A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Superdickery’ tag

Snapping Up Everything of Value

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The collapse of Venezuela continues unimpeded. A couple days ago the Venezuelan government announced that it was arming loyalists, likely in expectation of massive civil unrest. Yesterday that same government decided to seize an automobile plant from General Motors:

GM (GM) described the takeover as an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets.”

The automaker said the seizure showed a “total disregard” of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.

“[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” it said in a statement.

Authorities in Venezuela, which is mired in a severe economic crisis, did not respond to requests for comment.

This isn’t surprisingly. Only a fool would believe that the Venezuelan regime can be propped up much longer. Since the Maduro and his cronies don’t come off as fools, they’re probably preparing for the collapse of their regime. A lot of historical rulers when put in the same position started grabbing anything of wealth they could so they could enrich themselves before fleeing the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if Maduro seizes more valuable production facilities so he can sell off the assets to enlarge his bank account so he has a comfortable nest egg for his eventual escape.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2017 at 10:30 am

You’re Property

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Tax seasons has once again come and gone. Now that everybody has filed their papers that will hopefully appease the State enough that it won’t send men with guns to your doorstep, I think it’s time to reflect on just what the income tax means. Simply put, the existence of the income tax means that you’re property:

The great essayist Frank Chodorov once described the income tax as the root of all evil. His target was not the tax itself, but the principle behind it. Since its implementation in 1913, he wrote, “The government says to the citizen: ‘Your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.”

The income tax, like so many other government evils, seemed innocent enough when it was first proposed. It wasn’t going to be used to soak the poor or middle class. Heck, it wasn’t even going to be used to soak the wealthy. It was only going to be used to take an infinitesimal percentage of the income of the wealthiest Americans. Fast forward 104 years and we’re all being soaked.

Precedence is something I like to point out periodically. The government likes to grant itself seemingly innocent powers. Often these grants of power are even celebrated by the masses. But as time goes on the seemingly innocent grants of power are used as justification for overtly sinister grants of power. The income tax is the perfect example. Although it started as a tax that only targeted the rich, it established the precedence that the State has first claim to income. That precedence was used to expand the income tax until it applied to everybody’s income. Now even the poor get a percentage of their income skimmed off of the top by Uncle Sam.

The income tax may have been one of the most egregious grants of power because it established the precedence that individuals, not just the products they make or trade, are government property.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Revolution on the Horizon in Venezuela

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The people of Venezuela are starving, the nation’s currency is in free fall, and the government is arresting anybody who expresses displeasure with the situation on charges of sabotage. In other words, Venezuela is experiencing late stage socialism. As with most failing socialist (a redundant term, I know) governments, the government of Venezuela is trying to maintain its grip through terror. But terror only works when people have something to lose. When faced with the prospects of complying and starving to death or fighting and possibly surviving, people will often choose the latter.

Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator, is seeing the writing on the wall. The people are angry with him and his policies and look to be gearing up for a revolution. In response, he has begun arming his loyalists:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will expand the number of civilians involved in armed militias, providing guns to as many as 400,000 loyalists.

The announcement came as Maduro’s opponents are gearing up for what they pledge will be the largest rally yet to press for elections and a host of other demands Wednesday.

History shows that late stage socialism has two possible outcomes. The first is that somebody like Gorbachev obtains power and implements policies that allow a peaceful transition away from socialism. Maduro doesn’t appear to be a Gorvachev so Venezuela will likely experience the second possible outcome, civil war. I hope that Maduro sees the hopelessness of his situation and abdicates power but I’m guessing this mess will only end with blood.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Everybody is a Terrorist

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Denying people listed on government terrorist watch lists the ability to own firearms has been a pursuit of gun control zealots in recent years. They’re not fans of due process and foolishly believe that the government had good cause to add people to those lists. But we keep finding examples of people being added to those lists who have no business appearing on them. Take this three-month old baby for example:

A three-month old baby was summoned to the US embassy in London for an interview after his grandfather mistakenly identified him as a terrorist.

Harvey Kenyon-Cairns had been due to fly to Orlando in Florida for his first overseas holiday, until his grandfather Paul Kenyon made the error on a visa waiver form.

On the part of the Esta form which reads “Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?” Kenyon ticked yes instead of no.

He only learned of his error when his grandson’s travel was refused. “I couldn’t believe that they couldn’t see it was a genuine mistake and that a three-month-old baby would be no harm to anyone,” said the 62-year-old.

I’m not expert but I can’t imagine a three-month old child having the ability to engage in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide. A quick look at the applicant’s date of birth would have lead any sensible person to realize that the checkbox was obviously checked in error. But governments don’t care about common sense, it’s all about the process to them.

Furthermore, having that question is just plain stupid. Anybody with intent of engaging in those activities isn’t going to alert authorities to their intentions on a government form. After all, people who are willing to break more serious laws probably won’t be dissuaded by charges of lying on a government form. The only purpose such a question on a visa application serves is to add a field where an innocent person can make a stupid mistake.

Government lists are horribly unreliable because there are so many ways to get on them and almost no oversight when it comes to adding names to them. That’s why relying on government lists for any form of punishment is stupid. Something as simple as checking the wrong box on a form might get you added to some watch list.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

You Keep Using That Word

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New York is considering make college tuition “free”for all students from households that earn less than $125,000 per year:

ALBANY, New York (Fox 32 News) – This weekend, the New York state legislature moved another step towards making tuition free for all public four-year colleges in the state.

The free college educations are part of the state budget agreement.

The Washington Post reported if the budget passes, the state it will pay tuition for any New York resident accepted into a New York community college or four-year university. The student’s family must earn less than $125,000/year.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Electricity, water, building maintenance, food, professors, etc. all need to be acquired and acquiring those things costs money. Simply passing a piece of legislation doesn’t make economic realities go away (believe me, many socialist nations have tried). New York isn’t proposing free college, it’s proposing a plan to dump the costs on somebody besides the students. In this case, as is the case with all “free” government programs, the costs will be dumped on the denizens of New York. Not only will households making more than $125,000 per year be soaked more but taxes will have to go towards college tuition as well. Instead of the students going to college paying for it, this proposal will make tax payers in New York pay for it whether they are or have students in a New York university or not.

But so many people have been “educated” in government indoctrination centers that they’ll eagerly lap this nonsense up. Then after everything goes to Hell they’ll demand the government step in again to fix the mess it created.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 13th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Degrees of Separation from Hitler

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One form of propaganda I’m getting tired of is character assassination. Whenever somebody runs afoul with police officers the tough on crime folks and the media begin performing a thorough background check. Their goal is to find something, anything, that can be used to justify the actions of the police officers.

David Dao, who was roughed up by airport police on behest of United Airlines, is now in the media’s crosshairs and, not surprisingly, they found some dirt on him:

Dao was trying to regain his medical license when he worked at the practice from August 2015 to August 2016, Nadeau said. Dao had surrendered his medical license in February 2005 after being convicted of drug-related offenses, according to documents filed with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure last June. Broadcast and print coverage of Dao’s arrest, conviction and sentencing made his name familiar to some Kentuckians.

What?! Mr. Dao was convicted of a drug-related offense 12 years ago? Well that changes everything! He totally had that beating on United coming!

The absurdity of this practice is difficult to overstate. What does something that happened 12 years ago have to do with the beating Mr. Dao received last weekend? Nothing. But it gives the tough on crime people and propagandists something to latch onto to justify their view of officer infallibility.

And this practice becomes more absurd every year. At one point stories might be run if a victim of police brutality had a history of violence. Then stories might be run if a victim had a history of drug use. Now stories are run when somebody was convicted of a crime over a decade ago. At this rate it’s only a matter of time until the media starts playing Degrees of Separation from Hitler.

“Up next, on CNN, we present a chilling story. Our researchers have discovered that the unarmed man who was gunned down by police after he was handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car only had 37 degrees of separation from Adolf Hitler!” Mark my words, we’re going to start seeing stories like this (although, perhaps, not exactly this) run when people have been brutalized by police officers.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

More Corruption at the ATF

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Here we go again, another story of corruption at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)! This time the agency that likes to sell guns to Mexican drug cartels was caught using an off the books bank account for some rather luxurious expenditures:

WASHINGTON — Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used a secret, off-the-books bank account to rent a $21,000 suite at a Nascar race, take a trip to Las Vegas and donate money to the school of one of the agent’s children, according to records and interviews.

Agents also used the account to finance undercover operations around the country, despite laws prohibiting government officials from using private money to supplement their budgets, according to current and former government officials and others familiar with the account.

Before you make the mistake of assuming that those expenses were related to an investigation:

Other expenses, such as renting a 16-person suite at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, had no obvious connection to law enforcement operations. A.T.F. agents, along with some community members, used the suite in 2012 for the Irwin Tools Night Race, a Nascar event, according to two people who worked closely with the bureau at the time. A receipt obtained by The Times shows the suite cost $21,000.

Agents also donated money from the account, according to documents and interviews, including thousands of dollars to the high school and volleyball team of the daughter of an A.T.F. agent in Bristol. The agent, Thomas Lesnak, is now retired and did not respond to messages seeking comment. He has previously dismissed suggestions that anything was done improperly.

It’s good to be the king’s men and family of the king’s men!

Although every government agency is corrupt, the ATF seems to excel at corruption. There doesn’t seem to be a year that goes by where the agency isn’t caught in some kind of major scandal. The story notes that this latest incident shows the lack of ATF oversight but this is really a minor offense when it comes to the shenanigans of the agency. And if arming Mexican drug cartels didn’t result in more agency oversight this certainly won’t.

What this story really illustrates is how ineffective it is to give an organization a monopoly on holding itself accountable. The government maintains such a monopoly. The consequences of this have become obvious. When an agency is caught doing something corrupt no punishment, or at least no noteworthy punishment, is dispensed. Usually a hearing happens before Congress. During the hearing some members of Congress pretend that they’re shocked to find corruption within the agency in question. The hearing will be followed by a few days of government officials appearing on news channels berating the corrupt agency. Then, after the week’s news cycle is over, the entire matter vanishes from the headlines and people’s memories.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 12th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Human Rights Violations and War Crimes

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The United States spent tens of millions of dollars on Tomahawk missiles so it could totally fail at destroying a Syrian airport. Supposedly the operation was done in retaliation for the Syrian government using chemical weapons on rebel fighters. You see, under no circumstance will the United States tolerate human rights violations and war crimes! The might of the United States military will be brought to bear against anybody who crosses such a line!

Unless, of course, the human rights violations and war crimes are occurring in a country the United States has no vested interest in:

More than 100 gay men have been detained in concentration camp-style prisons in the Russian region of Chechnya, according to reports by local newspapers and human rights organisations.

The arrests are being made as part of a widespread anti-LGBT purge in the area. The prison camps are the first to be established for LGBT people since the Second World War.

It’s difficult to claim the moral high ground when it’s obvious your morality is based entirely on your interests. People start to think you’re not sincere when you selectively invoke your morality as justification for your actions.

But morality to a government is nothing more than propaganda. It’s pulled out and cited when it’s convenient to forward one of the government’s causes but then buried again once it has served that purpose. When you see a government cite moral grounds for actions know that you’re being propagandized. The actions aren’t being done for moral reasons, the actions were being done for entirely selfish reasons and morality just happened to be a convenient excuse that sounded far better than greed.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 12th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Fly the Extremely Hostile Skies

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When you buy a plane ticket you’re renting a seat aboard a particular flight from one airport to another, right? Wrong. You’re buying a chance to use a seat aboard a flight, not a guarantee. Buying a planet ticket is like playing a lottery, albeit with much better odds:

In plain language under Rule 25—on page 35 if you print it out—the agreement says exactly what happens if the flight is oversold. “If there are not enough volunteers, other Passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily,” the language reads. (Of course, the deplaned man was not denied boarding, he was already boarded.)

I’ve been on many overbooked flights. Since I don’t fly very often the fact that I’ve been on many overbooked flights illustrates how prevalent the practice of overbooking is. This mostly works because whenever a flight is overbooked the poor schmuck working at the front desk will offer people who volunteer to take a later flight some kind of compensation and they usually get enough volunteers. However, I’ve often wondered what would happen if they didn’t get enough volunteers. Fortunately, United answered the question:

CHICAGO, IL — A man aboard a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville was forcibly lifted from his seat, dragged down the aisle and removed from the plane as horrified passengers protested and recorded the episode on their smartphones Sunday night at O’Hare International Airport.

The man was among four passengers randomly selected on the full flight to give up their seats for United Airlines employees who needed to be in Louisville by Monday, according to witnesses. Flight 3411 was overbooked, according to the airline.

If a flight is overbooked and the airliner doesn’t get enough volunteers then a few cops are sent aboard to rough up a passenger and forcefully remove them. As an aside, I’ll note that the officers had no problem roughing up and removing that paying passenger. But I’ll leave the moral judgement of that fact for you to make.

I would go so far as to accuse United, and every other airline, of fraud since they’re misrepresenting their product. With the exception of the 3,000 pages of legalese hidden in some dark recess of their websites, every airline strongly implies that when you buy a flight ticket you’re reserving a seat aboard a selected flight. Some airlines even allow you to select a seat. However, you’re not reserving a seat, you’re buying a chance at getting a seat, which is not what is being advertised. What makes matters worse is that the State is willing to subsidize this fraudulent practice by providing the muscle to deal with any customers who are unhappy about getting ripped off.

While other airlines also sell lottery tickets instead of flight tickets, they haven’t been caught sending police aboard when somebody loses. Because of that, I would recommend playing the lottery with another airliner. At least then if you lose you might not get roughed up.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 11th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Letter of the Law

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The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Oftentimes people will discuss the intent of a law versus the letter of a law. This discussion usually happens when it comes to light that a law that was passed with good intentions ends up being abused by enforcers following the letter.

In an effort to thwart tax evaders (which qualifies as good intentions to statists although I’m not sure why), a law was passed that required individuals and businesses to report all bank deposits greater than $10,000. It’s a little known law, which means many small business have been running afoul with it. Since the intention of the law was to catch tax evaders you would think that these accidental violations would result in little more than a notice being sent to the offending businesses alerting them of the law’s existence so they wouldn’t violate it in the future. But the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), not surprisingly, has been following the letter of the law, not the intent:

While structuring is technically a crime, it’s something of a secondary one. The reporting requirements were enacted to detect serious criminal activity, such as drug dealing and terrorism. They “were not put in place just so that the Government could enforce the reporting requirements,” as the IG’s report puts it.

But according to the report, that’s exactly what happened at the IRS in recent years. The IRS pursued hundreds of cases from 2012 to 2015 on suspicion of structuring, but with no indications of connections to any criminal activity. Simply depositing cash in sums of less than $10,000 was all that it took to arouse agents’ suspicions, leading to the eventual seizure and forfeiture of millions of dollars in cash from people not otherwise suspected of criminal activity.

The IG took a random sample of 278 IRS forfeiture actions in cases where structuring was the primary basis for seizure. The report found that in 91 percent of those cases, the individuals and business had obtained their money legally.

Structuring is the crime of breaking up bank deposits over $10,000 into multiple deposits under $10,000. That’s right, breaking up larger deposits is a crime in the United States because of the “good intentions” of a few politicians.

But the IRS doesn’t care what the intention of the law was, it only cares about the letter of the law. Instead of using the Bank Secrecy Act to pursue individuals and organizations trying to conceal illegal activities by breaking up larger bank deposits, the IRS has been pursuing individuals and organizations who have been performing perfectly legal activities. By doing this the IRS has managed to seize millions of dollars from innocent people.

Is there any reason why the IRS is despised by basically everybody? Is there any reason why libertarians flip out whenever a seemingly innocent law is passed?

I doubt the IRS will suffer any punishment for this since it was technically doing its job by enforcing the law. But this story should serve as a warning to people who often let the intention of a law cloud their judgement. When it comes to enforcement the intention of a law doesn’t matter, only the letter.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 7th, 2017 at 11:00 am