A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘You Can’t Cure Stupid’ tag

Civitates Foederatae Americae Delendae Sunt

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Since I’m on the topic of perspective, let’s take a moment to consider the current crisis, immigrant children being held in concentration camps:

Reporters and Democratic lawmakers have been allowed inside a detention centre that lies at the heart of a growing storm over a new US policy separating migrant children from their parents.

Authorities did not allow photos or videos to be taken inside the centre, but US Customs and Border Protection later released several images. Former First Lady Laura Bush has compared it to the internment camps used for Japanese-Americans during World War Two. A Democratic congressman who visited the site said it was “nothing short of a prison”.

If you listen to many partisans, you may be lead to believe that Trump is personally kidnapping these children to put them in concentration camps. The first red flag in this article should be that photos were not allowed. Why should that be a read flag? Because it raises an awkward question, from where have all of the pictures of these concentration camps come? Awkward questions often have awkward answers:

There’s also precedent for warehousing immigrant children at military bases. In 2014, Obama temporarily held kids at an emergency shelter at Lackland AFB in San Antonio — a development that Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott were appalled by at the time. The photo at the top of this story — of Central American kids at a Border Patrol processing center — has been repeatedly mistaken as a recent, Trump-era image. In fact, it’s from 2014, during the Central American refugee surge.

Many of the pictures being passed around supposedly from current concentration camps full of children are actually from concentration camps full of children that existed under the previous president. Yes, you read correctly, concentration camps that existed under Obama.

If it wasn’t for humanity’s wonderful feature referred to as cognitive dissonance, this news might shake some partisain’s political faith in their party. Fortunately for them, cognitive dissonance will guard most of them from having to accept this difficult information. However, all of us should keep in mind that human rights abuse is nothing new for the United States of America.

From kidnapping Native American children and forcing them to abandon their heritage and language under the guide of civilizing and educating them to interring Japanese Americans during World War II for no other reason than their descent to the continuous abuse of black individuals from slavery to Jim Crow laws to the drug war, there hasn’t been a single instance in the United States’ history where the federal government wasn’t abusing large swaths of people.

None of the human rights abuses being perpetrated under Trump are new or without precedence. Moreover, if voting could fix this, as most partisans either outright claim or imply, this issue would have been fixed already.

If you’re actually looking for a solution to the human rights abuses perpetrated by the United States government, there is only one solution.

Civitates Foederatae Americae delendae sunt!

Written by Christopher Burg

June 19th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Perspective

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I’m of the opinion that you can despise somebody but not despise everything single thing that they do. For example, I despise Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler drank water. Does that mean I despise drinking water? Of course not. Likewise, I despise Donald Trump. Donald Trump is making inroads with North Korea that could lead to a reduction in hostilities if not outright peace. Does that mean I despise peace? Of course not.

Unfortunately, this attitude, albeit quite simple, still qualifies as rather nuanced by modern standards. Many people, especially those who have given themselves over entirely to a binary political spectrum, are unable to deal with even minor nuances so even some former peaceniks have begun screaming about the evils of making peace with North Korea for the sole reason of who is making that peace. This has lead to some rather unexpected propaganda. Case in point, Engadget, a website that posts articles almost exclusively about technology products, felt the need to pen an article that can be summed up as, “North Korea is evil! It cannot be trusted! We can’t make peace with it!” The argument put forward by the article, like the attitude that lead to the writing of the article, is built on the lack of being able to understand nuance.

The first part I’m going to pick out isn’t an argument but an attempt to frame North Korea as an evil nation who did terrible things to Americans. What it fails to do is take perspective into account:

North and South Korea have been divided since 1945; for a short period Russia occupied the North while the US occupied the south; during the war, China aided the north and the US aided the south (we lost 54,246 lives, and 7,704 American soldiers are still unaccounted for). The Korean War ended with an armistice agreement but no peace settlement, so technically the war has never ended. American military remains in the south as part of a mutual defense treaty.

North Korea killed 54,246 Americans! See how evil it is! What’s missing is the other side of the equation. You see, the Korean War was, as the name implies, a war. In war soldiers on both sides tend to die. As it turns out, a lot of North Koreans died:

In a 1984 interview, Air Force General Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, claimed U.S. bombs “killed off 20 percent of the population” and “targeted everything that moved in North Korea.” These acts, largely ignored by the U.S. collective memory, have deeply contributed to Pyongyang’s contempt for the U.S. and especially its ongoing military presence on the Korean Peninsula.

If an estimated 20 percent of the North Korean population wasn’t enough, many North Korean cities, including Pyongyang, ceased to exist.

I don’t say this to give North Korea a pass on the regime’s abuses. The North Korean government is an absolutely brutal one. However, to only give one side of the story is propaganda, not accurate history. Understanding the conflict requires analyzing all sides of the war, not just the American side.

Now that the outright propaganda of the article has been addressed, let’s consider the argument against making peace with North Korea:

Fast forward to 1963, and the world finds out that the North has begun building a nuclear reactor. Then a nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. The first time North Korea committed to denuclearization was 1992’s Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula — though historically, nuclear inspectors have been barred from surveying North Korean facilities.

North Korea entered the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization and failed to abide by the agreement! How can we trust a regime that has broken its promises in the past? But why did North Korea fail to abide by its side of the agreement? Fortunately, I’ve read The Dead Hand by David Hoffman. Part of it touched on the history of nuclear weapons in North Korea and the agreement that was made between it and the United States. As with any agreement, this agreement involved concessions from both sides. One of the concessions made by the United Stats was a commitment to provide North Korea with two light water nuclear reactors. However, after the agreement was made, as is so often the case in the United States, the rules changed:

Soon after the agreement was signed, U.S. Congress control changed to the Republican Party, who did not support the agreement.[19][20] Some Republican Senators were strongly against the agreement, regarding it as appeasement.[21][22] Initially, U.S. Department of Defense emergency funds not under Congress’ control were used to fund the transitional oil supplies under the agreement,[23] together with international funding. From 1996 Congress provided funding, though not always sufficient amounts.

The United States didn’t abide by its part of the agreement. Normally when one side fails to uphold its end of an agreement, the other side is not expected to uphold its part. Apparently North Korea was supposed to uphold its end even though it didn’t receive what was promised to it.

Once again the issue wasn’t the upstanding United States being snuffed by wicked North Korea. The issue was two belligerents continuing to be belligerent. This is not to say that North Korea was the good guy or an innocent victim, it’s to point out that the United States wasn’t an angel.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 19th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Science is Settled… Until It’s Not

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I’m a skeptical man by nature but I tend to be more skeptical of what are traditionally labeled soft sciences such as psychology and sociology. My stronger than average skepticism stems from several factors.

First, and probably most importantly, experiments in these fields can’t isolate variables. When you’re experimenting on humans, one variable is the life experiences of the subjects of your experiment. Different people have different life experiences, which can lead them to act differently under the same circumstances.

Second, the subject of experiments in fields like psychology tend to act differently when they’re the subject of an experiment. This tendency isn’t unique to humans. Ravens and chimpanzees act differently when they know that they’re being watched.

Third, most experiments involving human subjects suffer from selection bias. Professors have a ready pool of humans to experiment on, western undergrads, and utilize them for most experiments. Anybody with even the most basic observation skills will notice that undergrad students tend to behave differently than, say, elderly individuals.

Now I have a fourth reason for my skepticism. It turns out that the findings of many psychological experiments are, to put it nicely, rather dubious:

The Zimbardo prison experiment is not the only classic study that has been recently scrutinized, reevaluated, or outright exposed as a fraud. Recently, science journalist Gina Perry found that the infamous “Robbers Cave“ experiment in the 1950s — in which young boys at summer camp were essentially manipulated into joining warring factions — was a do-over from a failed previous version of an experiment, which the scientists never mentioned in an academic paper. That’s a glaring omission. It’s wrong to throw out data that refutes your hypothesis and only publicize data that supports it.

Perry has also revealed inconsistencies in another major early work in psychology: the Milgram electroshock test, in which participants were told by an authority figure to deliver seemingly lethal doses of electricity to an unseen hapless soul. Her investigations show some evidence of researchers going off the study script and possibly coercing participants to deliver the desired results. (Somewhat ironically, the new revelations about the prison experiment also show the power an authority figure — in this case Zimbardo himself and his “warden” — has in manipulating others to be cruel.)

The problem of manipulation isn’t unique amongst so-called soft sciences. The scientific method generally assumes that the experimenter is unbiased but what happens when the experimenter wants a specific outcome? Oftentimes, they can setup the experiment or manipulate the results in such a way that they can create their desired outcome. This is especially easily to do when the subjects of an experiment are manipulable humans. A little coercion can result in desired behavior.

I’m happy that these issues are finally being scrutinized more thoroughly. But I’m curious what the fallout will be. Science has become a religion to many people. People tend to react negatively when they learn that their priests have been lying to them and that their gods are not actually gods. Part of my worries that the backlash of this scrutiny could be a reflexive opposition to science by the masses but then the other part of me remembers that most fans of science aren’t actually scientifically minded anyways.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 15th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

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Remember the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent who became separated from his weapon while dancing and ended up shooting somebody he attempted to retrieve his weapon in a panic? In a surprise twist, he has been arrested:

An off-duty FBI agent whose gun accidentally fired after it dropped out of its holster while he was doing a backflip at a Denver nightclub was taken into custody on Tuesday, jail records showed.

Chase Bishop, 29, turned himself in to the Denver County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday morning and was being held in a detention center in downtown Denver. He was charged Tuesday with one count of second-degree assault, the Denver County District Attorney’s Office said.

I feel the need to point out the verbiage used here. Notice how the report says that the FBI agent “accidentally” fired his firearm. While his actions were almost certainly accidental, it would have been better to use the word “negligently” since his negligence lead to the gun being fired. But negligence is when nongovernmental individuals unintentionally shoot somebody. When government agents unintentionally shoot somebody, it’s accidental.

As far as the charges go, I’d put money on the agent not being convicted. Law enforcers tend to enjoy a great deal of leeway when it comes to shooting bystanders, whether intentionally or accidentally. But it is nice to see that charges were actually filed and an arrest was made.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 13th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Defining Evil

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Anybody who has identified as a libertarian for any length of time has likely been accused of being a paid Koch brothers shill. The Koch brothers are evil incarnate who want nothing more than to kill every poor person on the planet. At least that’s what my self-proclaimed progressive friends continue to tell me. Those same friends also tell me that anybody who is working to topple Trump is doing God’s work. So now I’m left to wonder, are the Koch brothers still evil incarnate:

Powerful US billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are funding a multi-million dollar campaign against President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs.

Three political groups backed by the brothers say they will use advertising, lobbying and grassroots campaigns to push the benefits of free trade.

This is an excellent illustration of the trap most politicos fall into eventually fall into. They tend to define other politicos on a binary scale. Either you’re on “their” side and therefore good or you’re on the “other” side and therefor evil. But people are complex creatures and seldom fit nicely onto a binary political spectrum. Two good examples of this are pro-gun progressives and pro-choice conservatives. Even if every other political belief an individual in either group holds agrees with their respective political label, they are considered heretics by both sides.

I honestly don’t know much about the Koch brothers other than the check they’re supposed to send me for being a libertarian shill has yet to arrive (if this is due to an address mishap, would a representative of the Koch brothers please contact me so it can be corrected). I’m sure if I dug into their beliefs I would find things that I agree with and disagree with. This is probably true for every person on the planet. If you spend the time to get to know somebody, you’ll inevitable find that there are things on which you two agree and things on which you two disagree. Needless to say, having only a binary spectrum is insufficient for judging human beings.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 7th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

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Somebody Pilfered the Lock Box

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The Ponzi schemes that is Social Security is, not surprisingly, facing some financial issues. Apparently somebody has pilfered the lock box because the program is going to be dipping into its reserves:

Medicare’s finances were downgraded in a new report from the program’s trustees Tuesday, while the projection for Social Security’s stayed the same as last year.

Medicare’s hospital insurance fund will be depleted in 2026, said the trustees who oversee the benefit program in an annual report. That is three years earlier than projected last year.

This year, like last year, Social Security’s trustees said the program’s two trust funds would be depleted in 2034.

For the first time since 1982, Social Security has to dip into the trust fund to pay for the program this year.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. The entire idea behind Social Security, forcing employees to put money into a government account so they can withdraw from it when they reach an arbitrarily defined age (which continues to increase), is impossible to maintain with a deflationary currency. An employee who puts a dollar into an account in 1960 will only withdraw $0.12 worth of purchasing power in 2018. Under these conditions either the amount of money available to retirees has to be increased, which will deplete the account quickly, or the retiree cannot be given the same purchasing power that they deposited (which, in effect, means their purchasing power was stolen from them).

But inflation isn’t the only issue facing Social Security. Ponzi schemes require a constantly increasing number of participants. With the birth rate declining rapidly in the United States, there aren’t going to be as many workers as there once were so the number of people paying into Social Security will diminish while the number of people extracting from Social Security will increase.

The bottom line is, regardless of what politicians claim, Social Security is doomed.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 6th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Living in Postliterate America

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I’m working with a dying medium. The written word has served humanity for thousands of years but it’s time, at least here in the United States, is coming to an end. Why do I think this? Because every time a piece of news involving even a tiny bit of minutia crops up, few seem able to read more than the headline.

The latest example of this involves a baker in Colorado by the name of Jack Phillips. A couple wanted him to make a cake for their wedding. He refused because the couple were both men and his Christian beliefs don’t jive with same-sex marriages. The couple decided that this was discriminatory and brought the wrath of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission upon him. Eventually the case reached the Supreme Court and yesterday the nine muumuu-clad judges announced that they sided with Phillips.

Obviously religious freedom just made a giant leap forward in the United States, right? Wrong. It turns out that everybody cheering this decision as win for religious freedom stopped reading after the headline:

In a case brought by a Colorado baker, the court ruled by a 7-2 vote that he did not get a fair hearing on his complaint because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated a hostility to religion in its treatment of his case.

Writing for the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while it is unexceptional that Colorado law “can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions that are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

He said that in this case the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, understandably had difficulty in knowing where to draw the line because the state law at the time afforded store keepers some latitude to decline creating specific messages they considered offensive. Kennedy pointed to the Colorado commission’s decision allowing a different baker to refuse to put an anti-gay message on a cake.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility towards Phillips and that that hostility prevented an unbiased hearing. Basically the government failed to act as a neutral third-party mediator and that invalidated its decision. At no point did the Supreme Court rule on the law in question. The law forcing Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding wasn’t invalidated.

Knowing this literally took only a few paragraphs worth of reading but I somehow saw tons of people claiming that this decision was in regards to religious freedom. No wonder people make video blogs today. If you’re using the written word, you’re apparently making your content unavailable to 99.99 percent (this is totally a scientifically backed percentage) of the American population.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 5th, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Only Ones Responsible Enough to Own Firearms

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Remember, kids, only government agents are responsible enough to own firearms:

He was trying to bust a move but ended up busting a cap.

An off-duty FBI agent dropped his gun doing a backflip on the dance floor of a Denver bar — then accidentally shot a fellow reveler while scrambling to pick up the piece, according to a report.

The real icing on the cake is the fact that the gun didn’t go off when it hit the floor (drop safeties are a great feature when you’re dancing with a gun held in a shitty holster) but when the agent went to pick it up. That’s two major fuck ups in less than a minute! Talks about government efficiency!

If you’re going to dance with a gun, wear a goddamn retention holster. And if you’re gun falls out of its holster, don’t scramble to grab it (unless somebody else is trying to snatch it). It’s not going anywhere. Instead calmly pick it up so you don’t do something stupid like pull the trigger and shoot an innocent bystander.

Murder by Proxy

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One of the easiest ways to gain 15 minutes of fame this day and age is to say something outlandish. A 22-year-old preacher decided to grab his 15 minutes of fame by stating that he believes homosexuals should be put to death:

Powell wasn’t shy about sharing his views on how gay people should be dealt with.

“As far as homosexuality goes, I believe the Bible puts the death penalty on it,” Powell said. “I believe it’s disgusting. And incidentally, every scientific test has come back and said that homosexuals are 50 more times likely to get AIDS… we got this AIDS thing spreading… it’s a fact that this is the case.”

But that wasn’t the real icing on the cake. Like a vast majority of people who talk a tough game, this guy is actually a little bitch:

“I believe the Bible puts the death penalty on it,” Powell replied. “Obviously, not by me or anybody in a regular society, obviously. I believe it’s the government’s job to execute criminals. I believe that the Bible says clearly that homosexuality is a criminal crime. It’s a crime. It’s one of the worst crimes ever.”

He believes that homosexuals should be put to death but he’s too much of a bitch to do the dirty work himself. In this way he has a great deal in common with almost every single individual who cries that there ought to be a law.

Laws are threats of violence. If a law is passed that prohibits driving over an arbitrarily selected speed, the ultimate punishment for driving over that speed is death. Sure, violating such laws generally doesn’t result in death because most people pull over as soon as they see a law enforcement car with its attention whore lights on behind them. The reason they pull over is because they know that failing to pull over will result in a chase that has a high chance of resulting in injury or death.

If you ask most people if they’re willing to personally execute somebody for driving over an arbitrarily selected speed, they will say no. However, if you put a proxy between them and violence, they’re suddenly all for it.

Most people who claim to oppose violence are actually in favor of it so long as somebody else does it in their stead. So while a lot of people are flipping out about the fact that there is a preacher who wants homosexuals executed by the government, they’re often themselves advocating for the government to execute people for partaking in behavior that doesn’t harm bystanders (such as selling heroine to people who want to buy it voluntarily).

Written by Christopher Burg

June 1st, 2018 at 11:00 am

With Friends Like the United States, Who Needs Enemies

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A lot of people refer to Trump as a fascist. While he (along with almost every other politician) certainly displays a lot of fascist tendencies, I think it would be more accurate, at least economically, to refer to him as a mercantilist. His policies have been aimed at discouraging importing goods in favor of internal trade. While many people still believe that mercantilism is a sound economic policy, it wrecks havoc on international relations:

The US is to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from key allies in Europe and North America.

The US said a 25% tax on steel and 10% tax on aluminium from the EU, Mexico and Canada will start at midnight.

The move immediately triggered vows of retaliation from Mexico, Canada and the EU, which called the tariffs “protectionism, pure and simple”.

With friends like the United States, who needs enemies?

Mercantilism falls apart because it discourages international trade. First one nation implements a policy that harms another nation. Then that nation implements its own policy in retaliation to harm the first nation. This cycle can continue until trade between the two nations halts entirely.

I know a lot of people believe that this will bring prosperity to the United States. However, if you believe that policies like this will bring back the good old days of the 1950s where a single factory worker could buy a house, truck, and boat, you’re sorely mistaken. Manufacturing is highly automated, which reduces the number of available factory jobs. Moreover, the regulatory red tape makes many economic activities such as resource extraction, resource refinement, and manufacturing cost prohibitive. In addition to all of that, the United States has been out of the game for so long that it lacks the experience and knowledge necessary to mass produce many desired consumer goods. Overcoming all of those issues will take a significant amount of time and even if they are overcome, the available market will be tiny because foreign nations will have already implemented retaliatory policies prohibiting trade with the United States (not having the biggest market in the world, China, available would itself strongly discourage manufacturing goods in the United States).

Written by Christopher Burg

June 1st, 2018 at 10:00 am