A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for February, 2013

Segregation, Jim Crow Laws, and the State’s Involvement

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A common criticism of libertarianism is that segregation and Jim Crow laws would still be in place if it wasn’t for the state’s intervention during the Civil Rights Movement. According to statists segregation and Jim Crow laws only ended because the federal government passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This argument sounds good on paper but it falls apart when you look at the history of segregation and Jim Crow laws.

The first thing that should be noted is the word “laws” in Jim Crow laws. How did Jim Crow laws come into existence? Through state decree. Statists seem to forget that segregation and Jim Crow laws were put into place by the state. In other words the state didn’t magnanimously bring civil liberties to the downtrodden, it merely repealed its previous laws. Slavery was no different. First slavery was legalized by the state only to later be repealed. Somehow statists equate the abolition of slavery as a magnanimous action on behalf of the state and ignore the fact that the institution of slavery was first legalized by the state.

Let’s look at a slightly different, albeit similar, scenario. If a schoolyard bully and his friends have been beating up on a classmate for years and suddenly, one day, the bully tells his friends to stop we don’t praise the bully for being magnanimous and protecting his classmate. Instead we rightfully point out that the bully and his friends shouldn’t have been beating up their classmate in the first place.

One does not get to call himself a protector if he was the aggressor who decided to stop his aggression. That state doesn’t get to call itself a protector of civil liberties because is stopped persecuting a group of people. To say that the state is responsible for abolishing slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow laws requires ignoring the fact that the state legalized slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow laws.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 28th, 2013 at 11:30 am

Another Example of Statist Environmentalism

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I’ve discussed statist environmentalism at length on this blog but one of my favorite points to bring up is the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t prevent the emission of pollutants, it licenses pollution. If you want to emit pollutants into the environment you merely have to purchase a license from the EPA.

OK, the EPA doesn’t prevent the emission of pollutants, but they inspect potential sources of pollution to ensure those sources don’t emit pollutants, right? As it turns out, not so much:

Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator Dale Freeman says just under 20,000 gallons of oil have spilled into Otter Creek off County Road 2590. Tyler County officials were alerted to the spill Saturday by residents who noticed the oil in Otter creek.

[…]

The pipeline is owned by Sunoco Logistics and the company says the leak has been patched up and oil is no longer flowing through the pipeline.

Sunoco sent a statement to 12News via email saying “We will perform a thorough investigation into the cause of the incident. Right now, our priorities are the safety of the community, our employees and contractors, and the protection and restoration of the environment.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are helping with the clean up. Crews have been ordered to work around the clock until it is complete.

It’s a good thing the EPA is involved in helping with the cleanup effort. After all they apparently forgot to inspect the pipeline, ensure proper oil leak detection capabilities were built into the pipeline, and ensure proper methods were in place to contain any unexpected spillage. In addition to that the EPA is likely to suffer no consequences for failing its supposed mission of protecting the environment.

A question many people may be asking is what alternatives exist to statist environmental protection. Once again I turn to my friend private law, in this case tort law. Tort laws revolve around compensating victims for damages caused by third parties. This system has been the traditionally chosen system for stateless societies such as medieval Iceland, medieval Ireland, the American Frontier, and Neutral Moresnet. In fact tort law was also traditionally used in the United States against polluters until the 1840s. Before the 1840s a person could sue a coal plant if soot emitted from the plant landed on the plaintiff’s property. After the 1840s the state, who has a monopoly on courts, started allowing polluters to emit pollution if they were also providing a “public good” (a term that was defined by the same court that oversaw the suit). Allowing property owners to sue polluters, and therefore hold polluters entirely responsible for the damages they cause, would likely lead to a reduction in polluting entities. Under the EPA polluters are generally immune from prosecution if the amount of pollutants they emit are below a certain threshold set by the EPA. If a polluter wants to emit pollutants above that threshold they must seek the EPA’s permission. Furthermore the amount of damages a polluter is responsible for paying are generally capped, which is why British Petroleum (BP) was able to get away with leaking crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico without going bankrupt.

Were the state’s protections removed from polluters the cost of polluting would increase and, therefore, the instances of emitted pollution would likely go down. If Sunoco Logistics knew they would be entirely responsible for repairing the damages caused by a spill from their pipeline do you think they would forgo effective leak detection, containment mechanisms, and other safety procedures that would reduce the likelihood and severity of a spill? Probably not, and if they did they would find themselves facing bankruptcy in rather quick order. In fact oil companies may find that running pipelines is entirely too costly and find other methods of transporting oil to refineries or they may choose to build smaller refiners at the oil fields (or even find alternatives to oil).

Under a system of private law inspections and regulations would likely be handled by competing entities that would also be held responsible if they failed to perform property inspections or create effective regulations. The EPA, being a state entity, is immune from consequences of performing a poor job or failing to fulfill its responsibilities. Therefore no recourse exists if the EPA approves something that shouldn’t have been approved. If multiple entities were performing inspections and creating regulations then those who did an effective job would likely be relied on while those who did a poor job would likely become irrelevant and therefore go bankrupt.

So long as we continue to put the state in charge of protecting the environment the environment will face constant threat. Decentralizing the power to protect the environment will give more options and offer victims of polluters easier access to compensation, which would encourage potential polluters to contain their messes.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 28th, 2013 at 11:00 am

It’s a Big Club

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Most people still seem to believe that there is an ideological war between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Every political issue seems to be starkly divided between the Republicans and Democrats. We’re told that Republican support gun rights whereas the Democrats oppose them, Republicans oppose same-sex marriage whereas the Democrats support them, Republicans hate the poor whereas the Democrats love them, and Republicans are fiscal conservatives whereas the Democrats are big spenders. None of this is true, there is no ideological divide between the two parties, both parties are in total agreement that they want to take your shit and that doing so is easier if the populace is divided. This fact becomes more prevalent when things become difficult, as with the current budget debate:

Days before the March 1 deadline, Senate Republicans are circulating a draft bill that would cancel $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts and instead turn over authority to President Barack Obama to achieve the same level of savings under a plan to be filed by March 8.

The five- page document, which has the tacit support of Senate GOP leaders, represents a remarkable shift for the party. Having railed against Senate Democrats for not passing a budget, Republicans are now proposing that Congress surrender an important piece of its Constitutional “power of the purse” for the last seven months of this fiscal year.

The Republicans are making a dictator out of the Democratic President (who is already a dictator is everything but name). If there really was an ideological divide you would think both parties would be working hard to ensure the other party doesn’t gain more power but the opposite is happening, both parties are working hard to ensure the other party gains more power.

This is why working in the political system will never change anything of importance. All of the major players, the actual decision makers, are best friends. They pretend to hate each other to create the illusion of choice but almost come to an agreement, and that agreement always ends with the state and its cronies getting more while the general populace gets less.

If History Repeats Itself This is Going to Suck

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A billionaire by the name of Clive Palmer has decided to build a replica of the Titanic:

Australian billionaire Clive Palmer unveiled plans Tuesday for construction of Titanic II, a cruise ship designed as a “full-scale re-creation” of the Titanic, which sank in the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912.

Displaying a blueprint for the Titanic II at a press conference aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Palmer announced that the ship will be built in China and begin carrying passengers in the third quarter of 2016.

It’s obvious that the construction of the Titanic seriously pissed off a deity. Whether it was by Cthulhu’s hand or Poseidon, the ship sank on its maiden voyage. Palmer said “the Titanic was a ship of dreams,” and “the Titanic II will be the ship where dreams come true.” In reality the Titanic was a ship of nightmares. I’m fairly certain that everybody who ever sailed aboard the Titanic had an absolutely miserable time.

If history does repeat itself this is one of the dumbest ideas in a long time.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 28th, 2013 at 10:00 am

Using a Raspberry Pi as a Tor Relay

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I’ve been discussing Tor more frequently because I foresee a day when laws such as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) force everybody wanting to communicate online anonymously to seek shelter in fully encrypted and anonymized networks. In addition the that Internet related laws are slowing making it so only people who receive a stamp of approval from state regulators will be allowed to legally post material online. In fact the United States government has already used its influence to take down websites it found undesirable and there is no reason to believe such actions won’t continue.

Many people are turned off by Tor because it is relatively slow. The Tor network’s bandwidth relies on relay nodes, which all traffic is transmitted through. What is needed to speed up the Tor network are more fast relay nodes. To this end I’ve begun investigating the use of Raspberry Pis as Tor relay nodes. For those who are unfamiliar with the Raspberry Pi it is a credit card sized ARM-based Linux computer. Two models are available, a $25.00 model and a $35.00 model. As you can see the device is dirt cheap, based on a processor that Tor has been ported to, and, in the case of the $35.00 model, has a built-in Ethernet port. All of these features make for an ideal platform on which to run a Tor relay.

I ordered a $35.00 model Raspberry Pi (although I paid slightly more since they are in very short supply at the moment) Friday and received it Monday. After installing Rasbian, the Debian-based Linux distribution optimized for the Raspberry Pi, onto an SD card I had lying around I plugged my little device into my television and booted it up. Installing Tor on the device was easy, I just had to enter the command sudo apt-get install tor and wait for a minute or so (since the device uses an SD card for storage write operations can be kind of slow). After the short wait I had Tor up and running and merely had to edit the torrc file to enable it as a relay node, open port 9001 on my firewall, and restart the Tor service. My little relay now appears on the Tor Metrics Portal and has traffic routing through it. For now I’ve throttled the relay to use 1Mbps normally and allow 1.5Mbps burst speeds. I plan to increase the bandwidth bit by bit until the relay begins to interfere with my overall network speeds (I use my network for other services including serving this website and I don’t want the relay to interfere with those).

If this project pans out I believe it will offer an effective way to increase the overall bandwidth of the Tor network. I know several people who would like to run a Tor relay but lack the technical expertise to set one up. Having a cheap Tor relay appliance, which is possible by utilizing embedded platforms likes the Raspberry Pi, would give those people an option to help increase the network’s bandwidth and, by so doing, make the network more appealing. Someday, if the Tor network becomes fast enough, a bulk of Internet traffic could seek refuge from today’s tyrannical states in the encrypted and anonymized heaven it offers. Should that happen there is little states could do to censor people online.

I’ll close by saying that the future we live into today is amazing. You can now pick up a fully capable computer for $35.00. That is something I never expected to say just a few short years ago.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 27th, 2013 at 11:30 am

Treating Prisoners Like Human Beings

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I’ve previously discussed my opposition to prisons. Prisons are inefficient and ineffective, as demonstrated by the recidivism rate in most industrial countries. I advocate a private law solution to deal with criminals, which tends to choose solutions that are more efficient and effective. The most egregious use of prisons happens in the United States where prisoners have become a source of slave labor for the federal government and its politically connected cronies. Fortunately other countries have been willing to try alternatives to the United States models and, in doing so, have demonstrated that more effective solutions exist. One of the most interesting cases is the Bastoy prison island in Norway.

The Bastoy prison island is more akin to a village than a traditional prison. Prisoners live in houses, work jobs that help sustain those living on the island, and have a relative amount of freedom to pursue hobbies. Instead of being caged like animals the prisoners on Bastoy island are treated like human beings. What makes this solution even more interesting is the relatively small number of resources required to run the facility:

Thorbjorn, a 58-year-old guard who has worked on Bastoy for 17 years, gives me a warm welcome as I step on to dry land. As we walk along the icy, snowbound track that leads to the admin block, he tells me how the prison operates. There are 70 members of staff on the 2.6 sq km island during the day, 35 of whom are uniformed guards. Their main job is to count the prisoners – first thing in the morning, twice during the day at their workplaces, once en masse at a specific assembly point at 5pm, and finally at 11pm, when they are confined to their respective houses. Only four guards remain on the island after 4pm. Thorbjorn points out the small, brightly painted wooden bungalows dotted around the wintry landscape. “These are the houses for the prisoners,” he says. They accommodate up to six people. Every man has his own room and they share kitchen and other facilities. “The idea is they get used to living as they will live when they are released.” Only one meal a day is provided in the dining hall. The men earn the equivalent of £6 a day and are given a food allowance each month of around £70 with which to buy provisions for their self-prepared breakfasts and evening meals from the island’s well-stocked mini-supermarket.

[…]

I ask Thorbjorn what work the prisoners do on the island. He tells me about the farm where prisoners tend sheep, cows and chickens, or grow fruit and vegetables. “They grow much of their own food,” he says.

Other jobs are available in the laundry; in the stables looking after the horses that pull the island’s cart transport; in the bicycle repair shop, (many of the prisoners have their own bikes, bought with their own money); on ground maintenance or in the timber workshop. The working day begins at 8.30am and already I can hear the buzz of chainsaws and heavy-duty strimmers. We walk past a group of red phone boxes from where prisoners can call family and friends. A large building to our left is where weekly visits take place, in private family rooms where conjugal relations are allowed.

By making the island more self-sustaining the Bastoy facility is less of a burden on Norwegian tax victims. As I’ve stated before prisons are a form of collective punishment as they required tax victims to foot the bill to house, guard, feed, and clothe prisoners. This collective punishment aspect of prison systems can be reduced by making prisons more self-sustaining, which Bastoy does. Another benefit to Bastoy is the low recidivism rate:

The reoffending rate for those released from Bastoy speaks for itself. At just 16%, it is the lowest in Europe. But who are the prisoners on Bastoy? Are they the goodie-goodies of the system?

That’s much lower than the 67.5% recidivism rate in the United States. Part of the reason Bastoy’s recidivism rate is so low is likely due to the fact that prisoners are effectively members of society while at the facility, whereas prisoners in the United States are cut off from society. In the form case prisoners haven’t forgotten how to function in society whereas the latter case causes issues as released prisoners often see nowhere to turn outside of prison other than criminal activities (especially when you consider the difficult of gaining employment in the United States after serving a prison sentence).

While Norway’s Bastoy island prison isn’t perfect it certainly seems to be a large improvement over the prison system in the United States and therefore warrants consideration.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 27th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Woman Being Threatened with Expulsion for Publicly Discussing Being Raped

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What happens when a woman gets raped at a university, the university fails to pursue any serious action, and the woman finds herself having to appeal to public opinion to get justice? She gets threatened with expulsion:

A University of North Carolina student says she faces possible expulsion for “intimidating” her alleged rapist by speaking publicly about her assault and how the school has handled it.

Landen Gambill, a sophomore at UNC, was part of a group that filed a complaint in January with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, alleging the university has routinely violated the rights of sexual assault survivors and failed to assist them in recovery after the reported abuse. Ten days after they filed their complaint, the graduate student attorney general sent a warning to Gambill that she may have violated the school’s Honor Code, Jezebel reports.

On Friday, Gambill got an email informing her that she was being formally charged with an Honor Code violation for “disruptive or intimidating behavior” against her alleged rapist, although she has never publicly named him. If the UNC Honor Court finds Gambill guilty, the punishment could be expulsion, suspension, community service or grade penalty, among other options.

In other words the University of North Carolina wants sexual assault victims to shut up because they’re making the university look bad. Their chosen method of dealing with this “inconvenience” is to issue threats of expulsion, suspension, coerced community service, or a reduction of grades against those who were victims of sexual assault.

Why would a university pursue such actions? Perhaps it’s because the University of North Carolina is operated by the government of North Carolina and feels its monopoly on force has been threatened by the persons who committed sexual assault. By threatening the victims the University may be trying to make a public statement that the sexual assaulters will not be allowed to encroach on the state’s monopoly on force unchallenged. Or, more likely, the University staff are morally bankrupt and more concerned about their public image than ensuring justice is served.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 27th, 2013 at 10:30 am

Magpul Planning to Flood Colorado with Standard Capacity Magazines

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I love Magpul. They offer several great products including affordable and reliable magazines for my LR-308. I’m happy to see that they’re planning on fighting the currently progressing ban on standard capacity magazines in Colorado by flooding the state with standard capacity magazines:

We are proud to announce that within a matter of days we will be going live with a new program. Due to a bill currently moving through the Colorado legislature, there is the possibility that Colorado residents’ ability to purchase standard capacity magazines will soon be infringed. Before that happens, and Magpul is forced to leave the state in order to keep to our principles, we will be doing our best to get standard capacity PMAGs into the hands of any Colorado resident that wants them.

Verified Colorado residents will be able to purchase up to ten (10) standard capacity AR/M4 magazines directly from Magpul, and will be given immediate flat-rate $5 shipping, bypassing our current order queue.

Our customers outside of Colorado, please know that our PMAG production will continue at an ever-increasing rate until we do relocate, shipments to our distributors in other states will continue, and that we do not expect relocation to significantly impact PMAG production. We are also aware that Colorado is not the only state with existing or pending magazine capacity restrictions; we are working on programs for other affected states as well.

Full details and instructions will be announced when we are able to go live; please watch here for the coming announcement.

While I understand this program may delay the availability of PMAGs for those of us living outside of Colorado I’m more than happy to deal with that inconvenience. Magpul is fighting Colorado’s gun control bills the right way by planning to leave the state if the laws pass and ensuring as many standard capacity magazines are in the Colorado market as possible. Even if the prohibition against standard capacity magazines can’t be stopped from passing it can be ensured that the market is flooded with standard capacity magazines, making the ban mostly irrelevant.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 27th, 2013 at 10:00 am

Bypassing Minnesota’s Alcohol Laws

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The history of alcohol laws in Minnesota can best be described as asinine. If you look at the Minnesota Department of Health’s website on alcohol laws you’ll find such gems requiring all alcohol advertisements be approved by the Commissioner of Public Safety and requiring all kegs to be registered. One of the other asinine laws is a prohibition against selling alcohol on Sundays (unless you’re a bar or restaurant). Attempts to repeal the prohibition have been tried numerous times but have continued to fail. Four Firkins, a specialty beer store in Minnetonka, is moving ahead with the latest attempt to strike the prohibition from the books:

Jason Alvey, who runs specialty beer and liquor store The Four Firkens, will try to persuade lawmakers to let he and other liquor stores open on Sundays.

Alvey argues the ban on Sunday sales is outdated and should be repealed.

However, not everyone agrees.

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, along with other liquor store owners, say opening on Sundays would simply pull sales from other days and increase operating costs.

Alvey disagrees and says those who oppose Sunday sales don’t have to open seven days a week if a bill, sponsored by Senator Jeremy Miller, becomes law and repeals the ban. Instead, Alvey says liquor store owners could open on Sundays, reap financial rewards, and close on Mondays when he says sales are generally much slower.

The difficulty of getting the prohibition removed has been Minnesota’s own liquor lobby. As it currently stands most liquor store owners enjoy the prohibition against selling their goods on Sunday because it allows them to reduce their operating costs by not being open one day out of the week without having to suffer consequences of their competition being open on that day.

In addition to this constantly repeating battle another political issue involving alcohol has arrive, a bill that would increase the taxes placed on alcohol sales. Reading the bill will bring to light the fact that the tax increases would be tremendous, which is why I doubt the bill will pass in its current form. In all likelihood the bill is meant to be a “worse option” and a “better option” will be presented after some revisions. By doing this the populace of Minnesota are less likely to resist the increase because they will feel as though they got off lucky.

Being a practical man I wish to present a method that can be used to bypass both laws, along with every other Minnesota law regarding the sale of alcohol. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ve likely guessed that the solution I’m going to present is agorist in nature, and you would be correct. The so-called black market can once again provide a solution to tyranny and it only requires producers of desired goods who are willing to ignore the state’s decrees. Are you a person who is willing to brew beer and/or distill liquor illegally? Are you willing to also sell your brewed beer and/or distilled liquor on Sunday? Congratulations, you are the solution! Agorist alcohol stands to be much cheaper since taxes are not applied to the price tag. On top of that agorist brewers and distillers can enjoy the freedom of selling their goods anytime they please. To make things even better no begging the state for permits is required.

Instead of begging the state to allow the sale of alcohol on Sunday or not increase the taxes on alcohol sales as much as they’re currently planning the people of Minnesota can simply start producing alcohol outside of the state’s law. In that way Minnesotans can enjoy cheaper alcohol that is available every day of the week. Furthermore agorist alcohol doesn’t contribute money to the state, which is actively suppressing competition in the alcohol market and making everybody pay a higher price. An added benefit is the fact that alcohol, being a cheap form of entertainment, has traditionally done well during times of economic hardship and therefore stands to make current producers a good amount of profit.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 26th, 2013 at 11:30 am

Bitcoin ATMs

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The Free State Project held its annual Liberty Forum this weekend, which means that all sorts of subversive ideas were unveiled and shared. One of the ideas that I found very interesting was an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) that turns cash into Bitcoins:

Zach Harvey has an ambitious plan to accelerate adoption of the Internet’s favorite alternative currency: installing in thousands of bars, restaurants, and grocery stores ATMs that will let you buy Bitcoins anonymously.

It’s the opposite of a traditional automated teller that dispenses currency. Instead, these Bitcoin ATMs will accept dollar bills — using the same validation mechanism as vending machines — and instantly convert the amount to Bitcoins and deposit the result in your account.

I mentioned Bitcoin as a tool to fight the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) since it allows individuals to make anonymous transactions and thus leave no trail for state agents to trace back to physical individuals. Avoiding having your financial information fall into government hands is very useful. If the state is unable to access your financial information they don’t know what to charge you for taxes and can’t bring criminal charges against you for buying goods it has labeled verboten. The one missing key in the Bitcoin puzzle is turning Federal Reserve notes into Bitcoins anonymously, which is what this ATM could make easier. At Bitcoin continues to gain traction it will be interesting to see what else develops around it.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 26th, 2013 at 11:00 am