Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Ah, a Technical Question!


Nice to write something that's not about my damn wrist/thumb, even if it was inspired by my last post on my damn wrist/thumb.

Someone noticed that both the mouse I just ordered and the keyboard I'm considering are wired USB devices, and asks why I don't get wireless devices.

Thanks For Asking!, even if it's not a Thanks For Asking! thread!

For several years, I used a wireless mouse/keyboard combo. Two things made me give it up:

  1. I started experiencing temporary inoperability with a wireless mouse. This occurred on my Chromebox and Chromebook, but when I went looking for answers as to why, it seems to be a common problem that may have to do with the sheer number of electronic devices operating in my house (at any given time, 2-4 computers, other wireless mice/keyboards, router, Echo Dots, phones, monitors, etc.). Returning to basic wired mouse and keyboard solved the problem.
  2. I don't travel that much, but at least once when traveling I've grabbed my wireless keyboard/mouse and forgotten to grab the little USB dongle. This left me with the built in keyboard/trackpad on my laptop for the duration of my trip (four days, IIRC), which drove me right round the bend. I prefer using an external mouse and a full-size keyboard whenever possible. If I have wired mice and keyboards, there's nothing to forget unless I forget the actual mice and keyboards. Which could happen.
So now you know.


It's all in the wrist (today's investment in gear, that is)


My poor wrist/thumb situation continues to improve, but 1) after nearly a week, I am NOT getting used to mousing with my left hand and have never been very comfortable with a trackball; and 2) I'm not going to take chances. So I just ordered this (with free Amazon Prime one-day delivery):


It looks weird, but after holding my hand the way it would go around the thing, I think it's a good solution -- the wrist and hand are positioned as if for a handshake, rather than palm-down, which should be much easier on the tendons and also minimize required thumb pressure to move around.

I've gone back to using a foam wrist wrest with my El Cheapo standard keyboard, but I'm considering also switching to this:


My main concern with it is price for value. I tend to go through a keyboard every six months or so, which is why I buy the $5-$10 models. That and because I'm a real cheapskate (I bought the wrist rest for less than a buck at a thrift store or garage sale, I forget which). But if any of you really, really, really want me to try it out that badly, I've added it to my Amazon Wish List. I'm a stand-up guy who wouldn't want to leave you hanging with that kind of feeling, see?

The two item links, btw, are not affiliate links. If you buy either of those things for yourself, I won't get a commission or anything. They just looked like things that people other than me might find useful.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Opposite of Congress


Is progress.

Which I think I'm making with the De Quervain's tendinosis. Using the hand as little a possible (I'm getting used to the left-handed mouse, etc.), taking frequent breaks from the computer, putting ice on it several times a day, etc.

I gave up on the speech to text thing. In addition to having to reboot my machine into Windows (I haven't been able to get any similar function to work in Linux -- I don't think it likes my microphone), I end up having to do so many corrections and such that I might as well have just typed the damn things in the first place. I may continue futzing with versions that work in Linux, but more for amusement than from an expectation that I'll use it a lot.

I haven't decided for sure, but I am probably going to "call in sick" for today's Garrison Center column. I really want to have this thing whipped by next Monday, and skipping one column seems like a reasonable concession to getting the hand tanned, rested, and ready. Especially since my left hand is starting to complain at being used in ways it's unaccustomed to.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Hand is Feeling Better ...


... but is still far from 100%. Swelling is down, pain is down, thumb "snapping" is mostly gone, etc. I've been keeping my computer sessions to 15 minutes at a time, using my left hand for the mouse, wearing a brace at night and much of the day, applying ice at every opportunity, and taking NSAIDs. I'm thinking I'll probably run a "web-only" edition at RRND tomorrow, and maybe even Tuesday, to extend the rest. Better to give it a little more recovery time than it needs than to push it right back over the edge just because it's not as bad as it was.

Thanks to all of you for suggestions. I'll be looking into the ones I wasn't already doing!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

This is a test ...


… of windows speech to text.

OK, not terrible. I guess I there might be a learning curve. I'll get on that. Hey, it recognizes when I tell it to use a punctuation mark. Cool.

Friday, February 19, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, February 19-25: Funkadelic, by Funkadelic


No, I'm no funk super-fan, but I dig the Meters, etc. And as a kid, my musical tastes were heavily influenced by my brother's record collection, which tended toward hard rock but which for some reason included Funkadelic's America Eats Its Young. So for 1970 Album of the Week, I'm going with Funkadelic's eponymous debut album, released on February 24 of that year.

I'm trying to keep my keyboard/mouse involvement to a minimum for a few days starting today (to see if I can push what seems to be a case of De Quervain's tendinosis into something like remission), so instead of going on at length I'm just going to throw "Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?" at you and wish you a groovy -- or, rather, funky -- weekend.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Revised Self-Diagnosis ...


Instead of, or in addition to, post-traumatic wrist arthritis, De Quervain's tendinosis seems to fit very well. Particularly the "snapping" or "catching" sensation when moving the thumb. Typing is a bit of a problem, but using the mouse is  the real nightmare. I'm trying to take frequent breaks and either immoblize the area or put ice on it at every opportunity. I may need to take a few days entirely off the computer.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Rush Limbaugh, 1951-2021


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (OK, late 1980s) I was a Rush Limbaugh listener (if for no other reason than that my job allowed me to listen to radio while working and the local "news/talk" channel came in better than any decent music stations) and at least mildly a fan. He's also the topic of the lead essay in my 20-year ginormous compendium of same.

He died this morning.

I won't say I'll miss him, because I've paid no significant attention to him in 25 years or so. But I do wish his family, etc., the best.


An Ideological Touchstone


I support complete separation of school and state. I understand that not everyone -- not even everyone who uses the word "libertarian" as a self-descriptor -- does. And that's OK, there's an argument to be had.

I think, however, that there's a dividing line between those who are serious in critiquing the problems with "public" -- i.e. government -- education and those who aren't. The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn that line pretty brightly in my opinion.

I'm seeing self-described "libertarians," as well as self-described "small-government conservatives," whining at high volume about how terribly important it is for government daycare centers / day prisons to reopen !!!!NOW-NOW-NOW-NOW-NOW!!!.

Many of these are the same self-described "libertarians" and "small-government conservatives" who a year ago were endorsing homeschooling (as do I), calling for getting rid of the US Department of Education (as do I), supporting "local control" of government schooling (better than federal/state control, I guess), and slamming the National Education Association for an agenda of indoctrinating the children in statist ideology (true).

I find that last point particularly telling. Now that the NEA is against herding the precious little chilllllllldren into the indoctrination centers and performing brain surgery on them, at least for the moment, these same people are against ... yep, still against the NEA, and suddenly for immediate return to maximum indoctrination schedules.

From their current positions, I can only conclude that either their previous positions, or their current positions, or both, are just a combination virtue signaling / moral preening and feel-good guff.


A Government Program I Support, and Why


My column at the Garrison Center yesterday discusses the January 20 takedown of the White House's "We The People" page and urges its reinstatement, but I suppose it does lack a certain element of specifically libertarian grounding. How can I, as a libertarian, favor the state going back to doing something it was doing, then stopped doing?

Well, let's talk about that.

In my opinion, the "We The People" project served an objectively anti-state purpose, which explains why the state would discard it in, figuratively speaking, the dark of night when everyone's attention was on other things. As I put it in the column:

If Americans have an easy mechanism for demanding a presidential response to our grievances, and if the president doesn’t want to do what we’re asking of him, it puts him on the spot. He can tell us to buzz off, which no president really wants to be heard doing. He can offer a response that says nothing but feels good, or just ignore us, but we’ll notice.

To the extent that it makes the White House have to work harder to sell what it wants to do, versus what people are telling it should do, at least where those two things conflict, it's probably also a huge net cost savings to the taxpayer.

The "We The People" site almost certainly costs less than the price of one cruise missile fired -- hell, perhaps even one 500-pound dumb bomb dropped -- per year to maintain.  If it raises enough controversy to delay the next US airstrike by even a day, there's your value proposition right there not just in human lives but in dollars and cents.

I'd rather not have a state to petition for redress of grievances caused by the state itself, but as long as such a state exists, I support making such petitions as easy as possible to create, sign on to, and compel responses to, for the much the same reasons that I support more dangerous activities like warning immigrants of impending ICE raids, putting sugar in the gas tanks of police cruisers, etc.

So pretty please with sugar on top, sign my petition (and share it, and sponsor/promote it).


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Things I Have and Like, Part 321,297


So a few years ago, I bought an old (first or second generation, I think) Amazon Kindle for three bucks (IIRC) at a garage sale. And hey, it worked. Even came with a nice cover. I really liked it.

Then I misplaced it. I don't know if I left it sitting on a restaurant table or what. Just couldn't find it one day and oh, so sad I was.

So a few weeks ago I was screwing around on eBay and found a Kindle Paperwhite (2nd generation) for $30 plus shipping. I got it. Nicer than the original Kindle. It has lighting so I can read in the dim. It's got better resolution than the regular Kindle. Very, very nice. At some point, I may spring for the latest generation, though I don't really see much reason to until this one kicks the bucket.

The only thing I don't like about Amazon Kindle books is the "Digital Rights Management" that comes with most of them. On the other hand, that's not a big issue. I also have a Kindle Reader app for my computer screen, and could read on my phone if I wanted to (I don't).

Oh, and one other thing: That a lot of Kindle books from major publishers are damn near as expensive as print editions. But that's not a big issue either, because I just don't pay much for Kindle books. A lot of the books I want -- classics, old philosophy texts, etc. -- are free or at most a buck or two. As an Amazon Prime member, I get to select a free new release (from a curated collection) each month. I'm pretty sure (I haven't checked yet) that I can "check out" books in Kindle format from my local library. And I belong to several email lists that let me know daily about freebies and sales.

One thing I really like about Kindle books is that I can tell my Alexa speaker to read any title in my Kindle library. She doesn't do so nearly as well as, say, an Audible audiobook production, but I generally do that to go to sleep anyway. I'll crank up Bertrand Russell's Problems of Philosophy or Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy or whatever and I'm off to dreamland. Heck, maybe I'm learning nin my sleep!

As you can see, I didn't include any affiliate links -- I'm sure you can find the device you want at Amazon on your own if you're interested. I will, however, include a link to my Amazon Wish List because I've put a number of Kindle titles on it ;-)


Sigh ... It's Always Something


And this time it seems to be (self-diagnosis here) post-traumatic wrist arthritis.

About 35 years ago, I broke my right wrist (specifically, IIRC, the scaphoid bone) in a moped accident (no, I'm not kidding).

Since then, I've had the occasional twinge, but not continuous pain ... until the last few weeks. At first I thought it might be due to the weather (my back will occasionally flare up when a storm is moving in, I guess because of changes in barometric pressure or something), but now I'm thinking it may end up being a chronic condition. It's been painful enough to make sleep difficult, etc. Last night I smoked a CBD cigarette before bed and put on a carpal tunnel brace that Tamara had lying around. I think both helped some. I'll probably order a stiffer brace and start using it every night.

I'm left-handed as far as handwriting goes, but I do a number of things (shooting, playing guitar, using a mouse) with my right hand.

I have no need to shoot right now and I've given up guitar since the pain started (it's difficult to grip a pick and I don't need to be flinging my wrist up and down). I spent a few minutes this morning trying out left-handed mousing. That would definitely take some getting used to. I may go for it this weekend, but I don't think I'd get much done trying to make the change on a regular work day. And I can't very well type one-handed either.

If the brace, the CBD, ice/heat, and perhaps some minor lifestyle changes aren't enough, I guess I'll talk to my doctor about steroid injections or even surgery.

What I really need is a full-body transplant.


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Science Fiction: Where's Your Suspension of Tech Disbelief Dividing Line?


I've been re-reading some older science fiction, fantasy, and space opera lately, and realizing that at some point since the first time around I've come into a diminished capacity for suspension of disbelief.

I know why it is. I'm reading stuff that was written before the modern microcomputer and modern computer networks entered the public consciousness. And the first time I read most of this stuff was in the early days of home computing (mostly before I ever got to touch a microcomputer myself) and well before the general public got access to the email, the World Wide Web, etc.

Even somewhat later, I was working in factories that weren't that computerized yet, and that to the extent they were computerized there were still lots of switches and lights rather than mouses and monitors. So I could relate, at least a little bit, to (for example) E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman stories. The human/machine interface was familiar, no matter how gussied up as "futuristic" the device's ultimate function might be might be.

These days, all that stuff is ubiquitous and used for everything, so a description of a guy piloting a spaceship (or, in what I'm re-reading right now -- Fritz Leiber's The Big Time -- a time portal) by manipulating levers, flicking switches, and looking at blinking lights and so forth just doesn't work like it did back in the '70s and '80s. At least for some stuff.

If I had to pick a "dividing line" novel for this problem, I'd pick Neuromancer, which was published in 1984 but which I probably didn't read until a couple of years later. William Gibson's "cyberspace" doesn't look that much like ours, but the resemblance is close enough to work (in part because ours was probably shaped to a degree by his). I know there were writers moving in that direction before Gibson, but that's when I remember my own mental paradigm shift taking place with respect to stories.

Basically, re-reading the old stuff, I'm having to re-consider its universes as alternate universes rather than potential future timeline of ours. Or, alternatively, consider the possibility that some future revolution (like the Butlerian Jihad in the Dune universe) takes us back to levers and blinking lights or whatever. Which is fine. It just takes some work in some cases (for whatever reason, 1984 is an exception, perhaps because I had already moved it into "alternate universe" category due to having first read it in 1983 and seeing that things obviously weren't going to map 100% in real life).

I suspect this is going to be an ongoing problem for science fiction. I enjoy the Syfy/Amazon show The Expanse very much, but in it, people are controlling ships with, pretty much, iPads and touch-screen PCs. I suspect that 40 years from now that's going to look laughably primitive to audiences who decide to binge on classic early-21st century sci-fi television.

Do you have any bothersome dividing lines of this sort? Any old stuff that just doesn't work for you like it used to because tech has moved on?

Friday, February 12, 2021

Looks Like I'm Going to Get Vaccinated One Way or Another ...


I went in today for my second jab of either the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine or a placebo, with no way of knowing which I was getting.

At which point I was informed that they've introduced a new element to the Phase 3 trial of the vaccine in which I'm participating.

I've had two shots, and will be going in two weeks from now for blood work (presumably to check for antibodies, etc.).

At some point after that, I'll be receiving two more shots. If I got the vaccine this time, I'll get the placebo next time. If I got the placebo this time, I'll get the vaccine next time. I won't know which one was which.

The "why" wasn't explained, but my educated guess is that they're not getting as many volunteers for the trial as they need. Doing it this way doubles the number of results.


1970 Album of the Week, February 12-18: Black Sabbath, by Black Sabbath


I don't class Black Sabbath among my favorite bands, but one can't deny their pioneer status in the creation of heavy metal as a musical genre. Their "occult" theatrics and graphics, outrageously presentated, and Tony Iommi's guitar sound (a side effect of a work accident as a teenager which cost him the tips of two of his fretting fingers -- he made false fingertips from plastic and de-tuned his strings to make them easier to fret) influenced, and continue to influence, several generations of bands. And they've sold more than 70 million records themselves, so it's not like they're an obscure influence.

Their debut album was released 50 years ago tomorrow, on January 13, 1970. It was recorded in a single 12-hour session in October of 1969. Black Sabbath included seven tracks, two of them covers. I've chosen one of those two -- "Evil Woman," by Minneapolis band Crow, as the track to feature.

See, this is what I mean about 1970 as the reason for this weekly feature. The year is just chock full of music that represents either the pinnacle of the '60s or the curtain-raising for the '70s.



If There's Ever a Hall of Fame for Discrediting Science ...


 ... here are five prospective inaugural inductees.




Wednesday, February 10, 2021

So Long and Thanks for All the Fap: Larry Flynt, 1942-2021


When I was an adolescent sneaking peeks at "dirty" magazines friends had boosted from their fathers', uncles', or older brothers' stashes, Hustler was the "dirtiest" thing going at the mainstream newsstand level (in the back of a storage room at my first "real" job, I discovered evidence that my employer was into a whole different level of stuff you couldn't find at 7-11).

For anyone coming of, um, tumescence after 1990 or so, it's presumably a "so what" thing. These days, any kind of porn you want is a few mouse clicks away. Back then, you either had to get the stuff at second hand on the sly, or know a clerk at the local convenience store who was the older brother of a friend and didn't care whether you were 18.

Most "civil libertarians" profess to admire Larry Flynt for his several legal battles on behalf of freedom to publish whatever he damn well pleased, while decrying what he actually did publish (and not mentioning things like time he shouted "Fuck this court!" in the very sacred sanctum of the US Supreme Court itself and called its nine justices "nothing but eight assholes and a token cunt").

At least they notice that even after he was shot and paralyzed, he opposed the execution of the supposed shooter -- a racist serial killer who confessed that he'd been outraged by Flynt's interracial porn but was never charged with the shooting (he got the needle for eight other murders). And I suspect most Americans celebrated (fundamentalist Christians perhaps secretly so) when he caused Jerry Falwell "emotional distress" with an incest parody, then beat Falwell in court.

I don't know if he was a "good person," but he sure did some good stuff. And personally, I include the porn itself among that stuff. It was a lot more interesting than what passed for "sex education" in my day.

He died today, at the age of 78.


I have to wonder ...


 ... if it's a general English reading comprehension deficit (perhaps not recognizing the meaning of the word "poppycock?"), or an unfamiliarity with Orwell, or both, or something else entirely, behind Newsweek's rejection of the following comment (on this Cato-sourced column) for "contain[ing] content that is in breach of our community guidelines":

Why is the Cato Institute putting out jingoistic protectionist poppycock like this piece these days? Did Trump drag y'all into a room and go at you until you begged him to do it to Julia or something?

Some Thoughts on the JFK Assassination


"One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Kennedy assassination," writes Jacob G. Hornberger, "is the silence among conservative, reform-oriented libertarians on the national-security state’s assassination of President John F. Kennedy. What’s up with that?"

I'm not exactly sure what a "conservative, reform-oriented libertarian" is. But I do have some thoughts on why libertarians in general may not be as interested in the JFK assassination as Hornberger is.

And, I should state up front, Hornberger is very interested in the JFK assassination. He's written two books (not an affiliate link) about the autopsy on Kennedy's body. His organization, the Future of Freedom Foundation, has an upcoming conference on "The National Security State and the Kennedy Assassination." He frequently examines current events in light of the assassination on his blog.

As you might gather from the opening quote, Hornberger's position on the assassination is that it was a regime change operation carried out by, or at least by elements of, the national security state. And as you might gather from the linked blog post, he considers it still very relevant and is somewhat puzzled that at least some libertarians don't.

My own position on the assassination is as follows:

  1. I find the official account -- "lone nut, from the book depository, with a Carcano Fucile di Fanteria Model 91/38" -- implausible. I've read various versions of that account, from William Manchester's The Death of a President, to the Warren Commission's report, to Gerald Posner's pathetic Case Closed, and it's just not convincing.
  2. Among the alternative theories I've looked into -- from "tragic Secret Service accident" to mob hit to Castro/Kruschev plot -- Hornberger's conclusion seems the most likely. Not so likely that I wouldn't need more evidence as a juror if some specific individual came up for trial, but most likely.
If Hornberger is correct concerning what happened in 1963, why don't libertarians care more about it in 2021? Here are my theories:

  1. The median age in the United States is 37.7. Fully half of Americans (and probably a similar percentage of libertarians) were born 20 years or more after the assassination. To them (and to many more who are less than 58 years of age), it's an historical event, like "54-40 or Fight" or "Remember the Maine" or Pearl Harbor. It doesn't carry the weight for us that it carries for the kid who can remember where he was and what he was doing when Walter Cronkite broke into the day's usual TV programming to tell America the president had been shot.
  2. For that younger generation, even if they agree with Hornberger that the assassination was a national security state regime change operation (and not all of them do, let alone with as much confidence), it's just one more example (if a brutal one) of what, these days, is "business as usual" in American politics. The Deep State runs things and woe betide he who gets in its way, etc. They don't see that that particular example enjoys any particular ... well, utility. They might cite it, but they're not especially exercised over it.
Even a few years ago, I might have expected the defecation to intersect the oscillating blades had irrefutable proof of the regime change theory been presented to the public.

These days, such a thing would still make the front page. It might dominate the news cycle for a week, or even a month. But few would find it surprising or even greatly disturbing. There probably wouldn't be riots, let alone a revolution. The culprits are probably dead (they'll certainly all be dead before the final files are declassified), and the CIA and friends have had more than half a century to come up with ways to throw those culprits' corpses under the bus as "rogue operators."

Or, to put it a different way, no revelations, however sordid, concerning the JFK assassination are likely to change many minds about American politics. Most people will continue to believe what they want to believe about it, because it's what they want to believe about it. Even those who grudgingly acknowledge a challenge to those beliefs will make their excuses and minimize its importance.

Which is not to say I disagree with Hornberger that libertarians should consider it an important episode in the consolidation of the national security state. I do consider it an "inflection point." I'm just not convinced that it's a very useful one for purposes of Preaching the Libertarian Gospel to the Unwashed.

And that's all I have to say about that.


Monday, February 08, 2021

In Addition to Writing, I'm Reading


Not unusual. I usually am.

At the moment, I'm reading It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis (not an affiliate link).

The book came in for many, many mentions during the Trump years. I wanted to read it, and I specifically wanted to read it after Trump was gone rather than risk getting caught up in the heat of current allegory.

I'm about a third of the way through and finding it quite enjoyable.  I thought you might as well, especially at $1.99 for the Kindle edition.

If you've read it or are reading it, I've got no objection to starting an informal "book club" exchange on it in comments. Fire at will.


The Latest Risible Argument Against Trying the Trump Impeachment ...


... comes from Ron Paul, presumably by way of trying to give his idiot son Rand's idiocy some covering fire:

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is required by the Constitution to preside, has by refusing to participate made it clear that he does not consider the upcoming action in the Senate to be a legitimate impeachment trial.

Emphasis mine.

The Constitution requires no such thing. Here's what it requires:

When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside ...

Donald Trump is not the President of the United States. Joe Biden is.


Maybe Not Blogging, But Writing Anyway


I'm really, really, really expecting to keep up the "one blog post per day on average" pace in 2021. But I did go for a few days without posting, so why not get a post out of explaining why?

As regular readers of the blog can easily confirm for themselves, I'm something of a frustrated novelist. "Frustrated" as in never completing a novel and seldom getting a very good start on one. The closest I came was very early in this century when I got about 20,000 words into a Ludlum-style "Nazis in South America" thing before the site I was serializing it on went tits up and I lost momentum.

So anyway, last week I was thinking about a genre called "flash fiction," or what used to be called "short short stories." I checked out a few sites and ended up submitting a Lovecraftian tale of horror to 101 Words, a site which publishes stories of exactly that length. I thought it was pretty damn good, and will be interested to see if they decide to publish it.

Having actually completed a story, however short, got me started on a Lovecraftian novel of horror that I've had in mind for a couple of years. I knocked out about 2,750 words (a little over 5%, assuming a final length of around 50,000 words) of the first draft in one sitting, and started in on some research required for the next bit over the weekend.

Here are the first 400 or so words. Let me know what you think of them!

THE AFFIDAVIT OF 2ND LIEUTENANT GERALD SPEAL, USMC, CONCERNING CERTAIN EVENTS IN AND AROUND CEDAR KEY, FLORIDA

PERSONAL AND TOP SECRET FOR THE EYES ONLY OF:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States
Henry Lewis Stimson, Secretary of War
William Franklin Knox, Secretary of the Navy
Lt. General Thomas Holcomb, Commandant, US Marine Corps
Colonel William J. Donovan, Coordinator of Information, Office of Strategic Services

To whom it may concern:

The following affidavit was authored over the month of December, 1942, under my direction and interrogation and with the assistance of Lieutenant Commander Dr. Jeremy Roth, the patient’s supervising psychiatrist during his confinement at US Naval Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida. It was personally sworn in my presence by 2nd Lieutenant Gerald R. Speal, under penalty of perjury per Article 41 of the Articles for the Government of the United States Navy should this matter come before court-martial or other applicable proceeding, and on attestation by Dr. Roth that his patient, while evincing belief in the truth of all claims herein, may be less than entirely reliable in his recollections due to the mental effects of what the doctor tentatively diagnoses as a severe case of Combat Stress Reaction. Where relevant official documents are mentioned in the affidavit, I have made every effort to requisition copies of such documents from the archives of the respective services and insert them in the affidavit itself.

Major Elias Campbell
US Marine Corps, Detached to Office of Strategic Services
US Naval Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida
December 31, 1942

Dear Sirs:

    I have been asked -- or, rather, ordered -- by Major Campbell to submit an after action report in the matter of the “training accident” near Cedar Key, Florida on the night of October 31, 1942. My lack of military education and instruction, due to the sudden, temporary, supernumerary, and short-term nature of my commission as a lieutenant in the United Marine Corps, not to mention the unique nature of the incident in question, precludes conformity with established formatting and procedure in such reporting. Instead, I will narrate, in plain prose and with chapter separations as seem needful, the sequence of events as I recall them, beginning with my conscription, commission, and assignment to Detachment Zebra, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division (detached for duty with the Office of Strategic Services).

    Prior to my commission, I worked as an associate professor and field researcher in the Departent of Anthropology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, having taken my doctorate in that field from Miskatonic University, Arkham, Massachusetts under the supervision of Professor Tyler M. Freeborn.


Friday, February 05, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, February 5-11: Morrison Hotel, by the Doors


What can possibly do justice to Morrison Hotel? Hands down the best Doors album, in my not at all humble opinion, with their debut a distant second.  So far, it's the 1970 Album of the Week I've been most excited to feature. I'd rate seven of its 11 tracks as at least competitive for any "Top 10 Doors songs" list.

The band recorded the album at the close of a pretty dark period. Jim Morrison had been charged with indecent exposure following a Florida concert in June of 1969. They lost 25 tour dates, and their July release of orchestra-laden The Soft Parade hadn't played well with either critics or their fan base. About the time The Doors went into the studio to record Morrison Hotel, Morrison was again criminally charged -- this time with skyjacking, for causing a ruckus on a flight to Phoenix to see the Rolling Stones in concert.

Whatever dark magic was tearing Morrison apart (maybe it was just the booze), it got distilled and bottled as the band shed the strings and brass that unduly softened The Soft Parade. The stripped-down sound resulted in a strange and wonderful rock album featuring more of a blues feel than previous outings (the obvious example being "Roadhouse Blues," of course). They had help from (insufficiently appreciated) guitarist Lonnie Mack on bass and John Sebastian (flying under the radar as "G. Puglese" to avoid contract conflicts) on harmonica.

Morrison Hotel is 50 years old, and I doubt I've gone a week in the last ten years without listening to at least one track from it. It's just too damn good to not keep in heavy rotation on my personal playlists. The only real problem I've got with throwing it at you is picking a single song to feature. Through a process that did not involve flipping of coins but might as well have, I settled on "Queen of the Highway" ...




Wednesday, February 03, 2021

It's Not About Whether There's Anything "Wrong" with Shorting


"Short Sellers Are Heroes," John Tamny tells us at the American Institute for Economic Research.

"There's Nothing Wrong with Short Selling," writes Gary Galles at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

"There is nothing wrong with betting against a company," says Kel Kelly at the Foundation for Economic Education, "if one deems it to be an inferior competitor that will not survive."

And hey, maybe all of them are absolutely correct.

But that's not really the question that's up in the air at the moment.

The question on everyone's minds is whether brokerages like Robinhood should screw their customers, or whether politicians and regulators should intervene with trading restrictions (or maybe even direct bailouts), to save the short-sellers' "heroic" asses when their betting goes south on them and said asses end up in a crack.

And the answer to that is question is a big fat "no."


Thanks For Asking! -- 02/03/21


If you thought I forgot to put up the monthly Ask Me Anything thread, you thought right. I did forget. 

But then, this morning, I remembered. So here it is.

Ask me anything (in the comments below this post). I'll answer (in comments, or in some other location with a link from the comments).




Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Things Are What They Are, No Matter What You Call Them


Less than two weeks in power and we're already down to this:


Not because there's any doubt over whether the coup is a coup, but because the US regime's actions toward the new regime in Myanmar depend on whether Biden does or doesn't "designate" the coup as a coup.

Yes, every administration pulls this kind of "what it is is a matter of what we call it" stuff.

But I get the feeling this one is abandoning the campaignish pretense of "telling it like it is" even more quickly than most.

I don't know if that feeling is accurate, or whether my bullshit meter has been thrown out of proper calibration by the Trump administration, which kept that particular scam running successfully (among his supporters, anyway) for four full years.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Grinds My Gears: Vaccine Guilt / Vaccine Jealousy


A Disclosure, which might also be a clue as to bias on my part: I've already received the first of two COVID-19 vaccine jabs, so even if I was prone to "vaccine jealousy" I'd have no grounds for it. On the other hand, the vaccine I'm receiving is an experimental one, currently in its Phase III clinical trial, so 1) it could be placebo rather than real vaccine and 2) I'm also blazing the conceivably dangerous trail, not just benefiting, so fuck all y'all jealous sorts, I feel no guilt. That said ...

I know someone who has received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and has just a wee bit of guilt about it. On one hand, this person was directed to get the vaccine, and was given it by, his or her employer, as an "essential worker" in the healthcare field. On the other hand, he or she is not a person in direct patient contact, and works in a "socially distanced" office half the time and from home the other half of the time. So he or she thinks that maybe the two doses might have instead gone to someone more at risk.

I also see a lot of opinionators belly-aching about how the people who "should" be getting the vaccine aren't getting it as soon as they "should," and about how people who "shouldn't" be getting it as soon are getting sooner.

At the extreme, there are some people yelling that old "white" people shouldn't be getting it before people of color because REASONS ranging from people of color being more at risk, which may or may not be true in general, to older people having already lived enough and to payback for past institutional racism, both of which are ghoulish. More on the reasonable side of things are notes that the way the thing is being rolled out, some younger, less at risk, people are getting it before some older, more at risk, people.

The big problem, in my estimation, is that government is in general charge of the rollout, while stringently government-regulated (even where not directly government-affiliated) institutions are handling actual sticking of needles in arms. And of course, government could fuck up a wet dream and is doing exactly as well at this as one could reasonably expect.

Retrospectively, the best way to handle things would have been to let the market handle things from start to finish.

Going forward, the way to make the vaccine effort most successful would be for government to publish a policy that reads like this, if government policies were written in English:

"We're going to ship you vaccine as fast as we can. Please put as many two-dose courses as you can in as many arms as you can, regardless of age, sex, race, or other considerations, using whatever scheduling and allocation methods you find work best."

If the vaccines work, every immunized person is one less person we have to worry about getting sick with COVID-19, and possibly (this seems to be in doubt) one less person passing the virus around to those who haven't been vaccinated yet.

That is, every vaccination administered is a win, if the goal is to reduce the numbers of cases and deaths.

And every missed opportunity to stick a needle in an arm is a loss on those same criteria.

On those criteria, everything else is crap. Make it first-come first-serve and get that shit out there. No one should feel guilty who has been vaccinated, nor should anyone have grounds for feeling jealous who hasn't.

Friday, January 29, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, January 29-February 4: American Woman, by The Guess Who


American Woman's release date is listed as simply "January 1970" -- no specific date, but I'm making it my 1970 Album of the Week for the end of January / beginning of February.

The band already had a history before releasing American Woman, -- they started out in 1958 as Allan and the Silvertones, then became Chad Allan and the Reflections in 1962, then Chad Allan and the Expressions in 1965.

Their 1965 cover of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over" was released with a marketing gimmick: It was credited to "Guess Who?" in hopes that people would think it was an uncredited recording by the Beatles or another British Invasion band. DJs continued crediting it to "Guess Who?" even after the Expressions were revealed as the band, so they changed their name, then dropped the question mark in 1968.

They broke out for real in 1970 with American Woman's title track, their only number one single in the United States and the first Canadian single to top the US Hot 100.

And the album was, IMO, their high point -- Randy Bachman performed his last show with them that May, then returned to Canada to form what later became Bachman-Turner Overdrive. It was, once again IMO, all downhill from there for The Guess Who.

The album may have been the high point for the band, but I don't consider the title track to be the high point of the album. Here's my favorite cut -- "No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature":




Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Not Exactly a Conspiracy Theory


As of January 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 347,131 US deaths "involving COVID-19."

Of those deaths, 281,179 (81%) were among persons 65 years of age or older.

The average Social Security benefit as of January 2021 is $1,543 per month. That's $18,516 per year.

Which means that COVID-19 has already knocked $5.2 billion per year off the Social Security Administration's future liabilities.

That's not counting Medicare expenditures, Medicaid subsidies for nursing home residents whose money has run out, etc. I had trouble finding exact per-capita Medicare expenditures, but that number looks like it's even bigger than Social Security, in the $19,500 per year range.

So, let's call it, conservatively, a $10 billion per year future expense cut. Not huge in the scheme of those programs, but nothing to sneeze at, either.

Another 40,758 deaths have been in the 55-64 age group. That is, people who paid Social Security and Medicare taxes for several decades but won't be looking for checks or healthcare in the future. More savings!

No, I'm not suggesting that some kind of COVID-19 Wannsee Conference took place in which bureaucrats came up with a Temporary and Partial Solution to Social Security's pending insolvency.

On the other hand, I can see why those bureaucrats weren't terribly interested in a COVID-19 policy aimed at protecting the most vulnerable demographics. Their Ponzi schemes are powered by payors, not payees.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

We Already Have Them


"Facilities that suck carbon dioxide out of the air," that is.

They're called "trees."


Three Current Thoughts on COVID-19


  1. We're unlikely to "beat" COVID 19. It's probably going to become endemic, just like its close relatives, the common colds. If we're lucky, its mutations will remain in a range that make an annual vaccine helpful a la influenza.
  2. If the Israelis are right, the Pfizer/Moderna mRNA-based vaccine isn't as effective as early trials indicated, but it's probably better than nothing. There are other vaccines coming down the pike that might be more effective (I just got my first shot in athe Phase 3 clinical trial of a more traditional protein-based vaccine).
  3. "The science" hasn't demonstrated any significant correlation between mask usage and reduced transmission of COVID-19. Mask-wearing is a politically mandated religious ritual. But if it makes you feel better or makes your life easier, go for it.


Friday, January 22, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, January 22-28: Moondance, by Van Morrison


As of the mid-to-late 1980s, my acquaintance with Van Morrison consisted of two items: I'd heard "Brown-Eyed Girl" and "Gloria" on the radio, and preferred the bowdlerized Shadows of Knight version of the latter.

But I also loved Jim Wunderle, who performed with various bands and put on an annual Christmas show with his own combo, Dog People. And at every performance I can remember, Wunderle performed the song "Moondance," which I had no idea was a Van Morrison tune, because I only had the vaguest idea of who Van Morrison was (in my defense, punk/"alternative"/'60s garage were my things back then).

I continue to love the song, and have long since grown to love the album. It was released on January 27, 1970.

These days, I'd happily listen to Morrison read the phone book. I wouldn't say his lockdown protest songs are his best work, but I support the cause and like the music. I'm torn as to favorite album (Tupelo Honey and Hymns to the Silence are definitely competitive with Moondance for top slot), and favorite song. On the latter, it comes down to three. "Moondance," "Moonshine Whiskey" (from Tupelo Honey) and this one (from Moondance):




A couple of footnotes:  1. I always thought "Tupelo Honey" was just a reference to honey from the Tupelo, Mississippi area, until I came across a jar of the stuff at a store and decided to look it up (since the honey so named was not from Tupelo). 2. I never played with Wunderle, or with Dog People. I did, however, once play a song or two with a member of Dog People (and a founding member of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils), Supe Granda, in one of those classic Royal Nonesuch "let's all hand our instruments off to friends and take a break" set interruptors. Which was very cool.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Screw You, Craig Wright


Come at me, bro.

 

Here's a direct link to the PDF for those who (understandably) hate the tiny scrolling embed.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Coherent "Messaging" is Obviously Not Someone's Strong Suit


Camera One:

Libertarians, in their desperate attempt to appeal to the left and follow the cultural zeitgeist (to hell), are calling Trump supporters terrorists, rioters, treasonists, stupid idiots, and all manner of insults. In four years, we will beg these same people to vote for us.  When we call half of the country stupid, we should think about what the end result might be. -- Angela McArdle, 01/13/21

Camera Two:

We need someone at the front of the national party who is not afraid to talk about issues that are controversial. We need someone who is going to make libertarian statements and not worry about offending the left, because why do we waste our time pandering and begging for votes from a group of people who ultimately aren’t going to like us? -- Angela McArdle, 11/08/20

Coddle the right even when doing so isn't libertarian; don't coddle the left even if doing so is libertarian.

McArdle is running for chair of the Libertarian National Committee on a campaign platform of "improving" the Libertarian Party's "messaging" (and, along with Dave Smith, Pete Quinones, et al., seems to think that the best messaging strategy is aping Mencius Moldbug's neo-reactionary twaddle about "cathedrals" and such-like).


The Common Sense Case for Post-Presidency Impeachment/Trial


There's quite a bit of back-and-forth in the legal and political punditspheres regarding whether a public official can be impeached (or, in the case of President Donald J. Trump, tried pursuant to impeachment) after leaving office.  Rather than try to round it all up, I'll just point you at Keith E. Whittington's musings over at The Volokh Conspiracy.

I'm going to take a stab at the question myself, but instead of analyzing the constitutional text as a legal document or whatever, ,I'm just going to draw what seems like a common sense conclusion vis a vis original intent from Article I, Section 3:

Judgement in Cases of Impreachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States ...

If an impeached official couldn't be impeached, convicted, and punished with future ineligibility after leaving office, all that official would have to do to enjoy de facto immunity is resign any time impeachment and/or conviction looked likely. He or she could then keep turning up like a bad penny. Just keep a suitcase packed and run off to start the next campaign every time impeachment/conviction loomed.

At the presidential level, terms limits would be a problem these days -- but at the time the impeachment clause was framed, there were no such term limits.

So, did the framers of the Constitution intend for the the consequences of impeachment and conviction to be so easily avoidable that two words ("I quit") would suffice to defang the whole process? I doubt it.

I Love Guitar Center, But ...


Let me start with the "I Love Guitar Center" part:

I visit my local Guitar Center often, and have never experienced anything but great service and a great atmosphere. I'm certainly not one of their "big" customers, but between me and Tamara we've bought several instruments there and often pick up strings and accessories. Mostly, I drop in at least a couple of times a month to look at their used guitar wall and check out the acoustic room. They know me, they're friendly, and they're usually local performing musicians who have the latest scoop on who's playing where, etc. They're effectively a local music store in all the right ways.

Online, my experiences until recently were similarly fine. I usually order online through Musician's Friend, which they own and which is as good as it gets, but have occasionally bought harmonicas and other small items directly through Guitar Center's site, either for shipment to my home or "ship to store" with pickup.

My current experience with them online sucks, though.

They had a $49.95 USB MIDI controller keyboard on sale. I had a $30 Guitar Center gift card, so I went to their site, used the gift card, and paid the balance by debit card. Easy, peasy.

A few minutes later, I got an "order canceled" email. No explanation as to why it was canceled, just a note that it might take 5-7 days for my refund to process.

I got on their support chat to ask what was up. Turns out that although the item was listed as "in stock and ready to ship," it was out of stock. OK, no problem -- maybe there was an order run and the site just couldn't deduct from inventory as fast as the orders came in. Did they know when the item would be back in stock? Nope.

On the refund end, the debit card was not problematic. It was just a "pending" transaction that disappeared quickly.

On the gift card end, I dropped in every couple of days for 10 days to check the balance. It was always zero. Finally, I went back to support chat to ask about that. Turns out they don't refund to a gift card, they just give you an account balance. Which shows up nowhere on the site, but which I'm assured will be a payment option in the shopping cart.

So, I go to look at the keyboard. It's listed as "in stock and ready to ship." Surely after ten days that means they got more of them in, right?

I add it to my cart. I go to payment. No option for paying with an "account balance" of $30 that I supposedly have.

This time, instead of support chat, I actually call. Friendly, helpful service. Yes, I see that you have a $30 account balance. Yes, I can take your order over the phone, apply the account balance and take your debit card for the rest. Huzzah!

Five minutes later, email: Order canceled. Apparently the phone order receiver couldn't tell, at point of order, that the thing was still (or again) out of stock.

Will I use Guitar Center's online ordering system again? Yes, one time -- to spend the $30 that's trapped in that system. After that, never again. If I'm buying from Guitar Center online, it will be through Musician's Friend.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Word PSA


right, n. That to which one has a just claim. (1913 Webster)

rite, n. The act of performing divine or solemn service, as established by law, precept, or custom; a formal act of religion or other solemn duty; a solemn observance; a ceremony; as, the rites of freemasonry. (Op. cit.)

There can certainly be such a thing as a "right of passage" (for example, if I contracted with you to build and use a road across your property, I would have a just claim to build and use that road).

But usually when I come across the phrase "right of passage," what's actually being referred to is a "rite of passage" -- some act or event seen as ceremonially/ritually marking a change point in a person's status from childhood to adulthood, amateur to professional, etc.


Saturday, January 16, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, January 15-21: Back in the USA, by MC5


Prefatory Note:

I came up with the "1970 Album of the Week" idea as 1) a way to easily boost my posting frequency by 52 per year, and 2) hopefully be interesting -- 1970 was a REALLY cool year in music, IMO.

This is the third installment. The first two got zero comments. It seems to me that that may mean I was wrong on reason number 2.

And that means this may be the last installment, which would sadden me a little bit, as I've already picked the albums for the feature through May and some of them are really special.

I guess we'll see. But I'm not in the business of writing stuff I don't expect anyone to read or respond to.

We Now Return You to Our Regular Programming

When I think of MC5, I think of Kick Out The Jams, their debut (and live!) album. I also think of MC5 almost entirely in terms of my younger days when they were frequently name-checked (along with the Stooges) as pioneers of a genre I really dug: Punk. Kick Out The Jams certainly justifies that claim.

Wikipedia tells me (with a "citation needed" note) that the thing about Back in the USA is that "[t]he central focus of the album is the band's movement away from the raw, thrashy sound pioneered and captured on [Kick Out the Jams]." So it includes a Little Richard cover ("Tutti Frutti"), a Chuck Berry cover (the title track), and a ballad that I don't like much at all ("Let Me Try").

Citation needed or not, yeah, this is not the MC5 of Kick Out The Jams. It's pretty cool though, and if the sound isn't as "raw, thrashy," it's still great (and showcases what talented musicians they actually were). It also still in places incorporates their politics, which ranged from Marxist to anarchist -- their manager, John Sinclair, wrote for The Fifth Estate, which I read in print occasionally in the late 1980s around the time that John Zerzan was moving from that periodical to Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (their site isn't working at the moment I'm writing this), which I was also heavily into.

If I could only take one MC5 album to a desert island with me, it wouldn't be this one. But if I was only allowed to take this album to a desert island with me, I'd play it a lot. If I had a phonograph. And electricity.

Here's "The American Ruse":



Thursday, January 14, 2021

It's Not That I Approve of Social Media "Censorship" ...


... it's that I understand that state regulation of social media would absolutely, positively, no shit, be the real thing and much harder to reverse.

The major social media platforms (as well as Amazon and Google vis a vis Parler) are certainly acting in accord with the wishes of the political class, displaying a desire to constitute themselves as part of the political class, and thereby flirting with being understood as having become bona fide state actors.

I don't know what the solution to that problem is, but if there is such a solution it will be provided by individuals making market choices, not by politicians throwing the social media rabbit into the state briar patch.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Never Say Never Again Again?


Back in 1997, I noticed a new book advertised in the pages of Liberty magazine (it was edited by the late R.W. Bradford, whom I was later fortunate to be befriended by): Why Bill Clinton Will Be The Last Democrat Americans Elect President (not an affiliate link).

Even at the time I first saw that title, I was rather skeptical of the claim.

Now, in 2020, I hear people saying that Trump will be the last Republican Americans elect president.

Unless the US political system falls completely apart in a big, big way over the next decade or so, I doubt that's true.

Since FDR died, the White House has never gone more than 12 years without one of the two "major" parties replacing the other in it, and that 12 years (Reagan and Bush 41) is an outlier. The other outlier is four years (Carter and Trump). Usually (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy/LBJ, Nixon/Ford, Clinton, Bush 43, Obama) one party controls the White House for eight years before the other takes it.

I wouldn't be surprised if the GOP became competitive for the presidency again as early as 2028, and I would be surprised if it wasn't competitive for the presidency again by 2036.

Would I love to see the GOP go the way of the Whigs, hopefully to be replaced by the Libertarian Party? You betcha.

But I won't be putting money into prediction market bets on that happening. I think it will take more than this round of weirdness and fuckery to get there.

Some Thoughts on the Oath of Enlistment


When I joined the US Marine Corps in 1984, I swore the following oath:

I, Thomas L. Knapp, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

While I was a member of the Marine Corps, I don't ever remember being called upon to defend the Constitution of the United States.

I remember being called upon to defend the prerogatives of the Kuwaiti and Saudi monarchies.

I remember being called upon to facilitate the unconstitutional depredations of the US regime's "drug warriors," in one particular case being given an order that violated the Fourth Amendment, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1868, and the rules of engagement I had been instructed in at the start of the overall mission.*

But the Constitution of the United States? Nope. To the best of my recollection, I was never used in its support or defense.

So there's that.

Additionally, once I was discharged from the Marine Corps, any obligation I had under that oath presumably expired. And I'd consider that true even if I had retired (rather than getting out at the end of a hitch), and even if I received e.g. a pension or other benefits. If I quit or retire from a job at a factory, I don't have to continue working for the company, right?

Nor do I consider the Constitution to be inherently sacred, such that anyone who has not personally, voluntarily, and explicitly agreed to obey it or defend it owes it any particular allegiance.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not intent on overthrowing the Constitution for the moment. As long as it continues to trundle along, albeit with four flat tires, a steaming radiator, and backfiring continuously, I'm content to use it where I can and work around rather than against it where possible. But my goal is human freedom, not just "constitutional" governance. And I'm mindful of Spooner's dictum:

But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain -- that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

If this be sedition, make the most of it.

* I was ordered to lead a team in surveillance of a particular person's residence on behalf of the US Forest Service Police. The Marine Corps is covered (by order of the Secretary of the Navy), by the Posse Comitatus Act, which that kind of thing would have violated, a point which had been specifically covered in the mission's rules of engagement. It also, IMO, constituted a search without warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. I used the "request mast" process to appeal the order all the way up the chain of command to the commanding general of Joint Task Force Six, US Special Operations Command, but the order was affirmed. So I let my troops know to bring their alcoholic beverages of choice on the operation. We hunkered down in the bush for three days and, as detailed in my after-action report, "saw nothing."


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

So, Should I Reconsider Communism?


Lately I have "libertarians" telling me "you are owed the use of other people's property -- if that use is withheld or conditional, you're not really free."

It's been a thing with guns on other people's land for a long time, but lately it's a thing with speech on other people's web sites.

And it's really just another way of saying "there's no such thing as property rights."

I disagree, but I guess I should consider the possibility that I'm mistaken and start re-reading Marx to see if I was in error when I dismissed his ideas on the subject.


Monday, January 11, 2021

The Night(s) of the Social Media Long Knives


Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and perhaps other social media platforms have banned Donald Trump and other major Trumpist figures, and it's probably not going to stop there.

Amazon Web Services is refusing to host the web site of, and Google/Android and Apple the phone apps for, Parler.

This isn't a "left/right" thing. It's a combination of Big Tech wanting to please the establishment and Big Tech wanting to be the establishment.

Social media platforms which want to be/remain open to contrasting political views (and not just on Trump -- COVID-19 fascism has also been a problem, to name one) are going to have to start thinking more carefully about how they operate. Some suggestions:

  1. Be web-based and cross-platform. iOS and Android are "walled gardens." It's possible to get over the walls with side-loading or whatever, but most users can't be expected to put in a lot of effort.
  2. Self-host, or at the very least find offshore web hosting with companies that aren't too concerned with pleasing any US political faction.
  3. Register/redirect multiple domain names with multiple registrars (and consider alt domains) so that if GoDaddy, NameCheap, et al. decide to come at you from that direction you've got backup access routes.
  4. Set up as a hard financial target by accepting cryptocurrency for any paid services you offer (premium access plans, advertising, everything). Do NOT rely on custodial wallets/exchanges or on third party payment processors who can cut you off. Especially not ones who can cut you off while they, not you, have possession of your crypto balances.
It's going to be a tough row to hoe regardless, but the big platforms are not going to win.


Friday, January 08, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, January 8-14: Magic Christian Music, by Badfinger


Not every album of the week will be an album I loved before starting this feature. This is one I had never heard of. I'd heard of Badfinger, but had never been a fan. So I decided to give this one a listen, and it's pretty cool.

Unsurprisingly, seeing as how they were the first band signed by Apple Records (as The Iveys before a name change), and had songs produced by Paul McCartney and George Harrison, they sound a lot like the Beatles. That's not a bad thing. Not a great thing either, since if I want to listen to the Beatles, I'll generally just listen to the Beatles. But I don't feel like I want my time back after listening to the album or anything. It's pretty cool. Here's "Midnight Sun" (a 2010 remaster, if it matters) ...




Any Bets on Whether Trump Gets Removed Before January 20?


I'm not setting odds, but my gut reaction is that the chances are good, and that they just went up with the death of a Capitol Hill police officer (a few of the rabble getting croaked doesn't count for as much as one of the regime's own troops).

That Democrats would vote to impeach in the House and convict in the Senate is a given. The question is whether 17 Republican Senators would vote to convict. And I think they might, for the simple reason that they really, really, really need to get as much distance between themselves and Trump as possible, and voting to convict is their best chance to semi-convincingly do that.

Alternatively, if vice-president Mike Pence and eight cabinet secretaries act to invoke the 25th Amendment's incapacity clause, a number of Republicans would probably communicate their approval of that, for the same reason.

Until Wednesday, a few Republicans were hoping to position themselves as Trump's heir apparent, in ways including but not limited to objecting to Congress's electoral vote certification. Almost all of them would now cross the street to avoid being seen with Trump.


Is "Libertarian" Border Authoritarianism a Progressive Degenerative Disease?


There seems to be a lot of overlap between:

  1. Otherwise seemingly solid libertarians who could never get their heads around the fact that "national borders" are gang turf lines / authoritarian collectivist fantasies, not real property lines, and
  2. Previously seemingly solid libertarians who succumbed -- at first claiming a bit of reluctance, but later completely to the point of obvious insanity -- to Trump Derangement Syndrome, positive strain.
By "completely to the point of obvious insanity," I mean weirdness like "the election was a coup by the Chinese Communist Party, Trump actually won because we waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant that" and "it was Antifa, not deranged Trumpists, who overran the Capitol."

I had held out (an increasingly forlorn over time) hope that even if they continued to cling to their pro-borders religion, they'd realize at some point that they were supporting a business-as-usual establishment progressive Democrat unconvincingly cos-playing as a Republican. The gun issue alone should have made that very clear. But the disease seems to be progressive and degenerative, and anecdotally border authoritarianism seems to have usually been the first visible sign of the condition.

That Time Trump and the GOP "Soaked The Rich"


I'm surprised the SALT deduction cap didn't get more attention than it did. It's presumably partially responsible for the increased exodus rate from high-tax states.

With a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Senate that's tied (with a Democratic vice-president as tie-breaker and a handful of "moderate Republicans" who are likely to go with the Democratic flow), my guess is that the next tax bill will talk a lot about "making the rich pay their fair share" while quietly undoing the cap.


Thursday, January 07, 2021

Who's In Charge? Who Knows?


Donald Trump has been banned from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. He was supposedly set to flee Washington for Camp David, then supposedly canceled in favor of "hunkering down" at the White House.

Not to get all conspiracy-theoryish, but is there any particular reason to believe he's still doing anything resembling running the show?

I saw a headline earlier, didn't click on it, and can't find it now, but it went something like this: "Has the 25th Amendment already been invoked? They don't have to tell us." Is it possible that the cabinet has already informed congressional leadership that Trump is incapacitated and that Mike Pence is in charge?

Even if that's not the case, I'd be surprised if the man is making any real decisions right now. He's probably being told what's what by senior staff and perhaps Mike Pence, and he's probably signing what's put in front of him.

The next 13 days may become very interesting indeed. I'm not hearing a lot of Republican opposition to impeachment. The GOP's best chance for picking up a few pieces and reducing its time in the political doghouse is to distance itself from Donald Trump as much as possible. If the House impeaches, it seems to me that 17 Republican votes to convict might just be there.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

This Is What (Representative) Democracy Looks Like


I've seen several calls for the expulsion of e.g. Josh Hawley from the US Senate. Now this from new US Representative Cori Bush (D-MO -- from my old district, as it happens):


My reply:

OK, I'm Naming It


After seeing video and photos of the LARPers, there's only one title that works:

"The Beer Belly Putsch."


Well, This Isn't Something You See Every Day


Aria DiMezzo says it better than me:

There's literally no chance of the putsch succeeding, and even if it possibly could, the results wouldn't favor liberty. And I suspect these idiot LARPers are going to be the excuse for a crackdown none of us are going to like very much.


Why I Didn't Even Try to Predict the Georgia Runoff Outcomes


The last two months have been so crazy, from all sides, that I didn't see any way to get a handle on Georgia.

As I write this, AP has called one of the two races for the Democrat (not by much) and hasn't called the other yet (but the Democrat seems to have a slight edge).

If I had predicted an outcome, I probably would have expected huge wins for both Democrats. I'm very surprised it's as close as it seems to be.

The main possible factor I've been hearing from mainstream media has been "will Trump's rejection of the presidential election outcome depress the GOP vote because his strongest supporters don't trust the process and will boycott?"

Well, maybe, but I don't think that's what's really going on here. Trump cultists were going to get out and vote the way he told them to vote whether they trusted the process or not, because cultists do what the cult leader tells them to do even if it is cognitively dissonant.

I'd have expected the bigger factor to be the cultists' public behavior. They've spent the last two months raving and rampaging like a bunch of LaRouchies on PCP. If there was anyone at all left on the fence, the weirdness presumably drove those people off on the Democratic side of said fence.

But I could be wrong. Like I said, it's just been too crazy to be very amenable to careful predicting.


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

It's Literally Impossible for This to be a "New Normal"


For something to be "normal" means that thing is "conforming with or constituting a norm or standard or level or type or social norm."

The state's (and states') COVID-19 "responses" aren't "normal." They conform to no norm or standard. They're just a pile of disparate and irrational edicts that vary by the minute and from place to place, to the point of seeming randomness. There's no rhyme or reason to them.

Don't get me wrong -- things can and probably will remain abnormal for quite some time. But they're too random, and too mutable at the whims of too many politicians, to ever constitute norms on their own.


Monday, January 04, 2021

"But Trump Cut Regulations Bigly!"


Federal regulations as of January 23, 2017 (three days after Trump's inauguration): 1,079,651

Federal regulations as of January 1, 2020 (19 days prior to the end of Trump's term): 1,090,371

Source: RegData U.S. Regulation Tracker


Kind of Late in the Game, But the 25th Amendment Does Seem Relevant Here


Most of the talk about that phone call between Donald Trump and Brad Raffensperger seems focused on whether Trump committed a crime (soliciting vote fraud) by pressuring Raffensperger to overturn Georgia's presidential election results.

But here's Jacob Sullum at Reason:

It seems clear from the recording of Trump's one-hour telephone conversation with Raffensperger on Saturday that the president sincerely believes he actually won the election, notwithstanding the complete lack of credible evidence to support that belief. In his mind, he was not soliciting fraud but attempting to correct it.

If Sullum's right, Trump wasn't committing a crime.

But if Sullum's right, Trump was displaying symptoms of some kind of severe mental condition that makes him unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Which means that, per the 25th Amendment, the vice-president and the cabinet really should let Congress know that Trump's no longer in charge.


Another Possibility?


Per the Sunday Post: "US President Donald Trump could be planning a trip to Scotland to avoid attending his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration, according to aviation sources."

Given Trump's bizarre attempts to overturn the presidential election results, another possibility comes to mind that seems somewhat less fantastical (to me, anyway) than Democratic worries that he'll attempt a physical coup, in Washington, come inauguration day.

What if Trump leaves the country, announces (for the nth time) his claim that the election was illegitimate, and forms a "government in exile?"

My suspicion is that some current cabinet officials would consent to "continue in office" pursuant to such a project, that some Republican House and Senate members would continue to recognize him as president, that he might even get a governor or two to reject federal legislation not signed by Donald J. Trump, etc.


Sunday, January 03, 2021

A Couple of Affiliate Links, and Thoughts on Same


You'll often see me linking to stuff with a parenthetic "not an affiliate link." I try to be clear when I'm actually shilling for a commission. Here are two things I like and that are offering me some juice for sending friends:

  1. Wish.com (not an affiliate link, but if you enter the code kvlvtwx when you sign up, I get $5 after you put in your first order) is a site where you can buy pretty much anything "legal," including a lot of things you don't need, or at least never imagined you needed. It's cheap stuff, mostly from China (I've seen Vietnam and I think Myanmar return addresses on some packages). Beware brand name claims, etc., and personally I wouldn't buy costly electronics and such, but between me and Tamara we probably order five things a month from them and are generally not disappointed. Guitar straps. Earrings. Socks. Those little plastic beads that turn any cigarette into the equivalent of a Camel Crush. If you want it, they probably have it. It takes a little while to arrive (usually 4-6 weeks), but the prices are so low on most things that they're worth the wait if you don't need them immediately.
  2. Lolli (affiliate link -- if you sign up through me and actually use it, I get a taste) works like this: You install a browser plug-in. When you're shopping at certain online stores, you'll get an alert that you can "activate your spree" to get a small rebate on any purchases. The rebate is in BTC (aka Old Bitcoin). Once you've racked up $15 USD worth of rebates, you can withdraw the BTC to your wallet. I have NOT withdrawn yet (I'm only up to $12.xx in available BTC), but based on online reviews, etc., I don't think it's a scam.
This isn't the kind of stuff I expect to get rich off of, obviously. But it is the kind of stuff I actually use and would probably tell you about whether I made the occasional buck off it or not. So enjoy or not, at your discretion.

A semi-pro tip regarding Wish:

When you're shopping there, you'll come across "limited quantity deals" where the first person to order gets the thing (it might be a game console, or a comforter set, or a guitar pedal, or just about anything else you can imagine, ranging in "regular" price from $50 on up) for 50 cents plus 25 cents shipping.

If you aren't the first person to order, 24 hours later they refund your money. You get a choice of having the money refunded to the source you paid it from, or getting "Wish Cash" in your account that can be used for other purchases.

Tamara has "won" one or two of these things. I've "won" none. But starting a few days ago, I'm taking a systematic approach to it.

I ordered five of these "limited quantity deals" for a grand total of $3, and took my refunds in "Wish Cash."

Now I'm ordering five of the things each day, using that $3 in "Wish Cash," and taking the refunds in the same way. I figure sooner or later I'll catch some of those deals at the right time. I have $3 wrapped up in the scheme, and that should more than "pay for itself" the first time I get something cool.

Since I'm at the computer most of the day every day anyway, it's not a big time-waster -- a few minutes a day collecting my refunds then hunting up the latest "limited quantity deals" and putting in new orders. And it's kinda fun.

I Think I'm on the Verge of Losing My Capacity for Surprise


I wasn't surprised that the Democrats cast about for an excuse, some excuse, any excuse for Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 presidential election that didn't involve Hillary Clinton being a terrible candidate who ran an incompetent campaign.

I was mildly surprised that they settled on the bizarre "Russiagate" conspiracy theory as the main excuse. Surprised, because it was so dumb. Only mildly surprised because after she tried out "women voted for Trump because their abusive, controlling husbands forced them to" they obviously had to run as far as possible, as quickly as possible, from that if they didn't want to lose 20% of their previous female vote expectations next time out.

I was more than mildly surprised that so many rank-and-file Democrats ate "Russiagate" up, and that so many of them seemed to continue to believe it for so long.

I wasn't surprised that the Republicans cast about for an excuse, some excuse, any excuse for Donald Trump losing the 2020 presidential election that didn't involved Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

I'm not surprised that they seem to have settled on a combination of "massive voter fraud" and a Chinese version of "Russiagate" as that excuse.

And I'm not surprised that so many rank-and-file Republicans are eating it up.

David Maurer wrote (in The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man) that "there's a mark born every minute, and five to trim him and five to knock him." I think he got the ratio wrong, at least vis a vis American voters. The vast majority of them continue to prove themselves easy marks, while a few get over on those marks continuously and even fewer try to talk some sense into the marks.


Trump 2024?


I didn't vote for Trump in 2016.

I didn't vote for Trump in 2020.

But if he pardons Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Ross Ulbricht before he leaves office, I'll consider -- strongly consider -- voting for him if he tries to make a comeback in 2024.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

I Guess I'm Gonna Have to Learn About Lightning Network


I'm mostly HODLing the BTC I have. Get low, spend high is my philosophy.

But I did initiate a transaction about 11 hours ago and forgot to set the fee, meaning it defaulted to a low one and is still stuck in the mempool.

It's not a big transaction ($20 USD or so at the time of the spend), nor is it urgent. I can wait.

But presumably there will be times when I don't want to wait.

Anyone have an opinion of Lightning Network for such times?


Ask YOU Anything! -- 01/02/21


I don't know if this will become a regular feature like the monthly "Thanks For Asking!" AMA, but I figure it will be fun to try out. It works like this: I ask y'all something (anything!), and if you feel like answering, do so in the comments.

The obvious beginning-of-year question, in four parts:

  1. Do you have any New Year resolutions?
  2. If so, what are they?
  3. It's January 2nd, how's it going with those resolutions?
  4. If you've not already gone Kramer on them, how optimistic are you about those resolutions?


Friday, January 01, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, January 1-7: The Madcap Laughs, by Syd Barrett


I mentioned in an earlier post that I have a plan involving 50-year-old music to increase my post count. I didn't mention that I don't want it to be boring, because that should go without saying, but I'm saying it now anyway. So here's my train of thought:

I notice that a lot of the music I'm listening to and enjoying lately was released in 1970. It seems to have been a very good year, music-wise.

So my plan is to, each week, pick an album that was released 50 years ago that week, and encourage you to listen to it. I won't try to sell it to you via an affiliate link or anything. I'll just suggest you give it some attention and see if you like it.

I may or may not comment on any given album in an extended way. That's kind of mood-dependent. There will be some weeks for which no albums released 50 years prior really do that much for me (I'll say so when that's the case).

There will also be some weeks for which no albums show up on Wikipedia as having been released in 1970. But for each month, there are some undated -within-the-month releases noted, so when there's nothing marked for a given week (or when everything marked for that week strikes me as truly unworthy of note), I'll go with something released that month without date information available.

Let me know what you think in comments about both the idea and the implementation. If it works out -- that is if you enjoy reading it and I enjoy writing it -- this new feature alone is good for 52 posts in 2021.

Without further ado:

This week's 1970 Album of the Week is The Madcap Laughs, by Syd Barrett, released on  January 3, 1970. It's the first of Barrett's two solo albums after leaving Pink Floyd.

Personally I prefer the two Floyd albums that include Barrett (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets) to the band's later album offerings. There are some later Floyd songs I like better than I like anything on those two albums, and better than anything Barrett recorded solo ("Wish You Were Here" is probably my favorite song from the Floyd/Barrett oeuvre) but I listen to those first two albums more often and with more joy than, say, The Dark Side of the Moon. And I like The Madcap Laughs quite a bit, too.

Have a listen to Barrett's "Here I Go" (and to the rest of the album!):



Happy New Year! Thanks For Asking! -- 01/01/21


This is my first post of 2021. Happy New Year, and thanks to my readers for making 2020 not as bad as it otherwise might have been!

I thought about doing a minute-before-midnight 2020 post, but that would have been my 228th post of the year and I like 227 better (it's a prime number; I have a thing about that). Also, I'm old and tired and will therefore probably be in bed before midnight, so I'm just pre-scheduling this thing.

I meant to produce an average of one post per day this ... er, last ... year, and fell far short of that. I've got plans for doing better this year. One of them involves music from 50 years ago.

In the meantime, might as well get the monthly "ask me anything" thread in motion. Ask me anything (yes, anything) in the comments on this post. I'll answer in comments, in a stand-alone post, or both, or somewhere else (with a pointer to that stand-alone post or somewhere else in comments). Let'er rip!



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