A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ tag

Something to Look Forward To

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Here’s something to look forward to:

Nov 8 (Reuters) – The Minnesota Senate will furlough its workers and suspend operations as soon as Dec. 1 due to an ongoing funding dispute with Governor Mark Dayton, the chamber’s Republican leader announced on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said his chamber will run out of money by next month unless the state courts restore funding for the legislature that was vetoed by Dayton. He added that the Senate plans to seek certain funds from the Legislative Coordinating Committee which would keep the chamber operating through Jan. 12.

My only hope is that this suspension of operations ends up being permanent. But that’s a bit too optimistic.

I’m sure this news is being treated with a significant amount of gloom and doom by statists. They probably believe that Minnesotans will end up having to resort to cannibalism because all of the food will magically disappear along with the Senate. But we’ve all been through this before. The Minnesota government has a tradition of “shutting down” various parts of itself and so far the state hasn’t collapsed. In fact it’s usually hard to tell anything is amiss.

The Minnesota Senate suspending operations won’t cause anybody any harm. It will actually reduce harm since the senators won’t be passing new legislation. So kick back, relax, and enjoy a reprieve from the vultures.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 9th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The War Is Not Meant to Be Won

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One of the defining characteristics of an empire is that it is almost constantly at war. War is the great excuse for the State to expand its power. Need to increase taxes? Start a war to justify the increase. It might seem like a bad idea due to the expense of waging war but if you plunder enough from the other nation you can walk away with a tidy profit. Are you a politician who needs to line you pockets with some cash? Start a war and watch the campaign contributions and other perks roll in from the defense contractors. Do you want to expand your surveillance powers? If you start a war, you need to search for enemy spies!

As Randolph Bourne said, “For war is essentially the health of the State.” So it should come as no surprise that the United States, which is already engaged in a series of wars, is positioning itself to enter another:

Mr Dumont said calculating “even the roughest” potential casualty figures would be extremely difficult.
He also gave some detail on what the first hours of a war would involve.

“The only way to ‘locate and destroy – with complete certainty – all components of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs’ is through a ground invasion,” he wrote in response to Congressman Lieu’s questions about a potential conflict.

The risks involved included a potential nuclear counter-attack by North Korea while US forces attempted to disable its “deeply buried, underground facilities”, he said.

A potential nuclear counter-attack might sound horrific but you have to remember that nobody involved in developing this assessment and nobody involved in issuing the war order would actually be sent to fight the war. Casualties are easy to justify when other people are the ones dying.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 9th, 2017 at 10:30 am

A Joke for Election Day

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I’ve got a good joke for you on this election day.

Your vote matters.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 7th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with ,

But It Works One Percent of the Time

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Both parties become extremely interested in voter fraud when their candidate fails to win. After Obama’s election the Republican Party was up in arms about voter fraud. After Donald Trump won against Hillary Clinton the Democrat Party was suddenly up in arms about voter fraud. While both parties try to approach the problem slightly differently (the Republicans tend to blame illegal immigrants while the Democrats have been blaming Russia), they both tend to favor terrible solutions. Take this system that will be used in Indiana:

A database system that will now be used by Indiana to automatically purge voter registrations that have duplicates in other states is 99 percent more likely to purge legitimate voters, according to a paper published last week by researchers from Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Yale, and Microsoft Research. Using the probability of matching birth dates for people with common first, middle, and last names and an audit of poll books from the 2012 US presidential election, the researchers concluded that the system would de-register “about 300 registrations used to cast a seemingly legitimate vote for every one registration used to cast a double vote.”

The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is a system administered by the office of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—the vice-chair of President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Crosscheck uses voter roll data from 27 states—pulled every January by election officials and uploaded to an FTP site—to check for duplicate records across states, based on full name and date of birth, as well as the last four digits of social security numbers where that data is collected by voter registration (which is not consistent from state to state).

Somebody finally did it. They managed to have a higher failure rate than the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is yet another failure on a long list of government failures. Like most entries on that list, the magnitude of the failure was only realized after the “solution” was implemented, which raises the question, who is performing the preliminary studies on these “solutions?” I honestly doubt any preliminary studies are even being performed, which is why the list of failures is so long. A system of this size should have involved a significant amount of testing, including a study like the one mentioned in the article, before it was released.

Statists often wonder why libertarians are so skeptical of government solutions. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that the government often fails to perform due diligence. When government tries to find a solution to a problem it tasks handful of bureaucrats, who usually have no expertise in fields applicable to the problem, with developing a solution. They then outsource the solution to whatever crony offered up the best campaign contributions and then blindly accept whatever product it handed to them. If the solution fails to work, the bureaucrats hold some hearings that might result in some poor schmuck at the crony company being forced to step down (oftentimes to go to work for some lobbyist organization). In the end the crony company suffers little in the way of consequences but enjoys a significant profit from doing the initial work. Needless to say, this environment of no accountability breeds poor solutions.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 1st, 2017 at 10:30 am

Increasing the Forced Labor Pool

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The Pentagon has begun pushing for a policy to require women to also register for the draft. Why would the United States even bother with continuing the draft now that it’s using mercenaries for so much of its fighting? Because mercenaries want to get paid and the Pentagon wants to have the option of free labor available to it:

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon, the report reminds us, wants the Service Program to continue indefinitely. No surprise there. But now, the Pentagon wants to expand draft registration so it can include millions of young people who had not previously been eligible.

This proposed change will be couched in a variety of irrelevant issues like “gender equality” and “women in combat.” At the heart of the matter, however, is the fact that the Pentagon wants an even larger list of potential forced laborers who can be paid below-market wages. In other words, draft registration offers — and has always offered — a list of people who can be forced to pay higher taxes in the form of mandatory “service”:

“Conscription is slavery,” Murray Rothbard wrote in 1973, and while temporary conscription is obviously much less bad — assuming one outlives the term of conscription — than many other forms of slavery, conscription is nevertheless a nearly-100-percent tax on the production of one’s mind and body. If one attempts to escape his confinement in his open-air military jail, he faces imprisonment or even execution in many cases.

When you stop paying a mercenary, they go home. When you enslave draft an individual and fail to pay them or pay them below the market rate, they can’t go home because they’ll be arrested for desertion. The other downside with mercenaries is that you can’t force them to do anything. They’re contracted for a specific type of work. Drafted individuals, on the other hand, can be forced to perform any task:

Should the American state decide that it’s necessary to finally make use of the Selective Service lists, the new draftees won’t be people sent to carry rifles on the front lines. The military doesn’t want poorly trained conscripts in combat, anyway. But this fact by no means precludes the potential usefulness of conscription to the federal government.

What the US state does want — especially in case of dropping revenues due to economic crisis — is cheap labor to build military bases, drive trucks, prepare food, load cargo, mop floors, and perform the countless non-combat tasks that are required to further expand military prerogatives both at home and abroad. Yes, the US government can pay people to do all those things now. But conscripts could be much cheaper.

The Pentagon can have its cake and eat it too. By paying mercenaries to fight its wars, the Pentagon can have access to professional soldiers. By drafting people into slavery, the Pentagon can save money by having the infrastructure required to fight the war built for less than the market going rate.

Requiring women to register for the draft would offer the Pentagon an even larger pool of potential slave laborers, which would give it the option to expand itself further than it currently could without having to invest a lot more money.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 31st, 2017 at 10:30 am

Your Vote Matters

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A lawsuit has been brought against Georgia election officials because of the sordid state of the election system they utilize. Apparently some people are a bit touchy about using an election system that is insecure and could enable tampering. Coincidentally, shortly after the lawsuit was file, the server in question was wiped:

A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned.

The server’s data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email — sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case — that was obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe.

[…]

Wiping the server clean “forestalls any forensic investigation at all,” said Richard DeMillo, a Georgia Tech computer scientist who has closely followed the case. “People who have nothing to hide don’t behave this way.”

Weird.

And, of course, nobody is sure who ordered the server to be wiped and I won’t be surprised if the culprit is never discovered. Then again I’m a cynic who assumes the lack of security of Georgia’s election server was seen by officials as a feature, not a bug.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 27th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Job of a Politician Is to Whine about Productive People Not Being Productive Enough

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The government of China recently attempted to bolster the Great Firewall of China by prohibiting virtual private network (VPN) software. This prohibition caused Apple to remove VPN clients from its App Store in China. Now two senators want to know why Apple didn’t do more to thwart this move by China:

Apple CEO Tim Cook wasn’t pleased about pulling VPN software from the company’s App Store in China, but this July, it happened anyway. As a result, many users who once counted on such software to dodge the country’s Great Firewall were left to their own devices (and we’ve explored the situation at length here). Now, senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have called on Cook in a letter to explain in detail how that process went down, out of concern that Apple is “enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the internet.”

The letter (which can be read in full here) poses 10 questions to the Apple CEO. It asks (among other things) whether Apple formally commented on the Chinese government’s Cybersecurity Law when it was presented as a first draft, whether Chinese authorities requested Apple removed the VPN apps, whether Apple has made any attempt to reintroduce said apps, and how many apps were removed in total. (A report from the BBC when the apps first disappeared put the count at around 60.)

Here’s what I want to know. What did Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy do to stop the Chinese government from tightening its grip on the country’s Internet? As senators they have access to the full power of the United States government so I assume they wielded it against China when it announced plans to ban VPN software. Is my assumption incorrect? Are Cruz and Leahy demanding that Apple do something that they didn’t even though they were and are in a better position to do so? Say it ain’t so!

Once again we see that the job of a politician is to whine about productive people not being productive enough. I guarantee if Apple had pushed even harder against China’s VPN ban that Cruz and Leahy would have still been upset that the company didn’t do enough because there is no satisfying politicians. They’re parasites that’ll continue to take while providing nothing of value in return.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 24th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Spain’s Clever Plan to Thwart Catalan Secession

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Spain has decided that it has had just about enough of the Catalans wanting to split. In response Spain has decided to take away the regions autonomy:

Spain is to start suspending Catalonia’s autonomy from Saturday, as the region’s leader threatens to declare independence.

The government said ministers would meet to activate Article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take over running of the region.

Catalonia’s leader said the region’s parliament would vote on independence if Spain continued “repression”.

I’m sure this will convince the Catalans to stop striving for secession. After all, people who are actively trying to secede tend to respond really well when more of their rights are taken away from them.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

When You’re Trying to Be Very Smart™ but End Up Looking Stupid

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The announcement of the iPhone X was one of the biggest product announcements of the year. Not only is it the latest iPhone, which always captures headlines, but it includes a new facial recognition feature dubbed Face ID. With the popularity of the iPhone it’s inevitable that politicians will try to latch onto it to capture some headlines of their own. Al Franken, one of Minnesota’s congress critters, decided to try to latch onto the iPhone X by expressing concern about the privacy implications of the Face ID feature. This may appear to have been a smart political maneuver but the senator only managed to make himself appear illiterate since Apple had already published all of the technical information about Face ID:

Apple has responded to Senator Al Franken’s concerns over the privacy implications of its Face ID feature, which is set to debut on the iPhone X next month. In his letter to Tim Cook, Franken asked about customer security, third-party access to data (including requests by law enforcement), and whether the tech could recognize a diverse set of faces.

In its response, Apple indicates that it’s already detailed the tech in a white paper and Knowledge Base article — which provides answers to “all of the questions you raise”. But, it also offers a recap of the feature regardless (a TL:DR, if you will). Apple reiterates that the chance of a random person unlocking your phone is one in a million (in comparison to one in 500,000 for Touch ID). And, it claims that after five unsuccessful scans, a passcode is required to access your iPhone.

Franken should feel fortunate that Apple even bothered entertaining his concerns. Were I Tim Cook I would have directed a member of my staff to send Franken links to the technical publications with a request to have a member of his staff read them to him and not bothered giving him a TL;DR. After all, Apple’s time is worth far more money than Franken’s since it’s actually producing products and services that people want instead of being a parasite feeding off of stolen money.

Still I admit that it was pretty funny seeing Franken make an ass of himself yet again.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

A Step in the Right Direction

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The governments of the countries in the European Union aren’t known for their respect of gun rights. It seems like most of them would prefer if their citizens were completely disarmed. There is one exception though. The Czech Republic. While other governments in the European Union have been steadily disarming their citizens the government of the Czech Republic has been slowly expanding the gun rights of its citizens:

The lower house of the Czech parliament has agreed to alter the constitution so that firearms can be held legally when national security is threatened.

The amendment gives Czechs the right to use firearms during terrorist attacks.

It was passed by the lower house by a big majority, and is likewise expected to be approved by the upper house.

The move by parliament is a challenge to EU gun control rules which restrict civilians from possessing certain kinds of semi-automatic weapons.

While allowing firearms to be held legally when national security is threatened is such a vague standard that it could turn out to be useless, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s also nice to see some politicians realize that the solution to decentralized attackers is decentralized force.

Asymmetrical warfare is notable, in part, by the fact that there is no front line. Soldiers amassed on a border are fairly useless when the opposition is infiltrating individual fighters behind your front lines to commit isolated attacks. Under such circumstances the only solution is to have a good number of armed individuals behind enemy lines that aren’t easily identifiable by the infiltrating attackers (if they are easily identifiable, the infiltrators will be able to identify them and avoid them). While having a good number of armed unidentified individuals won’t necessarily dissuade the infiltrator, it will greatly reduce the time it takes for force to be brought against them, which can cut down the number of people they can kill.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2017 at 10:00 am