A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Occupy [Insert Place Here]’ tag

Occupy Wall Street Wipes Out $15 Million of Debt

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Remember Rolling Jubilee? It was a project started by Occupy Wall Street to buy up outstanding debt just to forgive it. Back when the project was first started organizers were able to buy up $14,000 of debt for $500. Approximately one year later the organization has successfully purchased and forgiven $15 million of debt:

A group of Occupy Wall Street activists has bought almost $15m of Americans’ personal debt over the last year as part of the Rolling Jubilee project to help people pay off their outstanding credit.

Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills.

By purchasing the debt at knockdown prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000.

Kudos to Occupy’s Strike Debt group are certainly in order. Freeing people from $15 million of debt for a mere $400,00 is impressive. I hope this project continues on and meets with even greater success.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Buying Debt Just to Forgive It

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I feel almost alone in the realm of libertarian bloggers who doesn’t despise everything the Occupy movement does. Many participants in Occupy are hardcore socialists but even hardcore socialists come up with good ideas. One of the ideas recently spawned from the Occupy movement is the Rolling Jubilee project, which is looking to buy up debt just to forgive it:

The Rolling Jubilee project is seeking donations to help it buy-up distressed debts, including student loans and outstanding medical bills, and then wipe the slate clean by writing them off.

Individuals or companies can buy distressed debt from lenders at knock-down prices if it the borrower is in default or behind with payments and are then free to do with it as they see fit, including cancelling it free of charge.

As a test run the group spent $500 on distressed debt, buying $14,000 worth of outstanding loans and pardoning the debtors. They are now looking to expand their experiment nationwide and are asking people to donate money to the cause.

I really like this project because it stands to erase much of the debt currently facing individuals voluntarily. No funds from tax victims is required, no money has to be printed, and no coercion has to be used. Instead individuals can voluntarily donate money to the cause of helping people currently facing crushing debt.

Another interesting potential of this project is the creation of a market for distressed debt relief. One of my friends mentioned that this project could cause the price of distressed debt to increase as demand by the Rolling Jubilee project increased. If that happened the project would effectively be self-defeating because it would raise the cost of buying distressed debt higher than its donors could afford. I see another potential outcome, it could decrease the cost of distressed debt. As a general rule a creditor would rather receive something from one of their debitors than nothing. Losing $90,000 is better than losing $100,000 after all. Because of this it’s possible that creditors could enter a bidding war with one another for Rolling Jubilee’s money. Creditors could try to undercut one another in the hopes that the Rolling Jubilee project will buy their debt. Instead of getting nothing from their debitors creditors could get a portion of what they loaned.

It’ll be interesting to watch if this project gets off of the ground.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 13th, 2012 at 11:00 am

Inconsistent Libertarians

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Brace yourself, I’m about to go on a rant. If you don’t feel like reading a rant just scroll up to the next story.

I’m easily irritated by inconsistency, which is why I loath the /r/Libertarian subreddit. While the subreddit is a great source for libertarian news the contributing members are extremely inconsistent. Yesterday I posted about the story of Leah Plante. She is facing cage time because she is refusing to testify against her fellows in a grand jury. Most libertarians would find such a situation reprehensible as one has the right to remain silent. This story made it to /r/Libertarian and, in general, most comments were on the side of Leah. As expected a large number of libertarians were opposed to the idea of coerced testimonies and witch hunts against political dissidents. That was until somebody pointed out that Leah has been involved in the Occupy movement. Suddenly the general consensus of /r/Libertarian went from “This case is bullshit, you shouldn’t be coerced into testifying against somebody!” to “Fuck that bitch! Occupiers deserve everything they get!”

What the fuck? People only have rights so long as they’re not involved in political movements you detest? A person has the right to free speech or to remain silent unless they’re not a libertarian? That, ladies and gentlemen, is a hypocritical stance if there ever was one.

As a libertarian I’ve found myself defending some very unsavory characters. I find myself defending the right of racists, bigots, etc. to speak freely. I find myself defending the right of those who have committed fraud to keep and bear arms. I find myself defending lots of people who I vehemently disagree with because libertarianism is, at least I thought, supposed to be able equal rights for all. It shouldn’t matter if you’re black or white, man or woman, libertarian or communist. If you’re a human being you should enjoy the same freedoms as every other human being. These freedoms, at least according to most libertarian philosophies, include not being coerced into actions you have no desire to take.

This “us” vs. “them” tribalistic bullshit needs to end. I’m not a big fan of collectivism and spend quite a bit of time arguing against it but that doesn’t mean I will suddenly do a 180 degree turn on my beliefs when a collectivist is facing a bad situation. Remaining consistent is important when you’re trying to make a philosophical argument. If you’re preaching one thing but doing another people will soon ignore everything you say. Arguing that everybody should live free of coercion one moment and then claiming coercion is perfectly acceptable the next moment makes you a hypocrite and nobody listens to hypocrites.

That’s my two cents, spend it however you want.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 12th, 2012 at 10:00 am

The More You Fight the Enemy the More You Become the Enemy

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I’m starting to think it’s a universal law that the more you fight an enemy the more you become the enemy. In Russia the Bolsheviks fought the Imperial Czars only to become imperialists themselves. Spanish anarchists fought the state only to become a state themselves, going as far as executing anybody who used money. The United States fought against the British monarchy to gain independence only to have the presidency turn into a practical monarchy. Now Occupy New Hampshire appears to have finally fought corporations long enough that they’ve become a corporation:

On Monday, a small number of Occupy New Hampshire members incorporated the movement as a nonprofit in order to boot their former bedfellows: the Free Staters. Also prohibited from future Occupy events are gun owners who openly carry.

[…]

Membership in Occupy New Hampshire will now require signing statements of solidarity and respect, according to the corporation papers filed with the Secretary of State’s office. And the Occupy members supporting Provost have concluded there is “no place” in Occupy New Hampshire for the Free State Project or guns, according to minutes of a recent meeting.

Although the various Occupy movements claim to hate corporations and restrictions on free speech the movement in New Hampshire has finally fought against both long enough that they’ve incorporated and are restricting free speech (openly carrying a firearm for political reasons is an act of free speech). It’s funny watching a movement that was built on political dissidence become a movement that crushes political dissidence. Now members are required to sign, what amounts to, an oath of loyalty to Occupy New Hampshire.

This is why I don’t fight the state, I merely ignore it and encourage others to follow suit.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 26th, 2012 at 10:00 am

The Meetings

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It’s pretty well known that I’m a staunch individualist. Collectivism isn’t my thing. One of my biggest gripes with the collectivist philosophy is the whole idea of needing to reach consensus.

For those who haven’t observed collectivist decision making I can sum it up as this: it’s a big meeting where nobody is allowed to leave until everybody agrees on something. One example of this are the general assemblies made popular by the Occupy movement. I actually went and observed several of these assemblies and they were amazingly efficient at being entirely inefficient. Nothing of importance could get done because it’s impossible to get everybody to agree on anything. If you have a group larger than one simple decisions, like deciding where to eat during lunch, become more complex. While you may want Mexican food the other person may have a hankering for Chinese food. Expand this now, imagine you have 50 or 100 people trying to decide where to eat. Change up the scenario a bit more and instead of deciding where to eat now our group of 50 to 100 people are trying to decide what to use their collective funds on.

While I understand meetings are periodically necessary I hate them. They eat into time that could be used more productively and often accomplish nothing of value. Imagine if every societal decision had to be made by holding a meeting. Do you think Henry Ford would have been able to introduce the masses to the efficient assembly line if he needed the approval of everybody in his community? Do you think Apple would have been able to built the first personal computer if they needed everybody’s approval? Probably not. Innovation comes from individuals with drive, and nothing kills drive like long meetings. If you want to shutdown a go-getting quickly schedule him for consecutive back-to-back two hour meetings. Before you know the go-getter will be making a difficult decision between hanging himself or shooting himself.

I could never survive in a collectivist society because I couldn’t stand the fucking meetings. When I want to do something I do it. The last thing I want to do is sit on my ass, twiddle my thumbs, and wait for everybody to decide on whether or not I can do what it is I want to do.

In my opinion the ultimate downfall of collectivism are the meetings. I witnessed the failure of collective decision making at OccupyMN, decisions that appeared to be simple matters often took days of arguing between any decision was finally made, and often people voted in favor of it solely because they were sick of arguing and wanted to move on to other things. The only time anything notable was accomplished was when a few individuals said, “We’re doing this! Anybody who wants to join us do so.” Consensus decision making doesn’t work with me, I don’t even want consensus. In fact I won’t even attend the pointless meetings, while people are wasting their time trying to decide on how they’re going to make decisions I’ll be busy doing something. If you need me I’ll be in the shop.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 7th, 2012 at 10:30 am

Cops Handing Out Drugs

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Last year a story on local CBS site brought my attention to the Drug Recognition Expert program being run by the federal government. It’s an interesting program that involves police officers actually giving illicit drugs to volunteers and studying their reactions:

Police can easily pull over and pick up drunk drivers. But pinpointing drivers on drugs is another story.

When an erratic driver doesn’t show any trace of alcohol on a breathalyzer, police need expert training to tell if they are high on something else. That’s why police recently requested a whole new set of recruits — drug users.

[…]

Officers from all over the state have come to Minneapolis’ Fifth Precinct for two weeks of intense training that will certify them as one of Minnesota’s Drug Recognition Experts.

“It’s not your typical police-subject interaction,” said Sgt. Don Marose of the Minnesota State Patrol, who trains officers for the state’s DRE program.

He said the program is nationally recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and has been in Minnesota since 1991. Marose said since then, 190 officers at 85 Minnesota agencies are drug-recognition trained officers at their departments.

Marose said when the State Patrol needed a real-life laboratory, the Minnesota Aids Project, Needle Exchange program, helped out.

The organization put out an ad to its clients, many who use drugs. It asked them to show up under the influence — and get rewards and incentives in return.

I didn’t look too much into it as I couldn’t really find much about it. Am I surprised the police are giving drugs to people? No. So why did I bother writing this post? Because it seems members of Minnesota’s finest are now recruiting OccupyMN potesters for this study:

A video report put together by local independent media activists and members of Communities United Against Police Brutality finds that police officers and county deputies have been giving drugs to young people hanging out near Peavey Plaza as part of an impairment study.

One officer who spoke to journalists said he never gave subjects drugs, but numerous young people who spoke on the record said police gave them marijuana, cigarettes, food, and other incentives as compensation for participating.

The report indicates that police patrol downtown Minneapolis looking for impaired people, then drive them to a testing facility in Richfield for examination of their capabilities while intoxicated. But in some cases where no previously impaired people could be found, police seduced prospective participants with drugs. The study has been ongoing since early last month.

Granted City Pages isn’t exactly a reputable source so I’m guessing much of this story is conjecture. With that said it’s interesting that police are patrolling OccupyMN looking for people who appear to be high on drugs. I also wouldn’t put it past the police to peddle drugs to individuals who already look under the influence but it’s pretty brazen. A few members of OccupyMN appear to believe the police are doing this to discredit the movement but I don’t think the police have to go to such lengths to discret the Occupy movement. Has anybody else heard of police going around recruiting apparently high individuals? I am under the assumption that police departments seek out volunteers for the Drug Recognition Expert program through advertising, not cruising around looking for people who are already under the influence.

Anyhow I don’t have anything substantial to report but if anybody has any information about this program I’d love to hear it. This has been a little back burner project of mine for a while but nothing really interesting ever crops up regarding the program.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 5th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

OccupyGOP

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I reported a short while back that the Minnesota Republican Party has been unable to pay the rent on their headquarters. From individuals connected to the party I’ve learned that the Minnesota Republican Party aren’t planning on paying the rent and they’re also planning on fighting any potential eviction. At this point I believe it’s time to declare a new occupation, OccupyGOP. To help get this initiative off its feet I’ve decided to offer some ideas to help get OccupyGOP rolling.

First some slogans are going to be needed. One of the biggest fights Occupy has selected is trying to get local municipalities to allow tents erected on public property. Occupy’s argument is that housing is a human right so I believe the OccupyGOP needs to adopt a new slogan: office space is a human rights. The idea is simple, the Minnesota Republican Party currently occupiers office space and they don’t want to pay for it. What is one to do when they want something but don’t want to pay for it? Declare it a human right! People sick of paying for Internet access have petitioned the United Nations (UN) to declare Internet access a human right, which they happily did. Now when somebody wants Internet access but doesn’t want to pay for it they can just argue that they are owed Internet access by “society” because it’s a human right (positive rights theory is so convenient that way). Since OccupyGOP is already occupying a building there is no need to erect tents, although it would add to the movement if they fought endlessly for the right to erect tents on their property.

Next OccupyGOP needs to raise awareness. OccupyMN has been attempting to raise awareness by marching down major streets and obstructing traffic. Perhaps OccupyGOP can attempt something similar, but with a slight twist. Instead of marching down busy streets to annoy people OccupyGOP could march into polling places this November and attempt to prevent people from voting. This would raise awareness by annoying politically minded individuals who are trying to vote and it won’t require the passage of a constitutional amendment like the Republican Party’s current voter ID initiative does.

What about the police? Eventually the police are going to be called by the landlords to evict the occupation. OccupyGOP is in a better position than any other occupation since OccupyGOP actually has political connections. While screaming “WE’RE RESISTING ARREST!” several members of OccupyGOP could work with “representatives” at the capitol to pass legislation that will cut the pay of Minnesota police officers. This could lead to the police making a deal with OccupyGOP: in exchange for keeping their pay the police can refuse to evict OccupyGOP from the building they’re not paying rent on.

Overall it’s rather ironic that the Occupy movement, which has traditionally been considered a left-leaning movement, has more in common with the Minnesota Republican Party than the Minnesota Democratic Party.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 23rd, 2012 at 10:30 am

I Think the Obama Reelection Headquarters in Minneapolis Looks Much Nicer Now

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There seems to be almost universal hatred of the Occupy movement within the gun blogging community. I still maintain a fairly neutral stance as for every anti-capitalist mouth breather that gets air time on the major media news shows there are protests like this that I fully support:

Think bad thoughts about the government and you could go to jail…forever. That may sound like a Soviet-era law, but civil libertarians say it’s possible under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which is awaiting President Obama’s promised signature.

The NDAA, was passed by the US Senate 86 to 13. Minnesota senators split on the act, Franken opposing and Klobuchar voting for it.

OccupyMN organized a pre-Christmas protest at the Minneapolis Obama Reelection Headquarters.

Part of their protest involved taping signs to the front window of the headquarters. My favorite sign is the one that reads, “POLICE STATE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.” The Occupy movement still seems to be a bring your own grievance movement and there are times when the grievances brought are ones I entirely agree with. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) should never have been voted for or signed into law. Its passage demonstrates the fact our “representatives” don’t care about defending the values this nation was founded on but prefer to strangle the populace with ever more draconian laws.

Kudos to OccupyMN for protesting this legislation and making a little trouble for the local Obama reelection robots. If you still believe Obama deserves to be reelected then I can honestly say you’re not paying attention to his actions. Granted most of the alternatives don’t look to be any better but if we start voting out bad politicians perhaps we can send a message and they’ll keep their tyrannical desires a bit more in check (by a bit more I simply mean they’ll be less blatant, there is no way to stop them from attempt to increase their power over us).

Written by Christopher Burg

December 28th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Occupy Oakland Now a Big Business Puppet

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Occupy Oakland seems to be going all out in their attempt to win the title of Douchiest Occupation Ever. They’re supposedly protesting the wealthy and government corruption yet their solution is to disrupt business at ports on the West Coast:

Heady with their successful attempts to block trucks and curb business at busy ports up and down the West Coast, some Occupy Wall Street protesters plan to continue their blockades and keep staging similar protests despite requests to stop because they’re hurting wage earners.

[…]

Protesters are most upset by two West Coast companies: port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT. Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc. owns a major stake in SSA Marine and has been a frequent target of protesters.

Demonstrators say they are standing up for workers against the port companies, which have had recent high-profile clashes with union workers. Longshoremen in Longview, for example, have had a longstanding dispute with EGT, which employs workers from a different union to staff its terminal. The longshoremen’s union says the jobs rightfully belong to them.

Emphasis mine. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that Occupy Oakland has been hijacked by unions. One thing I noticed numerous times at Occupy Minneapolis was the attempt by unions to co-opt the movement and turn it from a mostly aimless airing of grievances to another puppet in the machinery of the national unions. Occupy Minneapolis avoided the hijacking attempt, likely because it fizzled our pretty early, but Occupy Oakland appears to have fallen right into the union’s trap.

Many of the antics pulled by the various Occupy movements have been entertaining as they usually involve people screaming, chanting, and otherwise being politically disruptive without actually interfering with private entities. Blocking privately owned ports is not a peaceful protested but a direct violation against the port owner’s right to property. Were I the port owners I’d be demanding the local police force remove these protesters from my property and if they failed to act I would take action to exercise my right to defend my property. There is a vast supply of water at that port and high-pressure hoses are pretty effective means of making the lives of trespassers miserable enough to cause their retreat from the premises.

Unions in this country are not voluntarily cooperations of employees coming together to fight for better working conditions. Instead unions in this country are large national corporations where bigwigs at the top make six figure salaries by stirring up unnecessary trouble between employees at employers. I’m on record on this blog of brining up the fact that these national unions more often than not cause long term problems for the employees they supposedly represent. While they manage to get higher wages, pensions, and other benefits for union employees they are usually far above a sustainable level causing the company to eventually face bankruptcy or fire the union employees (because the unions will almost never accept reducing employee pay). Regardless of the direction taken by the floundering business jobs are lost. This problem heavily contributed to the destruction of auto manufacturing in this country.

The fact of the matter is national unions in this country are big businesses and by being puppets for these unions Occupy Oakland is now a puppet of big business. If you fight something too long you often risk becoming that thing you’re fighting.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2011 at 11:00 am

A Disgusting Use of Force

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I’m sure most of you have seen the video of the police officer pepper spraying a group of peaceful protesters at the University of California Davis:

As is usual when an officer is caught doing something naughty this officer has been put on leave and will likely resume his duties after this entire mess has blown over.

The divide between those who support and oppose the occupy movement is great and I’ve seen many of those in opposition saying the protesters got what was coming to them. To that I say bullshit. Whether you agree, disagree, or simply don’t care about the occupy movement it should be appalling to you that police officers would use force on non-violent protesters. These protesters were literally sitting with arms linked while the police decided it would be justified to first induce pain and then remove the offending individuals. Such gross displays of power make me sick.

The Constitution of the United States specifically declares the right of the people to peaceably assemble. Much of the time I spent writing has been directed at the Second Amendment but I believe all rights ascribed in the Bill of Rights must be equally defended. The University of California Davis is public property and the students were exercising their right to peaceably assemble. There is no excuse for the use of pepper spray in this instance yet here it is, and what makes me even more sick is that people are laughing about it. Somebody made an picture that perfectly described this scene:

That picture perfectly demonstrates the fact that pepper spraying non-violent individuals violates everything this country was founded on. It shouldn’t matter if you disagree with the occupiers, I disagree with a huge number of them myself, the actions taken by the officer should be appalling to any decent human being. Had the police simply arrested the protesters that would have been one thing but to actively enact pain upon them while the protesters themselves were enacting no pain on others is an escalation of force. Were I to do something similar to protesters on my property I’d likely be prosecuted.

When members of the occupy movement say something you disagree with then by all means speak out and explain why their statement is wrong. Many members of the occupy movement have advocating violence with such statements as expressing a desire to bring back the guillotine and those people should certainly be shouted down. Yet we must also realize that the First Amendment was put into place to protect unpopular speech as popular speech is in no need of protection.

Those who express a desire to protect the rights supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution should put aside their philosophical difference in this regard and contest the actions of police officers using force against those exercising their rights. Large number of occupiers are misguided but they still deserve equal rights under the law.