Wednesday, January 30, 2019

An Interesting Question

What kind of world do you wanna live in? Do you wanna live in a world where somebody says something that's not a good idea, in public, and then they just have to stick with it even after everybody tells them it's not a good idea? Is that what you want? You don't want that world.

That's from today's edition of Scott Adams's daily Periscope.

My take:

Adams is absolutely right. It's better to change one's mind about a bad idea than to hold on to that bad idea after you know it's a bad idea.


When a politician articulates a bad idea in public, and everyone has a cow, and within 24 hours the politician starts "walking back" that idea, is it plausible to believe that the politician has actually changed his or her mind?

I think the context strongly militates against assuming that he or she has. And against assuming that the initial remark was informative as to his or her actual beliefs in the first place.

In this particular, Adams is talking about Kamala Harris's public statement that she wants to "eliminate" private health care options in favor of "Medicare For All."

Cue public reaction, followed by a statement from her press secretary -- not her -- that "she would also be open to pursuing more moderate reforms."

She's been preparing herself, and being groomed by the Democratic Party, to run for president for at least two years. She's clearly the party establishment's preferred candidate, at least in the early running. She's bringing in money. She's hiring pro staffers. If there's a front-runner at the moment, she's it.

Her "eliminate" remark is not something that came thoughtlessly or accidentally out of the blue. Or if it is, then that proves she's not very quick on her feet and probably shouldn't get in the debate ring with an opponent who is.

She said it at a CNN "town hall" event, for which she was presumably extensively prepped by that pro staff, and she was speaking to a major policy issue on which she's presumably been boning up for some time.

She presumably said it because she believed, or was told by her pollsters to believe, that it was what her audience wanted to hear, not in some accidental sudden fit of verbal diarrhea.

And neither the initial remark nor her campaign staff's "oh my God, we didn't expect THAT reaction!" attempt to walk it back tells us anything about what she actually thinks, or about what she would do if given significant power to influence policy.

It just tells us she's a pander-bear.

Frag, 01/30/19

Write new fiction for at least ten minutes everyday. It’s so simple. Turn off everything else, but all the other projects away, and just write for ten minutes. -- Shaunta Grimes, "The One Thing That Matters for Fiction Writers"

Challenge accepted. I probably won't post all, or even nearly all, my exercises of this sort here, but I figure if I kick off with one and then fall silent for an extended period, one or more of you will kick my ass back into gear.

Until and unless I get my teeth into a specific project, these will likely be "frags" -- fragments, little pieces of plot or dialogue that run around in my head with some frequency but haven't started to grow the surrounding stories around them.

So ...

[In previous unwritten sequence Asa Pine (who is sort of but not quite exactly a "real cop") accosts Eddie (without physical contact) to ask him some questions and Eddie goes after Pine with a "push dagger"]


The scuffle was over almost before it began. Eddie dabbed at a bloody lip with one shirt sleeve. I adjusted my tie and dropped the knife in my pocket.

"Just what the hell do you want from me, Pine?" he asked.

"Answers. Starting with exactly where you were circa 10 pm on Friday night."

Smirk. "Well, let's just say I was enjoying some female companionship."

"Not good enough. Until I have a real alibi that I can confirm, you're a suspect. In fact, you're the suspect."

"No can do. The lady wouldn't want our relationship out in the open."

"Why not?"

"Pillar of the community stuff. Married to someone else stuff. Playing for the other team considerations. And so on, and so forth."

"I don't care about any of that unless it's relevant to who killed Ronnie Storm. If it is, I'll find out anyway. If it isn't, your secrets are safe with me."

"Yeah, but who decides whether or not it's relevant? And why should I give a shit?"

"Me. Because I can make not giving a shit hurt worse than telling me what I need to know will."

"Like I said, no can do. There's more going on here than you know. More than you want to know. Believe me."

"Like what?"

"Let's just say ..."

Knee in his groin. One hand grasping his collar. Up against the wall. Finger aligned with the bridge of his nose, hovering about an inch from the space separating his eyes.

"No, Eddie, let's not just say anything. Let's say the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Get your part in this over with, before the games begin in earnest."

"You think you know games, Pine? You don't know shit. If anyone's seen me with you, I'm probably dead already. If the wrong people think I talked, there's no 'probably' about it. Speaking of which, you're probably dead already too."

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

OK, Now I'm Interested

For some reason, the idea of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz running for president struck me as ... well ... indescribably boring. So much so that I paid almost zero attention to the stories floating around about the possibility.

But I'll read pretty much anything Nick Gillespie cares to write (even when, as is often the case, I stridently disagree with him), and his piece today in Reason makes a decent case that there may be some "there" there worth checking out.

No, I don't plan to vote for Schultz. But if he's really pursuing the kind of "public conversation" that Gillespie thinks he's pursuing, I'll root for him to be successful in that pursuit.

Yep, Amazon Home Delivery is Here

In Gainesville, at least.

A week or so ago, a package arrived -- and instead of a US Postal Service truck pulling into my yard, it was a van marked "Amazon."

I had seen a couple of these vans in parking spaces in town, and had seen a news story saying that Amazon was opening both a local warehouse operation and a local delivery operation. But both of those things were several months ago, and I was wondering when it would come to fruition. Obviously, it has.

I talked briefly with the driver. She said she liked the job better than her previous desk job, that the money was pretty good, etc.

Gainesville isn't a huge city (~130,000). I don't know if that means Amazon "last mile" delivery is a finished product that has just now penetrated that far down in terms of city size, or if Gainesville is an experimental/pilot area for the idea. I suspect it's a good city for Amazon what with the large university presence and tech hub aspirations. If I had to guess, I'd guess the area buys more from Amazon per capita than average.

In any case, we have it pretty good here vis a vis Amazon. Two-day delivery almost always means exactly that. A Whole Foods went in last year, and they have "Amazon lockers" -- if you have a porch pirate problem in your neighborhood, you can just pick your package up at Whole Foods instead of having it left on your porch while you're out and the house is empty.

I'll be interested to see how this plays out vis a vis US Snail. Trump did a bit of belly-aching that Amazon was receiving a "subsidy" from the Postal Service, while both Amazon and USPS replied that no, USPS turns a profit delivering for  Amazon. If Trump was right, I suspect Amazon wouldn't be in such a hurry to take over its own local delivery operations.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Friday, January 25, 2019

Project EWUltra?

Elizabeth Warren doesn't want to soak millionaires or multi-millionaires with her proposed "wealth tax."

Just "ultra-millionaires."

Warren, of course, being a mere multi-millionaire, not one of those rich people.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Fastest One on the Mouse Button Gets It ...

I just noticed that I still have one copy of David Hathaway's Immigration: Individual vs National Borders (Kindle Edition) left over from an old Amazon giveaway, and that Amazon will let me use it in a new giveaway. It's first come, only served, so ready, set ... CLICK IT TO WIN IT.

If you don't win the giveaway, you should still read the book. It's 99 cents for the Kindle version, $3.60 for paperback -- here, not an affiliate link.

Thanks For Asking!, 01/24/19

OK, so weekly AMA thread was, um, aspirational. How about "occasional" AMA thread? Brought to you, of course, by Free Pony Express:


  • Ask me anything (yes, anything); and
  • I'll answer. Maybe in comments. Maybe in a longer-form stand-alone piece. Maybe, if the spirit ever moves again, even in a podcast.
Hit it.

My Thoughts on the Oscar-Nominated Films, Part 1: First Reformed

This may or may not be a "continuing series," but let's assume it will be. I plan to watch as many of the films nominated for Academy Awards as I can get through before the awards are actually conferred, and blog my impressions of those films (hopefully avoiding major spoilers, and with warnings if I can't). First up, First Reformed, nominated for Best Original Screenplay:

I really looked forward to this movie. I like Ethan Hawke. A lot. The premise, made pretty clear in the trailer, was promising: A troubled pastor, going through his own crisis of faith, encounters a potential suicide bomber.

I hated almost every minute of actually watching the film. It's just a big ol' downer, full of heart-rending events (its mood reminded me of The Road) and with an outrageously unsatisfying ending (think The Sopranos).

But hating watching a movie is not the same thing as hating a movie.

I'm going to watch this one again (FYI, it streams "free" for Amazon Prime members).


For one thing, it incorporates some of the best elements of the "horror" and "suspense/thriller" genres, packaged into "serious film" format and pulled off perfectly. I was horrified. I was thrilled and held in suspense. That's not necessarily enjoyable, but it's worthwhile.

For another, the acting is just top-notch. Not just Hawke as troubled pastor Ernst Toller, but Amanda Seyfried as the congregation member who asks for his help with a serious problem, Cedric "The Entertainer" Kyles as head pastor of the "mega-church" that bought First Reformed out of near-destruction (with the help of a big businessman played by Michael Gaston) and gave it to Hawke to run because he was in a bad place, and Victoria Hill as Esther, choir director at the mega-church (and, we fairly quickly figure out, someone with whom Toller had an extra-marital relationship of some kind). Philip Ettinger, who plays the potential suicide bomber, did a good job too, but something about him just unsettlingly reminded me of Zach Galifianakis. Nothing against him, but I don't know that I'd have made that casting decision.

And, finally, it deals with some big questions and does so in a thoughtful rather than cut-and-dried way. It made me think, and it sent me off to Google several times to check out various theological/philosophical subjects (but not in the middle of the film; while I had to take a break in the middle, it wasn't because the thing wasn't gripping).

I think there's a trap for the climate-change-fascinated "serious film" community, relating to "cut-and-dried" perceptions, built into First Reformed 

The potential suicide bomber is not an Islamist. He's an environmentalist.

Hawke's character, Reverend Toller, becomes obsessed with the same cause that obsesses the would-be suicide bomber ... and the film seemingly turns into an argument in favor of accepting (and doing something, maybe even something "extreme," about) anthropogenic global warming.

I suspect some of the people who nominated the film did so because they think it makes a strong argument for that cause.

Not only do I not think it does (one reason I don't mention Michael Gaston as one of the acting attractions is that he seems to have been handed a paper-thin, perfunctory character to play as the polluting industrialist, Edward Balq), I don't think that that's what the movie is about, even a little bit.

What First Reformed is about, among other things but IMO most pointedly, is the question "what causes someone to become so obsessed with something that he'd detonate a suicide vest in a crowd of people?" And it makes clear that it's something other than the obvious something that causes such obsession.

I can't honestly tell you that you'll like First Reformed. But I can tell you that there's more to it than initially meets the eye and that if the subjects it deals with fascinate you, it will be a rewarding watch.

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Great Primer on One of my Pet Peeves

Shaunta Grimes explains active voice vs. passive voice.

If you write, you should probably subscribe to Shaunta's "Ninja Writers" email list. I think the form on this page will get you there if you click the "OK with sending you updates" box.

No, I am not trying to sell you the courses, etc., nor am I a marketing affiliate. But there's some good stuff on her list, on her sites, and on her Medium blog.

One Counterpoint to the "MAGA Hat Kids v. Assorted Other Protesters" Thing

Yes, there's definitely more than one side to the story.

One of the students involved, Nick Sandmann, has released a statement amounting to "not only was I not looking for a confrontation with the American Indian dude of anyone else, I was just trying to remain calm until I could get out of there."

OK, that's fair. To a point.

BUT! Sandmann writes:

I never understood why either of the two groups of protestors were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial. We were simply there to meet a bus, not become central players in a media spectacle. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever encountered any sort of public protest, let alone this kind of confrontation or demonstration.

First of all, no, this is not the first time he's encountered any sort of public protest. His group had just participated in a public protest (the "March For Life"). In fact, they had traveled 500 miles one-way for the specific purpose of participating in that protest.

Secondly, when a bunch of people in MAGA hats congregate in a public place adjacent to very, very, very non-MAGA protests, it's presumptive that those non-MAGA protesters are going to perceive the MAGA hat crowd as counter-protesters and "engage" with them in some way.

That's not to defend the particulars of what happened, but Sandmann is being disingenuous on the first of those things and either disingenuous or exceptionally naive on the second.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past are Condemned to Fall for the Same Old Military Industrial Complex Scams

Camera One, pointed at The Atlantic:

America Scrambles to Catch Up With Chinese and Russian Weapons

Camera Two, pointed at Wikipedia:

The missile gap was the Cold War term used in the US for the perceived superiority of the number and power of the USSR's missiles in comparison with its own (a lack of military parity). The gap in the ballistic missile arsenals did not exist except in exaggerated estimates, made by the Gaither Committee in 1957 and in United States Air Force (USAF) figures. Even the contradictory CIA figures for the USSR's weaponry, which showed a clear advantage for the US, were far above the actual count. Like the bomber gap of only a few years earlier, it was soon demonstrated that the gap was entirely fictional.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

This is What the Cult of the Omnipotent State Looks Like

From The Hill:

The FDA has the ability to stop e-cigarette sales

Not in a million years will the FDA ever have that ability.

For evidence of my claim, hit Wikipedia and read up on the history of "attempts to stop sales of" cannabis, cocaine, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, etc.

E-cigarettes are batteries that power a heating element to vaporize common food ingredients (propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine) with nicotine (which can be extracted from a number of plants in the nightshade family, or synthesized in a lab).

I'm not saying we won't see a war on batteries, food additives, and common plants. I'm just pointing out that in any such war the batteries, food additives, and common plants (or, rather the people who want and use them) will win hands down.

But what struck me vis a vis the quoted statement was arguments I've had over the years with people who claim there is no "Cult of the Omnipotent State."

What would you call someone who just assumes, in the face of millennia of evidence that runs without exception to the contrary, that the state has the magical power to make batteries, food additives, and common plants disappear from the market?

I'd call that person a cultist in the grip of a bizarre superstition that the state can do anything its priests decide should be done.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hi, @ScottAdamsSays, I'm Tom Knapp

I'm the guy you don't believe exists -- the one who wants open borders even if the welfare state continues to exist (I don't do Stockholm Syndrome), even if you tell me scary stories about sharia law, even if the possibility exists that the immediate economic fallout might not be to my benefit, etc.

Nice to "meet" you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Stacking Privacy-Friendly Tech on Top of Privacy-Questionable Tech

As reported at The Verge:

The gadget, called Alias, is an always-listening speaker, but it only connects to the internet during the initial setup process. That way, Alias stays 'off the grid' while you’re using it, preventing your conversations from leaving the device, Bjørn Karmann, one of the developers, told The Verge. When the Alias hears its own wake word, it’ll stop broadcasting white noise [into the Alexa or Google speaker to cover your conversations] and wake up Alexa or Google Assistant so you can use them as normal.

It's not a product for sale, it's a DIY project at Github. requiring a 3-D printer, a Raspberry Pi, two speakers, and code that's still in development.

If I ran Amazon's or Google's home speaker program, I'd be racing to incorporate both the "listen for wake word offline, white noise to the Internet-connected part when it's not being used" and the "choose any wake word you want" features into the existing products.

She Doesn't Have to Ask

Per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked President Donald Trump to postpone his State of the Union address to the nation -- set for Jan. 29 -- until the government reopens.

The White House hasn’t immediately responded to a request for comment about Pelosi’s request, which she made in a letter to the president.

This isn't something Pelosi has to "ask" for.

The president of the United States delivers the State of the Union address at the invitation of the Speaker of the House -- Nancy Pelosi. She issued that invitation on January 3, and she can withdraw it any time she likes.

That's what she should do, instead of "asking" him about rescheduling.

If the Speaker of the House doesn't invite the president of the United States to visit and address the  chamber she reigns over, the House Sergeant at Arms will (presumably politely, at least the first time) simply decline to let him in the door if he shows up.

Trivia bit: It is ritual, when the Queen of England wishes to visit and address the House of Commons, for her to be refused entrance the first time she asks.*

* Egg-on Face Update: No, it's not exactly like that. In fact, the Queen does not and may not visit the House of Commons. No monarch since Charles I has been allowed to set foot in their chamber (Charles showed up to arrest five members, thus the ban). The procedure for the State Opening of Parliament includes this, per the Telegram:

When the Queen sits down (in the House of Lords) the Lord Great Chamberlain signals to an official, known as The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod in his capacity as the Sovereign's Messenger to summon the House of Commons and demand their presence.

As he approaches the Commons, the door of the Chamber is slammed in Black Rod's face to demonstrate the supremacy of the Lower House over the Lords.

He knocks three times with his Black Rod, from which he derives his name, and is finally admitted.

He says: ''Mr Speaker. The Queen commands this Honourable House'' - bowing to the left and to the right as he does so - ''to attend Her Majesty immediately in the House of Peers.''

This tradition is a reminder of the right of the Commons to exclude everyone but the Sovereign's messengers.

GMTA Update: Kevin D. Williamson at National Review agrees.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Monday, January 14, 2019

I'm Launching My Campaign Early This Time ...

No, I'm not running for President or Vice-President of the United States, or for Congress, etc. I'm just getting too old, fat, ugly, and sedentary for that kind of thing.

But I think I did a good job as Florida's representative to the Libertarian Party's national platform committee in 2018, and I'd like to serve on that committee again. Consider this an announcement of my candidacy.

As you may or may not recall, I sought appointment to the platform committee by the Libertarian National Committee last time around, didn't make the cut, got selected as alternate from Florida, and became the main member when Florida's appointee to that position left the party.

Fair warning: This time, I don't intend to seek Florida's slot if I don't make the national cut. For various reasons, I'm not heavily involved in my state party. Nothing against such activity (in Missouri, I served on my party's county, state, and executive committees and ran for public office five times), but my libertarian movement work is more national in scope these days, and it takes up enough of my time and energy that I don't have much over for the kind of state and local work I used to do. I don't think it's fair to ask a state party I'm not heavily involved in to entrust its representation to me.

My national party work these days basically amounts to paying dues, serving as a national convention delegate (seven times so far, including the last two), occasionally helping out a candidate/campaign with writing, etc. ... and, in 2018 and hopefully 2020, serving on the platform committee.

If you think I'd do a good job on the committee, then when the time comes for the LNC to start considering its appointees (I'll let you know when that comes up), please contact your regional representative, the at-large representatives, and the officers and ask them to vote for me.

Discussion (on any related topics) welcome in comments. I expect to talk about this a bit over then next year and a half and will try to remember to put all such posts under the label "Knapp for Platform Committee 2020."

Hmm -- They Must Think Tulsi Gabbard is a Threat After All

I won't be voting for Tulsi Gabbard either in the Democratic primaries (I'm not a Democrat) or in the general election (or, rather, it would take a lot to get me to -- I have significant policy problems with her and am hopeful that the Libertarian Party won't shit the bed with its own nomination for the fourth time in a row).

I also don't think much of her chances. The last time the US elected a president directly out of the US House of Representatives was 1880, and the next one probably won't be a Hindu woman of ... interesting ... citizenship credentials* from the 40th most populous of the 50 states.

Apparently the Democratic establishment think she's enough of a threat to try to crush her right out of the gate, though. For example, they got CNN to rush this one out:

Her past views and activism in opposition to LGBT rights in the late 90s and early 2000s, which put her out of step with most of the Democratic Party at the time, have come under more intense scrutiny since her announcement.

The Democratic Party's platform didn't come out against marriage apartheid until 2012, shortly after president Barack Obama (and Tulsi Gabbard) did and well before 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did.

And yet I don't remember the Democratic establishment attacking Hillary Clinton for having been a knuckle-dragging troglodyte on the subject for more than a year after Gabbard got right on it.

* She was born in American Samoa, which, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, would make her a "national" but not a "citizen" of the US at birth ... except that her father (also born in American Samoa) was a US citizen by virtue of his father's US citizenship. Now, personally, I think that makes her a "natural-born citizen" under the meaning of the US Constitution, but some others, even in her own party, will likely make an issue of it.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Word PSA

de jure, adverb/adjective 1. by right; according to law (distinguished from de facto).


du jour, adjective 2. fashionable; current.

You're welcome.

I'd Just Like to Point Out an Obvious Oversight at Apple

Apparently they've never noticed that the computers they make can be used for video conferencing, etc.

Getting it Backward, as Usual

Associated Press, via ABC News:

Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. ... The data raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage and about how U.S. laws may be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage. ... "It indicates a problem. It indicates a loophole that we need to close," Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told the AP.

I don't see how it raises that "question" at all. In fact, quite the opposite.

So, in (for example) Pakistan, a 12-year-old girl is forced to marry a 50-year-old guy. Then he decides to move to the US and bring her with him.

Question: Where is that 12-year-old more likely to be able to get free -- get away from the guy, get a divorce, and live without fear of being e.g. burned to death? Back in Pakistan? Or here?

Not approving the guy to come to the US and bring her with him is "enabling forced marriage." Approving it is giving her a chance to escape forced marriage.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Steemit "Censorship" -- Disturbing, but Somewhat Overblown

The clue is in the headline:

Steemit Censoring Users on Immutable Social Media Blockchain’s Front-End

Short version: Steemit, a blogging/social media site operating on the Steem blockchain, banned an account associated with a person or group called The Dark Overlord, which claims to have possession of -- and, if a ransom is not paid, plans to release -- insurance files related to the 9/11 attacks.

Now, as someone who publishes on Steemit, I'm not especially happy about Steemit's decision to block users. Any users. For any reason.

But take a second look at that headline. See the words "immutable social media blockchain?"

Steemit is not Steem. Steem is not the Steem blockchain.

Steemit is just one of many ("more than 324") apps/front ends that people can use to publish stuff to, and read stuff on, the Steem blockchain.

Just as an example, here's the prettified Steemit version of an article I published earlier today, and here's the same article, not so prettified, as stored on the blockchain.

You need some kind of tool to publish to the Steem blockchain. And you need some kind of tool to read stuff on the Steem blockchain. Steemit is the easiest and most convenient way I've found to do both. I'm not sure I'd bother with Steem if not for Steemit. But there are other ways.

Not only can Steemit not stop The Dark Overlord from saying anything he, she, or they want to say, Steemit can't even stop he/she/them from saying it with Steem.

Hey, Someone Else Noticed ...

... that "borders" as we know them are less than 400 years old -- part of the Westphalian Model of "national sovereignty" that's given us two world wars and hundreds of millions murdered by "their" governments.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

One Thing Trump Got Right Last Night

Senator Chuck Schumer -- who you will be hearing from later tonight -- has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past, along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected President. -- US President Donald Trump, 01/08/19

True. Schumer (and then-US-Senator Hillary Clinton, and then-US-Senator Barack Obama, who later broke the record for deportations under a particular president) voted in favor of the "border fence" in 2006.

They "changed their mind" -- partially, temporarily, dishonestly, and opportunistically -- when it looked like that's where the votes available to them were. They'll change it "back" just as soon as the vote chase leads them in a different direction.

When Democrats tell you they're the pro-freedom party on immigration, they're blowing smoke up your ass. Here's what an actual pro-freedom party sounds like:

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.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Things I Like to Hear ...

We can handle a month or two, but if it gets much longer than that, I’m going to look for another job -- a job in the private sector.

That's a federal prison employee in Florida. In addition to the "government shutdown" being about to affect her pay, she's been commuting seven hours each way to work (and staying there for two weeks at a time) because "her" prison sustained hurricane damage and the prisoners got moved to Mississippi.

Here's another federal tax eater, at another federal cage farm in Florida, moaning about how awful it is that the prisoners still get to eat while he may not get a paycheck on Friday.

Maybe he'll abandon the thug life for a job in the productive sector, too.

How about a mass "we saw the light, came to Jesus, and are changing our ways" walkout? Leaving the cells and gates unlocked as they leave would be a nice touch.

A Social Media Feature I'd Like to See

Most social media sites have two features that address people whose stuff you'd rather not look at:

  • "Block," which means you aren't "friends" (or whatever) any more and they can't contact you, show you stuff, etc.
  • "Mute," which allows you to remain "friends" (or whatever), but keeps their 3,000 posts a day from showing up on your timeline.

I'd like to see something in between.

I won't name the network or the poster, but there's a guy who posts interesting stuff. Problem is, he posts something like 50 items an hour.

I think it would be neat to have a per-"friend" (or per-"whatever") gizmo -- "winnow" -- that shows you posts you're specifically tagged in, but otherwise has a slider letting you set the percentage of the "friend's" (or whatever's) posts you see. So I could say I only want to see 20% of your posts, or 50%, or whatever. That way remain more "in touch" than we would if I "muted" you, but not so much "in touch" that you crowd everyone else out.

So, Will Trump ...

... use his national harangue tomorrow night to declare a "state of emergency" empowering himself to build the Berlin border wall as a military action?

If so, then impeachment at a minimum, but better yet a national uprising resulting in not one stone left atop another in Washington, DC should quickly ensue.

But of course it won't. The most we can probably hope for is a lengthy court battle and possibly freelance sabotage of the project if it does go forward.

Some Unsolicited Advice to @RealDonaldTrump on the "Shutdown"

One of the ways The Swamp acts to get people on their side during these "government shutdowns" is to raise the specter of a delay in issuing income tax refunds, because, you know, the IRS is short-handed.

Right now, about 12 percent of IRS staff are expected to continue working through a shutdown, according to the agency's plan, which means certain functions such as answering taxpayer questions would be curtailed. The IRS is still working on contingencies if the shutdown continues. ... A spokesman for the IRS would not speculate on how long the shutdown would have to last in order to result in a delay of refunds.

As chief of the executive branch -- of which the IRS is a part -- President Trump should order the IRS to have that 12% of IRS staff working on processing income tax refunds. And to free them up, he should order a stop to the "non-essential" activity of income tax collections. That is, simply stop withholding for the duration of the "shutdown."

And, instead of government employees getting paid for the time they worked (or didn't work) during the "shutdown," taxpayers should be held exempt for any and all tax liabilities supposedly accrued during said "shutdown."

I doubt that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will like the idea very much.

You're welcome, Mr. President.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

A Number That Seems Very Low to Me

Amazon says it's sold more than 100 million Alexa devices.

That's all?

There are more than 125 million households in the US, and households that have at least one Alexa device by definition average more than one (we have three, not including smart phones with the app installed).

Assuming an average of two, and assuming (very wrongly, I'm sure) that almost all Alexa devices are sold in the US, that would mean only 40% of US households had an Alexa device in them.

Even that seems low to me, but then consider that there are maybe a billion and a half households in the world, many of which have access to, and the ability to use, Amazon (Amazon Prime Video was supposedly available in more than 200 of the 241 countries/territories recognized by the UN as of late 2016).

I guess that means plenty of room for growth, anyway.

Trump Continues to Make the Case that He's a War Criminal

Back in November, I pointed out the implications of treating immigration as an "invasion," as Donald Trump has done both rhetorically and in action (by sending troops to the border with Mexico):

"Invasion" connotes war (or, in international convention terms, an "international conflict"), which means that when US forces launched a chemical weapons attack across the border into Mexico, they committed a war crime under the Chemical Weapons Convention -- and brought themselves under the Rome Statute/International Criminal Court's jurisdiction for trial on related charges.

Now Trump is doubling down -- considering declaring a national emergency so that he can use military funding to build his Berlin border wall.

I agree with Trump on this much: Forcibly impeding immigration is war.

Which means that you can be anti-war or you can be anti-immigration-freedom, but you can't be both.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

But Hey, Why NOT a Second Post for the Day ...

... because when I sat down to do the last one I was drinking a cup of coffee, and that got me thinking about one of the "for the whole family (or at least those of us who drink coffee)" Christmas presents:

That's not an affiliate link if you click through on the image, btw. I haven't been an Amazon affiliate in years.

Anyway ... I had been thinking about a K-Cup type coffee brewer for a little while. I bought one of these for my brother for Christmas. He liked it, so I got one for us as well. Much less expensive than the Keurig brand, and it works just fine.

Why a K-Cup brewer? Well, Tamara likes her coffee weaker and I like mine stronger, so one of us was always going to be unsatisfied when the other one brewed up a pot. Now we can just make our coffee one cup at a time. She can put more water in hers and I can put less in mine. Everybody wins!

We picked up some cheap pre-made K-Cups of various strengths/flavors and they're fun (Walmart has a medium dark roast with 1.75 times the normal caffeine -- hooray!), but we also got some of those little K-Cup shaped thingies that you can just put your regular old coffee in and will probably mostly just do that.

Anyway, if you've been thinking K-Cup but blanch at the name brand price, this less expensive little machine seems to be a winner.

I Hate ...

... toothaches.

Among other things, they make it hard to write because they make it hard to concentrate.

But damned if I'm gonna get behind the curve on my "average a post a day at the blog" resolution, so my post today is "I have a toothache. It sucks."

Friday, January 04, 2019

Perhaps This Will Mean Fewer Public Sexual Assaults

CNN reports: "Hundreds of TSA screeners, working without pay, calling out sick at major airports."

So sad. Because, you know, feeling up travelers and slowing their travel down to the tune of millions of hours of person-time per year is an "essential" government activity.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Only the First Week of January and a Win for Freedom Already

Voters in St. Louis County, Missouri, sent the county's Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, packing in last August's Democratic Party primary. McCulloch, as you may remember, was the guy who, instead of either charging or clearing Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, took the case to a grand jury and then acted as Wilson's de facto defense attorney instead of doing his damn job.

The new prosecutor, Wesley Bell, promises some big changes (changing the cash bail system, opposing the death penalty, holding bad cops accountable, etc.). One that just took effect:

"Bell's office says it will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases ..."

St. Louis County has a population of about a million, with tens or even hundreds of thousands more who work in, commute through, or visit every day.

Missouri reported more than 20,000 marijuana arrests in 2016. This move effectively legalizes marijuana possession for 1/6th or more of the state's population. It will probably save more than 3,000 people per year from legal hassles and "criminal records" for possession of a common and useful plant.

Good stuff.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Word PSA

At The Intercept:


The details:

Despite pressure from progressive Democrats, the House rules package for the 116th Congress will include a pay-as-you-go provision, requiring all new spending to be offset with either budget cuts or tax increases, a conservative policy aimed at tying the hands of government.

The definition the headline implies -- but the story belies -- per Merriam-Webster:

austerity, n. 2. enforced or extreme economy especially on a national scale

Pelosi's "pay-go" rule doesn't involve any "economy" at all. It neither imposes any spending cuts nor prohibits any spending increases. It just requires Congress to either make do with the revenues it has, or openly raise taxes to cover new spending, instead of hiding its profligacy by increasing the amount of money it borrows.

Thanks For Asking!, 01/02/19

So, as I was saying earlier, Joel Schlosberg suggested that one way of naturally increasing the number of posts at KN@PPSTER would be to get back to a weekly Thanks For Asking! thread.

True. Of course, Thanks For Asking! has always been intertwined with the podcasting, which I can't seem to bring myself to get back into. But it doesn't have to be, does it? How about we try a weekly AMA thread without a promised accompanying podcast?

  1. Ask me anything (yes, anything); and
  2. I'll answer (maybe in comments, maybe in a stand-alone blog post, hell, maybe even in a surprise podcast).
I don't know if Wednesdays will be the day I permanently settle on for the weekly thread, but it's Wednesday this week, anyway.

Podcast or not, this AMA thread is brought to you by Free Pony Express

Two Days in, and Already a Day Behind ...

... is no way to keep up that "one post a day" average! But, in fairness, I didn't do much of anything else yesterday either.  I somehow managed to get the New Year's Day hangover feeling without doing the New Year's Eve drinking.

In comments on another post, Joel Schlosberg made a suggestion that sounds fun and would also naturally increase post count. I think I'm going to go with it.