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

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. (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!