (maybe I'll dig that old netbook out for it), but frankly I'm very happy with ChromeOS. People who still don't "trust the cloud" very much might benefit from JoliDrive. Manage your social networking presence from there, and experiment with the cloud storage stuff -- when you're ready to really dive into the cloud, you'll already have your stuff organized.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Who's the Traitor?

Former NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden says it's Edward Snowden.

The US Constitution -- at least according to the conventional claim that "the United States" is "we the people" -- says it's Michael Hayden:

"Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort ..."

Hayden, not Snowden, should be seeking clemency.