A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for September, 2015

Basic Income Only Strengthens The Ruling Class

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There appears to be a worldwide competition to see which country can implement the stupidest idea. Possibly heading the United States’ competition are the basic income advocates:

Basic Income Action is, according to co-founder Dan O’Sullivan, “the first national organization educating and organizing the public to support a basic income.” In an email, he tells me that “Our goal is to educate and organize people to take action to win a basic income here in the US.”

Interest in a basic income, also called a guaranteed or universal income, an annual unearned salary, or just “getting handed a giant lump sum of free cash every year,” is percolating. Of late, it’s been the subject of magazine features, it’s been championed by economists from major financial institutions, and it’s even been touted on the presidential campaign trail.

Basic income is an appeal idea to many for the simple fact that it promises everybody a salary for doing nothing. It’s an idea so appealing even some libertarians have been suckered into it (and then had their arguments ruthlessly decimated). And according to its advocates it will help topple the power of the ruling class (or the “one percent” as they call it):

Perhaps the biggest thrust of the basic income movement’s argument is that technology is eliminating jobs, and they’re not coming back. (Hence we see more wealth accumulating at the top 1 percent, the class that happens to own the bulk of the automated labor; and an infamous economic recovery that has largely benefitted the rich, not the middle class.)

I’ve already addressed the fallacy of technology eliminating jobs so I won’t go into that more here. What I want to address is the ludicrous claim that basic income will somehow loosen the grip of the ruling class.

Where, exactly, does the money to fund basic income come from? Basic income advocates will tell you it comes from taxes. Somehow they miss the fact that taxes are monies collected by the State, which is yet another name for the ruling class. In other words basic income gives the top one percent yet another justification to steal money from the people. More insidious though is that it makes receivers of basic income even more dependent on the top one percent.

It’s a trick the federal government has used for decades. After collecting taxes from each state the federal government then redistributes them under the friendly title of “aid”. Some states end up getting more than they paid in while others receive less but none of the money is given without strings attached. Each state is then told to either do what they’re told or their money will be cut off. For states that receive more than they pay this is especially bad because they’re receiving the sweet end of the deal. But even the states that receive less than they pay don’t want to piss off the federal government because they would then lose more money. So you end up with a system that allows the federal government to dictate any number of terms to the states.

Basic income would allow for the exact same thing on an individual level. After collecting taxes the State could, and certainly would, attach a number of strings to basic income. If you didn’t comply you wouldn’t get a basic income. For people entirely reliant on basic income this would effectively mean they would be entirely without money. Those who had an additional revenue source would still stand to lose a sizable chunk of cash and would therefore also be motivated to comply. Anybody who pays any attention to politics in this country can already tell where this would lead: the further empowerment of the ruling class.

Basic income is just another statist wet dream. It sounds benevolent on the surface but would only serve to further entrench the oligarchy. Toppling the ruling class requires decentralization. Their tools of control must be rendered impotent. Granting them even more power over the populace’s livelihood accomplished the exact opposite.

If It Walks Like Racism, Quacks Like Racism, And Looks Like Racism It Could Be Racism

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I understand that libertarians are supposed to be on the right side of the political spectrum. And I understand that what defines the right side of the political spectrum is an abject hatred of everything on the left side of the spectrum. But sometimes when the left side of the spectrum makes a point it doesn’t have to be immediately shouted down.

Case in point, the police who terrorized of Ahmed Muhamed. Here we have a child with a very Middle Eastern name and a very Middle Eastern appearance who was accused of building a bomb, which is an activity very much associated with terrorism, which is very much associated with Middle Easterners in this country. The officer even said “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” when Ahmed was brought to him, which suspiciously sounds like the officer was expecting a Middle Easterner when he received a report that a student had possibly built a bomb.

The political left, at least left as far as this country is concerned, quickly raised the issue of racism. So, naturally, the political right had to flip its shit and say that Ahmed’s situation couldn’t possibly be racism (or if racism was involved it was a minor point that really played no important part in the matter at all):

I bring up his race for one reason, and one reason only: Some are suggesting that Ahmed’s race is the only reason he was treated so badly. This is the obvious, inescapable conclusion, according to many left-leaning pundits: school officials identified a kid with an Islamic-sounding name, saw him carting around a device he had built, and cried terrorist!

I’m really fucking tied of the political right, especially self-proclaimed libertarian rags, jumping on any situation that appears to be fueled, at least in part, by racism and screaming “But it happened to a white person that one time so it’s obviously not racism!” Guess what? If it walks like racism, quacks like racism, and looks like racism it very well could be racism.

The political right, libertarians especially, need to get over this knee-jerk reaction of immediately disagreeing with anything the political left says. Sometimes you intellectual opposites make valid points.

In this case the author attempts to downplay racism so he can make a bigger issue of his pet peeve: zero tolerance policies. It doesn’t have to be either racism or zero tolerance policies; it can’t be both. In its zeal to shout down everything the political left says, the political right is missing some prime opportunities to make cases both sides should be able to acknowledge.

Zero tolerance policies and the war on unpatentable drug are two prime examples of seemingly fair, at least as far as race is concerned, laws can be used to target a particular group. If you read any school’s zero tolerance policies or any law related to the war on unpatentable drugs you will find no languages whatsoever that could be construed as racist. To many people that means these laws are fair and cannot be used for racist purposes. That’s an assumption that needs to be corrected.

There are two parts to every law: the law itself and the enforcement of the law. A broad law that appears to apply equally to everybody can be enforced selectively against targeted groups. Laws related to the war on unpatentable drugs are enforced more often against minorities than whites. The political right will argue that this simply means that minorities commit more drug offenses but a whole lot of evidence points to the contrary. Zero tolerance policies are no different. They can be written to apply equally to all students but may only be enforced against a targeted group.

A great deal of evidence supports claims that Ahmed was only treated the way he was because of his race. So immediately shouting, “It can’t be about racism because zero tolerance policies were used against this white kid,” makes you sound like a putz. Instead of immediately refusing to believe anything the political left says it would be much more productive for the political right, especially libertarians, to consider the evidence that supports the charges before responding. Who knows, both of you may be seeing the same problem from different angles and might stand a chance of addressing it if you worked together even if it was for a very brief period.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 18th, 2015 at 10:30 am

The People Who Make The World Better

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I have several especially statist friends who constantly claim they’re making the world a better place because of their involvement in politics. It’s the most pathetic ego stroking I’ve ever seen and there isn’t even a kernel of truth to it. Running for office, sucking off political candidates, and constantly telling other people how they should live their lives doesn’t improve the world in any way. Do you know what does improve people’s lives? Markets. Providing people the goods and services they need will actually benefit them. Consider the prosthetics market. Prosthetics are leaping ahead at a fantastic pace. We’ve gone from hooks on pulleys to replace missing arms to prosthetics attached to the nervous system capable of mimicking a lot of what natural limbs can do:

Hastened by advances in neurology and robotics — and tragically by the spike in U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan without limbs — a new era of prosthetics has emerged, using signals from the brain to evoke an increasing variety of movements from bionic limbs.

Jorgenson is one of about 50 patients worldwide — and the youngest, so far — to undergo a surgery called targeted muscle reinnervation, in which severed nerve endings in her arm were reassigned to control muscles that would trigger sensors in the bionic arm. With the surgery, which was performed last year at the Mayo Clinic, she also became the first to have six nerves rewired, giving her the ability at will to move the robotic elbow up and down, rotate the wrist, and open and close the hand.

[…]

Learning how to signal the proper muscles to trigger movements from the bionic arm happened quickly, Jorgenson said, but mastering it is taking time.

“Sometimes when I raise my arm up,” she said, “the hand will start twisting around.”

When it closes, the hand can create a grip-crushing 22 pounds of force, but it can also be delicate enough to hold a paper cup. So developing control has proved crucial. After daring her older brother to let her squeeze his nose, she tried it on herself. She squeezed too tightly and found herself unable to release the hand because the shock caused her muscles to tense up.

But on Wednesday, she transplanted the plant, filled the pot with soil, and cleaned the mess with a dustpan — all with little to no delay between the time she wanted her prosthetic to move and when it did.

“It’s pretty amazing how intuitive she has become,” her father said.

Her next step will be triggering two motions at once — such as moving the elbow while closing the hand — but she is comfortable enough to start wearing the bionic arm to school. The eighth-grader had delayed until now, because her school lacks air conditioning and the prosthetic can become uncomfortable in high heat.

The people involved in the development of this girl’s prosthetic limb have done more to improve the world than anybody who has invested their time in politics. And they’re not done. Unlike politicians who accomplish a minor goal and declare complete victory, people involved in the prosthetics market aren’t satisfied with replicating only a few features of natural limbs. They want to replicate everything:

DARPA promised prosthetic limbs that produce realistic sensations, and it’s making good on its word. The agency’s researchers have successfully tested an artificial hand that gave a man a “near-natural” level of touch. The patient could tell when scientists were pressing against specific fingers, even when they tried to ‘trick’ the man by touching two digits at once. The key was to augment the thought-controlled hand with a set of pressure-sensitive torque motors wired directly to the brain — any time the hand touched something, it sent electrical signals that felt much like flesh-and-bone contact.

If you want to make the world a better place learns skills that allow you to make new goods and services for consumers. You don’t have to work in the medical field but that’s certainly a great market to consider. Something as simple as a restaurant will provide more people more good than any politicking.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 18th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Papers, Please

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Many decades ago a tiny island nation faces oblivion at the hands of one of its larger neighbors. Its neighbor was not a kindly sort. Very early in its existence it blamed all of the nation’s ills on members of a particular religion. At first things weren’t too bad. The nation forced members of that religion to register with the government and submit to additional security checks. Eventually stores owned by members of that religion were boycotted and then destroyed. Finally members of that religion were hauled off to be executed en masse.

Even though vaguely familiar with history realize I’m talking about World War II, specifically as it related to Britain and Nazi German. I bring this up because I would think a country that was facing complete annihilation would be a bit more proactive in not because its would-be destroyer. But Britain, a nation that truly loves tyranny, has taken a rather frightening step in a very dark direction:

Imams, priests, rabbis and other religious figures will have to enrol in a “national register of faith leaders” and be subject to government-specified training and security checks in the Home Office’s latest action on extremism.

The highly controversial proposal appears in a leaked draft of the Government’s new counter-extremism strategy, seen by The Telegraph, which goes substantially further than previous versions of the document.

The strategy, due to be published this autumn, says that Whitehall will “require all faiths to maintain a national register of faith leaders” and the Government will “set out the minimum level of training and checks” faith leaders must have to join the new register.

Registration will be compulsory for all faith leaders who wish to work with the public sector, including universities, the document says. In practice, most faith leaders have some dealings with the public sector and the requirement will cover the great majority.

One might point out that this is different because it doesn’t target any specific religion but we all know that broad laws have a way of being enforced very selectively. And there is certainly nothing stopping a supposedly secular state from persecuting all religions.

The real takeaway though, in my opinion, is the fact that Britain is planning to force all faith leaders to register with the government and submit to compulsory training. Historically subsets of societies registered on special government lists haven’t fared very well. Even if this is never passed into law the fact that the proposal is viewed as acceptable by even a single member of the British state shows just how far that nation has slid into imitating that which tried to destroy it not even a century ago. I think our friends across the pond are in for some dark times.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am

Install That *Bleep*ing Ad Blocker Already

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iOS 9 has been released and with it the ability for iOS users to install ad blockers. Online publications are already crying foul and declaring an end to the “free” web:

When Apple launches its new software update for the iPhone on Wednesday, users will be offered the chance to surf the mobile Web without annoying ads cluttering up their screen.

But Apple’s support for ad-blocking technology is ringing alarm bells on Madison Avenue, where critics warn it threatens not only the lifeblood of their business — but also the economic underpinnings of the free Internet.

“We don’t think ad blocking is right,” Scott Cunningham, senior vice president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told The Post.

[…]

“Advertising is the economic engine that drives the free Internet,” Cunningham said. “The reality is the last 20 years have seen people developing content online for distribution, and consumers have opted in for that free content.”

As a general rule when a business has to guilt trip you into abiding by its business model it’s time to let it die. Then there is the ironclad fact that past performance does not predict future results. Just because the last 20 years of Internet content may have been fueled primarily by advertisements doesn’t mean it will always be that way. Advertisements have worked because consumers have felt the benefits outweighed the costs. But the costs of advertising are increasing.

Most cellular providers are charging customers based on data usage, which means the additional bandwidth used by advertisements is beginning to have a very real cost. Mobile devices are also becoming the predominant means for web access. Since advertisements require additional hardware resources to render they negatively impact battery life and that is a major problem for users of mobile devices. Ad networks are also increasingly being used to spread malware.

The reason advertising has been a successful model is because most of the costs have been hidden from the consumer. Now the costs are becoming very visible to consumers. Because of that consumers will likely change their behavior. One of those changes will likely be an increased use of ad blockers. As more consumers block ads more content producers will have to change their business models to survive.

There has never been a free web. Don’t let advertisers bullshit you into believing that. And don’t let them guilt trip you into making yourself vulnerable by not using an ad blocker. I promise you that the web won’t die. You may have to pay content producers directly but that isn’t so bad when you consider how much money you’ll save on bandwidth, extra batteries, and not having to deal with malware.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 17th, 2015 at 10:30 am

Child Terrorized For Being Intelligent And Having Drive

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What happens when a child with a Middle Eastern name and appearance builds an electronic clock and brings it to school? If you said, “He’s awarded for his efforts and drive to learn,” you’d be incorrect. The correct answer is he’s terrorized by the State:

Ahmed’s clock was hardly his most elaborate creation. He said he threw it together in about 20 minutes before bedtime on Sunday: a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.

He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped for.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward.

“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”

The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.

They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”

[…]

Police led Ahmed out of MacArthur about 3 p.m., his hands cuffed behind him and an officer on each arm. A few students gaped in the halls. He remembers the shocked expression of his student counselor — the one “who knows I’m a good boy.”

Ahmed was spared the inside of a cell. The police sent him out of the juvenile detention center to meet his parents shortly after taking his fingerprints.

After interrogating, cuffing, and parading him around like some kind of captured beast the police magnanimously decided that they had terrorized the poor child enough and announced they would not pursue charges. Of course they never went so far as to apologize for their absurd overreaction:

Irving’s police chief announced Wednesday that charges won’t be filed against Ahmed Mohamed, the MacArthur High School freshman arrested Monday after he brought what school officials and police described as a “hoax bomb” on campus.

[…]

Asked if the teen’s religious beliefs factored into his arrest, Boyd said the reaction “would have been the same” under any circumstances.

“We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school,” he said. “Of course we’ve seen across our country horrific things happen, so we have to err on the side of caution.”

Every officer involved with this travesty should be arrested and charged with kidnapping. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of bullshit. Circuit boards along do not make a bomb. Unless there was some clay or other such material that at least kind of resembled an explosive attached to one of those boards there were no grounds whatsoever for anything more than a cursory glance.

The levels of idiocy that has to take place for these events to spiral so far out of control is almost awe inspiring. You need a teacher to not bother with looking at the clock and using a bit of critical thinking to contact the police. Then you need the police to against not bother taking a look at the clock and applying a bit of critical thinking. On top of all of that you have to have a society full of people who are so fucking compliant with anybody holding a badge to not storm the jail, arrest the police, and hold a trail to determine their possible guilt and punishment.

That school doesn’t deserve a student like Ahmed. Hell, this society doesn’t deserve a student like Ahmed. Students that demonstrate intelligence and drive should be somewhere where their knowledge and skills will be appreciated and advanced. My only hope is that this fiasco doesn’t stomp down his drive and he’s eventually able to start an underground company and make billions of dollars without paying one cent in taxes.

If You’re Good At Something Never Do It For Free

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I know the Joker is supposed to be the bad guy in The Dark Night and probably serves as some sort of metaphor for the evils of capitalism but he had some goddamn sage advice:

if-you-re-good-at-something-never-do-it-for-free

As I’ve mentioned previously I hate the “giving culture.” Unfortunately most of us have been inflicted with this giving nonsense since our impressionable youths. Teachers harp on students to “share” (usually a euphemism for give away) their toys, pencils, and other earthly possession to any student who asks. In college students are suckered into working for free, often under the guise of an internship, because it will “help them build a resume.” Then when you get into the professional world you might be asked to work longer hours for no additional pay and be accused of not “loving your work” if you decline. Fuck. All. Of. That.

Let’s consider how you get good at something. Although there are a handful of anomalies that seem naturally gifted at whatever they pursue most of us only become good through seemingly endless practice. Successful authors? Almost all of them have written a lot. Skilled programmer? Almost all of them have years of programming under their belts. Bad ass martial artists? Almost all of them have been practicing their art(s) for years. There’s a reason the phrase “Practice makes perfect,” is so popular.

Why should you invest years of your life into developing a skill set and not expect some benefits? And why should you tolerate people belittling your investment by demanding you to give your skills away? The idea of investing is to see a return. That’s why, if you’re good at something, you should never do it for free. You put in the effort where others did not. Likewise, when you want somebody to do something for you then you should recognize their years of effort and not demean them by demanding they do it for free.

Exchange isn’t an evil plot for the haves to steal wealth from the have nots. It’s a mutual respect and acknowledgement of accomplishments. For example, I respect and acknowledge that a automotive engineer has invested years of their life in developing a skill I haven’t so I pay them to build me a vehicle. Likewise, many people seem to respect and acknowledge that I’ve invested years of my life in developing computer science skills and pay me to utilize them.

If you’re good at something you shouldn’t feel ashamed or awkward commanding a price for it. And you should feel free to tell anybody who tells you otherwise to go pound sand because there’s no reason for you to put up with that kind of insulting bullshit.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 16th, 2015 at 10:30 am

Statism Is Mutually Assured Destruction

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The Art Of Not Being Governed posted what may possibly be the most succinct description of statism every created.

i-m-a-statist

Every argument for statism can be boiled down to, “If I have to live under the shitty rule of tyrants then by God so will everybody else!”

Written by Christopher Burg

September 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Mi Lernas Esperanton

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Last week I mentioned that I had started using Duolingo to learn German and Esperanto. That adventure has quickly morphed into an almost exclusive focus on the latter.

As I said in my previous post, I’ve never been terribly successful learning human languages. Part of my motivation for learning Esperanto is becoming familiar with various concepts found in human languages. Another motivator is the purpose and history of the language itself. Esperanto was created as an auxiliary language by Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof with the intent of enabling individuals around the world to converse with one another in the hopes of avoiding conflict creating misunderstandings. To that end he designed the language to be easy to learn and consistent in its rules. In addition to those two characteristics the language was also neutral in regards to nationality.

Esperanto actually enjoyed a good deal of success initially. In fact it was so successful that many tyrants tried to snuff it out. Nazi Germany sentenced Esperantists to death during the Holocaust due to Zamenhof being Jewish and the international nature of the language (because Nazis were national socialists they hate everything international socialists liked). In fact Hitler specifically mentioned Esperanto in Mein Kampf (and not in a good way).

Speaking of international socialists, they thought Esperanto was a really neat idea… for a while. The Soviet Union initially supported Esperanto. And why not? International socialists are supposed to spread the wonders and joys of socialism to all people so a common easy to learn language should be right up their alley! Joseph Stalin himself even studied Esperanto. Then the Great Purge came. Stalin did a complete 360 and threw Esperantists into gulags.

Being hated by those two bastards is quite an endorsement but the biggest endorsement, in my opinion, is the type of people who adopted it. Esperanto, due to its neutral nature, was embraced by anarchists. There were even plans to declare Esperanto the official language of Neutral Moresnet. Today the language is growing in popularity due to the international nature of the Internet and enjoys considerable support on Wikipedia.

It’s a fascinating language and I have been enjoying the learning process. According to Duolingo I’ve only spent 11 days learning Esperanto and I can already hold simple conversations in it. A handful of us anarchists in the area hope to see Esperanto picked up by more members of our circles because, like the early anarchists that fell in love with the language, we see it’s lack of national ties as an asset to our anational goals.

I urge all of you to check out Duolingo and try some of the early Esperanto courses. Even if you don’t know a second language you’ll likely find it easy to pick up. And it never hurts to have an additional language under your belt to throw on a resume.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 15th, 2015 at 11:00 am

The Illusion Of Control

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On Friday six people were shot in Minneapolis:

Police said the incident happened around 2:30 a.m. on 5th Street between Hennepin and 1st avenues near an alley by Sneaky Pete’s.

Minneapolis police officers were nearby and took three people into custody. Two guns were recovered. The six who were shot received noncritical injuries and were treated at Hennepin County Medical Center.

“Violent acts like last night’s shootings are abhorrent and contrary to the values we hold as a city,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a statement.

The mayor pledged a full investigation into the circumstances leading to the incident, which occurred around the time most downtown bars close. However, in an e-mail exchange with the Warehouse District Business Association executive director obtained by the Star Tribune, First Precinct Inspector Michael Kjos said there was no evidence that the two rival groups involved in the violence came from a bar or nearby business.

Kjos said the area was “saturated with police officers” and several officers witnessed the gunfire but did not engage because there were too many pedestrians in the area. The arrests and recovery of the two handguns followed a foot chase, Kjos said.

The responses have been typical. Calls for more gun restrictions, hiring more police officers, and restrictions on establishments that serve alcohol are being made. Gun restrictions have only ever served to disarm people willing to follow the law. Officers were on the scene so having more available wouldn’t have changed anything. And there was no evidence that the perpetrators had been in an establishment serving alcohol so additional restrictions on bars wouldn’t have made any difference. What this story demonstrates better than anything is that centralized controls are ineffective.

The question still remains, what can be done to deal with situations such as this? Contrary to popular belief the solution isn’t relying on third parties to deal with the problem. As with anything else in life the only solution is to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.

You cannot control the actions of others so the first step is getting that silly notion out of your head. Once you’ve accepted that fact you need to ask what steps you can take to make yourself safer. For situations such as this the most effective option is avoidance. Our subconscious is pretty good at picking up on subtle signs of danger. Oftentimes people write off these feelings by telling themselves they’re just being paranoid. Don’t do that. If the little voice in your head is telling you something isn’t right then you should listen to it and vacate the area.

Another step would be to keep a clear head, which means not drinking. But telling people not to drink is worthless because they aren’t going to listen. Instead I will take the middle ground by pulling a page from the responsible drinker’s playbook. Every group is supposed to designate a sober driver. There’s no reason that person should only be concerned about driving. I like to think of designated drivers as designated adults. Their job is to ensure everybody gets home safely. In addition to driving that should also involved being the lookout. If their little voice is saying a situation is dangerous they should inform the group that they need to be elsewhere. Granted, herding drunks is like herding libertarians but a designated adult can only put forth their best effort and each person is ultimately responsible for themselves.

If you’re not drinking you should also carry a gun. You can’t control when you’ll find yourself in this kind of situation but you can increase your odds of survival. As with popular belief regarding centralized control the popular belief that having less armed individuals increases overall safety is bullshit. Relying on a third party for protection isn’t a solution because you can’t guarantee a third party will actually protect you. Take charge of your defense and carrying the most effective means of defending yourself when you’re responsible enough to do so (i.e. not when you’re drinking).

Stop asking what “we” can do. There is no we. There is only you so ask what you can do. Until you ask the right question it’s impossible to come up with the right answer.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 15th, 2015 at 10:30 am