Friday, August 18, 2017

Some of These Make Sense

At least one of them most manifestly does not.

The above, according to my Blogger stats, are search terms that led people to click through to KN@PPSTER.

The Lawn is a Tax


Christopher Cantwell Died for Your Sins

Well, OK, not exactly. But he's becoming the poster boy for a kind of Internet martyrdom. More at the Garrison Center.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Three Things (or, WTF, @jaxx_io?)

Thing One: On July 29, Jaxx released a "Statement on Bitcoin Cash" via the Decentral Blog. Money quote:

As a multi-platform, multi-currency blockchain wallet, over the past many days, we have been flooded with requests to support Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Yesterday, we officially made the decision to work towards full integration.

Since Jaxx users are always in control of their private keys, corresponding Bitcoin Cash (BCH) will be safe in your Jaxx wallet. However, please know that you will not be able to access/send/receive your Bitcoin Cash (BCH) until the integration takes place.

The process of downloading and indexing the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) blockchain is lengthy. We are currently downloading the blockchain and expect indexing to start shortly. The indexing of a blockchain as big as Bitcoin’s has an unknown duration and could take anywhere from a few days to 1 to 2 weeks. You will be then able to claim them once Jaxx fully integrates Bitcoin Cash (BCH) into the wallet.

Thing Two: Yesterday, Jamie Redman of reported:

On August 16 at approximately 8 am EDT the mining pool Bitclub Network mined an 8MB block on the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) blockchain. Block #479469 cleared over 37,000 transactions from the mempool making it the largest block found so far on the BCH chain. Meanwhile, the BCH network continues to capture infrastructure development and industry support.

Thing Three: As of now, I'm still waiting on Jaxx to "fully integrate Bitcoin Cash into the wallet." Presumably I'm not some outlier awaiting a wallet update that others have already received -- as of three hours ago, the Jaxx area on Reddit had a comment titled "Any ETA on bitcoin cash support?"

A Brief Note on Philosophical Debate versus Marketing Practice

One line I hear frequently in internal libertarian movement debate is that it's entirely possible to be both a bigot and a libertarian. That is, one could conceivably have an aversion to some group (racial, gender/sexual minority, whatever) without advocating for the initiation of force against that group.

True as far as it goes, I guess. And it could also be said that it's entirely possible to be a libertarian and also to really like goat feces, diesel fuel, and fire.

But I'm betting that if there are media and public inquiries to the Libertarian Party after some idiot rolls around in a mixture of goat feces and diesel fuel, then sets himself on fire in his front yard while screaming "LIBERTARIAN! LIBERTARIAN!" the response is going to be "yeah, that's not us."

What do You Want, Erick Erickson, Egg in Your Beer?

Short version of his latest:

Nationalism through and through, but

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I Dreamed I Saw Heather Heyer Last Night

Seems she was a Wobbly.

H/t Steve Trinward.

Breaking: UF Says No to Richard Spencer Speech

Just forwarded to me:

Dear Campus Community:

Amid serious concerns for safety, we have decided to deny the National Policy Institute's request to rent event space at the University of Florida.

This decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community, state and federal law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., and continued calls online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: "The Next Battlefield is in Florida."

I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for.

That said, the University of Florida remains unwaveringly dedicated to free speech and the spirit of public discourse. However, the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others.

The likelihood of violence and potential injury - not the words or ideas - has caused us to take this action.

Warm Regards,
W. Kent Fuchs
University of Florida

I do not expect that this will stop Spencer from coming to Gainesville and speaking, and he probably has good grounds for a 1st Amendment suit if UF is departing from normal policy here.

I expect Spencer to come, and I expect his thug army to arrive with him. In other words, I don't think the situation has really changed.

OK, My @YesYoureRacist Reveal

A couple of days ago, I put up a reader poll on "Using Twitter to crowdsource identification of the Charlottesville white nationalists with the intention of getting them fired from their jobs," with a promise to come back later and offer my own response to that poll. Current results:

  • 1 vote (4%): Yeah, they're fair game, but only because they're racist scumbags.
  • 16 votes (64%): Yeah, anyone who takes part in a public political action is fair game for being publicly identified with possible negative consequences.
  • 6 votes (24%): No, that's not cool. You should be able to participate in public life without risking your job, even if you're on the side of evil.
  • 1 vote (4%): Who cares?
  • 1 vote (4%): Other, user-created -- "Raise the hate on both sides so that Civil War becomes inevitable."
I'm personally with the 64% -- anyone who takes part in a public political action is fair game for being publicly identified with possible negative consequences. And as I explain in my latest Garrison Center column, I find the whole @YesYoureRacist project to be a really cool example of how to crowdsource negative social preferencing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Here's Trump's Chance to be a Hero

From Al Jazeera:

The Taliban called on President Donald Trump on Tuesday to review the strategy for the war in Afghanistan and to hold peaceful dialogue directly with Afghans instead of engaging "corrupt" politicians.

Written in a tone of negotiation, the Taliban asked Trump to study the "historical mistakes" of his predecessors and to withdraw troops from Afghanistan completely.

The letter urged the US to interact with Afghans "generously" instead of imposing war.


In a press conference on Monday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said all options for Afghanistan remained on the table, and a full withdrawal of troops is one of them.

Trump has yet to announce a strategy for Afghanistan, but Mattis said one is "very, very close."

Like Colonel Kilgore said, "someday this war's gonna end."

Mattis is wrong on one thing. It's not going to end in anything resembling "victory" for the US. That option is not on the table.

The best-case scenario is for the US to exit Afghanistan on its feet rather than on its knees.

If Trump just comes out soon and says "that was a 16-year clusterfuck and I'm putting an end to it," he secures at least one positive legacy.

Or, he and/or his successors can keep messing around until it turns into something like this:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Reader Poll: @YesYoureRacist

So, there's this. The idea is to identify the white nationalists from Charlottesville and make sure e.g. their employers know what they're up to when they're not mopping floors, servicing septic tanks or designing particle accelerators. What do you think? I'll tell you what I think ... later, in a separate post, so as not to press my own biases.

I Think I May be Due for a Climbdown ...

... on the whole "punch a Nazi" thing.

Disclaimer: I'm still a free speech fundamentalist. If some idiot racist knothead wants to get up on a soapbox or a stage and preach his nonsense, I believe he has a right to do just that and that anyone who attempts to forcibly stop him is at least as much an enemy of humanity as he is. On the other hand, there's a good chance I will be found standing nearby with a sign pointing out that he's an idiot, racist, and knothead, which I also have a right to do.

Over the last few months I've been told by some -- including some I respect -- that the above position is too lenient, and that to the extent that these idiot racist knotheads are allowed to organize unmolested, they are being empowered to actually pursue their actual goals, e.g. boxcars and gas chambers.

There's a respect in which I'm beginning to come around to the possibility that the people telling me that are at least partially right and that I've been at least partially wrong. Here's my current thinking:

In February, Augustus Invictus publicly threatened to murder his political opponents (between the 7 and 8 minute mark in this video):

A few weeks ago, Augustus Invictus announced, in conspiracy with others, a "March on Charlottesville" to "Unite The Right":

The night before the scheduled march, Augustus Invictus announced, in words and graphics, that his intention was no longer just to hold a "march on" Charlottesville but to fight "The Battle of" Charlottesville:

You've probably heard about what went down in Charlottesville the next day, so I won't belabor it at length. Summary:

The people named on the poster above, including Augustus Invictus, came to Charlottesville with an army, looking for a fight, and they got one. One of them even strapped on some testosterone and actually did what Augustus Invictus and his co-conspirators have been threatening, both explicitly and implicitly, to do, murdering a 32-year-old woman in the street. Of course, now they're pulling their typical identity politics schtick about how they're really the victims in all this, but the record is pretty clear.

Now, one of of Augustus Invictus's co-conspirators, Richard Spencer, is coming to my town (I'll be surprised if Augustus doesn't show up as well).

I remain a free speech fundamentalist. I respect Spencer's right to babble nonsense in public and will, to the extent I'm able, defend that right.

But I rather expect that he's going to show up with a gaggle of morons in tow, sporting their gang colors and implements -- helmets, baseball bats, swastika flags, etc. -- and looking for a fight.

I plan to be among the natives waiting here to greet said gaggle of morons. And based on what happened in Charlottesville, I'm of the eminently reasonable belief that they intend to engage in the use of unlawful force and the commission of forcible felonies, and that they represent a threat of imminent death or great bodily harm to others present.

Gee, that language sounds familiar. I wonder where I've heard it before?

Florida Statute 776.012: Use or threatened use of force in defense of person

(1) A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.

(2) A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

If it's trouble they're looking for, they probably shouldn't expect to get off quite so smart and easy in Gainesville as they did in Charlottesville.

Note: I'm told that the word "climbdown" in the title may be unfamiliar or, due to multiple definitions, confusing. I'm using it to mean "a retraction of a previously held position."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Congratulations to Christopher Cantwell

He finally made the Washington Post! Photo 6 of 9 up top. Caption: "An officer helps a white nationalist after tear gas was sprayed." I'm sure several friends of mine will enjoy seeing that (not that they would likely look any better after going unmasked in a cloud of CS -- I've had that pleasure many times).  Face crop:

In photo 3 of 9, is that Ryan Ramsey of Florida taking a selfie there on the left? [Update: Ramsey says it's not him and that he wouldn't treat a tiki torch that way] I can't tell and I'm thinking probably not (he and his wife just had a new baby a couple of days ago), but inquiring minds do want to know:

Update --Hat tip to the aforementioned Ryan Ramsey (who doesn't seem to be in Virginia) for  this ...

Friday, August 11, 2017

I Wonder ...

I don't have my copy of Frederick Pohl's autobiography The Way The Future Was handy (I assume it's still packed away from the move nearly five years ago as many, many, many books are), so I have to relate this from memory and it may not completely correct:

During World War Two, before Pohl managed to get into the military (he started trying right after Pearl Harbor, kept getting turned down, then got drafted and became an Army Air Corps meteorologist in Italy), he was working for one of the big editors (probably John W. Campbell) on one of the pulp magazines (probably Astounding), and ran a story featuring an atomic bomb.

Most ricky-tick, FBI agents showed up to find out who knew what, and how they'd found it out. Of course, no one knew anything. It was just science fiction, for the love of Pete. So the feds grumbled and demanded to be contacted before any more of this atomic bomb stuff got published and went away.

If the atomic bomb was just being invented today, right now, and a story like that got published, would the author/editor/publisher end up wearing a hood and shackles en route to some black site, or would FDR/Trump have a public meltdown about treasonous leaks, or would the whole thing just get ignored and/or dismissed as bizarre fiction and/or conspiracy theory?

FYI, Pohl's book is a great memoir  both of early science fiction fandom and of being a Depression-era rank and file American member of the Communist Party.

Nothing New Under The Sun?

I'm reading Bruce Cook's biography of Dalton Trumbo (which formed the basis for, and was re-released as a tie-in for, the superb eponymous film starring Bryan Cranston). This morning, while reading over the day's second cup of coffee, I came across this:

[Trumbo, as editor of the Screen Writer] insisted, perhaps a little disingenuously, that his only standards were literary quality, general relevance, and respect for the [Screen Writers] Guild and its policies and objectives. Richard Macaulay, a screenwriter of conservative leanings and a vigorous anti-Communist, put him to the test with an article, "Who Censors What?" on movie content which was in rebuttal to an earlier piece by Alvah Bessie. As editor, Trumbo rejected Macaulay's article, taking the same shaky position that Herbert Marcuse would two decades later, as he argued, "It is difficult to support your belief in the 'inalienable right' of man's mind to be exposed to any thought whatever, however intolerable that thought might be to 'anyone else.' Frequently such a right encroaches upon the right of others to their lives. It was this 'inalienable right' in Fascist countries which directly resulted in the slaughter of five million Jews.'"

Sounds a lot like the same action/justification as the formal "no platform" policies popular on what's passed for "the left" since the 1970s (once they'd taken full advantage of the '60s Free Speech Movement, etc. to firmly establish their own platform access) and at present by e.g. Antifa groups, doesn't it?

Of course, the right-wing blacklist campaign that hit Trumbo and many of his friends a few years after the incident above was a variation on the same theme -- a variation that seems to be popping up again in tech and other fields, albeit from the putative "left" and without the HUAC-style fireworks (to the extent that there's government influence, it's mostly in the use of general federal equal opportunity regulations as cover for sanctions and dismissals a la James Damore at Google).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Apropos of Nothing in Particular ...

Anecdotally, it seems to me that whenever I come across the word "discourse" near the beginning of an essay, there's a far better than even chance that I'm about to read some bullshit.

They Keep Using That Phrase, "Net Neutrality." I do Not Think it Means What They Think it Means.

I'm not quite sure how I got on Demand Progress's email list. Maybe I subscribed to it to track this or that political issue, or maybe someone subscribed me to it without my knowledge. Either way, while I don't mind getting their emails, I can pretty reliably predict that those emails will be full of fail. Like this:

Dear Thomas,

Verizon Wireless was just caught in the act of what looks like a blatant violation net neutrality.

Last week, without warning or permission from its customers, Verizon throttled bandwidth speeds down to 10Mbs. Users trying to stream video or use certain apps were caught in an internet slow lane and couldn't do anything about it.

This doesn't look like a violation of "Net Neutrality" to me. In fact, it looks like an implementation of "Net Neutrality." Per Wikipedia:

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet must treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.

If Verizon had reduced its speeds only for particular content -- say, Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video only got 10Mbs speeds while Bing, Gmail,  and the Hamster Dance got 20Mbs speeds -- well, that would be a violation of "Net Neutrality."

But simply moving all data from all sources in the same way and presumptively at the same speeds is precisely what "Net Neutrality" calls for. And if that means that someone streaming Rogue One in high definition gets a choppy picture? Well, that's how it goes -- their data got treated exactly like the data going to the user checking her email and the junior high kid spanking the monkey to Chelsea Manning's Vogue swimsuit pic (not being a junior high kid, I actually read the accompanying article, of course).

So suck it, "Net Neutrality" megalomaniacs. You demanded it, you got it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A Fairly Safe Prediction, I Think ...

Open US military operations versus North Korea within ~30 days.

Why I think so:

First, while it's easy to discount Trump's outbursts, his "fire and fury and frankly power" "if [North Korea] does not stop threatening the United States"* statement yesterday is coupled with the leaking of "intelligence" -- actually preparatory propaganda -- intended to justify just that. From the WaPo story linked above:

Trump's statement also followed a report in The Washington Post that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its ballistic missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power. The report quoted a confidential assessment by U.S. intelligence officials.

In actuality, 1) North Korea still seems to be at the stage of producing bulky fission weapons; 2) the recent claims (from both Pyongyang and DC) that the North has developed an ICBM capable of reaching US targets seem pretty sketchy; and 3) even if the North has produced real nukes (fusion weapons) and even if the North does now theoretically have the capacity to hit the US with missiles, miniaturizing those hypothetical nukes and mating them with those hypothetical missiles and expecting them to detonate at the far end of an arc taking them to the edge of space is another giant leap.

Secondly, I've previously predicted that in the event of such a conflict, the Chinese regime will be tuned up and ready for an invitation from the North's military to intervene as "peacekeepers" after a brief US air war and the collapse of the Kim regime. They seem to be rattling sabers as prelude to such a scheme.

As I've previously predicted, I don't think a US ground invasion of the North is part of the plan. For one thing, that would take a major, highly visible, time-consuming ramp-up. The North would likely decide to kick things off themselves long before the US gets its ginormous mass of troops, tanks, etc. landed and in position.

What US ground combat there is will take place along the 38th parallel "demilitarized zone" (which of course means the opposite of what its name implies). That will get ugly, and there will be casualties, but I don't expect the North to be able to wreck, let alone occupy, Seoul as some people like to predict -- some artillery/rocket fire at extreme range in the first hours, trailing off as the North's guns are turned into twisted piles of metal by US air and artillery, if they don't run out of ammunition first (resupply won't be happening).

The US, from the air, will first of all destroy any and all ballistic missile and/or atomic sites it knows of (and it knows of most, if not all, of them), followed by C3I (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence) targets and road/transportation targets. The first objective will be to make it impossible for the North's military to function as an offensive force at the DMZ or outside the Korean peninsula. The second will be to make the North's military come apart at the seams in general. And the third will be to ensure that the Kim regime loses any ability to direct its military forces, presumably culminating in one or more generals deciding that it's time to march Kim Jong Un and friends around back for a bullet party right before asking Beijing to come in and restore order.

Obviously, the more detailed predictions above are more risky than the one in the first sentence. But I think it's coming soon, and I do think that's how it will go ... now let's see whether or not I'm right so I can either crow or eat crow (frankly I'd much rather do the latter on this one).

* It's worth noting the content of the "threats" Trump cites as reason for his own threats. To wit (WaPo op. cit.):

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told diplomats that his country will never negotiate away what he called a rational "strategic option" against the threat of attack from the United States.

Bombast notwithstanding, the North's "threat" is that it will defend itself if attacked and that it will build and maintain a nuclear arsenal as a deterrent to attack.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Everything Old is New Again

OK, so maybe not everything. But for the first time, KN@PPSTER's Big Freakin' Book of Stuff is available in an Amazon Kindle edition, thanks to one of the early pioneers of e-books, J Neil Schulman.

When I first published the book in print/epub/mobi/PDF versions, I tried to tickle the funny bones of would-be entrepreneurs by noting that it was in the public domain, that anyone could do anything they liked with it, and that it was not available on Amazon. Nobody took the bait. I finally talked Neil into it, and thank him for making it happen.

If you haven't read the book, or if you have read it but would like it for your Kindle, hey, it's only $1.99, and I'm aware that Neil could use the money. So read a pretty good book and help a movement hero out at the same time.

The User Activated Hard Fork is About to Happen ...

... here in a couple of hours, although there will be dislocations/issues early on. Bitcoin is going to split into BTC (Bitcoin) and BCC (Bitcoin Cash).

To the extent that I "go long" (I have very little cryptocurrency), my plan is to probably do so on BCC. Here's why:

Regular old Bitcoin is going to implement a "solution" (Segregated Witness) to a problem that's entirely artificial, created by "Big Mining" to preserve its big take at the expense of the cryptocurrency becoming slower and more expensive to use than it should have become.

Bitcoin Cash is going to solve that "problem" by doing exactly what its creator envisioned (increasing the block size so that transactions can get back to being processed quickly and cheaply).

It's not so much that I expect Bitcoin Cash to "win" as that I want it to, because I want a working cryptocurrency -- something I'll eventually be able to use to buy a Coke at a convenience store. If either of these two currencies might become that, I think Bitcoin Cash is the one to bet on.

I do expect BCC to almost immediately crash in price and BTC to gain -- and if I can move fast enough and predict the equation well enough to take advantage of that, I will be exchanging my BTC for BCC. Because in the long term, I expect BCC to do well, regardless of how BTC does.

If you think BCC is crap and is going to quickly become worthless, I encourage you to donate yours to me -- as soon as my preferred wallet starts taking BCC, I'll get a QR code up for you to do so :) You can, of course, send me regular old BTC via the right sidebar already.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ten Days That Shook the West Wing ...

Scaramucci's out.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

How to Double Your Cryptocurrency (or, How to Not Lose Half Your Cryptocurrency)

This is NOT a technical piece on the likely coming "fork" of Bitcoin. Rather, it's just a very quick explainer on how to protect yourself and/or possibly make out well from that stuff.

The quick and dirty: On August 1st, what you now know as "Bitcoin" will become two currencies: Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCC). This is happening because most of the Bitcoin community has agreed to implement something called Segwit 2x, while a minority have decided to go in a different direction by increasing the block size.

When this "hard fork" happens, under certain circumstances, your Bitcoin will "double" in a sense. That is, if you currently have one Bitcoin (1.0 BTC), you will suddenly have one Bitcoin (1.0 BTC) and one Bitcoin Cash (1.0 BCC).

Here's the under certain circumstances:

If your Bitcoin is in an online exchange AND that exchange supports both currencies, you should have equal amounts of each at the point where they split (if it doesn't, presumably your BCC will disappear, possibly into a wallet owned by that exchange, possibly not, but either way, you only have the one currency, and only have as much as you had of it).

Or, better yet, if you keep your Bitcoin in a walled to which you have the keys, you will definitely be able to manifest equal balances of each at point of fork.

I recommend the latter course. There are numerous wallets which allow the user to control/possess his or her own keys. Get one now and get your BTC moved into it before August 1st. I personally use and recommend the Jaxx wallet. The folks at Jaxx have not yet said whether they'll be supporting Bitcoin Cash, but it doesn't matter -- since the keys are yours, if they don't you can just plug your keys into a wallet that DOES support BCC after the fork happens.

Now, the VALUE of your cryptocurrency will not necessarily double. It could be that one or the other currencies will crash in value after the fork if most people don't want to mess with one of them. My perception is that most people expect moneyBTC to continue to be the premier cryptocurrency and BCC to likely fade away fairly quickly. But heck, as long as you CAN have both at no additional expense to yourself, it only makes sense to do so.

I've tried to keep this simple, and I'm not going to get into which currency I expect to better or why, or whether I prefer the BTC solution (Segwit 2x, which in theory eventually increases block size) or the BCC solution (massive increase in block size). The ONLY point of this post is to let you know that if you have Bitcoin in an online exchange and do not control the keys to your wallet, you should take care of that NOW to protect, and possibly enrich, yourself.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Transgender Double Bind Works to Trump's Advantage

First, three disclaimers:

  • I do not consider any gender identification to be an illness (physical or mental) or disability (unless it is intentionally made so by e.g. discrimination).
  • I do not consider sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity to be a legitimate criterion for discrimination by government as such, including when it comes to standards for serving in the armed forces; either the prospective recruit can do the job, or not, and that's all that should matter. But on the other hand ...
  • I don't have a lot of sympathy for a desire to join the armed forces. Like Smedley Butler said, war is a racket. The armed forces of the world's various states are the sharp pointy ends of the global sticks wielded by violent criminal gangs.

So, all that said, what we have here is a variant of the "double bind":

A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response.

The "individual (or group)" caught in the "dilemma" here is the transgender community, and the double bind is a result not of receiving, but of sending, two conflicting messages. The result is not so much that they are "wrong," but rather that any response to the conflicting messages can plausibly be treated as the right response.

Message one: Gender identity is a social convention and there's no inherent problem with any gender identity. That is (for example -- there are lots of possible permutations), a person who was born with the biological/anatomical characteristics of a "male," but who identifies and presents publicly as a "female," is not defective, broken, sick, etc. The person just happens to be outside the middle, "normal" range of the bell curve representing gender identity. No biggie unless you're some kind of bigot.

Message two: "Gender dysphoria" -- a self-perceived disconnect between biological/anatomical characteristics and gender identity --  is a medical condition for which treatment (including but not limited to psychological counseling, hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery) is appropriate.

Message two gives Donald Trump, as well as military leaders who, for whatever reason, don't want transgender people in the ranks of the armed forces, an out. If it is a medical condition, it is a PRE-EXISTING medical condition. And the armed forces have always rejected people with pre-existing medical conditions that might represent either a handicap for the recruit in accomplishing the mission or an extra expense or problem for the military in addressing. You're not going to get into the military with cancer or hepatitis or paraplegia.

If trans people want to join the armed forces (as noted in the disclaimer above, I hope they don't, because I hope nobody does), they're going to need to give up the claim that gender identity implies illness, and the demand that the military let them in while they're ill and then spend money on treating their illness.

Of course, there's a reason for claims of "gender dysphoria as a medical condition" in the first place and that reason is, as you might guess, the state. One cannot legally self-prescribe hormones or procure sex reassignment surgery without going through the state's insanely expensive medical monopolies on doctoring, dispensing drugs, etc. You can only get those things -- and get them covered by "insurance" -- if they're treatment for something. Otherwise, dealing with a "gender dysphoria" problem would likely be no more expensive than maintaining a cigarette habit and/or getting an expensive tattoo (things that people do all the time both before and after joining the armed forces).

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I'm Sure You Know This, But Just in Case You Don't ...

When the Washington Post reports that ...

North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year, U.S. officials have concluded in a confidential assessment that dramatically shrinks the timeline for when Pyongyang could strike North American cities with atomic weapons. ... The DIA has concluded that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be able to produce a "reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM" program sometime in 2018, meaning that by next year the program will have advanced from prototype to assembly line, according to officials familiar with the document.

... what the Post is really reporting is that we're being prepped with propaganda to justify a US attack on North Korea.

That doesn't mean the attack will happen. It just means that we're being conditioned to accept it as absolutely, regrettably necessary if it does happen, in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons that we were told about Kuwaiti babies being thrown out of their incubators in 1990, Saddam having a chemical weapons program circa 2003, Iran being within six months of having a nuclear weapon (for 20 years running), etc.

My best guess:

  • North Korea probably doesn't even have a true nuclear weapon yet. They've tested some old-timey fission weapons like those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Max yield, 30 kilotons at the outside. Will they get a real nuke in the next year? I suppose it's possible, but I wouldn't count on it. A fission weapon is pretty forgiving. If you mash two pieces of fissile material together hard and fast enough, in a fairly simple container, you'll get the fission chain reaction you want. An H-bomb is orders of magnitude more complicated. A whole bunch of stuff has to happen in exactly the right order, at exactly at the right time, and within very narrow measurements, for the thing to work.
  • Even if North Korea does have a working fusion weapon (unlikely) and even if North Korea  does have a missile capable of reaching the US (not terribly unlikely but not certain either), putting those two things together and expecting the former to detonate successfully at the end of the latter's flight isn't a task on complexity par with changing the oil in a 1966 Impala. It's complicated too.
  • Pegging the likelihood that North Korea will be able to "field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile" and the nuke to put on it by next year at one in a million is wildly optimistic (from their perspective).
The "assessment" is moonshine, and the "leak" is one of the pre-approved ones I allude to in today's Garrison Center column. The entire purpose of both is practical politics a la HL Mencken.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Brief Musing on the Prospective Role of Capital Punishment as Imposed by Non-State Actors

I am, generally speaking, opposed to capital punishment as it is used by the state.To my mind it violates any reasonable conception of "limited government." What's "limited" about the legal power engage in the leisurely, cold-blooded, unnecessary killing of a disarmed prisoner? That kind of power of life and death is unlimited government in my opinion.

I do support the death penalty for violent crimes, if administered at the time and scene of the crime, by the victim or someone plausibly acting on the victim's behalf, based on reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm if they don't kill the attacker.

But lately I'm thinking about a different sort of death penalty. This sort would be administered by non-state actors, and only semi-discriminately in that anyone involved in the criminal conspiracy known as "the state" would be subject to it as required to correct or retaliate for violent state criminal action.

To wit, I believe that denizens of the "Dark Web" and other unauthorized entrepreneurs would be justified in notifying the US government that there will be lethal consequences to actions like:

  • The abduction of Ross Ulbricht for (absent successful appeal or clemency) two life terms plus 40 years without the possibility of parole for the "crime" of operating a web site without state permission; or
  • The death (allegedly a suicide) of alleged Alphabay founder Alexandre Cazes in Thai custody pursuant to an extradition request by the United States.
The problem here is that  it would be difficult to set up a successful operation to arrest, try and incarcerate someone like US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Andrew G McCabe or US District Court judge Katherine Forrest for their crimes against humanity. Or, for that matter, to arrest, try and incarcerate anyone, especially members of the world's largest criminal gang, the US government. So the only really available penalty is death.

On the other hand, there's no "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" problem when it comes to that gang. By definition, its employees are all parties to conspiracy to commit the crimes that the gang commits, and for the most part they do not hide their identities or the fact that they are functionaries of said gang. So any random conspirator could be easily identified and selected to bear the brunt of the penalty.

What I have in mind is some sort of Dark Web Security Consortium with a judicial body and an enforcement arm, funded by contributions from the entrepreneurs (maybe a "please fund this" voluntary add-on of a fraction of a percent on each transaction), that adjudicates incidents, passes sentence, and funds execution of said sentence (perhaps through a Jim Bell "Assassination Politics" style prediction market if a particular culprit is sentenced, perhaps in some other way like the "pick a random conspirator or conspirators" approach). The consortium goes into action when the US government criminally assaults any consortium member (and possibly even non-members if the case comes to the consortium's notice).

Something like this:

The next time a Ross Ulbricht is arrested, the consortium notifies the US Department of Justice that if bail is denied, one US government employee of GS-5 or lower rank, said employee to be selected randomly or at opportunity, will be executed.

As the stakes increase (obviously fixed trial, insane sentence, etc.), the number and rank of conspirators to be executed increases incrementally, with due advance notice to the Department of Justice at each step that if DoJ buys the ticket, US government employees are going to take the ride.

Of course, if this consortium comes into existence and threatens to take those actions, they're going to have to follow through and actually put those .22 bullets in those skulls. Holding the state's actors accountable for their crimes ain't beanbag. But it looks like it's ceasing to be an option and starting to become an imperative.

... And He's Back

Sorry for the week-long absence, guys.

My father died early last Monday evening, and I headed down to Tampa that night to catch an early morning flight to Missouri.

I had planned on blogging at least a little while I was up there, but various factors made that difficult.

Of course, there was a funeral to help prepare for, and the funeral itself, and so forth.

Instead of the usual hotel with wi-fi, I stayed with my mother. That mean using a cell phone "hot spot" for Internet access, and since someone else pays for that data, I didn't want to use it any more than absolutely necessary. In addition to which, I thought paying attention to Mom was more important than paying attention to y'all at the moment. Nothing personal, understand. Just a matter of priorities. Last week, she got top slot at your expense. I trust you understand.

So, I'll get back with the blogging now.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Donald L. Knapp, August 23, 1933 - July 17, 2017

Got the call a few minutes ago. I knew it was coming. That doesn't make it any easier.

He taught me my first guitar chords. He taught me how to change the oil in my 1966 Impala. He taught me the meaning of work, and he was an expert at that. He did whatever it took to keep a roof over my head, a shirt on my back, and food on my plate and to get me out into the world equipped to survive.

No, he wasn't perfect. But it seemed like the older I got the smarter he got, until one day he was old and not quite as tall or as strong any more as I'd once thought he was.

He was my dad.

I miss him.

Thanks For Asking! -- 07/17/17

Sponsor message from Paul Stanton:

All politics is local.  Without local organization, state and national candidates cannot be successful.

Ask me anything (anything) in comments below this post. I'll answer in comments, on the podcast, or both.

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 133: (Almost) On The Road Again

But first, a message from sponsor Paul Stanton:

All politics is local.  Without local organization, state and national candidates cannot be successful.

In This Episode: Thanks For Asking! (Party Loyalty; Bookwormery; Collateral Murder Viewing Break; The Shire) :: Venue Anti-Rant (for background, see here).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I Guess I Understand The Trend Toward Soda Taxes

After all, my whole life I've had people telling me that all politics is Lo Cal.

The Two Most Prevalent Thick Libertarianisms I'm Seeing at the Moment Are ...

Bordertarianism: "We can't have freedom to travel because welfare state."

NetNeutralitytarianism: "We can't have an absence of corporate welfare for Big Content because Big Telecom monopolies."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

While Awaiting Delivery of my Echo Dot* ...

... I decided to look into creating "skills" for Amazon's line of voice-controlled devices (e.g. "Hey, Alexa, play the Grateful Dead channel on Amazon Music").

Took about 10 minutes to create my first skill, which is awaiting certification now. If it is accepted, people will be able to add Rational Review News Digest to their news/"flash briefing" options. That is, when they say "Alexa, what's the news?" or "Alexa, what's my Flash briefing?" the device's pleasant female voice will read the most recent items from RRND's RSS feed to them.

I'm not sure there's any point in doing the same thing with KN@PPSTER proper (this blog). What do you think? I am going to see if it's easy to put The KN@PP Stir Podcast available as a "skill" (it's already available over those devices indirectly, via TuneIn).

* Yes, my only Amazon Prime Day purchase was an Echo Dot. The sale price was several dollars less than their best regular price (that you had to buy a 3-pack to get), and I also got a $10 credit with Amazon as a bonus for placing my first "voice order" using Alexa (on my Fire TV stick).

A Reminder: "Net Neutrality" is Also an Internet Censorship Enabling Act

Today is the day when Big Content pretends to be "defending the free and open Internet" by protesting the possible repeal of the Federal Communications Commission's "Net Neutrality" rule.

The main -- and quite sound -- argument against Net Neutrality is that it is a subsidy to Big Content at the expense of ISP customers.

That is, Netflix and Amazon and Google don't want to pay the costs of building and maintaining fatter pipes to carry their high-bandwidth content (e.g. streaming high-definition video).

Rather than be the ones hiking subscription fees or advertising rates for their customers, they prefer to let the ISPs be the bad guys who have to put bandwidth limits on customers to reduce net congestion, and jack up the monthly ISP bill for the little old lady who checks her email twice a day and looks at some pictures of cats to cover the costs of building and maintaining the pipes for the binge-streamers.

But there's another big problem with the "Net Neutrality" rule. From Section 15 of the final rule:

Consumers who subscribe to a retail broadband Internet access service must get what they have paid for -- access to all (lawful) destinations on the Internet. ... A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.

And from Section 113:

the no-blocking rule adopted today again applies to transmissions of lawful content and does not prevent or restrict a broadband provider from refusing to transmit unlawful material, such as child pornography or copyright-infringing materials. (Similar to the 2010 no-blocking rule, this obligation does not impose any independent legal obligation on broadband providers to be the arbiter of what is lawful.)

(Italics in the above quotes are the FCC's; emphasis by bolding is mine)

So, guess who's going to decide what content is "lawful" and what content is "unlawful?"

In the absence of specific legislation, as well as in accordance with specific legislation, the FCC will be deciding that as a matter of "administrative law." And having arrogated themselves this power over broadband Internet under a ... creative ... interpretation of Title II, they will not just tell the ISPs that they have to transmit "lawful" content neutrally, they will also tell the ISPs that they cannot transmit "unlawful content" at all.

How long before the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America come to the FCC to get an EU-style "upload filtering" rule implemented, requiring ISPs and web sites (probably with exemptions for the Big Content platforms) to actively monitor for, and block, allegedly copyright-infringing material?

Or for that matter to just deem, for example, torrent files to be "unlawful content" ("there's no need for that format, it's used almost entirely for bootlegging"). If you don't think that can happen, think of the "drug paraphernalia" laws that are used against people with certain kinds of pipes and spoons whether that stuff is actually being used to consume unapproved drugs or not.

If the war on strong crypto comes back (and the politicians keep flirting with that), perhaps the FCC will require email servers to watch for and block messages with the string "-----BEGIN PGP MESSAGE-----" in them.

Maybe the FCC will decide (at the behest of the US Treasury Department or Congress) to crack down on unapproved financial transactions by requiring the ISPs to watch for and block data bearing the "fingerprints" of cryptocurrency transactions.

"Free and open" my ass. The "Net Neutrality" rule is an Internet censorship rule merely awaiting implementation.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Nobody Knows The Topic Selection Troubles I've Seen

I write three op-eds a week. Well, usually. If I'm sick or traveling it may just be two. But usually three. Call it 150 a year. Right now, I write them at/for/under the label of The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

My theory of topic selection goes something like this:

  1. It has to be "in the news cycle." That is, it has to riff on something that I'm seeing in the news right now and expect to remain in the news for at least a few days so that people aren't bored with it (or forgetting about it) by the time a newspaper decides to run the piece.
  2. It has to be at least mildly controversial. Nobody wants to read an op-ed about an issue that pretty much everyone agrees on. I'm not going to spend 500 words explaining that lead is bad for kids and they shouldn't eat it. If I'm writing about lead being bad for kids, it's going to be for or against some approach to "the lead problem" that opinions differ on.
  3. It has to be something I can write about from a libertarian perspective, even if I don't specifically use the l-word in delivering that perspective.
One thing I don't worry about too much is whether or not the topic is, well, "taboo." But since one of my objectives is to get those op-eds picked up by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications, I guess maybe I should.

For example, in 2015, I wrote a piece on circumcision. OK, not precisely on circumcision -- it had more to do with matters of medical and parental consent in general -- but circumcision was pretty central to it.

Not a single newspaper ran that piece. It just sort of disappeared into the ether.

I thought it was a damn good piece, too -- great news hook, poignant situation, cause that many readers would find compelling. Most of the time my stuff gets grabbed by at least one or two newspapers on my worst writing days and this felt like one of my better outings. But editors wouldn't touch it.

Today's Garrison op-ed is also on circumcision. I wonder if it will do any better than the last one.

I'm not exactly an "intactivist." My writing on the subject constitutes a fraction of one percent of my overall op-ed output. It's not like I spend my time wandering around the house pining for my lost foreskin. But it's sad that the issue isn't taken up in the public square with any ... endurance.

When selecting topics for op-eds, part of the calculation has to be "will this get published so that people can read it?" I disregard that part of the calculation at my peril. But yes, sometimes I do disregard it and just hope for the best.

@amazon @netflix -- It's Dumb to Announce That You Plan to Screw Your Customers

Sky News reports that Amazon and Netflix intend to "choke their own services" tomorrow as part of a public protest campaign in support of the big-government power grab / corporate welfare scheme known as "Net Neutrality."

I'm an Amazon and Netflix customer. I pay each of these companies a monthly subscription fee (Netflix's regular service and Amazon's Prime program) for video streaming (and from Amazon, audio streaming).

And here they are just coming out and publicly saying that tomorrow, they plan to not deliver the product as advertised.

If I have trouble streaming stuff tomorrow, I'm going to expect a pro rata refund for the day.

I'm also going to start looking for a streaming service/device provider that doesn't want to stick little old ladies who check their email twice a day with higher ISP bills in order to avert the possibility that bandwidth hogs and their customers might have to pick up the check for more and fatter pipes to carry HD and 4k video.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Thanks For Asking! -- 07/10/17

A message from our (that's the royal "our") sponsor, Paul Stanton ...

All politics is local.  Without local organization, state and national candidates cannot be successful.

Ask me anything (yes, anything) in comments below this post, and I'll answer in comments, on the podcast, or both ...

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 132: The King of All Polemic Rides ... Er, Podcasts ... Again

A commercial-free episode (haven't heard from any of my sponsors with a message lately) ...

In this episode: Thanks For Asking! (Qatar, Amazon, Regular Ax Grinders, Coyotes and Swanns) :: Chelsea Manning's Wrong, But Be Kind (thx to Socrates Wilde for Attempting to Educate Her).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

This is a Test

Since IFTTT has become unreliable of late at automagically posting new KN@PPSTER content to Twitter and Facebook, I'm trying out OnlyWire.

Actually, I tried it out yesterday or the day before, but it seemed to want to link to my rss feeds of my posts rather than to the actual posts. But that may have been my fault, so here goes ...

... OK, still no good. It posted to Twitter (and to LinkedIn), using the first two words of the post's content as the post title. And it can't seem to maintain a connection to Facebook. Keeps bouncing and demanding re-authorization. So I guess I'll keep manually tweeting/Facebooking my stuff while I look at other tools.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I Guess They've Decided It's ALL Fake News ...

From my inbox:

Clicked thru and:

Yep, It's Another HeadTalker Campaign ...

This time to grow Rational Review News Digest's audience. We've been around for more than a quarter century now (first as Libernet, then as Freedom News Daily, and since 2002 as RRND), but it's been some time since we've done a lot of promotion and advertising. My guess is we have a daily audience of about 5,000 across all our editions (web, email, Facebook, Twitter, Diaspora and, but that's just a guess. Whatever the real figure is, I'd like to double it.

We're doing some advertising, and a HeadTalker campaign seems like the next step in getting our name out to our demographic (libertarian consumers of news, commentary and audio/video content who find our one-stop shopping, hand-curated daily offerings useful). I hope you'll lend your social media reach to the effort (Blogger doesn't seem to like their embed code, so here's a direct link to the campaign).

Also, if you're a podcast or radio producer, or just run a site where you think it might fit well, feel free to grab our audio ad in MP3 audio or Youtube video format below and use it -- and thanks in advance!

Side note: I'm also offering HeadTalker campaign management services through the Simbi barter platform. If you've got something to promote, I can help.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hope Springs Eternal, I Guess

Thing One, 1997:  The Last Democrat. Why Bill Clinton Will Be The Last Democrat Americans Elect President, Richard D. Fisher (Author), Randal O'Toole (Author), Jr. Fred L. Smith (Author), Leon T. Hadar (Author), Victor Niederhoffer (Author), Caroline Baum (Author), Chester Alan Arthur (Author), Et Al (Author), R W Bradford (Editor), Stephen Cox (Introduction)

Thing Two, 2017: Why the Democratic party is doomed, by Julian Assange

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Seems to Me That Ship Already Sailed

Time relates the story of a teenager who engaged in a publicity stunt at her local church:

Her mother, Heather Kester, said Friday that her daughter was passionate about coming out in church to be a voice and example for other LGBT children who struggle for acceptance within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She asked that Savannah's full name be withheld to protect her privacy.

No, I'm not putting her down. She strikes me as rather brave and I don't see any reason to condemn her for pressing her church on the subject, but yes, it was a publicity stunt. A couple of other quotes from the story:

The video, which Kester says was taken by a friend of Savannah who came to support her ...

[The congregation's bishop] called problematic the unauthorized recording and the "disruptive demonstration" by a group of non-Mormon adults who were there.

IMO, making an announcement of that sort at a public function, having it recorded and putting the video out for public consumption, and bringing in supporters to use the announcement as the cue for a public demonstration puts one well across the line at which one retains any reasonable expectation of privacy.

Two Items Relating to Paleoconservatism versus Libertarianism

Thing one is a headline at, by none other than Rockwell himself:

Mises Was a Nationalist

Thing two is a name change. Sean Gabb recently abdicated as head of the UK's Libertarian Alliance. His successor, Keir Martland, writes:

the organisation I now own will not be called the Libertarian Alliance, but the Ludwig von Mises Centre (or Mises UK)

The splintering of the paleoconservative movement away from libertarianism seems to be complete, or at least very near completion. That final break has been a long time coming.

I suspect it became inevitable when Murray Rothbard died with head still fully jammed up anus vis a vis the "paleo strategy." He was always mercurial with respect to strategy. If he had lived longer he almost certainly would have done a 180 at some point. But he didn't live long enough to extract cranium from rectum.

In his absence, the lesser lights who took over his work were in various ways unwilling1 or unable2 to do so either. Like a rocket in deep space that runs out of fuel for maneuver, they just kept going straight in the direction he had most recently pointed them. And when the tether connecting the paleo strategy to libertarian ideology (which led in a very different direction) got too taut, they decided to start sawing through that tether rather than let it drag them back toward sanity.

On the one hand, I'm a bit sad to see some seemingly good people floating rudderless off into the darkness on Spaceship Paleo. Fortunately quite a few have launched their escape pods from, or were made to walk the plank off of, that ship in recent years and returned to libertarianism where they are back to making positive contributions (two that come to mind are Sheldon Richman and Jeffrey Tucker), and others may yet do so.

I also wish that the paleos had listened to MacBeth -- "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly" -- rather than try to drag libertarianism along behind them for more than two decades.

But better late than never.


1. Hoppe wasn't just whistling Dixie (pun intended) when he framed his approach as an attempt to put libertarianism on the rails of Marx's theory of history. His class theory is "race realism," his class war is bordertarianism, his revolutionary method is "physical removal," and his dictatorship of the proletariat is the construction of faux "private property societies" as a proliferation of Hoxha-style mini-Albanias.

2. Rockwell isn't a system-builder or an ideologue. He's a salesman. When Rothbard died, Rockwell just kept selling what Rothbard had most recently sent him out to sell while looking for new faces to put on it. Once the Ron Paul presidential campaigns were done, that model started to go sour on him. Then Trump came along. I think we have the results of the 2016 presidential election to thank for the paleos' decision to finally and forever cut their tether to libertarianism.

Friday, June 23, 2017

@AmazonHelp, This Should Not Be a Hard Thing to Do

My cable Internet provider, Cox, has a bandwidth cap. A fairly generous one -- 1,024 Gb per month before I have to purchase additional bandwidth -- but a cap nonetheless. I've never come anywhere close to busting that cap, but I see that this month I'm on track to come in not very far under it.

The reason: Amazon Prime video.

For whatever reason, this month most of my household's video streaming has been over Amazon rather than e.g. Netflix, and a lot of it has been over an Amazon Fire TV stick and/or one of the kids' game consoles.

Netflix and Sling both allow me to set video quality according to my own desire, e.g. high definition, standard definition or even low quality.

Amazon lets me do that if I'm watching video from my computer desktop, but for those other devices it insists on streaming video at the highest quality my television will handle. And that means that an hour of viewing will consume 3Gb of bandwidth instead of the 800Mb of bandwidth it would consume at standard quality.

This is a simple fix, guys. Just update your other device apps to let the user choose the video quality, or even let the user set it in his or her account settings.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why that wasn't one of the first features Amazon put into its streaming service. Why would they want to spend extra money on bandwidth from their end when many of their customers would probably be at least as happy (in my case happier) to stream in SD as in HD most of the time?

I wonder if it's costing them any customers. It hasn't cost them me and my $10.xx monthly Prime fee.


Yes, I've Continued to be Somewhat Absent

Sorry about that. May was one of those months, June has turned into another one, and I'm preparing for a trip from the 1st through the 4th of July. A combination of family medical situations, writer's block, etc. has had me working as hard as usual (actually harder) but getting less done. That's how it goes.

On the other hand, once one of those periods ends, I usually make up for it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm Reconsidering My Position That Vigilante Justice is Impractical

There's absolutely zero reasonable doubt that Jeronimo Yanez murdered Philando Castile.  Not a crumb, not an ort, not an iota. None.

And yet a jury declined to convict the killer even on reduced charges (one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm).

Three guesses why. You'll only need one.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Couple of Notes on the Great Virginia Congressional Baseball Massacree of 2017

From this month's "open thread" at Independent Political Report:

Robert Capozzi: I'm curious what reaction the abolitionist anarchists here had to the shooting of Rep. Scalise and others?

KN@PPSTER: A supporter of one of the two most prominent street gangs in the US took some shots at prominent members of the other one. That's life in the big city.* Can't say I like it, but when you choose the thug life it comes with potential consequences of that kind. I'm glad no innocent bystanders were killed in the crossfire. But of course all the innocent bystanders will pay in the form of being expected to pay for and put up with additional security theater and police statism.

Silver lining: The House canceled all votes and hearings for the day. That's not much, but it's something, I guess.

* Addendum not appearing at IPR: If this had happened in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or even St. Louis, and if the gangs involved had been e.g. Bloods, Crips, Latin Lords, MS-13 or whatever instead of Democrats and Republicans, it would likely have not made the front page of the following day's newspaper even in the city where it occurred.

Robert Capozzi: Is this an issue you’d like to see L[ibertarian]s run for office on?

KN@PPSTER: Of course not. For one thing, it's not an "issue." It's an incident. A week from now 75% of the public won't remember it and 23% of the remaining 25% won't give a shit about it, unless you consider meme-making to be giving a shit. That might change if there are copycat attacks or if Scalise actually croaks, but in the usual course of things it's impossible to get the public upset about that stuff no matter how hard they try.

And they do try. Every time some mere mundane touches the White House fence and gets tackled lest his peasant feet profane the sacred White House lawn, or the Capitol Police gun down a woman who gets confused by the security theatrics on Pennsylvania Avenue and makes a wrong turn, there are a couple of days of ritual sackcloth-and-ashes yap-fests about the horrors of our poor oppressed public servants having to mingle with the rabble. Then when they realize everyone has clicked off to watch Seinfeld re-runs instead of breaking out a string quartet to accompany weeping on their behalf, they introduce a couple of new measures to hassle the public some more and go back to their normal routine of thieving and whoring.

If it did become an actual issue that candidates have to address, I'd recommend going with Paulie's line or some other variant of "play stupid games, win stupid prizes."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thanks For Asking! -- 06/14/17

While I'm waiting for multi-episode sponsor Paul Stanton's next public service announcement, I'm going to bounce back to my other, anonymous multi-episode sponsor who has me promoting anything I want to promote ... so this AMA thread and the podcast to follow are brought to you by Rational Review News Digest!

  1. Ask me anything in the comment thread below this post;
  2. I'll answer in comments, on the podcast, or both.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Swords Into Plowshares: Maybe Not as Cool as it Sounds

In Massachusetts, as elsewhere, former drug warriors are becoming enthusiastic tax farmers.

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 131: Like a Fidget Spinner But for Your Ears

This episode is brought to you by Paul Stanton, who wants to know ...

In tiny Deland, Florida, the city commission wants to give half a million dollars to a private developer to renovate a bad investment. Do you know which cronies your city commission is giving your money to?

In this episode: Thanks For Asking! (Listertarianism; Cuenca; We'll Always Have Paris; Blogging; Field Expedient Quick Meme Vivisection); The Alt-Right Are Marxists (in which I riff on this episode of Freedom Feens).

Teapot, Meet Tempest, Education Edition

As JD Tuccille mentions at Reason ...

[T]he Trump administration has proposed (don't hold your breath for it to happen) to cut the Department of Education's budget by 13 percent and slightly reduce the federal role in education.

Even supposing the cut actually happens -- I predict that the US Department of Education's budget will actually end up being increased -- how big is it, really?

I don't want to waste a lot of time on it, but I did a bit of quick Googling:

  • "Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States in 2013–14 amounted to $634 billion" (source: National Center for Education Statistics)
  • "In academic year 2013–14, postsecondary institutions in the United States spent approximately $517 billion" (source: Ibid.)
  • The 13% cut in Trump's budget request comes to $9 billion (source: US Department of Education)
So while the cut amounts to 13% of one agency's budget, it represents only about eight tenths of one percent of actual US spending on education -- as of four years ago. Such spending  has almost certainly gone up by more than that since then, and it's likely still going up virtually everywhere outside us DOE.

Calling Trump's proposal a tempest in a teapot is actually kind of grandiose. More like a slight perturbation in a shot glass.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Case for Retrograde Tradecraft Pollution

In a recent post, I talked up the idea of using "retrograde tradecraft" -- that is, taking clandestine activities like leaking government information offline. Doing things on computers and via the Internet is easier, but it's also far more vulnerable to surveillance. The final paragraph:

There's substantial literature out there on the subject. But of course finding it without it ever being noticed that you went looking for it might be tricky.

If dL feels like it, I'll leave it to him to explain the whole idea of the "social graph" in comments. The simple version is that unless you are very careful (and probably even then), everything you do online leaves traces. Even if you didn't use the Internet to get that secret NSA document to that reporter, there's a good chance that things you did online would constitute "tells" that you were interested in doing something of the sort.

So, to protect people who are thinking about doing things that should be done but that could get them in trouble, the information on how to do those things needs to become so ubiquitous that seeing them won't produce a blip on the "social graph." That is, it needs to become difficult to AVOID learning how to set up a dead drop, hand something over with a brush pass, or create a one-time pad without using a computer. The blogosphere, forumsphere, etc., needs to be positively dripping -- polluted -- with that information, such that someone does not automatically become a "person of interest" for having been exposed to it.

Today's retrograde tradecraft tip: Start making a habit of forgetting your phone when you go out. Not every time, just fairly often. Create some ... randomness ... in your social graph. Think of it this way: If you religiously carry your phone -- which is a tracking device that keeps track of where it is at all times -- then leaving it at home the one time you'd rather not be tracked might be the equivalent of sending up a flare. "Alice is gone from home from 1-5pm every day without fail -- except the one day that this suspicious thing happened, her phone says she never left the house." But if she forgets it once or twice a week, well, hey, Alice just has a tendency to forget her phone sometimes and there's nothing suspicious about her doing so on a particular day.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Non-State v. Anti-State: Sound Point from comrade hermit

Comrade hermit, in response to my recent post on retrograde tradecraft, comments:

Non-state intelligence agencies are OK. Anti-state intelligence agencies are the proverbial tits. I like to think Wikileaks is one of the latter.

I agree.

Michael Moore's new "TrumpiLeaks" is project is a stab at a non-state intelligence agency, but not an anti-state intelligence agency.  Its goal is to "get" one particular figure or regime, but not on behalf of dismantling, or even limiting or trimming, state power as such.

As I'm sure someone will note if we keep discussing this stuff, simply setting up pipelines through which sources (government employees, government contracts, et al.) can (hopefully safely) route information to the public via the media is only one aspect of one variety intelligence, the equivalent of the state intelligence apparatus hoping that someone will walk into its embassy in [insert exotic city here] and spill the beans on an adversary state. Human intelligence a la carte, so to speak.

What we need is a decentralized network of anti-state intel cells that develop human intelligence and signals/surveillance intelligence of all sorts, using all kinds of techniques, and get that information to the public.

Resolved, that the state should not be able to keep secrets.

A Gilmoreization

The gig/sharing economy interprets government regulation as damage and routes around it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Doing My Part for Historical Revisionism

I was born in late 1966 into an age of electric and electronic wonder for which I am very grateful. It was a close-run thing, though. Electricity was for so long a mere novelty and might have become just another not very well remembered fad if someone hadn't found a viable and important use for it only a year and a bit before I was born.

The Case for Retrograde Tradecraft

Thanks to dL, who pointed me to this story on how the NSA busted a leaker yesterday.

A brief disclaimer: We don't yet know the full story on the leak. What it facially looks like is that a well-intentioned employee of a government contractor leaked a secret report that NSA didn't want anyone to see. But it could be something else, e.g. NSA wanting that information made public (perhaps to affect the ongoing "Russia probe") with plausible deniability, in which case the leaker could either be in on the thing, or have been manipulated into leaking it (with the arrest aiding the plausible deniability angle).

But anyway: The leaker got caught because modern printers encode certain information, as nearly invisible yellow dots, on every document they print. Since The Intercept put actual images of the actual printouts online, it was trivial for NSA to discover that the document was printed on a particular printer at a particular time, and from there figure out who might have printed it.

Modern technology is useful, but also problematic from the perspective of someone wanting to not be surveilled, tracked, or discovered in this or that activity. And not just directly, as above. As dL is also fond of pointing out, one's "social graph" (basically the sum of a person's online activities) can reveal a lot about the person absent any specific smoking gun.

If non-state intelligence agencies -- that's the term Mike Pompeo used for WikiLeaks, and while he said it like it's a bad thing, I think the whole idea rocks -- want to operate successfully, I think they're going to need to go back to Cold War espionage tradecraft. One-time pads that are NEVER, in ANY way, involved with electronics. Brush passes. Dead drops. "Chance" meetings in areas that just happen to (hopefully) not be under video surveillance. That kind of thing.

Those things are harder than mouse/keyboard/send. But that works both ways. One guy at Langley or Fort Meade can track/surveil the activities of bazillions of people from a single computer terminal. The reverse is true to the advantage of surveillance targets. It takes multiple people to follow one guy around and notice if he leaves a mark on a mailbox or happens to pass close by someone else who might or might not be a person of interest.

There's substantial literature out there on the subject. But of course finding it without it ever being noticed that you went looking for it might be tricky.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Worst Thing About the "Basic Income Guarantee" Scheme ...

... and may have said this before, and at some point plan to write a pro-con piece on it with Steve Trinward ... is:

What if it "works?"

Jesse Walker does a bit of an historical survey on the idea for next month's Reason:

Andy Stern is a former president of the Service Employees International Union. Charles Murray may be America's most prominent right-wing critic of the welfare state. So when they appeared onstage together in Washington, D.C., last fall to discuss the basic income -- the idea of keeping people out of poverty by giving them regular unconditional cash payments -- the most striking thing about the event was that they kept agreeing with each other. ... This isn't the first time the basic income or an idea like it has edged its way onto the agenda. It isn't even the first time we've seemed to see an ideological convergence. This patchwork of sometimes-overlapping movements with sometimes-overlapping proposals has a history that stretches back centuries.

Very interesting, and well worth reading. But once again, while my ideological opposition to it is pretty simple to explain my main practical problem with it is:

What if it "works?"

And by this, I mean:

Suppose a Basic Income Guarantee / Universal Basic Income gets implemented and the world doesn't come to an end? What if it turns out that it IS actually possible for the state to replace all existing welfare programs with an income guarantee without collapsing? Life goes on. Everyone gets "a check in the mail" every month, some people choose to work for more, others to sit on their asses and watch TV, still others to take off on flights of creative and/or entrepreneurial fancy and see what happens?

If that happens, something else happens too: Forget any substantial, organized, effective resistance to the idea of the welfare state, or for that matter of the state itself. How is that going to happen when everyone -- EVERYONE -- is effectively a government employee, counting on a monthly top-up of the old debit card from his favorite Uncle to keep milk in the fridge and Netflix streaming in to the tube?

It's not that I don't want people to be able to live, or that I think it would be a bad thing if everyone on the planet had a cushion that covered the basics. But getting there by having the state fluff that cushion is basically a dead end for any attempt to limit, reduce or eliminate the state if it works. If it doesn't work, the best thing that could be said for it would be that it was one of those Hegelian "collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions" advances. Which might be good or bad, but I don't think it's worth risking that dead end to find out.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Thanks For Asking! -- 06/03/17

This AMA thread (yeah, yeah, I know it's late -- how about YOU hurry a little to make up the time?) and the podcast to follow are brought to you by Paul Stanton, who wants to know:

In tiny Deland, Florida, the city commission wants to give half a million dollars to a private developer to renovate a bad investment. Do you know which cronies your city commission is giving your money to?

Ask me anything in the comment thread below this post. I'll answer in comments, on the podcast, or both.

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