Friday, February 28, 2014

Surfing Moses: Could Someone Please Help Me Here?

I've mentioned this before, but it's been a few years so I'll try again.

There used to be a New York City based band called Surfing Moses. (no, not the band you'll find on Youtube, which seems to have formed in 2010 and sounds nothing like the previously so named band).

How do I know about the 1990s Surfing Moses? Because I saw them perform at a festival at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield, Missouri in 1997, after having heard their alt-radio hit "Let's Go Bowling" (not the ska song, a punk/metal kind of ditty) in heavy rotation on a local station. The only other band that I can immediately recall performing at that festival is Sister Hazel, who are still around and still rockin'.

If you believe the Internet, I'm one of only three people who ever knew Surfing Moses existed. The other two are Fallout guitarist John Campos and someone named Bret Reilly, who seems to also be a musician and who registered the name as a service mark in 1995.

So anyway, like an idiot, I didn't snap up their album at the time. And it seems to have disappeared. As an old-time music lover, I've been around the track a few times with digging through cutout bins in the back rooms of used record stores to find rare 45 rpm singles and that kind of thing ... I mean this band has really, truly, honest to God disappeared.

I've searched iTunes. I've searched Grooveshark. I've searched every "bazillions of used CDs" site on Earth. I've trolled the various fan sites for anything resembling this kind of music. Every time I see a stack of used CDs at a thrift store or a garage sale, I dive into it like a buzzard into a steaming pile of road kill, and this is what I'm looking for when I do that.

Yes. It is an obsession. I want that album. Or a CD single of their kinda-sorta-"hit." Or an MP3 or collection thereof.

Or something, maybe even just a comment reassuring me that I didn't just imagine that band. Because this is starting to look like one of those "we live in the Matrix and the programmers' memory cleanup routines must have missed a spot" situations, and those kinds of situations freak me out.

Little help here?

Update and Thoughts on #standwithkatyperry

A few days ago, I noted (and took a position on) the drummed-up controversy over Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" video. Brief recap:

In the video, Perry (portraying an Egyptian queen/goddess character) disintegrates a guy wearing a bunch of bling. One of the pieces of bling is a pendant in Arabic script for "Allah." An Internet petition circulated, eventually reaching 50,000 signatures, for a "ban" on the video for "blasphemy."

Well, the video got edited (on YouTube, at least). That particular piece of bling got airbrushed out.

By whom? Good question.

The Jerusalem Post headline (the story seems to have disappeared -- I get a 404 at the URL I bookmarked for it) read "YouTube quietly removes Allah symbol from Katy Perry video."

Most versions of the story say something different. Representative headline and link:  "Katy Perry removes Islamic symbol from 'Dark Horse' video."

And of course batshit-insane lying authoritarian Islamophobe Pamela Geller immediately went into whine mode: "Coward Katy Perry Punks Out: Censors her Video, Submits to Savage Demands."

The last two versions are exceedingly unlikely.

I suppose it's possible that YouTube did the airbrushing -- after all, its owner company, Google, had been told by a court only the day before that copyright is magically transferable and irrelevant and that the foundation of US intellectual property law is making absolutely sure that Muslims are never, ever, ever offended.

It's even more likely that Vevo, the company that distributes the video, made the alteration (given that they're the ones who control the uploading and availability of the video).

Perry's label, Capitol Records, may have weighed in with one or both of the aforementioned parties.

Was Perry even consulted before the change was made? Maybe, maybe not. I've yet to find (and I've looked for) any statement on the matter from Perry, from Perry's management, from Perry's record label, or from anyone else claiming to speak for Perry.

Perry is a singer. While it's true that she apparently had some creative input on the video, it's highly unlikely that she picked out the "Allah" pendant, or that whoever did pick it out had any intentions of making a point or "blaspheming" or anything else.

What probably happened is that the director (Matthew Cullen) told the video's costume/wardrobe chief  "I need a guy with this, that, the other, and a bunch of bling. Oh, and see if you can find bling that looks Egyptian or Arab, so that it fits in with the video's visual theme."

And the controversy probably caught everyone involved in the video completely by surprise.

Now: Do I wish that everyone up and down the line on this thing, from Perry to Cullen to Vevo to Capitol to YouTube, had told the whiners to go pound sand? Yes, I do.

BUT! It's not obvious who gave in here, or why ... and it is obvious that it was their decision to make. Just as nobody has an obligation not to offend Muslims, nobody has an obligation to continue to offend Muslims if they don't want to, especially since that was almost certainly not something they intended to do in the first place.

And as a side note, if that piece of bling had been a Star of David, how much do you want to bet that Geller would have been rattling the rafters with demands that YouTube remove a video that approvingly portrayed evil Egyptians murdering Jews?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

That's Some Profit Margin Right There

Per Alexander Burns at Politico, Planned Parenthood expects to spend more than $18 million supporting Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections.

That sounds like a lot of money ... until one compares it with how much Planned Parenthood knocks down in government funding. Last year? $540.6 million.

For every dollar the organization spends on bribing politicians, those politicians pick your pocket for $30 to hand over to them.

Quite a racket, huh?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In Which I #standwithkatyperry

Can't say as I've ever been a big fan. But since 30,000+ whiny Islamists are against her, how can I not be for her?

The story: Her latest video includes a scene in which a guy wearing a bunch of bling, including a necklace fashioned in Arabic script to form the word "Allah," gets vaporized by a she-goddess Katy.

So now there's a petition asking YouTube to ban the video as "blasphemous."

How's this: When I see 30,000 Muslim signatures on a petition to Boko Haram to stop murdering Nigerian school-children, I'll reconsider just how sensitive I should be to Muslim "blasphemy" concerns.

Until then, enjoy the video ...

Update, 02/27/14: Per the Jerusalem Post, YouTube has airbrushed out the "offending" symbol in the video. There are some blogosphere claims that Perry herself was behind the change, but those claims are from highly unreliable sources (Pamela Geller via Eric Dondero) -- I've been unable to find any statement on the subject from Perry or from anyone claiming to represent Perry. Developing ...

A Quick Cryptocurrency Update

Well, Mt. Gox appears to be gone. And of course the usual suspects are out in force,  screaming that Bitcoin is a scam and quacking about "the need for regulation" of cryptocurrencies.

Two initial thoughts on that last part:

  • Cryptocurrencies as such -- at least of the Bitcoin variety -- can't be government-regulated, because there's no central authority involved which can be seized, sued or arrested. Specific entities using Bitcoin might be regulatable ... if they decide to allow themselves to be regulated.
  • Mt. Gox in particular is an existence proof that attempts to regulate aren't going to be helpful. Mt. Gox was one of the first, if not the first, to "voluntarily" start requiring government-issued IDs for cash withdrawals and so forth, in an attempt to ingratiate itself with the US and other governments.

Q: Who lost Bitcoins and/or cash in the Mt. Gox shutdown?

A: Anyone who had an account balance there. For example, me -- I had a few thousandths of a Bitcoin in my account at the time things went south.

Q: Who had to lose Bitcoins and/or cash in the Mt. Gox shutdown?

A: Nobody. While it may be convenient to leave your Bitcoins in an online wallet hosted by an exchange (like Mt. Gox) or an online store (like Silk Road), you don't have to do that (and the history of cryptocurrencies so far says it's a bad idea). You can transfer them to an offline wallet in your possession -- on your hard drive, a USB drive, whatever -- any time you like.

Word to the wise: Don't keep substantial cryptocurrency balances online. Only keep the balances you are actually working with online. When you have a significant stack, or when you don't expect to be using the stuff any time soon, move it to an offline wallet. Then if the exchange falls down and goes boom, it doesn't do so while holding your money.

The old "donate Bitcoin" button here at KN@PPSTER was linked to my Mt. Gox account. That button is gone. I've created two new cryptocurrency "tip jar" buttons (top of the right sidebar, just like the old one) linked to an account at BTC-e.

Now you can tip me in Bitcoin or Litecoin, courtesy of coinwidget. And I hope you will, even if it's just a tiny amount, so that I can test those buttons :)

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Monday, February 24, 2014

OK, it's Starting to be an Emergency.

I love living in Gainesville, Florida. Love it. LLLLLLLLOOOOOVE it. Pretty much everything about it is great.

Except that I can't seem to find Springfield-style cashew chicken anywhere in the area.

There's plenty of good food.

There's plenty of good Asian-American food.

But no Springfield-style cashew chicken.

If you don't know what Springfield-style cashew chicken is, I encourage you to not find out, because if you do find out you will spend the rest of your life craving it at inopportune moments and apparently it's really not very available outside of, say, a 150-mile radius around Springfield, Missouri, and there is just no acceptable substitute.

If you don't know what Springfield-style cashew chicken is and really think you must know, here's a quote from my Yelp review of a St. Louis restaurant that offers it:

Springfield-style cashew chicken is breaded, deep-fried chicken served with chopped green onions and cashews in "oyster sauce" -- a sort of brown gravyish substance that doesn't taste at all like oysters.

Do any Gainesvilleian or other Floridian readers know of any place within a 100-mile or so radius that serves it? I'm getting close to desperate enough to try making it myself, and I can't see that turning out well.
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Sunday, February 23, 2014

More on Where Windows Needs to Go

Last month, I opined that if Microsoft wants to remain competitive it's going to need to give up on the idea of selling operating systems. That era is over. Well, they seem to be getting with the program in a minor sort of way:

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is cutting the price of Windows 8.1 by 70 percent for makers of low-cost computers and tablets as they try to fend off cheaper rivals like Google Inc. (GOOG)'s Chromebooks, people familiar with the program said.

Manufacturers will be charged $15 to license Windows 8.1 and preinstall it on devices that retail for less than $250, instead of the usual fee of $50, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details aren’t public.

It's definitely too little. Whether or not it's too late, only time will tell.

At first blush, this looks like a considerable discount. But at $15,  the price of Windows would still represent 6% or more of retail price on its face ... and in fact, considerably more.


Because Windows is a fat, bloated, slug of an operating system that requires a more expensive hardware build to run on than does ChromeOS or a reasonably light Linux distribution.

Windows needs more RAM. Windows requires a more robust CPU. Windows has to have more local storage for its OS files.

So if I'm building a laptop for the average user -- who browses the web, sends and receives email, streams some media and not much else -- Microsoft is asking me to spend $15 more on the OS than I need to and spend more building the device itself in order to offer that user stuff he or she will seldom if ever use and almost certainly won't consider a high priority when choosing a laptop.

Microsoft needs to rethink its OS. If they're smart, "Windows 9" will be called ExploreOS. It will consist of a re-modeled, de-crufted Internet Explorer browser, the files necessary to boot that browser and initiate an Internet connection ... and that's about it.

Yes, that means the revenue model will have to change. The OS itself is no longer going to be a profit center. The profit centers will be "enterprise-level" web apps, cloud storage and tech support, increased monetization of the Bing search engine (and possibly of the browser itself a la Firefox), etc.

The era of selling operating systems is over. Period. The sooner Microsoft realizes this, the less likely it is to go down as the next FW Woolworth.
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hate Cars. Hate Them.

There was a time, not that many years ago, when I could take care of basic automobile repairs myself. By "basic" I mean anything up to and including brake jobs (even replacing the master cylinder), and once even buying an engine rebuild kit and paying a "shade-tree mechanic" not that much money to take care of it with me as assistant and go-pher. Of course, it was a given that I would do really minor things like oil changes and tune-ups myself.

Not any more, though. Things have gone in two directions:

- These days, oil changes are cheap enough versus the cost of oil, filter and time that there's no reason to bother -- just run it through some place and have it done.

- These days, everything but oil changes are so complicated that I wouldn't dream of doing them myself because specialized tools that I don't have are required, and parts are insanely priced, and I'm as likely to mess something else up as to get what was wrong fixed correctly.

I did replace a headlight bulb myself recently. That was more complicated than it should have been (had to remove the windshield washer fluid tank to get to it, because everything is so tightly packed together in an engine compartment these days) and about 40 times as expensive as it should have been (the 50-cent light bulb ran about $20 because of the kind of car it was). But it was doable. Anything else, not so much.

I realize that part of the problem is the kind of car it is -- Tamara's 2004 BMW X-3. Hey, it seemed like a good idea (right price, right situation) at the time. And I have to admit, it's been safe and reliable. The problems are always minor things.

The problem with "minor things" on BMWs is that "minor" means "not quite as complicated as the most convoluted celebrity divorces, nor quite as expensive as buying a house in one of your better Silicon Valley dot-com millionaire neighborhoods."

Every time something minor goes wrong on this vehicle, I hit Google and learn, courtesy of various BMW owner forums, that "this is a common problem" that will only cost $50-$1000 in parts (that low end being for a tiny piece of plastic called a "driving dog" for the electric window mechanism that just broke, leaving the rear driver-side window open) and $100-$1000 in labor to get fixed.

Or that if I just happen to have my own fully equipped home auto repair shop with various specialized tools on hand, and an automotive engineering degree from a German school hanging on the wall, I can do it myself in only 3-6 months of full-time work and with only a 25-50% chance of killing everyone I've ever known (and quite a few people I've never met) in some kind of Greek tragedy scale industrial accident.

My guess is this window thing will end up costing $300. If I did it myself, it would cost more like $100 ... but with a great chance of screwing something up and ending up spending $500 to get my screw-ups un-screwed.

I've bought cars for less than $300. Cars that ran. Cars that I could replace the spark plugs on without having previously learned how at, say, NASA.

And when I say that I realize it being a BMW is part of the problem, I'm saying I suspect that it's not just BMW that this is about. There's a reason that new cars come with 10-year/100k-mile warranties these days, and that reason is that nobody would buy them if they thought they were going to have to pay to fix them too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Modest Proposal

Michele Bachmann says that America isn't ready for a female president, and that Barack Obama's election was at least partially due to "a cachet about having an African-American president because of guilt."

Sour grapes, or does she have a point?

If she's right, there may be a way to move things forward.

What we need here is a female candidate who's a little less creepy, a little more charismatic, a little less bloodthirsty and a little more sane than either Bachmann or Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps a female candidate with a male running mate whom she's known to have long-term, abiding respect for and to whom misogynistic insecure male voters will consider her likely to defer when it comes to those tough questions that maybe a woman just can't be expected to deal with.

Maybe a ticket that takes a somewhat more time-tested position on racial issues, a ticket with long-term cachet on both the left and right.

They're tanned, rested and ready ...

Hey, it could happen!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Twitch Plays Pokemon: Anarchy ... or America?

Twitch's experiment with mass Internet play of a Pokemon game is interesting ... but misleading:

Democracy is theoretically a game mode that helps players overcome the trolling malignancy of the stream by allowing a more judicious way of governing the character. Chat comments are translated into actual button inputs and directional commands like usual, but through a voting system that selects an input every 20 seconds and then resets. While terribly slow and overall more ineffective, it's a far more careful way of performing complex maneuvers, which in Twitch Plays Pokemon can be something as simple as opening a menu and selecting the necessary option while facing the right way.

On the other side is anarchy, a game mode that retains the original channel's mechanic of an all-out free-for-all where any one of the thousands of game commands flooding in every minute can form the basis of in-game movement.

In "Democracy," the majority rules -- however most people vote rules the character's actions.

In "Anarchy" -- real anarchy -- the character would make his own decisions, proceeding unruled by the authority of others.

The "Anarchy" mode in "Twitch Plays Pokemon" is misnamed -- it's actually more like what America has been becoming over the last few decades: The character finds himself subject to the arbitrary, confusing and conflicting commands of every politician, bureaucrat or badge-holder who might, at any moment, take an interest in ordering him around.

The only difference is that the character doesn't have the option of defying these commands (or, fortunately, of being beaten to death for QUESTIONING AUTHORITAH as per Semi-Standard Operating Procedure for "law enforcement").

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Five Topic Resources for Political Bloggers

My usual blogging topic of choice -- here at KN@PPSTER, at C4SS, at Come Home America, micro-blogging on Facebook and Twitter, guest/ghost-blogging at various and sundry places you've never heard of under names you wouldn't recognize -- is politics. I've been at it for more than a decade (heck, way more than a decade, since back before "blogs" were things), and I like to think I'm reasonably competent at it. So I try to share tips when they come to mind.

One obvious problem political bloggers face, day in and day out, is "what to blog about?" There's always something going on, of course ... but what's interesting? What's in your particular niche? What are others blogging about that you might want to link to and comment on?

Here are five resources I use to stay on top of topic:

  1. Rational Review News Digest -- Well, duh. I'm the publisher there, I've worked on it since 1996 (when it was Freedom News Daily; it actually goes back to 1991 as Libernet) and I'm proud of it. It's a daily roundup (with excerpts and links) of news and commentary "of interest to libertarians." On any given day we cover 20-30 news stories and 30-40 commentaries (not all libertarian material per se -- libertarians are interested in stuff from the "left" and "right" as well) on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter and via email editions. Chances are you'll find something to blog about at RRND.
  2. Memeorandum -- Robert Stacy McCain recommended this one to me as a cure for writer's block, way back before he succumbed to the glamour of evil and decided to master his readers with sin (these days his blog is oriented toward providing porn of the teen lesbian and teacher/student variety, covered with a cheap veneer of faux moral outrage so that his readers can unconvincingly pretend they're not pervs). The cool thing about Memeorandum is that it doesn't just cover current topics -- it covers blog coverage of current topics. You can see who's writing about what and find abundant link goodness to other coverage of your chosen story.
  3. -- If foreign policy is in your wheelhouse,'s front page is your best friend. Loads of linked news highlights from around the world. Scads of "viewpoints" links to global commentary. Its own blog, its own columnists. There's always something there to get you started.
  4. The Price of Liberty -- MamaLiberty and Nathan Barton update this blog daily with their own "Libertarian Commentary on the News" (as well as stand-alone pieces on various subjects). Their commentaries generally draw on RRND (see above) as well as other sources and make for a pretty good summary of what libertarians are noticing and why. Even if you're not a libertarian yourself, this is good stuff to know.
  5. An RSS Reader -- You're going to want to build your own list of frequently consulted sources, and there are just too many blogs out there to keep track of using browser bookmarks. Pick an RSS reader (I use InoReader) and make a point of adding a blog's feed to it whenever you realize you've found a good source. When you're topic-hungry, open the reader and scan the latest material. You'll almost certainly find something you'd like to write about.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Become a Blogger in 4 Hours. Class Starts Now.

I just received an email, subject line "Become a Blogger in 4 Weeks. Class Starts 2/27." It's from one of those online "universities," sponsored by a popular magazine. The cost: $199.99.

Naturally, the fine print promises something more than just "become a blogger." You'll learn how to set up your blog "the right way." How to write "for the web." How to "drive traffic" to your content. And so on, and so forth.

If you think you need to spend $200 to "become a blogger," don't let me stop you. But I'll show you how to "become a blogger" in four hours (tops!), for free, and explain why you're better off learning that other stuff via on-the-job training.

How to Become a Blogger in 4 Hours, Ultra-Short Version:


How to Become a Blogger in 4 Hours, Long Version:

  • Pick a "platform" -- a place to blog and/or the software to install on your own site if you already have one. Free all-inclusive platforms include the one you're reading this post at (Blogger) as well as There are others, but these are the big two. All you have to do is sign up for an account, make a few choices (like your blog's "visual" theme), and go to town. If you have your own site and want to install blog software on it, your best bet is Same software as the .com version, but you have complete control and responsibility.
  • Write what you want to write in the handy-dandy form and hit "publish" or "post."
Congratulations. You're a blogger. And you probably got there in well under four hours unless you went with the self-installed Wordpress option and decided to do a lot of theming work and so forth before actually, um, blogging.

Is there more to it than that if you want to be a good blogger and/or a successful blogger? Absolutely. BUT!

  • Becoming a good blogger is just one variation on becoming a good writer. That's not a blog-specific topic, it takes work, and if you're not already there it will probably take a damn sight longer than four weeks to get there.
  • Becoming a successful blogger is just one variation on becoming a successful marketer. That's not a blog-specific topic either.
If you want to become a good writer, the most important thing to do is read good writing. I'm not saying you shouldn't take a class or two if you think you need that, but you're probably not going to learn to write well in a four-week class on blogging. If you already have a reasonably good handle on spelling and grammar, your time is better spent looking at the blogs you enjoy and trying to puzzle out just why it is that you enjoy reading them so you can bring those elements to your own blogging.

If you want to become a successful marketer in your niche, the most important thing you can do is figure out how you found the blogs you enjoy reading, then reverse-engineer the process of getting your own blog mentioned/linked in those places. Comment on your favorite blogs -- with back links, if they are permitted, to your own relevant blog posts. If you see ads for your favorite blogs, advertise in the same places they do ... or advertise ON your favorite blogs. Their audience is probably the audience you want, right?

So, there you have it. No charge. Unless you want to send me something for saving you $200. In which case, see the Bitcoin widget in the right sidebar or PayPal

Sunday, February 16, 2014

W00T! Schism!

I have decided to create discovered a new schism in left-libertarianism.

In honor of said schism, I hereby designate myself a "paleo-left-libertarian" (because I'm "Old Left," hearkening back to the libertarian class analysis of Say, Comte and Dunoyer before Marx took it and ran in the wrong direction with it).

As a paleo-left-libertarian, I denounce the attempted introduction of the postmodernist/Critical Theory malformation of the concept of "privilege" into libertarian class analysis.

Yes, there is such a thing as privilege.

Yes, privilege in the context of politics is an indicator of abusive power relationships.

However, "privilege" as it is used in pomo/CR isn't the reasonable concept as used elsewhere. In pomo/CR, "privilege" is a rhetorical tool with a specific purpose: To manufacture new classes and class enemies on demand and from whole cloth, pursuant to the demands of the "identity politics" arms race.

I hereby denounce my opponents on this subject as "cosmo-left-libertarians" (because I strongly suspect that at least some of them have been known to drink vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice all mixed together in the same glass).

[Addendum/Note to Self: I should probably add use of the Oxford Comma to the list of cosmo-left-libertarian heresies I'll be compiling]

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Statistics Discrepancies

Like most self-important, insecure bloggers, I keep an eye on the statistics relating to visits and visitors at KN@PPSTER. It's nice to have an idea of how many people drop by, what they read while they're here, etc.

Problem is, I have two sets of such statistics:

  • A subset of Google Analytics, which happens to be conveniently built in to the Blogspot dashboard; and
  • Sitemeter, which I've been using since well before Google Analytics got built in to the Blogspot dashboard.
Those two sets of statistics tell me very different stories.

According to Google Analytics, KN@PPSTER received 12,660 page views in January.

According to Sitemeter, KN@PPSTER received 43,327 page views in January.

One of these numbers is very much not like the other.

Does anyone know of a good reason for that kind of discrepancy, or have an informed opinion as to which count is more accurate?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Here We Go Again ...

When Jack Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the couple had a number of reasonable ways to respond.

They could have tried to persuade Phillips that his position was unreasonable and that smart business owners do their best to increase, not decrease, the amount of money they bring in.

They could have exposed Phillips in the press, on social media -- heck, even with public street protests; why not have their wedding on the sidewalk out front? -- likely costing his business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, a good deal of revenue not just from same-sex couples but from pretty much everyone who disapproves of that kind of bigotry.

They could have found a competing baker with fewer hangups and boosted THAT baker's business at Phillips's expense.

Instead they turned Phillips into a martyr, using the power of the state to deny him exactly the same freedom of religion and association that principled opponents of marriage apartheid have been seeking on behalf of LGBTQ people for years.

They also objectively perpetuated anti-LGBTQ discrimination by sending it into hiding: Now instead of flying their homophobia flag way up high where it can be seen and appropriately responded to in the marketplaces of both money and ideas, people who don't want to bake cakes for, rent hotel rooms to and so forth to the non-hetero-monogamous will just say "sorry, our schedule is full that week" or "we don't have any rooms available."

And as far as the dangerous and capricious state power Mullins and Craig invoked in achieving that ugly outcome is concerned, here's one of the results. And here's another. Neither of these laws would be needed in anything resembling a free society.

It took a lot of work to make anti-marriage, anti-family politicians look like the good guys on the side of freedom and all that is right and good (and they most definitely are not the good guys on the side of freedom and all that is right and good), but Mullins and Craig brought the production off with style and panache.

Thanks a heap, assholes. It's probably not possible to derail the train of marriage freedom and social tolerance, but you gave it the good old college try, didn't you?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm Surprised ...

... that the very first Vulgar Libertarians blog post doesn't go completely off the rails until the beginning of its fifth paragraph. While the first four paragraphs are ... hey, let me steal a favorite phrase, "nonsense on stilts" ... the true scope of error isn't revealed until we get to this:

Libertarianism is a theory of law: it explains that conflicts between humans are minimized when they recognize each other's property rights, based on self-ownership and homesteading of unowned resources, preserved by transformation through labor, and transmitted through consensual trading and giving.

Um, no. Libertarianism isn't a theory, of law or of anything else.

Libertarianism is a constraint -- the non-aggression principle.

There are any number of philosophical foundations from which one may build up to the discovery of this constraint. No, I'm not saying all of those foundations are valid. I'm just saying that there are many roads leading to Rome. Some may be straight and smoothly surfaced, some may be winding and full of potholes. And that's important. But for our purposes here, how you get here not as important as where here is and what's on this spot. Libertarianism is the non-aggression principle, not the things leading to the non-aggression principle.

Any number of theories of social and political organization might be reasoned out, visualized or implemented which adhere to this constraint. A theory which adheres to this constraint is libertarian in character (but is not libertarianism itself). A theory which does not adhere to this constraint is "libertarian" neither in character nor in any other sense. Libertarianism is the non-aggression principle, not every conclusion which might be (correctly or incorrectly) derived from the non-aggression principle.

"Left" and "right" and "thin" and "thick" and so forth are prospectively valid additive adjectives for describing these theories and the people who adhere to them.

And while I'm speaking ex cathedra anyway, I'll go ahead and posit that "left-libertarian" is a redundancy, that "right-libertarian" and "vulgar libertarian" are synonyms for "libertarians in error" and that "anarcho-capitalist" is an oxymoron.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's Complicated.

But it doesn't have to be.

Every time a bunch of motivated activists with their hearts in the right place put together an "Internet-wide event," two things happen:

  • They come up with some code that you can "simply paste into your site template" to make your site show the flag on Der Tag; and
  • That code (often in several versions) works in some places, doesn't work in other places, and wreaks havoc in yet other places.

For example, in a chat I'm having right now, someone who shall not be named at a site that shall not be mentioned says:

Last night ... the day we fight back managed to swallow most of [the site's] layout

Now it just so happens that I think The Day We Fight Back is a great idea.

And I greatly appreciate all the hard work volunteers went to to provide drop-in code, a "One-Click CloudFlare App," a "WordPress Plugin," a "Drupal 7.x Plugin," a "Joomla Plugin," a "SubReddit Plugin" and a "Concrete5 Plugin."

But for the love of God, why don't these events ever offer a simple "right-click-and-save this here graphic and put it on your site any old way that works for you" option?

It's like they built an entire new, single-day use on-ramp system to the Information Superhighway, but couldn't paint a simple yellow line down the middle of the road for us idiots.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Meanwhile, Back at the C4SS Ranch ...

... I've got a couple of new pieces up.

Depends On What "Corruption" Is ...

The dual purposes of the IRS, as of every other executive branch institution, are to milk the cattle (that's you and me) on behalf of the political class and to suppress opponents of, or threats to, the current establishment (the purpose of the legislative branch is to pre-plan the milking and suppression; the purpose of the judicial branch is to justify the milking and suppression after the fact as required).

That's what the state does. That's all the state does. That's what it was designed to do. Any appearances to the contrary are window dressing.

All the kvetching, whether it's Republicans groaning about IRS harassment of their astroturf operations or Democrats whining that Chris Christie closed some traffic lanes on a bridge, is just internal bickering of the sort two schoolyard bullies might engage in while jointly beating down the other kids for their lunch money.

The problem with political government is not that it's "corrupt." It's that way by design. The problem with political government is that we put up with it.

Read the rest here.

The Problem Isn't "Patent Trolls." The Problem Is Patents.

Even if patents actually accomplished their advertised purpose -- "securing for limited Times to ... Inventors the exclusive Right to their ... Discoveries," as the US Constitution puts it -- they'd be a very bad idea. The claim that one can own an idea is silly on its face, and not a claim that anyone would pay the slightest mind to were it not enforced at gunpoint by the state.

But the advertised purpose of patents is not their actual purpose.

Their actual purpose is to restrain competition and limit innovation so as to provide economic advantage -- monopoly pricing power, in fact -- to established firms who, by virtue of their ability to pay off (pardon my indelicate language; I believe the word I'm looking for is "lobby") politicians, bureaucrats and judges, can thereby indulge their desire avoid market competition on price or quality.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

(Chrome)Boxing Day!

I've had my Samsung Chromebox for about a year-and-a-half, and I'm still pleased as punch with it. For those who use a computer primarily as a "web appliance," ChromeOS just can't be beat. But I may replace it later this year -- with another Chromebox.

ASUS announced its Chromebox offering this morning. Available in March, starting at $179.

The specs look fairly similar to my Samsung, except that instead of an Intel Celeron, the ASUS box will use the new Intel "Haswell" CPUs. What that means for performance, I don't know. The raw GHz speed looks lower on the newer chips, but maybe there's some caching stuff or whatever that weighs in in ASUS's favor.

Other differences:

  • My Samsung Chromebox is about 7.5 inches square (OK, rounded corners, but you get the idea). The ASUS model will come in at just under 5 inches square and it will have one of those rigs for mounting it on the back of a monitor if that's your space-saving desire.
  • My box has a DVI port, while the ASUS model sports only HDMI and DisplayPort for monitor output. So I'll have to adapt there.
  • The ASUS box has a built in card reader.
Anyway, it's not a done deal. I may just stick with the Samsung until it keels over and dies (if it does -- I have a Samsung Chromebox, a Samsung Chromebook, a Samsung TV ... and I've never had a piece of Samsung gear die yet).

My main reason for considering the ... "upgrade" ... is my younger son, Liam.

He loves Windows.

He insists that Mac and Linux and ChromeOS suck.

But every time I vacate the chair in front of my Chromebox for more than 30 seconds or so, he's on it. The only justification he can come up with is that he's looking at sites which might have Windows malware on them. You know, sites like and Wikipedia.

So, he secretly loves the Chromebox. If I get a new one, I can retire/wipe the old one and stick it in his room. Then he can indulge his secret love in secret instead of hogging MY machine.

Brief Addendum: In the original post, when I mentioned that the new ASUS Chromebook will roll out at $179, I meant to add something along the lines of "wow ... my Samsung was $329!" I thought the machine was a good deal at almost twice the price; at less than $200, it's just a no-brainer - TLK]

Another Addendum: It's just come to my attention that there's someone out there who really needs a new computer, who certainly deserves a new computer, and whose having of a new computer would measurably benefit the libertarian movement to the extent that it increased his blog output. And a Chromebook sounds like it would fit the bill just about perfectly. If this sounds like something you'd like to help with, here's the link. I'm throwing $5 at it myself, so if it pleases you to think of this as a "match me challenge," please do so.

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