Archive for the ‘News You Need to Know’ Category
Some health insurance companies have started pilot programs where customers can receive a discount for wearing a fitness tracker and sharing the data with the company. This seems like a pretty straight forward idea. But according to Bloomberg it’s a sinister ploy:
Think about what that means for insurance. It’s meant to be a mechanism to pool risk — that is, to equalize the cost of protecting against unforeseen health problems. But once the big data departments of insurance companies have enough information — including about online purchases and habits — they can build a minute profile about each and every person’s current and future health. They can then steer “healthy” people to cheaper plans, while leaving people who have higher-risk profiles — often due to circumstances beyond their control — to pay increasingly unaffordable rates.
Whenever health insurance companies up I’m forced to explain what insurance is. I shouldn’t have to do this but nobody seems to know what it means.
Insurance is a way for multiple people to pool their resources for risk mitigation. Take home owner’s insurance for example. When you buy a home owner’s policy you’re donating some money to a common pool. Any paying customer can withdraw from the pool if they experience a situation, such as a house fire, that is covered by the insurance policy. Those with higher risks are more likely to withdraw from the pool so they pay a higher premium. Those with lower risks pay less.
Automobile insurance is the same way. Higher risk drivers; such as young males, people who have been found guilty of driving while intoxicated, people who have been found guilty of reckless driving, etc.; pay a higher premium because they’re more likely to withdraw from the community pool.
Most people accept that higher risk people should pay a higher premium for home owner’s or automobile insurance. But when they’re talking about health insurance they suddenly have a change of heart and think that higher risk people should pay the same as lower risk people. That makes no sense. Health insurance, like any other form of insurance, is pooled risk mitigation. If you live an unhealthy lifestyle you’re more likely to withdraw from the pool so you pay a higher premium. Oftentimes these risks are outside of your control, which sucks. However, if the pool empties, that is to say there are more withdrawals than deposits over a long enough period of time to completely drain the accounts, everybody loses their coverage. That being the case, higher risk people have to pay more to ensure the pool remains solvent even if the risks are outside of their control.
It’s not a sinister scheme, it’s exactly how insurance works.
Yesterday I wrote a post about some neoliberals threatening to homeschool their children. Homeschooling isn’t the only anti-state idea neoliberals are getting though. Some are now claiming that they won’t pay their taxes because Trump was elected president:
Andrew Newman always pays his taxes, even if he hates what the government is doing with them. But not this year. For him, Donald Trump is the dealbreaker. He’ll pay his city and state taxes but will refuse to pay federal income tax as a cry of civil disobedience against the president and his new administration.
Newman is not alone. A nascent movement has been detected to revive the popularity of tax resistance – last seen en masse in America during the Vietnam war but which has been, sporadically, a tradition in the US and beyond going back many centuries.
Bombing children in the Middle East, having the highest prison population in the world, widespread unwarranted surveillance, civil forfeiture, and a plethora of other horrible government programs weren’t enough to convince them to not pay their taxes. But Trump getting elected? That warrants such action.
This is me not really giving a shit about their tax protest.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they’re finally understanding why us libertarians are so opposed to government power. But their protests ring a bit hallow when it’s obvious that the only thing they’re upset about is who is in power, not what people in that position of power has been doing. I’m sure these same people would gladly pay their taxes if Hillary was in power regardless of what horrible shit she was doing because the only thing that matters to them is the party, not the actions.
While I do appreciate their sentiment I must also admit that I look forward to seeing their reaction once they realize that taxation, regardless of what they have previous claimed, is backed by the barrel of a gun.
I admit that my bullshit detector isn’t perfect but I think it’s pretty well calibrated. One of the things that always raises a red flag on my bullshit detector are stories that seem to be a little too perfect for a group or individual. When the news broke that immigrants were running rampant and sexually assaulting women in Germany the story raised a few red flags. It just fit too perfectly into the alt-right’s narrative. Of course I had nothing but a gut feeling to go on since I can’t read German (yet) so I was relegated to the sources available to me. As it turns out, my bullshit detector wasn’t wrong:
But police confirmed on Tuesday to the Frankfurter Rundschau that their investigation of the allegations had led them to believe that they were spurious.
“Interviews with alleged witnesses, guests and employees led to major doubts with the version of events that had been presented,” the police said.
“One of the alleged victims was not even in Frankfurt at the time the allegations are said to have taken place.”
The police were indeed unequivocal in how they understood the events to have unfolded.
“Masses of refugees were not responsible for any sexual assaults in the Fressgass over New Year. The accusations are completely baseless,” the police said.
Before the Bild report, no sexual assaults were reported to police from Fressgass over New Year.
I’m sure the alt-right will either completely ignore this story or explain it away as a conspiracy by the police to coverup immigrant crime.
The first casualty of politics is language. The second is the truth. Usually the former is used for the latter. But sometimes the truth is killed by good old fashioned lying.
Whenever the State involves itself in an issue there are unintended consequences (okay, the consequences could be intended but I’ll give the politicians the benefit of the doubt in this case). When the State involved itself in the alcohol market by prohibiting its manufacture, sale, and consumption criminal organizations arose to provide the prohibited good. Today we’re seeing the same thing happen again as the State has involved itself in the markets of several other substances. When the State further involved itself in the healthcare market health insurance premiums skyrocketed.
What happens when the State involves itself in immigration? Unintended consequences:
For four months every year he employs almost exclusively Hispanic male workers to pick the harvest. This year he had 64 men out in the fields.
Then HB56 came into effect, the new law that makes it a crime not to carry valid immigration documents and forces the police to check on anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally.
The provisions – the toughest of any state in America – were enforced on 28 September. By the next day Cash’s workforce had dwindled to 11.
Today there is no-one left. The fields around his colonial-style farmhouse on top of a mountain are empty of pickers and the tomato plants are withering on the vine as far as the eye can see. The sweet, slightly acrid smell of rotting tomato flesh hangs in the air.
On Friday, the 11th circuit appeals court in Atlanta blocked the first of those measures, but allowed the state to continue detaining suspected illegal migrants. So it is unlikely that Cash’s workers will dare to reappear.
The blow to Cash can be measured in those $100,000 – money he says he had wanted to put aside as insurance against a poor crop in future years. But it can also be measured in other ways.
A great deal of manual labor in this country is performed by “illegal” immigrants. Why? Because they’re willing to do the work for the pay being offered, unlike most Americans. When those immigrants aren’t available to do the work the work often ends up not being done, which costs producers money and consumers available goods.
Immigration is a hotly debated topic amongst libertarians. One camp believes that the State has the authority to decide who can and cannot cross the arbitrary lines it has created. The other camp, i.e. the correct libertarians, don’t recognize the State has a legitimate entity and believe that the only person who can decide who can and cannot enter a property is the owner. If a farmer wants to allowed laborers from Mexico to enter their property then those Mexicans can enter the property. Property rights cease to exist the second the State is allowed to dictate who can and cannot enter the farmer’s property.
Last year Robert Higgs wrote an excellent article about how taxes are slavery. This sparked my interest in researching the practice of slaver renting. Needless to say, the analogy between slave renting and taxation dead on:
In some instances, masters allowed slaves to hire themselves out; this practice permitted some slaves to save enough money to purchase their freedom. Slave-hiring in Charleston became so complex that many slaves wore a badge around their necks with a number indicating their particular skill or craft. The Charleston city council taxed those badges, masters still received money for renting out their slaves, renters had laborers or skilled slaves for extended periods of time, and some slaves earned money in this elaborate process.
For masters, hiring or renting out their slaves brought additional income; for slaves with skills, especially those who rented themselves out, the process could lead to freedom. Even when masters took a good portion of their money, good carpenters, brick masons, and blacksmiths could, over a period of time, earn enough to buy their freedom.
Last year Americans were working until April 24th for Uncle Sam. It’s only after that point that they were allowed to make money for themselves.
Every one of us, except people who work purely in the agorist economy, has to buy our temporary freedom from Uncle Sam. If you are an employee then your employer buys your freedom by renting you out. Being rented out by your employer takes the form of automatically withheld taxes from your paycheck. If you are a contractor then you buy your own temporary freedom by paying estimated owed taxes every quarter. Slave renting hasn’t gone away, the criteria have just changed so that everybody is a slave of Uncle Sam.
But what happens if you fail to buy your temporary freedom? If you are an employee Uncle Sam may start by garnishing your wages, which is a fancy phrase for stealing your money. Uncle Sam might also opt to steal your assets, sell them off, and put the profits towards your temporary freedom. If Uncle Sam believes you are truly unruly he might sent his slave patrol to kidnap you and make you work in one of his
forced labor camps prisons. In the absolute worst case his slave patrol might just murder you outright.
If you believe that you’re anything other than property in the eyes of the State then you are sorely mistaken. You are a slave. You just have the option of renting yourself out to raise money to temporarily buy your freedom.
The United Kingdom is planning to streamline its subjugation of its subjects. As things currently stand, pleading guilty to a crime requires at least signing a piece of paper and mailing it in. But soon subjects of the crown will be able to plead guilty by logging into a website:
A government report has confirmed it plans to roll out a scheme that allows petty criminals to plead guilty online and then have their sentence handed out over a computer.
“Under this proposal, defendants who opt in to the online procedure and plead guilty will be offered the option to accept a pre-determined penalty (including the payment of any appropriate compensation and costs), be convicted and pay the amount immediately.” said the report.
This really isn’t as big of a story as some might think. Right now it’s aimed at petty “crimes” that usually don’t require a court hearing. But like those petty “crimes”, this is yet another example of a so-called justice system morphing into a pure revenue generation system.
If a “crime” doesn’t even require a court hearing then it’s not really a crime because there generally isn’t a victim. Consider the “crimes” that this system will be initially used for:
Initially the system will be tested with petty crimes that are non-imprisonable such as: Railway fare evasion, tram fare evasion, and possession of unlicensed rod and line.
If the railways and trams are privately owned then somebody who uses them without paying the required fare is guilty of trespassing. Justice in that case is the trespasser paying the owed fair and any expenses the railway and tram owners faced in collecting the owed fee. If the railways and trams are owned by the State then no crime has been committed because the State cannot legitimately own property. I shouldn’t say that no crime has been committed. The State committed the crime of theft to acquire the resources to build the railways and trams. Conveniently, the State’s courts, which have monopolized justice, won’t prosecute that crime though.
What about possession of an unlicensed rod and line? That’s not a crime no matter how you look at it.
So the real story here is that the United Kingdom’s court system is continuing its evolution into a revenue generation system. Creating a website for people to log into to plead guilty to non-crimes is just streamlining the process of subjugation that already exists.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a sordid record when it comes to airport security. Since airport security is the agency’s primary job and it hasn’t been doing an effective job at providing security you might expect it to, you know, try to improve its capabilities. Instead the agency has been doubling down on security theater. But the best part is that the agency realizes that its efforts are theater:
If you’ve ever suspected that the TSA’s airport behavior screening (where it looks for visual signs of lying or stress) was just another example of ineffective security theater, you now have some science to back up your hunches. Thanks to a lawsuit, the ACLU has obtained TSA files showing that the organization has pushed and even expanded its “behavior detection” program despite a lack of supporting evidence. While the TSA maintains that it can detect signs of shady activity through fidgeting, shifty eyes and other visual cues, studies in its files suggest just the opposite — you’d have just as much success by choosing at random. And those are in controlled conditions, not a busy airport where anxiety and stress are par for the course.
The TSA hasn’t thwarted a single terrorist attack since it was founded. It hasn’t even done anything noteworthy in the field of security. The only thing the agency has managed to do is bolster the profits of bottled water manufacturers by stealing air travelers’ water and forcing them to buy more inside of “secure” areas. Yet this agency continues to exist. It continues to exist because the government that established it believes stealing your money and giving it to one of its entirely ineffective agency is fiscally responsible.
The next time some statist dipshit tells you that taxes aren’t high enough remind them that a ton of tax money is being irresponsibly dumped into agencies like the TSA.
Is it okay to punch a Nazi? This question has become quite popular every since white nationalist Richard Spencer was decked by people who didn’t like what he was selling. Supporters of punching Nazis claim that standing idly by is what allowed the Nazis to rise to power and that the only way to prevent Nazis from rising to power again is through preemptive violence. This logic was also used by supporters of the UC Berkley rioters who caused Milo Yiannopoulos to cancel his talk.
But did the Nazis rise to power because good people stood by and did nothing? As with most things, the rise of the Nazi Party wasn’t so simple.
The Nazi Party’s rise to power was due to many factors. One of those factors was the party’s ability to exploit the actions of its opponents. For example, the Nazi Party used the Reichstag fire to suspend civil liberties. The Reichstag building was burned down, supposedly by a communist named Van der Lubbe, which gave the Nazi Party grounds for asking President Hindenburg to suspend civil liberties. He did so with the passage of the Reichstag Fire Decree.
While I don’t claim that the rioting at UC Berkley was the same as the Reichstag fire I feel the need to point out the similarities. Both the rioting at UC Berkley and the Reichstag fire were supposedly perpetrated by communists. Both events were used by nationalists. In the case of the Reichstag fire the event was used by nationalists to suspend civil liberties. In the case of the rioting at UC Berkley the event has been used by nationalists to galvanize their supporters and discredit their opponents.
Is it okay to punch a Nazi? If it is then how far can one go? Is it okay to kill a Nazi? Is it okay to burn down an entire college campus to prevent a Nazi (note that I’m not claiming that Milo is a Nazi but he is seen as such by many of his opponents) from speaking?
I understand the appeal of violence. It’s expedient and far easier than using rhetoric to convince people of your cause. But it’s also a double-edged sword. It can silence your opponents but it can also be used by your opponents to discredit you. The Reichstag fire was a great example of this. If the Reichstag building hadn’t been burned down it’s possible that the Nazi Party would have been unsuccessful or only somewhat successful at getting civil liberties suspended.
You might see violence as the best means of achieving your ends but your opponents might also see you using violence as the best means of achieving their ends. Be cautious of traps.
If nothing else, Trump’s election has taught a lot of people, albeit only temporarily, about the dangers of a power government. The responses to this newfound knowledge have been all over the board. On the minor end a lot of people have stated that Trump isn’t their president. I welcome them to the club of those of us who don’t have presidents. But the minor end of the scale is dull. On the more fun end of the scale a lot of people are talking about secession. Surprisingly enough, the state talking most loudly about secession is California:
A proposal for California to secede from the United States was submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office Thursday.
The proposed “Calexit” initiative – its name borrowed from the UK’s “Brexit” departure from the EU – would ask voters to repeal part of the state constitution that declares California an inseparable part of the U.S.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla said the group behind the proposal, Yes California Independence Campaign, was cleared to begin attempting to collect nearly 600,000 voter signatures needed to place the plan on the ballot.
“In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values, and our continued statehood means California will continue subsidizing the other states to our own detriment, and to the detriment of our children,” the Yes campaign’s website says.
Over a century and a half ago the states learned what happens when you try to secede from a powerful federal government. But what happened so long ago shouldn’t dissuade people from trying again today. Secession is something worth fighting for. It’s the beginning of something that could be beautiful. First states could secede from the United States. Then counties could secede from the states. Then townships could secede from the counties. And finally, individuals could secede from the townships. Going from one federal state with 50 vassal states, which is all the 50 states really are at this point, to 320 million separate states would be wonderful.
Although California is not a place I’d want to live, if it starts the chain reaction of secession I will forever give it its due credit.
I was helping host a CryptoParty last night so I didn’t have a chance to dig through much news. But I did see one story that gives me hope. Donald Trump’s election has resulted in massive protests, executive orders flying out of the Oval Office as fast as they can be signed, and a whole lot of Godwin’s Law (of which I’m guilty but I’m not sorry). However, it appears that one good thing has happened due to the election, an increase in literacy:
George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” is surging in popularity in the days since President Trump’s inauguration.
The iconic book, published nearly 70 years ago, is the sixth best-selling book on Amazon as of Tuesday morning.
Top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday defended the White House’s statements about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration by referring to it “alternative facts.”
She was referring to White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s insistence that Friday’s swearing-in was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” despite photos and videos showing that former President Obama’s 2009 inauguration clearly had a bigger crowd on the National Mall.
Many on social media compared “alternative facts” to the use of “newspeak,” a type of rhetoric in “1984” where the government lies to citizens and insists its lies are the only acceptable truth.
I commend Trump and his administration for their efforts to bolster literacy in this age of idiocy.
What makes me sad is that sales of 1984 go up whenever the surveillance state becomes prevalent in the news but either people aren’t reading the book or aren’t comprehending what they’re reading because nothing ever changes. Oh well, if people at least read the first chapter I’ll consider it a huge win for literacy. Yes, my standards have been lowered that far. That’s what happens when almost everybody around you was “educated” in a government indoctrination center.