A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘You Can’t Cure Stupid’ 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

It’s Science!

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Reason posted an article claiming that research shows that you can’t even pay somebody to read information that contradicts their beliefs. However, if you read the about the methodology you learn that the researchers didn’t offer to pay people to read information that contradicted their beliefs:

The study gave participants two options: they could read an article about same-sex marriage that matched their own perspective, or they could read an article about same-sex marriage that contradicted their views on the subject. They were told that if they selected the article with which they disagreed, they would be entered in a drawing to win $10. But if they selected the more comforting, self-affirming article, they would only stand to win $7.

Being entered into a lottery isn’t payment, it’s a chance at payment.

I bring this article up to illustrate how poor research can quickly lead to stupid conclusions and headlines. Initially reading the research might lead one to believe that it gives evidence to the possibility that some people won’t read contradicting information even if there is a reward. But when you stop to think about the methodology used you quickly realize that the research was inadequate at addressing incentive. Some people might not be willing to read contradicting information for a chance to be entered in a lottery with a slightly better payoff but they might be willing to do so for straight up cash. $10 might not convince some people to read contradicting information but $20 or $30 might.

I also bring this article up because it shows that neocons and neoliberals aren’t the only people who allow themselves to use poor research to reach a desired conclusion. Libertarians can and do fall into that trap as well.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Socialist Hiding Behind the Curtain

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It seems like there’s a socialist hiding behind almost every libertarian. If you prod most libertarians enough you’ll eventually find that one hot topic where they’re willing to put a bullet in the head of individualism and hang its corpse for all to see. For a lot of these libertarians that topic is international socialism. While they claim to be against socialism in all forms they will gladly join the ranks of the national socialists if they’re fighting international socialists. Another one of these topics that’s starting to creep up is universal basic income. A few libertarians have fallen for the automation scare and are using that as justification for why society must implement universal basic income.

Interestingly enough, this tendency of self-proclaimed anti-socialists to have very strong socialists sentiments isn’t isolated to libertarians:

I’ve critiqued that idea elsewhere, but what I find interesting about it is that for all these years, Murray wasn’t really an opponent of big government or the welfare state. He was just looking for a more effective way to administer it. So his legacy as a critic of welfare is in danger of being eclipsed by his advocacy for universal welfare.

You could make similar observations about how it was the Heritage Foundation that cooked up the “individual mandate” at the center of Obamacare, how “cap-and-trade” global warming regulations were dreamed up under the Reagan administration and pushed as a “free-market” solution, and how it was Milton Friedman who helped develop income-tax withholding.

I believe one of the reasons socialism has enjoyed such great success in spreading (even though it has been an abysmal failure when implemented) is because it has been able to infiltrate its opposition. Even people who consider themselves ardent anti-socialists have been infected with socialist thinking.

How could socialism become so pervasive in society? I attribute it to statism. Individualism is the antithesis of statism. That being the case, believers in the State have to believe in at least some amount of collectivism. If a person claims to be an anti-statist but advocates some amount of statism they have already established the cognitive dissonance in their head that allows them to claim to be individualists while promoting socialist ideas. Statists then push their belief onto children through the public education socialist indoctrination system. After all, it’s always good to them while they’re young! The children who were subjected to the indoctrination system then grown up, become teachers, and being the vicious cycle anew. Within a few generations the idea that individualism can even exist is almost completely removed from society.

Libertarianism can’t hope to win the fight against socialism if its biggest supporters are advocating socialist ideas.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2017 at 11:00 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

Old Man Yells at Cloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

May 12th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Continuing to Debate Insanity

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This article sums up my attitude towards Marxism succinctly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Bye, Felicia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10th, 2017 at 10:30 am

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Intellectual Hypocrisy

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I don’t believe that intellectual property is a thing. This is why the content of this blog is public domain. Putting content in the public domain is only way that I’m aware of under United States law to legally toss aside the automatic copyright granted on created works. I try to practice what I preach. Not everybody does though. The Internet has given rise to companies that exist by ignoring intellectual property. These companies make products such as t-shirts using other people’s intellectual property. However, some of the artists involved in these venues are rather unhappy that other people would dare copy their works:

The problem of designs being stolen was echoed by other artists. “This is something that plagues the community with great force, and it’s something myself and a numerous amount of other artists have been affected by too many times,” designer Spicy Monocle said in an e-mail interview with Ars. “I know many other artists and myself included try to spread the word, but it’s an upward battle.” Vincent Trinidad, a full-time T-shirt designer—mentioned this issue bleeds over to consumers, too. He said stolen designs tend to be at a lower resolution, creating an end product that isn’t that good.

The issue, however, has developed into more of a gray zone for artists than you’d expect. That’s because when it comes to some of the works being duplicated, many designs depend on using the IPs of other companies.

“Some of it is fair use, but some of it really isn’t,” Kozak says. “So, it’s hard for artists. We’ve thought about making like a big campaign against the sites that are stealing artwork and stuff like that, but then it also brings attention to people who are maybe not, you know, doing something that’s completely sound in the copyright laws.”

Intellectual hypocrisy is a term I like to apply to people who both ignore other people’s intellectual property protections and demand intellectual property protection for their works.

The t-shirt companies mentioned in the article all exist by ignoring intellectual property protections. Most of the time they’re ignoring the intellectual property protections granted to science fiction and video game producers since geeky t-shirts sell well. I have no problem with this. But now some of them are whining about people ignoring their intellectual property protections.

If you’re going to make a business out of ignoring intellectual property protections then you should make your statements consistent with your beliefs instead of wanting rules for thee but not for me.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 9th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Battle of St. Paul

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

May 8th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Limitations of Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2017 at 11:00 am