A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

The TSA is Working Hard to Make Your Life More Miserable

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How much do you hate the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)? I bet that you don’t hate it as much as you will. The TSA has announced that it’s investigating methods to make its security theater even more annoying and time consuming:

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the TSA’s plans are still vague, but the agency has been testing a variety of security procedures at smaller airports before expanding them to major cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Boston and others. In some cases, passengers were required to remove all food items or put any electronics larger than a cellphone — meaning tablets and kindles too — in separate bins. In one failed test, confused passengers were even asked to take out any paper items in their bags, including notepads. The TSA hasn’t announced which rules it will implement yet and even when it does, enforcement will vary at each airport and security line. There’s even the possibility that an agent could ask you to take something out and put it in a bin without warning. While compliance is optional, non-compliance means stepping out of line for a manual check.

The TSA, as it is apt to do, is blaming travelers for these proposed policies. According to the TSA checked luggage fees have caused air travelers to cram more stuff into their carry-on bags, which is making life difficult for the TSA’s x-ray machine observers. However, I find it difficult to believe that paper, which previous didn’t hinder x-ray scanners, suddenly developed the ability to hinder x-ray scanners. I also fail to see how requiring air travelers to place all of their electronic devices into separate bins will make life easier for x-ray machine observers. Perhaps the people proposing the requirements are just entirely stupid when it comes to security. That would explain the agency’s 95 percent failure rate.

Of course, any changes to the TSA’s already inconsistent security policies will lead to longer security lines, which means you’ll have to show up to the airport even sooner to guarantee you can get through the line in time to catch your flight. And you know what? Unless you can avoid air travel, there’s nothing you can do about it. Unlike market actors, you cannot choose to not do business with the TSA.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26th, 2017 at 10:30 am

No Combatant is Innocent in War

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Expanding on my previous post, here is an example of what happens when people refuse to see evil when it’s perpetrated by people they view as human.

After every terrorist attack there is usually a great deal of outrage at the fact that the attacker(s) targeted and killed civilians and rightfully so. However, when terrorist attacks against civilians are perpetrated by “their” side they’re willing to either justify the action at necessary or unavoidable or they throw the entire incident down a memory hole:

Air strikes carried out by the US and its coalition partners in Syria have killed the highest number of civilians on record since the bombing campaign began, a war monitor has said.

A total of 225 civilians, including 36 women and 44 children, were killed in the period between 23 April to 23 May, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

No combatant is innocent in war.

Middle East attackers have killed a lot of civilians in the United States and Europe and the United States and its European allies have killed a lot of civilians in the the Middle East. Unfortunately, people living in the United States and Europe have a tendency to look the other way when their militaries kill civilians. I’m sure that a lot of people in the Middle East also have a tendency to look the other way when their militaries kill civilians. Justifying or ignoring the crimes of your tribe while condemning the same crimes of another tribe is common human behavior, which is also why we can’t have nice things.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Chicago Police Department’s Watch List

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The Chicago Police Department (CPD), like seemingly every other government agency, has a watch list. And like every other government agency’s watch list, CPD’s contains names that don’t fit into its described scope:

Yet the list is far broader and more extensive than Johnson and other police officials have suggested. It includes more than 398,000 entries — encompassing everyone who has been arrested and fingerprinted in Chicago since 2013.

Nearly half of the people at the top of the list have never been arrested for illegal gun possession. About 13 percent have never been charged with any violent crime. And 20 of the 153 people deemed most at risk to be involved in violent crime, as victim or shooter, have never been arrested either for guns or violence.

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The police concluded the people who hadn’t been arrested for guns or violence were at great risk to commit a violent crime or become the victim of one — and, as a result, should be watched closely — because they:

  • Had been shot or assaulted.
  • Had been identified by the police as a gang member.
  • Or recently were arrested for any crime, even a nonviolent offense.

Watch lists are always advertised by government agencies as having names of suspected criminals. However, they always end up containing names of people that don’t fit the advertised criteria. This is why those of us who aren’t a bunch of statist bootlickers are so touchy about punishing people for having the misfortune of being placed on a government watch list.

If, for example, CPD’s Strategic Subject List was used to prohibit gun ownership (something gun control advocates want done for people appearing on federal terrorist watch lists), people would find their gun ownership privileges revoked because they were the victim of an assault.

Without Government Who Will Provide Services to Those in Need

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Without government who will provide services to those in need? Anarchists:

ATHENS — It may seem paradoxical, but Greece’s anarchists are organizing like never before.

Seven years of austerity policies and a more recent refugee crisis have left the government with fewer and fewer resources, offering citizens less and less. Many have lost faith. Some who never had faith in the first place are taking matters into their own hands, to the chagrin of the authorities.

[…]

Whatever the means, since 2008 scores of “self-managing social centers” have mushroomed across Greece, financed by private donations and the proceeds from regularly scheduled concerts, exhibitions and on-site bars, most of which are open to the public. There are now around 250 nationwide.

Some activists have focused on food and medicine handouts as poverty has deepened and public services have collapsed.

In recent months, anarchists and leftist groups have trained special energy on housing refugees who flooded into Greece in 2015 and who have been bottled up in the country since the European Union and Balkan nations tightened their borders. Some 3,000 of these refugees now live in 15 abandoned buildings that have been taken over by anarchists in the capital.

Without government who will build the roads? Who will care for the homeless? Who will care for the elderly? These are questions statists ask because they believe they shut down the conversation. They think that providing those goods and services is so complex that only a government can do them and therefore any arguments against government can be dismissed with a wave of the hand. However, every good and service that is provided by government was previously provided by nongovernmental entities. When governments collapse those goods and services are again handled by nongovernmental entities. Why? Because people see a need for those goods and services and therefore find a way to provide them.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2017 at 10:30 am

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

Altering the Deal

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A judge in Georgia disagreed with a jury’s verdict and decided to punish the suspect in spite of the fact that he was found not guilty:

A black man who was found not guilty of armed robbery will still serve up to seven years behind bars after a judge ruled he had breached the rules of his probation sentence for another crime.

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The 24-year-old was already was serving a five year probation term (a court order served outside prison through fines and community service) for his first ever offence, breaking and entering an apartment to steal a television worth $120 (£92) in 2012.

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The following February, a judge decided it was likely he did commit the robbery and as a result Chatman was re-sentenced for the original crime of stealing a TV and ordered to serve 10-years behind bars, back dated to the day of the crime.

This is a major problem with a monopolistic justice system. The judge is obviously untrustworthy. He decided that he didn’t like the verdict of a jury so he decided to renege on a previous deal made between the courts and the suspect. But even with this information in hand it’s not possible for people in the judge’s jurisdiction to choose to not do business with him. The best they can hope for is that there are multiple judges in that jurisdiction so they have a chance of getting one who is more upstanding.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

The War is Not Meant to Be Won

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Who isn’t the United States at war with? It’s a difficult question to answer because the list of nations continues to grow. Although most of its actions have been focused on the Middle East, the United States is starting to expand further into Africa:

Six years ago, a deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Special Operations Command gave a conservative estimate of 116 missions being carried out at any one time by Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and other special operations forces across the globe.

Today, according to U.S. military documents obtained by VICE News, special operators are carrying out nearly 100 missions at any given time — in Africa alone. It’s the latest sign of the military’s quiet but ever-expanding presence on the continent, one that represents the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops to any region of the globe.

In 2006, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos deployed overseas were in Africa. In 2010, it was 3 percent. By 2016, that number had jumped to more than 17 percent. In fact, according to data supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command, there are now more special operations personnel devoted to Africa than anywhere except the Middle East — 1,700 people spread out across 20 countries dedicated to assisting the U.S. military’s African partners in their fight against terrorism and extremism.

Contrary to what many people believe, Trump won’t be the downfall of the United States. Russia won’t be either. What will ultimate kill the United States is its obsession with policing the world.

To quote the movie 1984, “The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. The essential act of modern warfare is the destruction of the produce of human labour. A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance.” While the United States’ purpose in war may not be to directly destroy the production of human labor, it’s an unavoidable side effect. Every building that is destroyed will have to be rebuilt. Every automobile that is destroyed will have to be replaced. War destroys the product of human labor so that it must be produced again.

And what does war return? Nothing. Some will claim that war stimulates the economy because the production of war materials and replacement of destroyed materials creates jobs. However, as Bastiat pointed out, we’re not seeing the unseen. The labor and resources that are involved in the war effort could have been used for productive things instead. Steel for tanks could have been used to build skyscrapers, automobiles, computers, or any number of wealth generating tools. Likewise, the labor could have been put towards building those skyscrapers, automobiles, computers, etc. Instead those resources are put into wealth destroying devices that must be replaced every time they are destroyed by an enemy.

So long as the United States continues to see itself as the police of the world it will continue to involve itself in more wars, which will just accelerate its demise.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Streamlining Extortion

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Minnesota may be second only to California when it comes to socialism in the United States. One of the tenants of socialism is government providing goods and services to the people. In order to do this the government must have wealth. Since government produce nothing of value it cannot raise the wealth it needs through voluntary transactions and therefore relies entirely on extortion. This extortion is commonly perpetrated by the police. Traffic citations, parking citations, and other petty forms of extortion are examples of this. But every office knows that there are bigger money makers. In fact, petty forms of extortion such as traffic and parking citations are often used as justifications for initiating an interaction that may ultimately produce a more lucrative violation.

One of the roadblocks between an officer pulling over a motorist for, say, speeding and searching their vehicle for lucrative contraband is the requirement that a warrant be acquired before a search of a vehicle can be performed. In its lust for extorted wealth Minnesota is streamlining that pesky warrant process:

The road to a search warrant has sometimes been a long and winding one for Minnesota law enforcement officers, especially those working a late-night shift. But now there’s an express lane known as the eSearch Warrant, that public safety officials say will make a big difference in DWI prosecutions.

A legal process that used to be done on paper and required a face-to-face meeting between an officer and a judge is now being done electronically. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Monday the transition to sSearch Warrants started in October and is now finished statewide.

“Before eSearch Warrants, a peace officer would write a search warrant application and then drive it to the judge for review,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans.

Of course it was justified using drunk drivers. Everybody hates drunk drivers so they’re more than happy to roll over whenever the police expand their power for the purpose of catching drunk drivers. I very much doubt that this streamlined process was aimed at nabbing drunk drivers though. The lower barrier to entry is likely meant to be used to allow officers to perform more vehicle searches in the hopes of finding more drugs, weapons, and other lucrative contraband.

Unfortunately, many people will be fine with this because they don’t realize that every single expansion of government power, no matter how trivial, comes at the expense of the rights and privileges of the people.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Unpredictable Government Actions Encourage Short Term Profit Seeking

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A lot of people, socialists especially, like to criticize market actors for prioritizing short term profit gains over anything else. I actually agree with this sentiment. However, unlike most critics, I don’t believe that the solution is more government because I believe the government is the cause.

Let’s say your company spent 10 years of research and development time to create a new product. You’re happy as can be with it and all signs point to it being a tremendous success. But just as you’re about to release the product the government creates a regulation that makes the product as it currently exists illegal. You’re now faced with a decision, do you redesign the product to make it compliant with the new regulation in the hopes the regulatory environment won’t change again or do you abandon the product?

This problem is a tremendous burden, especially in countries like the United States where the party in power can change every handful of years. One moment the party that favors your product is in power and things look good but then the next year the other party comes to power and things look grim.

I’m sure you can see how this kind of environment favors immediate profits over longterm profits. If you cannot predict what the regulatory environment will be four years from now you will have a hard time making plans that extend longer than four years. So you’ll probably seek as much profit as you can within those four years just in case your product line becomes illegal after that.

Anybody who wants companies to stop prioritizing short term profits at all costs should be demanding that the government step aside and allow the market to be free.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Have Some Government

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Let’s say the government has offered you half of a duopoly on a product that is otherwise illegal. However, the government has also placed a bunch of ridiculous restrictions on that product that will unnecessarily raise your production costs. Do you take the government up on its offer? If you’re smart, you don’t:

Minnesota’s two licensed medical marijuana manufacturers have lost a combined $11 million in just two years of sales, according to financial documents obtained by The Associated Press, continuing losses that hint at systemic problems with the state’s tightly regulated program despite a recent expansion that allowed thousands more patients to buy the medication.

Minnesota Medical Solutions posted a $1.2 million loss in 2016, a year after losing more than $3 million. But LeafLine Labs’ losses worsened: The company said it lost $4.7 million last year, after losing $2.2 million loss in 2015.

When the medical cannabis bill was passed in Minnesota it included a mind-boggling number of restrictions. For example, medical cannabis cannot contain any leftover plant material. Why? Who knows. What we do know is that the law made it so two companies with a duopoly can’t make a profit on a product that teenagers in every high school in the country manage profit off of.

Unfortunately, this will likely be the status quo in this state for many years. The problem with medical cannabis laws is that once they’re passed it makes passing full decriminalization more difficult. One of the best arguments for cannabis legalization is its medical benefits. When medical cannabis laws are passed that argument is no longer available to advocates of full decriminalization. This is another example of the good being the enemy of the better. Medical cannabis laws may appear to be better than full criminalization but they’re actually a detriment to full decriminalization.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am