Friday, January 31, 2020

The Libertarian Party's Platform Committee is Voting ...

... by email ballot on its first recommendation, to amend platform plank 3.4 (Free Trade and Migration) as follows:

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders.

Current wording of the plank is in plain text. Words proposed for removal are in red with a strike-thru. There aren't any proposed additions or other modifications on this ballot.

Other, possibly repetitious, updates (aka things I don't remember if I mentioned before):

  • Caryn Ann Harlos was elected permanent chair of the committee by email ballot.
  • We're in the process of nominations for secretary.
  • We're still discussing whether to have a pre-convention meatspace meeting. Sentiment seems to be running against, with something like $1,300 pledged by committee members as donations to the LP if we don't have such  meeting. I'm in for $100 of that, as it would probably save me (and, therefore, those of you who support my work on this) at least $500.
You can follow the committee's email deliberations here.

Cross-Platform Coolness and Difficult Decisions

I'm still messing around trying to get Linux to support my preferred dual monitor setup.

In Linux Mint, switching from USB --> DVI to straight VGA gets that second monitor running, but it just mirrors the first one and the OS doesn't detect two monitors. That may be my fault: I screwed around with proprietary drivers and messed something up (Linux Mint keeps telling me that there's a problem, that hardware graphics handling has been turned off, to check the driver manager ... and the driver manager tells me there's no problem, round and round we go). So ...

... as I write this post, I'm burning an ISO of Kubuntu to a USB drive to see if that will work out better (or at least more easily).

But what I'm actually thinking about while that ISO burns (actually, it just got done), is a secondary consideration I had in getting a new machine.

The primary consideration was that a dual core processor and 4Gb of RAM was starting to feel insufficient based on a silly benchmark of mine: If the web-based game "Forge of Empires" strains my resources, time to upgrade. So I did, and going straight PC made more sense (both financially and in terms of CPU/RAM available) than sticking with the Chromebooks/Chromeboxes I've been using exclusively for eight years now.

The secondary consideration was "maybe I should seize the opportunity to get away from relying on Google."

When I became a ChromeOS fanboy, "cross-platform" seemed mostly notional, except maybe for Java apps.

But now, web-based apps make it all easy. And Google Chrome makes web-based apps easy.

To put it a different way, back in the old days if I switched platforms, I needed to choose, install, configure, and learn to properly use new text editors and such. Now I can use my preferred apps (in text editors, those would be Writebox and Caret) on any machine that runs Chrome or Chromium. The last few days, I've been doing that in Windows 10. Once I get Linux running, I can do it there, too.

Not having to change things up is easy!

But I kind of wanted to change things up. Dump Gmail. Dump Google Drive. Dump Chrome. Goodbye Google. Etc.

And I still may do that, if the utter convenience doesn't seduce me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

So the New Computer Arrived ...

... and I'm blogging atcha from it.

Unfortunately, I'm doing so on Windows 10. Linux Mint doesn't like my "run the second monitor via USB and a DVI adapter" setup. So I'm going to have to get a VGA cable, etc. and get that taken care of.

But a very nice machine!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Brief Libertarian Party Platform Committee Update

Election of the permanent committee chair (by email ballot) is ongoing.

So is discussion of whether to hold a physical meeting prior to the party's national convention in May.

Here's a publicly viewable archive of the committee's email discussions.

And here's an email I just sent pursuant to that discussion:

I've seen two main arguments offered for an in-person meeting.

The first is that more can get done in a shorter period of time because of time limits built into the agenda (and into venue reservation times, people's travel plans, etc.) and a hypothetical sense of urgency created by those time limits.

While e-meetings do lack the sense of urgency because no one is going to miss a plane and the venue isn't going to kick us out, they do have agenda-based time limit functions which the chair enforces unless the body chooses to extend time.

Email work has a hard time limit once email balloting begins, and both prior to and during the balloting, each member is free to spend as much or as little time as he or she wants considering or debating the proposal.

So I don't find that argument persuasive.

The second is a more motivational/personal kind of thing -- that in-person meetings are conducive to the members "gelling" as a working group, learning to work and play well together.

I DO find that argument persuasive as far as it goes, but I'd offer two counter-arguments to consider:

1) We are not a long-term body. About four months from now, we will cease to exist as a group. It's not like we have to get along for the next 20 years to get our job done. I'm as irascible as anyone "in this room," and I'm pretty sure that I can get through the next four months without killing any of my fellow committee members.I'm also pretty sure that any work-related conflicts are going to happen whether we have a physical meeting or not. The only difference there is that in email or e-meetings, any of you with a sudden and uncontrollable committee-work-related urge to throw a cup of hot Starbucks at someone or something won't be able to throw it at ME.

2) While I do love you all, even the ones I don't know well yet, a physical meeting entails considerable expense, including but not limited to possible venue rental, document printing, etc. (does LPHQ cover that?), and probably at LEAST several hundred dollars in personal travel/lodging/food spending, not to mention time wasted getting from Point A to Point B and back, by most or all members of the committee. I knew that such an expense was a possibility when I applied for the committee. I managed that expense last time, and if necessary I'll do it this time. But as a matter of costs versus benefits, I just don't consider it a wise use of either party or individual resources.

So, Who Do I Call to Arrange My Surrender?

I encourage anyone and everyone who wants to come to the United States in search of work and/or safety to do so, and to stay in/reside here for however long they might damn well please, whether the US government says they can or not.

According to 8 U.S. Code § 1324, saying the above puts me on the hook for five years in prison.

Actually, ten years, because part of my purpose for offering such encouragement is "commercial advantage or private financial gain" -- immigration improves the economy in general, and thus supports my own prosperity.

In theory, I could even be imprisoned for life or executed if a death is somehow linked to my encouragement of immigration. For example, if an ICE/Border Patrol gang member murders an immigrant who was encouraged by me to come here, or if one of the ICE/Border Patrol thugs is killed in self-defense by one of his or her victims.

The Ninth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals rightly struck down the "encouragement" provision on First Amendment grounds, but I live outside the Ninth Circuit, and the Trump regime is appealing that correct ruling to the US Supreme Court anyway.

I'm far from confident that SCOTUS will uphold the First Amendment -- let alone Article I, Section 9, Article V, and the Tenth Amendment, which would make the case moot since they combine to forbid federal regulation of immigration -- so I may be looking at some hard time here.

No problem, but can we do this arrest thing in an orderly manner, sans snipers, helicopters, dogs, etc.? I'll peacefully bring myself to any reasonably convenient surrender point on demand and save y'all the trip.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hillary Clinton on Bernie Sanders, Wrong and Right

Wrong: "Nobody likes him."

Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in 23 of 57 Democratic presidential primaries, knocking down 43.1% of the total national Democratic primary vote, in 2016. Apparently some people like him.

Right: "He was a career politician."

He's spent the last 38 years in, or briefly out of while running for, political office -- the last 28 of them in Congress. So yeah, he's the very definition of a career politician.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Yep, BTC is Still a Train Wreck

I've had a "standard fee" transaction sitting in mempool for more than four hours.

Yeah, I know that BCH has fewer transactions to handle on its blockchain. And that BTC actually seems to be running a slightly lower average block time. But anecdotally, I haven't had a BCH transaction take more than a few minutes, ever, that I can remember.

Crypto needs to be finding ways to confirm in seconds, not minutes, to fill a "medium of exchange" function.

Without that function (in addition to "store of value" and "unit of account"), there's no use case for regular people doing regular commerce. And that's the use case I want.

This Morning's Ridiculous Impeachment Claim

Per CNN:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to give House impeachment managers and President Donald Trump's legal team each 24 hours divided over two days for their opening arguments in the Senate's impeachment trial, a move that indicates Senate Republicans are pushing to finish the trial as quickly as possible ...

Emphasis mine.

The purpose of "opening arguments" -- actually "opening statements" -- in a trial is for the prosecution to describe what they're accusing the defendant of and summarize how they intend to prove it, and for the defense to describe why the prosecution is full of beans and summarize how they plan to show that.

One hour for each side might be a little short. Much more than that -- more than, say, splitting one eight-hour work day between the two sides -- isn't about opening statements, it's about intentionally dragging things out.

If the Democratic impeachment managers are smart, they'll wrap their opening statement up in less than two hours, making it clear that they have a slam-dunk case that they don't need 24 hours to summarize, then let the Republicans be the ones who bore America to death with two 12-hour days full of nothing but whining about how unfair it all is.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Linux Distro Bleg

The new computer is on the way.

I may keep Windoze 10 on it just so I can play some old games (I miss Starcraft now and again), but I'll certainly want to turn it into a dual-boot box and do most things in Linux.

But it's been ages since I've had to choose a Linux distribution, and never for a PC this loaded. So I'm looking for recommendations.

The CPU is a quad-core AMD 5500B, operating at up to 3.7GHz. It's got 16Gb of RAM, and I'm pretty sure it can support up to 32Gb if I ever want to buy more.

One possible fly in the ointment: I'm pretty sure this machine comes with something called the "Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip." I recall hearing complaints -- or at least fears -- in the past that this and other "secure boot" schemes might not work and play well with some Linux distributions.

I've always preferred the KDE desktop to Gnome and other GUIs, but I'm not unwilling to abandon KDE if necessary to get a Linux installation that meets my needs in other respects. Which are, pretty much, browsing the web and editing text and support for at least two monitors (my current configuration is HDMI direct to one monitor, USB adapted to DVI on the other; I'll be trying to get the new one to work that way but with the HDMI adapted from DisplayPort); everything else optional.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Platform Committee and Libertarian National Convention Update

Hey, everyone -- I'm trying to get in the habit of updating y'all whenever there have been significant developments, and there have. Here they are:

  • The Libertarian Party's platform committee is beginning the process of electing its permanent chair by email ballot. The candidates are Caryn Ann Harlos of Colorado (who chaired the 2018 committee), former state legislator Laura Ebke of Nebraska, and Libertarian Party of Florida member (and former state vice-chair) Omar Recuero. I think any of these three would do a great job as chair, and will be happy to work with any of them, but I've endorsed Ms. Harlos for the simple reason that I've actually seen how she chairs platform committees and know she does a great job.
  • A straw poll of the committee on whether or not to hold an in-person meeting between now and the party's national convention went ever so slightly in favor of "no." That doesn't mean there won't be such a meeting, and if there is I plan to attend (and to request your financial assistance to do so).
  • Until today, when she finally made up her mind for certain not to, I was hoping that my wife, Tamara, would attend the national convention in Austin with me. That's bad, but it does have up sides, one of them being that instead of finding a distant and cheaper hotel room for two, I'll either find equally budget-conscious roommates or impose myself on the Povertarian Caucus's "hospitality suite," saving some money and some daily commute time (I've set up a $20 per month donation to the Povertarian Caucus with the latter eventuality in mind).
  • I haven't purchased my convention package ... yet. But I have cryptocurrency set aside to buy the $79 "training only" package, and plan to do so in the next few days. I always try to buy a package (unless the LNC decides to impose a "floor fee," in which case that's all they get out of me). Last time, a donor made it possible for me to by a "bronze" (I think) package, but this time I'm going the cheaper route simply because a reception and a breakfast don't strike me as worth an additional $100 given my likely busy schedule.
  • I won't be able to attend the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania's state convention, but if they have any unfilled seats, hopefully an LPPA member "living abroad" and there anyway for platform committee will be welcomed. Otherwise, I'll ask around. I've never attended a national convention and not found a seat.
Hey -- I'm not hitting y'all up for assistance yet!

That doesn't mean I won't break out the begging bowl. There will be air fare and Uber costs for the convention, and of course travel and lodging costs if the platform committee does meet in the flesh before the convention. But, as I did last time, I will keep costs to an absolute minimum and only ask for the help I really, really need.

And that's your update.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

And the Winner of "Dumbest Thing Tom Knapp Read This Week" ...

... is clearly, and far and away, going to be Alan Dershowitz's howler at the Gatestone Institute. Quoth Dershowitz:

The Constitution allocates to the president sole authority over foreign policy (short of declaring war or signing a treaty). It does not permit Congress to substitute its foreign policy preferences for those of the president.

Naturally, Dershowitz leaves out any reference to precisely where the Constitution does something like that. Why? Because it doesn't.

According to the Constitution:

The president can negotiate treaties -- which become law if, and only if, the Senate approves them.

The president can appoint ambassadors and a Secretary of State -- who get to assume those positions if, and only if, the Senate approves them.

The president is commander in chief of the armed forces, but only when they're "called into the actual service of the United States." Which generally used to happen when Congress declared war.

Congress gets to "regulate commerce with foreign Nations."

Congress gets to "define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations."

Congress gets to "declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water."

Congress gets to "To provide for calling forth the Militia to ... repel Invasions."

And the president's use of money for foreign aid or any other purpose is only allowed "in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law," i.e. by Congress.

Yes, presidents have increasingly seized de facto control over US foreign policy, but nowhere in the Constitution is it so "allocated."

The "New Computer" Saga Continues ...

... but I think it's going to come out well.

Recap of my last post: I need a new computer. Dual-core CPU with 4Gb of RAM is starting to not be enough on the "Forge of Empires benchmark."

 I was looking at a Lenovo ThinkCentre M73 -- still dual-core but faster, with 8Gb of RAM, for about $140. Then came a timely donation and a price drop to $110. Ordered! through Purse (affiliate link).

But Purse is taking longer these days to pass through "standard 5% discount" orders.  At one time, that took minutes. Now it takes hours, sometimes days. And shortly after I placed the Purse order, the price on the machine went back up to $129.

So, I started looking, on the assumption (followed by communications to Purse) that since the BTC escrowed for the order wouldn't cover it, we're looking at a cancellation.

Hey! Newegg takes cryptocurrency! And I found a quad-core machine with 16Gb of RAM for only about $150 there!

OK, false alarm. Newegg takes crypto for items sold and shipped by Newegg, but not "marketplace" items from third party sellers/shippers.

So, back to Amazon. Which has the same machine, for about the same price, but with only 8Gb of RAM.

At this point, I've given up on a tiny form factor. And I've also set my sights higher. I want that 16Gb. And for only $50 more ...

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M78.

Quad-core 3.7GHz AMD CPU.

16Gb RAM.

500 Gb hard drive (I'm easy on drive space -- on my ChromeOS machines, I've never come close to filling the 16Gb SSD, and past hard drives are a similar story).

Since it's not a small form factor, it has an optical drive. Comes with keyboard, mouse, power cord, Bluetooth and WiFi adapters (not clear whether those are internal or USB, but the thing has two US 2.0 ports on the front plus six USB ports -- two 2.0 and four 3.0 -- on the rear), and the 1 year warranty and tech support are from "Amazon Renewed" instead of a third party.

So that's twice as many CPU scores (and at much higher speed) and four times the RAM I've ever had in my life.

ORDERED! (Again, through Purse).

The tradeoffs:

  1. I will presumably pay a slight premium in higher electric bills. Those little ChromeOS machines just don't draw much power at all compared to a full-size PC.
  2. The OS will presumably use more resources than ChromeOS. It comes with Windoze 10, which I expect to use little if at all (I might have to reinstall Starcraft; it's been ages). I'll turn it into a dual-boot box and use Linux most of the time.
  3. I think I already have the monitor set-up in hand -- I have a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter to connect to my main monitor, and a USB-to-DVI adapter fr the second -- but that's often one of those "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy" situations. There may be some cable/adapter purchases in my near future.
  4. I guess I'll have to make some room on or under my desk. My last two Chromeboxes were about the size of four packs of cigarettes, and my current "headless" Chromebook setup is thin and doesn't get in the way. I haven't had anything like a full-size desktop in more than a decade (I went from a Mac Mini to Chromeboxes in 2012).
But I can make room, and I don't expect my resource use to strain a fast quad-core 16Gb system anytime soon (I've been managing on dual-core and 4Gb or less since 2012). I'll still mostly just be browsing the web and editing text. Barring catastrophic CPU/motherboard failure, this may be my machine for the next decade.

BLEG: Opinions on the best Linux distribution for this machine. It's been ages since I paid much attention. Linux Mint was my go-to for a while, then Puppy when I needed something very light. I've always preferred the KDE desktops, but as long as I have a reasonably navigable GUI and can do text editing and fairly standard web-stuff, I'm good to go.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

I Think It's Time to Consider a New Computer ...

I have a sort of "top of performance needs benchmark" for computers: Does Forge of Empires hog all the RAM?

It's not that I play FoE all the time. I usually play it obsessively for a couple of days, then here and there for a few weeks, and then not at all for months until one day the urge takes me. In other words, it's nothing that I can't live without.

But when the urge does take me, as often as not my main purpose is to find out if the game's requirements tax my computing power. Since the developers are always adding new memory-hogging features, I figure that when the game slows down my machine significantly, it's probably time to start looking for a new machine.

I've been making do with no more than 4 gigabytes of RAM for right at eight years now, and last time I played FoE (which was probably close to a year ago), it was just starting to get squirrelly. Other browser tabs would die and have to reload when I switched over to them, etc.

This week, I decided to play some FoE and it nearly instantly started killing the content in every other open tab, and crashing the Great Suspender extension I use to reduce the load by, well, killing the content in tabs I haven't used for a few minutes.

So I need more RAM, but none of my existing machines will support more than 4Gb.

So, here's what I'm looking at:

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M73 sports an Intel dual core CPU at 2.6 GHz and 8Gb of RAM. It's a WIndoze machine, but if I got it I'd wipe it and install Linux. It's $137.95.

The Asus Chromebox 3-N017U is also Intel dual core, but only 1.8 GHz, and also sports 8Gb of RAM. It runs $299.99.

I'm partial to ChromeOS, but have been thinking about abandoning it. Half price to do so, with a better CPU, pushes me in that direction.

But before I make a decision, I'm going to see if someone else does so for me -- both machines are on my Amazon Wish List ;-)

Alternatively, I may just build a box from the empty case up. I've helped my son do several. But I like a tiny form factor while his have been nice spacious towers, so I'm somewhat skeptical that I can do things my way.


Wow ... a timely cryptocurrency donation came in (thanks, GL!), and Amazon dropped the price of that ThinkCentre to $109.99, even as I was looking at some higher end stuff! Ordered the ThinkCentre through Purse (affiliate link).

I was toying with really upping my computer game -- 16Gb of RAM instead of 8, a quad core CPU, etc. -- before I noticed the price drop. But based on the screwing around I've done with light Linux distributions, etc., I expect the ThinkCentre to be all the machine I need for years to come.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Roberts' Rules v. Senate Rules?

Article I, Section 3 of the US Constitution gives the US Senate "sole Power to try all Impeachments."

Article I, Section 5 of the US Constitution specifies that "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings." And the Senate has done so vis a vis impeachment.

But back to Article I, Section 3: "When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside ..."

Under Senate Rule IV for impeachment:

When the President of the United States, or the Vice President of the United States upon whom the powers nd duties of the office of President shall have devolved, shall be impeached, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Untied States shall preside; and in a case requiring the said Chief Justice to preside, notice shall be given to him by the presiding officer of the Senate of the time and place fixed for the consideration of the articles of impeachment, as aforesaid, with a request to attend; and the said Chief Justice shall preside over the Senate during the consideration of said articles, and upon the trial of the person impeached therein.

Emphasis mine.

Under Senate Rule III:

shall continue in session from day to day, (Sundays excepted) after the trial shall commence, (unless otherwise ordered by the Senate,) until final judgment shall be rendered, and so much longer as may, in its judgment, be needful.

And under Senate Rule XII:

The hour of the day at which the Senate shall sit upon the trial of an impeachment shall be (unless otherwise ordered) twelve o'clock m.' and when the hour for such sitting shall arrive, the presiding officer of the Senate shall so announce; and thereupon the presiding officer upon such trial shall cause proclamation to be made, and the business of the trial shall proceed.

So, what happens if Roberts announces he has a tee time or lunch date that he has no intention of canceling or postponing just because 100 politicians finally roused themselves to put on a show?

The Senate is allowed to make rules for the Senate, but I doubt they're allowed to make rules for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Note to Lincoln Chafee

From an interview with Gary Doan of The Libertarian Republic:

TLR: What is your overall philosophy concerning monetary policy and the Federal Reserve?

LC: Well, I’m anti-deficit and all my 30 years in public service have my votes and actions support that. Certainly as a mayor, required to balance a budget ... Governor, required to balance a budget. As Senator, yes, I voted against all those tax cuts, because I did not see the commensurate cuts in spending. And that’s exactly what happened with reduction of our revenue and soaring expenditures on wars and entitlement programs. And then, of course, natural disasters such as Katrina.

All well and good, I guess, but the question was about monetary policy and the answer was about fiscal policyThey're two different things.

It's Not Hard to Decide Who to Believe Here ...

Elizabeth Warren:

Bernie and I met for more than two hours in December 2018 to discuss the 2020 election, our past work together and our shared goals .... Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.

Bernie Sanders:

It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win. ... What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course!

[Lots of versions of this story -- I picked this one from ABC News for the quotes -- and of course they had a dust-up over it at last night's beauty contest debate]

While I won't vouch for Bernie's overall honesty -- he is, after all, a career politician -- anyone who's been paying even minimal knows that Elizabeth Warren is a compulsive and self-serving liar, particularly on anything relating to her personal history, actions, and experiences. She lies about her ancestry. She lies about her past employment. She lies about her father's employment. She lies about where her kids went to school. If she thinks it makes her look better, she lies like a rug and without a second thought.

Based on her record, the safe bet is that whatever Sanders said in that meeting, it's not what Warren says he said.

Yep, Giuliani is Screwed

Not quite a month ago, I predicted:

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.

The latest House document dump pursuant to the prosecution of US president DonaldTrump in impeachment proceedings is mostly getting noticed for an offered trade: If Trump fires a troublesome ambassador, Ukraine provides dirt on Biden.

Getting less notice is a letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, requesting a meeting (which apparently didn't end up taking place). And getting even less notice than the letter itself are three references within the letter:

I am private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. To be more precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States. ... In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you ...

Emphases mine.

Whatever Giuliani was up to vis a vis Ukraine, in this letter he openly stated that he was up to it for the personal benefit of Donald Trump, not as part of advancing some supposed "anti-corruption" public policy initiative. And he openly stated that Trump knew what he was up to and approved of it.

He's going under the bus whether Trump personally kicks him there or not.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Sexist Case Against Tarantino, Pitt, and Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

I generally don't have strong opinions on what pictures should receive Academy Awards. And I confess myself shocked -- shocked! -- that a movie with its plot and theme situated in, and clearly in love with, the movie industry would enjoy a lot of mojo with Oscar voters, who just happen make their livings in the movie industry.

That said, I do consider Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood to be, by far, the best 2020 film I happened to watch in 2020,  and think it deserves every award it nabs.

Comes Marlow Stern, Senior Entertainment Editor at The Daily Beast, asserting that the film has a "Big Harvey Weinstein Problem."

And what, pray tell, might that problem be?

[S]omehow, the celebrated filmmaker and his age-defying star have managed to avoid any scrutiny over their troubling relationships with Harvey Weinstein. ... a culture of complicity allowed the superpredator’s reign of terror to continue unabated. ... Pitt, like Tarantino, had the power and cachet to expose Weinstein with the snap of a finger. Instead, they let it slide, opting for cashing dirty checks and chasing awards. ... it’s worth asking whether it sends the right message to honor two Hollywood power players who turned a blind eye to Weinstein’s sexual abuse, and whether it’s fair that they’ve artfully dodged any questions about it this entire awards season.

So, director Quentin Tarantino and co-star Brad Pitt had good reason to know that Weinstein was at best a creep and quite possibly an actual rapist. Yet they kept their mouths shut and cashed his checks for years, if for no other reason than that they feared the damage he could do their careers if they publicly went after him.

Just like most of Weinstein's accusers.

Stern's brief against Tarantino and Pitt is that they were obliged -- as males -- to suit up in their white knight armor and publicly joust Weinstein on behalf of his poor, helpless, female victims, whose corresponding duty was, apparently, to daintily wave handkerchiefs and blow kisses from the viewing stands before retiring to their fainting couches. And, further, that they should be punished in the awards arena for not fulfilling that duty.

If not bucking Weinstein until it became safe to buck Weinstein is an Oscar disqualifier, it should be a disqualifier across sex/gender lines and the Academy should probably just cancel the ceremony and FedEx all this years' statues to Rose McGowan.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Why Elizabeth Warren's Campaign Faded

It's not that her particular schtick (ever so slightly "left" populist welfare statism) played any worse than any of the other candidates' approaches.

It's that whenever she comes up against a question that requires her to either stand by her guns in a way that might not be so popular and/or doesn't fit with her narrative about her own personal history, or else retreat from her position, she chooses a third option.

That third option is: She lies.

She lies about her and her family's economic situation in her younger days.

She lies about whether her children went to the private schools that she doesn't want you to be able to send your kids to.

She runs from the question of whether her version of "Medicare For All" will require a middle class tax increase, trying to portray it as a matter of "overall expenses" rather than taxes per se until she can drum up a complex but unconvincing lie to cover up the fact that yes, it will require a middle class tax increase.

She's not the only politician who's lying, of course. It's just that she's not very good at it. Her lies are pretty easy to identify as lies.

And getting caught lying so often and so obviously just doesn't mesh very well with her morally superior "I know how to run your life better than you do" Church Lady campaign persona.

In lying contests, the liars who are better at lying win.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Reminder: I am NOT Running for President

But I do appreciate whoever it was that wrote in my name in the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire's presidential primary/straw poll.

Note: Those are JUST the write-in votes (LPNH members received mail-in ballots some time ago, and some candidates, including Jacob Hornberger and Lincoln Chafee, have entered the race since those ballots were printed and sent). Vermin Supreme won the poll with, IIRC, 26 votes.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

One of These Things is Not Like The Other

Thing One:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

Thing Two:

Initially, Congress said the ERA -- passed in 1972 -- would be obsolete if not ratified by the required three-quarters of state legislatures by a 1979 deadline. Later, Congress extended this deadline to 1982. It still wasn't met.

"We conclude that Congress had the constitutional authority to impose a deadline on the ratification of the ERA and, because that deadline has expired, the ERA Resolution is no longer pending before the States," DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel said in a January 6 opinion, released yesterday.

I've read Thing One carefully, several times, and nowhere in it do I find any mention of a congressional power to decide how much time the states have to ratify an amendment.

Another Amazon Shipping Musing: Artificial Preservation of "Fast Shipping" as a Premium?

(I have a previous post on this same shipment, with a slightly different topic).

So, my Amazon order went in on January 4th.

Projected delivery date: January 14th.

My assumption as to why the "fast shipping" claims turned out to not be true is that the buyer (I'm using Purse as an intermediary -- you should too, and we both get $5 USD worth of BTC, once you've spent $100, if you join through my affiliate link) is not an Amazon Prime member.

But here's the thing:

It's January 9th, a full five days since the order hit Amazon.

And according to Amazon, the package hasn't BEEN SHIPPED yet.

My hypothesis:

One of Amazon's big selling points for Prime membership is that you get free two-day shipping on most products (in some areas and for some products, free one-day shipping).

But shipping in general is getting faster and faster, especially as Amazon handles more of its own shipping in-house.

So I think that Amazon may be purposely holding non-Prime orders for a little while, not putting them into the shipping pipeline in the first place as fast, so that regular ol' non-Prime customers don't get their stuff in a day or two anyway, potentially causing Prime members to wonder if Prime is worth paying for.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

A Proposal for Strategic Tax Filing

Now and again, I hear proposals for "strategic voting." In the usual example a Libertarian in a "close" state is supposed to vote for the Republican candidate for president (to keep the Democrat from winning that state), while a Republican in a "safe" Republican or Democratic state -- where his or her vote won't make a difference -- is supposed to vote for the Libertarian (to increase the Libertarian Party's nationwide vote count).

Now I see this headline ...

Underfunded IRS struggles to send refunds, answer calls

... and it inspires me to suggest a "Strategic Tax Filing" plan. Here's how it would work:

1) A taxpayer whose return says he or she is owed a refund from the IRS files that return ASAP; while

2) A fellow taxpayer whose return says he or she owes money to the IRS agrees to hold onto that return until the first taxpayer receives said refund.

Yeah, I know it doesn't address the "problem" of the IRS being "under-funded," but it just generally sounds like a good and fun idea to me.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Bot Prediction, Bot Confession

Bruce Schneier at The Atlantic:

They’re mouthpieces for foreign actors, domestic political groups, even the candidates themselves. And soon you won’t be able to tell they’re bots.

Prediction: If they aren't doing so already, bots will soon start populating their web/social media histories with posts complaining "I was accused of being a 'bot' the other day, LOL" and such. Of course, it doesn't clarify things much that there's always someone around to call you a "bot" for disagreeing with them about, well, anything.

Confession: Yes, I'm a bot. Not only is my entire blog history going back to 2004 and entire web history going back to 1993 or 1994 entirely made up, I have access to HAARP and have been using it to create false memories in your brain of having met me, etc. MWUHAHAHA! ALL YOUR IDEATION BELONG TO US!

I'm Beginning to Mistrust Amazon's "Fast Shipping" Claims

On January 4th, I ordered two items from Amazon via Purse (affiliate link -- if you join Purse through it, once you've spent $100 both you and I receive $5 worth of BTC).

Both items are "Prime" eligible and claim two-day shipping if ordered directly, and on the Purse site there's a little picture of a truck with the words "Fast Shipping" next to it accompanying each item.

Purse got the Amazon order in pretty quickly, so I've got no heartburn with them.

But today is January 7th, and Amazon's "track package" page for them says the items still haven't even shipped yet and that I shouldn't expect them until the 14th.

That's not "fast shipping."

A Primer on Hubris

The article's title tells you all you really need to know: "How Trump Can Sort Out the Middle East."

The idea that it is desirable, or even possible, for a US president (or a US government in general) to "sort out" the affairs of 16 other regimes and numerous non-state actors on the other side of the globe is insane.

"The United States," writes Conrad Black, "has to find a way to defend its legitimate national interests in the Middle East without being on call, like firemen, for constant interventions there, with high resultant expenses, significant casualties, and an excessive commitment of American military resources to that region."

What "legitimate interests" does the United States, as a polity, have in the Middle East? There are presumably American market actors who have such "interests," but it's no more the US government's job to "defend" those "interests" than it is to "defend" the "interests" of a liquor store owner in Kansas City.

Government as constituted in the US might have the job of "defending" that liquor store owner's life from being taken, store from being robbed, etc., but  if so that's because Kansas City is located in two US states. None of the 16 Middle East regimes are within US jurisdiction. They have their own laws, and enforcing those laws is their job.

Black proposes: "Syria and Iraq should ultimately be regrouped in a loose confederation of largely autonomous zones, including Kurdistan. The inner stability and integrity from outsiders of this arrangement could be sponsored by Turkey, Russia, the U.S., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and a respectable regime in Iran when one emerges."

Hey, here's an idea: How about Syrians and Iraqis and Iranians decide what "groupings" suit them instead of Black deciding for them, and "sponsor" those groupings themselves, whether Black finds any of the regimes involved "respectable" or not?

Which, in fact, is what's ultimately going to happen no matter what Black recommends and no matter what Trump does. The only question is how many flag-draped caskets have to arrive at Dover before Black, Trump, et al. give up on their megalomaniac notion of the world being run from Washington, DC.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Proportional Response? The Iranian Version of "Sanctions" on @RealDonaldTrump

The US regime makes no bones about "sanctioning" Iran -- stealing money connected to that country's regime and/or particular officials, prosecuting people for trading with Iranians, etc.

Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, seems to be suggesting something along those lines vis a vis US president Donald Trump:

Senior Iranian officials are using Twitter to hint at threats against President Trump’s properties — including his Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Florida and Trump Tower in Manhattan — over the killing of Iran’s top military commander.

Hesameddin Ashena, a top adviser to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, tweeted a link to a Forbes Magazine video that listed the properties ...

Iran's regime doesn't have the clout that the US regime does with other countries, so they're not really able to go after Trump's properties through official/judicial channels.

And Trump seems to have discarded such quaint international norms himself -- among other things, it looks like he may have tricked Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi into luring Soleimani to Iraq under false pretenses before having Soleimani, four other Iranians, and five Iraqis killed in a drone strike on Iraqi soil.

I'd say that a threat to attack Trump's properties is a reasonable, proportional, and personal response that hits him right in the wallet. Fewer people are going to want to stay at Trump hotels, visit Trump resorts, golf at Trump courses, etc. -- not just for fear of Iranian attack, but because Trump will probably  unattractively and tediously boost security at those facilities (he'll probably try to tap the taxpayer to cover the expenses of doing so, and shouldn't be allowed to), making them more of a pain in the ass to patronize. And it's not like he has anything to whine about on "fairness" grounds (that won't stop him from whining, of course -- nothing does).

My Very First 2020 Libertarian Party Platform Committee Report

Hey, everyone ...

... because this is where I write about Libertarian Party stuff, and because my selection as a member of the party's 2020 platform committee is largely due to support from some of you, I'll try to keep you informed as to the committee's proceedings as frequently as necessary and in as much detail as reasonable.

The committee is in the process of "convening" via an email list. I'll post a public viewing link once I figure out what that link might be.

Two initial procedural issues are already shaping up:

  1. When and how the committee will elect its permanent chair (Caryn Ann Harlos is acting chair until we do that); the "when" being open and the choices being by email ballot, by voting at an online conferencing software "meeting," or by voting at a phsyical meeting; and
  2. Whether or not to have any physical meetings prior to the party's national convention.
Since I don't know who will be running for the position of chair, I don't have any opinions to share on that matter. Naturally, you'll know who I end up voting for and, if anyone is interested I'll be glad to share my reasons.

I'll be blunt concerning physical meetings:  It is 2020, not 1920 or 1820. Email, online voting systems, and audio/video conferencing systems make physical meetings unnecessary and are more transparent/accessible to the party's interested members than physical meetings.

 If anyone on the committee doesn't have a computer and Internet access, he or she can buy or rent those two things for less than the expense of flying to a far-away city and spending a couple of nights in a hotel.

The main argument for physical meetings is that it lets committee members get to know each other better and develop a collegial spirit that makes it easier to cooperate. Which may be true, but most of us know each other already and physical co-location isn't likely to change our mutual feelings for each other too much.

All that said, if we have a physical meeting I will do what I have to do to attend it, including requesting your financial support for the expenses involved. As you may remember, in 2018 that included a 14-hour Greyhound ride (it ended up being cheaper to fly to Missouri, see my mother, take the bus to Columbus, and fly home from Columbus than to just fly both ways to and from Columbus; I got a visit with Mom out of the deal, so I'm not complaining).

And that's where we are -- the committee members are still "checking in" on the email list. Once everyone's "present," we'll start doing stuff.

Not Exclusively, I'm Guessing

At FEE, in a nice riff on Leonard Read's I, PencilBarry Brownstein writes: "Worldwide, over two billion cups of coffee are drunk daily, and over 125 million are employed in the coffee industry."

The population of Earth as of today according to Worldometers is ~7.55 billion.

So if Brownstein's number is correct, that means about 1 out of every 60 people on Earth works in the coffee industry.

That seems like a pretty large number to me. Presumably it includes e.g. baristas who also make and serve other foods and beverages; coffee machine makers who also make other appliances; coffee growers who also grow other crops or work non-farming jobs; etc.

Or I could be wrong. Coffee is pretty important.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Hell Freezes Over

I agree with Lindsey Graham!

Graham suggests that the Senate should change its rules to get on with the impeachment trial that, constitutionally, is solely within its purview now that the House has passed articles of impeachment.

Yes, he's also preaching the garbage claim that the Senate's rules require some kind of "presentation" ceremony in which Nancy Pelosi does the chicken dance outside the Senate chamber or whatever.

The Senate rules require no such thing (they merely predicate the beginning of the trial on the appointment of House "managers" as prosecutors). Since the articles have been passed and Trump is impeached, anything else the House "gets" to do or "has" to do in the matter of the trial -- including providing prosecutors -- is entirely up to the Senate to determine.

Pelosi isn't holding the trial hostage. She has no power to do so. The Senate can hold the trial any time, and to an extent in any way, it damn well pleases.

It should do so ASAP.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Went Back to the Thrift Store Where I Bought That $5 Classical Guitar ...

... and this time they had a $5 electric guitar.

It's an interesting little thing: A First Act instrument (most prominently sold at Walmart, aimed at youths/novices), with a built-in speaker and headphone jack (powered by a 9-volt battery) in addition to a regular instrument output jack. 21.5" scale, cutaway makes it accessible to the 12th fret.

I haven't been able to get it to stay in tune yet, but I've only played with it for a few minutes. I'm not expecting much from it, but for five bucks it was worth the price for parts (tuning machines, etc.) to use on my own builds. Or, if it does stay in tune and the intonation is OK, to keep next to my desk and grab when I see something online I want to play, or play along with.

Libertarian Party Rumor Has It ...

That there will be at least two presidential nomination campaign announcements next week -- both from former Republican members of Congress.

You can probably guess both of the names I heard, but one of those guesses will probably be incorrect.

I'm on record as being against nominating "major party retreads" for branding reasons. Of the two candidates in question, I think one might not be nearly as bad as some fellow Libertarians seem to expect, while the other would be really, really, really, really bad on policy issues as well as "retread branding" grounds.

Friday, January 03, 2020

The Assassination of Qasem Soleimani is a Brilliant Move ...

... assuming that the goals of US foreign policy are to further destabilize Iraq, firm up the power of the mullahs in Iran after the recent protests there, and get more Americans killed.

Otherwise, not so much.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

The "Not Impeached" Myth-Making Persists

In his daily email newsletter, Erick Erickson writes:

While the House Democrats voted to impeach the President last year, they have not actually done so. They must deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate. They have not done that. So despite all the bluster and hype, President Trump remains un-impeached.


The House passed two articles of impeachment. Those articles and the votes of passage were committed to the House Journal.

Trump. Is. Impeached. Period.

There's a SENATE RULE that says the trial begins when the House sends "managers" over to prosecute at the trial.

What there isn't is any CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT for a special magical ceremony under which Nancy Pelosi must station herself outside the Senate chamber wearing nothing but high heels and a feather boa and hand a notice of impeachment to Mitch McConnell to the accompaniment of a Zydeco band.

The House has SOLE power to impeach, and it has done so.

The Senate has SOLE power to try impeachments, and it can change its internal rules as to when and how to go about that any time McConnell and the Republican majority decide to change those rules.

So, is Hillary Clinton a Foreign Pawn Now?

She's just been appointed chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast.

The Six Counties technically don't have a government at the moment (the First Minister and deputy First Minister resigned in 2017 and the UK occupation regime extended the period for forming a new one until January 13 of this year).

Does that make Ms. Clinton a British asset? A pawn of Boris Johnson, perhaps?

C'mon, Florida, You're Behind the Times

Yesterday, Illinois became the tenth US state with legal sales of marijuana for not-necessarily-medical use. The state's governor, JB Pritzker, also pardoned more than 11,000 drug war POWs whose convictions were marijuana-related.

But Florida is still screwing around -- CBD extracts for epilepsy patients were legalized in 2014, a broader medical marijuana regime in 2017, the licensing and opening of dispensaries went pretty slowly until recently, and getting a prescription/medical buyer card costs a couple of hundred dollars a year and has to be done through specific physicians. In other words, a pain in the ass that I won't bother with.

Fortunately, marijuana seems to be a very low law enforcement priority in my neck of the woods. It's not unusual to smell burning weed, or even to see someone light up in public, so I'm guessing the cops aren't on the hunt for users. If I want it, I can get it without much trouble or worry.

But it should just be formally legal by now.

I've never been a huge pot fan. Smoking it makes me cough far worse than tobacco, and the high isn't usually much to speak of (there have been exceptions). But if it was legal for me to just walk into a store, browse the goods, and buy whatever struck my fancy, I'd probably take a bigger interest in its apparent impact on things like blood glucose levels, chronic pain, etc.

I guess we'll get legal recreational cannabis in Florida when Disney gets around to launching its own line of products.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

They Had Me at "$4.95 -- As Is"

A guitar for less than $5 is pretty much an automatic buy for me. Even if the instrument turns out to be useless, I can pull the tuners and nut off and use them on a cigar box build or whatever.

So here's the Sonny brand "Best Rhythmic Guitar Model 330":

It's about the size of a tenor ukulele. Cheap enough that there's no truss rod. Notes true to the 12th fret, but a little bit of fret buzz at the top end.

The set of Ernie Ball nylon strings I put on it cost a dollar more than the guitar itself (the single string on it when I bought it was mounted classical "loop" style, but I bought ball-ends). That's OK. I'll get $11 worth of fun out of playing it for a little bit, then maybe hand it off to a kid who looks like she needs a guitar.

As a bonus, Tamara fell in love with, and bought, her second ukulele (I bought her an Alvarez Grateful Dead model a year or two ago) when I dragged her into Guitar Center to buy the strings. It was on clearance -- a Recording King soprano uke in colors matching my Recording King Dirty 30s parlor guitar. Huzzah!

My Latest PredictIt Buy

Actually it's an offer (just put in, no takers yet) of 43 cents per share for 23 shares of "yes" to the question "Will the winner of the Iowa Democratic caucuses also win New Hampshire?"

I don't know that I'll ride this one out, but here's my logic:

Buttigieg, Sanders, Biden, and Warren are all clustered fairly close together in both states per the RealClearPolitics polling averages.

I expect the price to go up under one of two circumstances:

  1. One of those four candidates starts to pull noticeably ahead in Iowa before the caucus and people start to sense momentum (price goes up before the caucus)
  2. One of those four candidates wins in Iowa (price goes up between the caucus and the primary)

I only expect the price to go down if someone who's just got no mojo at all in New Hampshire suddenly surges big-time in Iowa (Klobuchar's the most likely suspect there).

So I expect to sell at a profit (probably a relatively small one) either before the caucus or between the caucus and primary.

First Thanks For Asking! Thread of 2020

Might as well get with the "Ask Me Anything" action right off!

Ask me anything in the comments below this post, and I'll answer (in comments, or in some other format).

First Blog Change of 2020

Hash: SHA256

I'm getting rid of the "warrant canary." I always forget to update the damn thing in a timely manner, so its existence doesn't really convey useful information as to whether I've been served with secret demands, etc. (for the record, no, I haven't been so served at this point).

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