The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a massive stack of paper that no single person could ever hope to read and fully comprehend. I only hope that somewhere buried in that mountain of paper is a clause that requires insurance companies to cover lube because us Minnesotans are going to need a lot of it:
Big rate increases next year in the state’s individual market mean that Minnesotans who buy health insurance on their own will pay above-average premiums — a startling reversal from 2014 when individual market rates in much of the state were among the lowest in the nation.
A federal report this week looked at rates for “benchmark” plans across 44 states and found a family of four in Minnesota will pay $1,396 per month for the coverage. That’s about 28 percent higher than the average across most of those states at $1,090 per month.
Everybody is getting fucked in the ass by the ACA but us Minnesotans are going to get fucked a bit harder. Predictably a lot of people are upset about this and have decided that the only fix for more government is even more government. Democrats are talking more seriously about single payer while the Republicans are obsessing over what they want to replace the ACA with. With both major political parties seemingly uninterested in deregulating the healthcare market this situation is only going to get worse.
At least the universe has a sense of humor because the number of people covered by health insurance, the metric being used by proponents of the ACA to prove it has been successful, is going to dwindle as fewer and fewer people are able to afford even a basic health insurance plan. When that happens the proponents of the act will have to find a new metric to declare victory with (which won’t change anything but watching them desperately scramble to spin things into victory again will be amusing to watch).
Anybody with more than two braincells to rub together and has even a modest knowledge of economic history knows that you can’t trust the State for your retirement. The government issued funny money is in a constant state of devaluation, which means every slip of its paper you save will be worth much less when you retire. Because of that, smart people find alternative ways to preserve their wealth for retirement. Some people invest a portion of their wealth in the hopes they can grow it faster than the rate of inflation while others prefer to rely on time proven precious metals.
If you look at historical trends the latter is a pretty solid choice if your goal is to preserve your purchasing power. However, if you’re going to opt for precious metals you need a secure method of storage, to spread out your assets, and probably a decent insurance policy because physical assets can be stolen:
ST. PAUL, Minn. – St. Paul Police are looking into an reported burglary that stripped a female resident of her entire life savings.
Police spokesman Steve Linders confirms that the alleged victim, a 57-year-old who lives on the 1600 block of Abell Street, had her valuables stashed in her bedroom because she does not trust banks. The thieves got away with 100 gold bars valued at more than $1,200 apiece, $60,000 cash and a diamond ring valued at $36,000.
I’ve seen quite a few comments making fun of the fact that her lack of trust in banks caused her to lose her life savings. But if your money is in a bank account its purchasing power is constantly being stolen in the form of inflation so acting high and mighty because you keep your government funny money in a bank is just as stupid as keeping all of your gold in one location and not properly securing it.
By the description of her storage method (stashing it in her bedroom) I’m left to assume she didn’t have her gold in a quality safe. If you’re going to have a lot of gold on hand you should invest in a decent safe that can be bolted to the ground (i.e. a decent gun safe). Bonus points can be had if you can also conceal the safe. But a quality safe offer two advantages. First, it greatly increases the time it takes for a burglar to get to your valuable assets. Burglaries are often smash and grab affairs where the burglars want to minimize the amount of time that they’re in a house. The more secure your assets are the less attractive they will be to a petty thief looking to get in and out. The second advantage a quality safe offers is fire protection. You don’t want to lose your retirement if your house burns down.
In addition to a quality safe you also want to spread your assets around. Keeping all of your eggs in one basket is not a wise idea. I would personally recommend against a safety deposit box at a bank because the State can and has seized them. And since the United States government has confiscated gold in the past it’s not unreasonable to think another gold confiscation might occur. You’re better off having trustworthy family members or close friends or have a second piece of property where you can install a quality safe and store some of your assets.
The third thing, which can be tricky if you’re concerned about another possible government gold confiscation, is having an insurance policy. Precious metals are valuable and valuable assets should be insured against loss. However, insuring your precious metals also means records of the metals existence will exist. If the government decided to do another gold confiscation they very well may require insurance companies to surrender information on customers who have insured precious metals. Then again, an insurance policy is a nice thing to have if burglars break into your home and get into your safe. It’s one of those risk-reward formulas that you have to figure out for yourself.
Storing your retirement savings in government funny money in a bank is not a good idea but if you’re going to do something else you need to be smart about. Simply buying gold isn’t a solid plan if you don’t have a way of securing that gold longterm.
Many of the e-mails released by WikiLeaks about Clinton’s campaign have been, shall we say, embarrassing. Of course the e-mails haven’t dissuaded Clinton’s true believers but they might cause a slight inconvenience during the election if people on the fence begin to perceive her for the criminal she is. The only defense the campaign has offered against any of these e-mails is that they are fake but math doesn’t lie:
In order to bloc spam, emails nowadays contain a form of digital signatures that verify their authenticity. This is automatic, it happens on most modern email systems, without users being aware of it.
This means we can indeed validate most of the Wikileaks leaked DNC/Clinton/Podesta emails. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest is to install the popular Thunderbird email app along with the DKIM Verifier addon. Then go to the Wikileaks site and download the raw source of the email https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/2986.
Cryptographic signatures are wonderful things. In addition to verifying that a communication was sent by a specific individual or organization, cryptographic signatures also indicate whether or not the contents of the communication have been altered. Thanks to anti-spam measures we have a form of digital signature on many e-mails by default. This means that we can verify that the WikiLeak released e-mails remain unaltered.
A failure to understand the technology they’re using continues to bite politicians in the ass. But it’s good for us mere plebs because it gives us a glimpse behind the curtains of the State and that glimpse continues to show uglier and uglier things.
People often split surveillance into public and private. Public surveillance is perform directly by the State and is headed by agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Private surveillance is performed by corporations such as Harris Corporation, Facebook, and AT&T. Some libertarians and neoconservatives like to express a great deal of concern over the former because it’s being performed by the State but are mostly accepting of the latter because they believe private entities should be free to do as they please. However, the divide between public and private surveillance isn’t so clean cut. Private surveillance can become public surveillance with a simple court order. Even worse though is that private surveillance often voluntarily becomes public surveillance for a price:
Investigators long suspected Charles Merritt in the family’s disappearance, interviewing him days after they went missing. Merritt was McStay’s business partner and the last person known to see him alive. Merritt had also borrowed $30,000 from McStay to cover a gambling debt, a mutual business partner told police. None of it was enough to make an arrest.
Even after the gravesite was discovered and McStay’s DNA was found inside Merritt’s vehicle, police were far from pinning the quadruple homicide on him.
Until they turned to Project Hemisphere.
Hemisphere is a secretive program run by AT&T that searches trillions of call records and analyzes cellular data to determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.
n 2013, Hemisphere was revealed by The New York Times and described only within a Powerpoint presentation made by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Times described it as a “partnership” between AT&T and the U.S. government; the Justice Department said it was an essential, and prudently deployed, counter-narcotics tool.
Before you decide to switch from AT&T to Verizon it’s important to note that every major cellular provider likely has a similar program but they haven’t been caught yet. We know, for example, that Sprint has a web portal to make law enforcement access to customer data quick and easy and Verizon has a dedicated team for providing customer information to law enforcers. Those are likely just the tips of the icebergs though because providing surveillance services to the State is lucrative and most large companies are likely unwilling to leave that kind of money on the table.
At one time I made a distinction between public in private surveillance insofar as to note that private surveillance doesn’t lead to men with guns kicking down my door at oh dark thirty. It was an admittedly naive attitude because it didn’t figure how private surveillance becomes public surveillance into the equation. Now I make no distinction because realistically there isn’t a distinction and other libertarians should stop making the distinction as well (neoconservatives should also stop making the distinction but most of them are beyond my ability to help).
Hoping everybody will forgive it for the R51 fiasco, Remington has unveiled two newly designed handguns, the RP9 and RP45.
The RP9 and RP45 are Remington’s entry into the striker fired polymer framed handgun market. Here are two renders borrowed from the linked Firearm Blog post. Tell me if you notice anything.
Remington appears to be worried that users of its RP9 and RP45 pistols will forget who made it because the company’s branding appears to cover every single available surface. Big Remington logo on both sides of the grip? Check. A big Remington logo on the right side of the slide? Check. The word Remington on the left side of the slide? Check. Even the magazine floor plats have the Remington logo imprinted into them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they engraved the word Remington on the inside of the slide as well.
Compare the RP9 and RP45 to either a Glock or Smith and Wesson M&P pistol. Glock engraves its logo on the front lefthand of the slide and imprints a small logo on the lefthand side of the grip. Smith and Wesson is slightly more pretentious in that it imprints a small company logo on both sides of the grip and also engraves the company’s name on the righthand side of the slide. Still, the logos aren’t huge and gaudy. Remington, on the other hand, seemed to have some mandate that every available surface must be as covered as possible by either the company name or logo. I’m almost shocked that they didn’t just forego slide serration so more logos could be engraved on the slide.
Gaudy branding is a particular pet peeve of mine. When I was building my AR-15 I actually had a somewhat difficult time finding parts that weren’t covered in the manufacturer’s branding. BCM and Fail Zero (and others whose names escape me at the moment), for example, have their logos printed on the front of their bolt carrier groups (so everybody is sure of what brand of bolt carrier group you’re using when its locked forward).
I get it, companies need to advertise. But if you expect me to be a walking billboard for your company then I want something in return. For example, if a gun manufacturer did something similar to Amazon with its Kindle line where it charges you slightly more to not display ads (which is what company branding is) plastered everywhere on the gun I’d consider paying (or, more likely, going with a less pretentious manufacturer). Or the company could pay me a minute monthly or yearly fee to use the gun I purchased as a billboard.
I greatly appreciate companies that keep their branding on their products to a tasteful minimum.
Do you trust the United States government? Believe it or not, there are fools out there that still do. Unfortunately, many of these fools get suckered into military enslavement (I call it enslavement as opposed to service or employment because an individual who enters the military voluntarily cannot later leave voluntarily and the contract they sign is entirely one sided). Why? For some it’s because they believe the military allows them to serve their country (and that serving a country is noble). For others it’s because they’re out of employment options and need the cash, which is why the State often offers enlistment bonuses. But there is no honor amongst thieves. As the ultimate thief in the territory the United States government is more than happy to demand those enlistment bonuses back:
Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.
Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.
Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.
I guess this is what the United States government means when it speaks of treating soldiers with respect and dignity.
There are two important details worth noting here. First, the obvious. The California National Guard misrepresented the deal to the soldiers signing up yet it is not the entity being punished. Instead of the California National Guard being forced to repay the money it wasn’t authorized to distribute the soldiers who signed up with the understanding that they would receive the enlistment bonus are being required to give it back with interest. This solution seems to be acceptable to the United States government. As always, when the State screws up it’s the people who pay.
Second, and this is where my label of enslavement comes in, the contract the soldiers signed when they joined the California National Guard are apparently very one sided. There are very few ways for a member of the military to change the contract they sign, which includes submitting themselves to an alternative justice system, but the State seems to be able to change the contract for any reason whatsoever. If a member of the military wants more pay they’re shit out of luck. If the State later wants the enlistment bonus it paid a member when they joined it can do so without issue and even charge interest.
The State submits us to continuous propaganda about how solider are heroes and how us mere civilians should treat them as such. But the State prefers us to do as it says, not as it does because it has no issue treating soldiers like shit. Of course, in the long run, this will be detrimental to the State because it will have a more difficult time finding people for its meat grinder and those already getting ground up may turn out to view their employer less favorably. An unhappy military is a less efficient expropriator of foreign wealth than a happy military.
Depending on the circles you hang out in this may be a common scene for you. Last night I witnessed a not uncommon sight in libertarian circles. A group of libertarians were arguing (surprising, I know) about whether income, property, or sales taxes were more moral. The income tax seemed to fall fairly quickly as it was almost universally perceived as a punishment for doing well but the sales and property taxes held on for quite some time.
As I watched this circus unfold I started to think that they were basically arguing about which weapon was more moral for an armed robber to use. Is an armed robbery more moral when the mugger is armed with a gun rather than a knife? Are they more moral if they merely make you think they have a gun by sticking their hand in their pocket in an attempt to make it appear as a gun?
Personally, I can’t think of a weapon that would make an armed robber more moral nor can I think of a tax that would make government expropriation more moral.
Do you want to hear some Bulgarian folk metal? No? Too bad. My blog, my rules.
I spent last night loading ammunition and prepping for an early morning range drip (seriously, nobody is at the range at 8:00 in the morning, try it) instead of writing posts.
I didn’t watch last night’s debate. I’ve already seen enough videos of monkeys flinging feces at each other for a lifetime. But I did find an excellent video that summarizes both candidates’ position on a very important issue:
During his first presidential run, Obama spent a lot of time talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He claimed that he was going to make ending those wars a priority. While he was lying through his teeth it was refreshing to have at least one major candidate opposing war. This year? Both major candidates are war hawks and want to turn Syria into rubble (not because of anything Syria has really done but because it’s a proxy for Russia and old Cold War attitudes die hard). But neither one of them wants to address the fact that the United States is involved in five fucking wars:
In an election flush with conspiracy theories, here’s one that’s real: Both major party nominees, as well as the journalists who cover the election and moderate the debates, are actively conspiring to avoid talking about the fact that the United States is waging war in at least five countries simultaneously: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.
In the first two presidential debates, our involvement in the Syrian civil war was briefly discussed, as was ISIS in vague terms, and the Iran nuclear deal, and Russia’s mischief-making in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and Libya, though mostly in the past tense, focused on our 2011 intervention to depose Moammar Gadhafi and the subsequent attack on American government facilities in Benghazi a year later.
But our role in “advising” the Iraqi army “a few miles behind the front lines” as it works to take back territory from ISIS? Our “secret war” against Shabab militants in Somalia? Our support for Saudi Arabia’s bloody assault on Houthi rebels in Yemen? Our air strikes pounding positions in and around the city of Sirte on the Libyan coast?
Nada. Zip. Nothing.
While Keynesians have wet dreams over all of the economic “stimulus” wars create the only people who benefit are those within the military-industrial complex. Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Blackwater (or whatever the hell they call themselves now), etc. make big dollars on war. People (if you can really call Keynesians people) will also mistakenly point out that construction companies and other rebuilders make big dollars as well. But their ignorance of Bastiat’s broken window fallacy causes them to ignore the fact that those builders would be building newer, better buildings instead of replacing older buildings in an economically prosperous (i.e. not blown to Hell and back by war) region. Furthermore, an economically prosperous region would have goods and services to trade with other regions, which would increase the wealth of both sides. When wars are waged everybody outside of the military-industrial complex gets screwed.
In times of peace wealth is invested in developing new more technologically advanced goods and services. During times of war wealth is diverted to onetime use munitions and rebuilding everything that was blown up. Both sides are diverting wealth that was stolen from their populace into first building bombs, tanks, ships, bunkers, supply lines, surveillance technologies, etc. and then replacing them all when they’re destroyed. It’s an unending cycle of wasted potential.
The United States is already involved in five wars. Getting involved in more wars or throwing more resources into existing wars is only going to increase the amount of wealth wasted on death and destruction. No matter which president wins in November it’s clear that the current wars will not only march on but increase in intensity. This will only worsen the already tedious economic situation the country, and really most of the world, is in. And nobody wants to talk about that. Nobody wants to talk about what is probably the single biggest issue facing the world right now. What is the point of political debates if the important issues aren’t being broached (don’t answer that, it was a rhetorical question)? Where is the choice in an election if both candidates hold the exact same destructive positions on truly important issues (again, this is a rhetorical question)?
Before I end this post I want to address something. I’m sure some very decent human beings are asking themselves why I’m framing this discussion within economics instead of human lives? I’m trying to reach the statists here and as we know statists tend not to value human lives very highly (if they did they wouldn’t be statists). But they never shut up about the economy. I guess a part of me hopes that framing this discussion within economics I might be able to reach one or two of them and convince them to ask why nobody is addressing the issue of war in this election.