A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for June, 2016

Apparently Forcing Everybody to Buy Insurance Doesn’t Make Prices Go Down

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I have some shocking news for you. Even though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed with the promise that forcing everybody to buy insurance would reduce prices the prices have — you might want to sit down because this is going to be shocking — gone up:

Insured Americans are having to shell out more and more for healthcare, particularly, hospital visits, researchers report this week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. From 2009 and 2013—before the biggest provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014—people with individual or employer-sponsored health insurances saw a 37 percent rise in out-of-pockets costs for a hospital stay. Average bills jumped from $738 to $1,013. That’s about a 6.5 percent increase each year. However, overall healthcare spending rose just 2.9 percent each year during that time-frame and premiums—the cost to buy insurance—rose by around 5.1 percent annually.

“Every year, people freak out about how high premiums have gotten and how they continue to grow exponentially, but [out-of-pocket costs are] actually growing even faster,” Emily Adrion, first author of the study and a researcher at the Center for Healthcare Outcomes and Policy at the University of Michigan, told Bloomberg.

What could possible be going on here? How can involving more government not fix a problem? The reason is actually quite simple. When you’re required to do business with somebody they have little motivation to provide you a quality service or keep your costs low. This is especially true in a market that is heavily protected against new competitors. The health insurance market, through regulatory protections, is hard for any new competitor to enter unless they’re in possession of billions of dollars. Because of that the already established insurance companies feel safe keeping their prices high so long as the other established companies also keep their prices high.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am

The Glories of Central Planning

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Socialists often criticize the market for allowing people to starve. They often say it’s unfair that somebody with surplus food is allowed to keep it while others starve to death. They also lambast the idea of property rights because the concept allows a person with a surplus of food to defend it against a starving thief. These are valid criticisms, mind you. But they also ignore an important fact. Markets and private property rights may allow some people to starve but you really need a centrally planned economy if you want to starve everybody:

The fight for food has begun in Venezuela. On any day, in cities across this increasingly desperate nation, crowds form to sack supermarkets. Protesters take to the streets to decry the skyrocketing prices and dwindling supplies of basic goods. The wealthy improvise, some shopping online for food that arrives from Miami. Middle-class families make do with less: coffee without milk, sardines instead of beef, two daily meals instead of three. The poor are stripping mangoes off the trees and struggling to survive.

Venezuela is an epitome of centrally planned economics. Much of the market has been “nationalized” (a fancy word for stolen by the State) and the Venezuelan government dictates a great deal regarding production and prices. Like the Soviet Union, Venezuela’s economy has collapsed and now people are starving.

In what must seem a twist of irony to proponents of central planning, there is hope for salvation. When the economy of the Soviet Union collapsed the thing that saved countless lives was the black market:

Everyday survival here requires of everyone – from childhood to old age – a street savvy that makes life in the inner cities of the West seem innocent by comparison. Many older Soviet people say the situation is much like it was after World War II. Survival is a degraded art form requiring such skills as knowing under which bridge the black-market gasoline dealers operate on Tuesdays and what sort of Western chocolates to give a schoolteacher on a state holiday so that a child can get decent treatment in the coming semester.

Anatoli Golovkov, the resident expert on economics at Ogonyok magazine, said, “There is nothing to buy through ordinary channels, but you can get anything you need if you are willing to play the game and pay big money. The whole process makes all of us cynical about the law and ourselves. It degrades us. But what’s the choice?

“For example, say I have guests coming, and I need a cut of meat, a couple of bottles of booze and a carton of good cigarettes. There’s really just one option. With a fistful of money, you go to one of the city markets. The state-run stalls are nearly empty. But you explain what you need to someone. He nods, and never saying a word, he writes down a price on a slip of paper and says, `Come back in an hour.’ When you come back, the package is all wrapped up in a copy of Pravda and off you go.”

When central planning begins starving everybody the market is there to save lives. It happened in the Soviet Union and it’s happening in Venezuela:

But in Maracaibo, the black market is an actual place. The contrabando, as sellers call it, sits on tables out in the open.

The odd part, to an American, is that this contrabando is available every day at Aisle 3 in my local Safeway: flour, rice, coffee, Tylenol. I went in with fixer/translator Yesman Utrera and photographer Jorge Galindo, on a specific mission: to find infant formula for our driver’s baby. By the time we found two cans to compare prices, both were sold.

The very thing that socialists accuse of starving people is the only thing that keeps people fed when socialism starts to starve them.

There are no perfect solutions. Every solution has pros and cons. The cons of the market and private property rights is that some people do indeed starve. But that is far less of a con in my book than the con socialism, which means everybody starves when the State can no longer keep the centrally planned economy propped up. When a centrally planned economy begins the collapse a major pro of the market comes into play: the incentive of personal gain spurs market actors to provide the goods people desperately need. Many will point out the high prices of dealing with these black market actors as a con of the market but they fail to understand that the high prices exist because the risks are so high. When a centrally planned economy begins to collapse it’s not unusual for the State to blame the very thing keeping people alive: the black market. In the hopes of keeping the economy propped up just a little bit longer the State sends agents to hunt, assault, kidnap, and/or kill black market actors. So the high prices aren’t the fault of the black market actors but the State that is trying to maintain its control over the ashes of the civilization it burned.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 29th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Some Things Never Change

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There are certain constants in the universe. Extremely massive bodies will have gravitational pull, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction, and people will work for beer. A 5,000-year-old table was discovered and translated. What did this ancient tablet have to tell us? That people worked for beer. The tablet, as with many tablets in Mesopotamia, was a receipt:

Writing in New Scientist, Alison George explains what’s written on the 5,000-year-old tablet: “We can see a human head eating from a bowl, meaning ‘ration,’ and a conical vessel, meaning ‘beer.’ Scattered around are scratches recording the amount of beer for a particular worker.” Beer wages were by no means limited to Mesopotamia. In ancient Egypt, there are records of people receiving beer for their work—roughly 4 to 5 liters per day for people building the pyramids. And in the Middle Ages, we have several records of the great fourteenth century poet Geoffrey Chaucer being paid in wine. Richard II generously gave Chaucer an annual salary that included a “tonel” of wine per year, which was roughly 252 gallons.

Today you can buy the assistance of friends to help fix your vehicle, move your stuff, or perform other forms of manual labor using this ancient tradition of paying in beer.

One of my interests as of late is the history of human languages. Cuneiform, the writing used for the beer receipt, was the first writing system we’re aware of. Interestingly enough it, like most things, was a product of the market:

The Sumerians first invented writing as a means of long-distance communication which was necessitated by trade. With the rise of the cities in Mesopotamia, and the need for resources which were lacking in the region, long-distance trade developed and, with it, the need to be able to communicate across the expanses between cities or regions.

Trade is the mother of invention. Remember what I said about many of these tablets being receipts? This is because Cuneiform was originally developed as a method of communicating trade information over long distances. Many of the tablets recovered from Mesopotamia discuss business transactions. Over time writing became used in more areas of life and today we plaster our languages over everything.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 29th, 2016 at 10:00 am

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You Can’t Own Property, Man

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Pop quiz time. Can you own property in Minneapolis? The answer is no. You can rent property in Minneapolis but that rental is subject to paying property taxes and utilizing the land in a manner that is expressly approved by the city council. If that last part sounds a bit strange it’s because you down own a surface parking lot. You see, the city council of Minneapolis has a dream. In that dream Minneapolis looked like Mega City I from Judge Dredd. Surface parking lots can’t pack in a million people so they’re on the list of properties to be axed.

So far the city council has been playing a cautious game but that looks like it may change:

It was a routine briefing of a Minneapolis City Council committee on a seemingly unrelated topic, but it offered the chance to rouse a long-simmering issue in Minneapolis:

What can the city do to rid itself of the acres of surface parking lots in and around downtown?

While development activity has seen many of those lots disappear, many remain — too many, according to Council Members Lisa Goodman and Jacob Frey, who used the May 11 briefing to press city assessor Patrick Todd to do something about it.

Like what? Goodman thinks the city should use state requirements that require property be assessed on its “highest and best use” — and not on its current use — to incentivize owners to either develop the land or sell to someone who will.

Because parking is scarce in Minneapolis a person can make pretty decent money with a surface parking lot. That really bothers certain council members such as Lisa Goodman. It bothers her so much that she wants to change the rules to make them unprofitable. That rule change is a simple one. Instead of assessing a parking lot as a parking lot for property tax purposes she wants to assess them as if they were being used for her vision of their best use. Since her vision is high density apartment complexes the assessment would jack up the property taxes to, she hopes, a level the owners can’t sustain. In fact she flat out says that they must not be paying enough taxes:

“If they’re making enough money by selling parking downtown,” she said, “then they’re not being taxed high enough, and they’re certainly not being taxed high enough for a potential Class A office use.”

Do you know what those surface parking lots were taxed enough for? Funding a study to decide on how best to destroy them:

In 2013, amid planning for the new Vikings Stadium, the group HR&A Advisors conducted a $40,000 study of ways to reduce the number of surface lots in Minneapolis. Several council ordinances have sought to force beautification of parking lots, something that could have also increased the costs associated with operating them. And a bill introduced by state Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, would allow Minneapolis and St. Paul to impose a per-stall fee on parking, with revenue going to public plazas, transit lines, bike facilities and pedestrian improvements.

This is another reason you should avoid paying whatever taxes you can. When you pay taxes they are often used to fund your destruction.

What we have here are central planners run amuck. Consumers have already spoken and they want surface parking lots. How can I say this since there hasn’t been any kind of vote? Unlike voting, the market actually indicates what consumers want. Because there are enough consumers paying to use these surface parking lots to make them profitable we know for a fact that those lots are in demand with consumers. Goodman doesn’t like them and instead of offering to buy those lots herself she’s using tax dollars to fund studies to determine the best way to destroy them… in a manner that requires the denizens of Minneapolis pay for it.

In the end I predict that the city council will get its way because it will just keep cranking up the taxes until it bleeds surface lot owners dry. Then those lots will sit empty because if developers really wanted those lots they’d have already bought them.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 28th, 2016 at 10:30 am

You Have to Appreciate His Honesty

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The Republican and Democratic parties seem to disagree on many things but they can agree on one thing: they both hate Muslims. But the Republican Party is far more overt about its hatred. Still, like most racists, the party usually tries to keeps its hatred tucked under a burqa thin veil of justifications that aren’t related to religion or race.

Every now and then one of the Republicans slips off of his leash and blatantly states their views on Islam. Funny enough, that view almost always reflects how the Nazis views the Jews:

An Oklahoma lawmaker personally propagated an article over the weekend calling for a “final solution” regarding “radical Islam,” arguing that the 1,400-year-old faith is not a religion and should not be protected under the first amendment of the Constitution.

On Sunday, Oklahoma State Rep. Pat Ownbey re-published an article to his Facebook page entitled “Radical Islam – The Final Solution.” The article was originally published on the personal blog of Paul R. Hollrah, an Oklahoman who touts himself as a “retired government relations executive,” but Ownbey appears to have copy-pasted the piece and reposted it in its entirety, citing Hollrah.

[…]

“And since the 95% of Muslims who are described as either ‘moderate’ or ‘un-radicalized’ appear unwilling to play an active role in keeping their radicalized brethren in check, we have no long term alternative but to quarantine them… prohibiting them from residing anywhere within the civilized nations of the Earth,” he writes.

The Nazis felt that the Jews had to be quarantined as well. That’s not even a case of Godwin’s Law, that’s historical fact. Likewise, they called their plan the final solution.

A lot of people argue that the State is necessary to defend against bigotry such as racism, religious prejudice, and sexism. While that sounds good on paper the reality is that the State is usually the biggest enabler of persecution. It was, after all, the United States government that legally required citizens and individual states to help capture and return escaped slaves. It was the United States government that rounded up people of Japanese decent and put them in concentration camps. passed and enforced by state and municipal governments. In other words, the worst forms of bigotry are created and enforced by the State. Without an apparatus as big and as powerful as the government of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust would not have been possible. That’s why it’s far scarier when members of the State talk about persecuting people than when individuals do. It’s also why defending against bigotry doesn’t require the State but the abolition of the State.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Monday Metal: Prey by Equilibrium

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This week we’re going to listen to some folk metal. Equilibrium has a new album coming out in August and the band has released a lyric video for the song Prey. I really dig the melody they have going on in this song:

Written by Christopher Burg

June 27th, 2016 at 10:00 am

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Seceding is Good for the Soul

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Yesterday Britain proved it had more guts than Scotland. When the opportunity to leave the European Union presented itself to the British people they actually voted to leave. It hasn’t even been 24 hours since the votes were tallied and Britain is already reaping the benefits of exiting:

Prime Minister David Cameron is to step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, he said “fresh leadership” was needed.

The PM had urged the country to vote Remain but was defeated by 52% to 48% despite London, Scotland and Northern Ireland backing staying in.

Getting rid of that pig fucker is a huge plus. Sadly, this vote might also demonstrate that the spirit of Braveheart is completely dead in Scotland:

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “absolutely determined” to keep Scotland in the EU so a second Scottish independence referendum was now “highly likely”.

Scotland my secede from the United Kingdom just so it can make itself the bitch of a larger master? Sad.

I should note that I was hoping the United Kingdom would secede from the European Union. Not because of the major issue at hand, the United Kingdom’s desire to prevent people from crossing its imaginary lines, but because I just wanted to see somebody secede from somebody else. I want to see continuous acts of secession until all seven billion people have seceded from all governments. One country breaking away from an ill-fated union is a good start.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 24th, 2016 at 11:00 am

The B-Team

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In 2016 a wannabe commando unit was sent to a holding cell by a civilian judge to stand trial for a crime they did commit. These men promptly escaped from jail to the New York City underground by posting bail. Today, still wanted by the police, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can’t afford anybody better, maybe you can hire the B-Team.

John Cramsey’s 20-year-old daughter died from a heroin overdose four months earlier in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

He and two friends Dean Smith and Kimberly Arendt were stopped by police for driving with a cracked windscreen.

They told the arresting police officers that they were a group of vigilantes on their way to rescue a teenage girl.

I know this story is going to raise a lot of question. For starters, how did the police identify this crack commando team? Obviously they went to great lengths to be as inconspicuous as possible…

b-team-truck

Nothing says inconspicuous like a truck with neon green tastelessly plastered all over a truck. The target reticle painted on the side is a nice touch as well. I’m sure you’re wondering what the B-Team’s load out was.

A camouflage helmet, seven guns including rifles, and knives were recovered from the car, as well as cannabis, body armour and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

2,000 rounds of ammunition? I bet they were planning on using discount Mini-14s (Is there a discount Mini-14? Maybe, like, a Hi-Point carbine or something?) and didn’t plan to hit anything they shot at.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 24th, 2016 at 10:30 am

How Do You Get on The Terrorist Watch Lists? Be in the Wrong Place When an Officer Needs to Fill a Quota.

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With all the talk about prevent terrorists from buying guns I think it’s time we sat down and asked what a terrorist, in this context, means. When people say they want to prevent terrorists from buying guns what they really mean is that they want to prevent people on the terrorist watch lists from buying guns. But being on the terrorist watch lists doesn’t mean you’re a terrorist. In fact, over 40 percent of the names on the lists aren’t affiliate with any known terrorist organization.

So what lands somebody on the lists if they’re not affiliated with any known terrorist organization? One way is to be in the wrong place when an officer needs to fill a quota:

You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they’re reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they’re required to submit at least one report a month. If they don’t, there’s no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

This is the problem with secret lists that have secret criteria. Anything can potentially land you on the lists. Since they’re secret you don’t even know you’re on one. Furthermore, if you do find out you’re on one there’s no way of getting off of it.

This is the problem with using lists that involve no due process to punish people. Under the laws the gun control advocates are fighting for you could lose your right to purchase a gun just because you were sitting near an air marshal when they needed to fulfill a monthly quota.

The Democrats Want to Prohibit Muslims from Owning Firearms

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Yesterday the Democrats had a little sit-in. They were trying to prevent any politicking from happening until the Republicans agree to vote for a gun control bill. Let me start off by saying that preventing politicking from happening is a noble thing. I think the Democrats were being a shining example for their fellow politicians. More politicians should sit around and do nothing. The longer they sit and do nothing the longer they’re not voting on measures and the longer the people can enjoy relief from the tyranny of law makers.

But it behooves us to look at their motives. Many Democrats cheered their fellow politicians on. They believed this sit-in is noble because of what the Democratic politicians were trying to achieve. However, what they were trying to achieve was to prohibit Muslims from owing firearms:

While sit-in participants are also advocating for expanded background checks and an assault weapons ban, their primary call to action is for a vote on a measure that would ban gun sales to people listed on a federal government watchlist – a move clearly designed more for its political potency than for its effectiveness.

And the government’s consolidated terrorist watchlist is notoriously unreliable. It has ensnared countless innocent Americans, including disabled war veterans and members of Congress. Nearly half of the people on these watch lists were designated as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation,” according to documents obtained by The Intercept in 2014.

What little we do know about the terrorist watch lists, thanks to a handful of leaks, is that over 40 percent of the names on them aren’t affiliated with any known terrorist organizations and that many of the names sound Muslim. There’s nothing noble about trying to block people of a specific religion from buying firearms. In fact, not to go all Godwin (since this is an accurate historical example), that’s exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews.

People criticize the Republicans for persecuting Muslims and rightly so. But the Democrats seem to get a pass even though they’re working towards the same ends. They’re two sides of the same fascist coin.