A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for December, 2017

Extending Professional Courtesy into Next Year

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Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman promised to announce whether Office Noor, the Minneapolis law enforcer who murdered Justined Ruszczyk, would be charged. Today Freeman made an announcement but it wasn’t the announcement he promised:

A decision on whether Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor should be charged in the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond will be made sometime in 2018, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Thursday.

His professional courtesy will be extending into next year, which makes sense. The 2018 Super Bowl is being hosted in Minneapolis. Based on what the public has learned so far it appears that Noor isn’t going to be charged. When that’s announced it will likely cause some civil unrest. Seeing how far the city and country have already gone to appease their National Football League (NFL) masters I’m not surprised that this announcement is being pushed back into 2018, likely sometime after February 4th.

This must is clear, justice, or even the illusion of justice, isn’t as important as the annual handegg championship game.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 29th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Rent Is too Damn High

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Remember Jimmy McMillan, the founder of the Rent Is too Damn High Party?

He wasn’t wrong:

A recent survey by New York councilmember Helen Rosenthal found 12% of stores on one stretch of the Upper West Side is unoccupied and ‘for lease’. The picture is repeated nationally. In October, the US surpassed the previous record for store closings, set after the 2008 financial crisis.

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“It’s not Amazon, it’s rent,” says Jeremiah Moss, author of the website and book Vanishing New York. “Over the decades, small businesses weathered the New York of the 70s with it near-bankruptcy and high crime. Businesses could survive the internet, but they need a reasonable rent to do that.”

Part of the problem is the changing make-up of New York landlords. Many are no longer mom-and-pop operations, but institutional investors and hedge funds that are unwilling to drop rents to match retail conditions. “They are running small businesses out of the city and replacing them with chain stores and temporary luxury businesses,” says Moss.

In addition, he says, banks will devalue a property if it’s occupied by a small business, and increase it for a chain store. “There’s benefit to waiting for chain stores. If you are a hedge fund manager running a portfolio you leave it empty and take a write-off.”

Fucking late stage capitalism!

I wrote that sarcastically but there are people who are saying it seriously. If one only possesses an infantile knowledge of capitalism, it would be easy for them to blame this predicament on capitalism instead of the real culprit, government. The economic system the United States operates under can best be described as government manipulated privately held businesses. While businesses in the United States are nominally private they are heavily manipulated by government. Wealthy businesses are able to hire lobbyists who can influence politicians into massaging the regulatory field. The lobbyists work to create a regulatory field that favors their employers while simultaneously hurting their employer’s competitors. For example, a lobbyist working for Comcast might influence city politicians to raise the cost of the permits required to bury fiberoptic cable. A large Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Comcast can easily soak up those additional permit costs whereas small local ISPs are not able to and thus are forced to go out of business.

This manipulated environment is also a feedback loop. As wealthy organizations are able to push out more and more competitors they are able to become more and more wealthy. As they become more and more wealthy they are able to afford more regulatory manipulation and so on. The inevitable end of this feedback loop is an economy controlled by a handful of wealthy politically-connected players and devoid of small businesses. Banks, as major players in the regulatory manipulation game, recognize this and thus acknowledge that properties occupied or owned by large corporations are far more valuable that properties occupied or owned by individually owned businesses. Property owners going off of the banks’ assessments will let their properties sit empty until a large corporation shows interest in buying or renting it.

Parts of the United States are already reaching the point where individually owned businesses can no longer succeed. Other parts of the United States will eventually reach the same point. The feedback loop will continue until small businesses can only exist in the black market.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 29th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Designed by Apple in California

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Designed by Apple in California is a tagline the company uses to add a little prestige to their Chinese manufactured electronics. In addition to designing electronics the company also designs its own stores. However, when people in California design stores they often overlook environmental issues that are rare there but common elsewhere, such as ice and snow:

Apple’s new flagship retail store in Chicago, the one with a MacBook-shaped rooftop, is nothing short of an architectural marvel. At least, that’s how some news reports put it when the store opened back in October. Beyond standing out among the less inspired buildings of the downtown Chicago area, the new Apple Store also happens to be very poorly thought through considering its thin roof now has dangerous icicles hanging perilously over public walkways.

Designed by Apple in a state that doesn’t have to deal with arctic bullshit. As a Minnesotan I can’t help but laugh at this.

Apple isn’t the first company to run into this problem and it won’t be the last. It’s too easy to take architecture for granted. An architect in California can easily overlook the effects harsh winters will have on their building. An architect in Minnesota can easily overlook the effects earthquakes will have on their building. If you’re tasked with designing a building that will be built in another region, it might be a good idea to contact some architects in that area and ask them about environmental issues they have to design around.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 29th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Being a Sore Loser Is Lucrative

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Roy Moore is such a piece of shit that he couldn’t even managed to pull off a win in the red state of Alabama. Not only is he a loser but he’s a sore loser. Instead of fading into the shadows after his opponent was declared the winner of the race he has filed a lawsuit to block his opponent from taking office:

Attorneys for defeated Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore filed a lawsuit Wednesday to block the state from certifying Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of the special election held earlier this month, The Associated Press reported.

Jones defeated Moore in the Dec. 12 election by slightly less than 21,000 votes, a margin of 1.5 percent, but Moore has yet to concede the race. He has continued to ask donors to contribute to his “election integrity fund,” pledging to pursue “voter fraud and other irregularities at polling locations throughout the state.”

Emphasis mine.

This charade is pretty obvious. Moore is likely under no delusion that this lawsuit will result in him being give the seat. But the longer he’s able to drag this lawsuit on the longer he’s able to continue begging his supporters for money. He is probably hoping that this lawsuit will result in a sizable war chest for the next election.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 28th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Politics

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Can You Steal from a Thief

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An Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) office was arrested because he is suspected of stealing weapons from the department:

An Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of theft and weapons violations after officials say he kept eight flashbang grenades from a 2011 training session instead of turning them over to the department, according to court records.

But the question remains, can you steal from a thief? The department’s weapons are paid for with tax dollars and civil forfeiture funding. In other words the department’s weapons are paid for with stolen wealth. Assuming John Petculescu, the man who is charged with stealing the weaponry, is a tax payer, which is a pretty good assumption since he was a DPS employee, he has just as much of a right to those weapons as any other tax payer or victim of civil forfeiture. Unfortunately, the government has claimed a monopoly on theft for itself, which gives it the option to severely punish anybody who challenges its monopoly.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 28th, 2017 at 10:30 am

With Great Power Comes… Great Power

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Sometimes I wish that I was a politician because then I could vote myself a raise whenever I wanted one:

MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) – The Minneapolis City Council last Friday approved a pay raise for all its members and the incoming mayor starting in 2018, according to public documents.

Though the resolution was not previously on the agenda or passed through any standing committees, outgoing Council President Barb Johnson proposed the measure at this year’s final meeting to give each member of the Council and the mayor a $10,000 salary increase, with annual raises matching those given to other city employees through collective bargaining agreements. The proposal passed unanimously, though no period of public comment was noted in the meeting’s minutes.

Politicians who vote themselves raises like to make any number of excuses. The most common excuse is that any vote for a raise doesn’t take effect until after the newly elected politicians take office so they’re not actually voting themselves a raise. However, with such a high incumbency rate in this country voting for a raise for the next set of politicians is usually the same as voting themselves a raise so that excuse is incredibly feeble. Other politicians try to justify giving themselves raises by claiming that they do a hard job. But robbing people and forcing them to do their bidding isn’t terribly hard since they have an army of uniformed thugs willing to do their dirty work.

Of course the denizens of Minneapolis could always opt to replace the entire city council but the next set of politicians will do the exact same thing because almost nobody is going to turn down the opportunity to give themselves a raise. This is what democracy looks like.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 28th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Io Saturnalia

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It’s almost Christmas so I will leave you with a gift, a picture of the Elk God proudly displaying the severed head of a demon elk he has slain.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 22nd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Protectionism

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I live in Minnesota so I’m used to the concept of driving to neighboring less tax happy states to acquire cheaper goods, especially goods that are eligible for sin taxes. Many tax happy states find themselves competition, especially near their borders, with their less greedy neighbors and this causes a great deal of friction that ultimately leads to tax happy states protecting themselves by brining legal might against its denizens who shop in neighboring states:

Keeping the old punch bowl filled can get spendy at this time of year, so you can’t blame Juncheng Chen for making an epic party run to try to keep costs down. Unfortunately, officials in his home state of New York don’t like it when their captive subjects drive across the border to stock up in jurisdictions where the booze prices are cheaper. They arrested him earlier this month and issued a press release about law enforcement’s great blow against frugal scofflawry.

“Juncheng Chen, 45, of 136-18 64th Road, Flushing, Queens, was arrested by investigators with the Tax Department’s Criminal Investigations Division after his vehicle was stopped by New York State Police in Rye, NY. The vehicle was packed with 757 liters of liquor, which Chen allegedly purchased at five different liquor outlets in New Hampshire.”

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New York, as it turns out, taxes booze at $6.44 per gallon. Hefty as that sounds, that’s only somewhere around the middle of the pack, as U.S. states go. But people are natural comparison shoppers, and bargains abound. “Spirits are taxed the least in Wyoming and New Hampshire, where government-run stores have set prices low enough that they are comparable to having no taxes on spirits,” notes the Tax Foundation. With such a price differential at hand, why not make a long-distance party run and split the savings with some lucky customers?

Well, except that state officials get pissy if they catch you.

Statists are often baffled by the fact that libertarians oppose taxes. In their world taxes are this magical thing that leads to the creating of great products and services. What they don’t see is the dark side of taxation, the force used to collect it. The United States of America is supposed to be one country where denizens of one state can freely travel to and perform business in other states. However, tax laws in one state can lead to legal trouble for people who buy goods or services in a neighboring state. Here in Minnesota the state government actually expects denizens to pay it the difference in taxes if a good or service is acquired in a state with lower taxes. If you don’t, and the state catches you, it can and will bring its law enforcers into the equation to extract the money out of you by force.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Taxpocalypse

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I doubt there is anybody in this country who isn’t aware of the tax bill that was recently passed. I’m not writing a post arguing whether it will or won’t actually lead to lower taxes because I’m not actually qualified to digest the current tax code, let alone the new tax code. Instead I’m just going to wait and see if I actually get to keep more of my paycheck.

What I do want to write about is peoples’ reactions, specially those who opposed this bill from the beginning. If most of these people were opposing the bill because it would actually lead to higher taxes, I could understand their reaction. However, most of them aren’t complaining about that. Instead they’re almost hysterical because various government programs are getting cut and that will somehow lead to people spontaneously combusting or some such nonsense.

With almost instantaneous access to information across the world I cannot fathom how anybody still believes that government programs actually do what their proponents claim they do. Everyday we read stories about government programs either not delivering the services they promise to deliver, money being diverted from government services into the pockets of the people put in charge of them, or new private startups coming into existence in order to provide the very service the government service provider promises to deliver. What I’m saying is that the government doesn’t actually do what it claims it does and therefore nobody would care if a department charged with providing a specific service gets its funding cut.

No matter how much funding government service providers receive they always provide, at best, a subpar service and their slack must sooner or later be picked up by nongovernmental individuals and organizations. That being the case, letting individuals and organizations who actually help people keep a bit of their money will do more good than any funding to a government program.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2017 at 10:00 am

An Impressive Level of Corruption

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People often talk about the amount of corruption present in so-called third world nations. They mention how police officers in Latin American will pull you over but not issue a ticket if you slip them $20 or how getting a building permit in a timely manner in Africa requires a bit of grease to get the gears moving. However, this kind of corruption is amateur hour compared to the corrupt here in the United States of America, especially around Washington DC.

Consider this story. It involves a state government giving permission to a foreign company to operate a tollway at an area that suffers from significant traffic congestion. As part of this deal the state government gets a kickback and in exchange it prevents improvements from being made to either the nearby roadways or mass transit systems. On top of that a local level of government pretended to fight the deal until it was given a kickback of its own:

The current I-66 project, as well as the express lane schemes on Interstates 95, 395 and 495, all contain contract provisions negotiated behind closed doors that ensure improvements are never made to streets bordering the tolled routes. The theory is that the free roads are the “competition” for the toll road, so the deals say that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) must pay the foreign firms “compensation” in the event improvements are made. This is a powerful financial incentive for VDOT never to improve Northern Virgnia’s notorious congestion.

Leaders in Arlington, the city surrounding the tolled stretch of I-66, originally feigned opposition to tolling, but subsequent events show that they were just holding out to win lavish concessions from the state in the form of transit funding. With more buses tying up the streets already narrowed to accommodate bicycle lanes that are never used, the area’s congestion will necessarily increase.

Defenders of the I-66 deal often say people can just use transit or carpool, but they fail to mention that the I-66 deal extended existing high-occupancy restrictions by three hours. They likely are not aware that the I-66 contract limits improvements to the Orange Line Metro, and that the road will soon require three occupants instead of just two to qualify as a carpool. The I-95 and I-495 Express Lane deals force state taxpayers to pay penalties to Transurban, an Australian company, if carpooling actually becomes popular.

The governments of Virginia and Arlington as we as Transurban must be felling good right now. All three of them have already made money on this deal and their profits are only going to increase! And the best part is that none of them have to worry about a pesky competitor throwing a wrench into their scheme because the governments have a monopoly on the transportation infrastructure and can therefore prevent additional parties from building more roadways, light rail, or other forms of transportation! Everybody is a winner except the plebs who have to drive between Virginia and Washington DC.

While people living in the United States think so-called third world nations are corrupt, they often fail to see that the country they live in has more money exchanging hands in corrupt deals that the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many of those supposedly corrupt nations. The only difference is that the supposedly corrupt nations are far more transparent about their corruption whereas here in the United States corruption is mostly kept behind closed doors and wrapped in a veil of political ceremony.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 20th, 2017 at 11:00 am