A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ tag

Sex Trafficking Increases in Wake of Anti-Sex Trafficking Legislation

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A piece of legislation will generally do the opposite of what its title claims, which is why it should come as no surprise that the passage of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) preceded a significant in crease in sex trafficking:

When the SESTA-FOSTA bills were being hashed out in Congress, sex workers loudly advocated against them, saying that rather than decrease sex trafficking, these laws would make it more likely. According to new police statistics, they were right.

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New statistics shared by the San Francisco police show that sex workers, unsurprisingly, were right about the effect this law would have on their profession and on sex trafficking. According to KPIX 5, while most violent crime is down in San Francisco, sex trafficking shot up 170 percent in 2018.

I’m fairly certain that the politicians who pushed for SESTA see this as a feature, not a bug. After all, consensual sex work is a mutual exchange of money for sex. It harms nobody. But most people don’t base their morality on harm alone and the puritanical history of the United States has etched certain oddities in the societal psyche such as the idea that sex itself is dirty. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t matter because politicians would legislate based on their personal morality, they would legislate based entirely on whether a certain act causes real harm. But this isn’t an ideal world and these moralists we call lawmakers legislate their morality all the time and, I’m fairly certain, feel a rush or joy whenever they see somebody who they consider immoral harmed by legislation.

The best argument that can be made for the abolition of government is the fact that people with power cannot be trusted to not use that power to target and hurt anybody they personally dislike.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 6th, 2019 at 10:00 am

Bipartisanship

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The rift between the two dominant political parties here in the United States appears to be widening ever day. If one party says that it’s in favor of something, the other party almost reflexively says that it’s against it. But there is one issue on which the two parties agree wholeheartedly: bombing people in foreign lands whose skin color is any shade lighter than Scandinavian pale:

WASHINGTON — The Senate, in a bipartisan rebuke to President Trump’s foreign policy, voted overwhelmingly to advance legislation drafted by the majority leader to express strong opposition to the president’s withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

The 68-to-23 vote to cut off debate ensures that the amendment, written by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and backed by virtually every Senate Republican, will be added to a broader bipartisan Middle East policy bill expected to easily pass the Senate next week.

Granted, if history is any indicator, remaining in Afghanistan is a self-correcting problem. There’s a reason it’s often referred to as the graveyard of empires.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 5th, 2019 at 10:00 am

Totally Not Socialism™

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her pals within the Democratic Party are touting their Green New Deal, which is their vision for a massive wealth redistribution scheme. Of course they’re not calling it a wealth redistribution scheme because that sounds like socialism and if there’s one thing Americans won’t stand for it’s anything that calls itself socialism. But Americans will stand (with their hand over their heart no less) for socialism so long as it’s wrapped up in Totally Not Socialism™ packaging. So to claim that their Green New Deal is Totally Not Socialism™ the advocates of this Green New Deal are calling it an economic stimulus package. One ritual required for wrapping a socialist program in Totally Not Socialism™ packaging is explaining how the programming will be funded by using traditional American methods (because, you see, America has always been anti-socialist so if something was done in the past it obviously can’t be socialist).

Ocasio-Cortez are performing this crucial ritual by pointing out that income tax rates between World War II and Regan’s presidency seldom dipped below 70 percent and even reached as high as 90 percent for the “wealthiest” Americans. So funding this stimulus package doesn’t require socialism, it merely requires going back to America’s (totally not socialist) halcyon days! Needless to say their supporters are lapping up their bullshit and eagerly asking for more because they’re ignorant about the difference between statutory and effective tax rates:

Yet this historical narrative is both simplistic and wrong. It relies upon a confusion between the statutory tax rate (i.e., the number that’s on the statute books) and the effective tax rate (i.e., the percentage of income that people actually pay once exemptions, deductions, and other tax-code incentives are accounted for).

Although statutory rates were extremely high between World War II and the Reagan-era tax cuts, practically nobody actually paid the taxman’s full sticker price on their earnings. Instead, a plethora of intentional tax exemptions, deductions, and legal income shelters ensured that wealthy individuals paid a much lower effective tax rate.

How much lower are we talking about exactly? Let’s take an example from 1963, the last year that top rates exceeded the 90 percent high water mark. A single filer in the $1 million bracket ($8.2 million today) faced a rate of 91 percent for every dollar earned over $200,000. While the statutory rate dropped for earnings below $200,000, it did not drop much. The 72 percent rate’s threshold kicked in at $44,000 (about $360,000 today). A 50 percent rate applied to single-filer earnings above $16,000 (about $130,000 today), with several other rate jumps as you attained higher income thresholds in between.

Finding a person who can obtain power without being corrupted is almost impossible. Finding a person who is willing to tell their benefactor to fuck off is even harder.

Those wealthy Americans that Ocasio-Cortez and her pals are claiming they’re going to soak? It turns out that they’re the ones who pay their biggest campaign contributions, the lobbyists who host their lavish dinners, and the human resource personnel who offer them absurd salaries to become lobbyists after they become bored with politics. So there’s no way that Ocasio-Cortez or almost any other politician is going to fuck them over.

The difference between the statutory and effective income tax rates is the key to how politicians keep their base supporters and benefactors happy. They promise their base supporters that they’ll soak the rich and redistribute the seized money to them. Since their gullible base supporters are ignorant of how taxes actually work for the wealthy, they fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Meanwhile, their benefactors are happy because the same politicians who passed the higher statutory income tax rate also created a large number of tax-incentives that allow anybody who falls into the new higher rate category to avoid paying the published rate.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 8th, 2019 at 10:30 am

The Shutdown That Isn’t

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Did you know that the federal government is shutdown? If you didn’t, look at these eight situations created by the shutdown that will impact your life in terrible ways!

The first takeaway from that article is that those eight things are the scariest things the writer could find. Of those eight things only one, Native American not receiving payment for lands “purchased” by the federal government decades ago, stands to impact anybody in any meaningful way. But Native Americans being screwed over by the federal government has been the status quo since its founding so the shutdown really isn’t changing anything in that regard.

The second takeaway is the answer to the question, how can that list of terrible shutdown consequences fail to provide anything truly frightening:

The partial shutdown means about 25% of the US federal government has no funding.

It turns out that this “shutdown” is leaving 75% of the federal government with funding. While you might not be able to watch a live stream of the pandas at the National Zoo (which, ironically, is just a camera running a feed and therefore doesn’t need any funding to continue operating), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives can still afford to kick down your door and shoot your dog because the 16 inch barrel on your AR-15 looks suspiciously like 15.9 inches.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 4th, 2019 at 10:00 am

Watching the Facade Chip Away

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There are many parallels that can be drawn between the United States and pretty much every other major empire throughout history. One of the most common parallels to make, and one I myself often like to make, is the commonality that the United States shares with ancient Rome (which makes sense since the United States was established with Rome in mind).

Early Roman politicians were the quintessential holier than thou characters. Almost everything they did was meant to create an image that they were pious, entirely dedicated to Roman law, and only had the best interests of Rome in mind. As Rome rose in prominence the facade those politicians built began to chip away. The most obvious illustration of this breakdown, in my opinion, was the fate of Tiberius Gracchus. Gracchus fought for and eventually managed to pass legislation that would redistribute much of the public land that was being monopolized but Rome’s rich and powerful to the underdogs. While he used every dirty trick in the book to get his land reforms passed, he did follow the letter of the law more or less (his opponents consider his actions illegal but Roman law, like United States law, had a lot of gray area). But redistributing public land wasn’t a popular idea with the senators who were, not necessarily legally mind you, holding it so they decided to set aside their masks of dedication to Roman Law and publicly clubbed Tiberius to death. What made this assassination a real turning point was that it didn’t appear to be a career killer for most of the involved senators. The facade of political piety to Roman law was torn down and few of the demolition crew suffered any real consequences.

Like politicians in ancient Rome, politicians here in the United States have built a facade of piousness (to the religion of the State more than any other), dedication to United States law, and having the best interests of Americans in mind. Part of that facade is foregoing violence, whether direct or indirect, and instead resolving matters through debates. However, in recent decades and especially in the last decade that facade is beginning to chip away. Although direct violence hasn’t been taken (by the politicians themselves), it’s being spoken of more frequently:

“She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding,” Alexandra Pelosi bluntly told CNN in an interview Wednesday morning. “That’s all you need to know about her.”

Pelosi was asked about her mother’s approach to meetings, ahead of a highly anticipated briefing with President Trump and other top congressional leaders scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in the White House Situation Room. The meeting comes a day before Democrats reclaim the House majority, with Nancy Pelosi expected to ascend once again to speaker.

Admittedly it’s difficult to know that you’re bleeding when you no longer have a head but I digress.

The written records we have from ancient Rome are incomplete (an understatement) so I can’t say whether a similar process precede the senators clubbing Gracchus to death but I’m left to believe it did. I imagine Rome’s descent into political violence began with the clientes of one or two senators talking about how badass their patronus was and, failing to be reprimanded for implying that their senators would ever stoop to violence, inspired others to talk up their senators’ badass nature. I imagine that that tough talk eventually inspired a handful of senators themselves to begin making violent comments and, failing to be reprimanded, that inspired senators to finally set aside the bullshit and just club that annoyance Gracchus to death.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an act of politician on politician violence in the coming years. We’re already at the point where talking about violence is, if not acceptable, not something that results in serious reprimand. Given how device politics is today, it wouldn’t be difficult for a politician to justify to themselves an act of violence as being in the best interests of the American people. And, unlike the days of Aaron Burr, I wouldn’t be surprised if the act of violence didn’t end their political career.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 3rd, 2019 at 10:30 am

With a Wave of My Hand

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When I was in high school, I was taught about how the three branches of government counterbalance each other. The president can’t write or pass law. Congress can’t sign legislation into law. If the president and Congress conspire to do something illegal, the judicial branch can overrule their actions. But like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, the idea that the three branches of government balance each other out is a fairy tale.

The executive branch has continued to grow in power since the beginning of this country. Instead of slapping down attempts by the executive branch to grab more power the legislative branch has worked to retroactively declare those power grabs lawful. The judicial branch, which is ultimately ruled by the Supreme Court, which consists of judges nominated by the executive branch, has more often than not rubber stamped executive power grabs.

Now instead of Congress proposing and voting on legislation and the president signing it into law, new restrictions can be created by the executive bodies that have been granted regulatory power. The latest example of this is the reclassification of bump stocks as machine guns. Congress never passed legislation. The president said that he was going to ban them and one of his agencies, the Department of Justice, created a new regulation that declared bump stocks machine guns and thus put them in a category that is unlawful to own (machine guns that weren’t registered by May 19th, 1986).

This reclassification by an executive agency isn’t new. This has been the norm for decades. I just wanted to highlight it because, unlike Santa Claus, many people believe in the fairy tale of a balanced government well into adulthood.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 19th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Trump Is Pro-Gun and Other Stores to Which Your Republican Friends Cry Themselves to Sleep

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Remember the when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) ruled that bump stocks were legal and that it wouldn’t issue any new rulings in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting? That was entirely thanks to having a National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed president in the White House! If Hillary had won, she would have immediately banned bump stocks and moved on to banning all of our guns. I know, Trump later announced his intentions to ban bump stocks but that was just part of his 5-million-dimensional chess game to lure those stupid libtards into a clever trap! He was never going to actually go through with it!

If you believed any of that, contact me because I’ve got a great deal on a bridge to sell you:

The Trump administration rolled out a new federal regulation Tuesday officially banning bump-fire stocks.

Those who possess the devices, which make it easier to fire rounds from a semi-automatic weapon by harnessing the gun’s recoil to “bump” the trigger faster, will have 90 days to turn in or otherwise destroy them from the date that the final rule is published in the federal register — likely this Friday — according to senior DOJ officials.

What makes this change especially interesting is that every bump stock has been manufactured after the May 19th, 1986 cutoff date for registering new machine guns that was enacted into law by the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act. Unless some kind of legal exception is made, which doesn’t appear to be the case, there will be no legal way for current bump stock owners to register their “machine guns” and therefore their only legal option will be to get rid of them.

In summary the NRA endorsed a candidate who had a history of supporting gun control pushed gun control and after 90 days everybody who legally purchased a bump stock will become a felon unless they get rid of their “machine guns.”

Written by Christopher Burg

December 19th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The FCC’s Wealth Redistribution Plan

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The Fascist Communications Commission (FCC) has revealed its latest plan for wealth redistribution. The agency wants to tax successful online businesses so it can give that money to Internet Service Providers (ISP):

A Federal Communications Commission advisory committee has proposed a new tax on Netflix, Google, Facebook, and many other businesses that require Internet access to operate.

If adopted by states, the recommended tax would apply to subscription-based retail services that require Internet access, such as Netflix, and to advertising-supported services that use the Internet, such as Google and Facebook. The tax would also apply to any small- or medium-sized business that charges subscription fees for online services or uses online advertising. The tax would also apply to any provider of broadband access, such as cable or wireless operators.

The collected money would go into state rural broadband deployment funds that would help bring faster Internet access to sparsely populated areas. Similar universal service fees are already assessed on landline phone service and mobile phone service nationwide. Those phone fees contribute to federal programs such as the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which pays AT&T and other carriers to deploy broadband in rural areas.

As somebody who grew up in a rural area and still has family in a rural area I can say with some certainty that ISPs aren’t using the money they’re getting from these taxes to provide rural communities with broadband Internet. Fortunately, there are methods for rural communities to get broadband Internet and, best of all, it doesn’t require any wealth redistribution.

The claim that the taxes will be used for rural broadband initiatives is just another euphemism to avoid calling the tax what it is, plundering the pockets of plebs to line the pockets of ISPs with good government connections.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Promises, Promises

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I guess it’s rerun season for American Politics because we’re stuck rewatching the episode The Wall. Trump wants Mexico, err, the United States to pay for a pointless wall on the southern border and the Democrats, for no reason other than Trump wants it, are refusing to fund it. No we’re at the episode’s plot twist. It appears that Trump doesn’t actually want the wall funded because he’s making great promises if the wall isn’t funded:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday transformed what was to be a private negotiating session with Democratic congressional leaders into a bitter televised altercation over his long-promised border wall, vowing to force a year-end government shutdown if they refused to fund his signature campaign promise.

During an extraordinary public airing of hostilities that underscored a new, more confrontational dynamic in Washington, Mr. Trump vowed to block full funding for the government if Democrats refused to allocate money for the wall on the southwestern border, saying he was “proud to shut down the government for border security.”

Shutdown the government? Oh no. Not that. Please. Anything but that.

Of course we’ve all seen this episode and know how it will end. The government shutdown won’t be a shutdown. All that will happen is the services that will directly inconvenience the plebs will be shutdown while the “essential” services, all of those services that are convenient to the government itself, will remain operational.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Tax Them to Death

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The government here in the frozen tundra of Minnesota likes to tax us plebs hard. However, as bad as we get bled it’s nothing compared to California. It’s clear that the government of California doesn’t see the denizens cursed to live in its state as people but as cattle. Every time you turn around the government is enacting or proposing a new tax. Yesterday it was reported that a new proposal is to tax text messages. But a proposal of a new tax in California isn’t anymore newsworthy than pointing out that the name of the day today ends in “y.” What is amusing though is the number of euphemisms that are used to make the new proposal sound like something other than theft:

As mobile phone users have shifted their usage patterns away from voice calls, voice call revenues for PPP have dropped by about a third, while the budget for subsidizing poorer users has risen by almost half. So California’s PUC is exploring its options and, as texts share infrastructure with voice calls — even if the medium is different — it estimates it could raise $44.5 million a year with the change. Applied retroactively it could amount to a bill of more than $220 million for California consumers.

You see? It’s for the poor! If you complain about this proposed tax, you’re obviously a rich baron who hates poor people! Oh, and this proposed tax isn’t actually stealing money from you. You see, “revenues” are down because you stupid plebs don’t call your mother enough so this is really just reclaiming cash that has been lost because of you assholes!

As the article points out though, text messaging is declining as chat applications take their place. This proposed tax will be irrelevant in short order, which means the Public Utilities Commission will be looking for a new way to bleed Californians in a few years. This is the vicious cycle of taxation. A tax is placed on a popular consumer activity, that activity is eventually replaced by a different activity, a new tax is placed on the new popular consumer activity, and so on.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 13th, 2018 at 11:00 am