A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Shutting Down the Opposition

without comments

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, which will keep the government’s surveillance powers as they have been for ages now. I’m of the opinion that the bill will pass with little or no alterations. However, several of my political friends have challenged my opinion on the grounds that Rand Paul announced that he was going to filibuster the bill. I responded by stating that Rand Paul won’t accomplish jack shit and if history is any indicator his act of filibustering the bill will just ensure its passage. I’m not one to not say I told you so, so let me just say that I told you so:

The Senate voted 60-38 this afternoon in favor of cloture to end debate and to prevent any amendments prior to a formal up-down vote on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017. (Small clarification: Debate will be limited to 30 hours prior to the vote. So Paul and Wyden and others will be able to speak at length, but they won’t be able to stop the vote.)

Where is your god now?

I’ve noted on many occasions that the State has builtin redundancies. Any apparent exploit that could be used to hold back its expansion can be bypassed with another form of defense. For example, the threat of a filibuster can be bypassed by voting to put a cap on the length of each individual’s argument. These redundancies prevent upstarts or well meaning individuals from accomplishing anything of note via the political process.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Conditions are Right for a Coup

with one comment

National Public Radio (NRP) recently ran a poll asking participants about the amount of trust they hold in various government institutions. It turns out that the participants have almost no trust in Congress or the presidency but hold a great deal of trust for the military:

The only institution that Americans have overwhelming faith in is the military — 87 percent say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military. That is a striking change from the 1970s during and after the Vietnam War.

[…]

The American public has the least confidence in Congress, the body tasked with making laws that can affect every person in the country. Just 8 percent of people have a great deal of confidence in the institution. Almost two-thirds of Republicans expressed little confidence in Congress — and their party runs it.

Not far behind Congress is the Republican Party, not a good sign for the GOP in an election year with an unpopular president. Just 29 percent of Americans said they have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in the party, compared with 68 percent who said they don’t have very much or none at all in the party.

Democrats, though, should temper their glee. They fare better, but not by much. Just 36 percent expressed confidence in the Democratic Party versus 62 percent who did not.

It should be noted that NPR has a Democrat bias so it’s not surprising to see its participants hold one party in higher regard than the other. However, I was a bit surprised that they held the presidency in higher regard than Congress. But the takeaway is that the participants would probably be supportive of a military coup at this point.

Why do these participants hold such high regard for the military? Most likely it’s because of propaganda. Since 9/11 the government has been dumping stupid amounts of money into marketing the military as heroes who protect us against encroaching barbarians. A lot of people currently reaching adulthood have been fed this propaganda for their entire lives. So nobody should be surprised that the view of the military is so high, especially since it hasn’t done anything to harm people domestically. However, by creating this propaganda the politicians have also created a potential threat to themselves. If a military is viewed high enough in a society, the masses will welcome or at least begrudgingly accept a military coup.

I don’t believe the military is currently planning a coup but if it were it would likely be cheered more than opposed.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Some Good News to Start Your Morning

without comments

Good news, everyone:

Would a latter-day Gibbon describe today’s America as “decadent”? I recently heard a prominent, and pro-American, French thinker (who was speaking off the record) say just that.

He was moved to use the word after watching endless news accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets alternate with endless revelations of sexual harassment.

I flinched, perhaps because a Frenchman accusing Americans of decadence seems contrary to the order of nature. And the reaction to Harvey Weinstein et al. is scarcely a sign of hysterical puritanism, as I suppose he was implying.

And yet, the shoe fit. The sensation of creeping rot evoked by that word seems terribly apt.

The author of the opinion piece places a lot of the blame on Trump but I think Trump is actually a symptom more than a disease. In my opinion Trump is actually the first president in my lifetime that is an accurate representative of the masses. He’s crass, he lacks of mastery of the English language, he feels the need to publicly retaliate against even more most insignificant slights. In other words, he’s very much like an average American and that’s the problem.

More and more America reflects Idiocracy. Education is severely lacking. Part of this is because so many parents send their children to government schools, which are little more than propaganda centers. But a more significant part of this is the fact that so few seem to value an education. Being stupid is almost seen as a badge of honor to many. When you have stupid Americans you shouldn’t be surprised when they elect a stupid president or stupid members of Congress.

I agree with the author’s sentiment that the United States is in its collapse stage. I don’t know whether the collapse will take a decade or a hundred years. But it shares too many similarities to collapsing empires of history for me to think everything is going to be fine.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Our Dystopian Future

without comments

Many people, myself included, were expecting our dystopian future to reflect Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, or some odd combination of the two. It turns out that Orwell and Huxley weren’t prophetic but Mike Judge was. Welcome to your dystopia:

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Politicians Can Shut Slaves Up

without comments

Can a politician have you silenced for talking to them? That’s one of the cases the Supreme Court is taking up:

If a citizen speaks at a public meeting and says something a politician doesn’t like, can the citizen be arrested, cuffed, and carted off to the hoosegow?

Suppose that, during this fraught encounter, the citizen violates some law—even by accident, even one no one has ever heard of, even one dug up after the fact—does that make her arrest constitutional?

[…]

But the struggle was far from over. His original lawsuit against the city had alleged a violation of Florida’s open-meetings law. State authorities sent law enforcement agents to interview council members about those charges. The elected officials were so infuriated that, as one said on the record in a private 2006 meeting, they decided to “intimidate” Lozman and other critics “so that they can feel the same kind of unwarranted heat that we are feeling.” A few months later, Lozman went to the microphone during open comment time at a City Council meeting; but when he mentioned “public corruption” in Palm Beach County (where the city is located), the presiding council member ordered a police officer to arrest him.

He was charged with “disorderly conduct” and “resisting arrest without violence,” but the local prosecutor dropped the charges, saying in essence that no reasonable person would believe them. Lozman then brought a federal lawsuit against the city for “First Amendment retaliation.” A federal judge agreed that Lozman had “compelling” evidence that he’d been arrested as punishment for his protected speech. But the judge then threw out the case, reasoning that he actually could have been charged with the obscure state offense of “willfully interrupt[ing] or disturb[ing] any school or any assembly of people met for the worship of God or for any lawful purpose.”

What this meant, the court decided, was that the officer who arrested Lozman would have had “probable cause” (a reasonable basis to believe a crime had been committed) to arrest him if he had known about “assembly of people” statute and wanted to enforce it. The fact that the officer didn’t know about it was irrelevant—and so was the city’s unconstitutional motive. As long as an officer could have arrested Lozman for something, in other words, the retaliatory motive didn’t matter. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed: The existence of probable cause for any offense is an “absolute bar” to a suit for retaliatory arrest, it said.

Spoiler alert, they can (probably).

The ramifications of this case will be interesting. If the Supreme Court rules the intimidating tactics used by politicians are constitutional, then expressing dissenting opinions at public meetings will be a offense that can lead to arrest. It might not result in charges but it will give politicians throughout the entire country the ability to have annoyances removed and therefore create the illusion that their decisions are unanimously supported by the public.

The actions of the officer who arrested Lozman are also noteworthy. Lozman’s case was thrown out because the judge decided that an arrest is lawful so long as there is some law that the arrestee could be charged with (even if the officer is entirely ignorant of that law). With the mind boggling number of laws on the books, most of us are unknowingly in violation of some law at any given moment of the day. Under the judge’s criteria pretty much any arrest is a lawful arrest. Such power would effectively grant politicians to have anybody arrested at anytime without consequence.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2018 at 10:30 am

If You Don’t Love America, You Can Leave… If You’re Allowed

without comments

Whenever somebody makes any criticism whatsoever about the United States, jingoists are quick to respond by saying, “If you don’t like America, you can leave!” However, you can only leave if your government masters give you permission to do so and they’re less inclined to give that permission than they used to be:

A law that would deny or revoke passports for U.S. citizens with seriously delinquent tax debt is set to take effect later this month.

Under the law, the Internal Revenue Service is required to notify the State Department after it has certified that an individual has unpaid federal taxes, including penalties and interest, of more than $51,000. The State Department may then deny issuing or renewing a passport or revoke an existing passport. The threshold for being considered seriously delinquent will be indexed yearly for inflation.

Jingoists often ignore the fact that the United States isn’t a free or equal country. Just like in Ancient Rome, the United States is divided into plebeians and patricians. Although the criteria for both groups is slightly different than Ancient Rome’s the fact of the matter is if you’re a member of the plebeians, you are the subject of the patricians. You only have the privileges that the patricians bestow upon you. Leaving the United States isn’t a decision a plebeian can make for themselves, they need permission from the patricians.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Nobody Cares What the Plebs Think

without comments

A recent poll discovered that a strong majority of Americans oppose the endless state of war that the United States is engaged in:

The headline findings show, among other things, that 86.4 percent of those surveyed feel the American military should be used only as a last resort, while 57 percent feel that US military aid to foreign countries is counterproductive. The latter sentiment “increases significantly” when involving countries like Saudi Arabia, with 63.9 percent saying military aid—including money and weapons—should not be provided to such countries.

The poll shows strong, indeed overwhelming, support, for Congress to reassert itself in the oversight of US military interventions, with 70.8 percent of those polled saying Congress should pass legislation that would restrain military action overseas in three specific ways:

by requiring “clearly defined goals to authorize military engagement” (78.8 percent);

by requiring Congress “to have both oversight and accountability regarding where troops are stationed” (77 percent);

by requiring that “any donation of funds or equipment to a foreign country be matched by a pledge of that country to adhere to the rules of the Geneva Convention” (84.8 percent).

If the plebs had any power to influence politics, the players in the war economy might have cause for concern. Fortunately for them, the plebs have no actual influence over politics. At most they can decide which preselected candidate should occupy an office. The preselected candidates are chosen by the Republican and Democrat parties, which are both major players in the war economy though. So when the plebs go to the poles the option to not engage the government in further wars isn’t on the ballot.

Although this poll shows a promising change in attitude it’s also meaningless because it, like voting, won’t change anything. The only silver lining to this cloud is that the more wars the United States engages itself in the more thinly spread it will become and the sooner it will have to make a decision between pulling back its forces or collapsing entirely. Once that point is reached the wars will end one way or another.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Who Says Crime Doesn’t Pay

without comments

Those who say crime doesn’t pay obviously never took up crime as a profession:

State lawmakers got their first pay hike in years, courtesy of Minnesota voters. The salary for the state’s part-time lawmakers rose sharply — from $31,141 a year, to $45,000. But that does not include money they also receive for their daily expenses.

House members receive $66 dollars a day for expenses, on top of their salaries. That’s seven days a week during the legislative session, no receipts required. In 2017, Representatives got an average of $8,812 in per diem, bringing total pay to almost $53,812.

$45,000 a year might not seem like a lot but as the story noted legislators in Minnesota only work part time. In addition to the rather sizable salary for doing absolutely nothing productive the legislators also get a pretty decent per diem.

Imagine getting paid $53,812 per year to rob everybody in a state for a short stint every year. In addition to the salary you receive from that you are also in a position to make political deals. You can promise companies legislation that will hinder their competitors for a fee (not directly payable in cash to your bank account but you end up receiving it in a roundabout manner in order to avoid accusations of corruption). On top of that you can also hold another job.

Crime pays quite well in Minnesota.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Out of Touch Plebs

without comments

I’ve seen a lot of people, primarily conservatives, flipping their shit because Nancy Pelosi referred to the up to $1,000 employee bonuses several companies announced after the latest tax legislation was passed as “crumbs“:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the bonuses being handed out to workers by businesses across the country following the passing of the Republican tax act are mere “crumbs.”

[…]

“In terms of the bonus that corporate America receives versus the crumbs they are giving to workers to put the schmooze on is so pathetic. It’s so pathetic,” Pelosi said during a press briefing on Thursday.

Instead of criticizing her maybe people should take some time to empathize with her situation. Pelosi is a multimillionaire. $1,000 is literally crumbs to her.

I can’t help but be disgusted by how out of touch the plebs are with the ruling elite!

Written by Christopher Burg

January 16th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Formalizing a Tradition

without comments

For too long the specter of responsibility has hung over the heads of our brave boys in blue. Although the tradition is not to hold law enforcers responsible for their actions, it’s still just a tradition. But the governor of New Mexico wants to formalize that tradition:

Updated | The Republican Governor of New Mexico could soon propose legislation that would protect police officers from lawsuits—essentially granting them immunity from cases of excessive force.

Governor Susana Martinez’s bill would shield officers who fail to comply with police orders but would not protect officers who do not obey orders or break from training, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

This is the kind of strong backing of the thin blue line that this country needs. For too long just following orders or training has been an informal get out of jail free card. Now it can be a formal one, which means all of that pesky showmanship to make it appear as though rouge officers are held accountable can be discarded. This should save taxpayers some money since internal investigations, prosecutors, and other people involved in the showmanship don’t have to waste their time with it.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 15th, 2018 at 10:30 am