A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Milking All of the Tax Cattle

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While I still stand by my ruling that Atlas Shrugged was a poorly written book with dull two-dimensional characters, I will admit that it was also prescient. The United States appears to be entering the part in of the book where the infrastructure is in a constant state of deterioration. Even the parking ramps are falling apart. And you know what that means! Soak the tax payers a little more:

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter ordered the shutdown of a major downtown parking ramp Thursday, the day after a chunk of concrete fell on a parked car and two days after he and other local leaders launched a public campaign for $58 million in state money to replace the aging structure.

Strange, I didn’t realize that a parking ramp in St. Paul served the entirety of Minnesota. But it must otherwise Carter wouldn’t be asking the entire state to pay for his city’s shitty infrastructure, right?

Unfortunately, when infrastructure fails, it serves as an excuse by the political class to steal more wealth from those they rule. To compound this problem, even though the political class is stealing more wealth, the infrastructure never improves. So a vicious cycle of failing infrastructure leading to more stolen wealth followed by more failing infrastructure persists.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Shame Only Works on Those Who Feel Shame

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It seems like every time I turn around it’s election season again. Primary seasons has just come and gone for some states, which means a bunch of statists just finished up trying to make people feel guilty for not suffering the same bullshit they just suffered:

Some Pennsylvania voters have received letters publicising whether they had voted in previous elections before they head to the polls on Tuesday.

The letters appeared to be intended to “embarrass” people into voting by revealing their voting record compared to that of friends and neighbours.

[…]

The information used in the letters comes from a public registry that costs $20 (£15) to access. This data is typically used by political parties for voter outreach.

“What if your friends, your neighbours, and your community knew whether you vote?” the letter asks.

What if my friends, neighbors, and community members knew whether I voted? They already do because I’m quite loud about the fact that I don’t vote.

Blackmail, which is what these letters are threatening, only works if the person being threatened wants a secret kept secret. As soon as the person being threatened ceases to care about whatever secret somebody is threatening to reveal, blackmail no longer works. If, for example, somebody is threatening to reveal that you didn’t vote in the last election, the best thing you can do to take their power away is publicly advertise the fact that you didn’t vote in the last election.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Government Goons Declare Anarchy Symbol a Hate Symbol

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The City of Hamilton’s bureaucrats have declared that the anarchy symbol is a hate symbol in the same league as the Nazi swastika:

The City of Hamilton has forced a local anarchist group to remove the circle A anarchy symbol from its headquarters, saying it is “hate material” similar to the swastika.

City officials say they’re taking direction from Hamilton police on the issue, but police say that’s not the case.

Since anarchists want to abolish government, I understand why a bunch of government parasites would find the anarchy symbol hateful.

When people bring up the topic of hate speech, I like to point out that hate is a subjective idea. This rankles a lot of people because the topic of hate is often emotionally charged and most individuals seem to believe that hate is an objectively provable thing. They also seem to believe that hate is objectively whatever they believe hate to be.

I don’t consider the anarchy symbol to be a symbol of hate. In fact, I consider symbols of government to be symbols of hate. Am I right? That depends on whom you ask.

What I really want to know now is whether or not I as an anarchist qualify as an oppressed person in Hamilton.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Everybody Gets a Vote

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Should people who are ignorant about a topic be given the ability to vote on it? If not, the United States should cease holding all elections because nobody has any idea what is going on:

Washington may be more secretive nowadays than at any time in recent decades. Federal policymakers have become accustomed to rationing what they release while citizens are assured that official secrecy makes them more secure. But American democracy cannot survive perpetual bipartisan coverups from the political ruling class.

Since 9/11, U.S. foreign policy has practically been governed by a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Did you know that U.S. troops are currently engaged in combat in 14 foreign nations fighting purported terrorists? That jolting fact is practically a state secret, though it did slip out in a recent New York Times editorial. After four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger last October, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) admitted they did not know that a thousand U.S. troops were deployed to that African nation. Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, admitted, “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing.” Congress has utterly defaulted on its role as a check-and-balance on the Pentagon, thereby enabling a surge in deadly covert interventions abroad.

An informed electorate doesn’t exist in the United States because the government that is supposedly guided by the voice of the people has developed a fetish for secrecy.

I’m going to return to the question with which I opened this post. Most people would instinctively say that everybody should get a vote even if they’re ignorant about the topic up for vote. This response is the result of living life in a country where democracy is touted as the greatest governmental system of all time. However, few people tolerate such a philosophy in their private dealings. Would you let somebody who is entirely ignorant about automobiles vote on what is wrong with your vehicle? Would you let somebody who is compute illiterate vote on how to fix your computer? Would you let somebody who knows nothing about medicine vote on what drugs you should take? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re a damned fool. If any of these resulted in your problem being fixed, it would be by sheer luck. The most likely outcome would be that a lot of money would be spent for nothing. The result of the last situation could even be your death.

As the article notes, even the people elected to the government often have no idea what is going on. Graham and Schumer may not have been aware that there were thousands of troops deployed in Africa but they certainly got to vote on military matters. This really should strike everybody as a problem. Why are people who are ignorant about matters voting on them? Why should a senator who doesn’t even know how to use e-mail have a say on topics such as national computer security laws? Why should a senator who doesn’t know what a barrel shroud is have a say in what firearm features should be prohibited?

When nobody has any clue about what is happening, it’s not realistic to expect people to make good decisions.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Solve the Housing Shortage by Making Houses More Expensive

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California is suffering from a decades long housing shortage. This shouldn’t surprise anybody. The regulatory burden in California has been increasing along with the population, which has made new construction more expensive than it otherwise would be. But instead of working to relieve the shortage by allowing homes to be built for less, the California bureaucrats have decided to make building new homes even more expensive:

On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission approved a set of standards that will require most new homes built in the state after 2020 to include solar panels on their roofs.

The standards (PDF) apply only to single-family homes and certain low-rise condos, townhomes, and apartments. Exceptions are made for homes with roofs that would receive excessive shade during the daytime or homes with roofs too small to benefit from a few solar panels.

The last two exemptions are interesting because they have the potential to change how houses are predominantly built in California. I foresee a trend in small roofs and heavy shading.

This legislation is also, rather obviously, aimed at coercing a preference for high-density residential. While that may make sense in an extremely dense urban area like Los Angeles, it doesn’t make sense to implement such a requirement statewide since much of California is actually rural and therefore space isn’t at a premium. However, bureaucrats are seldom aware that the existence they experience in their capital city isn’t the experience of everybody in their state, which is why centralized planning always turns into such a fiasco.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10th, 2018 at 10:30 am

I Am Altering the Deal

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When Obama was in office, he entered the United States into a nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran. Yesterday Trump pulled the United States out of that deal:

With a stroke of his pen US President Donald Trump has jeopardised the one agreement – good or bad – that seeks to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

He launched a scathing assault on the deal and its deficiencies.

But he offered no alternative policy to put in its place. He has put US diplomacy on a collision course with some of Washington’s closest allies.

Trump’s detractors are claiming that this will ensure that Iran acquires nuclear weapons while his supporters are claiming that the deal was a terrible deal. I’m not going to argue the pros or cons of the previous deal. However, I do want to take a moment to discuss a facet of this issue that isn’t getting much attention.

It is notoriously difficult for foreign governments to deal with the United States. Every time the party in power switches hands between the Democrats and Republicans the rules seem to change. When the Democrats were in power, Iran was able to make a nonproliferation deal with the United States. Now that the Republicans are in power, it cannot. In the span of less than a decade the rules between Iran and the United States changed… again.

Imagine if business deals were as volatile as deals between foreign governments and the United States. Would anybody continue doing business with, say, Microsoft if every time a company made a deal to license the company’s operating system for five years it decided to cancel the deal after two years? No, because nobody can realistically do business in an entirely unpredictable environment. Contracts exist to ensure that there are consequences for violating a deal. Unfortunately, most foreign governments can’t punish the United States for breaking a deal because they lack the military might to do so.

It’s easy to blame Obama for making a bad deal or Trump for pulling the United States out of an existing deal. What seems to be more difficult for people to grasp is that the United States has developed a reputation for being unreliable and that reputation is going to hinder its ability to make any kind of deal with a foreign government.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 9th, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Stupidest Thing I’ll Read All Day

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Throughout human history heads of state have done some really nutty thing. For example, Caligula was said to have declared a war on Neptune, deployed his legions to the coast near Britannia to attack the sea (literally, stab at the sea and hurl artillery into it), and collect seashells as spoils of war. But compared to this, Caligula seems positively sane:

Eliminating the national debt, which Trump said he could accomplish “over a period of eight years,” was one of several ambitious claims Trump made in an interview with The Washington Post published on Saturday. The Republican front-runner explained that he will govern in the similarly atypical, convention-defying manner he has campaigned.

He’s going to eliminate over $19 trillion of debt even though the country he’s heading is spending so much money that it’s still increasing that debt? If he managed to do that, at least outside of declaring the United States bankrupt, it would be a literal miracle. But nobody expects politicians to keep their promises and Trump realizes this. He’s simply the first president to decide that if he’s going to lie anyways, he might as well tell really big ones.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Revealing Anonymous Political Activists

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It’s difficult to participate in politics anonymously. When you donate money to a political campaign, that donation is made publicly available. When you participate in a political protest, your face will appear on any number of cameras recording the event. When you think that you’re being clever by participating behind the scenes, your identity is a single lawsuit away from appearing in public court documents:

Anonymous fans of a white nationalist podcast network could have their identities exposed as a result of a lawsuit against the men who promoted the so-called Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.

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One figure named in the lawsuit is Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, a prolific white supremacist podcaster. Peinovich runs a racist but influential podcast network called The Right Stuff, which currently hosts scores of different shows focused around building a country for only white, non-Jews. Most of the fans who comment on the network and its related forum are anonymous, but that could change through the process of discovery in the civil suit against him and others.

A federal court judge denied two motions this April filed by Peinovich to stop court orders requesting information related to individual users that visit his website—strengthening the odds that anonymous fans of The Right Stuff could have their names and whereabouts made public as a result of conversations they had in the lead up to “Unite the Right.”

Smart individuals who are pushing a widely reviled agenda would use an online anonymity tool such as Tor to conceal their identity in case a lawsuit like this forced the people running their online communities to hand over user information. But conspiracy theorists who think every ill in society is caused by the Jews generally aren’t the smartest bunch so I won’t be surprised if a lot of them end up being named in public court documents.

While I couldn’t care less if the identities of a bunch of white nationalists become publicly known, the lesson being taught here is important for anybody active in controversial political activism to learn. For example, if you are a sex worker who was advocating against the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, it’s feasible that the people running any online communities in which you participated could be coerced into turning over any information they have about you. If you used an online anonymity tool such as Tor, there will be less personally identifiable information to surrender (since Tor doesn’t stop you from posting personally identifiable information, it cannot stop all personally identifiable information from appearing on an online community).

Just because you’re not making campaign contributions or working as a staff member on a campaign doesn’t mean your participation in politics can’t be made publicly accessible information.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 2nd, 2018 at 10:00 am

It’s Not Your Phone, Pleb

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The Fourth Amendment is often cited whenever a legal issue involving privacy arises. While I recognize that the “rights” listed in the Bill of Rights are actually temporary privileges that are revoked the second they become inconvenient to the government, I think that it’s worth taking a look at the language:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

What’s noteworthy in regards to this post is the fact that nowhere does the Fourth Amendment state that measures have to be taken to make information easily accessible to the government once a warrant is issued. This omission is noteworthy because a lot of the political debates revolving around computer security are argued as if the Fourth Amendment contains or implies such language:

Dubbed “Clear,” Ozzie’s idea was first detailed Wednesday in an article published in Wired and described in general terms last month.

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  1. Apple and other manufacturers would generate a cryptographic keypair and would install the public key on every device and keep the private key in the same type of ultra-secure storage vault it uses to safeguard code-signing keys.
  2. The public key on the phone would be used to encrypt the PIN users set to unlock their devices. This encrypted PIN would then be stored on the device.
  3. In cases where “exceptional access” is justified, law enforcement officials would first obtain a search warrant that would allow them to place a device they have physical access over into some sort of recovery mode. This mode would (a) display the encrypted PIN and (b) effectively brick the phone in a way that would permanently prevent it from being used further or from data on it being erased.
  4. Law enforcement officials would send the encrypted PIN to the manufacturer. Once the manufacturer is certain the warrant is valid, it would use the private key stored in its secure vault to decrypt the PIN and provide it to the law enforcement officials.

This proposal, like all key escrow proposals, is based on the idea that law enforcers have some inherent right to easily access your data after a warrant is issued. This idea also implies that your phone is actually the property of the various bodies of government that exist in the United States and they are therefore able to dictate in what ways you may use it.

If we are to operate under the assumption that law enforcers have a right to easily access your data once a warrant is issued, we must necessarily admit that the “rights” outlines in the Fourth Amendment doesn’t exist since the language offers no such right to law enforcers.

You Get a Job! You Get a Job! You Get a Job!

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Bernie Sanders seems to think that he’s still relevant even though his party during the last presidential nomination process actively conspired against (which isn’t to say he would have gotten the nomination if his party didn’t conspire against him). His latest announcement is a plan to guarantee every American a job:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will announce a plan for the federal government to guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker “who wants or needs one,” embracing the kind of large-scale government works project that Democrats have shied away from in recent decades.

Somebody has to build and staff the gulags! Of course this is Bernie Sanders we’re talking about so…

A representative from Sanders’s office said they had not yet done a cost estimate for the plan or decided how it would be funded, saying they were still crafting the proposal.

Why am I not surprised?

Make-work programs sound like a good idea on paper… to the economically illiterate. The problem is that they operate outside of the market, which means there is no feedback mechanism that indicates whether the work is in demand or not. Instead they are decreed by whatever politicians crafted the plan. That usually translates into those politicians’ cronies receiving labor subsidized by tax payers in order to cut their costs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sanders’ plan resulted in Lockheed’s next manufacturing plant being built by government subsidized labor. Sure, that may not be his intention but once the program exists his intentions will be irrelevant, only the intentions of those who control the program will matter.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 26th, 2018 at 10:30 am