A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ tag

North and South Korea May Bury the Hatchet

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Although the Korean War “ended,” North and South Korea never declared an end to the war, which means that the war has now been going for 68 years. Fortunately, there are signs, albeit minor ones, that that could soon change:

North and South Korean officials are discussing an end to the military conflict that has existed between the two nations for the last 68 years, Bloomberg News reports.

An unnamed South Korean official told a local newspaper that a direct line between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could be established by the end of the week and that the two leaders may release a joint statement officially ending the conflict at a summit next week.

I’m not sure how the United States government will react to one of its forward operating bases burying the hatchet with one of its boogeymen but for everybody else this would be great news. Ending the war could open the border between the two countries, which could bring a great deal of trade. South Korean goods could filter into North Korea while North Korean labor, which already trickles into South Korea, could flow into South Korea in greater quantities. Both sides would be enriched by the market activity, which could allow North Korea to overcome its economic woes (such as struggling to feed its people) and ease the iron grip its government has over its people (which is partially justified by the state of war that continues to exist between the two countries).

Written by Christopher Burg

April 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

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Regulations Make Medical Tourism a Necessity

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The United States was once a leader in medical technology. However, increases in bureaucracy have pulled back that lead. Many new and experimental medial treatments remain illegal in the United States, which has created a significant medical tourism industry. Every year numerous Americans travel to foreign lands to seek treatment for their ailments. The latest example of this is opioid addicts traveling to Mexico to seek treatment:

As America’s opioid and heroin crisis rages, some struggling with addiction are turning to a drug illegal in the US. Jonathan Levinson went to one clinic offering the treatment in Mexico.

At the end of a dead end street in a town near the US-Mexico border, Emily Albert is in the basement of a drug treatment clinic, hallucinating about her son as a heroin addict. She imagines him going through rehab and desperately trying to get clean.

But Albert is the one with the addiction. She’s in the middle of a psychedelic treatment for opioid addiction.

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The drug is illegal in the US, but several studies have suggested it is effective in alleviating opioid withdrawals and curbing addiction.

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Ibogaine, along with other hallucinogenics, such as LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms), are schedule I substances in the US – drugs which have no medical application and are not safe for use, even under medical supervision.

The medical potential of psychedelics has been known for decades. Timothy Leary performed research on their psychological benefits in the ’50’s and ’60’s. His research discovered that psychedelics did have a lot of positive aspects. Modern research has shown that psychedelics offer a lot of potential for people suffering from depression. And now clinics in Mexico are using psychedelics to help people kick their opioid addiction.

But even with all of this information at hand, the United States government continues to claim that psychedelics have no medial application whatsoever. So long as they maintain that attitude, it is mostly illegal to experiment with psychedelics for medical purposes in the United States, which creates an impasse. A researcher can’t experiment with psychedelics to determine if they can be used in medical applications so they continue to have no medial applications, which prevents researchers from determining if they can have medical applications.

Because of this impasse, the only way to gain access to psychedelics for medical use is to travel to a country less burdened by such regulations.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 12th, 2018 at 11:00 am

How Do I Internet?

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Yesterday people who are in charge of the largest violator of privacy, the United States Congress, ironically grilled Mark Zuckerberg on the topic of privacy. I didn’t watch the hearing because I have better things to do with my time but I did check the highlights and they were what I expected. A bunch of old white people who have no idea how the Internet works made a public show of authority in the hopes of convincing the masses that their desire to further control the Internet is necessary:

In doing so, many of the senators betrayed a general lack of knowledge about how Facebook operates. Imagine trying to explain social media to your grandparents—this was essentially Zuckerberg’s task.

Sen. Roy Blunt, (R–Mo.), for instance, didn’t seem to understand that Facebook lacks a means of accessing information from other apps unless users specifically opt in. The same was true of Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.), who needed a lot of clarification on how Facebook Messenger interacts with cellular service. Zuckerberg had to carefully explain to Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) that WhatsApp is encrypted, and Facebook can’t read, let alone monetize, the information people exchange using that service. Zuckerberg had to explain to multiple senators, including Dean Heller (R–Nev.), that Facebook doesn’t technically sell its data: The ad companies don’t get to see the raw information.

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But senators on both sides of the political aisle were clear about their concerns—and more than willing to step in.

“If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix their privacy invasions, then we are going to have to,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D–Fla.). “We, the Congress.”

What Nelson and his colleagues largely failed to do was demonstrate that “we, the Congress” possess the requisite knowledge to regulate Facebook, or that those regulations would improve upon the policies Facebook would like to implement on its own.

The article contains other ignorant questions and concerns that were fielded by senators. From reading through them it’s obvious that the people tasked with the hearing are entirely out of touch with the topic at hand. Were it not for the positions of power that they hold, their opinions on the matter would almost certainly be dismissed by most people. But they wear suits and occupy a marble building so their ignorance is irrelevant. They have the power to give themselves whatever control they so desire. They may not understand how Facebook or the overall Internet works but they can vote themselves the power to regulate them.

This is part of the reason why political solutions always fail. There is no requirement that the politicians understand the problem to which they’re providing a solution. If you don’t understand the problem, you cannot hope to provide a valid solution.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 11th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posse Comitatus Act

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Trump announced that he intends to deploy the United States military along the Mexican border to guard it until his proposed wall is built:

(CNN) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he’s calling on the military to guard the US-Mexico border until his long-promised border wall is complete.

“I told Mexico, and I respect what they did, I said, look, your laws are very powerful, your laws are very strong. We have very bad laws for our border and we are going to be doing some things, I spoke with (Defense Secretary James) Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” he said during a luncheon with leaders of the Baltic states.

According to the Posse Comitatus Act, neither the Army nor the Air Force can be deployed to enforce laws within the United States without an act of Congress. The Department of the Navy has also created regulations that make the Navy and the Marines operate under the same rules.

However, does the Posse Comitatus Act matter this day and age? Congress has already granted the president the power to wage war without a congressional declaration of war, which is required under the United States Constitution. Since Congress has ceded that power, I see no reason to believe it won’t cede its powers granted by the Posse Comitatus Act. As an aside, if Trump does follow through with his plan, it may be the first time that the Third Amendment gets some love.

But all of this may be a moot point. There isn’t a strong correlation between what Trump says and what he does. He’ll say he’s going to do something one day then seemingly forget all about it the next day.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 4th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Effective Protesting

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The Vermont legislature recently decided that its subjects no longer deserve the privilege of owning standard capacity magazines. While the subjects were unable to convince many of their rulers to not take away their privilege, they did throw one hell of a protest:

Protesters were giving away 1,200 30-round magazines. The legislation would ban high-capacity magazines and rapid-fire devices known as bump stocks, in addition to raising the legal age. It also would expand background checks for private gun sales.

Political protests in modern times tend to be worthless outside of creating some public relations. This is because most protests don’t involve any meaningful action. However, this protest was effective because it not only involved holding signs and yelling but also involved the action of distributing the soon to be prohibited items. Now more standard capacity magazines are in the hands of the subjects of Vermont, which directly violated the law approved by the legislature.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 3rd, 2018 at 10:00 am

No Meaningful Discussion Can Occur without Specifics

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One of my biggest pet peeves in political discussions is the number of unspecific and entirely subjective statements that get tossed around. For example, gun control advocates like to claim that they want common sense gun control laws but common sense is entirely subjective. What is common sense to me may not be common sense to you.

One person might believe that it’s common sense to prohibit private ownership of machine guns but not at all common sense to prohibit private ownership of semi-automatic firearms. Another person might believe that it’s common sense to prohibit private ownership of standard capacity magazines but not magazines with a capacity of seven or fewer rounds. Yet another person might believe that abolishing private gun ownership entirely is common sense.

If somebody claims that they want common sense gun control laws, they’re not presenting anything that can be meaningfully discussed. Without the ability to have a meaningful discussion, both sides of the aisle will end up making assumptions about the other and those assumptions will generally be the best case when a subjective statement is made by somebody with whom they agree and the worst case when a statement is made by somebody with whom they disagree. In the end both sides will just end up screeching at each other.

I used gun control as an example because I spend a lot of time writing about guns but what I’ve said is true of every political discussion. People will claim that they’re pushing a political agenda to make the nation a better place, guard the average person against the rich, help the poor reclaim their dignity, etc. But what qualifies as a better nation is subjective. What qualifies a person as poor, average, or rich is subjective. What qualifies as dignity is subjective.

Subjective statements should really be dropped in favor of specific proposals. To return to our gun control example, a gun control advocate could propose to implement a law that requires all firearm transfers to go through a federally licensed dealer in order to be legal or a ban on semi-automatic firearms with specific features. Since those are specific proposals, the pros and cons of those proposals can be debated. Instead of having to make assumptions about the other’s definition of a subjective idea, both sides can now discuss the specific proposal.

Unfortunately, I see no signs that political discourse in the United States will shift away from the subjective. All signs point to the opposite.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 29th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Politics

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Legalizing Parenting

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There is a long list of laws that shouldn’t be necessary. This law that will soon go into effect in Utah:

A new law legalizing free-range parenting will soon take effect in Utah allowing children to do things alone like travelling to school.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill on March 15, which takes effect in May.

The bill redefines “neglect” in Utah law so that kids can participate in some unsupervised activities without their parents being charged, a representative from the state confirmed to ABC News Monday.

Why does allowing children to walk to school unattended need to be a law? Because the government has declared itself the owner of all people in the nation and has used that power to decide what does and doesn’t qualify as childhood neglect. In many areas children playing unattended in parks or walking to school unattended are valid grounds for law enforcers to charge parents with neglect. It’s absurd considering that not too long ago I was playing with my friends around town and walking to school unattended and everybody consider it normal.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 29th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Embracing the Darknet

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Big changes came to the Internet shortly after Congress passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). SESTA, like most legislation, has a name that sounds good on the surface but actually conceals some heinous provisions. One of those major provisions is holding website owners criminally liable for user generated content. This resulted in some drastic changes to sites like Reddit and Craiglist:

So far, four subreddits related to sex have banned: Escorts, Male Escorts, Hookers, and SugarDaddy. None were what could accurately be described as advertising forums, though (to varying degrees) they may have helped connect some people who wound up in “mutually beneficial relationships.” The escort forums were largely used by sex workers to communicate with one another, according to Partridge. Meanwhile, the “hooker” subreddit “was mostly men being disgusting,” according to Roux, “but also was a place that sometimes had people answering educational questions in good faith.”

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Reddit yesterday announced changes to its content policy, now forbidding “transactions for certain goods and services,” including “firearms, ammunition, or explosives” and “paid services involving physical sexual contact.” While some of the prohibited exchanges are illegal, many are not.

Yet they run close enough up against exchanges that could be illegal that it’s hard for a third-party like Reddit to differentiate. And the same goes for forums where sex workers post educational content, news, safety and legal advice. Without broad Section 230 protections, Reddit could be in serious financial and legal trouble if they make the wrong call.

The passage of SESTA set a precedence that will certainly expand. Today Section 230 protections can be revoked for user generated content about sex trafficking. Tomorrow it could be revoked for user generated content involving hate speech, explaining the chemistry and biology behind how prohibited drugs work, showing the mechanics of how a machine gun operates, and so on. User generated content is now a liability and will only become more of a liability as the precedence is expanded.

Will this rid the world of content about sex work, drugs, and guns? Of course not. It will merely push that content to anonymized servers, commonly referred to as the “darkweb.” As laws make hosting content on the non-anonymized Internet a legal hazard, Internet users will find that they need tools like I2P and the Tor Browser to access more and more of the content they desire. The upside to this is that it will lead to a tremendous increase in resources available to developers and operators of “darkweb” technologies. Eventually the laws passed to thwart unapproved behavior will again make restricting unapproved behavior all but impossible.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 27th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Let’s See Some Follow Through

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It’s fashionable to point out parallels between the collapse of the Roman Republic and the current political situation here in the United States. While history doesn’t repeat itself, it does rhyme. One of the turning points in the Roman Republic was the death of Tiberius Gracchus. Tiberius was a popularis, a politician who appealed to the masses instead of the political elite. He proposed a number of reforms that favored the masses, which resulted in a group of senators grabbing clubs and beating Tiberius to death. This event was the first in what would become a long list of incidents where violence was overtly used to solve political disagreements.

While the United States’ wilder early years saw incidents where politicians used violence against each other to settle disputes, such violence has been entirely absent for a very long time. However, America might be tiptoeing closer to that precipice:

Biden, 75, who was captured making the remarks in a video posted to Facebook, told the audience that Trump, 71, once said, “‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it’ and then said, ‘I made a mistake.'”

“If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,” Biden said to applause.

Admittedly, I have my doubts that either man has the constitution necessary to take a swing at the other. But I would greatly enjoy seeing some follow through. Imagine the ratings that a Pay Per View politician cage match would bring in! Hell, it might be enough to offset the ballooning national debt increases!

With how device the United States is becoming, I believe that it’s only a matter of time until a politician attempts to prove his convictions by physically assaulting or even outright murdering an opposing politician. When that happens it will create another rhyme with the downfall of the Roman Republic.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 27th, 2018 at 10:30 am

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Members of Congress Will Continue to Use Your Money to Settle Their Sexual Harassment Cases

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Sexual harassment has been a hot button issue since last year. Hollywood and Washington DC has been awash in accusations, apologies, and payoffs. However, when an actor in Hollywood decides to pay off their victims, they use their own money. When a politicians decides to pay off their victims, they use your money:

An overhaul of Capitol Hill’s workplace misconduct system is in jeopardy and likely won’t be attached to a government spending bill this week, diminishing the likelihood of reform before the midterm elections, according to Politico.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who introduced the bipartisan Congressional Harassment Reform Act last December, said on Monday that House and Senate leadership “stripped” provisions from the language from the spending bill at the eleventh hour.

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Among its provisions, the act requires that members of Congress personally pay for sexual harassment settlements when they are found liable. Currently, lawmakers can tap taxpayer funds to settle with victims. Also, unless the victim opts for privacy, under the act, settlements would automatically be made public, thus lifting the veil of secrecy around the process.

Having access to tax dollars is yet another mechanism that politicians can use to shield themselves from the consequences of their actions. If Congress was composed of angels, this wouldn’t be an issue because the members wouldn’t vote themselves the power to use tax dollars to pay off sexual harassment victims. But Congress isn’t composed of angels, it’s composed of crooked bastards who only care about power.

While many voters will likely claim that they’re outraged by this, members of Congress know that voters will toss aside all of their outrage come election day because most of them will continue to cast their vote for the “lesser evil” incumbent. Members of Congress won’t hold themselves accountable and neither will the voters.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 22nd, 2018 at 11:00 am