Saturday, July 29, 2017

How to Double Your Cryptocurrency (or, How to Not Lose Half Your Cryptocurrency)

This is NOT a technical piece on the likely coming "fork" of Bitcoin. Rather, it's just a very quick explainer on how to protect yourself and/or possibly make out well from that stuff.

The quick and dirty: On August 1st, what you now know as "Bitcoin" will become two currencies: Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCC). This is happening because most of the Bitcoin community has agreed to implement something called Segwit 2x, while a minority have decided to go in a different direction by increasing the block size.

When this "hard fork" happens, under certain circumstances, your Bitcoin will "double" in a sense. That is, if you currently have one Bitcoin (1.0 BTC), you will suddenly have one Bitcoin (1.0 BTC) and one Bitcoin Cash (1.0 BCC).

Here's the under certain circumstances:

If your Bitcoin is in an online exchange AND that exchange supports both currencies, you should have equal amounts of each at the point where they split (if it doesn't, presumably your BCC will disappear, possibly into a wallet owned by that exchange, possibly not, but either way, you only have the one currency, and only have as much as you had of it).

Or, better yet, if you keep your Bitcoin in a walled to which you have the keys, you will definitely be able to manifest equal balances of each at point of fork.

I recommend the latter course. There are numerous wallets which allow the user to control/possess his or her own keys. Get one now and get your BTC moved into it before August 1st. I personally use and recommend the Jaxx wallet. The folks at Jaxx have not yet said whether they'll be supporting Bitcoin Cash, but it doesn't matter -- since the keys are yours, if they don't you can just plug your keys into a wallet that DOES support BCC after the fork happens.

Now, the VALUE of your cryptocurrency will not necessarily double. It could be that one or the other currencies will crash in value after the fork if most people don't want to mess with one of them. My perception is that most people expect moneyBTC to continue to be the premier cryptocurrency and BCC to likely fade away fairly quickly. But heck, as long as you CAN have both at no additional expense to yourself, it only makes sense to do so.

I've tried to keep this simple, and I'm not going to get into which currency I expect to better or why, or whether I prefer the BTC solution (Segwit 2x, which in theory eventually increases block size) or the BCC solution (massive increase in block size). The ONLY point of this post is to let you know that if you have Bitcoin in an online exchange and do not control the keys to your wallet, you should take care of that NOW to protect, and possibly enrich, yourself.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Transgender Double Bind Works to Trump's Advantage

First, three disclaimers:

  • I do not consider any gender identification to be an illness (physical or mental) or disability (unless it is intentionally made so by e.g. discrimination).
  • I do not consider sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity to be a legitimate criterion for discrimination by government as such, including when it comes to standards for serving in the armed forces; either the prospective recruit can do the job, or not, and that's all that should matter. But on the other hand ...
  • I don't have a lot of sympathy for a desire to join the armed forces. Like Smedley Butler said, war is a racket. The armed forces of the world's various states are the sharp pointy ends of the global sticks wielded by violent criminal gangs.

So, all that said, what we have here is a variant of the "double bind":

A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response.

The "individual (or group)" caught in the "dilemma" here is the transgender community, and the double bind is a result not of receiving, but of sending, two conflicting messages. The result is not so much that they are "wrong," but rather that any response to the conflicting messages can plausibly be treated as the right response.

Message one: Gender identity is a social convention and there's no inherent problem with any gender identity. That is (for example -- there are lots of possible permutations), a person who was born with the biological/anatomical characteristics of a "male," but who identifies and presents publicly as a "female," is not defective, broken, sick, etc. The person just happens to be outside the middle, "normal" range of the bell curve representing gender identity. No biggie unless you're some kind of bigot.

Message two: "Gender dysphoria" -- a self-perceived disconnect between biological/anatomical characteristics and gender identity --  is a medical condition for which treatment (including but not limited to psychological counseling, hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery) is appropriate.

Message two gives Donald Trump, as well as military leaders who, for whatever reason, don't want transgender people in the ranks of the armed forces, an out. If it is a medical condition, it is a PRE-EXISTING medical condition. And the armed forces have always rejected people with pre-existing medical conditions that might represent either a handicap for the recruit in accomplishing the mission or an extra expense or problem for the military in addressing. You're not going to get into the military with cancer or hepatitis or paraplegia.

If trans people want to join the armed forces (as noted in the disclaimer above, I hope they don't, because I hope nobody does), they're going to need to give up the claim that gender identity implies illness, and the demand that the military let them in while they're ill and then spend money on treating their illness.

Of course, there's a reason for claims of "gender dysphoria as a medical condition" in the first place and that reason is, as you might guess, the state. One cannot legally self-prescribe hormones or procure sex reassignment surgery without going through the state's insanely expensive medical monopolies on doctoring, dispensing drugs, etc. You can only get those things -- and get them covered by "insurance" -- if they're treatment for something. Otherwise, dealing with a "gender dysphoria" problem would likely be no more expensive than maintaining a cigarette habit and/or getting an expensive tattoo (things that people do all the time both before and after joining the armed forces).

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I'm Sure You Know This, But Just in Case You Don't ...

When the Washington Post reports that ...

North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year, U.S. officials have concluded in a confidential assessment that dramatically shrinks the timeline for when Pyongyang could strike North American cities with atomic weapons. ... The DIA has concluded that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be able to produce a "reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM" program sometime in 2018, meaning that by next year the program will have advanced from prototype to assembly line, according to officials familiar with the document.

... what the Post is really reporting is that we're being prepped with propaganda to justify a US attack on North Korea.

That doesn't mean the attack will happen. It just means that we're being conditioned to accept it as absolutely, regrettably necessary if it does happen, in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons that we were told about Kuwaiti babies being thrown out of their incubators in 1990, Saddam having a chemical weapons program circa 2003, Iran being within six months of having a nuclear weapon (for 20 years running), etc.

My best guess:

  • North Korea probably doesn't even have a true nuclear weapon yet. They've tested some old-timey fission weapons like those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Max yield, 30 kilotons at the outside. Will they get a real nuke in the next year? I suppose it's possible, but I wouldn't count on it. A fission weapon is pretty forgiving. If you mash two pieces of fissile material together hard and fast enough, in a fairly simple container, you'll get the fission chain reaction you want. An H-bomb is orders of magnitude more complicated. A whole bunch of stuff has to happen in exactly the right order, at exactly at the right time, and within very narrow measurements, for the thing to work.
  • Even if North Korea does have a working fusion weapon (unlikely) and even if North Korea  does have a missile capable of reaching the US (not terribly unlikely but not certain either), putting those two things together and expecting the former to detonate successfully at the end of the latter's flight isn't a task on complexity par with changing the oil in a 1966 Impala. It's complicated too.
  • Pegging the likelihood that North Korea will be able to "field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile" and the nuke to put on it by next year at one in a million is wildly optimistic (from their perspective).
The "assessment" is moonshine, and the "leak" is one of the pre-approved ones I allude to in today's Garrison Center column. The entire purpose of both is practical politics a la HL Mencken.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Brief Musing on the Prospective Role of Capital Punishment as Imposed by Non-State Actors

I am, generally speaking, opposed to capital punishment as it is used by the state.To my mind it violates any reasonable conception of "limited government." What's "limited" about the legal power engage in the leisurely, cold-blooded, unnecessary killing of a disarmed prisoner? That kind of power of life and death is unlimited government in my opinion.

I do support the death penalty for violent crimes, if administered at the time and scene of the crime, by the victim or someone plausibly acting on the victim's behalf, based on reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm if they don't kill the attacker.

But lately I'm thinking about a different sort of death penalty. This sort would be administered by non-state actors, and only semi-discriminately in that anyone involved in the criminal conspiracy known as "the state" would be subject to it as required to correct or retaliate for violent state criminal action.

To wit, I believe that denizens of the "Dark Web" and other unauthorized entrepreneurs would be justified in notifying the US government that there will be lethal consequences to actions like:

  • The abduction of Ross Ulbricht for (absent successful appeal or clemency) two life terms plus 40 years without the possibility of parole for the "crime" of operating a web site without state permission; or
  • The death (allegedly a suicide) of alleged Alphabay founder Alexandre Cazes in Thai custody pursuant to an extradition request by the United States.
The problem here is that  it would be difficult to set up a successful operation to arrest, try and incarcerate someone like US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Andrew G McCabe or US District Court judge Katherine Forrest for their crimes against humanity. Or, for that matter, to arrest, try and incarcerate anyone, especially members of the world's largest criminal gang, the US government. So the only really available penalty is death.

On the other hand, there's no "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" problem when it comes to that gang. By definition, its employees are all parties to conspiracy to commit the crimes that the gang commits, and for the most part they do not hide their identities or the fact that they are functionaries of said gang. So any random conspirator could be easily identified and selected to bear the brunt of the penalty.

What I have in mind is some sort of Dark Web Security Consortium with a judicial body and an enforcement arm, funded by contributions from the entrepreneurs (maybe a "please fund this" voluntary add-on of a fraction of a percent on each transaction), that adjudicates incidents, passes sentence, and funds execution of said sentence (perhaps through a Jim Bell "Assassination Politics" style prediction market if a particular culprit is sentenced, perhaps in some other way like the "pick a random conspirator or conspirators" approach). The consortium goes into action when the US government criminally assaults any consortium member (and possibly even non-members if the case comes to the consortium's notice).

Something like this:

The next time a Ross Ulbricht is arrested, the consortium notifies the US Department of Justice that if bail is denied, one US government employee of GS-5 or lower rank, said employee to be selected randomly or at opportunity, will be executed.

As the stakes increase (obviously fixed trial, insane sentence, etc.), the number and rank of conspirators to be executed increases incrementally, with due advance notice to the Department of Justice at each step that if DoJ buys the ticket, US government employees are going to take the ride.

Of course, if this consortium comes into existence and threatens to take those actions, they're going to have to follow through and actually put those .22 bullets in those skulls. Holding the state's actors accountable for their crimes ain't beanbag. But it looks like it's ceasing to be an option and starting to become an imperative.

... And He's Back

Sorry for the week-long absence, guys.

My father died early last Monday evening, and I headed down to Tampa that night to catch an early morning flight to Missouri.

I had planned on blogging at least a little while I was up there, but various factors made that difficult.

Of course, there was a funeral to help prepare for, and the funeral itself, and so forth.

Instead of the usual hotel with wi-fi, I stayed with my mother. That mean using a cell phone "hot spot" for Internet access, and since someone else pays for that data, I didn't want to use it any more than absolutely necessary. In addition to which, I thought paying attention to Mom was more important than paying attention to y'all at the moment. Nothing personal, understand. Just a matter of priorities. Last week, she got top slot at your expense. I trust you understand.

So, I'll get back with the blogging now.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Donald L. Knapp, August 23, 1933 - July 17, 2017

Got the call a few minutes ago. I knew it was coming. That doesn't make it any easier.

He taught me my first guitar chords. He taught me how to change the oil in my 1966 Impala. He taught me the meaning of work, and he was an expert at that. He did whatever it took to keep a roof over my head, a shirt on my back, and food on my plate and to get me out into the world equipped to survive.

No, he wasn't perfect. But it seemed like the older I got the smarter he got, until one day he was old and not quite as tall or as strong any more as I'd once thought he was.

He was my dad.

I miss him.

Thanks For Asking! -- 07/17/17

Sponsor message from Paul Stanton:

All politics is local.  Without local organization, state and national candidates cannot be successful.

Ask me anything (anything) in comments below this post. I'll answer in comments, on the podcast, or both.

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 133: (Almost) On The Road Again

But first, a message from sponsor Paul Stanton:

All politics is local.  Without local organization, state and national candidates cannot be successful.

In This Episode: Thanks For Asking! (Party Loyalty; Bookwormery; Collateral Murder Viewing Break; The Shire) :: Venue Anti-Rant (for background, see here).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I Guess I Understand The Trend Toward Soda Taxes

After all, my whole life I've had people telling me that all politics is Lo Cal.

The Two Most Prevalent Thick Libertarianisms I'm Seeing at the Moment Are ...

Bordertarianism: "We can't have freedom to travel because welfare state."

NetNeutralitytarianism: "We can't have an absence of corporate welfare for Big Content because Big Telecom monopolies."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

While Awaiting Delivery of my Echo Dot* ...

... I decided to look into creating "skills" for Amazon's line of voice-controlled devices (e.g. "Hey, Alexa, play the Grateful Dead channel on Amazon Music").

Took about 10 minutes to create my first skill, which is awaiting certification now. If it is accepted, people will be able to add Rational Review News Digest to their news/"flash briefing" options. That is, when they say "Alexa, what's the news?" or "Alexa, what's my Flash briefing?" the device's pleasant female voice will read the most recent items from RRND's RSS feed to them.

I'm not sure there's any point in doing the same thing with KN@PPSTER proper (this blog). What do you think? I am going to see if it's easy to put The KN@PP Stir Podcast available as a "skill" (it's already available over those devices indirectly, via TuneIn).

* Yes, my only Amazon Prime Day purchase was an Echo Dot. The sale price was several dollars less than their best regular price (that you had to buy a 3-pack to get), and I also got a $10 credit with Amazon as a bonus for placing my first "voice order" using Alexa (on my Fire TV stick).

A Reminder: "Net Neutrality" is Also an Internet Censorship Enabling Act

Today is the day when Big Content pretends to be "defending the free and open Internet" by protesting the possible repeal of the Federal Communications Commission's "Net Neutrality" rule.

The main -- and quite sound -- argument against Net Neutrality is that it is a subsidy to Big Content at the expense of ISP customers.

That is, Netflix and Amazon and Google don't want to pay the costs of building and maintaining fatter pipes to carry their high-bandwidth content (e.g. streaming high-definition video).

Rather than be the ones hiking subscription fees or advertising rates for their customers, they prefer to let the ISPs be the bad guys who have to put bandwidth limits on customers to reduce net congestion, and jack up the monthly ISP bill for the little old lady who checks her email twice a day and looks at some pictures of cats to cover the costs of building and maintaining the pipes for the binge-streamers.

But there's another big problem with the "Net Neutrality" rule. From Section 15 of the final rule:

Consumers who subscribe to a retail broadband Internet access service must get what they have paid for -- access to all (lawful) destinations on the Internet. ... A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.

And from Section 113:

the no-blocking rule adopted today again applies to transmissions of lawful content and does not prevent or restrict a broadband provider from refusing to transmit unlawful material, such as child pornography or copyright-infringing materials. (Similar to the 2010 no-blocking rule, this obligation does not impose any independent legal obligation on broadband providers to be the arbiter of what is lawful.)

(Italics in the above quotes are the FCC's; emphasis by bolding is mine)

So, guess who's going to decide what content is "lawful" and what content is "unlawful?"

In the absence of specific legislation, as well as in accordance with specific legislation, the FCC will be deciding that as a matter of "administrative law." And having arrogated themselves this power over broadband Internet under a ... creative ... interpretation of Title II, they will not just tell the ISPs that they have to transmit "lawful" content neutrally, they will also tell the ISPs that they cannot transmit "unlawful content" at all.

How long before the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America come to the FCC to get an EU-style "upload filtering" rule implemented, requiring ISPs and web sites (probably with exemptions for the Big Content platforms) to actively monitor for, and block, allegedly copyright-infringing material?

Or for that matter to just deem, for example, torrent files to be "unlawful content" ("there's no need for that format, it's used almost entirely for bootlegging"). If you don't think that can happen, think of the "drug paraphernalia" laws that are used against people with certain kinds of pipes and spoons whether that stuff is actually being used to consume unapproved drugs or not.

If the war on strong crypto comes back (and the politicians keep flirting with that), perhaps the FCC will require email servers to watch for and block messages with the string "-----BEGIN PGP MESSAGE-----" in them.

Maybe the FCC will decide (at the behest of the US Treasury Department or Congress) to crack down on unapproved financial transactions by requiring the ISPs to watch for and block data bearing the "fingerprints" of cryptocurrency transactions.

"Free and open" my ass. The "Net Neutrality" rule is an Internet censorship rule merely awaiting implementation.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Nobody Knows The Topic Selection Troubles I've Seen

I write three op-eds a week. Well, usually. If I'm sick or traveling it may just be two. But usually three. Call it 150 a year. Right now, I write them at/for/under the label of The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

My theory of topic selection goes something like this:

  1. It has to be "in the news cycle." That is, it has to riff on something that I'm seeing in the news right now and expect to remain in the news for at least a few days so that people aren't bored with it (or forgetting about it) by the time a newspaper decides to run the piece.
  2. It has to be at least mildly controversial. Nobody wants to read an op-ed about an issue that pretty much everyone agrees on. I'm not going to spend 500 words explaining that lead is bad for kids and they shouldn't eat it. If I'm writing about lead being bad for kids, it's going to be for or against some approach to "the lead problem" that opinions differ on.
  3. It has to be something I can write about from a libertarian perspective, even if I don't specifically use the l-word in delivering that perspective.
One thing I don't worry about too much is whether or not the topic is, well, "taboo." But since one of my objectives is to get those op-eds picked up by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications, I guess maybe I should.

For example, in 2015, I wrote a piece on circumcision. OK, not precisely on circumcision -- it had more to do with matters of medical and parental consent in general -- but circumcision was pretty central to it.

Not a single newspaper ran that piece. It just sort of disappeared into the ether.

I thought it was a damn good piece, too -- great news hook, poignant situation, cause that many readers would find compelling. Most of the time my stuff gets grabbed by at least one or two newspapers on my worst writing days and this felt like one of my better outings. But editors wouldn't touch it.

Today's Garrison op-ed is also on circumcision. I wonder if it will do any better than the last one.

I'm not exactly an "intactivist." My writing on the subject constitutes a fraction of one percent of my overall op-ed output. It's not like I spend my time wandering around the house pining for my lost foreskin. But it's sad that the issue isn't taken up in the public square with any ... endurance.

When selecting topics for op-eds, part of the calculation has to be "will this get published so that people can read it?" I disregard that part of the calculation at my peril. But yes, sometimes I do disregard it and just hope for the best.

@amazon @netflix -- It's Dumb to Announce That You Plan to Screw Your Customers

Sky News reports that Amazon and Netflix intend to "choke their own services" tomorrow as part of a public protest campaign in support of the big-government power grab / corporate welfare scheme known as "Net Neutrality."

I'm an Amazon and Netflix customer. I pay each of these companies a monthly subscription fee (Netflix's regular service and Amazon's Prime program) for video streaming (and from Amazon, audio streaming).

And here they are just coming out and publicly saying that tomorrow, they plan to not deliver the product as advertised.

If I have trouble streaming stuff tomorrow, I'm going to expect a pro rata refund for the day.

I'm also going to start looking for a streaming service/device provider that doesn't want to stick little old ladies who check their email twice a day with higher ISP bills in order to avert the possibility that bandwidth hogs and their customers might have to pick up the check for more and fatter pipes to carry HD and 4k video.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Thanks For Asking! -- 07/10/17

A message from our (that's the royal "our") sponsor, Paul Stanton ...

All politics is local.  Without local organization, state and national candidates cannot be successful.

Ask me anything (yes, anything) in comments below this post, and I'll answer in comments, on the podcast, or both ...

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 132: The King of All Polemic Rides ... Er, Podcasts ... Again

A commercial-free episode (haven't heard from any of my sponsors with a message lately) ...

In this episode: Thanks For Asking! (Qatar, Amazon, Regular Ax Grinders, Coyotes and Swanns) :: Chelsea Manning's Wrong, But Be Kind (thx to Socrates Wilde for Attempting to Educate Her).