A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Everybody I Don’t Like Is a Russian Bot

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What are American’s preferred form of political discourse? Character assassination! You don’t support gun control? You want children to die! You disagree with my liberal views? You are a conservative! You disagree with my conservative views? You are a liberal! You don’t support my agenda? You’re a Russian bot!

When somebody doesn’t agree with you, at least online, you just have to call them a Russian bot and you can take a victory lap. I just saw one of my friends, who was debating an issue with somebody else, get accused of being a Russian bot when the other person was no longer able to make an argument. If that person had a microphone, they probably dropped it too.

My friend’s case isn’t an isolated one. I’ve seen countless Internet arguments end in one side accusing the other of being a Russian bot. That doesn’t actually surprise me. Russian bots are the current media fabricated crisis. What also doesn’t surprise but should is that so many people treat such accusations as a trump card. Just because somebody “hates children,” “is a liberal,” or “is a Russian bot” doesn’t automatically make them wrong. Throwing out such an accusation should be seen as meaningless because it doesn’t address the actual issue being discussed. But political discourse here in the United States has hit rock bottom so accusing another person of being something bad is seen as an automatic win. Unfortunately, that also means that finding any middle ground is basically impossible because nobody is discussing the actual issues, they’re just throwing shit.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 22nd, 2018 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

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Buzzkills

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The Ministry of Culture in China must be similar to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives here in the United States in that it tries to identify and ban any kind of fun that individuals are having:

China has launched its latest crackdown against a phenomenon which just won’t seem to die in rural areas – funeral strippers.

The Ministry of Culture said last month that it was targeting “striptease” and other “obscene, pornographic, and vulgar performances” at funerals, weddings and traditional Chinese New Year public gatherings.

The war on strippers at funerals has been a long one for China. Authorities first began clamping down on “obscene” performances in 2006 and launched a second campaign in 2015.

What is even the point of a funeral without strippers?

Socialists of most varieties tend to consider themselves progressives. However, oftentimes when socialists obtain power they act very conservative. China’s Ministry of Culture is a good example of this. The agency, from what I can find, seems to focus on preserving many traditional Chinese values. The Soviet Union also had a Ministry of Culture that often tried to enforce many traditional Russian values. I don’t begrudge individuals who hold traditional values and wish to see others voluntarily adopt those values but I do have a problem when government agencies try to enforce traditional values at the point of a gun, which is what self-proclaimed progressive socialist governments often do.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 21st, 2018 at 10:30 am

Take That, Chronic Pain Sufferers!

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Opioids are fantastic painkillers but have the unfortunately side effect of also being highly addictive. This has may opioids an attractive crisis of the moment. Since politicians never let a crisis go to waste, a lot of them have been wasting a lot of our time decrying opioids and explaining their plan to do something. Some politicians want to restrict opioids even harder (because doing the same thing that hasn’t been working even harder is a recipe for success). Other politicians, such as Mark Dayton, realize that crises can be lucrative:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) – Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a “penny-a-pill” paid for by drug companies to fund an opioid stewardship program for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery efforts in Minnesota. The governor estimates the program would raise $20 million each year.

It should be noted that paid by drug companies is a euphemism for paid by consumers since all expenses incurred by producers are reflected in the prices consumers pay. However, telling the public that chronic pain sufferers will be footing the bill probably won’t be as well received as telling them that multibillion dollar corporations will be footing the bill.

Dayton’s proposal isn’t surprising in the least. The government loves to punish people who are following the current law. Who buys opioids from the legal drug manufacturers who will be paying this proposed tax? People who have received prescriptions from licensed medical professionals. Who buys opioids from black market actors who won’t have to pay Day’s proposed tax? Everybody else. So the moral of the story is that following the law is foolish because you’ll likely get fucked over at some point in the future.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away

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Anybody who has waited for-fucking-ever in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles so some grumpy goon could take their money and stamp a card has already experienced one of the best arguments against government healthcare. However, inefficiency isn’t the only argument against government healthcare. Another argument against the stupidity that is government healthcare is the fact that governments like to change the rules on a whim:

WASHINGTON — After allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, the Trump administration is now pondering lifetime limits on adults’ access to coverage.

The government giveth… OK, the government never gives, it only takes. It would be far more accurate for me to say that the government taketh and then taketh some more. My point is the same either way. Government may decide to appear benevolent by providing services like Medicaid but it might then take it away or restrict it in some manner. And if you don’t like it? Tough shit. You’re not allowed to disassociate yourself with the government.

Private enterprises may come and go. They may also disappear. But you can bind them into a contract, which limits their ability to change the rules on you. Moreover, if they do something that you disagree with, you can disassociate with them and find another to do business with.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 13th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Jeff Sessions Is a Saturday Morning Cartoon Villain

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What should you do if you suffer from chronic pain? According to Jess Sessions, you should just toughen the fuck up:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week said that the solution for many people who suffer from chronic pain should be to “take aspirin and tough it out.”

Jeff Sessions reminds me of a villain from an old Saturday morning cartoon. If you remember such shows, the villains are often pure evil. Since they have no redeeming characteristics, the concept of moral grey area can be safely avoided by the show runners.

Jeff Sessions has no redeeming characteristics. He seems to be evil just for the sake of being evil. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wipes his ass with a puppy after taking a dump just because doing so would be evil. On the upside, since he reflects a Saturday morning cartoon villain, there’s a good chance that his evil schemes will be continuously thwarted by a group of mutated turtles with martial arts skills or giant robots that can transform into trucks.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 13th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Playing with Other People’s Money

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Is government deficit spending good? If you ask the party in power, yes. If you ask the party out of power, no. The Republican Party likes to advertise itself as being fiscally conservative, which is a label that implies an opposition to deficit spending. And the Republicans did decry deficit spending… during the reign of Barack Obama. But now their party is in power so deficit spending is a good thing:

On Wednesday, Congressional leadership seemed united behind a budget deal that looks truly awful — at least if you care about the country’s financial future. The bipartisan deal blasts through budget caps and could return the U.S. to trillion-dollar deficits in short order. Right after getting historic tax reform passed, politicians apparently seem content to toss a huge future tax hike onto the next generation. After all, the bills will eventually come due.

And they are serious bills indeed. The proposed deal would include a one-year debt limit suspension, while raising defense spending by $80 billion and non-defense expense by $63 billion. The budget for 2019 would see similar increases, and over the 10-year window, this Chuck Schumer-Mitch McConnell budget could result in $1.5 trillion more added to the national debt.

The poles have flipped. Now the Democratic Party is suddenly concerned about deficit spending.

The United States government is like a teenager who has racked up thousands in credit card debt. It is so far in debt at this point that it cannot hope to pay it off. Hell, it can barely pay the interest on the debt. And if it’s already so far in the hole that it can’t possibly pay off its debt, why should it care if it goes further into debt?

The national debt can’t be repaid and is therefore no longer a financial point of interest. It’s purely a political point of interest that is brought up by the party not in power to criticize the party in power.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 9th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Rejiggering the Mandatory Reading List

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One of my pet peeves as a public school student was being required to read specific books. The reason this annoyed me was because I found the mandated books to be rather dull and below my reading level (I was reading above my grade level by a not insignificant amount). Because of my experience in public schools I’m of the opinion that mandatory reading lists should be tossed out entirely so students can pursue books that actually interest them (who knows, if reading is enjoyable instead of a chore it could even help boost literacy). But nobody cares what I think on the matter so students are stuck with mandatory reading lists and the inevitable battles over what books should appear on those lists.

The school district in Duluth is currently waging that battle:

DULUTH, Minn. — The novels “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” will no longer be required reading in the Duluth school district due to the books’ use of a racial slur, a curriculum change supported by the local NAACP chapter.

The two books will continue to be available in school libraries and can be optional reading for students, but beginning next school year, they’ll be replaced as required reading by other literature that addresses the same topics in ninth- and 11th-grade English classes, said Michael Cary, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.

Let me start off by saying that I understand why To Kill a Mockingbird is being removed from the mandatory reading list. The book is, among other things, a lesson on the importance of a justice system that assumes innocence until guilt is proven. Such a title could create a hostile environment for today’s judicial environment of guilty until proven innocent. I’m surprise the book hasn’t been outright banned from public schools yet. But I digress.

As with any other political issue, this issue has proven to be polarizing. A lot of people are upset that these two books are being removed from the mandatory reading lists. Their reasons vary but a lot of them are upset because of the given justification. Meanwhile, the other side of the camp is pleased as punch because books with offensive language are no longer on the mandatory reading list. What this really boils down to though is the lack of personal choice. The reading list is mandatory so each child in the school is required to read the books on it (or acquire the Cliff’s Notes so they can pass the pointless tests and spend the rest of their time reading books that they actually want to read). Since individuals aren’t interchangeable cogs, mandatory anything doesn’t work, especially when children are involved. First, you have the children. Some of them may enjoy some of the books on the mandatory reading list, others won’t. But then you also have the parents. Some of the parents will be pleased with some of the books on the mandatory reading list while, as demonstrated by this story, others won’t.

The heart of this problem is really the refusal to acknowledge individualism. Until individualism is acknowledged and that acknowledgement is acted on, this fight will have to be waged again and again.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 8th, 2018 at 11:00 am

What Is the Definition of ‘Is’

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During his grand jury testimony Bill Clinton said his now infamous statement, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” That statement, which may have been the most weaselly statement in history up to that point, was dumb at the time. However, if the same statement were made today, it may not appears as dumb.

The divide between political ideologies in the United States has become so wide that partisans are often speaking an entirely different language:

My social media feed these past few days has contained several references to the recent interview between Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson and BBC journalist Cathy Newman. Throughout the interview, as Dr. Peterson gave his views on topics like feminism and LGBT rights, Ms. Newman routinely interrupted him with the meme-worthy phrase, “So what you’re saying is…” before re-stating what Dr. Peterson said in such a way as to make him appear prejudiced.

Dr. Peterson responded graciously throughout the interview, and the entire happening has been seized upon by multiple ideological viewpoints, from conservatives like Ben Shapiro who hail Peterson as a hero of free speech, to leftists who denounce Peterson as an alt-right troll.

However, the seemingly simple ideological clash in this video reveals an unfortunately common truth — when discussing topics like prejudice, it seems that many of us aren’t speaking the same language. While we all are speaking English, the semantic meaning of the words seems to be completely different depending on which ideology you follow.

This phenomenon isn’t new. I’ve periodically pointed out words that have different meanings to people of different political ideologies. Let’s consider the definition of freedom. To a libertarian freedom generally means being free of government coercion. To a communist freedom generally means being guaranteed the necessities of survival. This difference in definition can lead to some rather humorous or aggravating (depending on your point of view) conversations.

Let’s consider a hypothetical conversation between a libertarian and a communist on the topic of welfare. The libertarian is obvious in favor of reducing government welfare whereas the communist is obviously in favor of increasing it. Both parties believe that their stance advances freedom. However, when the libertarian says, “We should reduce government welfare,” the communist will likely rebut with, “You hate the poor!” If we flip the statements around, when the communist says, “We should increase welfare,” the libertarian will likely rebut with, “So you want the government to steal even more money from poor people!” The libertarian believes that reducing government welfare increases freedom because doing so also reduces government coercion. The communist believes that increasing government welfare also increases freedom because doing so reduces the likelihood that individuals will starve or die of exposure. Regardless both sides will declare their rebuttal a checkmate to the other and return to their parents’ basement to enjoy some mental (and maybe physical) masturbation by logging into their respective ideological forums and posting about their harrowing battle against the other.

I just spent two paragraphs discussing the different definitions two political ideologies have for a single word. An illustration that only includes one word and two political ideologies doesn’t do the magnitude of this problem justice but I lack the time to cover the different definitions held for thousands of words by thousands of political ideologies. And the magnitude of this problem will only increase as the divide between political ideologies widens. At some point, which we have probably already reached, the definitional divide will be so wide that meaningful conversation between believers of different political ideologies will be impossible.

So what’s the solution? I don’t believe there is one, at least not an actionable one. While this problem could be worked around by all parties in a debate providing their definitions for words (their political dictionary if you will) before the debate commenced, few people seem to be interested in doing so since political debates are primarily about winning the favor of comrades, not trying to expand one’s own horizons. Therefore, political debates will remain exercises in mindless screaming for the exclusive purpose of gaining external validation. At some point one side may decide to escalate matter to violence and then the possibility of all sides wiping each other out will finally be on the table.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 7th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Politics

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The Flawed Foundation of Democracy

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Democracy is one of those ideals that enjoys religious devotion from its advocates. In the eyes of the especially pious, democracy can do no wrong. When an election goes the way a worshipper wants it’s because of the goodness of democracy. When an election doesn’t go the way a worshipper wants it’s because democracy has been usurped by a deceiver.

This point is well illustrated by the current political climate. A lot of the most faithful worshipers of democracy, primarily those who belong to the Democratic Party sect, were unhappy with the results of the last national election. They didn’t blame the results on democracy though. Instead great deceivers, Russia and fake news, undermined the greatness of democracy. And now they believe that there is a very real threat to their god:

It already feels as though we are living in an alternative science-fiction universe where no one agrees on what it true. Just think how much worse it will be when fake news becomes fake video. Democracy assumes that its citizens share the same reality. We’re about to find out whether democracy can be preserved when this assumption no longer holds.

I used this article because it’s based on a laughable premise. According to the article democracy assumes that voters share the same reality and that modern technology is allowing deceivers to create a world where nobody shares the same reality. However, at not point in the history of democracy has every voter shared the same reality. Propaganda, bribery, coercion, and other forms of deceit existed long before Cleisthenes brought democracy to Athens. In addition to deceit, personal beliefs and opinions also alter voters’ realities. A devout Christian does not share the same reality with an atheist. We bear witness to this every time a law based on religious beliefs is proposed by a Christian politician.

Each and every one of us has, to use Timothy Leary’s term, a different reality tunnel. Our individual beliefs and experiences filter the way we perceive the world and since no two people share the exact same beliefs and experiences, no two people filter reality in the exact same way.

If democracy assumes that voters shared the same reality, the very foundation of democracy is flawed (a premise that I belief).

Written by Christopher Burg

February 6th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Just Throw More Money at It

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Let’s pretend for a moment that we have been tasked with managing an effort to upgrade an archaic vehicle registration system. Eight years and $93 million later the new system is still a complete mess. The developers that we hired say that they need another $43 million to make the system actually work. How do you proceed? Do you just toss more money at the developers or do you write the entire project off as a loss and try again? That’s the question currently facing the State of Minnesota:

State officials Wednesday unveiled an expensive plan for fixing the troubled computer system for vehicle licensing and registration.

They say lawmakers would need to approve another $43 million early in the 2018 session to get the system back on track this year.

One Republican lawmaker called the request “mind boggling.”

The Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, or MNLARS, has been plagued by technical problems since its launch last summer. The cost of the statewide computer system, used for tab purchases, title transfers and other transactions, has already topped $93 million over eight years.

Mind boggling is an understatement.

Vehicle registration isn’t a new problem. 49 other states have solved the problem already. Why hasn’t Minnesota been able to tap into that vast amount of knowledge?

I’m naturally cynical when it comes to politics so I’m betting that the legislators will eventually approve the addition funding, which is part of the problem with government. Government constantly falls for the sunk cost fallacy. After sinking millions or billions of dollars into a project without any meaningful gain, government goons tend to develop an aversion to admitting that the project will never bear fruit and abandoning the project. This government tendency creates an environment rife with corruption because anybody running a project can claim that they need more funding less all of the previous efforts will be for nothing and they will receive that funding.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 2nd, 2018 at 10:00 am