Layers of Protection

I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this but the political process is not an effective means of changing the system. Welcome to the universe, it’s a harsh place that doesn’t care about your hopes and dreams.

Politicos mistakenly believe that if they can get the right person in the right office that the system can be changed for the better (here “better” means whatever political aspirations the politico has, not what is actually better by any sane definition). But it’s a naive belief. Politicians are only one layer in a multi-layer system that has been built up over the centuries to protect and expand the State.

Take something as simple as a sheriff’s office. You might think that electing the right sheriff will get all of the bad apples in that department fired. Were the sheriff the only layer of protection that could be the case but even a county sheriff’s office has multiple layers of protection that ensure the State’s expropriators are protected against the consequences of their actions:

A northern Minnesota sheriff’s office has been ordered by a labor arbitrator to reinstate a deputy back to the force after being fired for a 2015 DUI conviction, according to public records.

Mahnomen Count Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Ohren and his union, Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc., successfully fought the firing, leaving county officials angered and forcing the sheriff to find a non-investigative role for him.

Today, despite his driving record, Ohren is transporting jail inmates around northern Minnesota in a sheriff’s vehicle, not being assigned to respond to 911 calls or crimes due to his credibility being subject to question should he ever have to testify in court.

While Ohren must blow into a breathalyzer before he can start his car going to and from work, the deputy doesn’t have to when he is driving on county time.

In this case a sheriff’s office fired a bad apple but Minnesota’s law enforcer’s union stepped in, fought the firing, and managed to get the bad apple reinstated. Here the union acted as a second layer of protection for the officer.

This complexity is rampant within the State. It ensures that no single individual within the system can make any meaningful changes. It also means that electing the right person to the right office won’t accomplish anything unless that person intends to expand the State (because then they’re working with the various layers of protection, not against them).

When people hear the phrase “A system of checks and balances.” they believe that those checks and balances are meant to limit the power any politician has. In reality those checks and balances are against any forces that would threaten the State’s power.

The Hierarchy of Symbols

Another day, another stupid political controversy. This time the controversy involves that symbol everybody loves to lose their shit over, the flag of the United States of America. Donald Trump tweeted that he thinks flag burners should be punished, which is yet another position he shares with Hillary Clinton. As expected, neocons have been jumping for joy at his proposal.

The nation’s skycloth is a symbol and as George Carlin once said, “I leave symbols to the symbol minded.” I’ve never burned a flag nor do I worship it. Another symbol of the United States of America is the Bill of Rights, which is a list of amendments that granted temporary privileges. The very first amendment states that freedom of expression is a protected right. So what we have here is an argument over which symbol sits higher on the Hierarchy of Symbols.

What takes precedence, the nation’s skycloth or the list of temporary privileges? I don’t really care what anybody’s answer to that question is but I feel that it’s important to clarify what people are actually arguing about.

It was Going to Happen Eventually

Whenever there is an attack on a school or college campus most people tend to focus on the tool used by the attacker. So far we’ve been fortunate that a majority of these attackers have preferred firearms to explosives, which have the potential to cause far more damage and are only addressed in a limited capacity by current security measures. Unfortunately, yesterday an attacker decided to utilize an automobile and knife to attack the Ohio State University:

Police are investigating whether an attack at Ohio State University which left 11 injured was an act of terror.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, rammed his car into a group of pedestrians at the college and then began stabbing people before police shot him dead on Monday.

This is the second major incident where a knife was one of the weapons used by the attacker. A few months ago a guy went on a rampage with a knife in St. Cloud (and the police were good enough to lockdown the mall so people were trapped inside with the attacker). But this is the first time, at least in recent history, that this type of attack was perpetrated in part with one of the most dangerous commonly available weapons, an automobile.

The amount of energy something has is based on its mass and velocity. A 230 grain .45 bullet traveling at 900 feet per second will give you 414 foot pounds of energy. A 124 grain 9mm bullet traveling at 1,200 feet per second will give you 384 foot pounds of energy. A 1.5 ton vehicle moving at 30 miles per hour will give you 90,259 foot pounds of energy. As you can see, a vehicle can deliver a tremendous amount of energy and therefore can deliver a tremendous amount of damage. On top of that a vehicle provides the driver with some amount of protection against police weapons (in part because it’s capable of moving fast, in part because part of the driver is concealed, and in part because the engine block can protect the driver from a lot of types of commonly used ammunition). And then there’s the fact that an automobile contains combustable fuel.

So far people have been fortune that most of these attackers have opted for firearms on foot rather than using a vehicle. Even in this case the amount of damage the attacker could have caused was reduced because he opted to exit the vehicle and continue is rampage on foot with a knife.

Fortunately, it doesn’t appear as though the attacker had much success. He did manage to injure 11 people but so far it appears that he didn’t kill anybody. However, if the next attacker decides to study previous attacks to learn from them they could leave a bodycount in their wake. So the big question is, what can be done?

Of course colleges can try to hinder automobiles from entering the campus by erecting concrete pillars akin to those in front of many stores. But maintenance and delivery people often need to get vehicles on campus so some means of access has to remain. And blocking vehicle traffic will only cause an attacker to seek another tool. The only real defense against these kinds of attacks is a decentralized response system. One of the biggest weaknesses that allows these attacks to meet a high degree of success is the highly centralized security measures currently in place. When one of these attacks starts an alert is sent to the police. The police then need to get to the location of the attack, find the attacker, and engage them. This usually means that the attacker has several minutes of free reign. The faster the attacker can be engaged the less time they have to perpetuate their indiscriminate attack. Any further centralized security measures will meet with limited success. At most they will force an attacker to change their strategy to something not addressed by the centralized system.

Obviously legalizing the carrying of firearms on campus is a good start. Permit holders add a great deal of uncertainty for attackers because anybody could potentially engage them. Since permit holders don’t wear obvious uniforms an attacker also can’t know which individuals to take out first (and by surprise so the unformed security person doesn’t have a chance to respond). Another thing that can be done to make these attacks more difficult is getting rid of the shelter in place concept. Sheltering in place can be an effective defensive strategy if the people sheltering have a means of defending themselves. If they don’t then they’re basically fish in a barrel if the attacker finds them and gains entry to their shelter (although in the case of a vehicle sheltering in place can be effective, especially in a relatively hardened building like those on many college campuses).

Who Would Have Guessed

Americans love torture. Republicans are at least honest about this as they campaign to bring back waterboarding but the Democrats love it as well so long as their guy is in charge of it. During the campaign Donald Trump stated that he wanted to bring waterboarding back. Hopefully he changed his mind about that though. Waterboarding was one of the things discussed in Trumps meeting with James Mattis and Mattis pointed out the bloody obvious:

Trump said that the advice from Mattis, a front-runner for the defense secretary post in a Trump administration, would weigh heavily on whether he will go forward with campaign pledges to bring back waterboarding and torture in interrogations by the military and the CIA.

In his meeting last week with the man he calls “Mad Dog Mattis,” Trump said he asked, “What do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ ”

Trump said Mattis told him, ” ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.’ “

Who would have guessed that treating somebody at least somewhat decently would net you more reliable information than beating them until they told you what they thought you wanted to hear in the hopes that you’d stop beating them?

Statists seem to believe that if violence isn’t solving your problem then you’re not using enough of it. But violence doesn’t solve all problems. For example, if you want to get reliable information out of somebody beating it out of them isn’t the way to go. When you start beating them they will simply tell you what they think you want to hear, not what is truthful. On the other hand, if you build a relationship with them that makes them feel positive about you then they’re more apt to give you reliable information because they like you and want to make you happy. It’s the same reason why bombing a people until they like you is much more difficult than establishing positive business relationships with them via trade.

Cognitive Dissonance

Fidel Castro’s death really brought out the cognitive dissonance.

He was a communist so the leftists love him even though he rounded up homosexuals for “reeducation” and had a very iron fist attitude when it came to crime in that he liked to execute “criminals” in mass.

He was a communist so the rightists hate him even though he rounded up homosexuals for “reeducation” and had a very iron fist attitude when it came to crime in that he liked to execute “criminals” in mass.

Fuckin’ Prices, How Do They Work?

Today is Cyber Monday, which may have been the first in a long list of regular words to get the word “cyber” needlessly tacked onto it. While people do their cyber shopping on Cyber Monday for cyber deals they may ask themselves, why the fuck can I order a big screen television for a few hundred bucks but can’t even get a simple medical diagnosis without blowing through my deductible? The answer to that, as with the answer to most economic questions along those lines, has to do with government granted monopolies:

Take a look at this chart assembled by AEI. It reveals two important points. First, there is no such thing as an aggregate price level, or, rather what we call the price level is a statistical fiction. Second, it shows that competitive industries offer goods and services that are falling in price due to market pressure. In contrast monopolized industries can extract ever higher rents from people based on restriction.

There’s no such thing as an aggregate price level? Next you’ll tell me that gross domestic product is a made up number as well!

If you click on the link and look at the chart you’ll see that prices for college tuition, textbooks, childcare, and medical care have been increasing rapidly whereas the prices for television, toys, software, and wireless services have been decreasing rapidly. The difference? The goods and services that have been increasing in price are all monopolized or otherwise heavily restricted by the State whereas the goods and services that have been decreasing in price all exist in markets with an extremely high level of competition.

The takeaway from this is that there is a vicious cycle when it comes to prices and the State. When prices go up people demand that the State intervene to bring prices down. Usually it was the State’s involvement that caused the prices to go up in the first place and if people get what they want the prices will go up even further as the State gets further involved. With the ramifications of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) becomes apparent many people are demanding the State step in to fix its mess. But most people aren’t demanding that the State decrease its involvement in the healthcare market. Instead they’re demanding that it further increase its involvement by implementing a single payer system. In other words, people are demanding that the vicious cycle be continued and if it is (which it almost certainly will be) we’ll see healthcare prices jump even higher (but those increases will probably be hidden in payroll taxes so most people remain ignorant of them and thus believe that the problem was solved).

A Retraining Order is Only a Step in a Multistep Plan

Many people facing abuse will pull a restraining order against their abuser. Although my history of advising against interacting with the State may make some believe that I would advise against pursuing a restraining order the opposite is true. I highly recommend getting a restraining order against an abuser. When it comes to survival you should use every single tool available to you. A retraining order does offer several important legal protections, especially if you are in a situation where you have to defend yourself against your abuser. With that said, your survival strategy must include more than just a restraining order. A restraining order is literally a piece of paper and therefore can’t protect you if your abuser decides to violate it.

Stores like this are, unfortunately, all too common:

Lucas A. Jablonski, 25, of Anoka, was charged Monday in Anoka County District Court with second-degree murder in the death in mid-August of 34-year-old Becky L. Drewlo, whose parents have been her guardians since she turned 18 in November 2000.

Jablonski has been jailed since he was charged in early September with violating the terms of the restraining order, which was granted at the request of her mother in September 2014.

Earlier violations by Jablonski of the same restraining order — in October 2014 and January 2016 — led to convictions in both instances but no significant time in custody.


Jablonski had been living with Drewlo for several weeks leading up to her death, the complaint read, despite the restraining order being in force that “precluded [him] from having any contact with Ms. Drewlo and from being at her apartment.”

In the petition for the restraining order, Laura Drewlo noted that Jablonski had “taken advantage of Becky sexual[ly] many times. Becky lacks sufficient understanding [and] therefore doesn’t understand the consequences.” She said her daughter had considered Jablonski her boyfriend in the months leading up to the petition being filed.

She said her daughter was in a program that allowed her to live independently with professional assistance and keep a job.

This case is more complicated than many since the victim appears to have been suffering from a mental disability, which likely prevented her from being able to protect herself. My usual go to advice, taking measures to improve your ability to defend yourself, likely don’t apply here. But it does illustrate the limitations of a restraining order.

A restraining order is only effective if the person holding it reports infractions against the order and the police respond to the report. Even then punishments for violating restraining orders are often minor. In this case the suspect had violated the order multiple times but received no significant punishments. And if the violation turns into an attack the order has no ability to defend the victim.

Pulling a restraining order should be seen as a step in a multistep plan. A restraining order provides legal protections, which can be valuable in the aftermath of a self-defense case against an abuser. But they don’t offer any physical protection. Other steps in the plan should address this deficiency.