Tuesday, December 31, 2019

If This Was My 365th Post of 2019 ...

... it would kind of feel like cheating to just post that I've posted 365 posts this year.

But it's only my 363rd post of the year, so no harm / no foul. I'm not going to pop up two more just for the sake of hitting that 365-post goal. Unexpected sh*t happens.

Happy New Year, an hour and change early.

Heart of Darkness -- in Space

The title of this post constitutes my review of Ad Astra.

"Apocalypse Now -- in Space" would be one word shorter, but you know how given I am to needless verbosity.

My New Year's Resolutions

  1. Walk more.
  2. Smoke less.
  3. Play guitar better.
  4. Smash the state.
  5. Have a prime number of New Year's resolutions.

Ex Cathedra Pronouncement

A decade, a century, or a millennium begins with a year ending in the integer "1" and ends with a year ending in the integer "0."

The year that begins tomorrow will be the final year of the "two thousand tens," not the first year of the "two thousand twenties."

Yes, I know there are arguments and debates about this.

No, I'm not arguing or debating it. I'm just declaring myself Calendar Pope and saying what's so.

If I wore a ring, I'd invite you to kiss it.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Another Reason I Love @Allegiant

When I fly, I fly Allegiant Air if possible, for several reasons.

One of those reasons is obvious: The low prices. Allegiant doesn't fly out of my local airport, but it does fly out of three airports within a drive of two hours or so, and the fare savings over my local airport, or a major airline at another airport, is generally well into three figures round-trip.

Another reason is the airports themselves. They're usually smaller airports rather than hubs. That usually means smaller crowds, shorter walks, shorter TSA lines, and less likelihood of takeoff and landing delays.

This latest reason is a combination of price discount and great service.

As I've written before, I'm not big on collecting the various discounts that various businesses offer to veterans. There's no need to "thank me for my service." Even setting aside the question of whether that "service" merits thanks, I got thanked, at the time, with a taxpayer-funded paycheck and benefits.

But the trip I took this week was a sudden and unexpected expense, a checked bag costs $30 per trip leg above airfare on Allegiant, and I had noticed that they offer free checked baggage for veterans.

I was a little leery. The way it works is that you book your tickets WITHOUT the checked bag, then prove your "veteran status" at the airport and they add it to your ticket/itinerary then.

Was I going to get to the airport and be denied the "free" bag for some reason, then have to either pay a higher bag fee or stuff what I could into my "personal item" bag and abandon the rest? Was there going to be a bunch of rigmarole?

I got there early, just in case.

It didn't take any longer to check my "free veterans' bag" than it would have to check a paid bag. The only difference, at both ends of the trip, was that I had to mention it and show them my DD-214.

I paid about $420 instead of about $480 to travel, and more importantly Allegiant made the whole booking and flying process easy for me during a pretty stressful time.

Damn right I'm sticking with Allegiant. If they fly where I'm going at the time I need to go there, they can consider the ticket sold.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas ...

... or whatever other winter holiday, if any, you might happen to celebrate. I'm not going to do separate posts for all of them.

I'm about to head for the airport, and from there to Missouri; my brother's funeral is on Friday and I'll return Saturday. I'm not sure if I'll blog at all between now and then, so best wishes for safe and happy holidays to all of you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

"Members of the Party shall be those persons who have certified in writing that they oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals."

The title of this post is Article 4, Section 1 of the Libertarian Party's national bylaws.


If you sign the party's membership pledge ("YES, sign me up as a member of the Libertarian Party. To validate my membership, I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals."), you're a member of the party.


There's no additional clause in the bylaws allowing the Libertarian National Committee to refuse or rescind your membership because they noticed that you're Jeffrey Dahmer.

There could be such a clause, if such a clause was approved by a 2/3 super-majority of delegates to one of the party's biennial national conventions.

While my memory is far far from perfect, I don't remember any such clause ever being moved or debated on the floor of any of the seven national conventions at which I've been a delegate.

What does happen, with some regularity, is that a few party members lose -- or pretend to lose -- their shit when they find out that a murderer or pedophile or other evil/violent person (accused or actual) is a member of the party, and demand that the LNC refuse that person's dues or contributions and use its special magical extra-bylawsish superpowers to make them not a member anymore. IMMEDIATELY.

And when they receive the only reasonable answer to such a demand ....

... a sub-set of the previous group accuses the party members who mention the fact that this bylaws provisions is dispositive, and especially those LNC members and officers who decline to rebel against it and humor the temper tantrum, of being e.g. "pedophile apologists."

Unsurprisingly, that latter sub-set is usually composed mostly of supporters of someone seeking election to a "leadership position" currently held by someone who actually abides by the bylaws instead of doing whatever the hell he or she happens to feel like doing.

Also unsurprisingly, the aforementioned sub-set seems to disappear like a dandelion puffball in a wind storm when it comes time to propose, consider, and pass a bylaws amendment that might prevent future such situations deprive it of future repetitions of the opportunistic temper tantrum tactic.

I'm inclined to oppose measures which would allow the national committee to purge party members, for obvious reasons. But if such a bylaws amendment was proposed, I'd take a long, hard, look at it and give it due consideration as a delegate.

What I wouldn't do is support or vote for a candidate for any position on the LNC who advocates pulling, or while in office has pulled, these Veruca Salt Governance stunts.

How the Democrats Can Save Face While Abandoning ObamaCare

Democrats seem to think they're trapped between a rock and a hard place -- trying to defend the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, while simultaneously claiming that it needs to be superseded by some version of "single-payer," such as "Medicare For All."

There's actually an easy way out for them, though, and it goes something like this:

"In 2010, we realized we needed to do something about skyrocketing healthcare costs, but we faced an intransigent Republican Party and a public that didn't seem to be ready to consider single-payer yet."

"So, in the spirit of pragmatism and compromise, we settled for a REPUBLICAN healthcare plan first suggested by Republican president Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, then proposed by Republican congressman Newt Gingrich in the early 1990s, and finally implemented in Massachusetts by Republican governor Mitt Romney in the early 2000s.

"Despite our good intentions and bipartisan spirit, the last decade has proven that that REPUBLICAN healthcare plan was deeply flawed and didn't accomplish what we wanted to accomplish.

"So we're going to stop pushing REPUBLICAN healthcare proposals on you now, and offer you our own proposals, which we think will work better."

Monday, December 23, 2019

Joker, No Spoilers

My son's been asking to see it for some time, on the big screen, and time has just about run out for that. So we went this afternoon as a more-or-less Christmas outing.

I can't say I was exactly disappointed. Joaquin Phoenix always turns in an outstanding performance and this flick was no exception.

On the other hand, I can't say that much of the movie rendered me ... rapt.

Frances Conroy and Brett Cullen were robbed, IMO. Their characters (Penny Fleck and Thomas Wayne) got basically zero time to do more than flit through scenes as background/motivation. Robert De Niro and his character (Murray Franklin) fared somewhat better but I'd like to have seen more there too.

The film came in right at two hours. Even another 30 minutes, not all of it focused on what's happening inside Arthur Fleck's head, would have rounded out the story.

I dunno. It's just a bummer of a week for me and I begrudged the time wasted on going to a movie today. Maybe I'll like Joker better on a second viewing on the small screen at some point in the future. But as of now, if I was buying permanent viewing rights to a copy of a Joaquin Phoneix picture, I'd go with Inherent Vice.

About That "Support" Link in the Sidebar

On Sunday, I got an unexpected, and definitely unwanted, phone call. My oldest brother died suddenly on Sunday afternoon.

Thanks to a long-time friend and supporter (and to my Patreon supporters, whose contributions I've been letting pile up with an eye toward Libertarian Party platform committee travel coming up in the next few months), I think I've got the bare basics of traveling for the funeral -- that is, airplane tickets -- covered.

But if you've been considering supporting my writing and activism, now would be a much appreciated time to do so. I'll have food, lodging, and Uber expenses as well. I'll manage it one way or another, but the more y'all feel like doing for me, the less I'll be imposing on other grieving family members.

Thanks in advance.

Semi-True Story

Gram Parsons wasn't a member of "The 27 Club" of dead musicians (Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, et al.) -- he only lived to the ripe old age of 26. But he certainly made some great music before he died in a motel room from too much booze mixed with too much morphine.

What happened right after that may be one of the most interesting of all rock-n-roll stories.

Grand Theft Parsons (not an affiliate link) is not exactly that story. It's just based on that story. But it's still worth watching.

Pro Life Tip

If there's someone you love but don't talk to often enough, don't assume there will be time to catch up more later. There may not be. Instead, you may find yourself preparing to attend a funeral.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sputnik News "Interview" -- Full Quotes

I'm quoted -- in my capacity as director and senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism -- in an article on Russian state media outlet Sputnik News, here.

I have no great complaints about how I was quoted, but figure that the whole sequence and my complete responses are worth throwing out for comment.

I was contacted on December 19 by Sputnik's Olga Dmitrieva, asking me to "comment on the whole situation around Donald Trump's impeachment process," and given the choice of submitting a written response or doing a phone (or chat app) "interview."

My response, as written:

The big question is, what would you like addressed? Here are a couple of brief remarks, but I'll be happy to provide more if I know what you'd like me to comment on.

Your inquiry refers to a "partisan vote" -- which it was, among Republicans opposing impeachment. The Democrats, on the other hand, were not unanimous. Two Democrats voted against the first article of impeachment, three voted against the second article, and one voted "present" on both.

Both sides are, of course, playing politics, but the Republicans aren't doing it very well.

The evidence that President Trump committed the specific acts of which he is accused is incontrovertible. He did, in fact, ask Ukraine's president to investigate Burisma and the Bidens. And he did, in fact, issue a blanket prohibition on his administration cooperating in the impeachment inquiry.

If the Republicans had taken the approach that censure was a more appropriate move than impeachment, or even if they had admitted to the indisputable facts but argued that those facts didn't rise to the level of impeachment-worthy offenses, they'd be on better ground. Simply denying over and over again that the president did what he publicly confessed to doing and has since bragged about doing, and claiming that the blanket prohibition was "executive privilege" when the Trump administration made no claims of executive privilege in the matter, are extraordinarily weak positions.

Finally, the whole saga endangers the (always weak) notion that American domestic politics should "stop at the water's edge," and it does so from both sides of the aisle. Both sides have actively curried "foreign interference" in American elections (not least from Israel's ruling Likud Party and powerful domestic US lobby) while accusing the other side of doing so from Russia and/or Ukraine.

If Trump was Dreyfuss during the "Russiagate" probe, he's Lavon in the current matter. Both affairs were quite damaging to their respective countries.

Then followed further questions from Ms. Dmitrieva (also on the 19th):

1. Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated Wednesday night that the House could indefinitely delay sending the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate. What could be the possible reasons behind this?

2. How strong is the support for Trump from the Republican Party? Can he secure his nomination as a presidential candidate?

3. How high are the chances of President Trump’s reelection?

4. Some experts say that this impeachment process can hurt the Democratic Party itself. What’s your take on this?

My answers:

1. There are two likely reasons. One is to push back the trial to a point in time frame Pelosi considers more advantageous to her party in next year's election. The other is just to let the articles sit there with no trial at all, thus denying Trump an "acquittal" in the Senate. He would then be the only president to be impeached but not acquitted.

Personally, I think both those reasons are bad ones. The only way this ends well for Democrats is if the Republicans grandstand in the Senate trial and more people notice that they don't care about the facts or the evidence.

2. Trump's support in the Republican Party is overwhelming, and the only way he won't be nominated for re-election is if he drops out and doesn't seek the nomination.

3. Before the impeachment inquiry began, I gave him a 5% chance of re-election. Now I'd say his odds are much better, perhaps approaching 50%.

Before impeachment, the only real question was "will the Democrats nominate someone more popular and more competent than Hillary Clinton." That would have been an easy bar to get over.

But now, with impeachment, the question becomes "which party is more seen as just playing political games with impeachment?" We haven't learned the full answer to that question yet.

4. It's already hurt the Democratic Party to a degree. There's a justifiable sense that they've been out to "get" Trump since 2016, for no better reason than revenge for their loss of the 2016 presidential election.

That can, and may, keep hurting them. But if the Republicans continue to screw up their defense of Trump by pretending he didn't do the things he's publicly confessed to (and even bragged about), instead of defending those things on their merits or condemning them but asserting they aren't really worthy of impeachment, things could turn in the other direction.

Regarding my opinion, as cited by Sputnik, on the supposed "delay [in] sending the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate":

That opinion was off-the-cuff, at about 10am Eastern time on the 19th. By 2pm Eastern time I had actually dug into the matter  and realized that Pelosi doesn't have the power to "delay" anything.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Magical Invention of Procedure

I'm still seeing a bunch of talk (not "argument," which presupposes a basis for arguing) about impeachment process.

That includes people talking as if it's "obvious" that the House of Representatives hasn't done something until and unless it "transmits" or "delivers" or "presents" or whatever that thing is to the Senate. In fact, one guy explained to me that the Constitution "clearly states" so.

It doesn't.

How do we know when the House (or the Senate) has officially "acted," and how do those two respective bodies officially know when each other have acted? The only real clue in the Constitution is in Article I, Section 5:

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Yes, there are channels of official communication that are neither spelled out in, nor required by, the Constitution, such as "conference committees" to get the two houses on the same page vis a vis bills and so forth. But those channels aren't required to validate, nor would their non-use void, an act of either house. If it's in the body's journal, it happened.

I can only find one institution to which congressional actions must constitutionally be "presented," and that's in Article I, Section 7:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States .... Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States ...

Emphases mine.

Impeachment does not require the concurrence of the Senate and the House -- the Constitution gives the House sole power of impeachment.

Nor, impeachment being a resolution action rather than the making of the law, does it have to be "presented" to the president.

And yet millions of Americans seem to have pulled up a false memory from high school civics class of a required process of "transmission" under which, unless Nancy Pelosi stands outside the Senate chamber barefoot, quoting the Bhagavad-Gita and accompanied by monks singing Gregorian chants, the House hasn't "officially" acted.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Impeachment Tricks: Dumb and Dumber

Nancy Pelosi's  abortive "I won't send impeachment managers to the Senate until they agree to do the trial my way" play was dumb.

But any time a politician of one party says or does something dumb, the other party coming up with something even dumber isn't far behind:

Lawyers close to President Donald Trump are exploring whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to temporarily withhold articles of impeachment from the Senate could mean that the president hasn’t actually been impeached.

 On December 18, the US House voted on, and passed, two articles of impeachment, and the votes and results were duly recorded.

Yes, the president has been impeached. The House has sole power of impeachment, and it has exercised that power. There's no question of Pelosi "withholding" the articles of impeachment.

The question is when and if she will appoint House managers to prosecute the case in the Senate trial.

But just as the House has sole power to impeach, the Senate has sole power to try the impeachment.

Waiting for the House to appoint managers, or anything else, is a Senate rule, not a constitutional or statutory requirement. That rule can be changed with a simple majority, and the Republicans have said majority.

If Senate Republicans want to tell Nancy Pelosi to go to hell and bring in the main cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta to manage the prosecution, they can do that.

What neither Senate Republicans nor White House lawyers can do is magically un-impeach Donald J. Trump. That bell has already been rung and it will stay rung.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

I Don't Blame Trump for Insane Spending and Ballooning Deficits

At least not entirely.

Back during the Obama era, Republicans pissed and moaned 24/7 about Obama's spendthrift ways.

But a president can't spin one thin dime without Congress first legislating that spending. And absent a successful veto of such spending, he must spend every dime they tell him to (as you may have noticed, trying to condition such spending on "do us a favor," etc., can get him in trouble).

The Republican Party controlled both Houses of Congress from 2011-2019. Every dime Obama spent, the GOP gave him to spend and ordered him to spend.

In point of fact, there was considerable (and justified) saber-rattling by congressional Republicans when some Democrats asserted that, should Congress decline to raise the debt ceiling, Obama could just do it by executive order (the Constitution assigns the power to take on federal "public" debt to Congress alone).

These days, the Democrats control one house of Congress, and they've had enough members in the US Senate to make cloture difficult on spending bills -- if they wanted to -- since before Trump was inaugurated.

Which means that every dime Trump spends, the Democratic Party is giving him to spend and ordering him to spend.

Yes, the president proposes a budget (he's been required to do so, by law, since the 1920s).

No, Congress doesn't have to pay any attention at all to the president's proposal. The next presidential budget proposal passed as offered will be, I suspect, the first one.

And in fact it's been something like a decade since Congress has passed any budget at all, let alone the one proposed by the president. They just keep operating on "continuing resolutions," with periodic "shutdown" theatrics.

I don't doubt that Trump would go on a spending spree that makes past ones look like a cost-conscious visit to Aldi, if he had the power to do so.

But he doesn't have that power. The only extent in which he's to blame for insane spending and ballooning deficits is to the extent that he doesn't veto that spending and borrowing. Which is a little, but not really all that much.

I Find the "Partisan Impeachment" Complaint Strange ...

...  at least coming from Republicans.

Every last Republican member of the House of Representatives voted against both articles of impeachment versus President Donald Trump.

It was a party line vote in the face of evidence far beyond any "probable cause" standard (which would prevail in the criminal prosecution equivalent, such as a preliminary hearing or grand jury proceeding, to this part of the political process of impeachment) and well into "beyond reasonable doubt" territory (the standard at trial in the criminal prosecution equivalent) that Trump did in fact engage in the actions of which he stands accused.

Two Democrats voted against the first article, three Democrats voted against the second article, and one Democrat voted "present" on both articles.

Yes, many Democratic votes (including no/present votes) were just as motivated by politics as opposed to evidence as were the Republican votes.

But only one party voted as a unanimous partisan bloc, and it wasn't the Democrats.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

If I was Jerrold Nadler ...

... instead of using up my three hours of time on the impeachment vote debate, I'd have given two or three members ten minutes each to make their points, which with the Republican responses would have kept the thing to an hour or so.

Then I would have yielded back the remainder of my time and ostentatiously invited my fellow congresscritters to join me for a smoke break while the Republicans used up the rest of their time belly-aching about how Trump couldn't have possibly done what he publicly confessed to doing, and how it's a damn shame that it's a "partisan impeachment" (which it apparently will be, proving that House Republicans are required to have their testicles surgically removed prior to inauguration), and so on, and so forth.

But I'm not Jerrold Nadler. Maybe he thought all the "solemn" protests of "defending the Constitution" would ring truer than they did (they rang truer than the Republican lines, but then so does the average Nigerian email scam) or something.

Anti-Gig-Economy = Anti-Woman

I've pointed out in past Garrison Center columns that the "gig economy" delivers the main proclaimed goal of yesterday's socialists -- worker ownership/control of the means of production -- and that it strikes me as strange that today's socialists are hell-bent on forcing workers back onto e.g. the medallion cab monopoly's "capitalist employment" plantations.

The Acton Institute's Reverend Ben Johnson points out another anti-"progressive" aspect of the war on the gig economy: It's misogynistic.

Freelance work empowers women to choose how they spend their time. Female workers have repeatedly told pollsters from across the globe -- as far as Australia and Denmark -- that their top workplace desire is the flexibility to create greater work-life balance. Some 40 percent of women say they would take a lower salary in exchange for more control over their schedule. Freelancing lets women choose the hours they work and gives them control over their schedule.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A Prediction

Unless he receives a presidential pardon, dies, or is so sick he receives sentencing leniency in the form of e.g. house arrest, Rudy Giuliani is eventually going to end up spending some time in Club Fed over this whole Ukraine affair.

Yes, It's the Broken Window Fallacy ...

... but some enterprising business types are set for celebration (and profit).

Buried in the ginormous spending bill the House just passed is a national prohibition on sales of tobacco products (and non-tobacco e-cigarette products) to persons under 21 years of age.

Which will, of course, create a new "black market" segment numbering several million Americans.

It's not creating new wealth. It's just redistributing wealth from "white market" sellers, and from sellers of other things those 18- to 20-year-olds might have bought if they weren't spending more of their money on nicotine, to "black market" sellers.

But those "black market" sellers will presumably be grateful to the Republicans and Democrats for screwing everyone else on their behalves.

Pols and the Impeachment Pickle

Sample headline: "Moderate Democrats Back Impeachment of Trump as House Vote Nears"

Tag line from that particular version of the story: "Several vulnerable freshmen who had expressed reservations about the effort said they would vote to impeach President Trump, despite the political risks."

The story itself could probably be reversed, at least to a degree. That is, vulnerable Republican members of Congress will vote against impeachment despite the political risks.

The key word being "vulnerable." These politicians are in, pardon my French, a shit sandwich.

They're in seats where they're either vulnerable to being primaried if they don't toe their parties' lines (possibly with the assistance of their parties' national committees, etc.), or they're from "swing" districts where the "wrong" vote could put that district in the other parties' columns, or both.

My impression -- and it could be incorrect, I haven't dug into the statistics -- is that Republican members of Congress are more vulnerable to the former problem, Democrats to the latter.

That is, more Republican members of Congress are from districts where the party machine will just replace them with loyalists if they stray, while more Democratic members of Congress are from districts with large numbers of "blue dog" voters who will vote Republican if the Democrat isn't "moderate" (read, from that side of the aisle, "conservative") enough rather than "yellow dog" voters who would vote Democrat even if the party ran a yellow dog. And as we saw in 2018, the DNC will support "moderate" incumbents over "progressive" primary challengers six days a week and twice on Sunday.

Is there an opportunity here for Libertarian candidates next year? I think there might be, in terms of targeting incumbents of either "major" party who vote against the articles of impeachment (or, in the Senate, to acquit).

The attack "from the right" on Republican incumbents who don't support impeachment: The GOP has replaced any pretense of being ideologically "libertarian-leaning" with an open, unabashed loyalty test to a single individual -- an authoritarian president.

The attack "from the left" on Democratic incumbents who don't support impeachment: A Democrat who can't even be relied upon to support removing an authoritarian Republican president from office might as well be, well, a Republican.

On both sides, it helps that there's not an iota of doubt as to this particular president's guilt of the acts of which he stands accused. Impeachment may be a political process, but that doesn't mean voters will easily forgive treating it as a matter of threadbare political calculation.

GMTA, "The Expanse" Edition

On last night's Free Talk Live, there's a brief discussion of The Expanse, a series that originated on cable TV's Syfy but that, as of its just-debuted fourth season, is produced by Amazon and delivered via Amazon Prime Video streaming.

The question one host (IIRC, Ian) had of another (IIRC, Captain Kick-Ass) was this (paraphrased):

Is the move from television to streaming changing the content of shows, particularly the tendency to insert mini-cliffhangers right before commercial breaks in the former medium?

I was thinking about the same thing the other night while watching an episode of The Expanse from the show's second season.

There's a bad situation. A main character may be about to die. The rest of the main cast has a possible solution. Will it work? Obvious pause. Scene change. Solution being implemented.

Of course, my brain clicked -- "that was a commercial break point."

And then my brain clicked again. "In shows written for streaming, there's still a need for cliffhangers to keep the viewer's attention, but the writers no longer have to peg the timing of those cliffhangers to commercial breaks per a known, uniform schedule."

Of course, there might be trade-offs. Captain Kick-Ass (IIRC) asserts that if (for example) the fourth season of The Expanse ever runs on "real" TV, commercial breaks will seem abrupt since the show is no longer written to the cliffhanger/break beat.

But I can already think of two situations in which we've already seen this phenomenon:

1) Older shows on newer cable TV channels. These newer cable networks run more commercials, over more breaks, than the old networks and bigger cable channels. Part of the way they make up for lost time is by running the credits and the "up next" stuff at the same time, and the credits at what looks like quintuple speed or something. But as to the spacing of the breaks, they're definitely abrupt. In fact, sometimes they take place in mid-sentence.

2) Streaming shows and movies on services that run ads in-line (as opposed to before the show begins).  There are a number of such services, but the one I usually have reason to watch something "free with ads" on is Vudu. Those services don't have to worry about fitting the show or movie into X minutes, but they also have uniform "ad every X minutes" formats that don't match previous TV ad schedules or obvious break points in movies.

In the latter case, at least with Vudu, there's a kludge to make the commercial breaks less annoying: After the commercial break, the show or movie re-starts at a point a few seconds before the ad break began. That way the abruptness doesn't cause you to lose your train of thought quite so much.

Monday, December 16, 2019

I Never Voluntarily Watch "The View" ...

... but I am occasionally exposed to it when visiting my next-door neighbor.

And what I notice every time I glance its way is that Meghan McCain continually tries to talk over anyone and everyone else, no matter the topic and regardless of whether her credentials (the sum total of those, so far as I can tell, being a bachelor's in art history) particularly qualify her to speak to that topic.

The impression I get is that she thinks being the fruit of a dead politician's loins makes her very, very spesssshhhhhul. But maybe it's just good acting for the purpose of keeping the show theatrical?

I can't say I'm a huge fan of Whoopi Goldberg's either (since she stopped acting and started daytime TV-ing, that is), but when I saw that she told McCain to sit down and shut up on today's show, I had the urge to find her phone number, call her up anonymously, and just whisper "thank you for your service" before hanging up.

Crass Commercial Christmas Post

If you're planning to buy ammo for that special someone this year, I hope you'll do so through my Ammo.com affiliate link. You get $15 off your first $200 order, and I get $10 in my account there for every new customer I refer.

I don't go through a lot of ammo, but my ambition is to have a few thousand rounds of .22LR rimfire on hand when the revolution comes.

At Least Kamala Harris is Consistent

Camera One: As Attorney General of California, Harris defended corrupt law enforcement practices.

Camera Two: As a US Senator, Harris criticized the Attorney General of the United States for condemning corrupt law enforcement practices.

America dodged a bullet when Harris's presidential campaign tanked. She's at least as authoritarian as any Republican I can think of. Unfortunately, she's a likely cabinet appointee in a future Democratic administration.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Modest Proposal for Improving the Impeachment Process: Voir Dire

Quoth US Senator Lindsey Graham:

I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.

Well, OK, then.

Conviction in the US Senate requires "the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present" (emphasis mine).

Assuming the House does vote to impeach, the presiding judge in the US Senate trial (Chief Justice John Roberts) should take note of Graham's unambiguous statement of prejudice in the case and excuse Graham from "jury duty" as one of the first orders of business in the trial.

In fact, Roberts should have all his clerks working hard right now to identify every US Senator, of either party, who has  publicly expressed any opinion on the president's guilt or innocence in the pending case. He should then excuse all of them.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Remarkable Agreement Between Comey, Horowitz, GOP on Definition of "Criminal Intent"

If you commit a crime and are investigated/arrested/prosecuted/impeached, the question of "criminal intent" will boil down to this:

Did you intend to commit the act which constitutes a crime?

That is, did you intend to shoplift that DVD? Did you intend to fraudulently write "office supplies" next to the petty cash withdrawal at work but to actually spend the money on heroin? Did you intend to plant that ax in the head of your wife who just told you she's filing for divorce?

If you're Hillary Clinton, or the FBI, or Donald Trump, however, James Comey, or Michael Horowitz, or [insert random Republican flack's name here] will confidently assert that you only can only be demonstrated to have had "criminal intent" if you are proven to have laughed maniacally and yelled "yes, yes, I intend to do this because it violates [insert applicable US Code section here]! Wheeeeeeee! I am acting criminally, hahahahahaha!" as you committed the act which constituted the crime.

I call this the Steve Martin defense:

Story of my life ...

So I ordered a lawn mower for delivery (I'd have bought one locally, but the deal was too good to pass up -- cheaper and I don't have to haul it home myself).

If it seems like a strange time to be doing that, well, I live in Florida and have some grass I'd like to get cut down before spring comes and it starts growing again. Also, this is the time of year when they're on sale.

Anyway, it was supposed to be here on Wednesday, and wasn't.

And then it was supposed to be here yesterday, and wasn't.

I see that it's actually on the truck for final delivery as of early this morning.

So, you guessed it -- we're getting rain today and all weekend.


File Under "Do As We Say, Not As We Do"

Camera One, December 11:

The U.S. ambassador also said the Trump administration seeks to make it "crystal clear" that continued tests of ballistic missiles [by North Korea] would be "deeply counterproductive to shared objectives" of the two countries.

Camera Two, December 12:

The U.S. Air Force tests a medium range ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base over the Pacific Ocean, Thursday, December 12, the second such test of the country's nuclear missile force in less than three months.

Not Quite There ...

Season 4 of The Expanse (not an affiliate link!) is out on Amazon Prime Video as of this morning.

But I'm not watching it. Yet.

I watched the original three seasons some time back, loved the show, and it took me a little while to get Tamara to re-binge it with me (I think noticing that Shohreh Aghdashloo is in it probably tipped the balance there). We're somewhere in the middle of Season 2 at the moment, and she's into it. So hopefully we'll get to Season 4 before the new year.

The first three seasons aired on Syfy. After they dropped it, Amazon picked it up.

My understanding is that this decision was personally made by Jeff Bezos, who announced it at the 2018 International Space Development Conference.

When the wealthiest man in the world, who in addition to Amazon also happens to have major financial interests in space travel enterprises and has been known to publicly muse about space colonization, personally intervenes to save a show about space travel and space colonization, my ears perk up.

And it's a good show. I wouldn't call it a "libertarian show," but there are definitely some things woven into its theme that libertarians will likely find appealing.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Well, I Knew It Would Happen Sooner or Later

I ordered a shake from a fast food place, and it came with a paper straw.

Idiotic. Of all the things I've ever been interested in trying just to see what they would be like, trying to suck liquefied ice cream through a paper straw has never made the list. It's exactly as unpleasant as it sounds like it would be.

A Public Note to a Sender of Confidential Email

At least twice now, I've received an email with the subject line:

"Confidential email from [pseudonym redacted]"

It's via a service called Tutanota (not an affiliate link). Included in the email is a link to view the message.

But when I get there, it asks me to "Please enter the password which you have agreed upon with the sender."

The problem is, I can't remember agreeing on a password with anyone for receiving messages via Tutanota.

I'm not saying I didn't do such a thing. Just that I can't remember doing such a thing -- or, more importantly, if I did do such a thing, can I remember the password in question.

So I can't read the message. Nor do I have any idea who the person is behind the Tutanota pseudonym.

If you're reading this, person who's sending me confidential messages, I guess we need to find a way to agree on a password if you really want to use that service to send me a message. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I'm Beginning to Think It's Not Meant to Be

A little while back, I ordered this ...

... from Amazon via Purse (affiliate link).

It's an Applecreek mountain dulcimer (not an affiliate link).

Price (before my Purse discount), $48.

It arrived. Damaged. Headstock completely broken off.

When you return items purchased through Purse, Amazon refunds the price directly to you in US dollars to your Amazon balance, rather than in cryptocurrency via Purse, so I actually made a buck or two on the transaction.

But what I really wanted was the dulcimer. So  when I saw this morning that my refund had been processed, I went to re-order it.

"This item is only available from third-party sellers."

From $119.

I want the dulcimer, but I don't want it $119 bad, just $48 bad.

I don't know if they're just temporarily out of stock or if they've decided to stop carrying it. I do see the same instrument elsewhere for about the same price, but my money isn't elsewhere, it's at Amazon.

I guess I'll wait and see if they get it back in at the regular price. If not, maybe I'll buy a decent ukulele or something with the money.

Word PSA: "Austerity"

Per Al Jazeera:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party have offered starkly different visions for resolving the impasse and rebuilding the UK after a decade of austerity.

austerity, n. Difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure.

Between 2009 and 2018, annual UK government expenditures rose by more than 20%, from £671 billion to £842 billion, at no point in between ever falling as low as that 2009 figure (in fact, falling in only one year -- and the year after that rising to higher than before the one-year reduction).

UK government expenditures grew more slowly over the last decade than they grew the decade before that (in which they grew by about 45%) but slowing the rate of increase of something is not "reducing" that thing.

If I go from weighing 165 pounds to weighing 195 pounds over ten years, and then over the subsequent ten years go from 195 to 215 (falling from 210 to 208 during one annual period), an increase of "only" 20 pounds instead of 30 pounds, no, that second decade was not a decade of "losing weight."

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Android is Cancer

Not on smartphones, I guess (I don't have anything to compare it to -- never had an iPhone or Windoze phone).

But on the Lenovo Chromebook with 4Gb of RAM and a 2-core 1.6GHz Celeron CPU that I'm using as my desktop machine, it was slowing everything down.

You'd think it would only use resources when you were, you know, running Android apps. But nooooooooo, unless you uninstall the Google Play Store, there's always a bunch of Android crap running in the background.

Since I didn't have any Android apps installed that I couldn't live without, no biggie. But  a machine that isn't supposed to need a lot of CPU power or RAM for most stuff can't have a bunch of extra CPU/RAM-intensive crap running on it all the time without getting a stomach ache.

Well, Yes, of COURSE I want the SOB Impeached

Not because I dislike him in particular. I would retrospectively be happy to see any president of my lifetime impeached, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter (and that's just because I've never dug into his record enough to find out what he did that merited impeachment).

Nor because I'm particularly interested in seeing  the system "work" by "serving justice." I don't like the system (the Westphalian nation-state), and in principle I consider anything that weakens it to be a good thing.

I believe that impeaching Trump but not removing him will weaken the system.

Senate acquittal will be more than just the increasingly common injection of congressional steroids into the arm of the imperial presidency. Given the format of a trial, coupled with the complete absence of reasonable doubt that he did what he's accused of doing and the fact that what he did was political in nature rather than along the lines of lying about a hummer from an intern, acquittal will amount to a formal declaration:

Ave Imperator!

The open and unabashed elevation of the office of president to the institution of Caesar,  god-emperor, above and immune to all law and custom, is a pretty big step down the path of political disintegration.

Which is also a bad thing in the short term. It's going to be ugly and it's going to be dangerous. But it's coming sooner or later in any case. Might as well enjoy the show as it approaches and hope we can build something better where the former United States once stood.


Matt Welch takes on "populism" at Reason. The piece's tag line: "Roughly five times as many people live under populist governments now compared to ten years ago."

But multiplying any number by zero returns a result of zero.

There's No Such Thing As A Populist State

Populism as a political theory, in all its variants, pits the righteous masses against the power elites.

And monopoly political government, aka the state, is always run by, and for the benefit of, a political class, aka a power elite.

Yes, a genuinely populist upsurge may unseat and replace the membership of the existing power elite, but the replacements will quickly constitute themselves as a new power elite (and/or be re-overthrown by, or infiltrated by, the previous power elite).

So no, there are not, as Welch quotes the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change asserting, 21 populist governments ruling 2.8 billion subjects. There are no populist governments. Those 2.8 billion subjects are ruled by power elites just like everyone else.

But Welch's piece is still interesting and worth a read.

Yes, Pete Buttigieg is Doing Better Than I Expected

In the RealClearPolitics polling averages, he's on top of the pile in Iowa and in second place in New Hampshire, behind Bernie Sanders but ahead of Joe Biden (and Elizabeth Warren, whose prospects seem to be fading slowly away, as I had not predicted).

The main thing I've been right on so far in this primary cycle has been predicting (from at least as early as her busing-based attack on Joe Biden) that Kamala Harris wouldn't be the nominee. She finally dropped out recently.

I've pretty much consistently predicted that it will be Biden, Warren, or Biden/Warren, and that's looking pretty dicey at the moment.

A commenter on this blog -- I think it was Thane Eichenauer, but I don't remember what post it was on and haven't found the comment -- suggested some time back that Buttigieg may well be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. I disagreed.

I still disagree.

He's in kind of a weird pocket. He has just enough of a political record to be both minimized and savaged, but not enough of one to run on.

In 2016, the US elected a president with precisely zero political experience.

Usually, the US elects a president with quite a bit of political experience, the main exception being successful generals like Grant and Eisenhower.

The last time I can think of offhand (I haven't carefully researched it) where a candidate quickly ascended from local office to the presidency was nearly 140 years ago when  Grover Cleveland went from mayor of Buffalo in January of 1882, to governor of New York in January of 1883, to president of the United States in March of 1885.

That governorship was an important step. The US elects governors, Senators, and generals. The last time someone was elected from the US House to the presidency was 1880, and the only time someone went from having held no elective office at all to the presidency and from not being a general was 2016.

Even Barack Obama took a short victory lap in the US Senate after his Big Speech before successfully running for president.

We're living in strange times, but I still don't think the mayor of a city of 300,000 is going to go directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue without passing a governor's mansion or Capitol Hill. And I don't think the Democratic Party will try to make that happen.

But as we've seen, I can be wrong, and when I am it's usually about nominations.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Here We Go Again With the Unconstitutional Fake "Trials"

Per US state media:

"[Genaro] Garcia Luna stands accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from 'El Chapo' Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel while [Garcia Luna] controlled Mexico's Federal Police Force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico," U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue wrote in a statement. "Today's arrest demonstrates our resolve to bring to justice those who help cartels inflict devastating harm on the United States and Mexico, regardless of the positions they held while committing their crimes."

The article says that "The government wants Garcia Luna moved to New York to face the charges."

But the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution requires that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed ..."

Which, with these allegations, would be some state, district or other political division of subdivision of the country of Mexico, not the US state of New York.

They did the same thing to "El Chapo" himself.

The Funniest Thing About Scott Adams's Meltdown Today ...

... is that after a couple of years of getting his supporters to yell "MIND-READING" to shut down any discussion of motive or intention or feeling vis a vis Trump, he spends the first several minutes of his podcast ... mind-reading the motives, intentions, and feelings of congressional Democrats and throwing a temper tantrum rivaling even me for vulgarity over what his psychic sixth sense tells him they really intend and feel.

He even calls Nancy Pelosi a See You Next Tuesday for saying she feels/believes one thing when he has read her mind and determined that she feels/believes otherwise.

The second funniest thing is that the ScottBot I know best was spitting about the evil of "mind-reading" vis a vis  Trump within MINUTES of extolling Adams's tour de force  today.

I'm ambivalent -- or at least apathetic -- about the impeachment circus in general, but I have to admit watching Trump's defenders fall completely to pieces as they realize they can't re-shape the fabric of reality through sheer force of denial is great fun.

One of the Few Times I'll Thank a Politician ...

... is when he or she keeps a promise to "self-term-limit."

"My" US Representative, Republican Ted Yoho, announced today that this is his final term in office, in keeping with a "no more than four terms" promise he made when he first ran for the seat.

I'm not as big on term limits as some libertarians. Nothing against them, but I also don't see them as a major solution to problems I care about.

But when a politician who claims to support term limits and promises to serve no more than X terms actually keeps the promise, I'm favorably impressed.

Thank you, Congressman Yoho.

"I would like you to do us a favor though"

I guess it's reasonable to argue over whether that's an offer of a bribe ("military aid and maybe a White House visit in return for investigating my political opponent") or an attempt at extortion a la the "encrypted your files and you have to send Bitcoin to me to get the key" cyber attack trend ("I've stolen your stuff, you only get it back if I get what I want").

But it's clearly one or the other, not to mention a separation of powers foul (Congress appropriated the aid -- the job of the executive, absent a successful veto, is to execute Congress's instructions, not to alter them for his own political benefit).

The evidence is airtight (including but not limited to a public confession from the president himself, corroborated by an official document he authorized the release of), so I'm puzzled to hear that House Democrats don't intend to include it in the articles of impeachment they'll be introducing later today.

From what I'm hearing, the articles will be two in number: "Abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress." Which are fine, I guess, but they don't seem likely to be as compelling to voters as the personal corruption angle.

Do they think that not charging that part of the matter will reduce the heat on Joe Biden? If so, they've got another think coming. "But Democrats are corrupt tooooooooooooooo" is really the only card Senate Republicans have to play, and that's the card they'd play even if the charge was nuking Baton Rouge.

Monday, December 09, 2019

'Round Midnight ...

... the share price of "yes" "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" hit 79 cents and my sell order went through. I deposited a little less than $20 at PredictIt to buy those shares; now I have a balance of $40.01 in my account.

I thought about rolling the whole amount over to "no" shares in "Will the Senate convict Donald Trump on impeachment in his first term?" but those are already selling at 88 cents so there's not much profit to be made.

I haven't found another bet to make yet.

I'm tempted to buy "no" on Pete Buttigieg for "Who will win the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses?" but it's at 64 cents and I'm not completely certain -- I expect something to come out about his NDA-covered consulting work that will crater his popularity between now and mid-January, but I could be wrong.

I'm also tempted to buy "yes" on Bernie Sanders, but I'm concerned he'll keel over with another coronary before February and not get up and keep going next time.

I'll probably go with "yes" on "Will the winner of the Iowa Democratic caucuses also win New Hampshire?" if the price doesn't jump before I make up my mind.

We'll see.

Shocked -- Shocked!, Afghanistan War Edition

Houston Chronicle version, since many people don't like having to mess with WaPo's paywall idiocy:

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable. ... With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation.

Hmm ... the people running a $1 trillion (so far) project that furnished them with salaries, authority,  excuses for other things, etc., lied about the fact that that project showed no likelihood whatsoever of delivering on its publicly announced objectives?

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Lyrics: Five-Finger Discount on Love

I haven't recorded this yet, both because I'm awaiting some recording facilitation gear and because I'm still messing with it -- but since I put out everything I write under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication, feel free to do your own thing with it if you like (yes, pun intended). My conception of it is either 8-bar blues or vocal over a drone blues riff.

I'm putting it behind the "read more" wall because, as you might guess from the title, it's a bit racy and not intended for the children.

Words Mean Things, NAS Pensacola Edition

On Friday, a Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant shot and killed a US Navy ensign and two US Air Force airmen at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.

On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he "can’t say [the attack was] terrorism at this time."

Well, duh. In US law, "terrorism" means "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."

This was an attack on military personnel, by military personnel, at a military base. The targets weren't noncombatants. QED, the attack was not "terrorism."

Harmonicas: Inexpensive versus Cheap

Recommendation: If you're looking for an inexpensive harmonica, go with the Fender Blues Deluxe line (not an affiliate link).

I don't play harmonica often enough or well enough to be willing to fork over for, say, a Hohner Special 20 or Marine Band (not affiliate links). I have a couple of (inherited/gifted) Marine Bands, but you know me -- until this last week, I hadn't paid more than $100 for a guitar in nearly 20 years. Unless I take the time to get a lot better, and start playing the harmonica in public, I'm just not going to pay $40 or so for a harp.

On the other hand, the sub-$10 harmonicas I've bought in the past have uniformly been complete wastes of money. If they're even in tune when they come out of the box, and that's a gamble right there, they require more forceful breathing to get an audible sound out of, aren't very accommodating to "bending" notes, and are likely to blow a reed in the first few minutes of playing.

I'm not just talking about off brands here. Hohner's Piedmont Blues line is just complete crap. A set of seven harps will only set you back $25 (I got mine on sale for $15 on Black Friday a few years ago), but the nice nylon zipper case they come in is the only thing of any real value in the collection. Two of them were unplayable (not in tune) when I pulled them out of the case, I had to huff and puff like the Big Bad Wolf to get them to make noise, and none of them lasted more than a few songs without blowing reeds.

I've purchased two of the Blues Deluxe harps (in G and B-flat). Metal cover plates, not plastic. They feel substantial and seem well built. They're in tune. I can easily bend notes when playing blues cross harp (which is pretty much all I use a harmonica for), and they produce a big sound without me leaving me gasping for air. I haven't blown a reed on one yet.

They'll set you back $12-15 each, or $60 for a set of seven (A, B-Flat, C, D, E, F, G) in a nice case. That's a little bit more than the cheapest harmonicas, but the difference isn't just big enough to matter, it's too big to ignore.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

It May Be Close ...

This is my 315th post of 2019.

That means 50 posts to go if I want to make my goal of averaging one post per day in 2019.

I promise that I won't just continue with "this is my nth post of 2019 ..." to make the goal. But I figured one update was reasonable if for no other reason than that maybe I'll get some encouragement from y'all over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Update on my Impeachment "Investment"

I'm the proud owner of 53 shares of "yes" to the question "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" on PredictIt.

I paid an average of 37 cents each for those shares. They're currently at 70 cents.

I've got a sell offer in at 79 cents per share.

Why am I not riding it out to the full dollar per share on a successful impeachment vote in the House before December 31?

Because there's still some hypothetical risk that the vote will fail, or for some reason won't occur at all, or will occur after December 31.

I think that risk is minimal -- the only event I can think of offhand that might stop or significantly delay the vote is a mass casualty attack on the US itself or on US military forces in areas of the world where they have no business being -- but I have to acknowledge that the risk exists.

That being the case, I figure that doubling my money or better is a reasonable outcome -- not too risky, not too greedy -- so I picked the first prime number above 74 (prime numbers are a thing with me) and set my shares to sell at that number.

Maybe I'll change my mind before it gets there. If it gets there. Or maybe not.

Enough with the "Racing" Talk

I don't think a week goes by that I don't see a headline telling me that Congress is "racing" to do this or that. Yesterday's version: "Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown."

They passed a continuing resolution two weeks ago, and have until December 20 to pass another one to prevent some stupid "shutdown" theatrics.

The Hill piece linked above calls this a "tight time frame."

On December 7, 1941 -- 78 years ago tomorrow -- the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

On December 8, 1941, Congress passed a declaration of war on Japan.

In what universe is a month to pass yet another "kick the budget can down the road" bill a "tight time frame?"

And how is sitting around arguing about it "racing?"

Platform Crowd-Sourcing Project: "Unreasonably"

Over at Facebook, Mike Shipley writes:

The immigration plank’s conditional language (“unreasonably”) is a loophole so big you can drive a wall through it. Who is on board with closing this loophole in Austin?

The Libertarian Party's 2020 platform committee is not yet fully assembled -- the Libertarian National Committee has filled its quota, but several states also get to send representatives -- but I don't see any reason why I shouldn't get to work listening to suggestions from, and discussing those suggestions with, party members (and non-party libertarians).

Here's the back story on the plank in question.

As of 2016:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

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.

Current version, following amendment at the 2018 Libertarian National Convention:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

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.

The platform committee, on the basis of strong arguments from several of its members, recommended that change to the convention, a delegate (Starchild) successfully moved on the convention floor to have it be the first recommendation considered from the committee's report, and the convention delegates overwhelmingly approved the change.

Obviously I didn't get it done all by myself, but I do like to think that I helped at least as much as any one other person. As friends and readers may remember, getting that change accomplished was the top item on my "campaign platform" when I sought selection to the 2018 platform committee, and it was the first (non-procedural/organizational) item I moved to consider on that committee.

So why did I not move, at the same time, to strike the word "unreasonably" from the plank? Two reasons:

  1. The more changes a proposal seeks in a plank, the less likely it is that any of those changes will be adopted. Each and every change presumptively puts more people on the "no" side. Each and every change adds to debate time (during a time-limited platform session). Each and every change invites further amendments from the floor to change that change. And so on and so forth.
  2. I wanted to leave "soft" non-open-borders supporters an out that would allow them to support the change we did make. The removal of that final clause took the positive general argument for government control of borders out of the platform, but left room for immigration restrictionists to argue that any specific restrictionist proposal was "reasonable." I don't know of any such proposal that would pass muster with the party's Statement of Principles in particular, or with libertarian thought in general, but hell, let them try, right?

Was my approach on the word "unreasonably" cowardly? I won't argue the point. I wanted to get the one thing done badly enough that I was willing to let the other thing go ... or at least leave it for another time.

Mr. Shipley appears to believe that that other time is now. So do others in the party whose opinions I share and/or respect, at least one of whom (Josh Barton) has already sent me some sample language for a complete re-write of the plank.

I'd like to hear other opinions.

By way of disclosure, let me make it clear up front that in my opinion "open borders" is the only libertarian position on the subject and ought to be the Libertarian Party's position on the subject. So I'm not looking for opinions on why the plank should be more restrictionist. I'm looking for opinions on whether I should pick this next fight and, if so, how to win it.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

I Seldom Do Two Nancy Pelosi Posts in One Day ...

... but when I do, one of them usually features this quote:

Reporter: "Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?"

Pelosi: "Are you serious? Are you serious?"

Which is pretty much a more brusque and dismissive congressional version of Nixon's "Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal."

Why does that moment come to mind today?

Well, all of a sudden, and quite possibly for the very first time, it seems to have occurred to Pelosi that Congress might have some kind of obligation to take the Constitution seriously: "The president's actions have seriously violated the Constitution. Our democracy is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act."

Translation: Pelosi-ese to English


“There are concerns in the House about enshrining the increasingly controversial ... liability shield in our trade agreements, particularly at a time when Congress is considering whether changes need to be made in U.S. law,” said a spokesman for [US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi], according to The Wall Street Journal. ... the inclusion of the immunity language in the trade-pact could make it more difficult for Congress to remove the current federal online protections for internet firms in the future, said some lawmakers, according to Wall Street Journal.


Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act makes it harder for us to censor the Internet and punish companies who let people say things we don't like. We're trying to get rid of that barrier to our exercise of  unbridled censorship powers here at home and certainly don't want it incorporated in trade agreements or treaties.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Rescued Facebook Comment About Trump and the GOP

Because it seems worthwhile:

If there's one good thing coming out of the Trump presidency, it's that he's re-made the GOP's political approach in a way that's going to be hard to un-re-make.

From the Reagan era (and to some degree since Goldwater) until recently, Republicans campaigned in drag as libertarians then contentedly governed like FDR/LBJ Democrats.

Now they're campaigning like Peronists or Gaullists (minus having a leader figure who's ever shown any personal courage or other redeeming personal characteristics) and governing like FDR/LBJ Democrats while they try to figure out a way to successfully implement North Korea's Juche or Albania's Hoxhaism in the US.

That should make it hard for them to pivot back to "we're libertarians at heart, but it's just never reached our balls"* after the Trump era ends.

* That's an apocryphal David Bergland reference. A Republican once told him "I'm a libertarian at heart." Bergland's reply: "Let me know when it reaches your balls."

Pardon Me, Trump, is That the Fool The Yokels Choo Choo?

All aboard the Trump Peace Train! Er ...

The Trump administration is looking into sending as many as 14,000 more troops, as well as dozens more ships and other equipment, to the Middle East in the face of a[n always supposedly imminent, but never actually eventuating] threat from Iran, The Wall Street Journal reported. ... The Pentagon’s No. 3 official, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood said Wednesday that the Pentagon [wants Americans to believe] that Tehran may soon attack U.S. targets or interests in the Middle East.

Larry Beinhart's novel American Hero (on which the film Wag The Dog is loosely based) should be required reading in every high school civics class (including homeschool equivalents -- suggested rather than required for unschoolers, I guess).

Why Kamala Harris Dropped Out

Ultimately, because she just wasn't a very good candidate. I've seen all kinds of excuses from the usual (racism and misogyny) to the weird (billionaires don't like her -- as if they like Bernie Sanders any better), but she had chance after chance to excel and bobbled them all.

She didn't perform well enough in debates, media appearances, and other activities to increase her initial base of support and keep those increases.

She enjoyed a short (and IMO undeserved) spike in her polling from kicking Joe Biden in the nuts in public over, of all things, busing in the early 1970s, but for the most part she just hemorrhaged support every time a camera got pointed her way.

She froze and/or stumbled any time she got a question that wasn't a softball. Anything more complicated than a smirking one-liner was just too much to ask of her.

She fell completely to pieces when Tulsi Gabbard pointed out that as Attorney General of California she WAS the law enforcement establishment that real advocates of criminal justice reform have been fighting for decades.

She looked like an idiot when she came back at Gabbard later with the Clintonite "being groomed by the Russians" nonsense.

When a US Senator and former Attorney General of the most populous state in the US enjoys a big campaign launch but then eventually falls behind the mayor of a midwest city of 300,000 in the polls, it's clearly time to pack it in.

Who knew that climbing the political ladder at the sub-gubernatorial level in a single state, through unthinking party loyalty/soldiery, wasn't nearly as difficult or complicated as trying to appeal to millions of primary voters nationwide?

Harris just wasn't ready for prime time, and kept proving it over and over.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Why Can't It Be Both?

"Will impeachment hurt Democrats or Trump?" Niall Stanage asks at The Hill.

The eternal third party hope is that large numbers from among both notional "independents" and the less dedicated partisans on both sides of the duopoly will pronounce a pox on both houses.

Maybe they will in 2020, but if so I expect the symptom to be depressed turnout, not a strong third party performance.

The kind of independent or third party candidate who could and would provide a rallying point for those who can't stomach either the "don't even bother to hide it" banana republicanism that the GOP under Trump has completely given itself to, or the barmy tinfoil-hat McCarthyist  "everyone we don't like is a Russian asset" mania coming from the Democratic side, would probably have had to start making his or her public moves by now to come anywhere close to matching the duopoly's vote totals next November.

That's if such a candidate exists, and I'm not certain one does -- especially if we exclude from consideration the rare sociopath who thinks the likelihood of the system's collapse justifies the risk of tearing into that system from the outside rather than taking the usual sociopathic route of working it from the inside.

Thanks For Asking! -- 12/03/19

Yes, it's monthly AMA thread time again, thanks to Free Pony Express ...

Ask (me anything), and ye shall receive an answer (in the comments below this post, or in a stand-alone post, or via some other as yet unspecified medium).

My Black Friday Online Spending was Below Average

Maybe just because I was out of town, camping in the woods away from such temptations, that day?

Shoppers spent $7.4 billion online during Black Friday sales.

That comes to about $22.75 per American.

I only spent $19.99 -- Inoreader had a "buy one year of upgrade, get six months extra free" sale and started running it a couple of days early. I was nearing the maximum number of feed subscriptions for their "free" tier, it's an essential work tool for me, and upgrading also means the ads go away without me having to use uBlock Origin to suppress them. I was waiting for a Black Friday or Christmas sale, and voila, one showed up.

Monday, December 02, 2019

The Other Case for a Four-Day Work Week

The usual case I see is that people "deserve" fewer hours and more time off, as with this column. But jobs aren't about what people "deserve." They're about supply, demand, cost, etc.

Back in the late '80s or early '90s, the factory I worked at had a suggestion box, and a program that offered the employee 20% of whatever he or she saved the company in the first year his or her suggestion was implemented.

I suggested a four-day work week, and made an economic case for it.

This plant built boat trailers, and one place that it could save money by going from five 8-hour days to four 10-hour days, two shifts was with the cost of running the giant oven that was used to dry the paint on the trailers.

Working two 8-hour shifts (17 hours total due to a half-hour lunch break), the oven was turned off for three hours at the end of the night shift and turned back on four hours before day shift started to get it heated back up, which used a lot of electricity. With only three hours between shifts, it could just be left on and stay hot. My back of the envelope calculation was that this saved the plant about $106,000 a year. That didn't count the costs that were saved by a full per week of not having to have every light in the plant on, etc.

Then there were the drivers who transported trailers to the boat plants. The distances to two of the three plants was such that in an eight-hour day, a driver could make two trips. In a ten-hour day, three trips. So 12 trips per four-day week (unless the management wanted to pay overtime) or 10 per five-day week.

And of course the workers got three-day weekends -- or, if an overtime shift was needed, it at least didn't cut into their two-day weekends.

My suggestion was adopted (a month after I made it, even though fellow employees had been grumbling for it for years, so yeah, it was my argument that made the case) ... but I was never paid the bounty for it, and when I asked, was told I wouldn't be. From what I understand, the plant manager sold the idea to the company owner as his own. And after six years of never getting caught in a lay-off, I suddenly did. So I went and found a different job.

There's probably a lesson there on how to go about making suggestions. I probably should have sent the entire argument to the company owner directly instead of putting it in the suggestion box.

Anyway, in many specific cases, a four-day work week makes business sense, and it seems to me that's a more likely sale to business owners than "workers deserve more time off."

Danksgiving was Dank and Giving

Best weekend in a long time.

Lots of great bands (and lots of picking around the fire when no one was on stage).

Lots of friendliness and mutual assistance, including in the area of entheogenic facilitation.

I gotta do this hippie music festival stuff more often.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

What the "War on Terror" Will Look Like if Trump Adds Mexico's Drug Cartels to the Mix

Washington Post, February 26, 2014:

The cartels move drugs from Mexico to the US, where they have extensive networks to distribute/sell the drugs. Those networks necessarily include enforcers who are willing to threaten, intimidate, injure, or kill anyone their bosses decide needs to be threatened, intimidated, injured, or killed.

The reason those networks and those enforcers don't wage any kind of general war on the US government or the US populace is that it doesn't make good business sense.

They're doing just fine at getting the drugs in and selling them profitably without gunning down cops, bombing government buildings, etc. Law enforcement activity, to the cartels, is just a cost of doing business, like the inevitable shoplifting losses in normal brick and mortar businesses. If they picked an all-out fight instead of relying on avoidance and bribery, it would get a lot more expensive, a lot more dangerous, and a lot less profitable.

But what happens if the US unleashes its drones and special operations forces on Mexican wedding parties, or even sends in a conventional ground force to play Tora Bora "root them out" games in this or that area?

Well, maybe some of those enforcers get orders to buy some timers, pack some vans full of ammonium nitrate and nails, and leave those vans parked across the street from police stations.

Or, for that matter, middle schools.

This is not a fight any sane or moral human being would want to pick in the first place, let alone continue after the first mass killing or two.

For one thing, it's not "winnable." Even if these particular organizations were "defeated," new ones would spring up to take their place (Colombian cocaine production has, according the US government, tripled since the Medellin and Kali cartels were "destroyed").

For another, the "terrorism"-related body count inside the US would make the period starting with 9/11 and running through now look like the good old days. We're talking about people who stack pyramids of severed heads in town squares when the Mexican government pisses them off.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Can Intent Ever be Plausibly Inferred from Action?

"My client didn't intend to rob the bank. He walked in wearing a ski mask, waving a Glock, and yelling at the tellers to stuff the bag he was carrying full of cash because he wanted to help them improve their security procedures."

That's the approach Victor Davis Hanson takes vis a vis both the current impeachment probe and previous accusations of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump in the Mueller investigation.

That is:

There's no way to prove what Trump had on his mind when he asked the president of Ukraine the "favor" of investigating one of his most likely 2020 presidential election opponents, and therefore intent can't be established; and

There's no way to prove that when Trump acted multiple times and in various ways that frustrated Mueller's attempts to interview witnesses, etc., he did so because he intended to keep Mueller from finding out things. Maybe all that was completely unrelated, just coincidence. This guy couldn't talk to you because we had a tee time we didn't want to miss. That gal, well, I planned to grab her by the pussy that night and didn't want you ruining the mood, Bob.

If you wake up and discover me in your bedroom, rummaging through the safe you keep your cash in, is it reasonable to assume that I'm trying to steal your cash?

What if I say I just wanted to count it and make sure it was all still there?

What if I say the reason I turned off the lights and took off my shoes before doing so, and am using night vision goggles, is that I didn't want to disturb your sleep and make you cranky in the morning?

Is assuming otherwise "mind-reading?"

If so, pretty much every criminal prosecution goes out the window.

But that's what my Rational Review News Digest colleague Steve Trinward, having fallen completely under the spell of Scott Adams's "persuasion" parlor tricks, has convinced himself is going on with Trump.

I think it's bullshit. Disagree? Prove me wrong.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Consistency is the Hobgoblin ...

The Forecast for Thanksgiving Weekend in my Neck of the Woods ...

... is relatively sunny days, highs in the high 70s, lows in the 50s.

Perfect camping weather for Danksgiving!

Tent -- check, but need to set it up and Scotchgard it tomorrow or Wednesday. No rain doesn't mean no moisture.
Dollar store tarps for ground cloth, etc. -- check
Camp shower, just in case -- check
Sleeping bags washed and ready -- check
Cooler -- check
Tiny pellet powered camp stove -- check
Pan for boiling water/light cooking -- check
Travel mugs for coffee -- check
Coffee -- check (haven't decided between instant or the real thing and my cheap but durable plastic French press, but both are on hand)
Sundries (toilet paper, etc.) -- will do a layout and pack tomorrow
Ice, food, coffee creamer for cooler -- Friday morning
Instruments for the youth music donation drive -- considering what I'm willing to part with. I initially thought I could give up my Hohner Melodica, but then I played it a bit and, well, you know. I think I may hand over my inexpensive Rogue dreadnought. I have the Epiphone and can always grab another flat-top on sale later.

I'm not sure this qualifies as "camping." My version (outside a military context) used to involved disappearing into the woods for several days with what I felt comfortable carrying on an extended hike. In a military context, tent living in isolated areas for extended periods but with massive support infrastructure.

This is  driving to a place, getting out of the SUV, setting up a tent amongst a bunch of other tents, and hanging out for three days.

But it still feels like it's going to be fun.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

America's Greatest Debt to the British Invasion?

In my opinion, it's that they saved the blues as a distinct and popular musical genre.

In the beginning, there was Elvis. And others, yeah, but Elvis is the "big name" of early American rock'n'roll. His debt to the blues was obvious early on. But his music swiftly started merging back into the pre-rock'n'roll "mainstream pop" area in lots of ways.

But over in England, people like Eric Clapton and Keith Richards and Jimmy Page and a bunch of others were all about the blues. And they became big enough names that they were able keep Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson looming large in our collective memory and help blues-verging-into-rock'n'roll musicians who were popular but treated suspiciously because of their skin color and might otherwise have faded -- the two that come immediately to mind are Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley -- remain "relevant."

No, I'm not saying I don't love me some of the pop-ish (and later, psychedelic) British Invasion music, and that those guys didn't do some damn good stuff that was all their own. But if I was only allowed to give them credit for one thing, it would be for introducing me to the blues. If not for them, I'm not sure anyone else would have done so.

I Think There's a Case for an Additional Impeachment Article ...

... unrelated to Ukraine, Burisma, Biden, etc. To wit:

Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life. -- 18 US Code § 2339B

As Major Danny Sjursen, US Army (retired) writes:

War crimes cases aren’t supposed to be popularity contests; they are careful legal processes with specific purposes: to enforce discipline and humanity, as well as to avoid alienating the indigenous population. That’s the cardinal rule in counterinsurgency (COIN): Don’t do anything to reinforce the enemy narrative and thereby fill their ranks with new fighters. Some guerrilla war aficionados within the military have even taken to calling the concept COIN math.

Seen in this light, as a result of these pardons (and other actions), Trump acts as an unpaid “terrorist” recruiting sergeant.

Specifically, a recruiter for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which appears on the US Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, via his pardon of convicted US war criminal Edward Gallagher.

That's a crime under the aforementioned US Code article ("service" is one of the categories of "material support"), and since the particular form it takes is something only the president of the United States can do, it's by definition a "high" crime.

I Waited Around for a Long Time for the @PopeyesChicken Chicken Sandwich so You Wouldn't Have to

I didn't really mean to wait around for a long time for the sandwich. It didn't seem like I was going to have to.

The drive-thru was waaaaay busy, so we went inside because that didn't look particularly busy at all.

There were several people standing to the side waiting on food they had already ordered, but only one  party ahead of us in line. After about ten minutes, a guy ambled up to the counter and took their order.

Then he stared down at the register for about a minute before suddenly realizing we were there to order too, and took ours.

Then we waited.

Since I was sitting around waiting (except for a short break outside to smoke a cigarette and chat up another waiting/smoking customer about some cool boots she was wearing), I watched.

One guy was working the drive-thru, and seemed to have one other person backing him up with occasional help stuffing food in sacks to hand out through the window.

Another guy seems to have been the main cook. He was back and forth quite a bit putting e.g. sandwich patties and stuff in a heat box (they didn't seem to be selling much fried chicken by the piece; the orders I heard, and the food I saw people eating, ran more to sandwiches and tenders).

A third guy was mopping up a spill on the floor when we came in, then he disappeared entirely. My guess is that he was in back washing dishes or some other non-cooking, non-customer-service job.

There were three other employees visible for the most part.

Two of them took turns staring off into space, occasionally taking an order (perhaps as many as five times between the time we arrived and the time we left) or  grabbing sacks off the surface behind them and calling out names of people to come up and grab the food they'd ordered.

The third was the one who occasionally helped the drive-thru guy. In between doing that she messed around with her phone, chatted with waiting customers she seemed to know, and once went to the back and came back with one dollar bills for the register at the request of one of the other two.

Once, the manager came out from the back, yelled "welcome to Popeye's," announced the weekend special (X pieces of chicken, Y sides, $Z), stood there smiling for a few minutes, then disappeared again.

After about 15 minutes three or four people in Popeye's shirts entered the store, went behind the counter, milled around like some kind of "be a crowd scene" thing in a theatrical production for a minute or two, then disappeared (where to, I don't know -- at the end of that event, the people I describe above were all still there and still doing what they were doing, and there weren't any more people visible doing that stuff).

Somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes after we ordered, the party ahead of us were called up to get their food, and ours came out a couple of minutes later.

My verdict on the chicken sandwich (I got the spicy variety):

Pretty damn good. Not worth waiting nearly an hour for, especially when there seemed to be no real reason for the wait. But I'd eat it again if I only had to spend a couple of minutes getting it.

My verdict on Popeye's:

Inconclusive, since there could well have been stuff going on I didn't know about, out of sight.

But it just didn't look to me like the long drive-thru line, or the demand for sandwiches, was to blame for the long wait.

For one thing, the drive-thru line was moving, and the one guy working entirely on drive-thru was clearly busting his ass. The drive-thru seemingly got big-time priority such that people who hadn't even been in the drive-thru line when others entered the store were driving away with their food tens of minutes before those inside customers got theirs.

For another, it's not like they don't know to expect lots of sandwich orders. They had piles of regular and spicy fried chicken sitting there waiting to be ordered, and I noticed precisely one order for it (my son got a drumstick in addition to his tender combo).

Granted, I've eaten at Popeye's many times and in many places over the years, including this one, and only once since the sandwich mania broke out, and I've never had this kind of experience before. My recollection is that I've had to wait for more than a minute or two precisely once when ordering inside, that that wait was about five minutes, and that one of the employees personally and almost apologetically brought our stuff out to our table instead of calling us up for it (that would have been in Wisconsin, not quite a year ago).

So I supposed the sandwich craze to wait time correlation COULD indicate causation.

But in the seven years I've lived in this city, I've had several unsatisfactory visits to this Popeye's. Every time (granted, that's only been two or three times) I've pulled up to the drive-thru and asked for the TV-advertised box special that made me think of the place (the one that comes to mind was "ghost pepper" chicken tenders), they've been "out of" it.

In St. Louis, we lived near two Popeye's stores for 12 years, ate at both at least occasionally, and I only remember one time they were ever "out of" anything (red beans and rice, and that was about 10 minutes before closing time). And I don't remember the wait between getting to order and getting the food ever being more than a few minutes, drive-thru or inside.

I won't be visiting this Popeye's again, at least while Sandwich Mania continues.