A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Your Government Doesn’t Love You’ tag

The Devil Is in the Details

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I, probably like most people who travel in libertarian circles likely, have friends on both sides of the abortion aisle. The last few days my friends who are against abortion have been celebrating this piece of news:

Michael Bowman, a 53-year-old self-employed computer software developer from Columbia City, Oregon, hasn’t paid his federal income taxes since 1999.

He says it’s because his Christian ideals don’t allow him to pay into a system that funds abortions. In a YouTube video explainer of his defense, he likened paying taxes that then go toward funding abortions to German citizens under Nazi rule who outed Jewish citizens, sending them to their deaths.

And according to The Associated Press, he beat the feds in court this week.

Unfortunately, many of my friends celebrating this piece of news apparently stopped reading at this point. If they had read further, they would have learned that Bowman didn’t win an argument saying that being forced to pay for something that are at odds with his religious beliefs is wrong. He won an argument saying that he didn’t commit felony tax evasion:

To be clear, Bowman won the battle, not the war he’s fighting with the IRS and the Oregon U.S. District Court, when federal Judge Michael W. Mosman dismissed a felony tax evasion charge against Bowman.

Mosman ruled that the government’s indictment failed to provide any evidence that Bowman tried to conceal money from or misled the IRS by cashing his paychecks instead of depositing them and keeping a low bank balance so tax collectors couldn’t garnish wages from it to pay what it says are back taxes owed.

From what I’ve been able to ascertain, Bowman hasn’t made any effort to conceal the fact that he’s not paying taxes. He’s not evading taxes, he’s outright refusing to pay them. However, this decision doesn’t mean that his battle is over and that people can now avoid paying taxes by declaring that they’re Christian and therefore unwilling to pay taxes due to their opposition to abortion. The charge was dismissed without prejudice, which means prosecutors can seek a new indictment. Moreover, Bowman is still facing misdemeanor charges for willfully refusing to pay taxes.

I believe that people shouldn’t be forced to pay for something they don’t want. If Bowman doesn’t want his money going towards supporting abortion, he shouldn’t be forced to pay money that goes towards supporting abortion. Unfortunately, the legal system in the United States doesn’t believe as I do, which means Bowman will likely be found guilty and be forced to pay the taxes he owes along with the penalty.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Government Granted Monopolies are Good for Business

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Few markets in the United States are as ripe with corruption as the medical market:

A drug that treats a variety of white blood cell cancers typically costs about $148,000 a year, and doctors can customize and quickly adjust doses by adjusting how many small-dose pills of it patients should take each day—generally up to four pills. At least, that was the case until now.

Last year, doctors presented results from a small pilot trial hinting that smaller doses could work just as well as the larger dose—dropping patients down from three pills a day to just one. Taking just one pill a day could dramatically reduce costs to around $50,000 a year. And it could lessen unpleasant side-effects, such as diarrhea, muscle and bone pain, and tiredness. But just as doctors were gearing up for more trials on the lower dosages, the makers of the drug revealed plans that torpedoed the doctors’ efforts: they were tripling the price of the drug and changing pill dosages.

Before some socialist reads this and thinks that they’re going to be oh so clever by posting, “See? This is what happens under capitalism,” let me explain how this kind of behavior is enabled by government.

In a market unrestrained by government interference, news stories like this would result in competitors making cheaper alternatives to the drug in question. However, in this case the manufacturer has a patent, a government sanctioned monopoly, on the chemical makeup of the drug, which makes it illegal for other manufacturers, at least in countries that recognize the patent, to make a product using that same chemical makeup. If a drug manufacturer wants to triple the price of their patented products, there’s nothing to stop them because no competition exists.

If you look at drugs that are no longer patented, there are usually several generic alternatives to the name brand drug. These generics have the same chemical makeup and therefore do the same thing but they usually cost a fraction of the cost of the name brand version. Once a generic is on the market the original manufacturer can either keep their prices absurdly high and lose a bunch of business or bring their prices down to a more reasonable level in an attempt to compete.

Unfortunately, so long as manufacturers can patent chemistry, they can set their prices as high as they want.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Justice in the United States

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When I discuss the justice system in the United States, I use the word justice with a heavy dose of sarcasm. Justice, at least in my book, implies that a wronged party has been compensated for the damages they suffered by the party that wronged them. Here in the United States justice tends to imply that a governmental body has been compensated for the damages suffered by another party:

T-Mobile USA has agreed to pay a $40 million fine after admitting that it failed to complete phone calls in rural areas and used “false ring tones” that created the appearance that the calls were going through and no one was picking up.

“To settle this matter, T-Mobile admits that it violated the Commission’s prohibition against the insertion of false ring tones and that it did not correct problems with delivery of calls to certain rural areas,” states an order issued by the Federal Communications Commission today.

T-Mobile will pay the $40 million fine into the US Treasury. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn criticized the commission for not getting refunds for customers.

According to the Fascist Communications Club (FCC), T-Mobile wronged rural customers by inserting false ring tones on their lines and failing to correct issues that resulted in calls not being delivered. To punish T-Mobile the FCC fined it $40 million. However, that entire post is going to the FCC. The wrong parties, the rural individuals who had to deal with false ring tones and calls not being delivered, won’t receive a penny. T-Mobile isn’t even required to issue refunds.

This isn’t uncommon. Government regulators often accuse companies of harming individuals. The result of such accusations tends to be fines that are payable to the accusing agency while the parties that the accuser claimed were the actual wronged parties go without compensation. That doesn’t qualify as justice in my book. It’s just a scam for government busybodies to line their pockets while pretending to represent “the people.”

Written by Christopher Burg

April 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Backing the Thin Blue Line

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Backing the thin blue line, at least in Minnesota, is an expensive proposition:

Over the past 11 years, at least $60.8 million has been paid out statewide to people who have made misconduct allegations, according to data compiled by the Star Tribune.

From 2007 to 2017, jurisdictions in Minnesota have made at least 933 payouts to citizens for alleged misconduct. And they’re on the rise. The average has grown from about 50 payouts per year to around 100.

It’s just a few bad apples though!

If so much money is spent on police misconduct, why hasn’t the government made efforts to restrain its law enforcers? I think history can illustrate the core problem here. Let’s rewind to Ancient Rome. Ancient Rome, like pretty much every regime throughout history, declared that individuals within its territory owed it taxes. Unlike the modern United States though, Ancient Rome had no government tax collectors. Instead it contracted the job out to publicani. Tax collection contracts required collectors to raise a specified amount of money to send to Rome. What made these contracts lucrative was that the collectors were allowed to keep any additional money that they raise for themselves. If, for example, a contract required collectors to collect 1 million sestertii and the collectors collected 1.5 million sestertii, they were allowed to keep the extra half million. As you can imagine, this system was rife with corruption. Tax collectors squeeze every sestertius they could from the population. While the populations being bleed would often complain to Rome, Rome was reluctant to restrain its primary revenue generators so the abuses continued.

The same holds true for modern governments. Law enforcers are a major revenue generator for governments. While $60.8 million may sound like a lot of money even spread out over 10 years, it’s certainly a paltry sum compared to the amount of revenue generated by Minnesota law enforcers in the same span of time. Until the amount being paid out for misconduct allegations exceeds the amount being generated by law enforcers, that status quo will continue.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 17th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Regulations Make Medical Tourism a Necessity

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The United States was once a leader in medical technology. However, increases in bureaucracy have pulled back that lead. Many new and experimental medial treatments remain illegal in the United States, which has created a significant medical tourism industry. Every year numerous Americans travel to foreign lands to seek treatment for their ailments. The latest example of this is opioid addicts traveling to Mexico to seek treatment:

As America’s opioid and heroin crisis rages, some struggling with addiction are turning to a drug illegal in the US. Jonathan Levinson went to one clinic offering the treatment in Mexico.

At the end of a dead end street in a town near the US-Mexico border, Emily Albert is in the basement of a drug treatment clinic, hallucinating about her son as a heroin addict. She imagines him going through rehab and desperately trying to get clean.

But Albert is the one with the addiction. She’s in the middle of a psychedelic treatment for opioid addiction.

[…]

The drug is illegal in the US, but several studies have suggested it is effective in alleviating opioid withdrawals and curbing addiction.

[…]

Ibogaine, along with other hallucinogenics, such as LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms), are schedule I substances in the US – drugs which have no medical application and are not safe for use, even under medical supervision.

The medical potential of psychedelics has been known for decades. Timothy Leary performed research on their psychological benefits in the ’50’s and ’60’s. His research discovered that psychedelics did have a lot of positive aspects. Modern research has shown that psychedelics offer a lot of potential for people suffering from depression. And now clinics in Mexico are using psychedelics to help people kick their opioid addiction.

But even with all of this information at hand, the United States government continues to claim that psychedelics have no medial application whatsoever. So long as they maintain that attitude, it is mostly illegal to experiment with psychedelics for medical purposes in the United States, which creates an impasse. A researcher can’t experiment with psychedelics to determine if they can be used in medical applications so they continue to have no medial applications, which prevents researchers from determining if they can have medical applications.

Because of this impasse, the only way to gain access to psychedelics for medical use is to travel to a country less burdened by such regulations.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 12th, 2018 at 11:00 am

You Can’t Take the Sky from Me

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The United States government suffers from delusions of grandeur. The latest of these delusions is the belief that it owns space:

The story behind the missing live feed is a muddy bureaucratic affair. It appears that NOAA has recently decided to start interpreting or enforcing a decades-old law in a new way. The agency says SpaceX and other commercial space companies must apply for a license to broadcast video from orbit.

“The National and Commercial Space Program Act requires a commercial remote sensing license for companies having the capacity to take an image of Earth while on orbit,” NOAA said in a statement last week. “Now that launch companies are putting video cameras on stage 2 rockets that reach an on-orbit status, all such launches will be held to the requirements of the law and its conditions.”

If you launch something into orbit with the ability to broadcast a signal, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, perhaps the agency with the title containing the most hubris considering it states that the agency can administer nature) believes that you have to pay it for a license. Apparently it’s position as an agency of the United States government gives it command over all of space.

This decree would be irrelevant except the individuals who are launching payload into orbit are stuck on the ground where government goons can get them. Fortunately, there are tracts of land run by goons who are less deluded. Were I interested in launching rockets into space, I’d do so from one of those tracts of land. While NOAA might be able to enforce it’s delusion in the United States, it would have a harder time enforcing it in, say, India.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 12th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Misplacing Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives

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Civilians cannot be trusted with firearms and ammunition, only responsible and accountable government agencies can be:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) does not have the best reputation vis-à-vis guns, and a new internal audit finds the agency has a record of carelessness with its own weapons.

Though the ATF does not lose guns at the rate it once did, it had “26 instances of lost, stolen, or missing firearms” in the fiscal years 2014 to 2017, and at least one of those weapons is known to have been used in commission of a crime. Some of these guns were lost in diners or on the Washington Metro system. One was discovered by an agent’s neighbor, who found it sitting on the roof of the agent’s car.

Perhaps more troubling given the sheer scale of the problem is ATF’s missing ammunition. The report found “several significant deficiencies related to tracking and inventory of ammunition. For example, ammunition tracking records were understated by almost 31,000 rounds at the 13 sites we audited.” Extrapolated across the agency’s 275 offices, that comes out to about 650,000 missing rounds. Explosives were also not correctly inventoried in some offices and may be lost or stolen as well.

26 lost firearms, 650,000 missing rounds of ammunition, and a probability that some explosives were lost? So responsible!

This story is a good reminder that government agents aren’t the most responsible individuals. And why should anybody expect them to be? They’re not handling their own gear, they’re handling gear that was paid for by tax payers. If they lose or damage something, tax payers will be forced to buy a replacement. Furthermore, irresponsible government agents are seldom punished for their irresponsibility. If they lose or damage something, not only will they receive a replacement courtesy of the tax payers, but they also won’t be reprimanded in any meaningful way.

The findings of this report aren’t unique. Every year we see reports about government agents losing equipment. So why do statists continue to believe that the government is more responsible and trustworthy than civilians? I’m left to believe that it’s due to a gold-medal-worthy mental gymnastics performance. There is no way that somebody could comprehend this report and conclude that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is more trustworthy with firearms and ammunition than the average civilian.

Reinforcing the Status Quo

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Cop apologists are quick to say that the time to resist a “bad apple” isn’t when they’re violating your so-called rights or curb stomping your face, but in the courtroom after the interaction is concluded. Were the courts just, such advice may be valid. However, the courts are not just and more often than not affirm that heinous acts performed by law enforcers are legal:

The Supreme Court just ruled that a police officer could not be sued for gunning down Amy Hughes. This has vast implications for law enforcement accountability. The details of the case are as damning as the decision. Hughes was not suspected of a crime. She was simply standing still, holding a kitchen knife at her side. The officer gave no warning that he was going to shoot her if she did not comply with his commands. Moments later, the officer shot her four times.

[…]

As Sotomayor argued in dissent, the court’s decision means that such “palpably unreason­able conduct will go unpunished.” According to seven of the nine Justices, Hughes’ Fourth Amendment right to not be shot four times in this situation is less protected than the officer’s interest in escaping accountability for his brazen abuse of authority. According to Justice Sotomayor, “If this account of [the officer’s] conduct sounds unreasonable, that is because it was. And yet, the Court [] insulates that conduct from liability under the doctrine of qualified immunity.”

Worse yet, this decision wasn’t a surprise. And it certainly isn’t an aberration.

This is yet another in a long list of Supreme Court cases that affirm that officers have the privilege to shoot whomever they want for whatever reason they want. This is also why I call bullshit on the earlier mentioned argument commonly made by cop apologists.

If you wait to resist a “bad apple” until a later court case, you may be permanently disabled or even dead. To make matters worse, the court will be more likely side with the “bad apple” than you. Of course fighting with a “bad apple” carries its own risks. The “bad apple’s” buddies will likely join their comrade in beating your ass or summarily executing you. Furthermore, if you do survive, you will likely be tossed into a cage by a court. When you’re so-called rights are being violated by a law enforcer, you’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place and have to decide how to proceed based on the information at hand at the time. However, your list of options shouldn’t consist solely of rolling over and letting a man in a muumuu later affirm that what the officer did to you was perfectly legal.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 11th, 2018 at 10:30 am

How Do I Internet?

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Yesterday people who are in charge of the largest violator of privacy, the United States Congress, ironically grilled Mark Zuckerberg on the topic of privacy. I didn’t watch the hearing because I have better things to do with my time but I did check the highlights and they were what I expected. A bunch of old white people who have no idea how the Internet works made a public show of authority in the hopes of convincing the masses that their desire to further control the Internet is necessary:

In doing so, many of the senators betrayed a general lack of knowledge about how Facebook operates. Imagine trying to explain social media to your grandparents—this was essentially Zuckerberg’s task.

Sen. Roy Blunt, (R–Mo.), for instance, didn’t seem to understand that Facebook lacks a means of accessing information from other apps unless users specifically opt in. The same was true of Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.), who needed a lot of clarification on how Facebook Messenger interacts with cellular service. Zuckerberg had to carefully explain to Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) that WhatsApp is encrypted, and Facebook can’t read, let alone monetize, the information people exchange using that service. Zuckerberg had to explain to multiple senators, including Dean Heller (R–Nev.), that Facebook doesn’t technically sell its data: The ad companies don’t get to see the raw information.

[…]

But senators on both sides of the political aisle were clear about their concerns—and more than willing to step in.

“If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix their privacy invasions, then we are going to have to,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D–Fla.). “We, the Congress.”

What Nelson and his colleagues largely failed to do was demonstrate that “we, the Congress” possess the requisite knowledge to regulate Facebook, or that those regulations would improve upon the policies Facebook would like to implement on its own.

The article contains other ignorant questions and concerns that were fielded by senators. From reading through them it’s obvious that the people tasked with the hearing are entirely out of touch with the topic at hand. Were it not for the positions of power that they hold, their opinions on the matter would almost certainly be dismissed by most people. But they wear suits and occupy a marble building so their ignorance is irrelevant. They have the power to give themselves whatever control they so desire. They may not understand how Facebook or the overall Internet works but they can vote themselves the power to regulate them.

This is part of the reason why political solutions always fail. There is no requirement that the politicians understand the problem to which they’re providing a solution. If you don’t understand the problem, you cannot hope to provide a valid solution.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 11th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Overt Internet Censorship

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The Internet, especially the free speech that it has enabled, was fun while it lasted but it has become obvious that the governments of the world will no longer tolerate such a free system. Of course few governments wants to admit to attacking free speech so they are using euphemisms. For example, the United States government isn’t censoring free speech, it’s fighting sex trafficking:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. law enforcement agencies have seized the sex marketplace website Backpage.com as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a posting on the Backpage website on Friday.

Groups and political leaders working to end forced prostitution and child exploitation celebrated the shutdown of Backpage, a massive ad marketplace that is primarily used to sell sex. But some internet and free speech advocates warned the action could lead to harsh federal limits on expression and the press.

Notice how they managed to throw the “for the children” get out of jail free card in there? Shutting down Backpage wasn’t about prostitution, it was about human trafficking, especially the trafficking of children. It’s just like how the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) is being sold as a law against sex trafficking but it’s really about opening the door to censoring any online material that offends the political class.

Fortunately, there are new frontiers. Tor Hidden Services and I2P offer a mechanism for server operators to keep their location concealed, which makes taking them down more difficult than taking down a standard Internet service. As the precedent being set by SESTA expands, more Internet service operators will find themselves having to utilize the “dark web” to avoid being censored.