Sunday, May 30, 2021

A Convention I Was Planning to Attend But Won't be at After All


The Libertarian Party of Florida's 2021 convention runs from June 11-13 in Lakeland.

I was planning to attend -- registered as a delegate, then started checking into lodging, considering what package to buy, etc. ...

Then the US dollar value of cryptocurrency crashed by, at times, up to 50% of its market highs, and it's still way down.

Cryptocurrency pretty much constitutes my "mad money" for optional activities at the moment. My plan, as is usual when crypto is my spending money but not necessarily directly spendable on X, had been to convert a little crypto to Instacart and/or Walmart gift cards (via BitRefill -- yes, that's an affiliate link) for family grocery shopping, and use the cash thus saved for convention expenses.

I could probably have made it work, but I'm in HODL mode. I've got another optional activity (PorcFest/ForkFest) coming up, and so I'd rather hold on to the crypto (and hope it comes back up in value before late June).

Other than socializing with old friends and making new ones, my main interest in the convention was helping prevent a Mises Caucus "takeover" so that Florida continues to have a libertarian political party without me having to start a new one. But I mostly figure that's either going to happen or not regardless of my single delegate vote.


Who Knew?


Apparently mentioning to a border authoritarian that immigrants, on average, pay more in taxes, receive less in government transfer payments, and commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans  (at least last time I checked, which was admittedly quite a few years ago) violates Facebook's guidelines and gets one banned from posting or commenting for 24 hours.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

A Couple of Fast and Furious Hypotheses


In the Fast and Furious franchise, Michelle Rodriguez's character, a police informant, apparently dies but is brought back.

In Lost, Michelle Rodriquez character, a former police officer, apparently dies but reappears in visions, dreams, and the "flash sideways."

What if the Fast and Furious franchise actually takes place in the Lost universe, with Letty Ortiz / Ana Lucia Cortez as the connecting link?

Perhaps Dominic Toretto, or Brian O'Conner, or Mr. Nobody is the equivalent of Christian Shepherd, and all of the main cast members are living out an afterlife scenario to prepare them to "move on."

Also, given the franchise's history of killing characters then bringing them back, what if there's going to be a big reveal in which we find out they pretended to kill off an actor? That is, what if Paul Walker shows up in the final film of the franchise? Not CGIed, but for real? Faked his death and went and hid out in the Bahamas for a few years so that the franchise can stage the biggest comeback ever?

An Adaptation of the "Assassination Markets" Idea


I've discussed the idea of assassination markets -- as derived from e.g. Timothy C. May and Jim Bell -- before. The basic definition: An "assassination market" is a "prediction market" or "dead pool" for dates of death of particular people, with the winning bettor presumably having done the deed himself to collect the "reward" of the aggregate bets. Of course, May and Bell argue in their favor for the express purpose of killing force initiators or scaring them into ceasing their force initiation, rather than just for general "I want someone killed" purposes.

For obvious reasons, assassination markets are frowned upon by most, and especially by political governments and their hangers-on.

I woke up this morning with the basic idea for a variant that would certainly be hated by that specific group, but that might be less unattractive to the general public:

Why not such a market for the freeing -- other than by state-approved means -- of political prisoners?

For example, what if people could donate ("bet") on the freeing of Ross Ulbricht, in a way that allowed for the aggregate "bets" to be awarded to the person or persons who could prove they were the ones who busted him out of USP Tucson?

Perhaps the aggregate bets could be awarded to the prisoners themselves if they're freed by the state before someone else manages to free them, thus giving them start-up money to get back on with their lives.

Obviously the idea would need a lot of work to successfully implement (especially in a way resistant to the state being able to predict and thwart attempts to free its victims), and I'm not the guy with the l33t skillz to set such a thing up. But someone out there has those skills, and I hope it gets done.


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Every Time I Learn a Little More, I Get a Little More Pissed


Ian Freeman, of The Crypto Six, has been freed on bail. Onerous conditions that piss me off -- that's discussed on Free Talk Live, linked just before this sentence -- but I'm glad he's out of stir.

I also listened to another podcast today, Punk Rock Libertarians Podcast episode 351, and that's when I got even more pissed.

Apparently among the things Ian's kidnappers took from his home was a "physical" 100-Bitcoin note of some kind that they were able to access and steal the contents of.

He apparently got it a long time ago when it was worth very little. But if liquidated at current prices, it's worth nearly $4 million.

It's not theirs. It's his. He hasn't been convicted of any crime (or, for that matter, even charged with anything that would be a crime in a free society), sentenced to pay any fine, etc.

They just stole it. Because they thought they could get away with it.

Hopefully, he has a lot more where that came from, in places they can't get to.

This whole thing really, truly needs to be rammed right up, and broken off in, the asses of acting US Attorney John J. Farley, Assistant US Attorney Georgiana L. MacDonald, and Assistant US Attorney Seth R. Aframe.

Whether that happens is pretty much up to us, since the evil-doers have likely stolen much of their victims' wealth, and made accessing any they missed difficult and/or dangerous.

Please, SUPPORT THE CRYPTO 6!



Occam's Razor and the Wuhan Lab Hypothesis


Was the SARS-COV-2 virus created (or at least made infectious to humans) in a Chinese research lab?

Well, maybe, I guess. So far, it looks like a hypothesis, not a theory (that is, the method of testing/falsification isn't clear).

When looking at the hypothesis, Occam's Razor seems like a good starting point.

There are lots of versions of said razor, but here are three I'm thinking of:

Theodore Woodward: "When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don't expect to see a zebra." (He said that in Maryland, where horses were plentiful and zebras rare/exotic)

Bertrand Russell: "Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities."

"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."

So, which explanation of COVID-19 requires fewer assumptions?

  1. That, like bazillions of other diseases (according to CDC, 60% of the world's known infectious diseases and 75% of new or emerging ones), SARS-COV-2 made a spontaneous jump from animals to humans via random mutation? or
  2. That, COVID-19, unlike any other past disease that we've ever known/verified/proven to have been the case, was created in a lab and accidentally or intentionally released into the human population?
The latter could conceivably be correct, but it's an extraordinary claim that would require extraordinary evidence. And I've yet to see any actual evidence at all for it.


Will the Status Quo Ante be Enforced?


Whether you agreed with the various local "mask mandates" in Florida or not, they were imposed as supposed emergency measures which were presumably held to trump existing law.

Now that they've been lifted, wouldn't that existing law be once again effective?

Here's the existing law -- passed in 1951 -- that I'm thinking of.

876.12Wearing mask, hood, or other device on public way.—No person or persons over 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter upon, or be or appear upon any lane, walk, alley, street, road, highway, or other public way in this state.

876.13Wearing mask, hood, or other device on public property.—No person or persons shall in this state, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter upon, or be, or appear upon or within the public property of any municipality or county of the state.

876.14Wearing mask, hood, or other device on property of another.—No person or persons over 16 years of age shall, while wearing a mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, demand entrance or admission or enter or come upon or into the premises, enclosure, or house of any other person in any municipality or county of this state.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

I Just Found THE GREATEST THING EVER


The hat tip goes to my Facebook friend Joe Dumas, who mentioned Don Henley on Facebook.

Whenever anyone mentions Don Henley on Facebook, I immediately find and post a link to this video:

Only this time, when I went looking for it, there was something in the sidebar.

Something that requires a lengthy prefatory note.

My first real, true political enemies were (not yet then "Second Lady") Tipper Gore and (then US Senator) John Danforth.

Gore drummed up the Parents Music Resource Center to agitate for ... well, something to do with protecting the chilllllllllllldren from eeeeeeeeeevil rock music. What came of it, after some Senate hearings which I actually watched even though I was only 18 or so, was "voluntary" warning labels on music.

Danforth chaired those hearings, and just flat out lied to me when I asked him what had come of them. Nothing, he said. It was just a chance for people to talk about (if I recall his words correctly) "an issue of concern." What had actually happened was a sweetheart deal under which an excise tax got levied on blank cassette tapes (which the record industry hated because they could be used to make copies of albums) in return for the industry doing the "voluntary label" thing.

My next real, true, all-out political enemy -- the one who really turned me into an activist -- was a Missouri state representative by the name of Jean Dixon.

Dixon launched an all-out campaign against Southwest Missouri State University's production of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart because it featured eeeeeeeeeeevil homosekshual topics (the AIDS epidemic). I wasn't a libertarian at that time and so hadn't concluded that there shouldn't be tax-funded universities putting on tax-funded plays. It was a free speech and gay rights issue for me, and I threw my heart into it, helping organize rallies, etc.

In amongst all that, her son came out as gay (he later decided he wasn't gay after all and became a "conservative" politician himself), explaining why she had such a hangup about it all. She got beat in the next GOP primary, moved away, and became a UPS driver.

So, anyway, THE BEST THING EVER: CNN's old show Crossfire. Michael Kinsley and Mojo Nixon on the "left," Pat Buchanan and Jean Dixon on the right, discussing the topic that Gore and Danforth got me fired up about before Dixon poured a different kind of gas on the fire. I can't believe I never saw this before.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Why Contact Tracing was Never Going to Work for COVID-19


Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard a lot about "contact tracing," and an effort was mounted to raise a veritable army of "contact tracers" to contain the disease's spread (I enlisted -- took an online course via Johns Hopkins University, got certified, and theoretically could have worked as a "contact tracer" if I'd found a job opening for it -- but never actually did; Florida used student volunteers). 

Obviously "contact tracing" didn't work, and after a little while we stopped hearing about it.

Why didn't it work?

It didn't work because it can't work on an infectious disease, seemingly spread in casual contact, that's already in community spread, and which has a high R0 (R0 is the average number of other people an infected person infects).

The classic example of "contract tracing" being workable is sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis.

A patient presents with syphilis (estimated R0 of 1.5). Whoever's responsible for contact tracing has pretty much one question to ask:

"Who have you had sex with since [estimated date when the patient became infectious]?"

Most people can easily answer that question. There are exceptions (e.g. sex workers or their clients who don't know each other, people who had one-night stands and never got last names, etc.), but most people have sex with relatively few other people and know who those other people are.

Then it's a simple (although not necessarily easy) matter of contacting those sexual partners and getting them in for treatment.

Contact tracing for COVID-19 (estimated R0 of 3.32) patients would amount to "who have you been anywhere near since [estimated date when the patient became infectious]?"

Where -- everywhere-- have you been for the last X days?

Who -- everyone -- have you said hello to at the park, passed in an aisle at Walmart, sat near at a baseball game?

Most people can't remember everywhere they went over the last x days, and almost nobody can identify everyone they've been near during any such period. And even if they could, the public health establishment is still dithering over the conditions under COVID-19 is likely to be transmitted.

So, other than the obvious (close family members, people you live with or work closely with), contact tracing just really couldn't produce much useful information.  All that broadcasting "hey, everyone who was at this Walmart between the hours of 8pm and 9pm on May 10th, you need to quarantine" could do was produce needless panic.

I can't say I blame anyone for hoping early on that contact tracing could be helpful. But it was a false hope.


Sunday, May 23, 2021

My Two Predictions About the Upcoming Report on UFOS


Prediction #1: We'll find out the US government knew more than it was telling us.

Prediction #2: The US government will still know more than it's telling us.

No, those aren't particularly daring predictions. The first one is the only reason for there to be a report, and the second should be obvious since the US Senate will receive the report, while the rest of us will receive a redacted version of that report.

So, those are the predictions. Here are the speculations:

I've never seen a "UFO" (unless, perhaps, I was taken up into one for anal probe and memory erasure).

Or, rather, I've seen flying objects I couldn't readily identify, but never one that gave me the impression that the reason I couldn't identify it was that it wouldn't have been identifiable to someone with real interest in aircraft types, models, etc.*

I've done enough reading and cursory amateur research, though, to conclude that UFOs are real, that they aren't solely explicable as natural Earth phenomena (e.g. "swamp gas") and that they are probably not just advanced, experimental, or secret aircraft deployed without acknowledgement by earth governments, etc. In other words, I'm convinced that Earth has been, and continues to be, visited, by extraterrestrial beings.

What are they up to? Well, if they just wanted to conquer us or kill us off, I expect that they could ... and that they already would have.

So, something else. Maybe the whole "waiting for them to prove themselves competent to join the Galactic Federation, or to prove themselves so dangerous that we have no choice but to turn their rock into a smoking, lifeless cinder."

I'm somewhat fond of the whole set of "ancient astronauts" hypotheses (none of them are, at present, testable enough to call theories).

Maybe the aliens actually created "modern man," either accidentally or by way of intentionally evolving a previous species to a slightly higher level of intelligence to make us better slave laborers in primitive mines or something, then abandoned us for one reason or another but still keep an eye on us. But all that is hypothesis, aka speculation.

Maybe the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was psilocybin or ayahuasca or something, and that was what sparked our species divergence into "sapience," causing the aliens to leave.

And whatnot. All that's fun but I wouldn't bet money on any of it if I knew the answers were coming soon and money would change hands.

Here's another piece of speculation, though. I think there are two possibilities:

  1. Either the aliens are the equivalent of modern anthropologists spying on primitive isolated tribes and trying (not always successfully) to avoid notice; or
  2. The aliens have in fact -- probably at least as long ago as the 1940s -- established contact with Earth's nuclear/spacefaring regimes, and laid down some edicts (one obvious guess is "the next use of nuclear weapons will result in something you don't like;" another one is "OK, you've put a man on your moon; that's as far as you get to send manned spacecraft for now -- fuck around in low orbit all you like, but no further until we tell you").
I'd expect the latter, if true, to remain under cover of Prediction #2 above, for now at least.

So, how about your predictions and speculations? That's what comments are for, and I'll be interested to read them.

* I did see a B-2 bomber flying over the mountains in California, perhaps out of China Lake or Area 51 or somewhere, at a time when it was still technically classified. But "artist's concept" drawings of it had leaked some time earlier, so I and several people knew immediately what we were looking at. Otherwise, we might have classified it as a "UFO," even though it flew in a fixed-wing-aircraft manner rather than darting back and forth, standing still in mid-air, etc.


1970 Albums of the Week, May 14-20 and May 21-27: Live at Leeds by The Who, and Hot Tuna by Hot Tuna


Well, I got busy and blew off a week, so this is a catch-up post. And it may be the last one -- I haven't looked ahead at the rest of the year to pick more albums. So let's do a quick poll to see if I should bother.

The Who's Live at Leeds was recorded on Valentine's Day of 1970, and released either on May 16 or May 23 (claims conflict and don't seem worth investigating).

In 2012, Rolling Stone readers still ranked it "best live album of all time."

I'm not sure I agree, but it's certainly up there with the Allman Brothers' Live at Fillmore East, Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison, a whole bunch of Grateful Dead live recordings (not all of them official), Dylan and the Dead, Dylan/The Band's Before The Flood, The Band's The Last Waltz, etc.

Here's "Magic Bus":


For obvious reasons, the "1970 Album of the Week" feature features '60s bands, 1970 being the final year of that decade. But you may have noticed that, it being that last year, 1970 also saw a lot of reformations from, side projects of, and splits from, big '60s acts.

In the beginning Hot Tuna was, more or less, Jefferson Airplane minus Grace Slick, and came into existence because Slick wasn't able to perform while recovering from throat surgery. It's undergone a number of membership changes over the years, but the two constants remain Airplane alumni Jorma Kaukonan and Jack Casady.

Their eponymous debut album was released some time in May of 1970, and, like last week's pick, is a live album, recorded at New Orleans House in Berkeley, California (there's also a 2010 Live at New Orleans House album, released in 2010 but featuring different performances).

Any time I feature an album that in turn features a version of "I Know You Rider," chances are that will be the track I pick to flog, and this is no exception:



Friday, May 21, 2021

One of Them There Occasional Nightmare Scenarios ...


Today was supposed to be a huge "web-only Friday" edition of Rational Review News Digest. Maybe the biggest ever. We had 107 blurbs/links in the can for news stories, commentaries, and audio/video of interest to libertarians.

There might have been even more, but I was way ahead of the editing/scheduling game.

So, I decided to do some site maintenance that I'd been putting off. Stuff hadn't been auto-posting to Twitter and Facebook correctly, and it turned out that I needed to update Jetpack. And I needed to upgrade Wordpress anyway. So I started to do that, and found out I needed to change the PHP version my web host was using.

And when I did that, everything went to shit, and none of the instructions I found for fixing it worked (in the back of my brain, I recalled that when I switched to Hostgator's "cloud hosting," there was something about only certain PHP versions working).

So, I'd been thinking about switching web hosts anyway. In fact, I'd been thinking about moving to servers offshore, probably in Iceland.

But when push came to shove, the reviews I read seemed to indicate that the options I was looking at didn't include the features I'm accustomed to -- cPanel for site administration being a big one.

So, I decided to go with hosting at my domain registrar, Namecheap, start moving stuff over one site at a time, then rebuild RRND from scratch over there between now and Monday.

At the moment, I'm trying to get the export file of The Garrison Center's content to import, but it keeps seemingly timing out. It isn't THAT big of a file, so I'm not sure what the problem is. In extremis, I may just rebuild that site from scratch and point to the Wayback Machine archive (updated just a couple of days ago, thankfully) for older posts.

The goal is to get the important stuff moved over so that I can nuke my Hostgator account and stop paying for it. I've been with them for nigh on 20 years, and have always had good service, etc., but I think maybe I built such a wild and rickety structure of built, rebuilt, abandoned, etc. sites that there's all sorts of remnant cruft and that it can't be feasibly redeemed, just moved on from.

So that's my weekend, anyway. And maybe then some.

Between the time I'm going to be spending on this, and the money I'm spending (two years in advance for Namecheap shared hosting isn't much, but I may want to buy a fancy theme or two, switch over to a paid ProtonMail account for my daily business, etc.), I've decided to skip the Libertarian Party of Florida's 2021 convention. My main goal there was to fight the likely Mooses Cuck Us takeover attempt, and I suspect that my single delegate vote won't make a difference either way on that.

As Roger Murtaugh is wont to say, I'm getting too old for this shit.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Rights Don't Conflict


If you're asserting a right to X, where X violates someone else's property rights, X is not actually a right.

Usually when I run into the "conflicting rights" claim -- or attempts to get around it with the "personally bubble" fantasy, or the "it violates my rights to put condition X om me getting something I waaaaaaaaaant, because it's something I waaaaaaaaaaant" claim, it's about guns.

At the moment, it's mostly about vaccines, though. It goes something like this:

"My medical situation is my business and nobody else's. Nobody has a right to tell me that I can't enter his store unless I'm vaccinated -- that would violate my right to medical privacy."

No. It. Wouldn't.

The rightful owner of property has the right to set conditions for the use of that property, full stop.

If the condition is "you may not carry a gun on the property," or "you may only enter the property if vaccinated," or "you may only use the property while naked, mounted on a pogo stick, and continuously singing The Star-Spangled Banner," that violates no rights of yours whatsoever.

Here are your choices:
  1. Refuse to comply with the conditions and don't use the property;
  2. Comply with the conditions so as to be able to use the property;
  3. Use the property without complying with the conditions, thereby making yourself a force-initiating trespasser who is stealing the use of property that's not yours.
The property owner may be wrong, or even unreasonable. That doesn't change the fact that it's his property, not yours. His conditions regarding the use of his property do not and cannot violate your rights.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

OK, Got the Crypto Switchover I was Talking About Sorted Out ...


... over in the sidebar, for those who might like to show me some love on the dip.

My current crypto balance is still "worth" (in USD if liquidated) about twice what it was in December, so I'm not really sweating the dip yet.

But I do hope things are in better shape by the end of June when I travel.

My plan was to spend a little in New Hampshire on e.g. festival food and such, and start liquidating most of what I have when BTC hit $65k-$70k, so that I could set aside cash for a possible house-moving early next year (either first month / last month / deposit on a rental, or part of the down payment on a purchase).*

But of course it didn't get there before this dip.

* Why a potential move? Well, the landlord is up to something. The most recent lease included some odd changes, such as reducing the "we're done" notice time when it expires and goes "month to month" next January from 30 days to 15. And now timber crews are tearing out all the pines in the 90% or so of the neighborhood the landlord owns. So I strongly suspect he's preparing to sell his one-acre trailer lots for higher-end resident and/or commercial development. We've been here for eight years, which is about seven longer than I had expected. Time to start looking further out in the country.


I'm on a Reading Jag ...


... which is why I've been fairly quiet on the blog.

A long, long time ago, I read a review of R.E.M.'s Murmur which described it as (if I remember the quote correctly) "the aural equivalent of Gravity's Rainbow."

So, obviously, I had to get to the local library and check out Gravity's Rainbow.

I gave up about ten pages in (just as I had with A Farewell to Arms in sixth grade or so, before coming back after high school to love Hemingway).

Fast forward to maybe five years ago, when I picked up another Thomas Pynchon novel, Vineland, at a yard sale or thrift store and found it eminently readable.

Then a couple of weeks ago, at a yard sale, I found The Crying of Lot 49 and likewise enjoyed it.

So I ordered V. Just finished it. Quite interesting.

I guess Gravity's Rainbow comes next (the first two I read were out of chronological publishing order, but now I'm resolved to read the remaining ones from old to new in that order). Buckling my seatbelt now.

I think  my bridge to being able to settle down and enjoy Pynchon was Neal Stephenson. Cryptonomicon and The System of the World both have a lot in common with Pynchon's "secret history" and "hysterical realism" angles.

After Pynchon, and a break from "literary fiction?" David Foster Wallace, maybe, or even Vladimir Nabakov.


Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Nature of the Thing is Such as to Cause Me to Suspect a Connection, But I Have Yet to Find One


"Ah, schlemihl," he whispered into the phosphoresence. Accident prone, schlimazzel. -- V., by Thomas Pynchon, 1963 (not an affiliate link)

Schlemihl! Schlimazzel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated! -- "Making Our Dreams Come True," by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, 1976

I'm somewhat surprised that Fox and Gimbel didn't go with Yoyodyne instead of Hasanpfeffer.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Shopping Advice Needed


A bunch of people are telling me to buy the dip this morning (I guess there's a party I'm invited to but hadn't heard about yet or something). Will this one work?




Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Packing


I hate it. I mean, I really hate it. We've got a collection of thrift store / yard sale suitcases around the house (and in a storage unit), and every one I've traveled with has just been a huge pain in the ass for one reason or another.

I was trying to choose a suitcase to take to New Hampshire for PorcFest / ForkFest, and something kept nibbling at the back of my brain. Wasn't there a time when packing was much easier? Back when I used to travel a lot, and had to carry a bunch of crap with me? What did I do back then? Oh, wait ...


That's not EXACTLY like my old sea bag, but pretty close. And it was about $20 (not an affiliate link). Arrived today. Two of these held pretty much everything I wore, etc. for a six month trip to Saudi Arabia, so one should be plenty for less than a week in New Hampshire.

The major concern isn't space, but rather weight.

I don't think it will be a problem.

I understand the temperature COULD get as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit at night in the White Mountains, but taking my sleeping bag (rated for -20 degrees) seems like overkill. I'll go with a light, thin blanket and, just in case, an ultralight "emergency" / "space" blanket.

I've got a tiny, light camp stove, and will bring either a plastic "camping style" French press or a small moka pot for coffee, some kind of compact cooking / mess kit, that kind of thing, in an old ALICE pack inside the sea bag. My tent is a bivvy setup that weighs about two pounds. Most of my preferred clothing (Thai fisherman pants, t-shirts) is light and rolls up nice and compact. My guess is that the bag weight limit is 40-50 pounds. I shouldn't be over that.

I'll pick up the actual food and drink at the other end of the flight, between the airport and the campground (in New Hampshire, not Vermont -- no sales tax!). Cheap styrofoam cooler, bag of ice, a brick of Cafe Bustelo coffee if they sell it up there (some inferior brew if not), a jug of creamer, cold cuts, etc. It will all get consumed or otherwise disposed of before returning to the airport for the flight back.

Deprecated: CoinPayments


If you look in the right sidebar, the option to send me cryptocurrency via CoinPayments (affiliate link) is gone. That's intentional.

It's not that I don't like CoinPayments. If I didn't, I wouldn't have used an affiliate link, right?

It's a three things.

One is that they're starting in with the "customer verification" stuff, which I tend to reject on principle. If someone I do business with wants proof that I say who I am, fine. But this is gummint crap, and I do my best to avoid such entanglements. Your mileage may vary, and if it does, CoinPayments works quite well.

A second is that when I first started in with CoinPayments, I actually had use for their "merchant tools" interfaces -- I ran a couple of email marketing web sites that sold advertising packages and wanted to accept payment by crypto. I got out of that business, oh, a couple of years ago. Too much time for too little return; just not the kind of thing I'm good at.

A third is that while I still have an active "pay by name" setup through them that makes sending crypto to me easier, I just got a similar thing set up through my newly adopted phone wallet, Edge, so I don't plan to renew the CoinPayments one (at a cost of US $1.99) come July. Until then, if you really, really, really want to send me crypto via that route, it will get there.

Speaking of which, if I hadn't mentioned it before, I finally stopped waiting for Coinomi to start supporting payments via AnyPay, which is why I switched to the Edge wallet. I may not be a crypto whale, but I like my stuff to work the way I like my stuff to work. When I head to New Hampshire in late June, my expectation is that AnyPay will be preferred by vendors at PorcFest/ForkFest, and don't want to have to dick around with an incompatible wallet.

I'll have new links set up shortly for those of you just waiting to send me crypto love.


"How long before hospitals are hacked?"


That's what Erick Erickson wants to know.

The answer: It's already happened numerous times.

And Erickson's diagnosis of the instant problem, as well as his prescription for solving it, are both dumb.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

It's True That Deficits No Longer Matter ...


No, not because "Modern" "Monetary" "Theory" (which isn't any one, let alone all, of those three things) is correct that a state can write itself blank checks and spend the sums forever with no consequences.

Rather because the US regime in particular is long past the point where those consequences can plausibly be avoided.

It's become permanently politically impossible for the regime to either raise taxes, or cut spending, or both, to the degree necessary to pay down the politicians' debt (yes, it's their debt, not yours).

At some point, the regime is going to default on the "national debt." It may admit that that's what it's doing, or it may try to pull some kind of transparent con, but either way the happy train gets derailed, at which point the regime slides right off the big pile of paper it's stacked up and into the dustbin of history.

My prediction as to the timing of the latter event is "no later than 2050.


Monday, May 10, 2021

Ah, Memories ...


"A fire erupted Monday at Kuwait's largest oil field, injuring two workers, the country's state-run news agency reported" (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

Just a little over 30 years ago, the whole mess looked like this:

Operation Desert Storm 22


I didn't take this particular photo (Tech. Sgt. David McLeod did, as part of his official duties, so it's in the public domain).

But I could have taken it, and from even closer. Unfortunately, the scrapbook I kept my war photos in is long lost.

Those were the days.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Without Remorse: EXTREMELY "Loosely Based On"


After more than two decades in development hell, the movie "loosely based on" Tom Clancy's 1993 novel Without Remorse debuted on Amazon Prime Video last week (those are not affiliate links).

Here's how "based on" the book the movie is: Both lead characters are former US Navy SEALs who begin the story with the name John Kelly, who end it with the name John Clark, and who have love interests by the name of Pam.

That's really pretty much it.

Which is not to say that Without Remorse is a bad movie. I liked it, despite several typical action movie suspension of disbelief problems. Example:

* SPOILER ALERT *

Kelly and some other SEALs endure a transport aircraft shootdown (by a Russian fighter) into the Barents Sea (average water temperature in its warmest area -- 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and not only survive, but subsequently waltz into the Russian port of Murmansk in not-quite-broad daylight aboard a Zodiac raft.

* END SPOILER ALERT *

That kind of thing.

I find the choice of story change ... odd.

The novel seems tailor-made for a film adaptation catering to today's "human trafficking" moral panic. 

That whole story line -- the MAIN story line -- is absent from the film.

Instead, the film starts off looking like it's going to be 100% post-"Hillary-lost-because-PUTIN" Russia-baiting bullshit.

Fortunately, it rises above/beyond that, and even makes a good (and very non-Tom-Clancy-esqe) point about the actual nature of things near the end.

I don't want my 110 minutes back or anything. It was a fun ride, and presumably will tie into the Amazon / John Krasinski reboot of the "Ryanverse" if that reboot can recover from a disappointing second season. It sets the tie-in up pretty well, especially if can keep Michael B. Jordan on board in the Kelly/Clark role.

Personal jinx moment: Very early in the film, Tamara and I simultaneously asked the same question -- "what's a leppo?"

1970 Album of the Week, May 7-13: Let It Be, by The Beatles


Really, could there possibly have been any other choice this week?

Well, yes, I suppose it could be one of two other choices: The Jackson 5's ABC or the triple album Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More. Kind of an incredible week in music. But this one's my pick.

Let It Be is the Beatles' final studio album ... sort of. It was their last studio album by release date, but most of it was recorded before September 1969's Abbey Road (and "Get Back," which was initially supposed to be the previously recorded album's title track, was released as a single in April 1969).

John Lennon left the group (without announcing it) the week before Abbey Road's release, with the previously recorded work still in production/mixing hell.

The three remaining Beatles -- George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and whoever secretly replaced Paul McCartney after his fatal car accident in late 1966 or early 1967 -- got together in January of 1970 to put the final touches on Let It Be.

Finis, sort of. While legal disputes kept The Beatles intact as a legal entity until 1974, and several live albums and compilations have seen subsequent release, McCartney's replacement double announced his departure from the group a month before Let It Be's debut.

Let it Be is the final album. The final recorded song, and the selection I've chosen to share, is George Harrison's "I Me Mine" ...


The Beatles - I Me Mine (Official Music Video) from Kitsuツ on Vimeo.


Thursday, May 06, 2021

Let's Talk About Those Vaccine Research and Development Costs


The US government is now officially on board with "waiving" the patents on several COVID-19 vaccines. Other regimes, and Big Pharma, not so much:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in against a U.S. proposal to waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines, casting doubt on whether the idea has enough international support to become a reality. The U.S. plan would create "severe complications" for the production of vaccines, a German government spokeswoman said Thursday in an email. Without the incentive of profits from research and development spending, drugmakers might not move as aggressively to make vaccines in the future, the industry has argued.

Via Operation Warp Speed, the US government's vaccine development initiative:

  • Johnson and Johnson received $1.45 billion
  • AstraZeneca received $1.2 billion.
  • Moderna received $2.48 billion.
  • Novavax got $1.6 billion.
  • Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, $2.1 billion.
  • Merck and IAVA only took $38 million, because they apparently never got very far and gave up in January of 2021.
Excepting Pfizer, the research and development funding for COVID-19 vaccines wasn't invested by those companies. It was provided by government.

And on top of government funding for research and development, those companies got advance-guaranteed sales and the "running start" advantage for subsequent sales that comes with being first to market.

Even if "intellectual property" wasn't a bullshit anti-property-rights statist fair tale, the supposed property rights in these patents should fall to the government -- or, more to the point, to the taxpayers -- who paid the way, not to the companies that are already getting over big-time on your dime and will continue to do so, patent protection or not.

The patents shouldn't be "waived" for some particular time or some particular purpose. They should be overturned completely and put into the public domain.

Since It's a Public Comment Anyway, Might as Well Post it Here


At its June 21st meeting, the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization for the Gainesville Urban Area will, as it does annually, review the latest draft of its Public Involvement Plan.

I've entered a public comment on that plan, specifically the section on recruitment for advisory boards. That section reads as follows:

When there are vacant positions on either the Citizens Advisory Committee or the Bicycle/ Pedestrian Advisory Board, a display advertisement is published in the Independent Florida Alligator, The Gainesville Sun and the Gainesville Guardian. The deadline for applying for a vacant advisory committee position is not less than four work weeks after the advertisement is published. Sample display advertisements are shown in Appendix E.

My comment (or, I guess, suggestion):

Look for a publication more widely read in the northeast part of Gainesville, or use some kind of billboard advertising there, to publicize advisory board vacancies. I notice that of the bicycle/pedestrian advisory board's members, only one lives east of Main Street, and that one lives south of University. The northeast section of the city is completely unrepresented, and probably more in need of representation on bicycle/pedestrian issues than any other area in the MTPO purview, with the possible exception of the UF campus area.

Of course, anyone can enter a public comment. I was interested in doing so because I'm a newly minted MTPO representative on the Alachua County / Gainesville / MTPO Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and thus received notification of the upcoming meeting and a link to the plan even though I'm not, strictly speaking, involved with making or passing approval of the plan.

Let me expand a little bit on the actual comment/suggestion:

The northeast section of Gainesville -- that is, north of University Avenue and east of Main Street -- is both "the poorer part of town" and "the blacker part of town."

While it does not (according to the demographics maps at City-Data.com from which I'm getting my numbers) have the highest rates in town of transportation to work on foot or by bicycle, it does have reasonably high rates of such. Whenever I'm in that part of town, I see more people who are obviously on foot or biking because that's what they've got, rather than for exercise/convenience/environmental reasons, than are obvious to me in other parts of town.

Yet, so far as I can tell (I did make a point of asking a city planner about it when I went out for the annual Ride With The Mayor last Saturday*), that part of town isn't getting anything like "its fair share" of funding love when it comes to making it easier and safer to get from Point A to Point B on foot or on a bicycle. The University of Florida area is by far the biggest focus. Which is fine and, so far as it goes, largely merited. But:

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and (to mix my cliches) that's a two-way street. If there were some northeast Gainesville residents on the advisory board raising a ruckus, their part of town might get more of what it needs. And if the recruitment process for that board made more noise in that part of town, there might be people from that part of town hearing that noise and applying to fill board vacancies.

To be clear, I am not positing current institutional racism as a reason for no northeast Gainesville representation on the board. I have no reason to believe that the organizations involved are, in this day and age, set up to avoid involving the community members in question in transportation planning. However, the residue of past institutional racism may have left a communications gap here that needs some attention.

* Yes, I know I didn't blog about it. Fun ride. Quite a few participants. Saw several street projects relevant to bicycle / pedestrian convenience and safety. The ride was single-digit miles, but the ride to and from the ride was 30+ miles. Hadn't biked that far in a while, and I did all but a few hundred feet of the ride in without tapping my bike's battery power. So I was sore for a few days.



BOHICA, Biden/Afghanistan Edition


First the Biden administration reneged on the US end of the Afghanistan peace deal and failed to complete the US withdrawal by the May 1 deadline.

Now the Biden administration is launching airstrikes against the Taliban in Helmand province.

And when the Taliban respond in kind, the Biden administration will no doubt tell us that, regretfully, US forces have to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely because, you know, the Taliban hate us for our freedoms.


Is There a Possible Compromise Here?


Not all murders committed by police involve firearms -- see, for example, George Floyd and Eric Garner. But firearms seem to be a big part of the police murder toolkit, and after the latest incident of cops gunning down a four-month-old, it seems to me that a de-escalation compromise is in order.

Yes, I understand that some people would prefer to eliminate police entirely, or at least "de-fund" them (I'm down with that). But assuming that's a bridge too far in terms of realpolitik, how about this:

We still have cops. Maybe even as many cops as now.

But they don't get, as a matter of course, to carry guns on duty. Firing offense if detected, death penalty offense if used.

Maybe allow an on-call reaction/response team with firearms that can swing into action only after a specific request and a judge issueing a warrant specifically authorizing it and setting out the limits, but regular patrol officers get to carry, at most, a nightstick and a can of pepper spray. 

Tasers? Temporarily off the table, but maybe a bargaining chip.


My New Business Plan


Under a new (but probably soon to be overturned) Florida law, social media platforms that aren't owned by Disney risk a fine of $250,000 per day for banning statewide political candidates.

I hereby declare myself (for the fourth time, so you know I'm serious!) a candidate for the vice-presidency of the United States.

My open offer to Facebook, Twitter, MeWe, Minds, et al.:

For only $25,000 a day -- a 90% discount! -- I'm willing to avoid posting content on your platforms that would, per your rules, lead to me being banned.


Wednesday, May 05, 2021

If Nobody's Willing to Pay More than $49.99, I'm So There


Blue Origin is taking bids for a seat on its first astronaut crew to space.

Got my fingers crossed that my fifty bucks will beat the field.

But I'm guessing it won't.


Saturday, May 01, 2021

It's Been Quite Some Time Since I Talked Up Kiva ...


... and I should do it more often. It's really simple: Through Kiva (affiliate link, but not lucrative for me -- more of a statistics-keeping tool), you make $25 no-interest loans, generally to small business owners in poor countries.

Over the years, Tamara and I have loaned a total of $1,100 to 44 people/groups in 26 countries.

That doesn't mean we've ever been "out" $1,100. At the moment, we've got loans totaling $100 out in the system at various stages of repayment. Whenever we notice that loans we've got at least $25 back in our account, we just loan the money out again. We've only ever had one borrower default, for a lost of $8.62.

When people in poorer countries create new wealth and prosperity through production of goods and services, all of us are better off than we were before. And if you believe in karma or something similar, this seems like a good way to generate the good kind.


I Said I Planned to Get Back to the Theater ASAP ...


... and I finally did so last night after scoring free tickets to see The Fast and the Furious. Apparently Regal is going to do the free tix thing every week with the next films in the franchise, leading up to the premier of F9, so I may just see them all.

The original is 20 years old, but I'd never seen it before. I'm not going to try to review it other than to mention that it is, in fact, a movie, and that I had fun watching it.


Thanks For Asking! -- 05/01/21


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