A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ tag

Obama Finds Some Humanity

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Yesterday Barack Obama showed the world that he still has some humanity buried deep under his bloodlust. As is tradition for exiting presidents, Obama handed out a series of pardons and commuted sentences to chosen federal prisoners. Amongst his list was Chelsea Manning:

In one of his last moves in office, President Obama has commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army private who leaked a massive trove of military secrets to WikiLeaks.

The former intelligence analyst’s prison sentence has been shortened to expire on May 17, 2017, according to a statement from the White House.

And by “leaked a massive trove of military secrets” NPR means evidence of war crimes.

While I could spend an entire post criticizing Obama’s unwillingness to pardon Chelsea or commute her sentence sooner, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The No Win Situation of Politics

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

The Return of the Anti-War Left

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After eight years of unexplained absence the anti-war left is slowly creeping out of the woodwork!

Three days before Christmas, President-elect Trump tweeted (yes, tweeted) that the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and enhance its nuclear capability” until the world “comes to its senses regarding nukes.” The world, for its part, blinked in astonishment, wondering once again what Mr. Trump might mean, and why such a momentous announcement appeared via social media. Prior presidents generally undertook any shift in nuclear policy with care, and with the advice of experts in arms control and proliferation who have made keeping us safe their life’s mission. After all, when a single person has the power to rain down nuclear fire across the world, caution might not only be warranted, but expected.

As a quick aside, I think Trump’s attempt to take credit for Obama’s $1 trillion revamp of the United States’ nuclear arsenal is pathetic.

George Takei, who was a much more pleasant fellow to follow on social media when he wasn’t championing that butcher Hillary Clinton, took Trump’s tweet about expanding the United States’ nuclear arsenal personally and penned a scathing piece on nuclear weapons in general. Let me say that I appreciate Takei’s rant against nuclear weapons and wish more people would do the same. I also appreciate the handful of other articles penned by the anti-war left in recent times. But I’m forced to ask why these article are appearing again after eight years of silence.

During the George W. Bush’s presidency there was a strong anti-war sentiment coming from the left. Neoliberals, socialists, communists, and leftist anarchists all came together to hold protests against the United States’ wars throughout the country. When Obama first ran for president he did so on an anti-war platform, which gained him the support of the anti-war left. Once he won the election he continued Bush’s reign of terror but did so without protest from the supposedly anti-war left. In fact, they stayed mostly silent for all eight years of Obama’s presidency.

Now that a Republican has regained the presidency the anti-war left is suddenly making noise again. Unfortunately, for them, they lost all legitimacy after Obama took office. By only protesting the wars when Bush was in charge the anti-war left demonstrated that they weren’t anti-war at all. They were just anti-Republican-lead-war. Once a Democrat was ordering the slaughter they were silent. Now that a Republican will be ordering the slaughter again they are suddenly making some noise.

In other words, they’re a bunch of liars. But, hey, at least we can enjoy four years of public outrage over the wars even if that outrage isn’t actually because of the wars.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 3rd, 2017 at 11:00 am

Officers You Don’t Want

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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

Everybody Loves Discrimination

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Most Americans, if asked, would probably say that they oppose discrimination. But deep down inside most Americans love discrimination, so long as it’s their form of discrimination.

Those who identify as political leftists have been very vocal about their opposition to discrimination. They’ve been taking every opportunity to state their objection to discrimination against non-whites, homosexuals, transgender individuals, poor individuals, and the mentally disabled. However, they seems to be perfectly fine with politically motivated discrimination.

Imagine if the restaurant owner from the first link put up a sign that read “If you’re black you can not eat here!” or if the person from the second link refused to help the stuck motorist because they had a gay pride bumper sticker. Most self-identified leftists would be up in arms. But the two individuals mentioned in those two links are being cheered by many of those same self-identified leftists. Why? Because those two individuals are discriminating in an approved manner.

Every one of us discriminates. When you cross the street to avoid the suspicious looking individual walking down the sidewalk you’re discriminating. When you avoid talking to your racist uncle at Christmas you’re discriminating. When you avoid the really drunk guy that won’t stop grabbing your ass at the bar you’re discriminating. Some forms of discrimination, such as the three I just mentioned, make sense. In those cases you’re discriminating to protect yourself, avoid starting a family fight, or avoid being sexually molested. But those forms of discrimination are also based on specific signals being produced by specific individuals.

Racially, sexually, and politically motivated forms of discrimination aren’t based on specific signals produced by specific individuals. They’re forms of collective discrimination where the only signal is membership in a group. Of course, everybody who discriminates against groups has a long list of reasons why their form of discrimination is proper even if they find other forms of group discrimination unacceptable.

I personally find collective discrimination, like all forms of collectivism, distasteful but fear that I’m in the minority because even the loudest opponents of collective discrimination seem to only oppose discrimination against groups that they like. When challenged they will have a long list of reasons why they’re not actually discriminating but all they’re doing is performing an act of cognitive dissonance.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 30th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Just a Slight Shortfall

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What happens when a business makes more monetary promises than it can fulfill? Its assets are liquidated so that the proceeds can go towards paying off some of those promises. What happens when a government makes more monetary promises than it can fulfill? That seems like an important question to ask right now:

You can look at the financial health of Social Security in many ways.

[…]

Despite the huge numbers, there’s even a less generous way of looking at the fiscal shortfall.

A projection, known as the “infinite horizon,” takes into account all the program’s future liabilities, even those beyond the 75-year period that Social Security actuaries typically use in their calculations.

Under the infinite horizon, Social Security will have $32.1 trillion in unfunded liabilities by 2090, $6.3 trillion more than last year’s projection. (See the chart below.)

Social Security was sold as a safety net that would guarantee that retirees would have money even after they were no longer working. But like all government schemes, Social Security was just another mechanism to expropriate wealth from the people for the benefit of the State. The scheme was originally quite simple. Today’s valued dollars would be taken by the State so it could use them as it pleased and then returned at a future date after inflation had devalued those dollars significantly. But the scheme quickly became more complicated.

Since 1982 Social Security has been paying out more than it has been bringing in. This deficit, often referred to by cute names such as unfunded obligations or unfunded liabilities, is slated to ballon to $32.1 trillion by 2090. To put that in perspective, the current national debt is hovering near $20 trillion.

If Social Security (or the United States government for that matter) was a business it would be forced to file bankruptcy as there is no realistic way that it will ever be able to repay its debts.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am