Thursday, July 29, 2021

Rothbard's Single Most Damaging Error (or, @ComicDaveSmith goes Stockholm Libertarian)

In my opinion, Rothbard's single most damaging error was a subset of / piece of particularly pernicious fallout from his "paleo strategy" fail -- his reversal on immigration.

Not because that reversal was dumb in and of itself, although it was, but because it undercut the single most valuable strategic insight Rothbard ever offered: "No particular orderism."

[L]ibertarians should push for and accept with alacrity any reduction of State power or activity on any front. Any such reduction at any time should be a welcome decrease of crime and aggression. Therefore, the libertarian’s concern should not be to use the State to embark on a measured course of destatization, but rather to hack away at any and all manifestations of statism whenever and wherever he or she can. -- For a New Liberty

What brings that to mind: Nick Gillespie's Reason interview with Dave Smith, who lays out a "particular orderist" case for not having immigration freedom until we've 1) ended the drug war and 2) wound down the welfare state.

There's actually some pretty good stuff in the interview, but the Stockholm Libertarianism really grates.

Well, It's Not Like He Isn't an Admitted Serial Liar

US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wants the US Department of Justice to investigate Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for allegedly lying to Congress about NIH funding of "gain of function" research.

Personally, I have trouble working up much outrage when someone lies to Congress. After all, Congress as a group, and most or all of its individual members, lie to the rest of us all the time. And when someone tells Congress a lie it wants to hear and promote, there's seldom any penalty.

That said, it's not hard to believe that Fauci lied. After all, he's lied -- or at least publicly claimed to have lied (and if the claims weren't true, then they were lies) -- to the public several times during, and about, the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • In March of 2020, Fauci (so far as I can tell, truthfully) claimed that "the science" doesn't support the idea that wearing masks reduces the spread of viral disease. Then he changed his story, and when asked why, he claimed he'd just said that so that there wouldn't be a run on masks (in other words, he claimed that he'd been lying the first time).
  • Then, he changed his story on the vaccination rate required to achieve herd immunity, and when challenged on the change, he replied "When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent. Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, 'I can nudge this up a bit,' so I went to 80, 85." In other words, he was lying at least one of the two times.
  • When the UK adopted a "get everyone a single shot of vaccine before worrying about second shots" strategy, Fauci opposed that strategy for the United States, claiming that "the science" didn't work and that such an approach would encourage variants. When challenged on that later, once again he claimed -- you guessed it -- to have been lying before, and said that the real explanation was that "changing our story" might make people less confident in the already adopted strategy.
I don't know if Fauci lied about this particular thing. But it's hard to make a case for the guy as some kind of pillar of loyalty to the truth.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Can't Say as I Really See the Difference

I don't know if I've ever recommended The Bryan Hyde Show here on the blog before, but if not, consider it recommended. I hate to immediately follow that recommendation with nay-saying, but I'm gonna. From the description for today's show:

It used to be fun to watch sports. That was before woke culture began projecting its groupthink through various athletes and organizations.

I haven't been listening to Hyde for long enough to know that it's true in this particular case, but usually when I run across such statements, the people making them are kind of late-comers to the "just play sports, leave politics out of it" spiels.

That is, I don't recall hearing those people bellyache about all the militaristic / flag-waving crap that's been part of sports for a looooooooooong time, and to a mindlessly overbearing degree ever since the "war on terror" started, presumably because the US Department of Defense shells out big bucks ($53 million between 2012 and 2015 alone) to have sports teams put on the pageantry.

While I tend to agree that if I turn on a football game I'd rather see football than politics, I don't find "hey look, that guy's taking a knee" any more boring or silly than "put your hands over your hearts for the national anthem while the marching band forms a giant flag on the field, accompanied by a color guard and a kazoo orchestra made up entirely of quadruple amputee combat veterans."

Own Goal, Kim Reynolds Edition

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds tries to pin the blame for rising COVID-19 case numbers on un-vaccinated immigrants.

Part of the problem is the southern border is open and we've got 88 countries that are coming across the border and they don't have vaccines so none of them are vaccinated and they're getting dispersed throughout the country.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that she's right. I doubt it, but she doesn't have to be wrong for her claim to be self-damning.

From ISideWith:

Q: Should the U.S. build a wall along the southern border?

Reynolds: "Yes."

Q: Should local law enforcement be allowed to detain illegal immigrants for minor crimes and transfer them to federal immigration authorities?

Reynolds: "Yes."

Q: Should working illegal immigrants be given temporary amnesty?

Reynolds: "No."

Q: Should the U.S. increase restrictions on its current border security policy?

Reynolds: "Yes."

The US government and most state governments are doing everything short of mass roundups at gunpoint to get people vaccinated.

But based on the "leadership" of authoritarians like Reynolds, immigrants have no particular reason to believe that ICE won't have paddy wagons waiting out back to pack full of brownish, Spanish-speaking people who show up at vaccination locations without "their papers in order."

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Because I Am a Cheapsake, Part [Insert Very Large Prime Number Here] ...

... I'm thinking about changing computers. Again.

It's not that I don't really, really love the Lenovo ThinkCentre M78 I've been using for a year-and-a-half or so, thanks to a supportive donor. I do love the machine. It's dual boot Windoze/KUbuntu (I've probably used Windoze twice in the last year), Quad-core 3.7Ghz, 16Gb of RAM, etc. What's not to love?

Well, my electricity bill.

Yeah, I know that air conditioning is probably a much larger piece of that bill than my computer, but I'm the kind of guy who starts yelling at people to turn off the damn (low-wattage LED) lights when they leave the room after I get a big bill.

And this tower probably pulls upward of 100 watts, maybe 250 when it's under a heavy load.

While a Raspberry Pi 4 under 400% CPU load stress pulls about 6.4 watts.

I've got the CanaKit "extreme" kit (8Gb of RAM, 128Gb SD card -- it's got two HDMI ports to support my dual monitor needs as well!) on my Amazon Wish List. If nobody really, really, really wants to buy it for me but the value of crypto keeps its on-and-off climb going, I'll probably grab it soon.

I like the Raspberry Pi. I bought the Model 3, but handed it off to one of the kids some time back. Not quite powerful enough to run fast for the load I put on it, but the Model 4 has a better CPU and a lot more RAM, so I expect it would be a workable desktop computer.

And if not, I might just pay Cox for extra bandwidth some month so that I can turn it into a Lightning node. Which would likely defeat the purpose of conserving electricity, but which would also be really cool.

It Appears My Initial Skepticism of "Long COVID" May Have Been Well-Founded

I don't recall if I've opined on the matter in writing before, but I certainly have in personal discussions: 

Ever since the term "Long COVID" started showing up on my radar, I've been skeptical. Not entirely dismissive -- I have no particular reason to believe that there aren't or can't be long-term effects associated with the virus -- but doubtful as to definition.

So far, "Long COVID" strikes me as a grab-bag of symptoms, any or all of which may be related to a prior COVID-19 infection, but many of which may not be, rather than an identifiable syndrome defined on the basis of hard data and well-explained causality. It's early days, of course, but there seems to be a lot of post hoc ergo propter hoc in play at the moment.

Disclosure of priors: I've had occasion to wonder about this thing before. Specifically, "Gulf War Syndrome." I've had symptoms myself that I attribute to likely sarin exposure (from an incident the US Department of Defense insists wasn't a chemical attack despite chemical monitor sensors being set off -- I slept through the whole thing), but when I read that "Approximately 250,000 of the 697,000 U.S. veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War are afflicted with enduring chronic multi-symptom illness," with "a wide range of acute and chronic symptoms," I have to think that there are probably lots of different involved and that not all of them are necessarily causally linked to the war itself at all, let alone to any specific piece of the war.

So anyway ...

As Phillip W. Magness notes at the American Institute for Economic Research, it appears that the initiators and popularizers of the "Long COVID" idea, although praised by National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins as "citizen scientists," were actually "an odd assortment of psychic healers, magic crystal gurus, and alternative medicine activists" which "frequently relied on self-reported descriptions of Long Covid symptoms, instead of independent medical verification [and] had a habit of diagnosing people with Long Covid even after they tested negative for Covid-19 itself."

I'm not opposed to researching the possible long-term effects of COVID-19. But it should be real research that starts from hard facts, not from throwing every bad thing into one basket and attributing it to one cause.

The Term That Comes to Mind is "Self-Importance"

Self-importance, n. An exaggerated estimate of one's own importance or merit, esp. as manifested by the conduct or manners; self-conceit.

Top Biden administration officials are weighing whether to recommend that states and communities with low vaccination rates reimpose mask mandates .... Top Biden health officials in recent days have also debated whether to encourage businesses, health care facilities and other institutions to require proof of Covid-19 vaccination as a condition for returning to work ..." [emphases mine]

One one hand, it's great that the federal political and "public health" establishments seem to be awakening to some sense of limits to their power to simply order such things.

On the other hand, given their record over the last 18 months or so, it's risible for them to operate on the assumption that their "recommendations" and "encouragement" deserve to be taken seriously.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Like There Was Ever Any Chance This Kind of Thing Wouldn't Happen ...

"ShotSpotter" was supposed to make it easier to solve crimes. Instead, it's being used to manufacture fake evidence. Via Motherboard:

On May 31 last year, 25-year-old Safarain Herring was shot in the head and dropped off at St. Bernard Hospital in Chicago by a man named Michael Williams. He died two days later. Chicago police eventually arrested the 64-year-old Williams .... A key piece of evidence in the case is video surveillance footage showing Williams’ car stopped on the 6300 block of South Stony Island Avenue at 11:46 p.m. -- the time and location where police say they know Herring was shot. How did they know that’s where the shooting happened? Police said ShotSpotter, a surveillance system that uses hidden microphone sensors to detect the sound and location of gunshots, generated an alert for that time and place.

But ShotSpotter actually "spotted" the "shot" as a firework, and placed it a mile away from the location in question. A ShotSpotter analyst manually reclassified it as a gunshot.

Then, months later, another analyst changed the location to match the location where Williams was seen on camera.

Naturally, Williams's attorney challenged the "evidence." And rather than let a judge examine it, the prosecutor withdrew it.

And that's apparently not unusual. Back to Motherboard:

Motherboard’s review of court documents from the Williams case and other trials in Chicago and New York State, including testimony from ShotSpotter’s favored expert witness, suggests that the company’s analysts frequently modify alerts at the request of police departments -- some of which appear to be grasping for evidence that supports their narrative of events.

And whenever prosecutors are challenged, they withdraw the supposed evidence rather than let ShotSpotter's technology and procedures be examined.

ShotSpotter's end users -- police and prosecutors -- want "evidence" that gets convictions. And if the unmodified data doesn't work for that, ShotSpotter apparently takes a "customer is always right" attitude toward modifying it. Go figure.

World's Smallest Violin, Heimatschutz Edition

According to the Washington Times:
The massive immigrant legalization program that Democrats plan to include in their upcoming budget would overwhelm the government’s citizenship agency, adding millions of new cases to an agency that is already running well above its red line, according to a secret internal study.

There's an easy fix for that: Open borders.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services had, as of 2019, 18,738 employees.

That's not just employees who process citizenship applications. It also includes visa petitions (not required under open borders), asylum applications (not required under open borders), "applications for adjustment of status" (i.e. "green cards" -- not required under open borders), refugee applications (not required under open borders), administration of immigration services and benefits (not required under open borders), issuing employment authorization documents (not required under open borders), and adjudicating petitions for non-immigrant temporary workers (e.g. H-1B visas -- not required under open borders).

Eliminating all that busywork should reduce the stress on CIS as regards citizenship applications.

Additionally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (more than 20,000 employees as of 2016) and Customs and Border Protection (nearly 63,000 employees, including "more than 20,000 Border Patrol Agents" as of 2021) could be drastically cut (I'm assuming that free trade isn't part of the deal and that there would still be some customs work for them to do -- but hey, let's free up trade and eliminate them completely!), so if CIS needed to staff up they'd have a ready-made labor pool.

Problem solved. You're welcome.

Friday, July 23, 2021

One Reason I'd Like to Go to Mars ...

... is that I'm just not that well-traveled.

By very rough calculations based on latitude and longitude, my travels encompass an area of about 5 million square miles: Westernmost point, somewhere not too far from Reno, Nevada (actually west of that, but I'm not sure how far). Easternmost point, in the neighborhood of Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. Northernmost point, in the vicinity of Bangor, Maine. Southernmost point, around Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Figure in the top cruising altitude of a commercial airliner (43,000 feet or 8.14 miles), call it  40 million cubic miles. Yeah, I know my math is very rough and quite possibly incorrect in some respect, but I think it's ballpark.

Average distance from Earth to Mars, 14 million miles (minimum distance, about 38.6 million miles). That would really up my distance traveled/encompassed game. Especially if I ever came back, since the planets' respective orbits would presumably be different, meaning I'd be covering different ground ... er, space ... each way.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Blackjack and Global Pandemics

Back in the 1990s, I knew a guy who worked as a blackjack dealer in Vegas. Naturally, I asked him about counting cards.

He told me the casinos' attitude toward card-counting had quickly changed from "kick'em if we catch'em" to "let'em keep losing." Because, he said, most people who tried to count cards just weren't very good at it, but tended to play longer (and lose more) than regular players who followed the basic, reasonably sound, strategies.

I try very hard to keep that story in mind when I see someone leaping to a broad conclusion from limited data (or, especially, a single datum). Especially in a casino as big as Planet Earth and with a game as complex as COVID-19.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

@MarcoRubio Admits the US Embargo on Cuba Doesn't Work

Rubio: "The suffering in Cuba isn’t because of an embargo,it’s because  socialism always leads to suffering."

The purpose of an embargo is to cause suffering.

The US has had an embargo on Cuba for sixty years. If that embargo hasn't caused suffering, it hasn't worked.

Why does Rubio support keeping a policy that's had six decades to produce its intended effect, but that he claims hasn't done so?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Two Things About "Zero Emissions" Vehicles

Thing One: There's mostly no such thing. If you drive an electric car or an electric bicycle, the electricity came from somewhere. If it came from e.g. a coal-fired power plant, or from wind- or solar-powered plants built with a bunch of materials that used fossil-fuel inputs, the CO2, etc. emissions just happened somewhere else, that's all. And if you decide to walk, do you think there weren't any emissions associated with the production of the food that gave you the energy to do that? Or, for that matter, from your own, um, tailpipe? Which is not to say that this or that power source might not entail more or fewer emissions.

Thing Two: It does not follow from the above that all emissions are equally bad in all respects. Vis a vis overall climate effects, maybe. But if you live in a big city, wouldn't you rather the smog was coming out of a smokestack out in the wilderness than from a million car exhausts at street level on your block?

Sunday, July 18, 2021

This will not stand, you know. This aggression will not stand, man.

I recently mentioned that I use and recommend Bing Rewards (affiliate link) to rack up points for little lagniappes like $5 Amazon gift cards, etc.

In the normal course of things I accrue points just by using Bing as my default search engine.

But there's also a daily set of things you can do to pick up a few extra points -- for example, daily quizzes on current events, and a daily preference poll.

I just took today's preference poll and was appalled to learn that the majority of Americans who grill burgers do so over gas rather than charcoal.

What the fuck, people? That's just sick.

Friday, July 16, 2021


A new study, published in my brain, reveals that among people who don't read Rational Review News Digest, about half suffer from below-median IQ ... and all of them face nearly certain death before the end of the century.

Please, for your health, read Rational Review News Digest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Worthy Petition ...

 ... from George Phillies. It's an appeal to the Libertarian Party's Judicial Committee on the matter of the Libertarian National Committee letting Robert's Rules of Order be used to overrule the explicit language of its own bylaws, even though Robert's is the organization's parliamentary authority only where it is "not inconsistent with these bylaws and any special rules of order adopted by the Party."

If you're a dues-paying member of the party, and especially if you were a 2020 national convention delegate, I hope you'll sign it. The abuse of Robert's to trump the party's bylaws has been a problem for quite some time, and it seems to be getting worse. Time to put a stop to it.

Monday, July 12, 2021

I Haven't Bothered with "Payment by CPM" Ads in a Long Time ...

... but I figured what the hey, might as well give them another try. If you look over in the sidebar (or in the footer at Rational Review News Digest), and if you don't have an ad blocker running, you should see a tall ad of some type via Cash-Ads (that's a referral link).

No, I'm not asking you to click the ads. That's up to you. But I do want to know if the ads cause any kind of disruption for you, or if you like them, or if you hate them, or if you have any opinion on them at all.

If they don't cause problems for users, and if they bring in, say, $10 a month or more, I'll probably keep them. If not, no biggie.

Update: I'm already seeing a problem with Cash-Ads. Their dashboard allows me to specify whether I'll accept 1) gambling ads (I said yes) and 2) "adult" ads (I said no -- not because I'm a prude, but because I try to keep this blog mostly "all-ages-friendy"). And even if I said "yes" to (2), they would only supposedly be displayed during the overnight hours.

Normally, I see a "you are the site owner" graphic when I load the blog, presumably to keep me from racking up ad views by reloading my own site. But this time (late afternoon / early evening), I saw a very sexually explicit graphic for something called "C*nt Wars." Either the on/off toggle for "adult" ads just doesn't work, or Cash-Ads doesn't do a very good job of classifying their ads.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

They Keep Using That Word, "Monopoly." I Do Not Think It Means What They Think It Means.

The social media platforms aren't monopolies. If you don't like Facebook or Twitter, you can go to Minds, MeWe, Diaspora, Mastodon, Gab, Discord, et al.

The state, however, IS a monopoly.

Arguments in favor of state regulation of social media platforms aren't arguments against monopolies. They're arguments in favor of extending a monopoly's reach into new markets. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Naturally, Here Comes the Litigation ...

While I was away at PorcFest, a mass shooting took place at a teen party (I think one news account specifically described it as a birthday party) at my American Legion post.

The basic outline seems to be that there was a party at the post, and a group showed up and shot up the affair, wounding five, then fled (and were caught and arrested).

Now one of the five has died, and that victim's family is "pursuing legal action."

Says the attorney involved: "You know, the venue has got a duty to provide reasonable protection against any known dangers and whenever you’re going to have a large party, a lot of people there, there’s the risk of having bad things happen and that’s why there’s know[n] security risks and known security needs."

I disagree, for several reasons.

One is that the only "duty" the venue has is to provide whatever it has agreed to provide.

Another is that "known security risks and known security needs" are contextual. A teen birthday party is not the kind of event that one reasonably expects an armed gang to show up at with murderous intent, unless the teen's father is Tony Soprano or something like that.

A third is that this is a pretty small post building, with a bar. Florida law prohibits concealed carry in such places except by employees.

I doubt that the venue agreed to hire an armed security force for a teen party when the arrangements to host that party wer made. And anyone who was not an employee was legally forbidden to possess the means to defend themselves, let alone the party's attendees.

The only people responsible for the shooting were the shooters.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Another One of Those "You Get Cool Stuff and so do I" Things

I know a lot of you avoid the "major" search engines for various reasons such as a desire for privacy.

Me, I have Microsoft's Bing set as my default. Every time I type a search into my URL bar, it brings up results from Bing, then I go elsewhere if what I'm looking for isn't obvious.

And every time I do that, I get "rewards points." Every month or so, I rack up enough of those points to redeem them for e.g. a $5 Amazon gift card.

And if I talk you into joining "Bing Rewards" through my referral link, I get some points for that, and subsequently when you earn points of your own.

But I'm not going to try to talk you into it. I'm just going to mention it and trust you to know whether it's your kind of thing or not.

Just Say No ...

... to the Haitian regime's request for US troops to "protect infrastructure!"

The best thing that could happen to Haiti would be for the US government to get, and stay, completely out of its internal affairs. And it would be good for Americans, too.

Is Biden's "Door-to-Door" Proposal Sinister, or Just Another Government Make-Work Plan?

Intentionally or not, President Joe Biden's suggestion that the US government should send people "door to door" to boost COVID-19 vaccination numbers launched a wave of concern. Does the federal government know who's been vaccinated and who hasn't? Is it going to get pushy with those who haven't? Is this some surveillance state fuckery? Etc.

US Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra told CNN that it "is absolutely the government's business" who's been vaccinated and who hasn't, because the government used COVID-19 as an excuse to spend trillions of (our) dollars. Then he complained that he'd been "taken wildly out of context" and insisted that the government "has no database tracking who is vaccinated."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki characterizes the door to door idea as a way to "get remaining Americans vaccinated by ensuring that they have the information they need on how both safe and accessible the vaccine is."

If we (very provisionally) trust Becerra on the "no database" claim and Psaki on "information" claim, it sounds like the idea is pretty much going to be Jehovah's Witnesses for the vaccines -- people knocking on doors and handing out brochures so that everyone knows there are vaccines, knows a little bit about them, knows how to get them, and knows that they've already been paid for with their tax dollars and that there won't be some kind of payment demanded at point of service.

Of course, everyone who lives in a place with a door to be knocked on (as opposed to under a rock deep in the forest) already knows there are vaccines, knows a little bit about them, knows how to get them, and knows that they've already been paid for with their tax dollars and that there won't be some kind of payment demanded at point of service.

So, what's the point?

I suspect the point is really just to offer a whole bunch of people a whole bunch of temp jobs -- at $15 an hour or better -- a la the census, as a way of further "stimulating the economy."

Those Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccination Deserve Our Thanks


Yes, really.

People who have decided not to accept a COVID-19 vaccination have their reasons, and I respect those reasons whether I agree with them or not. There's rational skepticism over the possible side effects of new technology like "messenger RNA" vaccines. There are people who already have immune system problems, or a history of adverse reactions to injections of strange stuff into their bodies. There are people who calculate, correctly or not, that those risks are worse than the risks of the virus itself. And, yes, there are a few dumb-asses with dis-proven or un-provable hypotheses, and some contrarians who won't do anything someone else pushes them to do, whether doing it makes sense or not.

But all of those people are helping humanity beat COVID-19.

The natural evolutionary path of a highly contagious virus that causes disease in humankind (or any other host) looks something like this:

  1. At first, the virus cuts through its hosts, whose immune systems are utterly unprepared for a new kind of infection, like a scythe. It kills a lot of people, especially those who already have co-morbidities that an infection can make worse.
  2. Then, the virus begins to mutate. Some of these mutations are more deadly or more contagious, some are less deadly or less contagious.
  3. The mutations that are more contagious and less deadly are more successful at reproducing. They tend to displace, or even drive to extinction, the less contagious and more deadly mutations. And often, the immune response to one mutation will turn out to be helpful in fending off other mutations.
The "delta variant" of COVID-19 is currently the leading mutation. It's thought to be more contagious than most other mutations. The jury's still out on how deadly it is, but it may well be less deadly than other strains.

All the un-vaccinated people out there are helping it spread. They're moving humanity toward some semblance of "herd immunity" in the same way that vaccinated people are, but they're also helping COVID-19 mutate toward even weaker variants such that at some point the dominant strain of the virus will be of no more general concern than that other family of coronaviruses, "the common cold."

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Had to Go Look at a Map ...

... to reassure myself that I was correct and that Haiti is not a US state or territory.

AP Headline: "Biden with few options to stabilize Haiti in wake of slaying"

Why on Earth would it be Joe Biden's job to "stabilize Haiti?"

A couple of excerpts and thoughts:

"With the era of gunboat diplomacy long over, the U.S. is unlikely to deploy troop" to Haiti. Well, that's nice, anyway.

"[Assassinated Haitian president Jovenel Mo├»se] appeared to be on his way out, having set Sept. 26 to hold elections for president and parliament. The electoral timetable was backed by the Biden administration, though it rejected plans to hold a constitutional referendum ..."

What would Joe Biden call it if Vladimir Putin "backed" the US having 2022 congressional midterms, but "rejected" a proposed amendment to the US Constitution? Haven't we been having such a public discussion about things like that for a few years now?

Among the Things We're Losing and That I Already Miss

We had a pretty bad experience at Steak'n'Shake last night. I'm not blaming anyone there. They were slammed, and almost certainly short-handed (like just about every food establishment these days), but I think it took about 45 minutes just standing there waiting to pick up food that had been ordered before going in, via smart phone app. And while Tamara was in there waiting, she noticed that they've started in with the electronic ordering "kiosks" even inside.

No, I've got nothing against the kiosks, and I understand that "fast food" isn't nearly as fast these days as it used to be. But that got me thinking about what Steak'n'Shake used to be like, and how it is an example of a dying way of dining out.

As recently as a couple of years ago, Tamara and I would occasionally dine in at Steak'n'Shake. They had service at your table, or at the counter "bar." The food was inexpensive, it was of reasonably good quality and competently prepared, and it came on real plates with real utensils, not in paper wrappers with sporks.

Steak'n'Shake used to be, in all but the "reclaimed train dining car" layout, a diner. I think the slide in that particular quality may have begun when they started offering drive-thru service. Over time they've become mostly just another "fast food" joint, albeit one that continues (so far as I know) to offer traditional dine-in service.

As for actual diners, I haven't seen one in ages. I see places that call themselves diners, but they're not small train-car-or-approximation-thereof joints offering cheap, rib-sticking food. They're moderately upscale "yuppie" establishments that offer some of the traditional foods (e.g. meatloaf, pork chops, open-faced roast beef sandwich), but probably also offer avocado toast with an arugula and goat cheese salad on the side. They don't look like diners, they don't feel like diners, and even if you can order two eggs over easy with bacon and grits, it just isn't going to have the same feel or weigh in on the same price range.

Another restaurant type I'm thinking of in this general class is the truck stop. As recently as maybe 30 years ago, the only "chain brand" associated with any particular truck stop was usually which brand of gasoline they sold. The restaurant was a greasy spoon affair where you could get the aforementioned eggs/bacon/grits with a bottomless cup of coffee and a slice of pie (probably baked there) to top it all off, and not break the bank. Then the brands started taking over, and today most "truck stops" are gas stations / convenience stores with fast food chain restaurant attached.

All is not lost, of course. There are still un-pretentious, not-pricey, laid-back local places. And on the chain side, there's still Waffle House. I hope those places don't die out completely. I've got nothing against fast food, or the slightly more upscale dine-in options. But this is one respect in which I miss "the good old days" that are slipping away.

Libertarianism and "Generations"

Over the last few years, I've run into a number of individuals -- most of them, just to be clear, fine libertarian thinkers and activists -- who identify themselves as "second-generation libertarians." I take this to mean that one or both of their parents are/were libertarians, and that they were raised in an environment where libertarianism was discussed and/or taught, and/or exemplified.

I don't like the term "nth-generation libertarian."

Libertarianism is a philosophy, not an eye color. It's not something genetically inherited or magically transmitted. Even if it's discussed, taught, or exemplified, it has to be knowingly accepted or adopted.

From this, it seems to me that one of these three things are likely to come along with the whole idea of "nth-generation" libertarianism:

  1. The "nth-generation" libertarian is selling herself or himself short, not taking due credit for having done the work to learn about libertarianism, having recognized libertarianism as a correct philosophy, and having adopted and practiced it. Sure, you can be grateful to your parents for having exposed you to it, but you were the one who decided to be or not be a libertarian. In my experience, this is probably the most frequent case.
  2. The "nth-generation" libertarian doesn't really understand what libertarianism is, and the "generation" claim is no different than assuming one's self to be a "nth-generation" Christian because mommy and daddy were Christians, even though one has not done whatever things that particular type of Christian entails (e.g. being "saved" or "born again" in typical modern American evangelical Christianity).
  3. In the worst case, probably an extension of the previous one, the "nth-generation" libertarian sells whatever he or she happens to believe as "libertarian," treating that "nth-generationalism," rather than the actual merit of the ideas involved, as the test of what constitutes libertarianism.
What do you guys think?

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

What Elsa Ya Got?

So far, in my neighborhood anyway, Tropical Storm Elsa is producing some gusts of wind typical of any thunderstorm. I've had one brief Internet outage and no power outages.

Which means I'm sitting at the computer, getting as much work done as possible before things get worse. If they do. And they may.

Not great weather, but thankfully there didn't seem to be a need to pack up family and pets and go seek better shelter. Hopefully that judgment call will prove sound. If not, well, that's how it goes.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Grinds My Gears: No Zero

I read a lot -- non-fiction and fiction, the latter in several genres.

My "light" reading tends toward thrillers of various sorts, from spy novels to legal potboilers to police procedurals to "guy or gal wandering around and getting into hairy situations" stuff like.

Many, maybe even most, of these novels, for obvious reasons, reference firearms. Some do a better job of getting those references right (Stephen Hunter's novels in which the protagonist is sniper Bob Lee Swagger, for instance, go into loving and seemingly correct detail quite often). Some do a worse job. Sometimes a bad job.

Here's one thing that bothers me in many of those novels, even the ones that get shooting technique, etc., mostly right:

The protagonist is in a situation requiring gun work. He or she is a skilled, experienced shooter. The shooting technique is well-described.

BUT! The shooter picks up a random rifle -- maybe off a bad guy's corpse, maybe from the closet of a fellow protagonist, whatever -- engages in proper known-distance shooting technique (good sight picture, good stock weld, proper eye relief, stable position, etc.; Breathe, Relax, Aim, Stop, Squeeze), and puts his or her first round in the chest, or even the head, of an antagonist at, say, 300 meters.

Do you see the problem here? I'm no sniper, but I was a trained marksmanship instructor in the Marine Corps, and what I just described doesn't happen except under a very unlikely set of circumstances: That the rifle's sight or scope just happens to already be battlesight zeroed to the standard (for the M16A2, the last rifle I taught, anyway) 300 meters that the individual shooter requires.

That would be insanely unlikely to happen to me. I don't remember the dope on the last M16A2 the Marine Corps issued me (it's been more than 25 years), but it was a crap ton of clicks on the rear sight, likely for the simple reason that I learned to shoot right-handed and right-eyed even though I am left-handed and left-eye dominant.

Even for a right-handed, right-eye-dominant shooter shooting right handed and right-eyed, any random rifle is almost certainly not going to put its first round right where a dead-center sight picture or scope crosshair shows the round hitting at any significant range.

I suppose some writers know this but decide they can't let it interfere with the flow of action, while perhaps other writers aren't really familiar with firearms and skip to the good part (the combat shooting) instead of researching the work that goes in before the shooting starts. But it bugs the shit out of me every time I see it.

That is all.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Size is Starting to Matter

While I was traveling, I noticed that I seem to be having a harder time reading both my phone and my laptop screen.

My last eye exam was only a few months ago, but I think I may go in early to see if my "near" vision is sliding (and, since I have been running "high normal" ocular pressure for years, to get a re-check and make sure glaucoma isn't finally manifesting).

For years, I've been able to avoid either doing bifocals or just rocking two pairs of glasses. I wear glasses for everything "distance." That is, everything except reading a book, phone screen, computer screen, etc. If my "near" vision is degrading, I'll probably just keep one pair of glasses for reading and one for "distance" rather than trying to get used to bifocals.

BUT! I'm getting ready to reorganize my office, and buy a new (fairly cheap) computer desk to replace the one I've had for more than a decade (IIRC -- it was either a yard sale or hand-me-down-from-a-friend item, isn't really the shape I like, and wasn't in the greatest shape when I got it).

As I do that, I may go ahead and shell out for bigger monitors. I run a two-monitor setup, both 19". I may go to a larger size. Since I like prime numbers*, probably either 23.x" or 29". Not that that would solve the phone and laptop reading problem, but it would be, well, cool. If I can find a really good deal, anyway. But I see monitors for $5 at garage sales all the time, so I can probably do it that way.

* It's not so much that I like prime numbers as that I'm slightly obsessed with them. I didn't mention it to my travel partner, but having camp site #46 at PorcFest bugged me a little. If 47 hadn't been taken, I might have asked if we could move over one site. But I wasn't quite obsessed enough to ask anyone if we could trade sites. I'm not sure why prime numbers bother me so much. I have a history of mild OCD (not diagnosed, but when you go back three times to make sure you've locked the house door every time, you know). I've mostly, but not completely, gotten over the desire to move in a clockwise direction whenever possible. At PorcFest, I usually took shorter routes even if they ran counter-clockwise, and it didn't really bother me.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Thanks For Asking! -- 07/01/21



* Ask in the comments below this post
** I'll answer in comments, or link to an answer in some other location/format