A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The No Win Situation of Politics

without comments

More and more people seem to be realizing that all available political options are no win situations:

Establishment political parties have been playing a dangerous game — contriving situations in which the only acceptable choice happens to be one favored by elites, and hoping that voters will choose it under duress.

Voters have been revolting against no-choice politics by choosing the unthinkable: Brexit, fringe political parties, rejecting the Italian reform referendum, Trump.

You should be mad at voters for the alarming choices they are making. I certainly am. But you should also be mad at the establishment leaders and political parties who put voters in the position of choosing between the unpalatable and the absurd.

I often compare candidate choices to the choice of either colon cancer or lung cancer. While arguments can be made in favor of one over the other the end result of both if left untreated is death.

What amuses me is that the absurdity of our “choices” is becoming so obvious that even mainstream media outlets are having a difficult time ignoring it. Just look at the last presidential election. The choice was between a male fascist or a female fascist. The media pushed for the female fascist but the difference between the two was so insignificant that it had a difficult time finding a characteristic to sell her on. In the end the male fascist won because votes basically flipped a coin.

If you’re a student of history you’ve read about how this plays out. Things will continue to deteriorate. The “choices” will become worse. At some point the system will collapse in on itself like a massive star at the end of its life.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Thanks, Obama

without comments

I’m sure that’s what Trump’s administration said as Obama’s administration expanded its power:

WASHINGTON — In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

[…]

Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.

Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.

I’m sure the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are going to have a field day with it.

Initially the National Security Agency (NSA) was tasked with surveilling foreign entities but not domestic entities. That mandate changed over time. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know that the NSA is now surveilling people domestically. However, the agency itself has no enforcement powers. But the FBI and DEA do! And that’s why this rule change should be concerning.

There’s a world of difference between having access to filtered data and raw data. Presumably, the NSA’s goons were feeding other intelligence agencies data that it thought was pertinent to its mission. Even if the NSA was feeding other intelligence agencies more than that it still had access to limited manpower, which meant the amount of data it was handing over was necessarily limited. With access to the raw data agencies like the FBI and DEA can now comb through it for their purposes. There will be more eyes looking at the data and those eyes won’t be restricted to what the NSA considers important.

We know that the NSA surveils domestic Internet and phone communications. Since so many illegal transactions (not criminal, since a vast majority of these transactions don’t involve victims) take place over the Internet or through phone calls the FBI and DEA now have access to data that gives them a potentially rich target environment. Even if agencies like the FBI and DEA are legally restricted from using data acquired by the NSA to prosecute domestic individuals the law enforcement community has already created a workaround to such limitations.

When Obama took office his administration was given control of the vast surveillance apparatus that Bush’s administration had expanded. Under his tenure as president those apparatuses expanded further. Now Trump’s administration is receiving control of that expanded surveillance apparatus. To all of the people who didn’t give a shit about those expanding powers under Obama but are now flipping out about Trump having those powers, this is why us libertarians are against expanding the State’s powers. You never know who will be given those powers after your guy leaves office.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Disloyalty to the Fatherland Will Not be Tolerated

without comments

The religion of statism loves its rituals. Stand and remove your hat when you sing the national anthem, Rockets and Bombs. Stand, remove your hat, and put your hand over your heart when you pledge your allegiance to the skycloth. Don’t burn the skycloth that you have no issue wiping your mouth with on July 4th. The list of rules go on and on.

But for some it’s not enough just to have these religious rituals. They want these rituals to be mandatory:

A Mississippi legislator has sponsored a bill that levies a $1,500 fine on any school that doesn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag within the first hour of class each school day.

Rep. William Shirley, a Republican whose District 84 covers Clark, Jasper and Newton counties, wants to amend Section 37-13-6 of the Mississippi Code of 1972. The code provides stipulations on the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and when, where and how to present the flag on school grounds.

All schools will lead the children in pledging their allegiance to the Fatherland!

When I was in elementary school we recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. Do you know what school children use that time for? Coming up with funnier words, usually involving fart jokes, to say loudly enough for nearby students to hear yet quietly enough so the teacher doesn’t hear. All the Pledge of Allegiance is to school children is a bunch of meaningless words they’re made to recite. As it turns out, concepts like patriotism are a bit beyond the mental capacity of most children (more accurately, school children aren’t yet dumb enough to be brainwashed by patriotism).

Written by Christopher Burg

January 13th, 2017 at 10:00 am

What Do You Do for Money, Honey

with one comment

How far would you go to make a buck? Would you be willing to put lives at risk for personal gain? Fortunately, most people aren’t in a position where they have to ask themselves these questions. But politicians are.

Let’s consider the ride sharing industry. Uber and Lyft allow people with cars to make a little extra cash by providing taxi services. Having this option available has been a boon for passengers as they are no longer restricted to the taxi cartels. However, the taxi cartels have been petitioning their protectors, municipal governments, to stifle their ride sharing competitors. Several major cities have responded by passing regulations that are too burdensome for Uber and Lyft.

In addition to increasing the costs for passengers, kicking Uber and Lyft out of cities has had another side effect. Incidents of drunk driving have increased:

However, after the city of Austin passed new burdensome regulations on the ridesharing economy last summer, Uber and Lyft both decided to cease operating within city limits. In the several months since their departure, driving under the influence (DUI or DWI) arrests have already spiked according to the Austin Police Department’s own data.

Before Uber came to town in 2014, Austin Police Department’s data showed that the city had an average of 525 drunk driving arrests per month. When these numbers were revisited a year after ridesharing came to Austin, drunk driving arrests had dropped by five percent. This trend continued the following year when the number of drunk driving arrests dropped by an additional 12 percent, bringing the average number of arrests to about 438 per month.

In May of 2016, the same month Uber and Lyft made the decision to leave Austin, the monthly rate of drunk driving incidents was down to an average of 358. However, within the first few months of Uber and Lyft’s absence, the number of DUI arrests increased by 7.5 percent from the previous year. In the month of July alone, the city had 476 drunk driving arrests.

This puts the city politicians in a position where they have to ask themselves if they’re willing to put lives at risk for personal profit. Drunk driving citations are big money for cities. Cartelizing the taxi business also makes cities a decent chunk of change. Providing protection to the taxi cartels can also lead to lucrative campaign contributions. But it all comes at the expense of putting motorists on the road at risk of being killed by a drunk driver.

Part of the reason I despise politicians so much is because they are in a position to profit off of our misery and often take opportunities to do so. Although I won’t go so far as to say the politicians in Austin, Texas were purposely being malicious when they passed regulations against Uber and Lyft (I can’t read minds, after all), I will say that they are in a position to ease people’s misery by removing those regulations. The question now that we have data showing the consequences of booting Uber and Lyft out of the city is whether or not Austin’s politicians are willing to forgo the money they’re making off of the regulations they passed. Needless to say, I’m not optimistic.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 6th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Toothless Ethics Body Rendered… Toothless

without comments

Today’s Two Minutes Outrage is brought to you by the United States House of Representatives. Two days ago the House voted to “gut” the Office of Congressional Ethics:

Republicans in the US House of Representatives have voted to weaken the body that investigates claims of misconduct against members of Congress.

The independent Office of Congressional Ethics would come under control of a House committee, if it goes ahead.

And the Two Minutes Outrage commenced. As it common, public outrage was quickly followed by a return to the status quo.

I put the word “gut” in quotes for a reason. When I saw the Two Minutes Outrage begin I asked a question that seemed obvious to me, what exactly has the Office of Congressional Ethics accomplished. Nobody who was flipping out about the vote seemed to be able to answer my straight forward question, which lead me to believe they were only flipping out because the office had “ethics” in the name.

Wikipedia is usually a good source for finding an organization’s accomplishments so I headed there. Did I find a long list of cases where the Office of Congressional Ethics punished members of Congress for acting unethically? No. But I did find a possible reason why the office didn’t have a long list of accomplishments to its name:

The OCE lacks subpoena power and must complete each review in a relatively short period of time—approximately three months at most. The OCE review process requires approval of the board at each step. In order to open a preliminary review, lasting no longer than 30 days, there must be “reasonable cause to believe allegations,” according to the OCE.[3] In order to proceed to a second phase, or further review, there must be “probable cause to believe allegations.”[3] The second phase must be completed within 45 days, with the possibility of a 14-day extension.[4] Following completion of the second-phase review, the OCE board votes to refer a matter to the House Ethics Committee with a recommendation for or against further review by the committee. The recommendation comes in the form of a report which must be released to the public, unless the OCE recommendation was against further review.

No subpoena power, a short period of time to perform a full investigation, and no power to punish those found to be acting unethically? It’s almost like Congress made this office!

Oh, that’s right, it did.

The office was created in March 2008, supposedly as a response to what Nancy Pelosi (and she would know) called a “culture of corruption.” In other words, the Office of Congressional Ethics was created by the House of Representatives in response to a previous Two Minutes Outrage. The House of Representatives created a toothless office and told the public that the new office would fight corruption in Washington. For some reason the public believed the politicians when they said that they would police themselves.

In conclusion, everybody who flipped out about this was doing so because the word “ethics” in the title of the Office of Congressional Ethics gave them the warm fuzzies. Had the office been gutted nothing would have changed because the office didn’t actually have any power to change anything.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 4th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Officers You Don’t Want

with 2 comments

The city council member in St. Paul is worried. The council recently voted to make the whole cycle of “We investigated ourselves and found that we did nothing wrong.” cycle more difficult by remove two officers from its Police Civilian Review Commission. Because of that vote the member is now concerned that many officers will vacate the force:

Some St. Paul city leaders are a little concerned they might see a larger than normal exodus of veteran police officers in 2017.

One city council member told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS morale in the St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) is the lowest he remembers in his 20 years as a member of the city council.

“Police on the street are disappointed and dismayed by the recent city council vote to strip two police officers from the city’s Police Civilian Review Commission, because they see it as the council not having their back and not supporting them when they put on bullet-proof vests to go to work everyday”, said City Council member, Dan Bostrom, who is a retired SPPD officer and was first elected to the city council in 1996.

Not surprisingly, the council member in question is a retired police officer.

Review bodies aren’t supposed to have the backs of or support the individuals they’re tasked with reviewing. They’re supposed to be a third-party that can perform a more impartial review when complaints are made against the individuals they’re tasked with reviewing. Judges doesn’t ask juries to have the backs of defendants. Electrical inspectors aren’t told to have the backs of the electricians whose work they’re tasked with inspecting. Medical review boards aren’t told to have the backs of doctors they’re tasked with reviewing. So why is a civilian review body tasked with reviewing complaints against police officers expected to have the backs of those police officers?

I would argue that any officer who leaves a department because the review body overseeing that department doesn’t have the officers’ backs is somebody who shouldn’t be a police officer. If an officer is afraid of a more impartial review of their behavior then they are probably aware that their behavior is at least questionable if not obviously corrupt.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 3rd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Be Careful What You Wish For

without comments

Yesterday the electoral college held its official vote. Leading up to that vote opponents of Donald Trump were urging electoral college voters to go against their pledge. In several cases they ended up getting what they wanted but, as is often the case when you wish for something, not in the way they wanted it.

In Washington four electors broke away from their pledged vote:

In acts of symbolic protest, three voted instead for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, while one voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American elder and activist from South Dakota.

Here in Minnesota one elector broke away from their pledged vote and instead voted for Bernie Sanders. As this is The People’s Republic of Minnesota, the renegade voter was immediately replaced with somebody who voted for the party line:

Clinton, also as expected, was awarded Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes after she won the popular tally in the state by a margin of 44,765 votes. Muhammud Abdurrahman, one of the 10 electors, broke ranks to vote for Sanders; by law, he was replaced by an alternate who voted for Clinton.

We don’t tollerate any of that free thinking bullshit here!

The only so-called faithless electors that weren’t Hillary supporters appear to have been in Texas. And, of course…

All but two of Texas’ 38 electors voted Monday to officially put Donald Trump in the White House, with one elector casting a ballot for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and another casting a ballot for a fellow Texan, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

Emphasis mine.

So there you have it. Yesterday’s lesson was, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 20th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , ,

Blaming Russia isn’t Exclusively an American Pastime

with one comment

Blaming Russia for interfering in elections isn’t just an American pastime. It appears that our friends across the pond enjoy playing it as well:

A Labour MP has claimed that it is “highly probable” that Vladimir Putin’s Russia interfered in the UK’s Brexit referendum.

Ben Bradshaw said Moscow’s likely interference in the vote would fit a pattern of meddling in other nations’ affairs, following the CIA’s accusation that Russian hackers tried to influence the recent US elections.

Democracy is wonderful because the blame can always be put on somebody else if the election doesn’t go your way. Did your incompetent presidential candidate lose? You don’t have to blame it on your candidate’s incompetence, which would necessarily require admitting that your support was unwise. Instead you can blame the voters for being too stupid to choose the right candidate, the people who didn’t vote for not supporting your candidate, third-party candidates for stealing votes from your candidate, or an outside sinister force influencing voters against your candidate.

Did the people of your country tire of the yoke of an outside governing body and vote to leave that body? Again, you can blame everybody from the stupid voters to an outside sinister force!

Democracy means never having to admit fault.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 15th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Trump Will Turn the Propaganda Machine into a Propaganda Machine

without comments

Post election outrage is probably the only thing that is more annoying than pre-election campaigning. It doesn’t matter who wins, all of us end up having to listen to the apocalyptic predictions of the supporters of the losing candidate.

If you listened to all of the outrage you would believe that Trump is going to single handedly destroy the entire United States government (trust me, he won’t, if he could I’d support the guy). And the predictions are becoming more bizarre and more disconnected from reality. Take this prediction, which is titled “Trump could convert government news agencies to propaganda machines”:

One more thing President-elect Trump will inherit when he takes office next month: a large, state-run media operation with little or no impartial oversight. As the Washington Post‘s editorial board wrote this weekend, the United States’ official external news sources Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and others are about to lose the buffer that keeps the content they project to the world fair and objective.

Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Liberty are fair and objective? Jesus Fucking Christ. How stupid are the people who write this nonsense? Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were never fair and objective. Both stations were created for the expressed purpose of spreading propaganda:

During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe (RFE) was broadcast to Soviet satellite countries and Radio Liberty (RL) targeted the Soviet Union. RFE was founded as an anti-communist propaganda source in 1949 by the National Committee for a Free Europe. RL was founded two years later and the two organizations merged in 1976.

Not only where both stations designed to be propaganda machines but they even received a great deal of funding from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until 1972. Voice of America (VoA) is also a propaganda machine, although a more subtle one. Instead of being overtly anti-communist, the purpose of VoA is to spread general propaganda showing the United States in a positive light.

Any claims that Trump will turn these stations into propaganda machines are based on the false assumption that these stations aren’t already propaganda machines or were ever anything but propaganda machines.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate Trump too. In fact I probably hate him more than most of the people freaking out about him. But he wasn’t elected to the position of god emperor. He was elected to be the president and the president only has so much power. Unfortunately, he is unable to destroy the United States government so let’s all stop claiming he will. Such claims just give people false hope.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Russia

with one comment

Russia hasn’t occupied this much airtime on American news channels since the Cold War. But everywhere you look it’s Russia this and Russia that. Russia is propping up the Assad regime in Syria! Russia rigged the election! Russia stole my lunch money!

Wait, let’s step back to the second one. A lot of charges are being made that Russia “hacked” the election, which allowed Trump to win. And there’s some evidence that shenanigans were taking place regarding the election:

Georgia’s secretary of state says the state was hit with an attempted hack of its voter registration database from an IP address linked to the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Well that’s embarrassing. Apparently the Department of Motherland Fatherland Homeland Security (DHS) is a Russian agency. Who would have guessed?

Could Russia have influenced the election? Of course. We live in an age of accessible real-time global communications. Anybody could influence anybody else’s voting decision. A person in South Africa could influence a voter in South Korea to opt for one choice over another. This global communication system also means that malicious hackers in one nation could compromise any connected election equipment in another country.

However, the biggest check against Russian attempts to rig the election is all of the other forces that would be trying to do the exact same thing. People have accused both the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (admittedly, rigging elections is what the CIA does) of trying to rig the election. Likewise, there are some questions about what exactly the DHS was doing in regards to Georgia. Major media companies were working overtime to influence people’s voting decision. Countries in Europe had a vested interest in the election going one way or another as did pretty much every other country on Earth.

I have no evidence one way or another but that’s never stopped me from guessing. My guess as to why these accusations against Russia are being made so vehemently is that a lot of voters are looking for answers as to why Trump won but are unwilling to consider that their preferred candidate was terrible. When you convince yourself that the candidate you oppose is Satan incarnate then you lose the ability to objectively judge your own candidate because in your head it’s now a battle between evil and good, not a battle between two flawed human beings.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2016 at 10:00 am