A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Superdickery’ tag

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

The War is Not Meant to Be Won

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Who isn’t the United States at war with? It’s a difficult question to answer because the list of nations continues to grow. Although most of its actions have been focused on the Middle East, the United States is starting to expand further into Africa:

Six years ago, a deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Special Operations Command gave a conservative estimate of 116 missions being carried out at any one time by Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and other special operations forces across the globe.

Today, according to U.S. military documents obtained by VICE News, special operators are carrying out nearly 100 missions at any given time — in Africa alone. It’s the latest sign of the military’s quiet but ever-expanding presence on the continent, one that represents the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops to any region of the globe.

In 2006, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos deployed overseas were in Africa. In 2010, it was 3 percent. By 2016, that number had jumped to more than 17 percent. In fact, according to data supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command, there are now more special operations personnel devoted to Africa than anywhere except the Middle East — 1,700 people spread out across 20 countries dedicated to assisting the U.S. military’s African partners in their fight against terrorism and extremism.

Contrary to what many people believe, Trump won’t be the downfall of the United States. Russia won’t be either. What will ultimate kill the United States is its obsession with policing the world.

To quote the movie 1984, “The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. The essential act of modern warfare is the destruction of the produce of human labour. A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance.” While the United States’ purpose in war may not be to directly destroy the production of human labor, it’s an unavoidable side effect. Every building that is destroyed will have to be rebuilt. Every automobile that is destroyed will have to be replaced. War destroys the product of human labor so that it must be produced again.

And what does war return? Nothing. Some will claim that war stimulates the economy because the production of war materials and replacement of destroyed materials creates jobs. However, as Bastiat pointed out, we’re not seeing the unseen. The labor and resources that are involved in the war effort could have been used for productive things instead. Steel for tanks could have been used to build skyscrapers, automobiles, computers, or any number of wealth generating tools. Likewise, the labor could have been put towards building those skyscrapers, automobiles, computers, etc. Instead those resources are put into wealth destroying devices that must be replaced every time they are destroyed by an enemy.

So long as the United States continues to see itself as the police of the world it will continue to involve itself in more wars, which will just accelerate its demise.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 19th, 2017 at 11:00 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

Hiding Public Records in the Private Sector

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Axon, the company formerly known as Taser, announced that it would give free body cameras and one year of online video storage to any department in the United States for one year. This seems like a phenomenal deal but there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. The deal is meant to make Axon money and to please its biggest customers, the police:

But isn’t just video. Police agencies and local governments are using Evidence.com to store other evidence, too. Defense attorney Rick Horowitz recently put up a post about how in order to access discovery in a case, the district attorney told him to log on to the website. And in order to log on, Horowitz had to sign this user agreement:

You consent to Axon’s access and use of the Account Content in order to….improve Axon’s Products and Services. In addition, for content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP Content”), you specifically give us the following permission: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, irrevocable, royalty-free, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use any IP Content that you post on or in connection with the Services (IP License).

[…]

Second, this isn’t just any public record. We’re talking about evidence in criminal investigations. To have that evidence stored on servers owned by a private company creates some bad incentives. The company’s primary client isn’t the public; it’s the police agency. And it’s primary interest isn’t just outcomes in courtrooms; it’s keeping the client happy. For example, the company might win favor with police agencies — for example, allowing officers to take certain liberties with body camera video in a way that keeps the courts or opposing attorneys in the dark.

Body cameras were sold as a tool for police accountability but it has become clear that they were meant to collect evidence that the State can use to prosecute more individuals. Axon’s primary customer is the State and therefore it is incentivized to help the State use body cameras to collect evidence against individuals while not allowing the footage to be used to hold police accountable.

People often wonder why the State empowered corporations so much. At one point I thought it was primarily a protection racket, the State offers corporations extra legal privileges in exchange for money. But now I’m starting to think that the primary purpose was so the State could conceal its dirty laundry from the public by hiding behind the shield of the private sector. Remember, the State has given you permission to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request against it but not against a private entity. So long as it can give a corporation the job of hiding information the State can rightfully say that it has no information pertaining to your FOIA request.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 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

The Religion of Science

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One might get the impression that I’m opposed to science based on how much I’ve been harping on scientism as of late. Truth be told, I’m actually a huge advocate of science, which is why I’m investing so much time into criticizing scientism.

Science is supposed to be about using observations to develop hypotheses and testing those hypotheses through experimentation. It’s supposed to be different from faith. But most of the people cheering the greatness of science are treating it as a religion. Scientists are being treated like priests, their words are being treated as law and their characters are being treated as sacred. This has lead to religious zealotry:

In late July 2014, a Twitter user named @dogboner posted a photo of a man on a subway train working on his laptop, accompanied by the caption, “Some guy using his laptop on the train like a dumbass nerd lol.” The “dumbass nerd” in question was astrophysicist, author and TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson. Instantly, “@dogboner” (whose real name is Michael Hale) faced a tweet-storm of abuse and haranguing from social media users for whom Tyson has emerged as a kind of messiah of modern rationalism.

The photo was shared on the popular Facebook page “I Fucking Love Science” (which currently engages some 25 million-plus users), leading to even more angry call-outs. Hale was called “stupid,” an “underachieving burnout,” and worse. One person encouraged Hale to “fall into an ocean of A.I.D.S.” Few had bothered to consider that the original tweet was nothing but the sort of stupid, ironized joke that savvy Twitter users major in. Legions of self-satisfied rationalists and armchair logicians who pride themselves on their superior intellect were effectively fleeced.

Beyond being (really, really) funny, the incident was revealing. It spoke to the vehemence and belligerence science seems to inspire in popular culture. It also laid bare the frothing cults of personality surrounding people like Tyson, Bill Nye, Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield (who live-streamed parts of his 2013 mission to YouTube, including a much-shared acoustic guitar rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”), and other modern pop-star scientists.

The irony, of course, is that most of the people who lashed out at Mr. Hale probably don’t know any scientists who don’t regularly appear on television. In this way they mimic many self-proclaimed Christians who are only aware of popular televangelists and wouldn’t recognize the names of even well-known historical theological scholars.

I’m going to blame the government indoctrination system that is often mistakenly called an education system. Government indoctrination centers tend to teach by authority. What the teach says is supposed to be accepted by the students with blind obedience. Everything written in the textbooks is supposed to be accepted as truth. Students who question the teachers or the textbooks are often dismissed with a wave of the hand or outright punished. Unfortunately, imprinting this system on children at a young age likely makes them seek out authority figures instead of seeking out knowledge.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, who I have never met but would enjoy getting a beer with sometime, has become one such authority figure. People seeking out an authority figure on science have latched onto him, as many Christians latch onto televangelists, because he’s charismatic and entertaining. However, it’s no crime to be entirely unaware of him, especially if one’s interests aren’t in astrophysics. Likewise, it’s no crime to be entirely unaware of Aziz Sancar. Who is Aziz Sancar? He’s a microbiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I’m not a chemist so I was also unaware of him and only found him when doing a search for scientists who have made notable accomplishments but haven’t enjoyed appearing on every television channel known to man. My point is that most self-proclaimed lovers of science are probably entirely unaware of his existence and that’s OK.

Science ceases to be science when it becomes blind faith and cults of personality. The masses currently demanding science-based policies appear to be primarily composed of worshipers of scientism, not people with an actual understanding of the scientific method. They don’t want science-based policies, they want policies inspired by the sermons of their priests.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 12th, 2017 at 11:00 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