Archive for February, 2014
Most of you have probably heard about the California couple who uncovered a multimillion dollar stash of gold coins. It’s an amazing find but the two performed the cardinal sin of finding treasure; they talked about it. Now that the government has caught wind of the find it wants a cut of the action that it had absolutely no part in:
The Northern California couple that found $10 million worth of rare, mint-condition gold coins buried in the shadow of an old tree on their property will likely owe about half the find’s value whether they sell the gold or not.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the find is a taxable event under a 1969 federal court ruling that held a “treasure trove” is taxable the year it was discovered.
“If you find and keep property that does not belong to you that has been lost or abandoned (treasure-trove), it is taxable to you at its fair market value in the first year it is your undisputed possession,” the report said, citing the IRS tax guide.
What right does the state have in taking half of the “fair market” value (whatever the fuck that means)? The state didn’t bury that treasure, it didn’t dig up the gold that makes up the discovered coins, it doesn’t own the property those coins were found on (even though it would like to claim that it does own that property), and it provided no work in digging up the coins. But somehow it believes it is owed almost half of the trove’s value.
And if the couple that uncovered those coins don’t give the state what it wants it will send armed goons to kidnap and cage the couple while confiscating the entirety of the discovered coins. I’m at a loss on how the state differs from the mafia beyond the mafia actually knowing how to dress.
The well of National Security Agency (NSA) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) scandals has yet to run dry. Now it has come to light that the GCHQ, with assistance from the NSA, has been collecting webcam footage from Yahoo! users:
Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
I’m sure the agency’s database is chock-full of penis and boob pics. In fact I’m guessing that that was the primary purpose of Optic Nerve. Agents from both agencies are probably searching the database right now hoping to find some pictures to wank off to.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is supposedly tasked with, among other things, enforcing federal firearm laws. You would think an agency tasked with enforcing firearm laws would also demonstrated some modicum of firearm responsibility, right? As it turns out the ATF doesn’t exactly have a stellar record of knowing where its firearms are:
ATF agents have lost track of dozens of government-issued guns, after stashing them under the front seats in their cars, in glove compartments or simply leaving them on top of their vehicles and driving away, according to internal reports from the past five years obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Agents left their guns behind in bathroom stalls, at a hospital, outside a movie theater and on a plane, according to the records, obtained Tuesday by the news organization under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Oh, and you know all of the stink gun control advocates make about wanting laws that mandate “safe storage” of firearms to protect the children? Perhaps they should spend less time focusing on us gun owners and more time focusing on the ATF:
In December 2009, two 6-year-old boys spotted an agent’s loaded ATF Smith & Wesson .357 on a storm sewer grate in Bettendorf, Iowa. The agent lived nearby and later said he couldn’t find his gun for days but didn’t bother reporting it — until it hit the local newspaper.
The article contains more incidents where ATF agents lost firearms. I’m not sure if these loses were part of the ATF’s ongoing program to provide guns to drug cartels or just pure incompetency. Either one is equally likely when the ATF’s past is considered. But I think the moral of this story is that the ATF is not competent enough with firearms to have any authority regarding firearms.
But they are. Here in Minnesota the legislators have moved to remove the prohibition that prevents them from accepting certain gifts from lobbyists:
On opening day of the 2014 legislative session, a House committee approved a reversal of recent changes to the state’s long-standing ban on legislators accepting gifts from lobbyists.
As of the last legislative session, lawmakers can now accept food and beverages from lobbyists – for instance, at a reception hosted by a lobbying firm – so long as every member of the Legislature is invited.
I think this really shows how corrupt legislators are. The problem for them wasn’t that they could be wined and dined by lobbyists. It’s that some legislators were more apt to get wined and dined and that wasn’t fair to their colleagues. But if a lobbyist is willing to wine and dine all of the legislators then the gift of fancy food and drink can be accepted.
Power has its perks. When you can make the rules that apply to your profession, including what gifts you can accept and how much you can get paid, life is pretty sweet.
Senators are an interesting breed. They are actually paid to issue decrees about things they have no understanding whatsoever of. Case in point. Senator Machine has called for a decree to be issued that would ban Bitcoin in the United States:
Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has called for a ban on Bitcoin.
In a letter addressed to the Treasury, Federal Reserve, and multiple financial regulatory agencies, Manchin calls the digital currency “disruptive to our economy” and highlights its potential for abuse by criminals.
Obviously Mr. Manchin doesn’t understand how Bitcoin works. As a decentralized protocol that can be accessed pseudonymously there is no central point to take out and no way to know for sure who is using it. This means banning it is, quite literally, impossible because any prohibition cannot be enforced.
If Mr. Manchin understood the technical aspects of Bitcoin he would know that he’s on a fool’s errand. But he’s a senator, which generally means he doesn’t understand the technical aspects of, well, anything. It still amazes me that people actually believe senators are qualified to run our lives considering the complete lack of understanding they have in regards to everything they legislate.
Gun control advocates like to point out that registration is not confiscation. Gun rights advocates like to point out that registration leads to confiscation. A recent development in Connecticut shows that the gun rights advocates are, regardless of claims made by gun control advocates, not paranoid nutcases:
That triggered widespread dumbfounded confusion amongst state officials, including Governor Malloy, who seemingly cant seem to accept the fact that people are willfully refusing to comply with the arbitrary diktats of their tyrannical “leaders“. Since Jan 1st 2014, Malloy has come up with any number of excuses to explain what to him and others like him is incomprehensible.
At various times blaming it on the Post Office closing early on Dec 31st 2013, for “confusion” and most recently at a Winter Governors Association Meeting last week he finally resorted to simply saying he refuses to believe the numbers are accurate and that people really are actually complying. ( http://tiny.cc/ivjubx )
See the a copy of a letter sent by the Connecticut State Police to one resident, whose registration paperwork was rejected, (right).
The problem now becomes, even though the paperwork was rejected it is without a doubt certain that the Connecticut State Police kept the declaration of ownership and now have at least some official records of those who are not in compliance. It was reported late yesterday by the Manchester Journal Inquirer ( http://tiny.cc/9qlubx ) that letters are now going out to at least a certain number of gun owners that they have been found to be in non compliance with the law and were technically felons.
This is why you never register firearms. By registering you admit that you are in possession of a firearm that the state is interested in. If the state is interested in a type of firearm you can all but guarantee that it will eventually become interested in confiscating that type of firearm. But confiscation doesn’t always have to come in the form of a piece of legislation. Police officers charged with handling registration forms can merely claim that the form was not properly filled out and therefore the weapon listed on said form is forfeit, which appears to be what is happening in Connecticut.
Enforcing this law will become interesting. As I stated earlier, Connecticut doesn’t have sufficient cages to house all of the potential violators of this new registration scheme. However it may have enough cages to select a few individuals who did register, claim that their paperwork wasn’t properly filled out, and prosecute them. As that appears to be the strategy selected by the Connecticut law enforcers those who registered their firearms also painted a gigantic target on their backs.
Never register your firearms. It’s a lesson that cannot be stated enough times. When you do register in the hopes of avoiding the wrath of the state you risk making yourself a target. But what the state doesn’t know about it can’t go after. So long as it doesn’t know about the firearms (or any other property) you possess it cannot move to confiscate them.
The big news circulating around the Bitcoin community is the apparent demise of Mt. Gox:
As of late Monday evening, the embattled Bitcoin site MtGox appears to have pulled the plug entirely in the wake of sustained DDOS attacks and the “transaction malleability” problem that has plagued other websites. The site is gone and the company’s Twitter account appears to have been erased entirely.
Several news outlets seems to be reporting this event as the death of Bitcoin. Anybody who understand the Bitcoin protocol knows this isn’t true since Mt. Gox didn’t have any control over the block chain, which is what determines who has which Bitcoin. Mt. Gox was merely one of several exchanges although it was the largest.
People who have kept an eye on Bitcoin related news know that the people behind Mt. Gox has consistently demonstrated incompetency. It always baffled me how it was able to maintain the status of the largest exchange when other exchanges did a better job and almost always had better prices. But Mt. Gox’s incompetency eventually caught up with it and it now appears to have gone under. This is an example of a free market at work. A company that sucked at fulfilling the desires of the market went away.
While it does suck for any individual who had Bitcoin or fiat currency in a Mt. Gox account it should also teach a valuable less: you cannot trust a person you’ve never met with your money. Bitcoin allows anybody to create a wallet. So long as you keep your private key private any Bitcoin sent to your public key are secure. I keep a little Bitcoin in online wallets for quick transactions but never more than I’m willing to lose. All of my other Bitcoin are sent to an account that I possess the private key for. This is something I encourage everybody to do since it’s the only way you can guarantee your Bitcoin won’t disappear if the online wallet provider disappears.
A lot of emotions have been fired up due to Arizona’s SB 1062 [PDF] bill. If you’re not familiar with the number this is the bill in Arizona that would grant business owners of that state the legal ability to refuse to provide goods and services to homosexual and transgendered persons for religious reasons. The debate over this bill has gotten pretty heated. One side believes that this bill must be stopped because it enables discrimination and the other side believes the bill should be passed because it allows business owners to choose who they wish to associate with. Many libertarians are in the latter camp because of their support for voluntary association. I, insofar as I care about the bill, oppose it.
As a strong advocate of voluntary association how could I oppose a bill that would seemingly advance a business owner’s legal ability to choose he or she wishes to associate with? Simple. This bill doesn’t advance voluntary association, it creates another privileged class.
If you read through the bill it grants business owners the legal ability to refuse service to individuals (the bill doesn’t specifically state homosexual and transgendered persons) if providing that service would go against their religious beliefs. In other words if a business owner refuses services to somebody and that individual sues then the business owner can say that providing services to that person would have violated his or her religious beliefs and it would be a valid legal defense. So this law means religious individuals gain the legal privilege to discriminate against other individuals while nonreligious people do not.
Voluntary association allows any individual to choose who he or she wishes to associate with regardless of reason. This bill allows religious individual to choose who he or she wishes to associate with while leaving nonreligious people unable to do so. As longtime readers of this blog know I’m against providing legal privileges to specific groups. All should be equal under the law. Any attempt to grant specific groups privileges, which is what SB 1062 does, should be opposed in my opinion.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or only watching American news media you’re probably aware of the current crisis in Ukraine. While many media outlets have made it appear as though violent revolutionaries are fighting an otherwise peaceful government the truth is the Ukrainian police have been committing a lot of the violence. To this end the Ukrainian Gun Owners Association has put forth an argument favoring the unconditional right of Ukrainian citizens to bear arms:
Today every citizen of Ukraine understands why our country has hundreds of thousands of policemen. Last illusions were crushed when riot police used rubber batons and boots at the Independence Square on peaceful citizens.
After such actions we realize that it is not enough to only adopt the Gun Law.
As of today Ukrainian Gun Owners Association will start to work on the preparation of amendments to the Constitution, which will provide an unconditional right for Ukrainian citizens to bear arms.
People should have the right to bear arms, which will be put in written into the Constitution.
Authorities should not and will not be stronger than its people!
Armed people are treated with respect!
I have no idea of influential this organization is but it’s still interesting to see such an organization and that it is arguing in favor of the right to keep and bear arms. Ukraine is a prime example of what happens when the state is better armed than the people. While such disparity of force doesn’t mean the people cannot hold their own against the state it does mean that more people will die in order to beat back the state’s thuggery.
The Republican Party (GOP) has been slowly killing itself for at least the last couple of decades. It continues to pay talk about small government and individual liberty from one side of its mouth while it talks about oppressing the gays and killing brown people from the other side of its mouth. Needless to say the latter two things haven’t proven to be too popular with modern society.
Part of this slow suicide has involved purging any member of the GOP who advocates for something different than the party line. Here in Minnesota the state party demonstrated its desire to die by dismissing one of its elected representatives who voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriages here:
GOP state Rep. David FitzSimmons became more than a conservative newbie last May when he secured passage of an amendment giving churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages sturdier legal protection, and then voted for the marriage-legalization bill. He became a good legislator.
FitzSimmons, a 35-year-old agricultural project manager, also became a political whipping boy for the social conservatives who control the dominant Republican Party in his Wright County district. Since May, he’s been the target of vitriol, untruths and threats severe enough to be turned over to law enforcement.
This is why the GOP is doomed. FitzSimmons voting in a manner that was popularly supported and the dickheads composing his party wanted none of that. Instead of embracing the fact that modern society no longer feels the need to use the state’s violence against homosexuals the GOP has put it foot down and loudly declared that it wants to continue its campaign of oppression.
Frankly I can’t help but laugh. During my misguided time in politics I worked within the GOP trying to get Ron Paul nominated. During this time I was surrounded by people who I could only describe as monsters. While there are some good people inside of the GOP, just as there are some good people inside of the Democrat Party, the vast majority were obsessed with striking out against the gays, bombing brown people in sandy parts of the world, and stopping immigrants from crossing the imaginary line that they refer to as a border. As far as I’m concerned the GOP deserve a slow and painful death.