TeeJaw Blog

All Fired Up For Fire

Posted in Books by TeeJaw on Sunday, October 2, 2011, 3: 25 PM

Kindle Fire, that is. It’s pretty amazing. Internet access will be lightning fast because the device doesn’t have to download web pages, all that will be in the massive Amazon cloud. Your Kindle Fire only reads it for you.  Security will be terrific because Amazon’s server is between you and the malware cretins. They have to get their routines into the Amazon system before they can get to you, and that won’t happen. When there’s only one massive facility that has to be protected instead of a hundred million individual computers the cyber crooks have a tremendous obstacle to overcome. Not that they won’t try, and might even succeed sometimes, but it’ll be difficult. The Kindle Fire may become the safest way to do financial transactions on the internet.

This one will be available November 15. I’ll wait because while this first one will have WiFi, it will not have 3G. I’ll wait for the 3G Wireless Fire, sure to come early next year if not before. The current 3G Kindles don’t have a monthly charge. The 3G Fire will probably also give you the 3G connectivity for free, at least I hope so. That and the initial price will present a challenge for the iPad. If I were in the market for an iPad I think I’d wait for the price to come down.

If you’re interested you’ll want to read Will Jeff Bezos Brings Feudal Security to the Net at The Volokh Conspiracy.  The concept of Kindle Fire security being like one’s personal security under Feudalism is pretty interesting, and historically relevant. You’ll have to give up a lot of your privacy , though.  Amazon will know everything you do on the internet, and if Amazon knows the government can find out also.

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Why There Is Not A Palestinian State — The Truth Please

Posted in Books, Government and Politics, History by TeeJaw on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 10: 34 AM

The most egregious lies must be quashed with the strongest truth telling. William F. Buckley, Jr. said, “Truth is a demure lady. She is there, but people must want her, and seek her out.”

We can seek her out in this Encounter Books Broadside. They call them “Broadsides” because, I guess, they are strongly-word critical attacks on the lies, false notions and hidden agendas that promulgate throughout the political culture, mostly by the liberal left. The one pictured here (click on it to go to its Amazon page) debunks the Palestinian lie that seeks to blame Israel for standing in the way of the creation of a Palestinian state when Israel has a long history of offering land and money for peace with the Palestinians and Arabs everywhere.

Israel has tried everything, both carrots and sticks, and nothing works for one reason only: Palestinians don’t want a state, they don’t want peace, they want Israel gone and all Israeli Jews dead.  Er, that ah, makes it a little hard to find common ground.

These “Broadsides” are both short and inexpensive. This one is 48 pages for $5.99, $4.49 for the Kindle edition (no taxes!). Here is the Encounter Books description:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has launched an international campaign to achieve recognition by the United Nations for an independent Palestinian state. Abbas and his international supporters claim that only Israel (with the United States) stands in the way of this act of historical justice, which would finally bring about peace in the Middle East.

In this eye-opening Broadside, Sol Stern debunks the Palestinians’ claim and shows that Abbas has been lying about the origins and history of the conflict. Palestinian leaders have rejected partition plans that would have given them much more land for their independent state than the Jews were offered for theirs. Rather than being the innocent victims of a “dispossession” at the hands of the Israelis, the Palestinians rejected reasonable compromises and instead pursued their aim of getting rid of the only Jewish state in the world.

This 11-minute video tells the story vividly.  It’s remarkably informative, and will be worth your time:

Tax on Kindle Purchases?

Posted in Books by TeeJaw on Friday, August 26, 2011, 2: 37 PM

If you have a Kindle or iPad and purchase digital downloads for them from Amazon you may be paying sales tax in addition to the digital download price. You will not be told of the tax before you click the download button and you’ll never know where your tax dollars are going. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t depend on where you live or where you happen to be when you buy it. But there is a way to get at least part of this information.

If it says “sold by” MacMillan or Random House Digital or some other publisher under the Kindle price, tax will be added. The reason I don’t think it matters where you live is because the percentage is not always the same. On Ann Coulter’s new book Demonic sold by Random House Digital, the rate was 7-3/4%; on the book Reckless Endangerment sold by Macmillan, it was only 4%.

Here’s how you can tell in advance that there will be no tax added: if there is no “sold by” or “price set by” indicated. In that case the digital order is sold by Amazon and there is no tax. Also, most times the price will be $9.99. The price will be higher if the digital download is sold by the publisher. That was the case with Ann Coulter’s book in Kindle edition which was $14.99 plus tax and Reckless Endangerment was $12.99 plus tax.

Everyone will decide for themselves whether any of this is important. Here is my early New Year’s resolution, to go into effect immediately. I will buy no Kindle book if I can’t get it for a maximum price of $9.99 with NO tax. For me, it’s a moral issue. I won’t pay a cent to any parasite bureaucrat anywhere when I have no idea who they are, where they are, and what they are doing with my money. Safe to say they aren’t doing anything worthwhile with it.

I know, I know. We’re talking about minuscule amounts of money. It’s a moral issue.

Will I be missing a lot of good books I could be reading on my Kindle? No, just a little delay. Most new books I’d like to read will be available on Amazon in the hardcover used market at about one-fourth the original hardcover cost within 3 months of first publication. I can wait.

This is one New year’s resolution I may actually keep.

Kindle Books — Still Too Pricey?

Posted in Books by TeeJaw on Sunday, April 10, 2011, 1: 29 PM

I blogged a while back that Kindle books might be pricing themselves out of the market — see Will Kindle books Price Themselves Out of the Market? I noted there that if the Kindle edition is almost the same as the book I’ll just buy the book.

I thought that others would soon be noticing the rise in the price of Kindle editions and might feel the same way. I was half right. Others are definitely noticing and they don’t like it. But their response may not be to buy the book instead of the Kindle download, but to refuse to buy either of them. The latest Michael Connelly thriller, The Fifth Witness, is offered by Amazon at $14.28 for the hardcover, and $12.99 for the Kindle download. It seems an anomaly for the Kindle download to cost almost as much as the hard cover book. After all, after initial setup the publisher’s production costs are near zero. Economies of scale are enormous as downloads increase in number. One would expect a much lower download price would encourage more downloads, and that’s what the publisher would want because the profit margin just gets higher and higher. These are the sorts of productivity gains we are used to seeing in the electronics industry. Lower consumer prices coupled with higher profits for sellers and manufacturers. Everybody wins. I guess publishing is different. Or maybe it’s publishers that are different. [Some of this has to do with some sort of tug of war among publishers, Amazon and Apple. It’s too complicated for me to waste time trying to figure it out, and it’ll be settled by then anyway.]

Anyway, the response on Amazon to the Kindle price of Michael Connelly’s latest book is overwhelming and has cost Connelly dearly in the customer review ratings of his book. His overall customer reviews are only 2 stars out of a possible 5, but not because people who have read the book don’t like it. Au contraire. Most who have read it give it 5 stars. There are 43 five-star reviews. But there are 122 one-star reviews, almost all of them livid about the Kindle price. These reviewers seem to know they are unfairly making the author suffer for something he probably had no part in but they’re just mad and don’t care, at least not enough. They point out that this is the only way they can register their complaints and at least it will make the publisher suffer if sales are hurt. Especially the Kindle sales, and that has to be where a lot of profit resides.

Many people may have the first reaction that I had when I saw that this new book only got an overall 2-star rating from readers. I figured this was the usual case where a best-selling author takes a risk with something different or just falls down after a long successful run. Only by reading those 1-star reviews was I made aware that it was the Kindle price getting the bad reviews, not the author or the book itself. Some number of others will not go that distance.

I will register my protest by not buying the Kindle download although this is just the sort of book I would normally get that way. I won’t trash the book itself since I haven’t even read it yet. I will probably wait a few months when the hard cover will be available on the used market for about three dollars. Hope it’s not too long. I’m fortunate to live in a city full of used book stores, many kept in business by Amazon.

The Machinery of Freedom

Posted in Books, Government and Politics by TeeJaw on Thursday, July 8, 2010, 1: 44 PM

machinery of freedomAny book with that title is bound to be of interest to this blog, based as it is on Truth, Justice and the American Way (i.e., TeeJaw). The one available now is the second edition from 1989, the first edition was published in 1971. I say the second edition is available, and it is but only as a used book since it is out of print. Hardback copies can be found at Amazon for about $75 and paperback for around $25. In recent times a hardback copy in good condition has been offered for as much as $100.

A third edition is in the works. In the meantime the second edition is posted on the internet here where you can read the whole thing for free.

The book is invaluable for its distrust of intellectual orthodoxy in formulating a prescription for a society organized by private property, individual rights, and voluntary co-operation. Its author, David Friedman, is known as an “anarcho-captialist,” which would make him a whack job if he were serious or if it were not possible for us to read around any of his “every man should be allowed to make his own rules” offerings. It turns out that he is not seriously an anarchist, at least for the most part. Those parts of his argument that tend too far in that direction can be safely ignored and one may still gain the benefit of the rest, which is excellent stuff.

For example, Friedman argues for completely unrestricted immigration. But I don’t think he means or contemplates that the world’s entire population of 6.7 Billion people should be allowed to settle in the United States. I also don’t think he favors allowing known criminals to set up their criminal operations in the United States. The current fare of libertarians fail or refuse to address these concerns, or recognize any distinction at all between a legal and orderly system of immigration which would admit most or at least many of all desire to come here to come under certain conditions, and completely open borders with no need to show identity, no passport requirement, no background check, immediate welfare benefits, and the immediate right to vote for Democrats. (All would impose a restriction on voting for Republicans, I assume).

Here is the section of the book on immigration, titled “Open The Gates:”

Until the middle of the 1920s this country followed a general policy of unrestricted immigration; except for some exclusion of orientals, anyone who wanted to come was welcome. From 1905 to 1907, and again in 1910, 1913, and 1914, over a million immigrants a year came. They and their descendants have created a large part of our economic and cultural wealth. It would be hard to find any major public figure willing to argue that this policy was a mistake.

It would be almost as hard to find a major public figure who would advocate a return to that policy. Recent debates have been on how we should allocate and enforce our limited immigration quota among different nationalities, not on whether the quota should exist.

In my opinion, the restriction on immigration is a mistake: we should abolish it tomorrow and reopen the most successful attack on poverty the world has ever seen.

One danger in this policy is that poor immigrants might come with the intent of somehow surviving until they became citizens, and then going on welfare. I therefore include in my proposal the condition that new immigrants should face a fifteen year ‘residency’ requirement before they become eligible for welfare. I also suggest that the federal and state minimum wage laws be altered so as not to cover new immigrants, or, better yet, be repealed.
We would receive a vast flood of immigrants, probably more than a million a year, possibly several million. Most would come from Asian and Latin American countries. Most would be poor. Many would work as unskilled labor for the first generation, as did most of the previous immigrants. They would bring with them levels of education, nutrition, and health, which would appall our social workers; they would live, by our standards, very badly, but they would live well by their former standards, and that is why they would come.

Unrestricted immigration would make us richer, as it has in the past. Our wealth is in people, not things; America is not Kuwait. If a working wife can hire an Indian maid, who earned a few hundred dollars a year in India, to work for her at six thousand dollars a year, and so spend her own time on a 30 thousand a year job, who is worse off?
As long as the immigrants pay for what they use, they do not make the rest of the society poorer. If increased population makes the country more crowded, it does so only because the immigrants produce wealth which is worth more to the owners of land than the land is worth, and the immigrants are able to use that wealth to buy the land. The same applies to whatever the immigrants get on the free market; in order to appropriate existing resources for their own uses, the immigrants must buy them with new goods of at least equal value.

The immigrants will get some governmental services for which they will not pay directly. They will also pay taxes. Given present conditions, I see no reason to expect that they will cost government more than government will cost them.

The new immigrants will drive down the wages of unskilled labor, hurting some of the present poor. At the same time, the presence of millions of foreigners will make the most elementary acculturation, even the ability to speak English, a marketable skill; some of the poor will be able to leave their present unskilled jobs to find employment as foremen of ‘foreign’ work gangs or front men for ‘foreign’ enterprises.

More important than any of these economic effects is the psychological effect on the present poor; they will no longer be the bottom of the barrel, and as Liberals have pointed out with some justice, it is where you are, not what you have, which defines poverty. Mobility will be restored; each generation of immigrants will be able to struggle up to a position from which to look down on their successors.

A policy of unrestricted immigration would bring us more than cheap unskilled labor. It would bring a flood of new skills, not least among them the entrepreneurial ability that has made Indian and Chinese emigrants the merchant classes of Asia and Africa. Once the new citizens become familiar with the language and culture of their adopted country, they will probably work their way into the great American middle class just as rapidly as did their predecessors of eighty years ago.

It is a shame that the argument must be put in terms of the economic or psychological ‘interest’ of the present generation of Americans. It is simpler than that. There are people, probably many millions, who would like to come here, live here, work here, raise their children here, die here. There are people who would like to become Americans, as our parents and grandparents did.

If we want to be honest, we can ship the Statue of Liberty back to France or replace the outdated verse with new lines, ‘America the closed preserve/That dirty foreigners don’t deserve.’ Or we can open the gates again. [This is ridiculous — The Statute of Liberty was never intended to be a symbol of open immigration. TeeJaw]

If Friedman would also agree to enforcement of laws against non-citizen voting and the exclusion of known criminals, his policy of “open immigration” would probably be more acceptable to today’s Conservatives than it would be to the Academic Libertarians at say, George Mason University.

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What I’m Reading — Blue Heaven

Posted in Books by TeeJaw on Saturday, May 1, 2010, 10: 48 PM

Hugh Hewitt did a three-hour interview with mystery writer C.J. Box last Friday. Box was born and raised in Casper, WY and now lives somewhere near Cheyenne, my own hometown, so I was interested. I’d heard of him but hadn’t given it much thought. The Hewitt interview is available as a podcast but you’ll have to subscribe to The Hughinverse to get it.

Box first wanted to be a journalist and his first job was with a regional newspaper in Saratoga, WY. I assume without knowing that would be the Saratoga Sun. He stayed there for four years and in that time became closely acquainted with the Wyoming Game and Fish and the game wardens, often riding with them on their patrols. He later used and expanded the knowledge thus gained to write his first Joe Pickett mystery novel, Open Season.

Hewitt and Box both suggested a new reader begin with that one, but I decided to take a look at this one that is outside the Joe Pickett series:
blue heaven The story is set in North Idaho where LAPD cops go to retire. I’m only at midway but the mystery being told has me hooked enough that I’ll have to finish it. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it even though some of the dialog among the retired LAPD cops seems a bit unnatural. But maybe I’m too used to the seemingly-authentic cop talk that Joseph Wambaugh so easily recreates.

The retired LAPD cops in this novel are so depraved and evil you might think them lacking in literary verisimilitude, but I would disagree. There are real people this bad. I’m guessing the book will end with a catharsis of good triumphant over evil.

Perhaps not. Box seems a realist and in real life the good does not always win out over this sort of evil. A hero may emerge. There is one possibility that seems unlikely. It’s the unlikely heros that make good characters for a good story, though. Can’t wait to finish it.

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The Road To Serfdom

Posted in Books, Culture, Government and Politics by TeeJaw on Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 5: 00 PM

Sales of this book have been hot for the last year. Presently it ranks #170 in books on Amazon. That’s astounding for a book first published in 1947:
road to serfdom

So what’s going on?

Bruce Caldwell, the editor of this edition, and author Hayek’s Challenge, An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek, has written an op-ed in The Washington Post, The secret behind the hot sales of “The Road to Serfdom” by free-market economist F. A. Hayek, which explores the reasons behind the recent interest in Hayek’s post World War II book warning of the dangers of socialist central planning. There may be several factors but Caldwell closes with this:

In the end, however, I think that the underlying reason for the sustained interest in Hayek’s book is that it taps into a profound dissatisfaction in the public mind with the machinations of its government. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have presided over huge growth in the size of the federal government and in the size of the federal deficit, with little obvious effect on unemployment. Things seem out of control.

Furthermore, a recurrent theme in the news is that, in contrast to the millions who are suffering, the politically connected are doing just fine. The examples are everywhere, from bailed out financiers getting huge bonuses to public union employees getting hefty pensions, from auto companies that are nationalized instead of going belly up to politically savvy firms that get government subsidies to produce products that would be otherwise unprofitable.

For people upset by such trends, “The Road to Serfdom” opens a window onto another time, when debates about how best to restructure an economy emerging from wartime were taking place. Such debates, as the strong sales of the book clearly show, still have resonance today.

See also the next post on Crony Capitalism.

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is seeing renewed interest, for similar reasons.

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So Many Good Books, So Little Time

Posted in Books by TeeJaw on Wednesday, January 13, 2010, 2: 44 PM


Joe Pike is a hard man who doesn’t scare easy but also an honorable man with a benevolent attitude and protective demeanor toward most of his fellow citizens, at least the ones who wish him no harm. He has a friend in Elvis Cole, who is also capable if a bit more of a “new age” guy. Frank Meyer is an another old friend who used to work as a professional mercenary with Joe, and now has a white picket fence family life. At least he did until some brutal old Soviet Bloc criminals murder him and his entire family. Frank’s family might have allowed Joe a vicarious family experience he lacks, so these criminals who are the hardest of the hardened have broken the first rule. They have taken away a family, but left behind a devoted fighter who is in his own way just as hard as they are.

These stories of good and evil help to sustain us in a world of multicultural weakness and political correctness run amuck.

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