A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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No Combatant is Innocent in War

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Expanding on my previous post, here is an example of what happens when people refuse to see evil when it’s perpetrated by people they view as human.

After every terrorist attack there is usually a great deal of outrage at the fact that the attacker(s) targeted and killed civilians and rightfully so. However, when terrorist attacks against civilians are perpetrated by “their” side they’re willing to either justify the action at necessary or unavoidable or they throw the entire incident down a memory hole:

Air strikes carried out by the US and its coalition partners in Syria have killed the highest number of civilians on record since the bombing campaign began, a war monitor has said.

A total of 225 civilians, including 36 women and 44 children, were killed in the period between 23 April to 23 May, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

No combatant is innocent in war.

Middle East attackers have killed a lot of civilians in the United States and Europe and the United States and its European allies have killed a lot of civilians in the the Middle East. Unfortunately, people living in the United States and Europe have a tendency to look the other way when their militaries kill civilians. I’m sure that a lot of people in the Middle East also have a tendency to look the other way when their militaries kill civilians. Justifying or ignoring the crimes of your tribe while condemning the same crimes of another tribe is common human behavior, which is also why we can’t have nice things.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Evil Humans Do

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I’m not sure if this has always been there or if it’s a fairly modern thing but there is certainly a trend, at least here in the United States, for people to dehumanize anybody they view as evil. A good example of this is the alt-right and the anti-fascists. The alt-right describe the anti-fascists as violent psychopaths incapable of empathy who want nothing more than to see the world burn. The anti-fascists describe the alt-right as, well, violent psychopaths incapable of empathy who want nothing more than to see the world burn. Both sides have effectively dehumanized each other because they view each other’s philosophies as evil.

But evil isn’t perpetrated by inhuman monsters, it’s perpetrated by humans:

One of the key themes of Tizons’ article is that his family was, in many senses, almost a caricature of the striving, American-dream-seeking immigrant experience. They were normal. They were normal and yet they had a slave. To which one could respond, “Well, no, they’re not normal — they are deranged psychopaths to have managed to simply live for decades and decades with a slave under their roof. That is not something normal people do, and it’s wrong to portray it as such.”

But the entire brutal weight of human history contradicts this view. Normal people — people who otherwise have no signs of derangement or a lack of a grip on basic human moral principles — do evil stuff all the time. One could write millions of pages detailing all the times when evil acts were perpetrated, abetted, or not resisted by people who were, in every other respect, perfectly normal. It’s safe to say, to a certain approximation, that all of us — I really mean this; I really mean you and your family and everyone you love — could, in a different historical context, have been a slaver or a Holocaust-perpetrator or at the very least decided it wasn’t worth the trouble to contest these grotesque crimes. Because that’s the human condition: We don’t have easy access to a zoomed-out view of morality and empathy. We do what the people around us are doing, what our culture is doing. Tizon’s Filipino family came from a place where a form of slavery was quite common, and moving to America didn’t change that fact.

One of my favorite characters in any television show is Obergruppenführer Smith from The Man in the High Castle. He’s a ruthless member of the American arm of the SS but at the same time one would probably describe him as a good family man. He has a happy marriage and cares deeply for the wellbeing of his children. The reason I like him so much as a character is because he shows what real evil looks like.

Too often once we categorize somebody as evil we become entirely unable to identify any human characteristics in them. Doing this creates an interesting archetype that actually hinders us in detecting evil. We’ll identify somebody like Charles Manson, who made his beliefs very obvious by carving a swastika into his forehead, as evil but we’ll assume that somebody who appears to be a good parent and spouse is entirely incapable of evil. You see this periodically when somebody is found guilty of an especially heinous crime and people who knew the perpetrator talk about how nice of a person they were, how quiet and well mannered they were, and how they can’t believe that the perpetrator would have committed such a crime.

Us humans are complex creatures made even more complex by being social creatures. Most of us have a general tendency to fit in, which leads us to generally go with the flow when it comes to social norms. We’re also capable of compartmentalizing ourselves. We can be extremely caring to friends, family, and strangers alike but at the same time have a day job that many would consider evil. People caught in that kind of situation are often unaware of it because they’ve compartmentalized their personal and professional lives.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2017 at 10:30 am

War is Hell

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I’m sure you’ve heard about the bombing in Manchester so I won’t spend time filling you in on the details. I will, however, spend some time discussing a fact that a lot of people seem to be missing.

As usual, many people are treating this incident as an act of terrorism perpetrated by an Islamic extremist. But that’s not an accurate assessment. It was an engagement in a war. While neither the United States or the countries of Europe have formally declared a war on the various factions they’re engaged with in the Middle East, when one has invaded, bombed, and occupied a territory the formalities are irrelevant.

The United States and the countries of Europe are militarily superior to the forces they’re engaging. In a toe to toe conflict the Middle Eastern factions would lose quickly, which is why they’re not waging war in the manner that has been considered acceptable, at least by the United States and Europe, since the Westphalian Supremacy. Instead they’re utilizing asymmetrical or fourth generation warfare tactics.

When you can’t go toe to toe with your opponent you alter your tactics. Asymmetrical tactics rely on attacking the enemy economically. For the price of a single pipe bomb the bomber in Manchester will likely cost the United States and Europe millions if not billions of dollars in responding. We’re already seeing those costs with the police response in Manchester. They’re expending a lot of resources at the moment trying to find a potential second attacker. Likewise, the intelligence branches of the United States and countries of Europe are expending resources trying to identify the organization responsible (although the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, it claims responsibility for everything so their claim cannot be taken at face value). Once the organization responsible is identified a lot of resources will be expended retaliating against them.

It doesn’t take a mathematician or an economists to predict the longterm result of one side spending millions or billions of dollars responding to another side’s $50 attacks. Hell, we’ve seen the results plenty of times. Maoist forces facing off against republican forces in China, Vietcong forces facing off against United States forces in Vietnam, Soviet forces facing off against Afghanistan forces, etc. Asymmetric strategies are very effective against traditional military forces.

This war will continue until one side is either entirely wiped out, one side is completely bankrupted, one side completely disengages, or one side decides to be the adult and initiate peace talks. The forces in the Middle East cannot be entirely wiped out without taking action that would be too politically costly and the history of the United States and Europe reneging on deals makes peace talks unlikely. That leaves two potential outcomes. One, the United States and Europe are bankrupted or they leave the Middle East (as the occupying forces they’re the only ones who can disengage and leave). At the moment it seems that bankruptcy of the United States and Europe is the likely outcome.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2017 at 11:00 am

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Without Government Who Will Provide Services to Those in Need

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Without government who will provide services to those in need? Anarchists:

ATHENS — It may seem paradoxical, but Greece’s anarchists are organizing like never before.

Seven years of austerity policies and a more recent refugee crisis have left the government with fewer and fewer resources, offering citizens less and less. Many have lost faith. Some who never had faith in the first place are taking matters into their own hands, to the chagrin of the authorities.

[…]

Whatever the means, since 2008 scores of “self-managing social centers” have mushroomed across Greece, financed by private donations and the proceeds from regularly scheduled concerts, exhibitions and on-site bars, most of which are open to the public. There are now around 250 nationwide.

Some activists have focused on food and medicine handouts as poverty has deepened and public services have collapsed.

In recent months, anarchists and leftist groups have trained special energy on housing refugees who flooded into Greece in 2015 and who have been bottled up in the country since the European Union and Balkan nations tightened their borders. Some 3,000 of these refugees now live in 15 abandoned buildings that have been taken over by anarchists in the capital.

Without government who will build the roads? Who will care for the homeless? Who will care for the elderly? These are questions statists ask because they believe they shut down the conversation. They think that providing those goods and services is so complex that only a government can do them and therefore any arguments against government can be dismissed with a wave of the hand. However, every good and service that is provided by government was previously provided by nongovernmental entities. When governments collapse those goods and services are again handled by nongovernmental entities. Why? Because people see a need for those goods and services and therefore find a way to provide them.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Is It OK to Disassociate with a Nazi

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Voluntary association is a touchy subject here in the United States. Most people seem to believe that an individual has the right to associate with or disassociate from whoever they please… until they start a business. Once they start a business they can only disassociate from approved individuals. What makes this phenomenon more fascinating is how a lot of people will cheer such restriction when the people being disassociated with subscribe to ideologies they hate and then decry the very same restrictions when the people being disassociated with subscribe to ideologies they like.

When a Christian bakers wishes to disassociate with a gay couple who want to buy a wedding cake a lot of people scream bloody murder. But when a national socialist is booted from a gym the very same people cheer:

An Alexandria gym terminated the membership of white nationalist Richard Spencer last week after he was confronted by a Georgetown University professor who recognized him and lambasted him over his alt-right views.

Is it OK to disassociate with a Nazi? I believe it is. The only way you can truly be considered the owner of yourself is if you are allowed to choose who you associate and disassociate with. If you, for example, want to disassociate with somebody but a government steps in and says you have to associate with that individual can you really say that you own yourself or are you the property of the government?

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2017 at 10:30 am

The War is Not Meant to Be Won

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Who isn’t the United States at war with? It’s a difficult question to answer because the list of nations continues to grow. Although most of its actions have been focused on the Middle East, the United States is starting to expand further into Africa:

Six years ago, a deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Special Operations Command gave a conservative estimate of 116 missions being carried out at any one time by Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and other special operations forces across the globe.

Today, according to U.S. military documents obtained by VICE News, special operators are carrying out nearly 100 missions at any given time — in Africa alone. It’s the latest sign of the military’s quiet but ever-expanding presence on the continent, one that represents the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops to any region of the globe.

In 2006, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos deployed overseas were in Africa. In 2010, it was 3 percent. By 2016, that number had jumped to more than 17 percent. In fact, according to data supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command, there are now more special operations personnel devoted to Africa than anywhere except the Middle East — 1,700 people spread out across 20 countries dedicated to assisting the U.S. military’s African partners in their fight against terrorism and extremism.

Contrary to what many people believe, Trump won’t be the downfall of the United States. Russia won’t be either. What will ultimate kill the United States is its obsession with policing the world.

To quote the movie 1984, “The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. The essential act of modern warfare is the destruction of the produce of human labour. A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance.” While the United States’ purpose in war may not be to directly destroy the production of human labor, it’s an unavoidable side effect. Every building that is destroyed will have to be rebuilt. Every automobile that is destroyed will have to be replaced. War destroys the product of human labor so that it must be produced again.

And what does war return? Nothing. Some will claim that war stimulates the economy because the production of war materials and replacement of destroyed materials creates jobs. However, as Bastiat pointed out, we’re not seeing the unseen. The labor and resources that are involved in the war effort could have been used for productive things instead. Steel for tanks could have been used to build skyscrapers, automobiles, computers, or any number of wealth generating tools. Likewise, the labor could have been put towards building those skyscrapers, automobiles, computers, etc. Instead those resources are put into wealth destroying devices that must be replaced every time they are destroyed by an enemy.

So long as the United States continues to see itself as the police of the world it will continue to involve itself in more wars, which will just accelerate its demise.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Streamlining Extortion

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Minnesota may be second only to California when it comes to socialism in the United States. One of the tenants of socialism is government providing goods and services to the people. In order to do this the government must have wealth. Since government produce nothing of value it cannot raise the wealth it needs through voluntary transactions and therefore relies entirely on extortion. This extortion is commonly perpetrated by the police. Traffic citations, parking citations, and other petty forms of extortion are examples of this. But every office knows that there are bigger money makers. In fact, petty forms of extortion such as traffic and parking citations are often used as justifications for initiating an interaction that may ultimately produce a more lucrative violation.

One of the roadblocks between an officer pulling over a motorist for, say, speeding and searching their vehicle for lucrative contraband is the requirement that a warrant be acquired before a search of a vehicle can be performed. In its lust for extorted wealth Minnesota is streamlining that pesky warrant process:

The road to a search warrant has sometimes been a long and winding one for Minnesota law enforcement officers, especially those working a late-night shift. But now there’s an express lane known as the eSearch Warrant, that public safety officials say will make a big difference in DWI prosecutions.

A legal process that used to be done on paper and required a face-to-face meeting between an officer and a judge is now being done electronically. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Monday the transition to sSearch Warrants started in October and is now finished statewide.

“Before eSearch Warrants, a peace officer would write a search warrant application and then drive it to the judge for review,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans.

Of course it was justified using drunk drivers. Everybody hates drunk drivers so they’re more than happy to roll over whenever the police expand their power for the purpose of catching drunk drivers. I very much doubt that this streamlined process was aimed at nabbing drunk drivers though. The lower barrier to entry is likely meant to be used to allow officers to perform more vehicle searches in the hopes of finding more drugs, weapons, and other lucrative contraband.

Unfortunately, many people will be fine with this because they don’t realize that every single expansion of government power, no matter how trivial, comes at the expense of the rights and privileges of the people.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Have Some Government

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Let’s say the government has offered you half of a duopoly on a product that is otherwise illegal. However, the government has also placed a bunch of ridiculous restrictions on that product that will unnecessarily raise your production costs. Do you take the government up on its offer? If you’re smart, you don’t:

Minnesota’s two licensed medical marijuana manufacturers have lost a combined $11 million in just two years of sales, according to financial documents obtained by The Associated Press, continuing losses that hint at systemic problems with the state’s tightly regulated program despite a recent expansion that allowed thousands more patients to buy the medication.

Minnesota Medical Solutions posted a $1.2 million loss in 2016, a year after losing more than $3 million. But LeafLine Labs’ losses worsened: The company said it lost $4.7 million last year, after losing $2.2 million loss in 2015.

When the medical cannabis bill was passed in Minnesota it included a mind-boggling number of restrictions. For example, medical cannabis cannot contain any leftover plant material. Why? Who knows. What we do know is that the law made it so two companies with a duopoly can’t make a profit on a product that teenagers in every high school in the country manage profit off of.

Unfortunately, this will likely be the status quo in this state for many years. The problem with medical cannabis laws is that once they’re passed it makes passing full decriminalization more difficult. One of the best arguments for cannabis legalization is its medical benefits. When medical cannabis laws are passed that argument is no longer available to advocates of full decriminalization. This is another example of the good being the enemy of the better. Medical cannabis laws may appear to be better than full criminalization but they’re actually a detriment to full decriminalization.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am

A Nice Place to Live

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I’ve been keeping an eye out for a nicer place to live. For me, a nicer place to live is a place where taxes are low (preferably nonexistent) and the government is ineffective (or, again, preferably nonexistent). I may have found such a place:

The story examines repeated voter rejection of tax increases in Oregon’s timber counties—Douglas, Curry and Josephine—and the resulting cuts in basic services.

Douglas County is closing its libraries. Josephine County has a catch-and-release policy for nonviolent criminals because voters defunded the jail. Curry County has no sheriff’s office staffing after midnight, and is running out of money to conduct elections. The Times reports: “Even conducting an election this fall could be beyond reach, said Reneé Kolen, the Curry County clerk, who has one full-time staff member left in her elections division, and is facing another possible 30 percent cut in funding this year in her budget.”

The police have to catch and release nonviolent criminals? The horror! And democracy may not be able to continue because there isn’t a money to have a poll to ask residents how other people’s money should be spent? That’s a shame!

The people of Douglas County appear to be some of the few people in this country who have their heads screwed on right. If everybody had the same attitude this would probably be a pretty nice country.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Chelsea Manning Finally Released

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After spending seven year in a cage for the crime of doing the right thing, Chelsea Manning has finally been released:

US soldier Chelsea Manning has been released from prison after serving seven years for leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and military files to Wikileaks.

A US Army spokesperson confirmed to the BBC that she had left Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas.

Most of what remained of her 35-year sentence was commuted by then-US President Barack Obama in January.

Unfortunately, she’ll never get those seven years back nor will she receive compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned.

I know, a lot of people will have issues with my statement that she was wrongfully imprisoned. After all, she broke the law and was found guilty. But remember that I’m one of those weird people who believes a crime only exists if there is a victim. Chelsea Manning’s actions didn’t create any victims. In fact, she provided evidence of actual crimes being committed. Her actions deserved commendations, not punishment. And she is justly owned compensation for being punished even though she didn’t commit an actual crime.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am