Archive for the ‘Your Government Doesn’t Love You’ tag
I didn’t watch last night’s debate. I’ve already seen enough videos of monkeys flinging feces at each other for a lifetime. But I did find an excellent video that summarizes both candidates’ position on a very important issue:
During his first presidential run, Obama spent a lot of time talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He claimed that he was going to make ending those wars a priority. While he was lying through his teeth it was refreshing to have at least one major candidate opposing war. This year? Both major candidates are war hawks and want to turn Syria into rubble (not because of anything Syria has really done but because it’s a proxy for Russia and old Cold War attitudes die hard). But neither one of them wants to address the fact that the United States is involved in five fucking wars:
In an election flush with conspiracy theories, here’s one that’s real: Both major party nominees, as well as the journalists who cover the election and moderate the debates, are actively conspiring to avoid talking about the fact that the United States is waging war in at least five countries simultaneously: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.
In the first two presidential debates, our involvement in the Syrian civil war was briefly discussed, as was ISIS in vague terms, and the Iran nuclear deal, and Russia’s mischief-making in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and Libya, though mostly in the past tense, focused on our 2011 intervention to depose Moammar Gadhafi and the subsequent attack on American government facilities in Benghazi a year later.
But our role in “advising” the Iraqi army “a few miles behind the front lines” as it works to take back territory from ISIS? Our “secret war” against Shabab militants in Somalia? Our support for Saudi Arabia’s bloody assault on Houthi rebels in Yemen? Our air strikes pounding positions in and around the city of Sirte on the Libyan coast?
Nada. Zip. Nothing.
While Keynesians have wet dreams over all of the economic “stimulus” wars create the only people who benefit are those within the military-industrial complex. Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Blackwater (or whatever the hell they call themselves now), etc. make big dollars on war. People (if you can really call Keynesians people) will also mistakenly point out that construction companies and other rebuilders make big dollars as well. But their ignorance of Bastiat’s broken window fallacy causes them to ignore the fact that those builders would be building newer, better buildings instead of replacing older buildings in an economically prosperous (i.e. not blown to Hell and back by war) region. Furthermore, an economically prosperous region would have goods and services to trade with other regions, which would increase the wealth of both sides. When wars are waged everybody outside of the military-industrial complex gets screwed.
In times of peace wealth is invested in developing new more technologically advanced goods and services. During times of war wealth is diverted to onetime use munitions and rebuilding everything that was blown up. Both sides are diverting wealth that was stolen from their populace into first building bombs, tanks, ships, bunkers, supply lines, surveillance technologies, etc. and then replacing them all when they’re destroyed. It’s an unending cycle of wasted potential.
The United States is already involved in five wars. Getting involved in more wars or throwing more resources into existing wars is only going to increase the amount of wealth wasted on death and destruction. No matter which president wins in November it’s clear that the current wars will not only march on but increase in intensity. This will only worsen the already tedious economic situation the country, and really most of the world, is in. And nobody wants to talk about that. Nobody wants to talk about what is probably the single biggest issue facing the world right now. What is the point of political debates if the important issues aren’t being broached (don’t answer that, it was a rhetorical question)? Where is the choice in an election if both candidates hold the exact same destructive positions on truly important issues (again, this is a rhetorical question)?
Before I end this post I want to address something. I’m sure some very decent human beings are asking themselves why I’m framing this discussion within economics instead of human lives? I’m trying to reach the statists here and as we know statists tend not to value human lives very highly (if they did they wouldn’t be statists). But they never shut up about the economy. I guess a part of me hopes that framing this discussion within economics I might be able to reach one or two of them and convince them to ask why nobody is addressing the issue of war in this election.
George Carlin once said, “And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your fuckin’ retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later ’cause they own this fuckin’ place. It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.”
Social Security is often referred to as a Ponzi scheme and that is a fairly accurate assessment. Ponzi schemes tend to enrich the early participants of the scheme at the expense of the newer participants and the State, which passed the legislation mandating we all participate in this scheme, was certainly enriched while newer participants continue to get screwed harder than the last set of participants. What makes matters worse is that we all realize it. How many people in their 20s and 30s have you heard say “I don’t expect to get anything from Social Security?” Hell, I say it quite frequently. But you know who is benefitting from Social Security? The State.
Since its inception the Social Security Trust Fund has been “invested” in Treasury securities. In other words, the State pulls money from peoples’ supposed retirement accounts and lends it to itself. But its cronies have been wanting to get a piece of the action and, as George Carlin predicted, they’re going to get it.
The State has been unwilling to directly cut its cronies in on the Social Security scheme but it did throw them a bone. The bone was a tax rule that allowed money invested into a sanctioned scheme to be withdrawn from employee paychecks before taxes. This scheme, referred to as 401(k), has two major flaws from the point of view of the State’s cronies. First, it’s decentralized. There is no single mandatory 401(k) account that all employees have to invest in. Second, it is voluntary so many employees didn’t hand their money over to the State’s cronies. A lot of that is likely to change in the near future under President Clinton:
While Hillary Clinton has spent the presidential campaign saying as little as possible about her ties to Wall Street, the executive who some observers say could be her Treasury Secretary has been openly promoting a plan to give financial firms control of hundreds of billions of dollars in retirement savings. The executive is Tony James, president of the Blackstone Group.
It is a plan that proponents say could help millions of Americans — but could also enrich another constituency: the hedge fund and private equity industries that Blackstone dominates and that have donated millions to support Clinton’s presidential bid.
The proposal would require workers and employers to put a percentage of payroll into individual retirement accounts “to be invested well in pooled plans run by professional investment managers,” as James put it. In other words, individual voluntary 401(k)s would be replaced by a single national system, and much of the mandated savings would flow to Wall Street, where companies like Blackstone could earn big fees off the assets. And because of a gap in federal anti-corruption rules, there would be little to prevent the biggest investment contracts from being awarded to the biggest presidential campaign donors.
The “millions of Americans” that proponents are claiming will be helped by this change are the State’s cronies on Wall Street. Me and you? We’ll get fucked on the deal just as we’ve been getting fucked on Social Security. Instead of voluntarily opting to enter into 401(k) we’ll be forced to give money to yet another national retirement scheme. It’ll basically be Social Security II but the money will go to the State’s cronies instead of itself.
Every decree by the State exists to expropriate wealth from the populace. It’s a nice system if you’re either the king or are connected enough to the king to hold a royal title. But it really sucks for us lowly serfs.
Spain is enjoying a window of economic prosperity. This prosperity coincides with the fact the nation hasn’t had a functioning federal government for 300 days now:
MADRID — Spain is about to pass 300 days without a government. But guess what? Few Spaniards seem bothered by that as the country’s economy roars ahead.
Spanish cities are boasting of packed cafes and restaurants, thriving fashion shops and art galleries, plenty of tourists. The overall impression is of a bustling, vibrant country.
So who needs a government?
“I’m not especially worried about it,” said retiree Goyito de Camacho. “I see it on the TV and in the papers but (politicians) are all the same. They’re all scum who don’t care about the people.”
Two inconclusive elections on Dec. 20 and June 26 have left the conservative Popular Party running a caretaker government for the past nine months _ Saturday will be its 300th day. The party won both elections but lacked a majority and now has until Oct. 31 to muster support to form a minority government or Spain will face a third election.
I’m not saying that the economic prosperity is being caused by almost a year without a federal government but I am saying that not having a federal government is an experiment worth trying, especially in this time of economic turmoil. I believe it would be prudent to cancel this year’s election and put the federal government into caretaker mode for a few years so we could see how its absence impacts the economy.
If Spain’s economic boost is being caused by the lack of a federal government there’s no reason the United States shouldn’t enjoy the same. And even if the United States doesn’t enjoy a similar economic boost, canceling the election would really reduce a lot of people’s stress levels. Since stress is detrimental to health we could consider canceling the election a healthcare initiative as well as an economic one.
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL). Whenever somebody appears to be giving you something for free it likely means you’re the product, not the customer. Social media is a prime example of this. A lot of people claim that social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) products meant to surveil the populace. I personally don’t believe any government agency is clever enough to come up with a successful product like Facebook. But I also know they don’t care because they understand that Facebook exists to mine and sell information so they can forego the expenses of starting a service and just buy the data.
Geofeedia was recently caught selling social media data to law enforcement departments. The company managed to get its hands on this data by simply becoming a paying customer for sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Once the company was a paying customer it could grab user data, which is the real product, and package it up to sell to law enforcement departments.
But United States law enforcers aren’t the only buyers of social media data. Government agencies across the blog pay top dollar for surveillance data. The British Transport Police were also buying social media data:
The BTP, meanwhile, has purchased software called RepKnight. According to the company’s website, RepKnight can help identify, investigate or prevent political unrest, criminal activity, and activists. It can also be used to investigate DDoS attacks.
As well as searching Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and other social networks, RepKnight can be used for “sentiment analysis,” which presents users with “an instant summary of the mood across your search results, letting you quickly spot if something’s going wrong,” RepKnight’s site reads. Customers can use the service through a normal web browser, as well as on tablets and mobile phones.
In all, the BTP has spent £41,400 ($50,500) on purchasing the software and annual licenses for its use since July 2014, according to figures published by the Department for Transport.
A lot of people mistakenly believe their personal information isn’t worth anything. These are the people that usually say “Nobody cares what I do, I’m boring.” or “If they spy on me they’ll be bored.” or something else along those lines. But BTP forked out $50,000 just to surveil the seemingly mundane lives of everyday people. In other words, even the most boring person’s data is valuable.
What’s interesting is RepKnight seems to have some interesting capabilities. Geofeedia seems to be tailored towards surveillance but RepKnight seems to be tailored towards crushing political dissidence by allowing customers to go so far as launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
As more of our lives move online the public-private surveillance partnership will continue to grow. Don’t be surprised if you’re pulled over in the near future and the law enforcer drags you out of your vehicle and beats the shit out of you because the surveillance software on his car’s laptop pulled up a negative commend you made about the police (the software, of course, will be loaded to enhance officer safety).
Without divine intervention it’s obvious that Hillary Clinton will be the next president. Between Trump and Clinton I have no preference but there will be one annoyance with a Clinton presidency: a shortage of everything gun related. A gun store in Las Vegas has sent out an advertisement that has been getting a bit of attention:
The Las Vegas gun store Westside Armory is predicting a Hillary Clinton victory in November, and it has a message for customers: Buy now, because things are going to get expensive.
In an advertisement over the weekend in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Westside Armory said it was holding a “Pre-Hillary Sale” on tactical rifles, warning of a price surge if the Democratic nominee wins the election next month.
“Don’t wait!” the advertisement reads. “Prices will skyrocket after Crooked Hillary gets in.”
While the advertisement is playing off of fear it also isn’t wrong. Panic buying has already started. Most gun stores are sorely depleted of AR-15s, AK-47s, and most of modern rifles. When the election results are announced and Clinton is the new president the panic buying will likely kick into high gear.
And it’s fucking stupid. Clinton won’t even take office until January. She will literally have no presidential powers until then. So panic buying immediately after the election results are announced is stupid. Furthermore, once in office she won’t be able to wave a magic wand and make all of the guns go away. She’ll have to wait for Congress to pass her legislation that she can sign. As of now Congress is split between the two parties so the likelihood of her receiving such legislation is low. At most she can continue Obama’s tactic of demanding that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) tweak regulations to make them more annoying to gun owners and buyers.
What I’m trying to point out is that there’s no reason to start panic buying. But I also know any plea I make will be futile. Fear makes people do stupid things. Once somebody is afraid logic tends to go from moderately useful to mostly useless. And gun owners, by and large, are petrified of Clinton.
I’m sur there are a few gun control advocates laughing their asses off about this. To them I will point out that their cackling is also stupid because the panic buying will flood guns into circulation quickly, which means a lot more grandfathered modern rifles if a ban is ever signed by Clinton. It also means standard capacity magazines, ammunition, and modern rifle parts will flood into circulation. Basically, everything the gun control advocates are trying to prevent comes to fruition during a panic buy.
In the end nobody wins during a panic buy.
“News” today is already little more than propaganda for the State. But that isn’t enough for Obama. He wants wants a system in place to filter our information that isn’t propagandistic:
Pittsburgh (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Thursday decried America’s “wild, wild west” media environment for allowing conspiracy theorists a broad platform and destroying a common basis for debate.
Recalling past days when three television channels delivered fact-based news that most people trusted, Obama said democracy require citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions.
“We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to,” Obama said at an innovation conference in Pittsburgh.
“There has to be, I think, some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world,” Obama added.
What is true? If we’re talking about mathematical formulas or physics we can establish truth through logical deduction and the scientific method. But judging complex human interactions and philosophies as either true or false is a different beast.
Let’s take the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as an example. If I say the ACA has been a success would you believe my statement is true or false? It really depends on what you define as success. Supporters of the ACA will often look at the total number of people insured declare the ACA a success because the number is higher now than before the law was passed. Others will look at the rate health insurance premiums have increased and declare the ACA a failure because premiums today are higher than they were before the ACA was passed.
How do we determine “truthiness” (what a stupid word) when discussing things like whether or not a government program has succeeded? According to the government its programs are almost always successful. It will demonstrate success by pointing at various statistics it has chosen as being important. But other people will question the importance of those statistics. Going back to our example, is the total number of people who are covered by health insurance really an important number? There are arguments both for and against relying on that number to determine success. But which arguments are true and which are false?
Like so much in life, truth often boils down to personal philosophy. As a libertarian I believe the initiation of force is always wrong. Since the State’s existence is entirely reliant on initiating force I believe the State to be immoral. A utilitarian will likely disagree with me. They will likely find the State moral because it is the most utilitarian way to accomplish certain tasks. I will disagree with that and we’ll go back and forth because our ideas of morality are different.
The idea that we can create a system that can determine whether questions like our example are true is laughable because such a system will inevitably be colored by the personal beliefs of the designer.
Law enforcers are heroes! They protect us against the scourges plaguing society! Murders, muggers, and rapists will be offered no quarter… because they probably won’t encounter a law enforcers. As it turns out, our supposed heroes in blue have different priorities than we’re often told. They’re not spending a majority of their time dealing with crimes involving victims. They’re spending a majority of their time enforcing profitable laws:
Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tell the story. Drug possession arrests skyrocketed, from fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979 to more than 500 in the mid-2000s. The drug possession rate has since fallen slightly, according to the FBI, hovering now around 400 arrests per 100,000 people.
“Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime,” the report finds, citing FBI data. “More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year.”
In fact, police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Law enforcers are humans and humans are self-interested. In fact everybody in the chain is a human (or a reasonable facsimile for a human).
The laws are written and passed by politicians. Politicians are self-intersted individuals who use their position within the State for personal profit. That profit doesn’t come from providing goods or services that people want but through expropriation. When they pass a law it gives law enforcers permission to start enforcing that law.
Law enforcers are self-intersted individuals who use their position within the State for personal profit (are you noticing a trend). That profit also doesn’t come from providing goods or services that people want. A law enforcer’s profit comes from a paycheck, which is issued by the State. The State issues paychecks to law enforcers so long as they do a good job. A good job in this case involves raking in cash for the politicians. And like a salesman, law enforcers are often paid commission. Their department will often receive a cut of the wealth expropriated from drug manufacturers, sellers, and users. If the department is flush with cash it can afford to issue raises.
What does enforcing laws against murder, theft, and rape net the State? Not much. Sure, they get additional laborers for their
slave labor camps prisons but it doesn’t get a nice chunk of cash, which is far more liquid than slaves. That being the case, priority is given to enforcing drug laws instead of laws against actions that create victims.
There is no reform that can fix this other than abolishing the State. So long as it exists it will attract self-interested people who lack any meaningful morals and they will use the State for personal profit.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been wrecking havoc on the health insurance market. This is quite a feat considering how chaotic the health insurance market already was before the ACA was passed. But now things have gotten so bad that even the true believers’ faith is coming into question:
Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable to many Americans — and that fixing it must be a priority for both state and federal lawmakers next year.
Dayton, who has been among the strongest advocates for the package of health care reforms, said that while the Affordable Care Act has been a success in insuring more people and providing access to insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions, it also has “some serious blemishes and serious deficiencies.”
Speaking to reporters, Dayton said insurance companies have driven up costs in order to participate in the state’s MNsure program — and gridlock in Washington, D.C., has made it difficult to pass reforms that could bring those costs back in line.
What reforms could possible bring the costs down? If you’re an intelligent person you know that the only reform that would accomplish that would be the abolition of government interference in the health insurance market. But that’s not going to happen. Instead I predict that the “reform” that will ultimately end up being passed is single payer health insurance.
Advocates of the ACA are already saying the United States should transition to a single payer model because they foolishly believe that such a model is good. On the surface it looks good because the costs involved in healthcare are hidden from tax payers. They only see it as another tax, which they usually don’t notice because it’s pulled out of their paycheck before they even get it. When costs are hidden from the consumer the product begins to be viewed as free.
Once the United States is on the single payer model healthcare will truly begin to diminish because it will be controlled by a body of people who don’t give a fuck about you. What politicians care about is themselves. And unlike us working stiffs whose personal gain comes from providing goods and services our fellow working stiffs want, politicians derive their profits from stealing your money. When you pay the State for health insurance it’s interested in maximizing its profits. However, unlike a private health insurance provider, the State receives no punishment for doing a bad job. You can’t stop paying your taxes if you’re unhappy with the service you’re receiving. So the State, unlike its private alternatives, has no incentive to do anything other than provide you with a cheap and shitty service. A good example of this is Department of Veteran Affairs, which has been providing lackluster healthcare to veterans for decades.
The only thing you can guarantee when the State admits that a problem exists is that you’re going to get screwed by the solution.
In his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein coined the phrase there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (usually abbreviated as TANSTAAFL). The phrase is used by the main characters of the book to remind themselves and others that there’s no such thing as free. This is a lesson too many people fail to learn in real life. People are obsessed with the fantasy of free. They want free food, free money, free healthcare, and free online services.
People commonly make the mistake that online services such as Facebook and Twitter are free. On the surface they appear to be free since you don’t pay to use them. But TANSTAAFL. When you’re using a service for free you’re not the customer, you’re the product:
The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday outed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for feeding a Chicago-based company their user streams—a feed that was then sold to police agencies for surveillance purposes.
Geofeedia, which did not respond for comment, says it has more than 500 customers, including the Denver Police Department. That agency recently signed a $30,000 annual deal with the company. The money came from the agency’s “confiscation” fund. The department’s intelligence agency’s top brass wrote that it would allow cops to analyze and respond in real time to “social media content from anywhere in the world.”
Geofeedia, the actual customer, has been paying for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’s product, your personal information. It has then been turning around and selling it to various police departments, which use the information to more effectively expropriate wealth from the people they victimize. The only person not making any money on this deal is you. In fact, you’re losing money if any of the sold information about you is used by the police to take some of your wealth.
Because this revelation could turn into a loss of product for these sites they have apparently announced that they’ve cut off Geofeedia’s access. That shouldn’t make you feel better though. That access can be regranted at any time and there are likely many other companies doing the same thing as Geofeedia who just haven’t been caught yet. So long as you continue to be the product you shouldn’t believe any of your information is safe.
Since its inception the public education system has been at war with education. Instead of education people the United States public education system is based off of the Prussian system that was designed to make automatons that were smart enough to operate the machinery but not smart enough to revolt against the State. But remnants of education continued to stick around for a few generations until we finally reached the point we’re at today where the movie Idiocracy looks more like prophecy than satire.
The Hibbing School District has identified a remnant of education that has managed to remain untouched and is working to address that hiccup:
HIBBING — The Hibbing School District is considering ending its nearly 60-year partnership with the Hibbing Rifle and Pistol Club.
During a school board meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Brad Johnson said various concerns from the public regarding the gun range in the basement of Lincoln Elementary has led him to strictly limit access to the facility until there’s a permanent solution to ensure everyone’s safety and to limit concerns from the public.
The facility can only be used once school-organized activities and events have concluded on Wednesdays, or when inclement weather prevents gun safety classes from being held outdoors.
There has never been an incident on the range so safety isn’t the actual reason for attempting to shutdown the range. But teaching children how to safety and effectively operate firearms is education and potentially threatening to the State. And I’m not even talking about the potential form armed revolution in this case. People who have the ability to defend themselves and are confident in their ability are much harder to scare. Fear is the health of the State. Without fear the State has a hard time manipulating people into surrendering their autonomy.
Consider the police state we live in today. It was able to expand because first people were afraid of the communists then they were afraid of the drugs and now they’re afraid of the terrorists. People are willing to put up with widespread surveillance, again, because they’re afraid of the terrorists. Now the State is drumming up fears of war with Russia and that will be used by it to grab even more power.
The knowledge and ability to defend yourself is a significant threat to the State. The public education system has been hard at work stamping down this knowledge by teaching children to never fight back against bullies but instead run to a school administrator. In recent years schools have even begun punishing students who do defend themselves under the idea that violence is never the answer. Sometime like a gun range that teaches children how to use the most effective tools of self-defense commonly available wasn’t going to fly forever.