Friday, June 29, 2018

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 141: Suddenly, an Episode!

In this episode: After seven months, I'm back for a short gear-testing episode, hopefully to be followed by some Libertarian National Convention podcasting. And since I needed something to say, I included the draft text of a resolution on Ross Ulbricht.

A Draft Resolution for the 2018 Libertarian National Convention

This is first draft sample text, and of course I will be working with others to perfect it before asking the Libertarian National Convention to adopt it. Comments/improvements welcome:

WHEREAS, Ross William Ulbricht was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 2015 for the supposed crime of running a web site; and

WHEREAS, the federal government's investigation, arrest, prosecution, and sentencing of Mr. Ulbricht failed to meet even minimally acceptable standards of due process and judicial impartiality; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Ulbricht's appeals have been unjustly denied by the federal courts, up to and including the Supreme Court of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the federal government's treatment of Mr. Ulbricht constitutes both a stain on the honor of the American justice system and a clear violation of the US Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment; and

WHEREAS, the Libertarian Party supports the preservation of the constitutional rights of the criminally accused and repeal of all laws creating "crimes" without victims;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Libertarian Party respectfully calls upon President Donald J. Trump to pardon Ross William Ulbricht and commute his sentence forthwith.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Everything Old is New Again, Libertarian Party Edition

In the late 1990s, the Libertarian National Committee decided to give Harry Browne's prospective 2000 presidential campaign a boost by sending a copy of his 1996 campaign book to every new member.

This time around, they're doing the same thing only on a cheaper scale.

I just got a snail mail letter that is ostensibly a fundraiser for the LNC and for this year's candidate crop.

What it actually and transparently is is part of someone's pre-announcement campaigning for the 2020 Libertarian Party presidential nomination.

On the envelope: "From the desk of Gov. Bill Weld."

Inside, a flyer with a photo of Weld on the 2016 vice-presidential debate stage, his facial profile prominently featured, partly eclipsing that of one of his likely 2020 competitors (Larry Sharpe) and with the facial profiles of the two other candidates in that race (Will Coley and Alicia Dearn) diminished/blurred so as to be be less recognizable.

Timed, of course, to arrive right after a George Will puff piece for Weld 2020 in the Washington Post, and right before the 2018 Libertarian National Convention, where Weld is slated to show up for a charm offensive.

If party members complain, the LNC's response will be along the lines of "Weld agreed to help us raise funds and there's nothing at all improper about raising funds with the name and face of a willing past candidate."*

But that's bullshit, and anyone who's thinking straight knows it's bullshit.

The LNC is actively campaigning, using party members' money, for a particular presidential candidate, two years before the nomination.

* I suspect that Nick Sarwark will be more careful than then-chair David Bergland was about the Browne thing and not just flatly tell the members to "sit down and shut up."

Monday, June 25, 2018

I Am Not Surprised ...

... that some people who rightly supported freedom of association, etc. when it was a Christian baker and a wedding cake at issue first got all butthurt when some sportsball players wouldn't stand for their favorite song, and now cry that Maxine Waters is going too far to suggest that Trump administration officials should face loud negative social preferencing.

Nor am I surprised that some are comparing the baker thing and the Waters thing to Jim Crow, conveniently ignoring that Jim Crow was the law, not voluntary preferencing.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Maybe Not a Win-Win, But at Least Not a Lose-Lose

At the Independent Institute, Craig Eyermann says "Growing Public Employee Benefits to Force School Cuts."

Americans expect that when they give public schools more money, this will help to fund the education of their children and to support programs that promote their children’s development, such as athletics or the arts.

What they don’t expect is for the money they give to be siphoned off in ways that will either never show up in a classroom or that will never benefit their children.

But sadly, that’s exactly what is happening at school districts around the country, because of the increasing cost of public employee benefits.

My take on it is somewhat different.

It's bad enough to have to fork over money to these people.

But I'd rather pay them to go away on retirement, family leave, etc. than pay them and turn them loose on innocent kids.

Eyermann's complaint here is roughly equivalent to "if I have to pay protection money to the mafia, couldn't they at least keep a few hoodlums hanging around my store, knocking stuff off the shelves, breaking windows, maybe roughing up a customer now and then?"

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Eyes Have It

Actually, one thing the eyes don't have, yet, is glaucoma.

The initial "puff of air" test apparently gave an even higher than usual result than usual (it's usually "high normal"), into the glaucoma range, so I had to go through the whole thing with anesthetic drops and a more direct pressure test, dilation of the eyes and looking at them with a microscope, etc. "High normal," not glaucoma, no damage to the optic nerve, as always.

No diabetic retinopathy, either.

And, heck, not even any significant change in my prescription. Tiny change in one eye, but the doctor said not big enough that I really need new glasses unless I want them. I may get some soon just because I tend to be hard on frames and they get all loose and decrepit fairly quickly. I buy from -- affiliate link warning! -- EyeBuyDirect. So far as I can tell, the frames and lenses are as good as the ones I usually get at a regular place, and have never set me back more that $25 or so for the whole package. Then again, I always buy the cheapest clearance frames. If I was good looking, I might try to enhance that with my frame choice. Fortunately, I'm ugly enough that no frame choice would make a real difference in either direction anyway, so I save myself the money.

As to what the eyes do have:

  • Pigment Dispersion Syndrome, which is a risk factor for a second variety of glaucoma.
  • A nevus -- a mole or freckle inside the eye that's generally not a problem but that in rare cases turns out to be a melanoma.
  • Cataracts -- both far from being surgery-worthy and one apparently barely detectable.

Traditional medicine's answer to all of the above being "get checked out again in a year." But I'll be reviewing the non-traditional-medicine options at my disposal as well  :)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Happy Birthday, Edward Snowden ...

... says Paul Jacob. Me, too.

Paul has a great poster for sale -- I've got it hanging over my desk and you can too. Click the graphic to order.

Yet Another Startup Idea I am Completely Unqualified (and Unfinanced) to Pursue

Brittany Hunter has a cool piece at FEE today on medical tourism.

Here's what I'm thinking:

The cost differential between medical care here in the US and elsewhere in reasonably touristy locales (I've known people who've gone to Mexico and to the Bahamas for procedures to save money, cash on the barrelhead) looks like an opportunity to me.

My impression is that most "insurance companies" here in the US are actually "pre-paid health care" companies (nearly everything is covered, but you pay a lot), not insurance companies (a lower cost hedged bet against an unlikely but catastrophic illness or injury), and that they are linked to particular networks of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.

But what if an "insurance company" of either type offered a policy that explicitly covered various procedures only if you were willing to let them fly you to e.g. Acapulco and back for those procedures? Based on the price differentials I see bandied about, they could charge lower premiums and take bigger profits even accounting for transportation costs.

Even better, include a travel agency and let any dollars your family spends to accompany you count toward your deductible. You get your kidney transplant, they get a beach vacation but are nearby. Just sayin' ...

Forewarned is Forearmed!

Newsweek reports that Nebraska Antifa tweets that an Internet hero has produced a handy list, including photos, of known members of one of America's most dangerous criminal gangs.

An Up Side to the "Family Separation" Kerfuffle

They're still abducting and caging peaceful travelers who cross the ruling gang's turf lines ("borders") without permission from the gang. I'm not particularly impressed that they're now going to cage them together as families instead of spiriting the kids away to separate locations.

But, there is an up side. The whole thing proves that Donald Trump does at least occasionally respond to public and political pressure when it's brought to bear heavily enough on one of his hare-brained schemes.

On the other hand, it's possible that that pressure only works if it gets his wife and his daughter on his case about the issue in question.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Well, I am Waaaay Behind ...

... on, among other things, my goal of posting to this blog at least once a day.

And other things, too. Like counting the Garrison Center's media pickups for May (the count stands at 140, but I'm only about 2/3 of the way through the month).

I really am busy, but I can understand why it might look like I'm just taking it easy. I'll try to catch up, and keep up, but realistically it will probably be in July after this Libertarian Party national convention stuff wraps up.

I did take the first step (a domain name purchase) today toward getting together a necessary new project. I'll omit details for the moment, but suffice it to say that for 2020 I want to accomplish something that looks more like 2004 than 2016 in terms of my opposition research efficacy.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Let me be a Little More Blunt than Usual

If you willingly conspire toward or participate in mass child abduction schemes like this one, you are a violent criminal of the worst sort.

No one should shed a tear for you if one of your actual or prospective victims, or someone acting behalf of those victims, puts you down like a rabid dog and leaves your body lying in the street to be consumed by non-rabid dogs.

At the very least you should find yourself roundly ostracized by all decent human beings, unable to rent an apartment, get a table at a restaurant, buy groceries at a market, or be served communion at a church.

You have openly declared yourself an enemy of humankind and deserve to be treated as such.

That is all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Old and Busted ...

Jonah Goldberg compares Singapore to Munich and Trump to Chamberlain.

Such comparisons are almost always unadulterated bullshit, but this one particularly so.

Hitler's foreign policy was always clearly expansionist, and his goal at Munich was to make sure he could occupy the Czech Sudetenland without facing a war with the UK.

North Korea's foreign policy has always been isolationist, and Kim's goal at Singapore seems to have been merely to get the US to at least temporarily suspend its provocative (to North Korea) and expensive and tactically useless (to the US) demonstrations of military power on North Korea's border and off North Korea's coast.

The political ideologies of the US versus North Korea aside, as regards foreign/military policy, any Munich analogy would have to feature the US, not North Korea, as the Third Reich to be believable.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dog Bites Man! Film at 11!

From the Queens Examiner and seven other newspapers in the same chain (hat tip -- Joel Schlosberg):

Some Cryptocurrency Things Are Still a PITA

After ZenCash suffered a 51% attack last week, I was impressed by their quick handling and proposed future solutions. And since there was a price drop, I wanted to "buy the dip" and convert my meager cryptocurrency holdings from (almost entirely) Bitcoin Cash to (almost entirely) ZenCash. I'm not much of a speculator, and certainly nothing like a day trader, but it looked like a decent bet that ZenCash would recover fast and continue rising versus other cryptocurrencies, and since I had been mildly interested in ZenCash anyway ...

Shapeshift doesn't handle ZenCash.

Neither does Changelly (even though there was a story online a couple of months ago saying they were going to start).

Oh, well ... until a friend mentioned to me that Binance doesn't have all the "Know Your Customer" crap for small balances/transactions.

All well and good. My Bitcoin Cash is now ZenCash, in an amount only slightly less by dollar value.

But it took me a good hour and a half to set up my Binance account, deposit my Bitcoin Cash (confirmation time wait, of course), trade that Bitcoin Cash for Ethereum, trade that Ethereum for ZenCash (because I simply couldn't find any way to go directly from Bitcoin Cash to ZenCash on the exchange). We're talking less than $100 USD here -- not the kind of transaction I am interested in spending all damn day on.

I like Shapeshift and Changelly because they don't require me to maintain a balance on an exchange -- I can just trade directly to and from my own wallet. The only time my crypto is exposed is during the brief period I'm actually trading it.

Why does that matter to me? Well, early on as crypto goes, I lost three Bitcoins in exchange hacks (MtGox and one before that that I can't even remember the name of anymore). If I had been the "hodl" type rather than the "use this as a medium of exchange" type, that loss would have, as of a few months ago, amounted to $60,000 (at the time, it came to more like $100).

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Brief Platform Committee Update

When I sought appointment to the Libertarian Party's 2018 platform committee, I made a few commitments. The three that come to mind are these:

  • To seek a committee recommendation that the Libertarian Party delete the final sentence of Plank 3.4, "Free Trade and Migration," as follows: "We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property." Thanks to the committee for considering, and passing, this proposal!
  • To attend, if humanly possible, all physical and electronic meetings of the committee. I am 100% on that so far and intend to fulfill that commitment to the end -- but see below.
  • To report from time to time on the committee's doings. That one is more difficult than it sounds, and this post is a catch-up effort.

First things first: Two resources for following the committee's work on your own are the Google Groups "reflector" of the committee's working email list and an "unofficial" Facebook group for discussion of the committee's work.

You'll note that the "reflector" list includes 151 different discussion threads. Not 151 messages, 151 topics (I think the longest topic is 63 messages, but assuming an average of 10, let's call it 1,500 messages). It's been running for about 90 days, so 17 messages a day or so on average. That's just the committee "in session," not any informal discussions two or more committee members may have had off-list.

We've also spent (quick mental calculation) about 20 hours in in-person and electronic meetings (not including travel time, etc. for the in-person meetings).

I don't think it's exaggerating at all to assert that the average committee member has put in at least  a full 40-hour work week on the committee in the last couple of months, in addition to our regular lives. So you might see why reporting on that work might fall off my radar at times. Sorry about that.

So far, the committee has passed 11 recommendations for the convention to consider. I'm just going to give you the brief descriptors here, as we have not finished rationales, a party member opinion survey, prioritizing, and putting together a report, and if you're interested you can look them up on the reflector list. There will be more recommendations, as there are email ballots running (and likely to pass) at this very moment. The passed recommendations:

Amend Preamble
Amend Current Plank 1.0 “Personal Liberty”
Amend Current Plank 1.7 “Crime and Justice”
Add New Plank “Individualism” to Section 1
Add New Plank “Religious Freedom” to Section 1
Amend Current Plank 2.4 “Government Finance and Spending”
Amend Current Plank 2.6 “Money and Financial Markets”
Add New Plank “Sex Work” to Section 2
Add New Plank “Licensing” to Section 2
Amend Current Plank “Internal Security and Individual Rights”
Amend Current Plank “Free Trade and Migration”

Now, as to my comment on attending meetings, above: The committee's chair, or a minimum number of members, can schedule an electronic meeting. A majority of the committee can cancel an electronic meeting. We have an electronic meeting on June 12, but I have requested (and been joined in my request by several others) cancellation of one scheduled for June 19. By way of explanation, here is the meat of an explanatory email I sent to the committee list:

So far, this committee has passed 11 recommendations. The tentative convention schedule allots 3 1/2 hours for "possibly platform" discussion.

Which means the convention delegates MIGHT, at the OUTSIDE, get an average of 19 minutes and 7 seconds per platform committee proposal, not counting considering minority reports.

The greater likelihood is that other stuff will intrude and the convention will spend perhaps 2 1/2 hours actually considering platform committee proposals, almost certainly spending not less than 30 minutes on each, mostly consisting of points of order, points of information, weird rambling microphone speeches, etc.

And the greater likelihood still is that we will pass several MORE proposals by email ballot, reducing the plausible time available for each to be considered if they are all considered, which they will not be.

If we are VERY lucky, five proposals will get an up or down vote.

I don't have a problem with passing more proposals, but email ballots WORK and with 24 days remaining until the convention opens, I don't see any particular reason for 20 people to spend hours at a time, multiple times, all of us at the SAME time, doing busy work to almost zero effect unless one considers increasing the LNC's printing costs to put out more pages of stuff that will not be considered, let alone acted upon, by the delegates, to be our mission.

I suggest that those who really, really, really want something considered that hasn't been considered should get a proposal written, line up co-sponsors for it, and get an email ballot in process ASAP. If we are doing ANYTHING after the 15th other than wrapping up the last couple of days of email ballot voting, completing rationales, working out rankings of our proposals for order of consideration by the delegates, and perfecting our report, we will be wasting time for the sole purpose of wasting time.

Yes, there's a little bit of sarcasm/venom there that would be beneath me if anything was beneath me. But you know that I like to plumb the depths :)

If we do have further electronic meetings, I will attend them. That's a commitment I made and intend to fulfill. However, I will also put my weight, such as it is, on the side of the scale opposed to having further electronic meetings. We've done a lot of stuff. We have more stuff to do. That other stuff doesn't require (nor is it necessarily well-suited to) an electronic meeting format.

See you in New Orleans!

Morning Laugh

"I don't do propaganda for anyone." -- Ralph Peters

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Two Things

Thing One -- Peter Beinart, at The Atlantic, on sanctions versus Iran:

Far from promoting liberal democracy, sanctions tend to make the countries subject to them more authoritarian and repressive. ... The reason is that sanctions shift the balance of power in a society in the regime’s favor. As sanctions make resources harder to find, authoritarian regimes hoard them. They make the population more dependent on their largesse, and withhold resources from those who might threaten their rule.

Thing Two -- A. Barton Hinkle, at Reason:

Sanctions such as these will hurt Iran, the administration and others argue, by depriving it not just of oil revenue, but of consumer goods and opportunities for employment. ... But that is the precise opposite of what Trump says about the United States. When it comes to America, the president claims limiting imports will help the country.

Or, as the sub-headline on Hinkle's piece reads, "Tariffs and import restrictions are the equivalent of putting sanctions on your own country."

My own arguments against tariffs have mostly been economic, to the effect that tariffs are not taxes on foreign exporters to benefit American workers, they're taxes on American consumers to benefit politically connected industries.

But as Beinart points out, state authority itself is an additional beneficiary of sanctions -- including self-sanctions in the form of tariffs. The more the tariffs break the legs of ordinary Americans, the more obedient and grateful those ordinary Americans are likely to be when the same state that broke their legs shifts blame to everyone but itself ... and offers them a crutch.

Monday, June 04, 2018

"If They Can Do That to X, What Can They Do to Me?"

After Scooter Libby (perjury), Joe Arpaio (criminal contempt), Dinesh D'Souza (illegal campaign contributions) and now prospectively Martha Stewart (lying to the feds) and Rod Blagojevich (public corruption), we have the answer. And it is:

Exactly the same thing, but you aren't famous enough to get pardoned or have your sentence commuted later.

Who Knew?

I noticed the origins of this story some time back, but hadn't really thought through the implications until the SCOTUS ruling broke:

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a lower court’s decision that allowed an undocumented immigrant teenager to obtain an abortion over the protests of the Trump administration. ... The Trump administration has enacted a policy of preventing access to abortion services -- even though the government is not asked to pay for the procedure -- for pregnant teens held in government-funded centers after crossing the border illegally.

So essentially the Trump administration is so pro-"anchor baby" that they insist on pregnant immigrants giving birth to shiny new birthright citizens even if those immigrants would rather have abortions and get deported. Or at the very least they're more anti-abortion than they are anti-"anchor baby."

Things that make go "hmmm ..."

Sunday, June 03, 2018

What a Fun Take on the Nigerian Prince Scam!

From my spam folder:

From: "Christopher A. wray"
To: [address elided]
Subject: Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters

Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters
935 Pennsylvania Ave NW



It is a pleasure to write you that we have reconciled with our logistic department on the reimbursement of some fund spent by you during the cause of your inadequate dealings with some imposters who claim to be staff in banks and other regional payment centers.

Our reconciliation teams with the prospectus instrument of the United Nations after freezing suspected imposters account. This support was fully effective with the help of World Bank after a summit meeting in United States, on the financial analysis on financial stability issues fluctuating their economy with the international global standard. After gathering of this sum, our logistic department gave us a list of customers to be paid who fall victims to this imposters due to unawareness. And mode of payment was as well specified for proper conducts and financial regulations to kick against criminality during process of payment.

We have arranged your payment through our swift card centers, which is the latest instruction from federal bureau investigation Reconciliation Office. The card center will send you an ATM Debit card which you will use to withdraw your money in any ATM Center, Banks and Union Pay Credit outlets in the world, You are hereby selected as an honor for this payment approval, which you are to acknowledge the receipt of this mail in returning the required below to the Logistic Department by email listed below. Office of Reconciliation and Logistics Vaults, federal bureau investigation (FBI)

1. Full Name
2. Phone and Fax Number
3. Your age and Current Occupation
4. Contact Address where you want your ATM Card to be delivered to (P.O Box Not Acceptable)

For your information, you have to stop any further communication with any other person (s) or office (s) to avoid any hitches in receiving your payment because of Impostors, we hereby issued you our code of conduct, which is (ATM-7740) so you have to indicate this code when contacting the Card Center by using it as your subject.

Kindly be informed that recipients shall be liable to all cost arising for the delivery of the donation parcel.This is due to Legal law protecting all donation funds misappropriation.

Yours in Service,
Christopher A. wray
FBI Director

Film Theory

I haven't seen Solo: A Star Wars Story yet. No surprise there, as 1) it's not very often I catch a film on the big screen and 2) the only Star Wars film I've really, really, really liked since Return of the Jedi has been Rogue One (which I didn't expect to like and thus missed on the big screen).

I'm actually a fan of the idea of a Hans Solo spinoff. I might have to get out and see this one. But the point here is that I have a theory about why I'm seeing all these stories about it bombing at the box office. The theory:

It's really hard to separate the character from the actor who played him in the early films. Harrison Ford owns that face, that voice, those mannerisms. Anyone else trying to pull them off is going to be expected -- by many, at least -- to offer an inferior impression of the original actor playing the original character.

Personally I plan to give Alden Ehrenreich advance benefit of doubt if for no other reason than that I want to see whether or not he pulls it off by either doing a really good impression of Harrison Ford or convincingly taking possession of the character himself. If either, I predict the latter (I've seen the trailer and the voice, at least, is distinctly non-Fordish).

But I can understand why many Star Wars fans might decide to take a pass on it.