A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Radical Individualism

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As I get older I identify myself more as a radical individualist. This is because all of the other terms that might describe my philosophy carry too much baggage. Anarchist is a vast term that can cover a spectrum so wide that is encompasses everything from anarcho-communism to anarcho-capitalism. Anarcho-capitalism has been so thoroughly infested with alt-right loonies that the term has become poison. Libertarianism can mean either minarchists or anarchists. Basically, whenever I look at the people who also fall under a particular label I’m reminded of a line from the leftist song The Ultimate Sectarian, “Yes, you may be a comrade to all of these folks, but you ain’t no Comrade of mine.”

Admittedly, the term radical individualist can also encompasses a lot of trash, such as objectivists, but it at least more narrowly defines my belief that the individual is all and clearly denotes my opposition of collectivism in any form.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 20th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Bypassing Taxes

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One of the most heroic things any company can do is find exploits in the State’s tax code that allow it to provide a product to consumers for less. This both benefits the consumers and is detrimental to the government. I recently came across an article discussing how Converse, the maker of sneakers, bypasses an idiotic tax (a redundant term, I know) to bring its customers a more affordable product:

Have you ever noticed that thin layer of felt on the bottom of a pair of Converse sneakers? It gets torn up almost immediately, of course, as you walk on the shoes. So, why is it there in the first place? It turns out that that felt is there not for functional reasons, but for economic ones—shoes with fuzzy soles are taxed less when imported than those with rubber ones.

Jeff Steck writes on Gazetc that the difference between importing a fuzzy shoe—like a house slipper—and a rubber one—like a sneaker—can be huge. Changing the shoe material can decrease the tariff from 37.5 percent down to just 3 percent. Steck writes:

To benefit from a lower tariff, it isn’t necessary to cover the entire sole with fabric. According to the inventors, “a classification may be based on the type of material that is present on 50% or more of the bottom surface.” (6,471,491) This explains why the “fabric” fuzz extends mostly around the edges of my shoes, where it can take up a lot of area without interfering too much with the traction of the bare-rubber centers.

Why would the United States government put a 37.5 percent tariff on sneakers? Because doing so both enriches it and provides protection to local producers by artificially increasing the price of foreign sneakers. Of course, the tax code is ridiculously complex so any company willing to fund a decent accountant is usually able to find creative ways to either avoid tariffs completely or at least reduce the amount of tariff they have to pay.

While I’ve never had an interest in Converse sneakers, or sneakers in general, I almost want to buy a pair just to support this company’s actions. It’s always nice when a producer is willing to go to bat for consumers living in cesspools of socialist economic policy.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 20th, 2017 at 10:30 am

To Protect and Serve

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People often think that I’m being hyperbolic when I say that law enforcers will escalate even petty infractions into violence but we continue to see examples of them doing so. The latest example comes from California. A 52-year-old woman was selling flowers without a permit and found out how even minor disobedience is treated by the brave men and women of law enforcement:

A California woman found herself subject to a brutal takedown by a police officer who spotted her attempting to sell flowers without a permit.

Juanita Mendez-Medrano, 52, was arrested after working a sidewalk in Perris near to where a high school graduation ceremony was being held last month.

In an unsettling cell phone video, which surfaced on Monday, Mendez-Medrano is seen holding the flowers in her hands just before an officer is seen grabbing her by the arms, grasping her neck and tackling her to the ground in the violent arrest.

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‘Unlike the other vendors, Ms. Mendez-Medrano refused to cooperate as necessary to allow our officer to issue her a citation. She refused to provide her name, and attempted to walk away,’ the police news release said.

Because she refused to give her name so that the officer could issue her a bullshit citation the officer felt that it was appropriate to smash her into the concrete sidewalk.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Remember That Officers are Easily Spooked

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A few days have passed since an innocent woman was gunned down by a rabid Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer. Conveniently both officers’ body cameras and the car’s dashboard camera were turned off and the only other witness is dead so the only account we can get is that given to us by the officers. Now that a few days have passed the officers have had a chance to get their stories straight and their excuse for this shooting is even more feeble than most excuses given to us by cops who gunned down a person under extremely questionable circumstances:

As they reached West 51st Street, Officer Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad. Immediately afterward Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side window of the squad. Harrity indicated that Officer Noor discharged his weapon, striking Ruszczyk through the open driver’s side window.

Much like a wild animal, police are apparently easily startled by loud noises. Unlike a wild animal though, when a police officer becomes startled they apparently shoot the first person they see who isn’t also a cop.

This excuse is ridiculous and the fact that it’s the best that they could come up with shows that they aren’t worried about even appearing legitimate. I’m guessing the fact that Yanez got away with murder has emboldened police officers to the point where they no longer feel the need to bother justifying their acts of murder. They know that the chances of them being punished in any meaningful way are roughly equal to those of winning the Powerball lottery.

My hope is that the State sees this situation as egregious enough to toss us lowly serfs a bone and actually punish this officer for his misdeeds. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Preventing Death with Death

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It’s no secret that certain drugs can kill you if you use too high of a dose. This problem has been made worse with drugs that the State has declared illegal because their prohibition has motivated manufacturers to increase the potency so more can be smuggled in smaller packages. Opiates have increased in potency significantly and therefore have lead to greater deaths related to overdoses. Even I know somebody who died of an opiate overdose not too long ago. However, I fail to see the logic in how killing more people is going to improve the situation:

This unfortunate reality raises a very uncomfortable question: Do we need to go to war with Mexico to ultimately win the war against opioids and other death drugs? By “go to war,” I mean a formal declaration of war by Congress against Mexico in which we use the full force of our military might to destroy the cartels, the poppy fields and all elements of the drug trade. Ideally, as our fight is not with the Mexican government, its military or its people, which try to weaken the cartels, we would try to partner with those entities against the cartels, much as we partnered with the South Vietnamese government and military against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army.

It sounds crazy, I know – unless you acknowledge we are already fighting a war with Mexico.

This guy’s logic is batshit insane. Yes, people are dying from opium overdoses. But the reason they’re dying from opium overdoses is because of prohibition, not because of anything the Mexican government or people have done. Moreover, the Mexican government is fighting the drug cartels so shouldn’t it be considered an ally in this fight? At the end of the day though, the real insanity is believing that the solution to people dying from their own actions is killing a bunch more. Opium users are dying because of their own actions, they’re not being killed by other people (although the actions of the United States government have certainly increased their risks of dying), so the usual justification for war, national self-defense (which is absurd as well since a “nation” is an abstraction and therefore cannot be aggressed against), doesn’t even apply here. The author’s entire argument is stupid and he should feel bad for writing it.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Jeff Sessions Announces Justice Department Will Increase Theft

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Jeff Sessions apparently came to Minneapolis (nobody told me, not that I would have cared). Fortunately, being a government employee, he didn’t have to worry about being murdered by Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers but I digress. During his trip to the Twin Cities he announced that his department is planning to steal more property from innocent people:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will issue new directives to increase the federal govenment’s use of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice that allows law enforcement to seize property from suspected criminals without charging them with a crime.

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“[W]e hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”

Some people might claim that the people being robbed aren’t innocent because they’ve been accused of a crime but civil asset forfeiture occurs before somebody has been found guilty of a crime, which is the problem. Under a justice system where one is supposedly innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt there is no justification for stealing an accused individual’s property. So, yes, Jeff Sessions announced that his department is going to be stealing from innocent people and that should have everybody up in arms.

What makes civil asset forfeiture more egregious is that the loot is shared with municipal and state police departments (the “partners” Sessions mentioned), which means their officers are motivated to perpetrate more thefts. The practice also skews the focus of police departments. As I’ve pointed out before, police departments make no additional money by solving burglaries, armed robberies, assaults, rapes, and murders. Departments do, however, make additional money by accusing individuals of violating federal drug prohibitions. Since departments are rewarded for focusing on drug-related crimes that is where they invest their resources. Meanwhile people who have actually been victimized are left with little chance of seeing justice served.

When you pay taxes to fund your local police department you’re actually funding the thieves who are motivated to rob you and their motivation comes from the practices being encouraged by government goons like Jess Sessions.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 19th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Your Internet Sucks Because of Government

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When it comes to Internet access parts of the United States often feel like a third world country. If you live in a small town you may be lucky if you can even get digital subscriber line (DSL) service. Those living in larger cities often have access to high speed cable Internet but that is far from the blazing fast fiber connections that people in other parts of the world and a handful of lucky denizens in the United States enjoy. But why does Internet access in the United States suck? Is it due to a failure of capitalism or market forces? No. As it turns out, the reason Internet access sucks in the United States is the same reason so many things suck, government:

Deploying broadband infrastructure isn’t as simple as merely laying wires underground: that’s the easy part. The hard part — and the reason it often doesn’t happen — is the pre-deployment barriers, which local governments and public utilities make unnecessarily expensive and difficult.

Before building out new networks, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must negotiate with local governments for access to publicly owned “rights of way” so they can place their wires above and below both public and private property. ISPs also need “pole attachment” contracts with public utilities so they can rent space on utility poles for above-ground wires, or in ducts and conduits for wires laid underground.

The problem? Local governments and their public utilities charge ISPs far more than these things actually cost. For example, rights of way and pole attachments fees can double the cost of network construction.

So the real bottleneck isn’t incumbent providers of broadband, but incumbent providers of rights-of-way. These incumbents — the real monopolists — also have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. They determine what hoops an ISP must jump through to get approval.

Starting an Internet service provider (ISP) or expanding an existing one normally wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Digging trenches and laying cable isn’t exactly rocket science nor is it exorbitant expensive. But receiving permission from municipal governments and their utility companies doesn’t come cheap because they have a monopoly.

If a free market existed in utility provision, ISPs would be able to negotiate cheaper right-of-way agreements when they were needed because most companies would be happy to receive a little extra for letting an ISP utilize already existing infrastructure. And if one utility company didn’t want to lease the use of its infrastructure, an ISP could negotiate a contract with one of that company’s competitors. Another possibility under a free market would be utility companies not even bothering to build infrastructure but leasing the use of infrastructure built by companies that specialize in building and leasing it to utility providers, including ISPs.

However, many municipal governments have granted themselves a monopoly on both utilities and the infrastructure. Without any competition these municipal governments can charge ISPs whatever they want for access to their infrastructure. This ends up hurting the people living in the municipality but municipal governments, like all governments, don’t care about the people they claim dominion over.

If Americans want better Internet they need to either take control of their municipal governments’ infrastructure (which was built with money stolen from taxpayers anyways) or bypass it entirely.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

How Every Election Should Turn Out

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On election day I follow the advice of the great philosopher George Carlin:

And I’m not alone. During presidential elections voter turnout usually hovers around 60 percent, which means roughly 40 percent of eligible voters stay home as well (thank them for not trying to force their beliefs on you). Voter burnout during non-presidential national elections is generally lower while municipal elections are usually lower yet. In Wichita, Kansas the turnout for City Council District 1 was even lower than most municipal elections:

Three hours into voting for Wichita City Council District 1, the race was locked in a four-way tie.

Zero, zero, zero to zero.

Advance voting in the Aug. 1 primary election opened at 8 a.m. Monday at the Sedgwick County election office downtown.

But by 11 a.m., “We haven’t had anyone vote yet,” Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said. “It’s sad.”

By the end of the day a total of seven people showed up to the polls. Everybody else in that district might want to find out who those seven fools were and steer clear of them since they obviously have an interest in forcing their beliefs on their neighbors but I digress. Democratically elected governments derive their “legitimacy” from numbers. The more people who vote for a government the more “legitimate” it claims to be. However, when nobody votes or only a handful of people vote the elected government can’t claim much “legitimacy.” How can an elected official claim to represent the people if only three or four people voted for them?

One of the best ways to strip a democratically elected government of its “legitimacy” is to join the rest of us who stay home on election day. After all, if the president was actually decided by the choice made by the plurality of eligible voters then Donald Trump wouldn’t be in office nor would anybody else because the plurality said that they didn’t want a ruler (See how easy it is to point out that the president doesn’t actually represent the people?).

Written by Christopher Burg

July 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Government Doesn’t Care About Your Privacy

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If you leak personal, often referred to as classified, information about the government you may get kidnapped by its enforcers and thrown in a cage for decades. But the government doesn’t treat your personal information in the same regard as its own:

People who spoke up about their concerns over privacy suddenly found key private details, including their email and sometimes even home addresses, released by none other than President Donald Trump’s administration. The presidential commission charged with investigating alleged fraud that has been plagued by controversy from the start published a 112-page document of unredacted emails of public comment on its work, which to no surprise are largely negative of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. When it published the comments, the White House didn’t remove any of the personal information, meaning many of the comments are accompanied by personal details of the person who wrote it.

This is another reason why I don’t waste my time responding to government requests for public input. Not only is it a waste of time since the government doesn’t actually care about the public’s input but the personal information of anybody who does respond often ends up being publicly released. This is especially dangerous for people who have legitimate threats to their lives such as women who are hiding from abusive exes or a public figure who is being stalked by an obsessive fan.

While Slate implied that this was unique to the Trump administration, it’s actually quite common for the government to release personal information about people who submit comments to its requests as part of the public record. My recommendation for government requests for comment is the same as my recommendation for voting, don’t waste your time interacting with the government.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 18th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Somebody calls the police to report a potential crime and the police arrive and shoot the person who called them while their body cameras were mysteriously turned off:

Minneapolis police responded to a call of a possible assault. At some point, a weapon was fired and a woman fatally shot. The BCA is now in charge of the investigation. They say the officers involved had body cameras, but they were not turned on.

Last year the City of Minneapolis spent $4 million to equip the officers in its department with body cameras. This was done in an attempt to restore some of the public’s trust in the department after its officers were involved in a serious of very questionable shootings. Here we are over a year later and that $4 million investment has been entirely wasted since when incidents like this happen body cameras are turned off for some inexplicable reason.

Unfortunately, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), as far as I know, has no policy in place for punishing officers who don’t turn on their body cameras (and if the department does it obviously doesn’t enforce it), which means these officers probably won’t receive any discipline. Moreover, the officers involved will probably say the magical words, “We feared for our lives,” which will ensure that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) absolves them of any wrongdoing.

The only way body cameras can be useful is if departments implement policies that severely discipline officers for using nonfunctional (which would have to cover everything from the body cameras not being turned on to the batteries dying partway through a shift) body camera while on duty. So long as an officer can turn their camera off at will without repercussions they will only serve the purpose of collecting evidence against those who the police interact with. But I’ve said all of this before and I’m sure I’ll have to continue saying it until the day I die.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am