A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘News You Need to Know’ Category

The American Medical System

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What do you get when you take a wonderful free market medical system and continuously inject a little more government into it? The American medical system:

Sorry, let me explain a hospital to you: we give you medical care, then we charge whatever the hell we want for it.

If you don’t like that, go fuck yourself and die.

Honestly, there’s no telling what you’ll pay today. Maybe $700. Maybe $70,000. It’s a fun surprise! Maybe you’ll go to the ER for five minutes, get no treatment, then we’ll charge you $5,000 for an ice pack and a bandage. Then your insurance company will be like, “This is nuts. We’re not paying this.” Who knows how hard you’ll get screwed? You will, in three months.

When I buy gas, books, groceries, a cell phone plan, computers, or anything else, the prices are clearly posted. I know what a gallon of gas costs before I buy it. I know what a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs costs before I buy them. But when I need anything involving the medical industry, I seldom have any idea what I’m going to be charged. If I ask, I won’t get a straight answer (unless I’m dealing with one of the handful of wonderful medical facilities that deals in cash but they’re still pretty hard to find). I’ll be told that it will depend on my insurer.

My insurer is an asshole. It has continued to increase my premiums and deductibles will reducing my services. I’m stuck with it though because I, like most Americans, get my insurance through my employer and my employer isn’t big enough to strong arm insurers into providing better packages. This was an entirely different situation before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which mandated that every American do business with medical insurers and thus removed any motivation they had to provide a good product at a reasonable price. Before the ACA my insurance was pretty decent and if it hadn’t been decent, I could have found an individual plan that suited my needs.

The passage of the ACA was just one amongst decades worth of laws that slowly transformed the country’s free market medical system into the government controlled mess that won’t even clearly tell you what the product you’re buying costs. Unfortunately, most people subscribe to the idea that if something didn’t work then it wasn’t tried hard enough. If you ask most people how the medical system can be fixed, they’ll tell you, “More government!” Needless to say I’m not hopeful that I’ll be able to walk into a clinic and see a board that clearly advertises the prices being charged for offered services anytime soon.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Getting Leadership Ousted in the Minneapolis Police Department

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If officers executing unarmed individuals isn’t enough to get leaders in the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) ousted, what is? Apparently Christmas decorations:

Just days after controversy erupted over a racist Christmas tree on display at the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct, Chief Medaria Arradondo has assigned a new inspector to lead the north Minneapolis precinct.

Images of a Christmas tree decorated with beer cans, cigarettes and police tape spread quickly on social media Friday. It was condemned by members of the public, activists and Minneapolis City Council members, including Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who represents the area. Ellison said it’s “the type of thing that always instills fear in the community.

We’ve learned something here. The value of an unarmed person is worth less in the eyes of the MPD than bad publicity generated by a Christmas tree. While that’s not exactly a happy thing to learn, at least we know.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 7th, 2018 at 10:00 am

More Effective than Voting

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The French government decided it was going to bleed its subjects a bit more by passing a fuel tax hike. This didn’t go over well. By “didn’t go over well” I don’t mean the usual American response where people scream bloody murder and claim they’re going to vote the responsible parties out of office when the next election rolls around, I mean shit was literally on fire. In response the French government has reconsidered the hike:

Fuel tax rises which had led to weeks of violent protests in France have been suspended for six months.

PM Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.

Smart move. Considering France’s history, the next step in the protest would have likely involve guillotines.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 4th, 2018 at 10:30 am

That New Car Smell

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I’m always interested in cultural differences. For example, here in the United States people generally love the smell of a new car. It’s easy to think that since people here love that smell that the love of that smell is universal but that isn’t the case. Chinese in general apparently hate that smell. In fact they hate it so much that Ford developed a method of getting that smell out of new cars:

In the US, “new car smell” is a beloved scent. People even try to make their cars smell new with after-market cleaning products. But in China, customers find the same odor repulsive. As the Chinese auto market grows, car makers are looking for a way to make the aroma of their new vehicles more amenable to Chinese taste

Early this month, Ford filed a patent to reduce the odor of some of the adhesive, leather, and other materials that produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that contribute to new car smell. The patent appears to include software that senses the car’s location and the weather it’s experiencing, then it possibly detects whether the owner has “requested volatile organic compound removal from the vehicle.” Next, on a sunny day, the car will roll down a window and turn on the engine, the heater, and a fan in order to bake off the VOCs and their accompanying smell.

Often individuals make the mistake of believing that since they like something, it is universally liked. I learned at a young age that even smell, which is nothing more than a neurological response to stimuli and thus would seem to be a good candidate for being common amongst most humans, differs from person to person. My grandfather introduced me to sardines, which I enjoy to this day. I don’t find their smell repulsive but most people I know do. Likewise, I don’t find the smell of sauerkraut repulsive but most of the people I know do. Meanwhile, many of the body sprays and perfumes that people claim to like are repulsive to me.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 23rd, 2018 at 11:00 am

How Capitalism is Saving China’s Healthcare System

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The New York Times created a video, which it claims to be a documentary, entitled “How Capitalism Ruined China’s Health Care System.” The video shows horrible conditions inside of Chinese medical facilities. The problem with the video is that it’s not showing China’s private medical facilities but state run facilities:

“Under Mao Zedong the Communist state provided free health care for all,” the narrator tells us. “Decades later China adopted a unique brand of capitalism that transformed the country from a poor farming nation into an economic superpower. Life expectancy soared. But the introduction of capitalism and the retreat of the state meant that health care was no longer free.”

As a resident of China and a recipient of outstanding private health care here, I was confused as to why the Times would show us the horrors of a capitalist system without actually visiting a private health care facility.

All of the horrors depicted in the high-quality video—the long lines, the scalping, and the hospital fights—occurred at government-run health care facilities. If the Times had visited one of China’s many private health care facilities, they would have found something quite different.

I kind of feel bad for the New York Times. Its business of creating propaganda must have been much easier before the Internet made fact checking readily accessible to us plebs. If this video had been created before the spread of the Internet, a Chinese resident probably wouldn’t be aware of the video and even if they were, they probably wouldn’t have a platform to reach Americans to explain that the video is bullshit.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 23rd, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Tables Have Turned

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Remember when the British colonies that would become the United States of America had a little tea party in the Boston Harbor? The denizens of the colonies were pissed off by Britain’s demand for more taxes. Oh how the tables have turned:

The Royal Family faces a tax ‘nightmare’ as US officials examine whether Meghan and Harry owe them a slice of their multi-million pound fortune, according to reports.

The Duchess of Sussex is still an American citizen so has to pay tax in the US, and this could extend to anyone else she draws money from, including her husband.

This could deplete both her $5million US fortune and Prince Harry’s main source of private wealth, a £300,000-a-year trust fund on which he pays UK income tax.

As one of my friends put it, there are only two countries in the world that require citizens to pay income taxes on income acquired abroad: one is a banana republic (Eritrea), the other is the United States of America.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 21st, 2018 at 10:30 am

No Law Too Petty

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I give the United States legal system a lot of shit because I live under it. However, the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on the creation and enforcement of petty laws:

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada agreed Thursday to hear the case of a woman who was ticketed and arrested after she refused instructions to hold onto an escalator handrail.

Bela Kosoian was in a subway station in the Montreal suburb of Laval in 2009 when a police officer told her to respect a pictogram with the instruction, “hold the handrail.”

She replied that she did not consider the image, which also featured the word “Careful,” to be an obligation. She refused to hold the handrail, and tensions mounted after she also refused to identity herself.

She was “taken by force” by the officer and another who had arrived as backup, according to court documents.

This case of a woman refusing to hold the rail on an escalator not only resulted in her arrest but has made it all the way to the country’s supreme court. Laws don’t get much more petty than that.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 20th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Chip-and-Fail

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EMV cards, those cards with the chip on the front, were supposed to reduce fraud but credit card fraud is rising. What gives? It turns out that the security provided by Chip-and-PIN doesn’t work when you don’t use it:

The reasons seem to be twofold. One, the US uses chip-and-signature instead of chip-and-PIN, obviating the most critical security benefit of the chip. And two, US merchants still accept magnetic stripe cards, meaning that thieves can steal credentials from a chip card and create a working cloned mag stripe card.

A lot of stores still don’t have credit card readers that can handle cards with a chip so you’re stuck using the entirely insecure magnetic strip. And most credit cards equipped with chips don’t require entering a PIN because Americans are fucking lazy:

The reason banks say they don’t want to issue PINs is that they’re worried it will add too much friction to transactions and make life difficult for their customers. “The credit-card market is pretty brutally competitive, so the first issuer who goes with PINs has to worry about whether the consumers are going to say, ‘Oh, that’s the most inconvenient card in my wallet,’’ says Allen Weinberg, the co-founder of Glenbrook Partners. “There’s this perception that maybe it’s going to be less convenient, even though some merchants would argue that PINs take less time than signatures.”

Since card holders face little in the way of liability for fraudulent transactions, they have little motivation to enter a four to six digit PIN every time they purchase something. If card holders aren’t motivated to enter a PIN, card issuers aren’t likely to require holder to enter a PIN because it might convince them to get a different card. It’s tough to improve security when nobody gives a damn about security.

Eventually the level of fraud will rise to the point where card issuers will take the risk of alienating some holders and mandate the use of a PIN. When that day finally comes, card issuers will discover that Americans are absolutely able to overcome any barrier if doing so allows them to continue buying sneakers with lights in them.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Freedom Isn’t Free

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Freedom isn’t free. It costs $6 trillion:

WASHINGTON — The price tag of the ongoing “war on terror” in the Middle East will likely top $6 trillion next year, and will reach $7 trillion if the conflicts continue into the early 2020s, according to a new report out Wednesday.

The annual Costs of War project report, from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, puts the full taxpayer burden of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria over the last 17 years at several times higher than official Defense Department estimates, because it includes increases in Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs spending, as well as new military equipment and personnel.

“Because the nation has tended to focus its attention only on direct military spending, we have often discounted the larger budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars, and therefore underestimated their greater budgetary and economic significance,” the new report states.

And what does the United States have to show for this $6 trillion? The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are still ongoing as are wars in other countries that are related to the “war on terror.” On top of that none of these countries show any sign of stabilizing. As if that weren’t bad enough an unknown number of innocent civilians have been killed on top of the casualties incurred by all factions engaged in fighting.

So, really, the United States has jack shit to show for those $6 trillion. But it doesn’t seem to understand that because there is no sign that the “war on terror” will end anytime soon.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

One of These Things is Just Like the Other

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If you display a Nazi flag, you’re probably going to be persona non grata in your neighborhood (and will likely receive a visit from your local Antifa). This makes sense. The government that that flag represent murdered millions of innocent people. But why isn’t the same true if you display a Soviet Union flag:

This is the nub of the issue. While Naziism is intrinsically linked to the crimes of its followers, communism can always be separated. No one would tolerate a t-shirt emblazoned with Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini, yet the wildly oppressive Che Guevara is easily detached and morphed into a symbol of revolution.

The only real difference between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union is that Nazi Germany got its ass handed to it and therefore wasn’t around long enough to rack up the same body count as the Soviet Union.

As the article points out, “Nazis, rightfully, are seen as hateful and vicious because their ideology is built around the idea that one group is superior to the other.” This is the excuse more communist sympathizers give me when I ask why they’re so starkly against displaying Nazi symbology but willing to wear Soviet symbology. The argument doesn’t hold up though. Marxism, like Nazism, is built around the idea that one group, the proletariat, is superior to the other, the bourgeois. Like Nazism, which is built on the conspiracy theory that the Jews have oppressed the Aryan race, Marxism is build on the conspiracy theory that the bourgeois have oppressed the proletariat. And like Nazism, which results in the “oppressed Aryans” killing the “oppressor Jews,” Marxism results in the “proletariat” killing the “bourgeois.”

One should have as much revile for the Soviet Union and its symbology as one has for Nazi Germany and its symbology. Both were horrible, oppressive regimes that murdered millions.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2018 at 10:00 am