A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

What Happens When You Look at Groups Instead of Individuals

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As humans we like to categorize things. Categorization is useful for many things. Categorizing books by subject and author makes them easier to find in a library or to search for online. Categorizing lumber by tree species makes it easier for consumers to find wood that fits their needs. But categorizing people presents some significant problems.

Each individual is unique. That uniqueness doesn’t stop when they become a member of a group. Two Democrats can have wildly different views about gun ownership, two Catholics can have wildly different views about same-sex marriage, and two Muslims can have wildly different views on women’s rights:

Akram’s work, al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam, stands as a riposte to the notion, peddled from Kabul to Mecca, that Islamic knowledge is men’s work and always has been. “I do not know of another religious tradition in which women were so central, so present, so active in its formative history,” Akram wrote.

Women scholars taught judges and imams, issued fatwas, and traveled to distant cities. Some made lecture tours across the Middle East.

[…]

If there was ever proof that a pious Muslim woman need not be a submissive wife and mother, it is the life of Aisha, the third of the Prophet’s eleven wives. She has divided opinions ever since the seventh century, among both Muslims and non-Muslims.

A top Islamic scholar, an inspiration to champions of women’s rights, a military commander riding on camelback, and a fatwa-issuing jurist, Aisha’s intellectual standing and religious authority were astonishing, by the standards of both our own time and hers.

Aisha is not the only wife of Muhammad whose life explodes notions of what constitutes a “traditional” Muslim woman. Khadija ran a caravan business in Mecca. A wealthy and successful trader, she was also a twice-widowed single mother, fifteen years Muhammad’s senior, and his boss.

Her marriage proposal to the future Prophet was forthright: “I like you because of our relationship, your high reputation among your people, your trustworthiness, your good character and truthfulness.”

I’m not sharing this article to start an argument about how Islam views women, I’m sharing it to show that there is disagreement within Islam about the religion’s views on women.

I hear too many people say, “Muslims believe killing infidels is acceptable,” or “Muslims believe that women shouldn’t have any rights.” Truth be told, there are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. It’s difficult enough to get three coworkers to agree on where to go for lunch so getting 1.5 billion people to agree on what a holy book says about anything is impossible.

Treating groups of individuals as a single entity is foolish. Each member of that group is likely to be quite different from the other members. They might have a single idea that holds them together but even their views on that idea are likely to differ.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26th, 2017 at 11:00 am

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

Do You Even Lift, Brah

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I can finally say that my proposal to help people cultivate their ego in order to spread freedom is backed up by SCIENCE!

A recent study showed that weak men are more likely to be socialist. Since the site requires you to register to read the entire article, I’ll include this image of the physically printed story:

As you know, one of the activities I mentioned to help bolster an individual’s ego is working out so this study is right up my alley. While I don’t have access to the research paper and therefore I don’t know what methodologies were used to determine how strong or socialist a subject was, how the subjects were chosen, or whether there was a control group, the study confirms my bias so it’s SCIENCE and you can’t argue against it!

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26th, 2017 at 10:00 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 Evil Humans Do

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I’m not sure if this has always been there or if it’s a fairly modern thing but there is certainly a trend, at least here in the United States, for people to dehumanize anybody they view as evil. A good example of this is the alt-right and the anti-fascists. The alt-right describe the anti-fascists as violent psychopaths incapable of empathy who want nothing more than to see the world burn. The anti-fascists describe the alt-right as, well, violent psychopaths incapable of empathy who want nothing more than to see the world burn. Both sides have effectively dehumanized each other because they view each other’s philosophies as evil.

But evil isn’t perpetrated by inhuman monsters, it’s perpetrated by humans:

One of the key themes of Tizons’ article is that his family was, in many senses, almost a caricature of the striving, American-dream-seeking immigrant experience. They were normal. They were normal and yet they had a slave. To which one could respond, “Well, no, they’re not normal — they are deranged psychopaths to have managed to simply live for decades and decades with a slave under their roof. That is not something normal people do, and it’s wrong to portray it as such.”

But the entire brutal weight of human history contradicts this view. Normal people — people who otherwise have no signs of derangement or a lack of a grip on basic human moral principles — do evil stuff all the time. One could write millions of pages detailing all the times when evil acts were perpetrated, abetted, or not resisted by people who were, in every other respect, perfectly normal. It’s safe to say, to a certain approximation, that all of us — I really mean this; I really mean you and your family and everyone you love — could, in a different historical context, have been a slaver or a Holocaust-perpetrator or at the very least decided it wasn’t worth the trouble to contest these grotesque crimes. Because that’s the human condition: We don’t have easy access to a zoomed-out view of morality and empathy. We do what the people around us are doing, what our culture is doing. Tizon’s Filipino family came from a place where a form of slavery was quite common, and moving to America didn’t change that fact.

One of my favorite characters in any television show is Obergruppenführer Smith from The Man in the High Castle. He’s a ruthless member of the American arm of the SS but at the same time one would probably describe him as a good family man. He has a happy marriage and cares deeply for the wellbeing of his children. The reason I like him so much as a character is because he shows what real evil looks like.

Too often once we categorize somebody as evil we become entirely unable to identify any human characteristics in them. Doing this creates an interesting archetype that actually hinders us in detecting evil. We’ll identify somebody like Charles Manson, who made his beliefs very obvious by carving a swastika into his forehead, as evil but we’ll assume that somebody who appears to be a good parent and spouse is entirely incapable of evil. You see this periodically when somebody is found guilty of an especially heinous crime and people who knew the perpetrator talk about how nice of a person they were, how quiet and well mannered they were, and how they can’t believe that the perpetrator would have committed such a crime.

Us humans are complex creatures made even more complex by being social creatures. Most of us have a general tendency to fit in, which leads us to generally go with the flow when it comes to social norms. We’re also capable of compartmentalizing ourselves. We can be extremely caring to friends, family, and strangers alike but at the same time have a day job that many would consider evil. People caught in that kind of situation are often unaware of it because they’ve compartmentalized their personal and professional lives.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2017 at 10:30 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.

[…]

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.

War is Hell

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I’m sure you’ve heard about the bombing in Manchester so I won’t spend time filling you in on the details. I will, however, spend some time discussing a fact that a lot of people seem to be missing.

As usual, many people are treating this incident as an act of terrorism perpetrated by an Islamic extremist. But that’s not an accurate assessment. It was an engagement in a war. While neither the United States or the countries of Europe have formally declared a war on the various factions they’re engaged with in the Middle East, when one has invaded, bombed, and occupied a territory the formalities are irrelevant.

The United States and the countries of Europe are militarily superior to the forces they’re engaging. In a toe to toe conflict the Middle Eastern factions would lose quickly, which is why they’re not waging war in the manner that has been considered acceptable, at least by the United States and Europe, since the Westphalian Supremacy. Instead they’re utilizing asymmetrical or fourth generation warfare tactics.

When you can’t go toe to toe with your opponent you alter your tactics. Asymmetrical tactics rely on attacking the enemy economically. For the price of a single pipe bomb the bomber in Manchester will likely cost the United States and Europe millions if not billions of dollars in responding. We’re already seeing those costs with the police response in Manchester. They’re expending a lot of resources at the moment trying to find a potential second attacker. Likewise, the intelligence branches of the United States and countries of Europe are expending resources trying to identify the organization responsible (although the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, it claims responsibility for everything so their claim cannot be taken at face value). Once the organization responsible is identified a lot of resources will be expended retaliating against them.

It doesn’t take a mathematician or an economists to predict the longterm result of one side spending millions or billions of dollars responding to another side’s $50 attacks. Hell, we’ve seen the results plenty of times. Maoist forces facing off against republican forces in China, Vietcong forces facing off against United States forces in Vietnam, Soviet forces facing off against Afghanistan forces, etc. Asymmetric strategies are very effective against traditional military forces.

This war will continue until one side is either entirely wiped out, one side is completely bankrupted, one side completely disengages, or one side decides to be the adult and initiate peace talks. The forces in the Middle East cannot be entirely wiped out without taking action that would be too politically costly and the history of the United States and Europe reneging on deals makes peace talks unlikely. That leaves two potential outcomes. One, the United States and Europe are bankrupted or they leave the Middle East (as the occupying forces they’re the only ones who can disengage and leave). At the moment it seems that bankruptcy of the United States and Europe is the likely outcome.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in News You Need to Know

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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

State Representative was Taxed, Didn’t Enjoy the Experience

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Last week a Minnesota state representative got a taste of his own medicine didn’t seem to care for the taste all that much:

Police are investigating after a state representative reported being robbed at gunpoint on a St. Paul street Thursday night.

Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, was not injured in the robbery at Grand Avenue and Milton Street, police said.

“A gentleman approached me and he had a gun out, asked for my wallet and my phone and I agreed. And I was able to walk away safely,” Smith said Friday morning.

So Mr. Smith was taxed.

Honestly, I can’t bring myself to have many ill feelings towards the mugger. Whether intentionally or accidentally, the mugger found the one person who deserves to be mugged, another person who professionally mugs people. It’s kind of like inter-gang warfare. If gangs keep their violence to themselves I don’t care all that much.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2017 at 10:00 am

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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