I spent last night loading ammunition and prepping for an early morning range drip (seriously, nobody is at the range at 8:00 in the morning, try it) instead of writing posts.
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.
Presented at the 2016 International San Francisco Smart Gun Symposium (ironic, considering the city shuttered its last gun shop in 2015), then 18-year-old Kai Kloepfer presented a new handgun design that incorporates a fingerprint reader. Young Mr. Kloepfer is sponsored by angel investor Ron Conway, who’s Smart Tech Challenges Foundation is spending $1.5 million for the development of “firearms safety technology.” Kloepfer is one of about 15 start-ups that Conway is sponsoring.
The design has been in skunk-works for over four years. Kloepfer’s start-up, Biofire, is “just a few months from a live-firing prototype, which assuming it works, will be the first gun to unlock like an iPhone.” This is untrue, as multiple finger-print reader base firearms have existed before, specifically Kodiak Industries with their Intelligun
Needless to say, the Internet gun community is flipping its shit again (in the comments sections of gun sites). A lot of valid criticisms have been made against Kloepfer’s technology. Some of those criticisms are the fact that his prototype isn’t lefthand friendly, people don’t always grip guns in the same way, fingerprint readers aren’t 100 percent reliable, batteries die, etc. I won’t go into detail on those. What I will go into detail on is the fact fingerprint sensors suck for access control.
As far back as 2013 the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) was bypassing Apple’s TouchID by obtaining a photograph of an authorized user’s fingerprint from a glass surface. No big deal, right? After all, somebody would have to find something you touched to lift your fingerprint from to bypass Kloepfer’s authentication system. That would require either breaking into your home or following you around in the hopes that you will touch something that your fingerprint can be reliably lifted from. Of course you also have the fact that in 2014 a member of the CCC was able to replicate a politician’s fingerprint from a photograph. You don’t need to follow somebody around to lift their fingerprint. You can just take a high resolution photograph of their hand when they’re out and about. And unlike Touch ID, which allows you to use any finger for authentication, the position of Kloepfer’s sensor means you know exactly what fingerprint you need to bypass the mechanism.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, fingerprints suck as authentication mechanisms. There are two reasons for this. First, you leave your fingerprints everywhere. Second, if your fingerprints are obtained by somebody you can’t change them.
With that said, I think criticisms against Kloepfer have been unnecessarily harsh. While his product is defective he should receive credit for trying to create something new. I know many gun owners like to scream “Never!” whenever somebody mentions firearm authentication systems but I believe there is a market for such products. Households with small children or mentally disturbed individuals, for example, could benefit from firearms with authentication systems (I know, people should lock up their firearms, but shit happens and having another barrier between a child or mentally disturbed individual and a functional firearm isn’t a bad thing). Kloepfer shouldn’t receive a bunch of hatred for exploring a market. And I say this as somebody who isn’t even in that market (I have no interest in complicating my firearms with access control technology but different strokes for different folks).
This is where some gun owner usually brings up New Jersey’s law that will mandate all firearms sold in the state be equipped with access control mechanisms once the technology is available. In response I will point out that the anger should be directed at the government of New Jersey, not Kloepfer and other people trying to bring access control technology to firearms. They’re building a product that may be useful to people even in the absence of such a law, they didn’t pass the law and aren’t sending goons out to enforce it.
In summary Kloepfer’s technology sucks but he shouldn’t feel bad for developing it. Also, governments suck but that’s more of a summary of this entire blog than this specific post.
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.
I’ve started reading Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising. It’s a book about consciousness and while I’m only a couple of chapters in I’m already finding great material. One of the early things Wilson mentions is Orr’s Law. Orr’s Law states that what the thinker thinks, the prover will prove. It’s based on the premise that there are thinkers and provers. When a thinker comes up with an idea the prover will perform the most elaborate mental gymnastics to prove it:
As psychiatrists and psychologists have often observed (much to the chagrin of their medical colleagues), the Thinker can think itself sick, and can even think itself well again. The Prover is a much simpler mechanism. It operates on one law only: Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves. To cite a notorious example which unleashed incredible horrors earlier in this century, if the Thinker thinks that all Jews are rich, the Prover will prove it. It will find evidence that the poorest Jew in the most run-down ghetto has hidden money somewhere. Similarly, Feminists are able to believe that all men, including the starving wretches who live and sleep on the streets, are exploiting all women, including the Queen of England.
If the Thinker thinks that the sun moves around the earth, the Prover will obligingly organize all perceptions to fit that thought; if the Thinker changes its mind and decides the earth moves around the sun, the Prover will reorganize the evidence. If the Thinker thinks ‘holy water’ from Lourdes will cure its lumbago, the Prover will skillfully orchestrate all signals from the glands, muscles, organs etc. until they have organized themselves into good health again. Of course, it is fairly easy to see that other people’s minds operate this way; it is comparatively much harder to become aware that one’s own mind is working that way also.
It’s not hard to find examples of this. One example that I’ve been using as of late to illustrate this point (unknowingly, mind you) is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Has the legislation been successful?
It depends on what the thinkers think. Thinkers in support of the legislation will, of course, declare it a success. Their provers will then find criteria that can be used to prove their thinkers right. For example, they’ll point out that the number of people who now have health insurance coverage has increased and therefore the ACA is a rousing success. Why is the number of people who have coverage a good metric to decide whether the legislation was successful? Because it proves the thinkers right.
Thinkers who oppose the legislation will, of course, declare it a failure. Their provers will then find criteria that can be used to prove their thinkers right. For example, they’ll point out that the number of health insurance companies providing their services through ACA exchanges has decreased and therefore the ACA is an utter failure. Why is the number of insurance companies providing their service through ACA exchanges a good metric to decide whether the legislation was a failure? Because it proves the thinkers right.
I like to play with Orr’s Law (a concept for which I didn’t even realize had a name) by periodically arguing both sides of a debate. And I’m always successful.
This is one of the reasons I have no faith in politics. When somebody in power issues a decree they’re using the force of the State to inflict their personal bias on a population. They will argue that it’s for the greater good and a lot of provers will prove that it’s for the greater good. But their opponents will then argue that it’s not for the greater good and a lot of provers will prove that it’s not for the greater good. To throw in a bit of Ludwig von Mises, “If a man drinks wine and not water I cannot say he is acting irrationally. At most i can say that in his place I would not do so. But his pursuit of happiness is his own business, not mine.” In other words we each have the unique knowledge of our own life experiences and therefore are more qualified to know what is best for us than anybody else.
Through the performance of mental gymnastics we can prove anything. That being the case, I believe it makes more sense to localize potential damage by limiting the scope of any single individual’s power to themselves (with the understanding that somebody can prove the opposite as being true).
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.