A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Shut Up Slave’ tag

The TSA is Working Hard to Make Your Life More Miserable

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How much do you hate the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)? I bet that you don’t hate it as much as you will. The TSA has announced that it’s investigating methods to make its security theater even more annoying and time consuming:

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the TSA’s plans are still vague, but the agency has been testing a variety of security procedures at smaller airports before expanding them to major cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Boston and others. In some cases, passengers were required to remove all food items or put any electronics larger than a cellphone — meaning tablets and kindles too — in separate bins. In one failed test, confused passengers were even asked to take out any paper items in their bags, including notepads. The TSA hasn’t announced which rules it will implement yet and even when it does, enforcement will vary at each airport and security line. There’s even the possibility that an agent could ask you to take something out and put it in a bin without warning. While compliance is optional, non-compliance means stepping out of line for a manual check.

The TSA, as it is apt to do, is blaming travelers for these proposed policies. According to the TSA checked luggage fees have caused air travelers to cram more stuff into their carry-on bags, which is making life difficult for the TSA’s x-ray machine observers. However, I find it difficult to believe that paper, which previous didn’t hinder x-ray scanners, suddenly developed the ability to hinder x-ray scanners. I also fail to see how requiring air travelers to place all of their electronic devices into separate bins will make life easier for x-ray machine observers. Perhaps the people proposing the requirements are just entirely stupid when it comes to security. That would explain the agency’s 95 percent failure rate.

Of course, any changes to the TSA’s already inconsistent security policies will lead to longer security lines, which means you’ll have to show up to the airport even sooner to guarantee you can get through the line in time to catch your flight. And you know what? Unless you can avoid air travel, there’s nothing you can do about it. Unlike market actors, you cannot choose to not do business with the TSA.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Chicago Police Department’s Watch List

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The Chicago Police Department (CPD), like seemingly every other government agency, has a watch list. And like every other government agency’s watch list, CPD’s contains names that don’t fit into its described scope:

Yet the list is far broader and more extensive than Johnson and other police officials have suggested. It includes more than 398,000 entries — encompassing everyone who has been arrested and fingerprinted in Chicago since 2013.

Nearly half of the people at the top of the list have never been arrested for illegal gun possession. About 13 percent have never been charged with any violent crime. And 20 of the 153 people deemed most at risk to be involved in violent crime, as victim or shooter, have never been arrested either for guns or violence.

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The police concluded the people who hadn’t been arrested for guns or violence were at great risk to commit a violent crime or become the victim of one — and, as a result, should be watched closely — because they:

  • Had been shot or assaulted.
  • Had been identified by the police as a gang member.
  • Or recently were arrested for any crime, even a nonviolent offense.

Watch lists are always advertised by government agencies as having names of suspected criminals. However, they always end up containing names of people that don’t fit the advertised criteria. This is why those of us who aren’t a bunch of statist bootlickers are so touchy about punishing people for having the misfortune of being placed on a government watch list.

If, for example, CPD’s Strategic Subject List was used to prohibit gun ownership (something gun control advocates want done for people appearing on federal terrorist watch lists), people would find their gun ownership privileges revoked because they were the victim of an assault.

Regulating People to Death

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Here in the United States we often express the costs of regulatory burdens in dollars. We only have the luxury of doing this because our economy hasn’t completely choked to death on regulations yet. However, Venezuelans aren’t so fortunate. Their economy has choked to death and now they have to express the costs of regulatory burden in human lives:

Several of his cavernous henhouses sit empty because, Escobar said, he can’t afford to buy more chicks or feed. Government price controls have made his business unprofitable, and armed gangs have been squeezing him for extortion payments and stealing his eggs.

Venezuela’s latest public health indicators confirm that the country is facing a dietary calamity. With medicines scarce and malnutrition cases soaring, more than 11,000 babies died last year, sending the infant mortality rate up 30 percent, according to Venezuela’s Health Ministry. The head of the ministry was fired by President Nicolás Maduro two days after she released those statistics.

Child hunger in parts of Venezuela is a “humanitarian crisis,” according to a new report by the Catholic relief organization Caritas, which found 11.4 percent of children under age 5 suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition, and 48 percent “at risk” of going hungry.

Starvation is the inevitable result of government meddling in economic matters. Socialism tends to reach starvation faster because the amount of government meddling in economic affairs is greater than other forms of statism. But the same result can be reached under the economic system of the United States as well.

Statists enjoy rolling their eyes at libertarians who talk about regulatory burden but government regulations can and do kill people. And when regulations start killing people governments don’t suddenly realize the errors of their ways and loosen their grip. They double down because they know people can’t stop doing business with them.

We’re seeing this happen right now in Venezuela. Venezuelans are starving to death and the Maduro regime is tightening the noose further. The Venezuelan government, like all governments, doesn’t give a shit about the people it claims rulership over. It only cares about lining its own pockets.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2017 at 11:00 am

Altering the Deal

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A judge in Georgia disagreed with a jury’s verdict and decided to punish the suspect in spite of the fact that he was found not guilty:

A black man who was found not guilty of armed robbery will still serve up to seven years behind bars after a judge ruled he had breached the rules of his probation sentence for another crime.

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The 24-year-old was already was serving a five year probation term (a court order served outside prison through fines and community service) for his first ever offence, breaking and entering an apartment to steal a television worth $120 (£92) in 2012.

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The following February, a judge decided it was likely he did commit the robbery and as a result Chatman was re-sentenced for the original crime of stealing a TV and ordered to serve 10-years behind bars, back dated to the day of the crime.

This is a major problem with a monopolistic justice system. The judge is obviously untrustworthy. He decided that he didn’t like the verdict of a jury so he decided to renege on a previous deal made between the courts and the suspect. But even with this information in hand it’s not possible for people in the judge’s jurisdiction to choose to not do business with him. The best they can hope for is that there are multiple judges in that jurisdiction so they have a chance of getting one who is more upstanding.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Streamlining Extortion

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Minnesota may be second only to California when it comes to socialism in the United States. One of the tenants of socialism is government providing goods and services to the people. In order to do this the government must have wealth. Since government produce nothing of value it cannot raise the wealth it needs through voluntary transactions and therefore relies entirely on extortion. This extortion is commonly perpetrated by the police. Traffic citations, parking citations, and other petty forms of extortion are examples of this. But every office knows that there are bigger money makers. In fact, petty forms of extortion such as traffic and parking citations are often used as justifications for initiating an interaction that may ultimately produce a more lucrative violation.

One of the roadblocks between an officer pulling over a motorist for, say, speeding and searching their vehicle for lucrative contraband is the requirement that a warrant be acquired before a search of a vehicle can be performed. In its lust for extorted wealth Minnesota is streamlining that pesky warrant process:

The road to a search warrant has sometimes been a long and winding one for Minnesota law enforcement officers, especially those working a late-night shift. But now there’s an express lane known as the eSearch Warrant, that public safety officials say will make a big difference in DWI prosecutions.

A legal process that used to be done on paper and required a face-to-face meeting between an officer and a judge is now being done electronically. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Monday the transition to sSearch Warrants started in October and is now finished statewide.

“Before eSearch Warrants, a peace officer would write a search warrant application and then drive it to the judge for review,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans.

Of course it was justified using drunk drivers. Everybody hates drunk drivers so they’re more than happy to roll over whenever the police expand their power for the purpose of catching drunk drivers. I very much doubt that this streamlined process was aimed at nabbing drunk drivers though. The lower barrier to entry is likely meant to be used to allow officers to perform more vehicle searches in the hopes of finding more drugs, weapons, and other lucrative contraband.

Unfortunately, many people will be fine with this because they don’t realize that every single expansion of government power, no matter how trivial, comes at the expense of the rights and privileges of the people.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Coincidences Everywhere

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In 2013 it was revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has a propensity to stop and frisk minorities. How much of a propensity? In one precinct 98 percent of the people stopped and harassed by the police were minorities. I’m sure that was just a coincidence just like I’m sure that this is also just a coincidence:

Black and Hispanic kids accounted for 99% of all public school students handcuffed by NYPD school safety agents in crisis incidents in 2016, data published Monday shows.

A “child in crisis” incident is one where a student displaying signs of emotional distress is removed from the classroom and taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation.

In 2016, there were 262 child in crisis incidents where handcuffs were used, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which first reported the data — and all but three of those incidents, or 259, involved black or Latino children.

When I said that this was a coincidence I was being sarcastic but I know a lot of “tough on crime” people who would say that sincerely.

Racism is a collectivist idea and therefore incompatible with individualism (which is not to say that an individual can’t be racist, they certainly can, but by being racist they are necessarily being a collectivist) so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the State, the greatest form of anti-individualist organization on Earth, has such a strong tendency to institutionalize racism. Even when it goes so far as to create laws against racism, the State manages to institutionalize racism in its actions.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Rise of the Machines

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics in technology at the moment. If you listen to the people developing AIs, you will likely start to believe that they will solve all of the world’s problems. If you listen to the critics of AI, you will likely start to believe that they are the catalyst that will lead to a Terminator future.

AI probably won’t solve all of our problems but it probably won’t wipe our species out either. However, it is undeniable that algorithms are shaping our lives more and more. This isn’t a problem when those algorithms offer suggestions on what to read based on what you’re currently reading or what to buy based on what you’re currently buying. It is a problem when they decide whether or not you will be kept in a cage or not:

Police in Durham are preparing to go live with an artificial intelligence (AI) system designed to help officers decide whether or not a suspect should be kept in custody.

The system classifies suspects at a low, medium or high risk of offending and has been tested by the force.

It has been trained on five years’ of offending histories data.

The story cites the claimed accuracy rate of the AI as if a high accuracy rate should be enough for everybody to implicitly trust the system. But the system is proprietary so it’s impossible for outside parties to verify the claims of accuracy or to know how the system decides who should be kept in a cage. It’s also a black box. Can an officer override the system? If they can, does that override get included in the AI’s data that will color its future decisions? There are hundreds of questions one can ask but cannot answer about the system.

The problem with relying on AIs to make decisions about law and order is that the judicial system, at least in most so-called developed nations, is supposed to be transparent (although it usually isn’t). Proprietary systems aren’t transparent by definition, which makes them easier for the State to abuse.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 12th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Wonders of Late Stage Socialism

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Maduro has disarmed Venezuelans, armed his loyalists, and is now in the process of rounding up dissidents and trying them in secretive military courts:

Hundreds of Venezuelans arrested in the past week have been tried in secretive military courts, a new maneuver by the government of President Nicolas Maduro as he fights to retain his grip on power in the face of escalating political opposition and massive street protests.

Those taken into custody were charged with crimes including “rebellion” and “insulting authorities,” and some were sentenced within hours, according to civil-rights groups. Thousands of people have been detained across the country in recent months, with authorities rounding up politicians, activists, student leaders, even shoppers waiting in queues to buy food who made complaints police officers decided were out of line.

Yet more proof that Venezuela is experiencing late stage socialism.

Military courts usually come into play after a government has either fully cemented its power or see its power slipping away. In either case the government is motivated to eliminate all dissenters, which is difficult with drawn out public trials. It’s far more convenient to declare dissenters war criminals, whisk them away to a secret military court, and perform a quick show trail to get all of the paperwork in order (because governments are hopelessly addicted to paperwork), and either toss them in a labor camp for the rest of what will be their very short lives or simply execute them.

What Venezuela is experiencing is nothing new. It’s the way pretty much every socialist government has played out. Yet believers in socialism will be quick to claim that Venezuela isn’t real socialism because it didn’t lead to their mythical utopia.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11th, 2017 at 10:30 am

DHS is Banning Laptops in the Cabins of All Flights Coming from Europe

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Are you flying from Europe to the United States? If so, you might be required to place your laptop in your checked baggage:

The Department of Homeland Security plans to ban laptops in the cabins of all flights from Europe to the United States, European security officials told The Daily Beast. The announcement is expected Thursday.

Initially a ban on laptops and tablets was applied only to U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East. The ban was based on U.S. fears that terrorists have found a way to convert laptops into bombs capable of bringing down an airplane. It is unclear if the European ban will also apply to tablets.

Why would the Department of Fatherland Motherland Homeland Security (DHS) do this? It’s not for security reasons. Laptops that are carried onto planes go through an x-ray machine so screeners can see if anything looks amiss inside of them. As the article points out, putting laptops in the storage area of the plane is also more dangerous on average since detecting igniting lithium-ion batteries is more difficult. If this ban was for security reasons it would make no sense. However, if the ban is for creating a general state of anxiety, then it makes perfect sense.

Governments rule through fear. If a people believe there is a threat that only the government can defend them against, they’re much more likely to role over and take whatever abuse the government is inflicting upon it. The United States government exploits this fear but constantly reminding its people that there might be terrorists hiding under any bed and in any closet. This constant fear mongering reminds people that there are people out there who might try to kill them and the government hopes that will convince them that they need it.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Dialing 911 is Always Risky

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You’ve injured yourself and need to get to the emergency room immediately, who do you call? You’ve come across somebody who is obviously distressed and could be suicidal, who do you call? I’d guess that most people would answer with 911. However, dialing 911 in these situations is risky because you can’t be sure if the dispatcher will send medical professionals or an asshole with a badge and a hankering to inflict some violence:

De’Andra Walker, a youth counselor at the shelter, Brittany’s Place, said she called dispatch on Dec. 1 for an ambulance to take the girl to a hospital because she had been cutting herself with a metal object and refused to cooperate with a “safety plan” that would have allowed her to stay.

The counselor called for an ambulance, got a police officer instead, and violence appears to have been the result. In most cases like this the accused officer will claim that they were defending themselves but in this case the officer, at least after the fact, came up with a more creative excuse:

Under questioning by Wold, Soucheray said that the “startle flinch response” is designed to fake someone out and stop them from continuing a behavior.

Of course, his claim about using a “startle flinch response” was nowhere to be found in his report:

Bates noted that in his police report, Soucheray wrote that he struck the girl — not that the girl had alleged he did so.

“…sout of natural reaction, I struck [the girl] in the face with my left hand…,” Soucheray read from his police report.

“Is that phrase [startle flinch response] anywhere in your report?” Bates asked.

“No,” Soucheray said.

So after filling out his report, which stated that he struck the girl in the face, he changed his story. Curious.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. There are plenty of stories of people in need of medical intervention calling 911, getting a police officer instead, and violence erupting. 911 operators should consider making it a standard policy to send medical teams when they’re requested instead of police officers.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 5th, 2017 at 10:00 am