Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Holiday Movies

Now that we've watched it two years in a row, I guess A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is officially going to be a family holiday tradition.

Another quickly developing tradition: Picking out a couple of movies I expect to be pretty bad and watching them. This year's selections:

Slipstream: I'm not sure why I never noticed this 1989 flick before. It was mentioned in a (very negative) review of the new Star Wars movie as being the previous movie that the reviewer had walked out on (I can't find that review at the moment; when I do I'll come back and link to it -- update, here it is). Somehow the filmmakers managed to get Mark Hamill, Bill Paxton, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham to appear in this turkey.

Dear God, it's bad. How bad? I can't even begin ...

The premise is that around the turn of the century (almost 17 years ago now), an environmental disaster turned the winds loose, wrecking civilization as we know it, making long-distance ground travel impossible and flying very dicey (it seems to me that it would be the other way around, wouldn't it?) and now everyone is anti-technology and Mark Hamill is a bounty hunter and Bill Paxton is a small-time outlaw, and ... well, it all just goes downhill from there. The only really memorable or good line comes from Paxton, in the background, while two other characters are talking in a museum. If you watch the movie, and I don't recommend that you do, you'll know it when you hear it.

Deadfall: Another star-studded disaster, but the reason for it is, well, reasonable (see below). I found this one in Vudu's digital bargain sale bin for $2.99 and after reading an old Los Angeles Times review decided that it's always worth that price to see "a way-over-the-top Nicolas Cage."

Why star-studded? Well, it was directed by Cage's brother, Christopher Coppola, who, like Nicholas, is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. Presumably that name was the reason James Coburn, Henry Fonda, Talia Shire, Michael Biehn, Mickey Dolenz, and Charlie Sheen made themselves available for it.

It's bad, but not in the way that Slipstream is bad. It feels an unsuccessful attempt to turn channel David Lynch for a combination film noir/caper movie. The "way-over-the-top" Cage moments don't save it, but "well here's to Sam F**king Peckinpah!" makes it worth $2.99.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ironic Stomp Box Project

The last part I was waiting for arrived (see previous post about late packages), so ...

Wooden Box -- $1 at a yard sale

Piezoelectric Pickup -- about $1.90 (1 of 5 to a $9.49 package) from Amazon

Decorative License Plate -- $6.99 from Amazon

Not happy with the sound yet. Not sure if I need to repurpose a different kind of pickup, move the existing one, or perhaps put some other stuff in the box to create more of a racket, or maybe cut out some emptiness underneath the plate.

I probably should have paid more careful attention to this video:

I'll get it right eventually.

It's Not The Late Package That Bothers Me

I just kind of assume that Amazon Prime "free 2-day shipping" packages may run late this time of year.

The holidays usually are a package delivery clusterf**k. In fact, this year I see a guy in a golf cart pulling a trailer around the neighborhood delivering packages every afternoon. I'm guessing that he's some kind of neighborhood-level sub-contractor for US Snail or one of the private sector parcel companies -- dump a load with a contractor and go get another load instead of the main truck having to go house to house. Which says to me that volume is even higher than in past years.

What DOES bother me is that I'm repeatedly getting this after my Amazon order ...

... even though I'm still getting this before my Amazon order:

"Prime, yada yada, Want it Wednesday, Dec. 20? Order within X hrs Y mins and choose Two-Day Shipping at checkout."

This time of year, they should switch things up and go with something more like:

"Prime, yada, yada, Want it Wednesday, Dec. 20? Order within X hrs Y mins and choose Two-Day Shipping at checkout and we'll do our best, but you know, the holidays are usually a package delivery clusterf**k so it may not work out like that."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

I've received several marketing emails recently with a message header identical or similar to the title of this post, so it seems like a hot topic. As the author of more than a hundred thousand blog posts (more on that below -- this is the 3,712th post at KN@PPSTER alone, and my recollection is that I'm the author of all but two), I feel qualified to weigh in.

Some marketing gurus say "the shorter the better" (people don't want to read long posts -- show them some sizzle and then move them along to whatever you're selling).

SEO gurus tend to say "the longer the better" because that way a post will vomit up more terms for the search engines to lock onto and rank the page for.

Blogger opinionators of all kinds tend to say "it depends." I concur.

"Blog" is nothing but a publishing format/content management convention -- reverse-chronological posting of content. Its early usage was for personal journals, but these days the format/convention is everywhere, in use by publications of every type imaginable. Wordpress and other blogging applications have become full-featured content management systems.

So, how long your blog post should be is a function of what you're trying to accomplish.

I've published (as mentioned above) more than 100,000 blog posts at Rational Review News Digest  (more than 11,000 in its latest Wordpress database, which will turn one year old on Friday, the day before the publication itself turns 15 years old in its current format). Those posts have a preferential length of 150 words or less and a semi-hard limit of 200 words. Why? Because they are excerpts from and links to Other People's Content and we want to stay in "fair use" territory.

At The Garrison Center, my posts invariably run between 400 and 500 words in length because I'm actually writing for the newspaper op-ed market and that length range has, in my experience, proven itself the "sweet spot" for working that market.

Here at KN@PPSTER, anything goes as the spirit moves. Sometimes I link to something I like with a short comment and the post comes to fewer than 100 words. Other times I reprint an old article or essay of mine that was originally published elsewhere and the post comes in at 3000+ words.

So, form should follow function. If you have a good reason to pay attention to post length, by all means do so. If not, don't sweat it.

Friday, December 15, 2017

2017 Goals I Probably Won't Achieve, May Not Achieve, and Already Have Achieved

Probably Won't:

My goal at KN@PPSTER is to average one blog post per day.

This is my 319th post of 2017.

I suppose I could try to knock out 46 posts in the next 12.x days, but I'm not going to do that just to be able to say I got in my 365 for the year.

May Not:

Among my resolutions for 2017 were to log 1,000 miles of bicycle riding and 300 miles of walking on the Charity Miles app, a cool app that lets you turn workouts into charitable donations via sponsors.

Unfortunately, shortly after I announced that goal, the app stopped working on my phone. As soon as I opened it, it would close with an error. After some research, I decided to go with Strava to log my miles ... and then I got lazy, both with the logging and the biking/walking.

I don't know the real numbers, so I don't know whether or not I'll make the goals. My educated guess is "no" -- that when the year closes out, I will have walked (as workouts) between 180 and 200 miles and biked between 600 and 700. So I'm planning to recycle that goal for 2017.

The other day, I decided to re-install Charity Miles on my phone. The latest version is even nicer than the original, and it's working on my phone again. So now I'm running Charity Miles and Strava when I walk or ride.

Already Have:

My goal for The Garrison Center was to have its op-eds picked up by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications at least 1,000 times in 2017. That number is already in the rearview mirror. In fact, I think there's a better than even chance that it will hit 1,100.

Civics Education, Homeschool/Unschool Style

So yesterday, I put on the live stream of the Federal Communications Commission's session in which they were going to vote to end "Net Neutrality." I was somewhat surprised when my 16-year-old son came in, recognized what it was and why I had it on, and sat down and watched. I knew he'd been following the issue, but not how closely.

Of course, his commentary on the hearing itself ranged from "is that woman ever going to shut up so they can vote?" during one of the commissioners' interminable speeches (which included a Cheshire Cat metaphor leading into a verbal stumble culminating in the the memorable phrase "however they conjugate that")  to "oh, for crying out loud, how long can this take?" when the room was cleared for security theater purposes.

But I'm guessing that most 16-year-olds don't take it upon themselves to sit through FCC hearings in the first place, so his irritability with the slowness of proceedings doesn't strike me as odd. I'd even say it's evidence for what every parent wants to think ("my kid isn't most 16-year-olds"). He's been pressing us to let him take the GED so he can start college. And his elder sibling is gainfully employed while mulling EMT training versus nursing school.

Childe KN@PPSTER to The Dark Tower Came

I was stoked to see The Dark Tower on the big screen. Then it actually came out and 1) I was busy, 2) the reviews were terrible, 3) etc. Finally sat down and watched it at home last night.

Warning: One exceedingly minor spoiler which you probably either already know about or won't care about.

One-sentence review: Solid movie, for what it is.


What it is not is a novelization of The Gunslinger, the first novel in Stephen King's Dark Tower series.

Its Wikipedia entry claims that it "serves as a canonical sequel to the novel series, which concludes with the revelation that Roland's quest is a cyclical time loop." Which is a smooth way of saying "we bit off more than we could chew for one movie, and with sequel/TV series potential there was no way we were gonna kill off the kid, so we changed a bunch of stuff and used a plot loophole in the books to justify it."

But what the heck, that explanation works. Same universe. Same characters. Similar, but not identical, plot. Yeah, time loop, that's it.

Some fans got their knickers in a twist when the filmmakers cast Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, who is definitely white in the novels. One person who wasn't upset was Stephen King. I didn't have a strong opinion until I saw the movie, and now my opinion is that Elba nailed the role.

Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black, aka Walter Padick, aka Randall Flagg: Perfect.

My first personal visual image of what Flagg would look/sound/act like was, for some reason, James Woods. I've got nothing against Jamey Sheridan and he did a fine job as Flagg in The Stand, but it didn't click with me. As soon as I heard McConaughey's name in the casting, I was like "why didn't I think of that?" And he owns it, completely. So long as McConaughey lives, there should never be another King film adaptation with a Flagg incarnation played by anyone else.

So, okay: What I really wanted was an eight-film blockbuster cycle that was resolutely faithful in every detail. But I doubt I was ever going to get that, and this version does deliver both as a story of its own and as a nicely done slice of the Dark Tower pie.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Alexa Skill That Ought to Exist ...

... but that doesn't seem to, and that I don't have the chops to create myself:

Scheduling lights relative to sunrise/sunset

I recently bought a Eufy smart bulb for our living room light (actually as an early Christmas present for Tamara, who hates having to tromp back and forth to turn it on and off -- now she can just say "Alexa, turn on/off the living room light").

It's pretty cool. In addition to verbally ordering it to turn on, off, and up or down to various degrees of brightness, I can schedule it to do things by the clock. But what I want to be able to do is schedule it to turn on one hour before sunset, and off (assuming it's on) one hour after sunrise.

I tell myself I want to be able to to this for reasons of energy efficiency, but who am I kidding? I want to be able to do it because I think it would be cool.

Word PSA

capital, noun: The city or town that functions as the seat of government and administrative centre of a country or region.

Capitol, proper noun: The seat of the US Congress in Washington DC.

Correct -- Capitol Hill
Incorrect -- capital hill

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Embarrassing Constitution Fail

Surprisingly, via the Tenth Amendment Center. From a reprint of a piece by the Mises Institute's Ryan McMaken (also usually not terrible) on the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act:

Reciprocity, properly defined, is a matter of agreement among the states. It does not involve the federal government.

Well, except for that pesky ol' Constitution, Article IV, Section 1:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Congress is doing is prescribing the same effect for concealed carry permits as for drivers' licenses, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, etc.

The piece also includes the "Bill of Rights doesn't apply to the states" fail (parts of it, including the Second Amendment, clearly do), but that's an old and expected one from the paleo side. And of course under the Second Amendment a "concealed carry permit" requirement is by definition an unconstitutional abomination.

You Know, George Clooney Could Have Slept on my Couch ...

... all he had to do was ask.

Just sayin' ...

Alabama: Best Bad Thing for the GOP?

Personally, I was surprised that Republican Roy Moore lost Alabama's election for US Senate to Democrat Doug Jones last night. In fact, I didn't really expect to be especially close. I guess I didn't give Alabamians enough credit for having basic good sense and morals. So, given that this was a race that I didn't predict well, feel free to take my further opinions with a grain of salt (as if you wouldn't anyway). But here are those opinions:

Once Moore won the Republican primary, Moore losing the general election was the best outcome the GOP could hope for.

The party organization could have gone all-in behind a write-in Republican alternative, but that would likely have handed the race to Jones anyway, while enraging the Trump base and making other prospective Republican candidates around the country doubt their party's commitment to their success. Their only viable option was to offer tepid, back-and-forth party support while some individual party leaders tried to get out a "Roy Moore is not us" message.

If he had won the race, he would have spent the next 11 months making the Republican Party look like a raging bunch of assholes (which, in fairness, they are), and the Democrats would have joyously assisted him in promoting that image (if for no other reason than to deflect attention from their own raging assholishness). Holding the one Senate seat in Alabama would almost certainly have cost the GOP one or more Senate seats and a number of House seats in competitive elections next November.

Of course, he's still threatening to spend some time making Republicans look like a raging bunch of  assholes. He's refused to concede the election and is jabbering about a recount. But now that he's lost, the party organization has an excuse to wash its hands of him, and has already started making a show of doing so.

He lost, and the Democrats have gained one Senate seat, but they lost a horse's ass they could have beat through 2018. The horse's ass went down with a broken leg last night. Unless Moore shows some epic "rigged election" whining chops (and, assisted by media who hate him, hey, maybe he will), the horse will shortly die, and beating a dead horse isn't nearly as effective as beating a live horse's ass.

Cold comfort to the Republican Party, I'm guessing, but like I said, it was the best they could hope for.

Monday, December 11, 2017

One Result of Roy Moore's Prospective Senate Election Victory

Democrats will lose their seeming monopoly on the rallying cry "won't someone please think of the children?"

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Looks Like @DaveWeigel Has Arrived

I'm guessing you really have to be somebody for the New York Times to run a story about the President of the United States attacking you by name.

Addendum Note: Weigel has a new book out on, wow, prog rock. I'll definitely be picking it up at some near future point when my book budget rebounds from the Game of Thrones binge. Never would have figured Dave for a Yes man (rim shot).

Heartland Continues its Anti-Property-Rights Agitation on Behalf Keystone XL

At one time, The Heartland Institute seemed like a fairly reliable defender of property rights, pursuing its stated mission to "discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems." Or maybe I just wasn't noticing their deviations from same.

But the position they promote on the Keystone XL Pipeline puts them front and center among those -- usually regarded as on the statist left -- claiming that economic "efficiency," "development," and "growth" trump property rights. As with Paul Driessen's column yesterday, "Keystone Is Anti-hydrocarbon Zealotry in Microcosm."

The Nebraska Public Service Commission (NPSC) recently voted to approve the state’s segment of the 1,200-mile Keystone XL Pipeline. While that would appear to allow construction to move forward, more obstacles loom before KXL can finally bring North Dakota and Canadian crude oil to Texas refineries.

Commissioners who voted against approval have raised objections, some landowners still object to the pipeline crossing their lands, other landowners were not aware that the new route will cross their properties, and environmentalists plan more lawsuits to stop TransCanada’s plans to finish Keystone.

See what he did there? The rest of the column focuses on everything except that passing reference to private property owners who don't want to sell to TransCanada, or who don't even know yet that TransCanada has its eyes on their land. Both groups either already have, or soon will, find out that the state government is in cahoots with TransCanada and prepared to steal their land from under them.

Driessen's conclusion: "Keystone XL is a vital addition to America’s pipeline system. It’s not perfect. But it is essential for a healthier, safer, more prosperous United States. Building it will create tens of thousands of jobs."

Unstated but essential component of Driessen's position: If land owners don't want the pipeline on their land, screw'em, just steal it.

Pursuant to his position, Driessen also recommends the imposition of draconian police state measures to shut up those dirty hippies who are inclined to protest: "Require permits and multi-million-dollar surety bonds for every encampment, to ensure safety, lawful activities, and cleanup of human and other wastes. Prohibit wearing of ski masks and collect IDs, fingerprints and photos of every activist."

Of course, that last bit follows inexorably from the first bit. If building the pipeline is more important than property rights in land, it's surely also more important than freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Class enemies must be liquidated before utopia can be realized, see?

Added a few hours after the initial post: Compare Heartland's bits on Keystone to its response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. New London. Hint: Exact opposites.

Friday, December 08, 2017

But Then There's the Flip Side

Sometimes I get it wildly wrong. Here's the lead paragraph from my Garrison Center column of January 16, 2017:

“Elections have consequences,” outgoing US president Barack Obama once told Republican congressional leaders, and “I won.” He was right. One consequence of the 2016 election, in which the Republican Party maintained its House and Senate majorities and got a president of their own party, is the near-certain, near-future repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare.”

The rest of the column -- an "explainer" on the meaning of the word "insurance" -- is pretty sound, but yeah, I had a massive brain fart and fell into the (momentary, quickly dispelled) belief that groups of politicians actually mean what they say over and over, year after year, until they get the opportunity to act on it.

A Serendipitous Garrison Flashback

So, Michael Flynn put in a guilty plea on charges of lying to FBI agents last week. The charges were laid pursuant to Robert Mueller's investigation of alleged "Russian meddling" in the 2016 presidential election. For some reason there are two elements here that most people don't seem to be noticing:

  1. Flynn lied about conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Aha! Evidence of Russian meddling in the election! Except that Flynn met with Kislyak after, not before, the election.
  2. The conversations appear to have related not to Russian meddling in the election, but to Israeli meddling in a United Nations Security Council vote.

Per the New York Times:

According to prosecutors, on Dec. 22, Mr. Flynn discussed with Mr. Kislyak an upcoming United Nations Security Council vote on whether to condemn Israel’s building of settlements. At the time, the Obama administration was preparing to allow a Security Council vote on the matter.

Mr. Mueller’s investigators have learned through witnesses and documents that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel, according to two people briefed on the inquiry.

So anyway, I'm beginning my annual re-counting of The Garrison Center's media "pickups" for 2017, and this morning I came across a Garrison column I wrote two days after that meeting, concerning "foreign meddling in US presidential elections." Guess which country it fingers.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Congrats to @Jason_Stapleton!

I listen to The Jason Stapleton Program nearly every day and it's one of my favorites. Not because Stapleton is always right (in fact, he's sometimes terribly wrong*, IMO), but because he usually has an interesting and reasonably sane take on the issues and is an excellent talker. Easy on the ears, doesn't come off like a case of audio road rage, etc.

Anyway, on yesterday's episode he finally made a major announcement he'd been promising for some time regarding the show's future. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is -- listen for yourself.

* My favorite "Jason Stapleton is terribly wrong" moment was when he got caught up in a feud that really only existed in the imagination of paleo podcaster Tom Woods, and decided to tangle with Woods's supposed nemesis, Libertarian National Committee chair Nick Sarwark. Nick picked Jason up by the back of his underwear and gave him a nuclear wedgie while dragging him down the hall to the toilet for a swirlie, then booted him in the ass and admonished him to go back to the kids' table while the adults were talking. Metaphorically speaking, of course. It wasn't pretty. But it was beautiful.

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

I was looking out back this morning at the ruins of a cheap -- $99 -- teepee-style tent that I bought a few years ago. My off-the-cuff calculation of the current market price of the Bitcoin I spent on it: $30,000. In the area where I live, I could probably buy an acre or two with a livable trailer home on it for that.

I turned around and looked at the $200 TV -- 1080p, 32-inch -- I also bought with Bitcoin more recently. Current market price of the Bitcoin I spent on it, around $3,000. Which means if I had held on to that Bitcoin, I could buy a larger-screen, 4K TV with it right now.

In 2016, I paid for my Libertarian National Convention package with Bitcoin, and that Bitcoin is worth quite a bit more now than it was then, too.

If I had kept all the Bitcoin I ever had, I would not be a "Bitcoin millionaire" today. But I'd probably be close to being a "Bitcoin hundred-thousandaire."

I've seen some people expressing regrets over similar calculations lately. I'm not one of them.

It's true that I've tried to "buy low, sell high" when using Bitcoin. I'd get a little, and then when the price went up, I'd buy myself something nice with it.

But my main interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has never been speculation as such. It's been participating in the use of a new medium of exchange with properties that I like.

So no, I'm not bothered by the theoretical "loss." I made out OK, and had fun being a fairly early adopter who actually used the stuff for one of its key purposes.

Why "Alexa?"

According to Amazon's Senior Vice President of Devices, David Limp, there are two reasons why the company's voice service is named "Alexa":

The problem was choosing a word that people didn't ordinarily use in everyday life. "Computer" wouldn't cut it. So after testing various names, the team landed on a word Alexa, that used soft vowels and an "x." It sounded fairly unique.

But the engineers also liked the name for that somewhat geeky Star Trek-ish reason. It was "a little reminiscent of the library of Alexander" which was at one time the keeper of "all knowledge," Limp said.

I suspect a third: It's evocative of ELIZA. Don't know why that occurred to me, but it did and I just thought I'd share.

We've got two Alexa-powered speakers in our home: An Echo Dot and a Eufy Genie. I bought both on sale at ~$20 each.

The Dot is more powerful in certain ways -- it has Bluetooth to connect to a speaker while the Genie doesn't, it can make phone calls to my contact list, etc. -- but they're both good at the basics. "Alexa, what's the weather?" "Alexa, set a time for 10 minutes/alarm for 6am," "Alexa, play some Grateful Dead," and so on. I like them, but obviously your mileage may vary over privacy concerns and so forth.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

WTF, Reason? (Mortgage Interest Deduction Edition)

The headline attracted my attention: Why We Should Kill the Mortgage-Interest Deduction Once and for All. It's a Reason podcast.

I assumed that the reasons offered would be similar to mine, which I'll explain below. But no. Here's the (print -- I haven't listened to the podcast yet) justification Anthony Randazzo, director of Economic research at the Reason Foundation offers:

Under current law, homeowners can deduct interest on mortgage loans of up to $1 million for two houses, plus interest on home equity loans worth another $100,000. That currently costs the federal government about $70 billion in foregone revenue, making it one of the biggest "tax expenditures" in the federal budget. The Senate tax bill would allow homeowners to deduct the interest on $500,000 of mortgage debt for a single residence.

But even that lower level is too much of a giveaway ...

A tax deduction doesn't "cost" the federal government anything, nor is it a "giveaway." Not taking money from someone isn't the same thing as money coming out of your pocket. If I don't mug you, my not mugging you doesn't "cost" me the $20 in your wallet. It wasn't mine to begin with.

Now, why do I want to get rid of the mortgage interest deduction (and how, which is equally important)? Because it is:

  1. Social engineering; for the purpose of
  2. Corporate welfare.
The government says "if you buy a HOUSE, you can deduct the mortgage interest from the income we tax. If you buy anything else, well, cough up."

The surface justification for this is that owning a home is an inherently good thing and part of the American dream and that therefore the government should tax people who do that a little less than they tax people who buy heroin or booze or lap dances (for examples) with their money.

Of course the real justification is that contractors, realtors and mortgage companies contribute lots of money to politicians so that they can get a tax code favor resulting in them being able to build, sell, and loan money on, more houses (at the presumptive expense of drug dealers, liquor stores and strippers and everyone else who doesn't get such favorable treatment in the tax code).

Now, as to the how of eliminating that deduction:

Personally I would prefer a top income tax rate of 0%. But failing that, if Congress is going to tax Americans $70 billion less than they otherwise would, I'd prefer to see the rates adjusted downward so that that $70 billion is left equally with everyone to spend on whatever they damn well please instead of artificially incentivizing people to buy homes.

Now: If it's the choice of keeping the mortgage interest deduction as is, or ditching it and putting that $70 billion in the government's coffers, I'm for keeping it. Anything that reduces government revenue is good, and I'm flabbergasted to see Reason suggesting otherwise.

"[U]ntil the late 1890s, individuals weren't expected to make rational choices when voting"

Interesting take on media, voting and the idea of an "informed electorate" from Will Rinehart at Cato Unbound.

There was a time when newspapers wore their partisan affiliations on their sleeves. If you look around a bit, you'll still find newspapers with "Democrat" and "Republican" in their names -- in fact, my Garrison Center mailing list includes 32 of the former and eight of the latter. "Objective journalism" is a fairly recent invention, and pretty much a fake one.

Monday, December 04, 2017

This is a Test ...

... of the Logan Act.

Best Month Ever?

I'm pretty sure it is -- for The Garrison Center, that is.

So far I have identified 122 "pickups" of Garrison op-eds in November by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications. The previous record, to the best of my recollection, was 115 in August.

Total identified "pickups" for 2017, through November 30: 969.

InshAllah and the creek don't rise, it will break 1,000 (my announced goal) before the end of the year.

In fact, it may already have done so -- during the last week of the year, I go back to December 15 of the previous year and Google every op-ed. I usually find several for each month that I missed when they actually ran.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Joseph Stiglitz Ought to be ...

... tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. Or at least ignored when possible, talked to like an idiot when he can't be avoided, and ridiculed in the media if an occasion demands mentioning him. In addition to being evil, his opinion on Bitcoin is to sound economics as Thunderbird is to Chateaux Lafite-Rothschild 1869.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

Thanks Again, LP National Convention Edition

Thanks to supporters BW and EH/SH, I have purchased my 2018 Libertarian National Convention package and booked my hotel room for all three nights of the convention (I may have to arrive a day earlier than that -- if so, I'll either change the hotel booking or look for a single night of crash space elsewhere).

In my fundraising plea, I specified that if I raised $169 I'd buy the basic package and if I raised $219 I'd buy the Bronze package. Since the donors mentioned above hooked me up with a combined $550, I went Bronze as promised (the difference is a couple of included meals; I hope they're worth $50 each!).

Because I am a cheapskate, I didn't just fork over for the convention hotel (the Hyatt Regency New Orleans). I visited Trivago (not a referral link) and looked for good deals nearby. I know the LP gets a group rate by selling a minimum number of rooms, and I do like convenience, so I wasn't going to go somewhere else to save ten bucks. But ...

I saved about $100 by taking a room only 0.3 miles from the convention venue (and, if I'm not mistaken, closer to the French Quarter and places Tamara might want to visit while I'm conventioneering) at the Wyndham Garden Baronne Plaza. That's a ten-minute walk and I don't expect to do a bunch of running back and forth. I'm more than willing to walk for ten minutes, two or four times a day for three days, to save $100. Especially since, given the size of some of these convention venues, I might well have been walking that far if I'd stayed at the Hyatt, and doubly especially since I should be exercising at every opportunity.

OK, so Trivago wasn't a referral link, but here's one: If you join Booking.com as my referral, then the first time you book a room and stay there, you get $25 and so do I. Think about it.

So, as of now, all that remains to look into is travel. I'm not sure who's going yet (me, of course, hopefully Tamara, possibly one or more kid), but I'm going to start checking out planes, trains, buses, automobiles, etc. and getting that plan together. As in all things, I'm easy. I rode in a van with a bazillion other people 14 hours each way to the 2008 convention in Denver. If it's just me, I'll probably go in with some Florida caravan or grab a bus ride.

THANK YOU for the help. I look forward to working for you as a national convention delegate.

The Dumbest Case for Roy Moore I've Read Yet ...

... is put forth by Pat Buchanan in The American Conservative:

Why would Christian conservatives in good conscience go to the polls on December 12 and vote for Judge Roy Moore, despite the charges of sexual misconduct with teenagers leveled against him?

Answer: That Alabama Senate race could determine whether Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Of the seven justices who voted for the Roe side of Roe v. Wade, five (Burger, Brennan, Stewart, Powell and Blackmun) were Republicans. Of the two who dissented, one (Rehnquist) was a Republican. The majority opinion was written by Blackmun, not by a Democrat. Or, to put it a different way, if every Democrat on the court had voted for the Wade side, Republicans would still have decided the case in favor of Roe.

Supreme Courts, including Supreme Courts with Republican majorities, have upheld Roe for nearly half a century.

Even if Moore is elected, and even if the Senate doesn't expel or refuse to seat him, and even if his victory doesn't cost the GOP at least one Senate seat and possibly more, and even if a Supreme Court seat comes open during his tenure in the Senate, and even if whoever is president during that time nominates an anti-Roe judge for the seat, the likelihood of Moore being the deciding vote in favor of that nominee is so tiny as to be of no significance whatsoever.

Buchanan has it exactly backward. The purpose of promoting people like Moore for election to the US Senate isn't to overturn Roe. The purpose of yammering about overturning Roe is to promote the election of people like Moore to the US Senate.

OK, I Give Up ...

... on the idea of becoming a great headline writer. No one is ever going to top:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Friends, Asgardians, Countrypeople ...

... I'm running for a seat in parliament.

Yes, really.

If you're a citizen of Asgardia, I'd greatly appreciate your vote.

A Thought on What "Net Neutrality" Implies

MamaLiberty is a reader/commenter here, and also follows Rational Review News Digest. She reads it on the web because for some reason the email edition never gets to her inbox. And since we ran email-only editions for a few days while going through a hosting upgrade, she mentioned to me that she wasn't able to get her fix.

So, that day, I thought "hey, I'll just go ahead and send the day's edition to her directly." Here's the reply I got:

554 rejected due to spam URL in content

Which explains why she doesn't get the daily email newsletter she subscribed to.

RRND itself is not spam. Spam is unsolicited bulk commercial email. RRND is a double-opt-in publication with unsubscribe info included in every message and otherwise conforming to the dictates of the CAN SPAM Act. I also doubt that there were any bona fide "spam URLs" in the content of the message.

The FCC's (hopefully soon to be repealed) "Net Neutrality" rule requires that ISPs "shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management."

"Subject to reasonable network management" is a big ol' loophole, of  course. Or, rather, part of a regulatory package that basically allows FCC to forbid, allow, or do anything it damn well pleases under the rubric of "Net Neutrality." Go figure.

But on its face, the ISP is violating the "Net Neutrality" rule. It is blocking lawful content.

Of course, I'm against "Net Neutrality." The way I see it, if RT Communications wants to interpose itself between its customers and their email in this crude and rude way -- "there's a LINK in this email that we THINK may be to a spam site, so you don't get to see it, even if you asked for it" -- that's between them and those customers.

But if I was one of those customers, I'd be righteously pissed and looking for an ISP that knew how to mind its own business instead of getting all up in mine.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Can the Nam-Shub of Enki be Far Behind?

Venture Beat reports that Amazon Web Services is launching "a browser-based tool for building AR, VR experiences."

They're calling it "Sumerian."

If you've read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, you'll understand why I find that interesting. If you haven't read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, you should (not an affiliate link).

Grinds my Gears a Smidgen

The Intercept's Zaid Jilani reviews a new film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Looks interesting. It's set in "the fictional town of Ebbing, Missouri" -- a "rural Midwestern town."

Being from a rural Midwestern town in Missouri, I naturally wondered what real rural Missouri town the filmmaker (Martin McDonagh) chose to film in.

It's a rural Missouri town I've never heard of: Sylva, North Carolina.

I can understand why Hollywood producers would want films made on studio lots or nearby locations (e.g. Spahn Movie Ranch before Manson took over the place). 

But if you're going to film a movie set in rural Missouri, and you're not going to go cheap and do it on studio lots and California locations, why not film it in, um, rural Missouri? There are loads of small rural Missouri towns located within easy driving distance of St. Louis and Kansas City, both of which have major airports (the major airports nearest Sylva are Charlotte and Atlanta, both more than 150 miles away) and along major highway corridors like I-70 and I-44.

I'm guessing corporate welfare was involved.

I'm not much for legislation, let alone federal legislation. But it does seem to me that the US Constitution's "interstate commerce clause" empowers Congress to shut down habit of State A using taxpayer funds to bribe a company from State B to do business in State A. Maybe they ought to do that.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Word PSA

Ask, v. 1. To request; to seek to obtain by words; to petition; to solicit; -- often with of, in the sense of from, before the person addressed. [1913 Webster]

Incorrect usage:

Big Mill's Cheesesteaks, a new all-American baseball themed restaurant once had patriotic buntings displayed outside, but city officials told the store owner to take them down or be fined.


[Owner Keith Miller] got a phone call from city officials telling him buntings were banned.

City spokesman, Chip Skinner said Gainesville has a strict sign ordinance.

I probably see this at least once a week: Government officials demand compliance with an edict on pain of fine, imprisonment, etc., but news headlines portray the order as a request.

Gainesville's pols/bureaucrats aren't "asking." They're threatening. There's a difference.

Friday, November 24, 2017

EFF Opposes in Europe What it Supports in the US

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Blog:

Last week the European Parliament passed a new Consumer Protection Regulation that allows national consumer authorities to order ISPs, web hosts and domain registries to block or delete websites ... all without a court order. ... It hands over a power that should only be exercised, if at all, under the careful scrutiny of a judge in the most serious of cases, and allows it to be wielded at the whim of an unelected consumer protection agency.

And yet EFF supports keeping the (hopefully soon to be repealed) FCC "Net Neutrality" rule which does the same thing that the new EU law does.

The rule requires ISPs to non-preferentially carry "legal" content, leaving the FCC in the position of deciding what content is "legal" and what content is "illegal" (the latter of which ISPs could, or might even be ordered to, block). Without court orders. Without the scrutiny of a judges. At the whim of an unelected bureaucracy.

Why is EFF so dead-set on saving Big Data's corporate welfare subsidy that it's willing to defend in the US what it decries abroad?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

LP National Convention -- Super Early Bird Fundraiser

Yes, I intend to be at the Libertarian Party's 2018 national convention in New Orleans, come hell or high water. In what style I attend vis a vis "delegate package," accommodations, etc., will depend largely on whether or not people who want me to be there are willing to help out with the expenses.

Why would you want to do that? Well, I'm an alternate on the party's platform committee, which means I'm going to need to get there early to work for you if you are a party member. I'm also a pretty reliable vote for the radical position on issues that come to the floor -- platform, bylaws, elections of LNC members, etc.

Keep that in mind: All of the delegates will be working for you if you are a member of the party.

People tend to think of national conventions as a big party at which presidential candidates are nominated, but there's a lot more to it than that. The national convention delegates choose your LNC chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer and at-large representatives. The national convention delegates amend your bylaws and your platform. They spend hours sitting in meetings that can get pretty boring. It's work. And for the privilege of working for you, they fork over not just for a convention package (optional, but very helpful, and as long as there's no floor fee for delegates who choose not to buy one, I do always try to buy one), but for air fare or bus fare or gas, for a hotel (expensive if they stay at the convention hotel, tedious if they have to commute from a cheaper one), for meals out when they otherwise would have been eating cheaply at home, etc.

Like I said, I'll get there one way or another. The question is whether or not I'll get to participate in events beyond the business meetings (that's what the "packages" get you), whether I'll be sharing a room with my family or a couple of other delegates versus crashing on the floor of a room shared by 20 people, whether I'll have a hot meal or two a day or keep a cooler full of cold cuts and a loaf of bread to save money, etc. I don't mind going budget, but since I'll be working for you I don't see anything wrong with asking if you'd like to help with the expenses.

Here's my first nut: The "Super Early Bird" prices on convention packages end on November 30. I can get the basic package for $119 now. I'd pay $169 at the door. Alternatively, the "Bronze" package -- everything in the "Basic" package plus an opening reception and a breakfast -- runs $219 now and $279 at the door.

I'm good with the basic package. If anyone wants me to save me the cost of extra meals (hors d'oeuvres at the opening reception and that breakfast), well, I'm not sure they're worth $50 a meal because I sure as hell won't spend that much if I'm buying, but I'll take it.

I do NOT want any of the higher packages, because I simply wouldn't take advantage of their benefits. I'm always too busy at conventions to attend a bunch of lunches/banquets with guest speakers.

If you're interested in helping out with the convention package cost, PayPal is easiest but Bitcoin will work. They're both available over in the sidebar. Just send me a note letting me know that's what the money is for. If I raise $119 before November 30, I'll get the basic package bought. If I raise $219, the "Bronze" package. If I hit $219 before November 30, I'll update this post to yell STOP. Thanks in advance, and I hope to see YOU in New Orleans as well!

Update: Thanks to BW for a $50 donation -- $69 to go! (as of 8:30am Saturday morning).

Update, 11/29: Stop! And thanks to EH for a second donation that gets me into the "Bronze" package with quite a bit left over to start making travel/hotel plans!

Peter Thiel is Evil

Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, filed a frivolous lawsuit against Gawker for running content that was indisputably  authentic but embarrassing to him (video of Bollea having sex someone else's wife).

Peter Thiel maliciously funded that lawsuit because Gawker had previously published a claim that was true but that he didn't want published (that Thiel is a gay man).

Bollea won his frivolous lawsuit, achieving Thiel's malicious objective of bankrupting a publication that neither of them liked.

For more on the above, see the excellent documentary Nobody Speak (here's a Garrison Center column on the topic).

Now Thiel is throwing a courtroom tantrum of his own because Gawker's bankruptcy administrator has apparently excluded him as the prospective buyer of Gawker proper (most of the company's other assets were sold to Univision).

Two likely reasons why Thiel might want to buy Gawker:

1) Gawker is pursuing legal claims against Thiel for his malicious role in Bollea's frivolous lawsuit, and a judge has given the green light to discovery in the matter. Which means Thiel has a legal colonoscopy coming. As law school professors teach their students, "discovery is a bitch." Once the plaintiffs start deposing Thiel and the people around him, they can ask all sorts of embarrassing questions that will have to be answered for the public record. If Thiel bought Gawker, he would then be suing himself, and could stop doing so.

2) If he buys Gawker, he owns its content and can do whatever he likes with it. Like deleting true stories, the telling of which he objects to.

The main reason I can think of why the administrator might want to exclude Thiel is financial. The possibility of winning a big judgment versus Thiel is an asset that makes Gawker more valuable.

Presumably Thiel thinks he can pay less to buy Gawker now than he might be required to pay Gawker later. And presumably he would like to preemptively shut down that lawsuit because even if he wins it he'll likely come out of it with a bunch more embarrassing information about him getting spread around.

I don't know whether or not he has a legal leg to stand on here, and I don't particularly care. For me, this is just another opportunity to point out that Terry Bollea and Peter Thiel did an evil, evil thing. While they will probably never have their millions (Bollea) and billions (Thiel) ripped from them entirely and will likely live out their lives in material comfort, they deserve maximum negative social preferencing. They shouldn't be invited to parties. They shouldn't be able to get served in restaurants and bars. No organization should want them as speakers at its events.

Also, anyone who is still calling Thiel a "libertarian" needs to take a closer look. His malicious participation in Bollea's frivolous lawsuit was an initiation of force, using the state to punish the exercise of free speech and to chill the proceedings of a free press. While he made his first bundle as a co-founder of PayPal, these days he's a welfare queen, keeping his teeth firmly clamped on the taxpayer teat as chairman of Palantir, a company with a business plan that boils down to "powering the surveillance state." He was a Trump delegate to, and a featured speaker at, the 2016 Republican National Convention. If he ever was a "libertarian," he clearly stopped being one long, long ago.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Scary Net Neutrality Stories

"[FCC chairman Ajit] Pai's plan to kill the Internet as we know it ..."-- from an email from Kurt Walters of Fight For the Future

"Donald Trump and his corporate cronies are about to destroy the Internet." -- from an email from Eden James of Democracy for America

"Pai is paving the way for monopolistic ISPs to block and censor what we see online, and push anyone who can't pay extra fees into 'internet slow lanes.' The impact on free speech and innovation online will be devastating." -- from an email from Carli Stevenson of Demand Progress

"Without net neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV — where the content we see is controlled by corporations like Comcast and Verizon." -- from an email from the RootsAction.org team

"Dear Tom, When people start having to trudge through molasses to read Rational Review News Digest, KN@PPSTER, or the Garrison Center websites, or worse, get 405 errors (that’s the one for forbidden content, isn’t it?), e-mail me and let me know how successful you are at appealing and/or how much squeeze you had to pay to get things normal again. If your e-mail still works, of course." -- from an email from a friend who's upset about "Pai's plan to kill the Internet as we know it."

My reply to the last one:

From the birth of the web until October of 2015, the "Net Neutrality" rule that is being repealed didn't exist.

If its absence is going to cause the End of the Internet now, why didn't it before?

In point of fact, getting rid of "Net Neutrality" will likely mean that my sites are more accessible [and] faster, because Big Data may start having to pay Big Telecom for those fat pipes it wants instead of using the government to force my 73-year-old neighbor who checks her email once a day to pick up their infrastructure use tab.

As far as "forbidden content" is concerned, I've already explained that "Net Neutrality" CREATES that possibility by referring to something called "legal content" and leaving it up to the FCC to decide what is and is not "legal content." Do you want the Trump regime deciding what content may be served and what content may not be served? Because the rule you're demanding be kept gives them that power.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Yet Another Peril of Shared Hosting: Process Limits

So: I've been using Hostgator (not a referral link, I just like them) as my web host for lo on 15 years now, and occasionally blog about problems that come up and how to solve them. I think I've solved a new set of them after an informative chat with their tech support.

For the last several months (at least), the admin sections of my Wordpress sites have slowed down and started throwing off an unusual number of 500 server errors. It wasn't that bad for me, but it seemed to be really bad for Steve when he was trying to enter content for Rational Review News Digest, and it would be worse for both of us when I was online at the same time, proofing and scheduling items as quick as he entered them.

So, Hostgator (and lots of other hosts) like to advertise "unlimited storage" and "unlimited bandwidth" for shared hosting accounts, and that much is true. A little less well known is the limit on CPU capacity. That is, your sites are on one computer with several other people's sites, and your site can't be allowed to hog the resources in terms of CPU capacity. If I recall correctly, the user limit is 20%. That is, if your sites are using more than 20% of the CPU's available cycles for more than a short time, Hostgator is going to come down on you. It usually starts with a warning message letting you know there's a problem, and shortly thereafter people visiting your sites get a "suspended" message instead of the sites themselves.

A pat on the back to Hostgator: The last time the above happened to me, it was obvious that I was under a DDoS attack or the equivalent. There were suddenly thousands of content requests coming in (direct to the server, not through my Cloudflare DNS proxies) for no apparent reason. The database queries hogged up processor cycles. I got the warning message, took a look, got on support chat, and within minutes Hostgator agreed that that was the problem and did something about it instead of shutting down my sites and expecting me to deal with it.

That wasn't the problem this time. In tech support chat I learned about another limit that you don't see in the big up-front "unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth" promotional language. That's a limit on the number of processes that can be going on at a time, each "process" being whenever one of your programs is doing something that talks to the CPU.

This isn't a limit on how much of the CPU's power is being used, it's a limit on how many things can be using that power at one time. At Hostgator (and at a couple of other hosts I was able to find information on this from), the "process limit" is 20-25. Go above a "soft limit" of 20 and weird stuff starts happening. Things slow down. Users start seeing "500 Server Error" messages.

The biggest culprit for bloated process numbers in Wordpress sites, my Googling told me, are the "plug-ins" that do various things. Every one of those plug-ins that does something every time a page is displayed will create additional processes. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday going through various plug-ins, thinking about how resource-intensive they might be in terms of processes, and ditching the likely resource hogs I could live without.

In particular, I ditched a really cool plug-in that I suspected was using all kinds of resources and that hadn't produced results I had hoped for -- not because it didn't do what it does, but because apparently nobody cares. That plug-in is called Transposh. Every time I wrote an article at The Garrison Center, it would automatically create versions of that article in a crap ton of other languages. Looking through my stats, I didn't see any people visiting the versions of my articles that were in Tagalog or Hungarian or whatever, so I axed it ... and suddenly my process count was way down and all of my sites were running the way they should be.

So: If you're noticing slow Wordpress site behavior or getting 500 errors, check out your "processes" and look at your plug-ins. There are lots of neat plug-ins that do lots of neat things, but they don't do those things with magic, they do them by acting as processes that use CPU power. If your web hosting uses the popular cPanel admin tool, you can find your process usage over in the left sidebar:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"For the want of cheap aluminum foil, your burrito was not lost exactly, but made more expensive for no good goddamn reason."

"Other than political pull and the economically illiterate policy decisions of President Donald Trump." -- Reason's Nick Gillespie on the latest tariff idiocy

The Only Place Where You're Entitled to a "Presumption of Innocence" is in Court

I've been seeing a lot of the following lately, and I know MamaLiberty won't take it personally that I'm using her version of it. I'm singling her out solely because it's an opportunity to send people to her excellent blog, The Price of Liberty. At which she says, in the customary "Mama's Note" on a post by Nathan Barton about "dealing with predators":

Innocent until proven guilty, by a jury of one's peers. Too much of this sexual "scandal" is built on unproven accusations, especially those being made after decades.

People accused of crimes are entitled to a presumption of innocence 1) in court, 2) by the judge for procedural purposes, and 3) by the jury until they've heard the evidence.

Nobody else is entitled to a presumption of innocence anywhere else or by anyone else.

Nobody else is entitled to "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" to shatter any such presumption anywhere else or by anyone else, either.

Most people, I suspect, make snap judgments about the guilt or innocence, the rectitude or reprobateness, the purity or evil of other people all the time, all day long. Those snap judgments may or may not be correct. They may or may not be well-informed. But they, and the other judgments we make as we learn more following our first reactions, are natural and necessary.

If I'm told that someone I know or know of is a thief, I may want to know more before fully believing or fully dismissing the accusation, but deep down I'll almost certainly do one or the other, at least provisionally, based on my experiences with and observations of that person, based on my perception of the accuser's credibility, etc. It's good to be as certain as possible, but I don't owe the accused any presumptions unless I'm wearing a black robe or a a juror's badge.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Am I The Only One Seeing This?

The Atlantic's Julia Ioffe broke the story of Twitter messages that WikiLeaks sent to Donald Trump, Jr.

This set everyone all a-twitter (yes, it's a bad pun, but I like bad puns).

At Reason, Brian Doherty looks at the matter from the perspective of the question "Did The Atlantic Prove WikiLeaks Considered Itself 'Pro-Trump, Pro-Russia?'" He notices two things:

1) "[Y]ou could easily read what WikiLeaks is doing as a rather transparent attempt to trick someone they think is sort of dumb (Donald Trump Jr.) into leaking things to them;" and

2) That read in context, the messages are evidence that WikiLeaks is appalled at being considered "pro-Trump" and "pro-Russia," referring to those claims as "slander."

My question beyond those two things is: "Am I the only person who recognizes continuous trolling when I see it?"

The first message mentioned in Ioffe's piece: "A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is 'putintrump.'"

Some others:

"Hey Don. We have an unusual idea. Leak us one or more of your father's tax returns. ... If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality. ... The same for any other negative stuff (documents, recordings) that you think has a decent chance of coming out."

"Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well! In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia (his home country) to illicitly go after Mr. Assange. It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to [Washington,] DC."

"Hi Don. Sorry to hear about your problems. We have an idea that may help a little. We are VERY interested in confidentially obtaining and publishing a copy of the email(s) cited in the New York Times today."

WikiLeaks yanked this guy's chain over and over for months. It's telling that the people who want to see admissions of "collusion with the Russians" by WikiLeaks and/or the Trump campaign are seeing that instead of the epic trolling campaign that actually happened.

Monday, November 13, 2017

"I'm running for public office since 2004. It's just that I never had a chance to develop my campaign."

That's Jose Vasquez, the Democratic Party's special election nominee for state representative in Florida's 58th district. Vasquez was also the Democratic nominee in 2012 and 2016, and ran as an independent write-in in 2008 and 2014.

Maryam Saleh, writing for The Intercept, isn't covering Vasquez's campaign so much as the campaign of "progressive Muslim" Ahmad Hussam Saadaldin, an independent candidate trying to stir up some Bernie Sanders style mojo in a district the Republican Party has owned for years. At a recent meeting, each candidate (or at least each candidate's supporters) suggested that the other should drop out of the race. And of course both candidates declined to do so.

Which is neither here nor there to me -- I don't live in that district, and I doubt that I could in good conscience support any of the three candidates in the coming election.

But that quote caught my eye.

When you've run for the same office four times, "I never had a chance to develop my campaign" doesn't seem like a very good excuse for four losses or very good justification for a fifth shot. How many campaigns does this guy have to run before he "has a chance to develop" one of them?

Yet Another "Fundamental Right" That Doesn't Exist

Writing at The Daily Beast, Karen Hobert Flynn flogs the "Honest Ads Act":

[T]he bill would require Facebook and other website companies to maintain a searchable, sortable, online database of people and groups that purchase political ads. The database would include a digital copy of each ad, the targeted audience and number of views, and the rate charged, as well as information about the purchasers.

Ads that run online close to an election would be required to include a disclaimer identifying who is paying for the ad, just as television and radio ads that air in the same window of time before an election must identify their sponsors.

These are sensible requirements that advance our fundamental right to know who is trying to influence our votes and our views on public policy.

There is a fundamental right at stake here, that being the fundamental right to communicate in any way one damn well pleases, including anonymously.

If you don't know who's telling you something, your rights include:

  1. To believe or to not believe what you're being told;
  2. To peacefully inquire as to the identity of the source; and
  3. To condition your belief or non-belief, in part or entirely, on whether or not you recognize or can identify the source.
There is no "right," fundamental or otherwise, to know who's trying to influence your votes and views.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

An Obvious Line that Google Says No One Has Used Yet ...

... so I'm just gonna throw it out there before someone who writes comedy for a living does. Don't worry, this blog is public domain, so if it works in your act, grab it.

Show me on the doll where Louis CK touched himself

It is Obvious and it Should be Simple, Part 9,364,585

OK, it's one thing that Amazon and Google are both angling for dominance in the world of streaming video and that therefore I can't just easily use my Fire TV stick to watch movies rented or purchased via Google Play. I get it. Both companies want me to buy my device from them, and then buy the content I stream over the device from them as well.

I'm given to believe that Google is the more aggressive party here, i.e. that Amazon would let me stream Google content over Fire TV if Google wasn't being dumb about it. But Google IS being dumb about it. Even though I can access YouTube (owned by Google) on the Fire TV, and even though I can access the movies I rent or buy from Google over YouTube, I can't access them over YouTube on the Fire TV YouTube app.

All of that is very annoying, but like I say, I get it.

What I don't get is this:

Early on, the Google Chromecast worked with a Chrome extension, and within that extension there were user-controllable settings. Which meant that if I didn't want to stream at HD quality, I could set the thing to 480p.*

But then, Google decided to do away with the extension business and just back "casting" into Chrome itself. And I cannot find a settings panel in Chrome to control stuff.

So now, Chromecast (at least the original Chromecast -- I haven't bought the newer model) does what Amazon Fire TV used to do**, which is detect what kind of device it's connected to and stream at the highest quality that device can handle.

Some Google Play movies can be purchased in SD quality (that is, 480p) video, but others are only available in HD, which was the case with a movie I bought yesterday.*** So if I want to watch it in SD, I have to find a display that will only handle that video quality.

When Google changed "casting" from an extension to a a built-in capability, they should have created a user-accessible settings panel in Chrome for stuff like this. Since they didn't, they should go back in and take care of that now.

* I prefer 480p because it uses much less bandwidth than 720p or 1080p. If my family watched all our stuff in HD, we'd bust our ISP's bandwidth cap halfway through the month.

** I complained about that some time back here on the blog in a post that I won't bother to link to. Shortly after I did -- I'm sure it was coincidental -- Amazon updated its Fire TV OS to include user control of video bandwidth levels, which correlate to video quality. I set mine to SD. Problem solved.

*** So why buy movies from Google instead of from Amazon, meaning I have to switch sources to Chromecast (or mess around with weird un-supported sideloading schemes on the Fire TV)? Simple: I buy them for "free." There's a little app on my Android phone that lets Google hit me up to complete short surveys, for which I am paid in Google Play credit. I can buy apps, books, songs, movies, etc. with that credit. I decided I'd rather spend $4.99 in Google Play credit to buy Lawless from Google than spend $4.99 in cash to buy it from Amazon.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

99 Years Later ...

I read this poem every Armistice Day (now known in the US as "Veterans Day"), and when I remember to, I post it here as well. Wilfred Owen is, I think, still the poetic authority on war:

Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. -- 
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -- 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

PS: There's a Garrison Center column for the occasion as well.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Here's What's Different about Louis C.K.

And no, it's not that instead of being accused of groping/assaulting people, he's accused of wanting to masturbate in front of them.

Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz says "Louis C.K. is done." His distributor, The Orchard, canceled last night's scheduled premier of his new film, I Love You, Daddy. Shades of erasing Kevin Spacey from a film he's appeared in, maybe not releasing his new flick, etc.


Louis C.K. maintains a direct commercial connection with his fans. I've purchased a couple of his comedy specials via direct download from his web site. Not from Amazon. Not from Netflix. From Louis C.K. When he's got something new coming (a comedy special, a tour, whatever), he sends email to a whole lot of people, including me, explaining what it is and how to get it.

Here's an excerpt from the email I got the other day about I Love You, Daddy:

A lot of you might remember that about two years ago, I created a series called Horace and Pete (still available at louisck.net). I paid for that show myself. When I did it, I told myself that I was parting with the money forever. It wasn’t an investment. It was a 4.5 million dollar grant to the "Make whatever the fuck I want" Foundation.

By that approach, I was able to make and roll out the show exactly the way I saw it, the way I wanted the audience (you) to see it, without any concern for commerce or profit.

In the end, the show made all the money back and more (with zero advertising) through website sales, and through licensing it to HULU, I was able to actually make a sizable profit for me and the actors and some of the crew, who own a piece of the show. That was a pretty good result.

So this year, I decided, I got the money back, I can throw it away again. This time to the "Make a Black and White Movie about a Shitty Father foundation."

All that to say, that I want to really thank all of you who bought Horace and Pete because you gave me the freedom to make this movie.

Did he make more money by licensing Horace and Pete to Hulu than just by selling it direct, and might that be a possibility that's disappeared with all the masturbation talk? Sure.

But The Orchard is just the distributor he got together with to put the movie in theaters. He produced the movie on his own dime and if The Orchard doesn't want to make money putting asses in theater seats to watch it, Louis C.K. is presumably still free to make money selling it directly to those of us who want to see it.

While I'm not interested in watching Louis C.K. masturbate (that's just not my thing), I'm very interested in seeing this movie. I was thinking of popping for a theater ticket to see it (something I don't do very often at all), and I'll certainly pop for a download if he wants to do it that way.

Because he's taken the time to connect directly with his fans and push his creations directly to them instead of working through intermediaries every time, there's a degree to which he has the freedom to say "well, fuck you then" to those intermediaries without it being a career ender. Here's the trailer for I Love You, Daddy:

PS: You know who I bet will stick with a friend instead of throwing him to the wolves? Doug Stanhope. He didn't roll over and join in the Johnny Depp bashing and I don't think he'll play any of this bullshit with Louis C.K. either. Just sayin' ...

Thursday, November 09, 2017

To Avoid "Gross Injustice," Eschew Gross Stupidity

There's a new movie coming out soon -- All the Money in the World. Kevin Spacey was in it, but the filmmakers are replacing him with Christopher Plummer.

When I say "new movie coming out," I don't mean the movie is being made. The movie has already been made. It's listed on IMDb as "completed." They're taking a movie that's done, yanking an actor from it, and re-shooting his scenes.

Not because Spacey didn't do a good job.

Not because Spacey turned out to have poor chemistry with the rest of the cast.

Not because the movie will be better with Plummer than with Spacey.

Because Spacey is accused (credibly) of doing Bad Things off-screen.

From TriStar's statement:

There are over 800 other actors, writers, artists, craftspeople and crew who worked tirelessly and ethically on this film, some for years, including one of cinema's master directors. It would be a gross injustice to punish all of them for the wrongdoings of one supporting actor in the film.

Yes, it would be. So why is TriStar doing it?

A whole bunch of people worked very hard to make a film, and now instead of releasing the film they made, TriStar is turning it into a different film, fucking around with a very expensive piece of art for cheap virtue signaling purposes.

It's not just Sony/TriStar. Netflix has a biopic of Gore Vidal in post-production. Starring, you guessed it, Kevin Spacey.  I don't walk the floor at night waiting for movies, but this happens to be one I've vaguely remembered and looked forward to since hearing about it. And now they're publicly wringing their hands about whether or not to release it.

I've been a Netflix customer for pretty much as long as there's been a Netflix, and I think the other day was the first time I've ever contacted them directly about a non-technical issue (for that matter, I don't recall any technical issues, either). Summarized content:


If Kevin Spacey is a problem for people to work with because he won't keep his hands to himself and his pecker in his pants, fine, let this be the end of his career as an actor.

If some movie fans base their ticket-buying and viewing habits on their judgment of an actor's moral fitness rather than on the quality of the product, well, okay, that's the market speaking in the form of social preferencing.

But re-shooting scenes to remove him from completed films, and not releasing films because he's in them? That's stupid.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Are Running Early This Year

I've noticed a couple of news stories in the last few days along the lines of "[insert online retailer here] starts its Black Friday sales early." Cool. Didn't see anything I couldn't live without.

But then yesterday I got an email from Musician's Friend (not an affiliate link, but I do recommend them -- I've ordered several things from them over the years with a uniformly good customer experience): "Shop Our Holiday Doorbusters."

So I did.

I've had my heart set on a Les Paul type guitar for some time. My current "everyday play" electric is a Stratocaster clone that I got for $10 (including amp) at a garage sale. Worth every penny ... but not much more. My other electric is the Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II that I inherited from my dad. A beautiful instrument. It only comes out of the case on special occasions, and that will remain the case until and unless I feel like I'm good enough to do it justice.

Hard to beat $95 (with free shipping) on an Epiphone Les Paul Special I P90.

Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Thanks For Asking! -- 11/07/17

This installment of The KN@PP Stir Podcast's perpetual AMA thread is brought to you by the anonymous supporter who lets me promote anything I want to promote, which at the moment is:

Up above the main title, you may notice the words "Volume II." That's correct, and you really should read the whole series, but I picked this volume because I consider it particularly applicable in a "history doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes" kind of way. I almost picked Volume I because it includes a likely rhyming situation (in 1872, Horace Greeley ran as the candidate of the Liberal Republican Party against the sitting Republican president, Ulysses S. Grant). But the fascination with populism seems like a more over-arching historical rhyme, so Volume II it is. But again, read all of them. Darcy Richardson is to the history of "third parties" as Shelby Foote is to the history of the Civil War. He misses few details and keeps it fascinating.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for ...




A Tale of Two Deserters

At CounterPunch, John Grant asks the question "Whose Decision Was a Greater Threat to Soldiers' Lives: President Bush’s or Bowe Bergdahl's?"

Obviously, to ask who endangered soldiers more, President George W. Bush or Bowe Bergdahl, is a rhetorical question. The real issue is whether a Dishonorable Discharge, a demotion and a fine is enough punishment for Bo Bergdahl. It's clear by now it's out-of-bounds (poor etiquette) to suggest our major leaders should be held accountable for bad military decisions that put soldiers in harms way and cost lives. It's a variant of the bumper sticker, 'Kill one person, it’s murder; kill 100,000, it’s foreign policy.'"

Well worth a read (and I'll take this opportunity to plug my Garrison op-ed on Trump v. Bergdahl as well).

I do notice, however, that Grant leaves out an important element of the Bush/Bergdahl comparison.

Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, for which he was sentenced to -- in addition to his five years of imprisonment by the Taliban -- reduction in rank from E-5 to E-1, a dishonorable discharge, and a $10,000 fine.

For George W. Bush, misbehavior before the enemy was never a potential offense. He didn't desert in Vietnam and spend five years in the Hanoi Hilton. He deserted from the relatively safe stateside Air National Guard billet Daddy secured for him. Instead of imprisonment, he got notes pleading for him to return and all would be forgiven. Instead of a dishonorable discharge, he got assigned to non-flight duties so as not to have to undergo the flight physical (including drug test) that seems to have prompted his desertion. Instead of reduction in rank and a $10,000 fine, he got a promotion to an eight-year tour as Commander in Chief.

Some military personnel whose last names begin with "B" are more equal than others.

Monday, November 06, 2017

F**k Art, Let's Dance

Scott Lemieux wants the US Supreme Court to "tell anti-gay baker his cakes aren't art" (hat tip -- Steve Trinward). Why?

The shop is arguing that, given the artistry involved in creating a custom wedding cake, compelling it to create a cake for a ceremony it morally disapproves of would violate its rights to freedom of speech and expression.


[A]s the libertarian legal scholars Dale Carpenter and Eugene Volokh argue in their persuasive amicus brief on behalf of Colorado, if Masterpiece's free speech claim were accepted by the Court, it would 'apply to a vast range of conduct.' Many of the activities employees and their supervisors engage in on the job have elements as potentially 'expressive' as baking a cake, and this is true of both tiny storefronts and Fortune 500 corporations.

In other words, if something that clearly is art is recognized as art,  "public accommodations" laws are going to come apart at the seams and everyone's going to just start associating or not associating as they damn well please rather than buckling down and doing as they're told by their betters.

I don't agree with Lemieux on whether or not that outcome is desirable, but I do hope he's right about the stakes.

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 140: Special Broadcast from Area 51

This episode of The KN@PP Stir Podcast is brought to you by, um, you -- at least those of you who have made it possible for me to pay Soundcloud another $120 for another year of hosting tomorrow. Thanks for your support, and for those of you who have been meaning to kick in, see the sidebar for options.

In This Episode: Thanks For Asking! [Secession, Florida LP's Ethno-Nationalist Tumor, New York Con-Con, Operating Systems, Mises Caucus] :: Who Expects a Killer to Hold on to a Smoking Gun for 54 Years?

"[O]ften a short-sighted and toxic little man"

That's L. Neil Smith on Murray N. Rothbard. In passing, but an interesting evaluation.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

21.co is Now Earn.com

After I went to all that trouble making a link graphic, they changed their name. That's OK, though. It's not like the link graphic was that great. Got a new one, over in the sidebar.

It still works the same way. For the princely sum of $1, you can contact me and get a response. Of course, I'm promoting this as a way to participate in the Thanks For Asking! feature of The KN@PP Stir Podcast that supports said podcast financially, so you should let me know whether you want a public answer for that forum, or a private answer to whatever it is your contacting me about.

You should also join Earn.com yourself (no, that's not an affiliate link, just a recommendation) and monetize your expertise in various areas (you can join lists of e.g. Bitcoin buyers, college students, whatever so that people targeting certain demographics for surveys, proposals and such can hit a bunch of people up in one fell swoop). The pay comes in Bitcoin, and yes I have in fact withdrawn my earnings (amounting to a little over $20 in USD total as of the time of each withdrawal, although of course the Bitcoin they represent has varied in value since withdrawal).