Sunday, February 28, 2021

"We Should Have Been Screaming About That"

That's Libertarian National Committee secretary Caryn Ann Harlos on Dave Smith's "Part Of The Problem" Podcast, talking about perjurer John Brennan's characterization of libertarians as part of some right-wing terrorist axis.

As good a summation as I've heard of the Mises Caucus's recommendation for using the LNC and LPHQ for "messaging" purposes.Iif a picture is worth a thousand words, it's surely worth at least seven. So here's the graphic for the Harlos/Mises "messaging" campaign:

Saturday, February 27, 2021

I'm Going to PorcFest/ForkFest!

Thanks to reader/supporter GL's invitation and financial assistance, I'm finally going to make it to New Hampshire (a long-time desire) this year!

Not the entirety of both events (that would consume more time than I can afford to take away from things), but the last few days of PorcFest and the first day of ForkFest.

If you're going to be there too, let's get together!

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!



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.