Since Christmas is this week I decided to pick something theme appropriate. Unfortunately I hate pretty much every Christmas song ever created (you can probably thank stores blasting that shit for over a month for this). Fortunate Gwar makes everything better and the band recorded a Christmas song… with strippers:
The International Business Times has an article discussing the limited liability granted to gun manufacturers:
As the United States grapples with a rash of mass shootings, some are calling for tighter laws limiting who can purchase firearms — a politically controversial subject that has yielded more rhetoric than legislation. But another, lesser-known dynamic effectively shelters gun manufacturers from government oversight: Under legislation dating back to the 1970s, Congress has consistently adopted positions championed by the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association, writing special provisions that have effectively exempted firearms from regulation by consumer watchdog agencies.
Of course the article insinuated it is the fault of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which lobbied for the grant of limited liability:
Cementing these exceptions to safety oversight constituted a significant political victory for the National Rifle Association in the 1970s and helped pave the way for high-profile gun rights battles to come. Gun owners themselves, however, are left with little recourse to hold companies accountable for faulty products outside the civil court system. Whether gun manufacturers choose to recall a firearm is entirely at their discretion. If they do, there is no mandatory protocol to follow to alert owners, and no official repository of recall notices.
But this isn’t a problem created by the NRA, it’s a problem created by the State. The reason gun owners are generally oppositional to attempts by the State to regulated any aspect of firearms is because those regulations ultimately get used as a form of gun control.
The ongoing smartgun debate is a classic example of safety being used to justify a prohibition. Instead of acknowledging access control technology as something worth investigating the gun control community wants to mandate its use. That adds costs and unreliability, both because the technology is in its infancy, to firearms. And since the technology cannot be retrofitted into older firearms mandating its usage can remove all existing firearms from the market.
Safety regulations always sound good on paper, especially if they’re for protecting the children, but it’s only a matter of mandating too many safety features to make a production functional or cost effective to create a ban.
When the State passes a law it’s not a contract. The State can change the terms at any moment without the consent of the people. A law passed under the auspices of consumer protection has no clauses guaranteeing it won’t be used to create a legal prohibition. There’s also no recourse if a consumer protection law ends up being used to create a ban.
One has to be a fool to willingly enter a binding agreement without recourse that authorizes the other party to change the rules whenever they want. If people want to pursue improving the safety of firearms they should start an independent non-governmental entity to certify firearms much like Underwriter Laboratories. That would allow for safety certification that allows for recourse, namely ignoring the standard, if it’s used outside of the initial scope it was created for.
I know what you’re thinking, you weren’t planning to buy a Blackberry anyways. The company is so far behind the technological curve that it has become almost entirely irrelevant. But I know two people who purchased Blackberry phones within the last five years so I assume there may be a few other people who have been using the platform for ages and want to continue doing so. For them this post is a warning. Don’t buy a Blackberry unless you want to be treated like a criminal:
John Chen, the Blackberry chairman and CEO, is ripping Apple’s position that granting the authorities access to a suspected criminal’s mobile device would “tarnish” the iPhone maker’s image.
“We are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good. At BlackBerry, we understand, arguably more than any other large tech company, the importance of our privacy commitment to product success and brand value: privacy and security form the crux of everything we do. However, our privacy commitment does not extend to criminals,” Chen wrote in a blog post titled “The encryption Debate: a Way Forward.”
What Apple has promised customers is it is unable to gain access to user data under any circumstances. In other words Apple is promising users that it utilizes cryptography that isn’t compromised in such a way to allow a third party access. Blackberry, on the other hand, is stating it will cooperate with law enforcement requests for user data. To do that it must utilize cryptography that is compromised in such a way to allow third party access. Such a scheme, if used under the auspices of giving law enforcers access to criminal data, necessarily treats all users as potential criminals.
Furthermore, what is the “greater good”? That’s such a nonsensical term. It requires the person uttering it to be so egotistical that they believe they know what’s best for everybody. I doubt anybody has knowledge so perfect that they know what is best for all seven billion people on this planet. Realistically it’s just a euphemism for what is best for the State, which is always at odds with what is best for the individual.
You don’t have to take my word for it though. The people have a voice in this matter through the market. Anybody who truly believes Apple is being detrimental to society by not cooperating with law enforcers can buy a Blackberry device. Something tells me this statement by Chen isn’t going to cause an uptick in Blackberry sales. If anything it will likely cause a drop (if it’s even possible for Blackberry sales to drop any lower) since most people don’t seem overly enthusiastic about being spied on.
Some fools believe domestic surveillance is about fighting terrorists. Everybody else realizes it’s about subjugation. People are more easily kept in line when they believe they’re constantly being watched. Although much of the State’s surveillance capabilities are shrouded in secrecy The Intercept managed to get its hands on a rather interesting catalogue of government surveillance tools:
THE INTERCEPT HAS OBTAINED a secret, internal U.S. government catalogue of dozens of cellphone surveillance devices used by the military and by intelligence agencies. The document, thick with previously undisclosed information, also offers rare insight into the spying capabilities of federal law enforcement and local police inside the United States.
The catalogue includes details on the Stingray, a well-known brand of surveillance gear, as well as Boeing “dirt boxes” and dozens of more obscure devices that can be mounted on vehicles, drones, and piloted aircraft. Some are designed to be used at static locations, while others can be discreetly carried by an individual. They have names like Cyberhawk, Yellowstone, Blackfin, Maximus, Cyclone, and Spartacus. Within the catalogue, the NSA is listed as the vendor of one device, while another was developed for use by the CIA, and another was developed for a special forces requirement. Nearly a third of the entries focus on equipment that seems to have never been described in public before.
A few of the devices can house a “target list” of as many as 10,000 unique phone identifiers. Most can be used to geolocate people, but the documents indicate that some have more advanced capabilities, like eavesdropping on calls and spying on SMS messages. Two systems, apparently designed for use on captured phones, are touted as having the ability to extract media files, address books, and notes, and one can retrieve deleted text messages.
The catalogue is fully of very interesting gadgets. In fact it demonstrates the fact that technology in the hands of government is a bad thing. While the market has used cellular technology to bring us wonderful gadgets that improve our lives the State only sees cellular technology as another means to subjugate its people.
I’m just fucking with you.
After flat out stating that you don’t have a right to free speech it may seem odd to see a post arguing for free speech. This is because yesterday’s post touched on organizations censoring speech within their own property. Today’s post touches on legal censorship. Slate, not surprisingly, has an article that claims the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is such a tremendous threat that the First Amendment must finally be eliminated:
But there is something we can do to protect people like Amin from being infected by the ISIS virus by propagandists, many of whom are anonymous and most of whom live in foreign countries. Consider a law that makes it a crime to access websites that glorify, express support for, or provide encouragement for ISIS or support recruitment by ISIS; to distribute links to those websites or videos, images, or text taken from those websites; or to encourage people to access such websites by supplying them with links or instructions. Such a law would be directed at people like Amin: naïve people, rather than sophisticated terrorists, who are initially driven by curiosity to research ISIS on the Web.
The law would provide graduated penalties. After the first violation, a person would receive a warning letter from the government; subsequent violations would result in fines or prison sentences. The idea would be to get out the word that looking at ISIS-related websites, like looking at websites that display child pornography, is strictly forbidden. As word spread, people like Amin would be discouraged from searching for ISIS-related websites and perhaps be spared radicalization and draconian punishment for more serious terrorism-related crimes.
Fuck you, Eric Posner, and the horse you rode in on. This is another example of Petty Tyrant Syndrome. Eric has seen something he doesn’t like, ISIS, and has decided the most expedient way to deal with it is to punish everybody. Since ISIS is using the Internet to spread its message Eric believes every user of the Internet must have a gun put to their heads so their brains can be immediately blown out if they post something that isn’t to his liking. And make no mistake, even though he tries to conceal the ultimate outcome of his proposed law by using euphemisms like “graduated penalties” this law, like all laws, would ultimately result in death by law enforcer. That’s because laws don’t recognize proportional responses.
If you break a minor law, are issued a citation, and fail to pay the State doesn’t throw up its hands in frustration and say, “Fuck it. It’s not worth the trouble to make you pay.” It issues an order to men with guns to hunt you down and kidnap you if you comply or murder you if you don’t.
Yesterday I mentioned that your right to free speech ceases to exist the second you enter somebody else’s property. But Eric isn’t proposing to censor people only on his own property. He’s proposing to censor people on everybody’s property. Under the lens of libertarianism he’s proposing to violate the shit out of everybody’s property rights. Therein lies the difference between censorship based on property rights and censorship based on legal decree. And that is why Eric Posner is a fucking cunt.
One of my socialist anti-gun friends posted this article on Facebook. It’s a fascinating article not so much because of its content but because of the cognitive dissonance the author, Chauncey Devega, openly displays:
When the New York Times editorial board issued its powerful condemnation of America’s gun culture, they went beyond mere outrage in response to the recent murder sprees in San Bernardino, California, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Times went so far as to suggest that “assault rifle”-style weapons should be banned from civilian ownership. As is our national ritual, President Obama also condemned gun violence, and just as he has been forced to do too many times during his tenure, pleaded that Americans must find a way to stop killing each other. The American people do in fact support stronger gun control laws; the NRA, functioning as the lobbying arm for the gun industry, opposes even the most basic common sense gun laws. The NRA wins while the American people die.
Devega disparages the fact gun control hasn’t been a political success as of late. As an author for Salon this probably doesn’t surprise anybody. What is surprisingly is the fact he then notes the fact that gun control in the United States is founded on racism:
After the Civil War, white Southerners desperately tried to snuff out the freedom dreams and democratic power of now free African-Americans. Once Reconstruction was betrayed, white Southerners would launch a reign of terror where it is estimated that approximately 50,000 black Americans were killed by whites. White elites understood the practical and symbolic power of the gun. As such, they passed laws that made it illegal for black Americans to own firearms. African-American Civil War veterans, a group that had earned their full citizenship as men via martial prowess, would be made the focus of special violence by white Southerners.
The notion that gun ownership should be exclusive to white people would be asserted once more. Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, worked to pass stricter gun laws because of the Black Panthers using open carry laws. Robert Williams would be forced into exile in Cuba. Black people who fought back against white racial terrorism were killed by white mobs, police, and other State actors.
Laws are the problem! Laws are the solution! This article is a self-contradictory mess, which is unavoidable when one is arguing democracy is the solution to minorities being oppressed. Democracies are based on the will of the of the designated voting bodies. Here in the United States the designated voting bodies include the Congress of the United States, the congresses of the individual states, the councils of incorporated cities, the school boards of each school district, and so on. Most of them operate under majority rules. Therefore the laws passed will inevitably reflect the will of the majority of those bodies. Congress is made up predominantly of white Christian males.
Voting bodies are just half of the equation though. The other half is law enforcement. It wouldn’t matter what any designated voting body decreed if it didn’t have a means of enforcing those decrees. In this country there are very powerful police forces whose primary job is to enforce the will of the designated voting bodies. Like the designated voting bodies, law enforcers are predominantly white.
Some of you are probably wondering why I’m making a big deal out of race. Since I don’t subscribe to collectivism I don’t believe membership in a category, such as race, is a valid indicator of their behavior. I mention it because it is the crux of Devega’s article:
There will be no effective gun control in the United States, even in the aftermath of horrific events such as Sandy Hook, the Planned Parenthood Shooting, or the San Bernardino massacre, until politicians, pundits, and analysts realize that the gun is a type of totem or fetish object for too many white men. As such, when we try to talk about gun control in America, a centuries-deep sense of white masculinity that understands the gun as its exclusive right is made to feel imperiled and upset.
If guns are a type of totem or fetish object for white men why does he think a voting body make up predominantly of white men is going to overcome their fetish? Why does he believe law enforcement bodies, against predominantly made up of whites, are going to fairly enforce the laws? Hell, we know for a face law enforcers don’t fairly enforce the laws. Although the laws passed today aren’t overtly racist, in fact many of them appear to be quite the opposite on the surface, the results indicate that they are either crafted to be covertly racist or the enforcers are enforcing the laws in a racist manner unchecked (in the case of the latter it would be necessary for the designated voting bodies to either be directly or implicitly accepting of such enforcement).
Devega claims that guns interfere with democracy. If that’s the case then he should support repealing every single gun law because democracy is the problem. It established a power hierarchy. One group of people are able to create and enforce laws while the other group of people cannot. That means the first group gets to make the rules and the rules it makes, due to human nature, favor the members of that group.
Until that power hierarchy is abolished cities will continue passing laws criminalizing homelessness, poor neighborhoods will continue to be demolished and replaced with more valuable properties that pay high property taxes, intellectual property laws will continue to serve the politically connected at the expense of their competitors, and gun control laws will target non-whites. That’s because the homeless, poor, small businesses, and non-white population are minorities not only in our society but especially in our designed voting bodies.
Pensions used to be one of the most sought after benefits and it’s easy to see why. On paper a pension allows you to put in your 30 years and receive a paycheck for the rest of your life. But things don’t always work out as planned. Many pensioners are learning the hard lesson that if you don’t have your compensation in hand you may never receive it:
Ken Petersen spent 30 years as a Teamster trucker, loading and hauling utility poles, fertilizer and other freight. All those years his employers socked money away for the monthly pension check Petersen has received since he retired from trucking in 2003.
Now, to save the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund from collapse, its trustees want to slash the pensions of 272,600 fund members, nearly 15,000 of whom are Minnesotan. Thousands are already retired and living on the pensions.
Petersen, 65, and working in a South St. Paul elementary school to make ends meet, said his monthly pretax retirement check would be chopped from $2,550 to $1,274.
The only constant in the universe is change. Pensions only work if certain criteria remain constant. The amount being paid into a pension fund must be greater than or equal to the amount being paid out. Pensioners have to die at the calculated rate, which is difficult to calculate due to improving medical technology. Whoever manages the pension account must not go bankrupt otherwise the account disappears. In other words there are numerous economic conditions under which a pension can fail.
Pensions, like stock options, are a gamble. They may pay off or they may not. This is why I tell people they don’t have any compensation that isn’t in their hand. If you’re offered a slightly larger paycheck now or a future pension take the bigger paycheck. Even if you looks like you’ll earn less over time it’s guaranteed.
Have you heard? There’s a culture war being waged! Our very way of life is threatened! Nowhere is this more apparently than on college campuses! Evil liberal college students are trying to suppress our right to free speech:
If Emory University students got their way, end-of-semester course evaluations would ask them to indicate whether their professors had committed “microaggressions” against them.
The explicit goal of such a question on evaluations would be to punish professors who engaged in speech that offended students. According to student-protesters, as reported by The Emory Wheel:
We demand that the faculty evaluations that each student is required to complete for each of their professors include at least two open-ended questions such as: “Has this professor made any microaggressions towards you on account of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, and/or other identity?” and “Do you think that this professor fits into the vision of Emory University being a community of care for individuals of all racial, gender, ability, and class identities?” These questions on the faculty evaluations would help to ensure that there are repercussions or sanctions for racist actions performed by professors. We demand that these questions be added to the faculty evaluations by the end of this semester, Fall 2015.
I’ve tried to stay out of this “culture war” nonsense because I made the mistake of assuming most libertarians understood what the root problems were. But as I see more and more libertarians latching onto the culture aspect I realize my assumption made an ass out of me. So let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.
Free speech isn’t the issue here, contrary to what many libertarians claim. Truth be told libertarianism doesn’t acknowledge free speech. Libertarianism acknowledges property rights. So long as you’re on your own property you can say whatever you want but the second you step foot on somebody else’s property they can boot you for saying something they don’t approve of. From a libertarian perspective the first problem isn’t free speech, it’s the lack of clear property rights. Public universities fall into the same murky category as all government property. Ownership is unclear therefore who gets to make the rules is unclear. But there’s another fundamental problem here. Even unclear property rights tend to be a trivial problem so long as the interests of everybody involved are mostly aligned.
These campus disputes are exacerbated by the fact a lot of people with vastly different beliefs are trying to control organizations that have no clear membership criteria. Most high school students have it drilled into their heads that their highest mission in life is to get a diploma so they can work for somebody. Therefore a high school student’s senior year usually consists of sending applications to universities. Although some students have specific schools in mind most just want to get accepted somewhere so they can get that piece of paper that fulfills their mission objective. On the flip side of this equation are the universities. They base who they accept primarily on academic criteria. In the end you have a bunch of students with no expressed purpose other than obtaining a diploma joining an organization that has no expressed membership criteria other than academic scores. Basically we’ve got a bunch of people who don’t necessarily agree with one another joining the same organization.
Let’s compare this with a pirate ship. Pirate ships are interesting because they necessarily require a crew cooperating with one another to function. Ownership of a pirate ship was much clearer than the ownership of a public university but it wasn’t what many libertarians would consider ideal. No single person who owned the ship. Instead each crew member effectively owned a share of the ship. Pirate ships also usually had a constitution. People wanting to join a pirate ship had to agree to the clauses of the ship’s constitution, which outlined everything from the chain of command to punishments to the division of plunder, before being accepted. The reason for this is obvious: a ship only functions if the entire crew is working together. To avoid having everything fall apart pirate ships told potential crew members what was expected of them before they signed up. Pirates chose their ship based on what they wanted. If a pirate didn’t want to, say, attack British ships (believe it or not many pirates were ideological and wouldn’t attack just anybody) they signed up with a ship that had a stated prohibition against attacking British ships. Furthermore any changes to the rules had to be approved by all members of the ship since each member was effectively a partial owner of the ship.
How does a pirate ship relate to a university? It’s an organization that’s a far more interesting example than, say, a hippie cooperative that specialized in gluten free, organic, free trade, all natural food and doesn’t suffer from the same pitfalls as most public universities.
Some university students want a tightly controlled environment where things like offensive speech are prohibited. Other students want a very loosely controlled environment where people can say almost anything without consequence. Neither of these desires are right or wrong, it’s just a difference in preference. Problems arise because ownership of most universities are unclear and they don’t outline membership criteria up front. Free speech isn’t the issue. Students becoming members of organizations with unclear processes for establishing and changing rules that also don’t align with their preferences is the problem.
People often argue when I point out that the Republican and Democratic parties are the same. After the San Bernardino shooting the Democrats rekindled calls to ban people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms. The Republican Party, hoping to prove it’s the opposite of the Democratic Party, proposed the same thing with a minor, and entirely irrelevant, difference:
What’s been lost in the debate is the fact that Republicans have an alternative to the Democratic proposal. Under Republican legislation sponsored by Senator John Cornyn, the federal government may delay the sale of a firearm to someone on the watch list for up to 72 hours. During that time, if the government can show a judge there’s “probable cause”–the same legal standard used to obtain a search warrant–that the individual is plotting terrorism, then the gun sale is denied outright. The measure received 55 votes in the Senate. It it secured the backing of staunch conservatives like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio as well as moderate Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly. The only Republican to oppose it was Mark Kirk.
Since there appears to be some confusion of what due process entails I will give an outline. Due process, on a very high conceptual level, first requires an accusation to be made based on credible evidence. After the accusation has been made an impartial body must be assembled. In front of this body the accuser must present their justification for the accusation and the accused must be given an opportunity to defend themselves against the accusations. Finally the impartial body, based on the arguments of the accuser and accused, must make a decision on whether the accusation is true. Unless that entire process is met due process is nonexistent.
Probable cause as you can see is not due process. Under the Republican Party’s scheme the accused isn’t given an opportunity to defend themselves nor is the final decision made by an impartial body that has heard both the accuser’s and accused’s arguments. Instead a secret government list is used to initially delay the purchase so another government employee, a judge, can order the purchase permanently barred. And make no mistake, any judge who has such a decision brought before them will almost certainly approve the ban because they don’t want to risk being the judge who approved the purchase of a firearm by a terrorist (this is called covering your ass).
The fact neither party has made a proposal that involves actual due process just demonstrates there isn’t a lick of difference between them. Both of parties are fascist parties.