Monday Metal: Nosferatu by Bloodbound

Don’t worry everybody, I didn’t forget to post a Monday Metal before heading out on my trip. This week is going to be some more music from my favorite genre of metal, power metal! Bloodbound isn’t just the name of a Hammerfall song anymore, it’s also the name of a band. I only came across Bloodbound a few weeks ago but I’m really digging them and Nosferatu is my favorite song of their so far:

Family of Murdered Border Patrol Agent Suing the ATF

The family of the murdered Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, are finally moving forward with a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF):

The family of murdered Border Patrol agent Brian Terry has filed a $25 million wrongful death claim against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives claiming Terry was killed with AK-47s that were knowingly sold under the Fast and Furious gunrunning probe to a straw purchaser for drug cartels.

I’m sure the ATF will be working hard to squirm their way out of taking responsibility for Terry’s death.

Fixing the iPhone’s Disappearing Personal Hotspot Setting

In Miami I was able to get online with the assistance of my wonderful iPhone 4. The iPhone, like Android and Windows Mobile phones, has the ability to be setup as a personal hotspot. All this entails is using the iPhone’s Wi-Fi interface as an access point that grants any connected device to use the phone’s cellular data connection. Unfortunately due to some cruel twist of fate the iPhone has a problem that sporadically appears: the setting to enable and disable the hotspot functionality disappears entirely. This happened to me and after getting it figured out I decided to write a little guide.

For me the fix was very simple. Open the Settings app and navigate to General->Reset. On this screen simply look for the button labeled “Reset Network Settings” and tap it. You’ll get a dialog box asking you to confirm this decision and after you do the phone will restart. After doing this my hotspot functionality returned much to my joy.

One thing to note is that every Wi-Fi network configuration you had previously saved on your phone will be gone so you’ll have to reenter the passkeys. Besides that the rest of your data will be preserved so this is a much less painful route to take than doing a complete reset of the phone.

The Illegitimacy of Mob Rule

I disagree with a great deal of what the Occupy movements have been advocating but my biggest objective, by far, is their espousing of mob rule. Of course they don’t call it mob rule, nor does anybody else who supports the idea, instead preferring the friendlier term democracy. The problem is democracy by nature is nothing more than mob rule:

Democracy, of the unlimited kind lauded today,[3] is a form of socialism, in the sense that it arrogates ultimate power over all decisions to the government. Implicit in the notion of people’s present love affair with mob rule is the assumption that government, through the collective “will of the people,” should have the prerogatives of ownership of all resources in society, should it choose to exercise these. The democrat brooks no limitation on the legitimate powers of government and hence gives total ownership over all of society to this institution.

While people often call the United States a democracy it is not. Unlike a democracy the founding fathers of the United States attempted to limite government power over the people through the Constitution (it was a valiant effort old chaps, I’m sorry it didn’t succeed). In a democracy every decision can be chosen by the majority in society whereas the United States, as envisioned by its founders, specifically prevents certain decisions from being made. The Bill of Rights is an example of this attempt. Unfortunately the founding fathers left the Constitution open for changes via amendments meaning nothing in the Bill of Rights was really set in stone but at least there was a high barrier of entry to start mucking about. Either way you get the idea, the United States wasn’t meant to be a democracy where any decision could be made by the mob.

Yet those who advocate democracy are saying that they desire the majority be given rule over the minority. Sometimes advocates of democracy try to conceal that fact by using fancy terms such as consensus. With consensus, advocates claim, no decision is final until everybody involved has agreed to it. In all honestly many people eventually break down and agree to things simply because they’re sick of debating and wish to move on with their night (a phenomenon I’ve witnessed numerous times at OccupyMN). Oftentimes people will simple say, “Fuck it, I’ll vote for it to get things moving along but I’ll try to get it repealed later.” These same people don’t stop to think about the fact that repealing it later will be almost impossible (a fact demonstrated by our government that never seems to repeal any law).

My biggest gripe with democracy though is the fact that rights become conditional:

It is true even when a democratic government chooses policies that are relatively liberal and purportedly support the ownership of private property. For such property ownership is regarded as conditional. Supporters of the system of democracy assert their right to forcibly interfere in the lives of others whenever they have sufficient support from the mob to do so, or are otherwise capable of capturing political power.

Do you own a business? Good for you! Unfortunately the majority of people have decided that a park would be a far better use of the land your business is occupying so we’ve voted to demolish your livelihood. Too bad, so sad, get the fuck out. Are you enjoying your protection against government goons breaking into your home and searching through your belongings without so much as a warrant? We’re sorry to inform you that the majority have agreed that persons making more than $1 million a year are no longer protected from warrantless searches. Why? Because we need to ensure that you’re paying your “fair share” to society!

Uncertainty is bad for everybody. Who is going to start a business if they are uncertain of what regulations will be coming down the road? Why invest the money to build a home if you’re not sure the mob will vote to seize it at a later date? Nobody is going to strive for success if that success can later be taken away by those who did not enjoy similar success in their lives.

Many people will often claim that democracy can work so long as the right people get elected. Who are the right people? Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different recommendations:

If you are inclined to believe that democracy will function justly when “the right people” are elected, then bear in mind that each political party is elected precisely because its candidates are regarded as the best people available by the majority at the time.

Right now Barack Obama is the president because of two mob decisions. First a mob of Democrat Party members agreed that Obama was the candidate they wanted to run for president. A second mob later decided that Obama was the person they wanted to be president of the country. The same goes for Bush. There is no way to elect the right people into office because everybody believes different people are the right ones. Whereas I believe Ron Paul is the only decent candidate for president others want Romney or Obama (but I repeat myself).

If I’m against democracy that must means I’m an advocate of a dictatorship right? Wrong, that’s a false dichotomy:

Those who support democracy tend to conflate the issue of the method of selection of rulers with the preliminary question of whether political power is legitimate in the first place. Hence, it needs to be clearly understood that objection to democratic rule does not mean that one prefers dictatorship — it means than one does not consent to have others initiate force against them, regardless of the method of selection of those with the power to do this.

I am my own sovereign. If somebody believes they can become a sovereign over me they can kindly go fuck themselves. Each person is born a free individual and has power over their own life. Just because a gang of assholes get together and call themselves a government doesn’t mean I have to recognize their authority.

What alternative exists though? How can one man defend himself against a mob? If the mob has decided on a decision isn’t your only option to comply? The answer to those questions is to be thankful that you exist today and not centuries past.

Since the idea of dragging capitalists out to the town square and running them all through guillotines is a popular idea among collectivists I’ll provide my standard rebuttal to it. Even if you get 100 people to vote and agree that I should be executed for advocating capitalism I don’t have to agree. Sure there may be 100 of you but me and my .308 can make one hell of a protest against your little mob. In the end you may win, I may die, but your victory won’t come without cost, I won’t go alone.

With the way things are going in the world I’m glad I live in this century. Before the invention of repeating firearms there was little a single individual could do against a mob. Today one man with a semi-automatic firearm can refuse to comply with a mob and have a halfway decent chance of surviving. Imagine a democratically elected vengeance seeking brigade lynch mob decide you were to hang. What could you do? Quite a bit if you have a quality firearm by your side and the skill and ammunition to use it. In the end the firearm is the free man’s defense against democracy.

Some will claim that my attitude goes against the principles this country was founded on. Those people are wrong. The founding fathers of this country did establish a government but always believed the individual to be sovereign. A quote by Noah Webster brings the founding father’s ideals to light:

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.

Webster strongly believe the people not only had a right to keep and bear arms but that this right was essential to ensure the government wasn’t allowed to encroach on individual sovereignty. Let us not forget Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote:

What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Not only did Jefferson believe in the right of the people to defend themselves against their government but he also advocating periodic rebellions to ensure the government was reminded that the people reign supreme. While I’m not a fan of violent rebellion in any regard I am an advocate of self-defense and that self-defense includes people being assailed by their government.

These are just two quotes in a virtual library of materials penned by the founding fathers regarding the sovereignty of individuals. We have to remember that the founding fathers had just previously overthrown a tyrannical government and were still riding high on the idea of individual liberty. They didn’t believe in democracy, where the mob reigns supreme, but in the sovereignty of individuals. In their minds it was the right of every individual to defend him or herself against infractions on individual sovereignty. By declaring my distain for democracy I’m not opposing the ideals this country was founded up but actually promoting them.

Those who cow to the majority are some of the most despicable people of all. They think that so long as the majority believe something to be just that it is, that so long as decisions are made democratically they are good. These same people often complain about the state of the world today but only suggest that the people who are responsible for this dystopian state, the government, be given more power so that “the people” may reign supreme. By “the people” they really mean everybody who agrees with themselves wholeheartedly.

Do not fall into the fallacy of democracy, stand up and assert your sovereignty. Let no other person or persons rule over you. Just because a large group of people made a decision doesn’t mean it’s right. Do not allow yourself to fall into the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum.

Just Throw Money at It

Through Uncle I learned that Mayor Bloomberg is putting up some major money and buying an advertisement during the Super Bowl to promote his gun bigotry:

He also announced that he and his Boston counterpart, Mayor Thomas Menino, would appear in an anti-illegal gun commercial during the championship game, joining the race for Super Bowl ad space.

The spot shows the two leaders of Mayors Against Illegal guns in an animated discussion and clad in their team jerseys on a couch in front of a television.

Bowls of chips and popcorn along with a football lie on a glass table before them.

The 30-second spot will run regionally because of restrictions against issue-oriented ads on the national broadcast. The Mayor’s Against Illegal guns, which counts Bloomberg among its private donors, funded the clip.

The biggest problem with anti-gunners is that they only know how to do one thing: throw money at something until it goes away. Members of the Brady Campaign, Violence Policy Center, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns have no facts to backup their cause so they simply hope they can spend enough money to make guns go away. Luckily for use throwing money at something never actually makes it go away.

Statism and Stockholm Syndrome

The more I research statism and the people who subscribe to it the more I’m firmly convinced those people suffer from Stockholme Syndrome. For those who are unaware Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where hostages begin sympathizing, and at times ally with, their captors.

When you think about it we’re all captives of a state. If at any time we disobey the desires of whatever state we’re in we will find ourselves subjected to physical violence. For example in the United States those who go against the decree of the state and grow a verboten plant will find themselves the victims of kidnapping and will be held in a cage for however long the state deems appropriate. In other states, like Saudia Arabia, a woman can be stoned to death for cheating on her husband.

Stockholm Syndrome isn’t entirely understood but most researchers believe it is a kind of coping mechanism. According to some kidnapping was very common in pre-history and those who were kidnapped ended up allying themselves with their captors in order to adopt to the new tribe and survive. Taking this view into consideration it’s easy to see how somebody having their actions controlled by a state would develop sympathetic feelings towards his or her controller.

The phenomenon can best be witnesses in those who are extremely nationalistic. Those who feel the country they live in is somehow the best one in the world and are unwilling to recognize any of that country’s faults. Considering the fact that most people are citizens of their current country through the happenstance of birth it is impossible to believe these people were randomly born into the society that best matches their beliefs and needs. While most people will point to Americans as the most common example of this the truth is each country has a large number of nationalistic people (hell a great number of British people thinking being the subject of a queen is a sign of a great civilization).

Being a resident of the United States I feel best qualified to speak in regards to this country and thus will keep my examples American focused. When reading this please note that the general idea applies to all countries and that only the examples are American specific.

The United States people have a great deal of patriotism. Sadly this patriotism is often so rampent that many living here are unable to see the flaws in the country. Americans take pride in calling this country the land of the free. The sad truth is our country is no longer the land of the free as every year brings in new tidal waves of laws, regulations, and other rules that turn previously law abiding citizens into mere criminals. We have police officers stroming into the homes of innocent people in a crusade against drug use. You can’t even get on an airplane without being treated like a possible terrorist. So what has the response been? Very little for the most part.

Most American citizens justify many of these new “security” measures to themselves. When the PATRIOT Act was being rammed through Congress I remember brining up my opposition to the bill only to have fellow citizens state that we need it to protect ourselves from another 9/11. Even before the bill was passed people of this country were justifying the bill’s existence and convincing themselves that it was for the greater good. How many people do you know speak about the evils of illegal drugs? I can’t be the only person who has had a conversation with somebody who believed the war on drugs was a great thing and thought the idea of decriminalizing currently illegal drugs was insane. Once again these people have taken the government’s bullshit and convinced themselves that it was righteous. Every time we enter a new war there are hordes of people who will parrot the government’s excuse.

It gets worse, much worse. Not only do these people convince themselves that the government is telling the truth they viciously attack anybody who raises an opposing voice. If you speak out against warring with Iran you’re called crazy, insane, or even unAmerican. Saying you believe a person has the right to decide what they put into their body is often met with accusations of drug use. Talking about the ever more prevalent police state gets you labeled as paranoid or delusional. These people have convinced themselves so thoroughly that the government is good that they lash out viciously at any opinion that calls their beliefs into question.

One of my favorite examples involved the Department of Education. If you say you want to abolish the Department of Education people will instantly accuse you of hating making education available to children. The facts that the Department of Education was only established in 1979 and since 1979 education has only gone downhill is entirely irrelevant to these people. As far as they’re concerned the state must provide education because no alternative exists. They have allowed themselves to become obedient dogs of the state and have even begun developing such positive feelings towards the state that they begin defending every decision it makes.

These people have begun sympathizing with their captors to such an extent that they refuse to consider opposing viewpoints. The more I look into statism the more I’m convinced that it’s simply a sever form of Stockholm Syndrome. We’re all hostages of the state and it’s violence and the only way some are able to cope is to convince themselves that the state is good.

Atlas Shrugged Review

A couple of months ago I finally finished reading Atlas Shrugged. While I’ve attempted to read this book a few times before I could never get very far. Needless to say I decided to give it one last try because as a libertarian I’m expected to not only read this book but to memorized it and express my undying devotion of its author, Ayn Rand.

Apparently I’m not a very good libertarian because on an arbitrary scale from 0 to 1 I give Atlas Shrugged a 0.5. Some libertarians are likely to ask how I could avoid giving this tome any rating besides 1. Answering that question and others is fairly easy and if you want a more detailed review please read on.

First let me start by fully admitting my reason for not finishing the book on my previous attempts. The style of writing used by Ayn Rand falls squarely into the category of romanticism. Romanticism is a style of writing that became popular during the Age of Enlightenment and has several defining features, one of which is verbose scene descriptions. I’m not a fan of this type of writing because I have a functioning imagination and therefore don’t need fine details describing a scene. Personally I’m a fan of Isaac Asimov’s writing style, which can be best described as very clear and to the point with little ancillary detail given. Atlas Shrugged is hard for me to read because I find the writing style extremely boring.

Of course that’s not my only criticism of the book. Before delving farthing into the aspects I dislike about the title though I feel it best to explain what I did like (this part will contain spoilers, if you haven’t read the book and don’t want any parts spoiled just stop reading now). The core story of Atlas Shrugged is very good and does a great job of explaining the dangers of government regulations and collectivism. In the story we’re introduced to several extremely successful producers including the main star Dagny Taggart and her male counterpart Hank Rearden. Both Taggart and Rearden are the best in their field (railroad management and metallurgy respectively). Unfortunately the government in Atlas Shrugged mirrors our government today; it’s comprised almost entirely of dick bags.

The United States remains the last major state in the world that hasn’t turned entirely to socialism although it’s speeding down that highway. Members of the government and private industry have become infected with the ideas of the greater good, fairness, and other general collectivist ideals. Dagny’s brother, Jim, is the owner of Taggart Transcontinental, the company Dagney also works for. Unlike Dagney who is a capable and productive individual Jim is a complete putz who concerns himself with altruism (collectivist altruism, not true selflessness). While Dangy keeps trying to run the railroad Jim keeps making backdoor deals with government officials.

Throughout the story Taggart Transcontinental goes from the most successful railroad in the world to a failing company. Taggart Transcontinental isn’t the only failing company of course, every company is slowly dying due to ever increasing government regulation. Atlas Shrugged does a very good job of describing how government regulations can slowly pile up and start decimating private industry. Another thing this novel does well is celebrate the producer of goods and services.

Eventually the super hero of the story, John Galt, is introduced. Being the most intelligent man ever to walk on this planet Galt has come up with a plan to fight back; by going on strike. Throughout the story the most productive people in the United States disappear and it’s later revealed that Galt has been whisking them away to a secret location so their productive ability isn’t assisting the state. All the productive persons whisked away by Galt are hiding in a valley where they practice anarcho-capitalism (even though this is never stated but i’ll expand on that later). The people in the valley are actively practising agorism (once again this is never stated) as they have created a counter-economy separate from state influence.

The core story is the main attraction of this book and it is very good. Unfortunately this core story is buried under a pile of failure. This is the part of my review where I expect to hear calls for my crucifixion by other libertarians. Thankfully as a libertarian I’m well armed and therefore anybody coming to nail me to a cross is going to have a fight on their hands.

I mentioned that the people hiding in the valley were practicing anarcho-capitalism. The valley has no actual government although one former judge has been assigned the task to conflict resolution should the need ever arise. Since everybody in the valley has voluntarily agreed to the judge’s arbitration it can’t be said he is a state in any capacity. So we have a valley full of successful individuals who are practicing capitalism without any state involved.

This leads us to a logical fallacy that exists within Atlas Shrugged. It is stated that government is necessary to protect the people of a country yet the people in the valley prove otherwise. They exist under constant threat of state thugs marching in and arresting the lot of them but they managed to avoid this outcome by concealing their presence (they have a device that creates the illusion of the valley being empty). Likewise Rand explained the necessity of government in her essay The Nature of Government but wrote a story where her main characters, the heroes, demonstrated no such necessity exists. Were this merely a work of fiction I’d pay little attention to such a failure of logic but as this is a work of philosophy it needs to be brought to light, and that brings us to my next major criticism.

While Atlas Shrugged is written as fiction is it obvious Rand meant it to be a philosophical work. Rand wanted to write a hand guide to her philosophy of objectivism but must have believed wrapping it in the thin veil of a fictional universe would make it more approachable. Whatever her reason great lengths of the novel are dedicated to explaining objectivism without actually using the term. In fact John Galt spews out an insanely long monolog (I read the book on my Kindle so I lacked page numbers but I heard the number of pages to be roughly 75, which seems reasonable) that explains the finer details of objectivism. This monolog is legendary and for good reason as it’s basically the worst part about this book. Atlas Shrugged would have been greatly improved had Galt’s monolog been remove, placed into a separate paper about philosophy, and a brief summary had been given in place of the monolog.

Let’s talk about the characters. The characters in Atlas Shrugged would be more property placed in early Superman comics. What I mean by this is every character is one dimensional to a degree that’s impossible to overlook. Each good guy is wholly perfect while each bad guy is entirely disgusting. I’m not just talking about actions but even physically; the good guys are all described as representations of perfect human beauty while the bad guys are all beady eyed, fat, or otherwise physical unappealing. Every action taken by the good guys is met with success while the actions of the bad guys are always met with utter failure. I’m a fan of antiheroes like Spider Jerusalem, Marv from Sin City, Dirty Harry, and Snake Plissken because antiheroes are interesting as they have depth. While Snake Plissken is an ass who cares for little besides himself he still ends up saving the day in his own way. On the other hand I never enjoyed Superman because he was boring, he always did the morally correct thing. Unlike the good guys in Atlas Shrugged Superman actually fails from time to time, which creates some interest as you try to guess whether or not his current action will be successful or not.

There are also a concepts in Atlas Shrugged that were introduced and either forgotten or barely expanded upon. At one point the government develops a new super weapon, which I believe was meant to be a criticism of government’s general willingness to spend money on destructive means instead of productive means. With the introduction of this new weapon you would think it would eventually be used against the valley but the good guys residing there are too awesome to be located so that never happens. It was disappointing to read a great deal of buildup regarding this secret weapon only to have it play no significant importance to the greater story. Several other instances of this happen throughout the story.

Atlas Shrugged is my definition of mediocrity. Parts of the book are real page turners while other parts are difficult to get through. Galt’s monolog, by far the worst part of the book, took me a solid two weeks to get through because I could only tackle a page or two at a time before almost falling asleep. I honestly don’t think it’s a good novel and am confused why so many libertarians feel it is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever penned by human hands. If you want a fiction book that covers philosophy I’d recommend some Heinlein. Not only could the man write but his novels were interesting, his characters had depth, and his philosophy was secondary to the story as works of fiction should be.

Worker’s Revolution

One idea communists and many flavors of anarchism agree on is the idea that workers should revolt against their bosses. In a communist society and many forms of anarchist society workers are each to own an equal share in the business they work at. The big scary capitalist, the owners of the businesses, are to be overthrown. Of course this idea also has a habit of leaving dead bodies in its wake:

Workers at the Regency Ceramics factory in India raided the home of their boss, and beat him senseless with lead pipes after a wage dispute turned ugly.

The workers were enraged enough to kill Regency’s president K. C. Chandrashekhar after their union leader, M. Murali Mohan, was killed by baton-wielding riot police on Thursday. The labor violence occurred in Yanam, a small city in Andra Pradesh state on India’s east coast. Police were called to the factory by management to quell a labor dispute. The workers had been calling for higher pay and reinstatement of previously laid off workers since October. Murali was fired a few hours after the police left the factory.

The next morning, at 06:00 on Friday, Murali went to the factory along with some workers and tried to obstruct the morning shift, local media reported. Long batons, known as lathis in India, were used by police who charged the workers, injuring at least 20 of them, including Murali. He died on the way to hospital, according to The Times of India. Hundreds of workers gathered outside the police station and demanded that officers be charged with homicide.

There is so much fail in this story that I’m not sure where to begin. First you have the workers striking in the hopes of getting better wages. I’m entirely for workers voluntarily coming together and demanding better pay, benefits, and working conditions but I’m also entirely for an employer being able to fire those employees. Some will call me and evil bourgeois but they miss the entire point of voluntary association. As an employer I can choose to associate with you by trading for your labor or not. On the other side of the coin workers can also choose to associate with an employer by trading their labor or not. When laws are made giving unions power over employers the entire concept of voluntary association is thrown out the window.

If the value brought to the job by the employees is worth more money then they will be paid more money (they may have to strike first). On the other hand if the value brought by the employees isn’t work the money being demanded they are given the option to continue working at the previously agreed to wage or leave and make room for a new person to take the job. Thus employees who strike need to realize that they may be replaceable making their strike worthless.

Next you have the idea of a picket line. Picket lines are simple in concept, strike participants block entry to the business. If the picket line is on the business property and the property owner doesn’t want the picketers there the owners should have the right to remove the picketers. This is a condition of absolute property rights.

Then you have the fact that police showed up to remove the picketers and were faced with physical assault. Somebody trespassing on your property has initiated violence again you and you have the right to take necessary means to remove him or her. This doesn’t mean you have the right to kill them outright, you do have the right to push or shove them off the property and if they escalate the situation you have the right to react in kind. In other words if you try to drag them off your property and are faced with physical force you have the right to use physical force yourself.

Some of the workers were killed by the police so the act taken by some of the other workers was to hunt down and kill the employer. Let’s stop and think about this for a minute, instead of targeting their wrath at the police officers who killed those workers the wrath was instead focuses at the employer whose land was being trespassed upon.

Violent revolution always ends with dead bodies therefore revolutionary communists (and any other philosophy for that matter) is a necessarily violent philosophy.