A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ tag

State Representative was Taxed, Didn’t Enjoy the Experience

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Last week a Minnesota state representative got a taste of his own medicine didn’t seem to care for the taste all that much:

Police are investigating after a state representative reported being robbed at gunpoint on a St. Paul street Thursday night.

Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, was not injured in the robbery at Grand Avenue and Milton Street, police said.

“A gentleman approached me and he had a gun out, asked for my wallet and my phone and I agreed. And I was able to walk away safely,” Smith said Friday morning.

So Mr. Smith was taxed.

Honestly, I can’t bring myself to have many ill feelings towards the mugger. Whether intentionally or accidentally, the mugger found the one person who deserves to be mugged, another person who professionally mugs people. It’s kind of like inter-gang warfare. If gangs keep their violence to themselves I don’t care all that much.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Posted in Politics

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Old Man Yells at Cloud

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Noam Chomsky calls himself an anarchist. He’s even loved by many socialist anarchists. While I have no problem admitting that Chomsky has written some brilliant things about the nature of power, he seems almost entirely ignorant about history. Consider his latest claim:

Noam Chomsky has argued the Republican Party is the most “dangerous organisation in human history” and the world has never seen an organisation more profoundly committed to destroying planet earth.

The eminent intellectual, who is famed for his radical views, said the Trump administration had shown total and utter disregard for the future of the planet and appeared dedicated to dismantling previous legacies to tackle climate change.

Noam might have a point if the Republican Party was competent.

Oh, and if organizations such as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and other similarly horrible regimes didn’t paper our histories. Those regimes murdered millions whereas the Republican Party so far has been unable to come even close to matching those numbers. As for pollution, the Soviet Union showed even less regard for its environmental impact than the United States. Today, China still shows almost no regard for the amount of pollution it’s dumping into the environment.

This is what happens when you let your political bias color everything. Whatever goes against your beliefs become the most horrible things in the world. Anything that indicates those things aren’t the most horrible things in the world disappear down a memory hole.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 12th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Constitutional Crisis

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It’s been fun watching Democrats who were calling for Comey’s head just a few days ago suddenly loving the man. Keith Ellison went so far as to call Trump’s firing of Comey a Constitutional crisis:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minneapolis, released the following statement after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey: “We are witnessing a Constitutional crisis unfold before our very eyes. On March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed under oath that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for its involvement with Russian officials to influence our election. Today, President Trump fired him”

But it’s not a Constitutional crisis. Not by a long shot.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is a department of the Executive Branch. As president, Donald Trump is the current head of the Executive Branch. As head of the Executive Branch, Trump has the power to appoint and dismiss heads of departments of the Executive Branch. Dismissing Comey was well within Trump’s constitutionally granted powers.

In the distance I can hear a Democrat whose views on Comey flipped very recently shouting, “But, Chris, Comey was investigating Trump’s ties to Russia! This is obviously a coverup!” To that I will point out that the FBI shouldn’t have been put in charge of that investigation. No department of the Executive Branch should have been for reasons that are probably quite obvious now.

If corruption is suspected in the Executive Branch it falls onto the Legislative and Judicial branches to perform an investigation and take appropriate action. Remember back in civics class when your teacher explained how the three branches of government work as a system of checks and balances? This is what they meant.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Continuing to Debate Insanity

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This article sums up my attitude towards Marxism succinctly:

Every Marxist government in history has been a repressive nightmare. Marxists — aside from the ones who defend the remaining Marxist regimes — consider this a strange coincidence that has no bearing on Marxist ideology. I recently pointed this out, in light of the resurgence of Marxist thought among some left-wing intellectual circles. In an essay in In These Times, Tyler Zimmer writes what he purports to be a response, but that in fact confirms my point for me.

The problem with Marxism, I argue, lies in its class-based model of economic rights. Liberalism believes in political rights for everybody, regardless of the content of their ideas. Marxists believe political rights belong only to those arguing on behalf of the oppressed — i.e., people who agree with Marxists.

There are still advocates for Nazism so I’m not at all surprised that there are still advocates for Marxism. Of course the advocates for Nazism are far more likely to own what they’re advocating. Seldom do I hear a Nazism advocate claim that Nazi Germany wasn’t real Nazism. Marxism advocates, on the other hand, seem to have a strong tendency to wash their hands of the terrible things Marxism has wrought upon people by claiming Marxist regimes weren’t real Marxism.

Unfortunately, the Marxists had better public relations people than the Nazis so we’re still left having to deal with widespread debates about their tried and failed philosophy.

Marxism advocates like to claim that Marxism is about establishing equality for everybody but they seem to believe that doing so can only be achieved by first making people unequal. Marxism, like Nazism (yes, I’m going to continue to compare the two since they only differ in minor details), divides people into groups. An individual’s group membership, which is arbitrarily decided by an all-powerful government, determines what privileges they enjoy. If an individual is lucky, they’re categorized into a group with significant privileges. If an individual is unlucky, they’re categorized into a group that gets hauled off to death camps.

The idea that some animals are more equal than others is the foundation upon which tyranny is built. Statism in any form creates at least two classes of animals: the rulers and the ruled. Classical liberalism at least attempts (although it always fails) to limit the inevitable damage by saying that the same privileges must be granted to every member of the ruled class. If, for example, free speech is granted to one member of the ruled class then it is granted to every other member. Marxism and Nazism are different in that they divide the ruled class into a bunch of subclasses. Members of the Communist or Nazi parties respectively may enjoy the privilege of free speech while members of the other subclasses may not.

This means that it’s far easier under Marxism and Nazism for the rulers to cement their power. If a group of individuals are criticizing the ruler’s actions they can be labeled counterrevolutionaries and effectively stripped of all privileges (including the privilege of living). Through this process the rulers can easily eliminate almost all challenges to their power. Without any challenges to their power the rulers can begin doing what every ruler ultimately does: expropriate wealth from the ruled.

Classical liberalism at least recognizes that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. By making it more difficult for the rulers to eliminate their opponents, classical liberalism adds speed bumps between rulers and absolute corruption. Marxism and Nazism, on the other hand, build a multilane highway between the two and the results are predictable.

Logical deduction shows that Marxism is unworkable if the end goal is anything other than establishing a tyrannical regime. History has shown that the deductive logic plays out in reality. Yet we’re still debating this insanity.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Bye, Felicia

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Last night it was announced that James Comey has been terminated:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for his “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.

Frankly, I don’t care why Comey was fired. His insistence on pushing for laws to prohibit effective cryptography made him persona non grata in my book.

With that said, I think this is a good lesson for people working within the State. My theory (which is entirely based on gut feeling) of why Comey reopened the investigation into Clinton’s private e-mail server is that he was trying to play both sides against the middle. He knew that whoever his new boss was would have the power to terminate him. That being the case, he opened the investigation in the hopes that it would appease Trump if he won but also didn’t perform a thorough investigation in the hopes of appeasing Clinton if she won. Trump won and Comey appeared to be secure in his job, especially since so many people believed that his investigation is what cost Clinton the election (even though it wasn’t). Now he’s gone because he’s no longer useful.

That’s the lesson, employees of the State enjoy their employment only for as long as they’re deemed useful to the politicians in charge. As soon as they cease being seen as useful they find their jobs at risk.

I think this will also be the gift that keeps on giving. Many Democrat supporting news organizations held Comey personally responsible for Clinton’s loss. They wanted his head, which they now have. But it was Trump who delivered his head to them so now they have to pretend to be outraged by the fact that Trump fired Comey. I’m looking forward to sipping tea as I witness all of those publications perform a 180 degree turn and start screaming about how unfair it was of Trump to fire Comey.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

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The Battle of St. Paul

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Apparently there was a Trump rally in St. Paul over the weekend. I hadn’t heard about it beforehand and only learned about it because two groups, the alt-right and antifa, showed up uninvited. Some might be surprised to hear that the alt-right wasn’t invited since it helped Trump get elected but now that the group is no longer necessary it has been discarded. This is the way of political parties. They welcome everybody because they need the numbers to get elected but afterwards they’re quick to abandon the useful idiots who prove to be more trouble than they’re worth.

While a dozen or so Trump supporters sat inside of the Minnesota Capitol, the two uninvited groups were having another one of their “battles” outside:

A group of about 50 people carrying flags and at least one sign urging “Deplorables and Alt-Right Unite” tried to enter the Capitol for the rally — to which they were not invited — but were blocked by 200 or so counterprotesters, who linked arms on the Capitol steps. The alt-right is an offshoot of conservatism that embraces elements of white nationalism and populism.

The two sides shouted chants at each other, including “Any time, any place, punch a Nazi in the face” from one side and “Build a wall, deport them all” from the other. Troopers from the Minnesota State Patrol, which provides security at the Capitol, formed a barrier of officers to keep the groups separated.

Had the Minnesota State Patrol not been physically separating the two groups it’s possible that they would have started aggressively LARPing again. But since the police were present the two groups just stood on the Capitol steps and impotently shouted at each other. And when you think about it, two groups impotently shouting at each other sums up American politics quite succinctly.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 8th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Specter of Unscientific Public Policy

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There needs to be more science-based public polices, right? According to a lot of people, there does. According to me, the entire idea that there should be such a thing as public policy is absurd. But, much to my chagrin, most people still seem to be worshiping at the alter of statism so I find myself having to shoehorn ideas into that frame of reference. So I will say that I don’t believe there needs to be more science-based public policies because science is not the appropriate tool for determining public policy. What is the appropriate tool then? A healthy respect for individual rights. Let’s take a brief look at what happens when science is relied on for creating public policy instead of individual rights:

Throughout the 1930s (but actually continuing beyond that), at least 60,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized. American eugenics research was later put to use by Hitler’s Germany and was even cited at the Nuremberg Trials.

Many books and articles have been written about the eugenics movement more broadly, including some popular books of a recent vintage. The American experience with eugenics, as well as the Australian experience with stealing children in order to quicken the demise of the aborigines, to cite just two examples, demonstrate that concerns about the misuse of science are not confined to totalitarian, murderous regimes.

The science of genetics allowed us to better understand how certain traits are passed down from parents to offspring. After acquiring this new understanding people started arguing over what to do with it. This is where philosophy came into play. One camp, the pragmatists, thought that this knowledge must be acted on by passing legislation that legalized forcibly sterilizing people with undesirable genes. Another camp, what we might today refer to as classical liberals, thought that forcibly sterilizing people was a violation of their individual rights and therefore unacceptable even if they contained undesirable genes.

Today the predominate belief appears to be that the eugenics-based public policies of the past were a mistake. But humanity is still arguing about what to do with our scientific knowledge. Pragmatists are still arguing about what public policies to implement based on the latest scientific knowledge. Supporters of individual rights are arguing that that public policies should be based on individual rights, not scientific knowledge. As somebody firmly in the latter camp I agree with what the author wrote:

Science has also been part of debates over questions where a little respect for individual rights and good sense was all that was needed. We don’t need scientists to discover a “gay gene” in order to conclude that prohibiting consenting adults from having sex is wrong, and we don’t need scientists to show us that children raised in same-sex households are well-adjusted in order to allow same-sex marriage and child-rearing. To even endorse such arguments is to imply that only genetically determined sexual preferences should be protected (sorry BDSM community) and that the state has the power to use “science” to generally determine (as opposed to specifically removing children from dangerous households) who is allowed to raise children. Finally, we don’t need science—and we especially don’t need horrible dance numbers from Bill Nye’s show—to tell us that transgendered people deserve our respect and care.

Having a healthy respect for individual rights means you respect, even if you don’t necessarily like, the rights of everybody. Pragmatists, on the other hand, will only respect an individuals’ rights if they believe doing so will provide the most good to the largest number of people. What rights they’re willing to respect and for what groups largely depends on what they consider to be good.

Unscientific public policy shouldn’t be a specter. Public policy, if we’re going to have it, should be based first and foremost on individual rights, not scientific research. That’s the only way to guard against the pragmatism that lead to forcible sterilizations under the name of science. Whenever new public policies are being considered the question of whether or not such laws would bring the violence of the State upon nonviolent individuals should be the guiding principle. If they will then the policy should be dropped regardless of scientific research, if they won’t then the policy could be considered and scientific research could then come into play.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 5th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Government Introduces Instability

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Now that the Republican Party is in power it’s working to repeal Obamacare… and replace it with Trumpcare or whatever they’re going to call it. How will Trumpcare differ from Obamacare? If I take the claims being made by my friends who support the Democrat Party at face value, Trumpcare will basically make acquiring health insurance impossible for everybody. Truth be told, they’re not offering any specifics and neither are my friends who support the Republican Party when asked what Trumpcare will bring to the table.

Will healthcare coverage providers be allowed to deny customers coverage based on preexisting conditions? Will employers still be required to add contraceptive coverage to their insurance plans? Will everybody still be required under penalty of a fine to purchase healthcare coverage? These are the questions that people are asking but they’re the wrong questions.

The important question to ask is, why should healthcare coverage change every time the ruling party changes?

One of the biggest problems with involving the State in the healthcare market is that doing so adds a great deal of uncertainty. The greater the State’s involvement the greater the uncertainty becomes. All of the questions I mentioned above are being asked because the Affordable Care Act created rules regulating those aspects of healthcare and now those rules may change.

Herein lies the problem with involving the government in healthcare (or anything else), rules change arbitrarily and at unpredictable intervals. The Affordable Care Act was an initiative pushed primarily by the Democrat Party. Since the Democrat Party is the rival of the Republican Party and rivals must always work to undermine each other’s efforts, now that the Republicans are in power they’re repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with something that will carry their name. When the Democrats return to power they will then repeal the Republican’s healthcare law and replace it with something else. On and on this cycle will go.

Unpredictability makes longterm planning infeasible. How can you create a plan for the future when you have no idea what you will be required or prohibited from doing in a year’s time? All of the time and money spent by healthcare coverage providers to bring themselves into compliance with the Affordable Care Cat may be rendered worthless under Trumpcare. That means all of the efforts previously made will likely have to be made again. I’m sure you can see how this constant cycle of doing the same thing over again adds costs to the healthcare market, especially since the effort is primarily being done by expensive lawyers.

It doesn’t matter what Trumpcare will mandate or prohibit because it will be undone as soon as the other part comes into power again. This is the real problem. It’s also the problem that ends up being ignored because people are more concerned about their political affiliation than working to improve the situation.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 5th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Limitations of Experience

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Bill Nye has gained himself a great deal of admiration and hatred by positioning himself as a public face of scientism. A lot of progressives, who tend to side with scientism, are now holding up Bill Nye as a god. Meanwhile, a lot of conservatives, who tend to side against scientism, are now holding him up as a devil.

The debate of scientism has more or less become a debate between progressives and conservatives, which means a tit for tat has developed. Conservatives are lambasting one of the progressive’s public faces so they now need to lambast one of the conservative’s public faces. For the conservative’s tit the progressives have chosen Mike Rowe as their tat:

This image further demonstrations that the biggest advocates of scientism have a severe lack of understanding of the scientific method. The opening words in the image make sense within the framework of the debate. Conservatives have been arguing that Bill Nye lacks experience in scientific fields and is therefore unqualified to speak about scientific matters. In return the progressives are pointing out that Mike Rowe lacks experience in the trades. Here’s the problem, science isn’t a single discipline.

By the logic presented in the image one would certainly listen to Bill Nye on matters of mechanical engineering (at least matters that fall within his area of expertise). However, one would completely ignore anything he said about other scientific fields, such as the effects of widespread pollution on the biosphere, since he has no experience in those fields.

Of course, both sides are being foolish. The progressives’ implication that expertise in one scientific field gives an individual expertise in all scientific fields is wrong. But the conservatives’ implication that professional training is what indicates an individual’s expertise is equally wrong.

It’s quite possible for an individual to be very capable in one field and incompetent in another. Ben Carson is a great example of this point. He was a very skilled neurosurgeon. But his comment about pyramids being grain silos shows that his knowledge in the field of archeology is, to put it nicely, lacking. Likewise, it is also possible for an individual to be very capable in a field that they don’t work in professionally. Hedy Lamar had no formal scientific training yet she made several important discoveries, such as using frequency hoping to prevent enemies from jamming radio-controlled torpedoes (which was also an important contribution to the development of several wireless communication technologies that we rely on today).

In summary, both sides are being stupid. Each side is slinging mud at one of the other’s public face instead of debating the actual issues. One might expect such behavior from conservatives since they’re not beating the scientism drum but why would progressives, who claim to be believes in science, do the same thing? Simple, progressives are no more lovers of science than conservatives. They wield science much like conservatives wield Christianity. That is to say, they see science as nothing more than a concept they can exploit to forward their political goals.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Meaningless Words

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Anybody who has read corporate marketing material or a corporate apology letter knows that it’s quite easy to put a bunch of words onto a piece of paper without having written anything meaningful. Corporations don’t have a monopoly on this skill either. Surpassing even the largest corporate marketing department are politicians. Politicians are the uncontested champions of meaningless words:

Without language, there is no accountability, no standard of truth. If Trump never says anything concrete, he never has to do anything concrete. If Trump never makes a statement of commitment, Trump supporters never have to confront what they really voted for. If his promises are vague to the point of opacity, Trump cannot be criticised for breaking them. If every sloppy lie (ie: “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower … This is McCarthyism!”) can be explained away as a “generality” or “just a joke” because of “quotes”, then he can literally say anything with impunity. Trump can rend immigrant families in the name of “heart”, destroy healthcare in the name of “life”, purge minority voters in the name of “justice”, and roll back women’s autonomy in the name of “freedom”. The constitution? Probably sarcastic. There are “quotes” all over that thing!

Setting aside the author’s obvious bias, this is a skill that almost every politician has. It’s more obvious when Trump does it because he’s a far less skilled orator than his predecessor. But if you hand me a speech or letter by any politician I’ll probably be able to read the entire thing without finding a single concrete commitment. As the author points out, if politicians don’t say anything concrete then there’s nothing to hold them accountable for.

Language is a tool for transferring information from one person to another. Somebody who is competent with language can transfer information effectively. So politicians must be very incompetent when it comes to language, right? Not necessarily. When politicians speak meaningless words they’re transferring very important information, namely that they are unwilling to commit themselves to anything. However, transference is a two step process. The information must be transmitted and received. Corporations and politicians like to use meaningless words because they can’t be held to anything and because the receivers have a strong tendency to put whatever meaning they want on those words. Trump supporters, for example, will attach positive concrete meaning to his meaningless words whereas his detractors will attach negative concrete meaning.

The reason so many people can get away with using meaningless language is because the receivers, your average Jane and Joe, aren’t competent enough with language to recognize it. Instead of recognizing that the words are meaningless and calling the transmitter out, most people attach whatever they want to meaningless words to reinforce their bias. I don’t blame Trump or Obama or any other politician for making meaningless statements. I blame the people for having such a lack of interest in pursuing knowledge that they allow themselves to be susceptible to this nonsense.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 2nd, 2017 at 11:00 am