A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Your Government Doesn’t Love You’ tag

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

The Walls Have Ears

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It’s tough to avoid the gaze of Big Brother. As this article sent to me by Steven demonstrates, Big Brother even watches where he’s not supposed to:

KANSAS CITY, Kan.– The federal public defender’s office has asked for the release of 67 inmates from a Kansas federal prison and plans to seek freedom for more than 150 others because authorities secretly recorded conversations between prisoners and their attorneys that are supposed to be private.

Most of the federal inmates are being held on drug or firearms-related cases.

The practice first came to light in a prison contraband case during which criminal defense lawyers discovered the privately run Leavenworth Detention Center was routinely recording meetings and phone conversations between attorneys and clients, which are confidential under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. A court-appointed expert was brought in to independently investigate whether prosecutors had improperly listened to the recordings.

Once again we have a demonstration of the fact that the Constitution is nothing more than a piece of paper. It is incapable of enforcing the rules that it displays and thus powerless to stop individuals from violating those rules. Here is where constitutionalists tend to point out that while the rules were violated, now that the violation is known it is being corrected. To that I point out that the violation isn’t guaranteed to be corrected and, more importantly, even if the violation is corrected, those who are in prison because of those violations can never get the years of their life back (and will likely receive little in the way of compensation).

This is not to say that parts of the Constitution, such as the Bill of Rights, aren’t nice concepts but to point out that they are simply concepts. Far too often people, especially libertarians and conservatives, fall into the trap of attributing almost godlike powers to it. So while the Constitution guarantees certain protections against state surveillance, those guarantees aren’t actual guarantees and you must operate as if you are under state surveillance even when you’re in situations where you’re supposed to be legally protected from it.

Not Enough Slaves

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Senator Tom Cotton has a reputation for saying incredibly stupid shit. However, I think he may have outdone himself:

Sen. Tom Cotton on Thursday slammed his colleagues’ efforts to pass sweeping criminal justice reforms, saying the United States is actually suffering from an “under-incarceration problem.”

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“Take a look at the facts. First, the claim that too many criminals are being jailed, that there is over-incarceration, ignores an unfortunate fact: for the vast majority of crimes, a perpetrator is never identified or arrested, let alone prosecuted, convicted, and jailed,” Cotton said during a speech at The Hudson Institute, according to his prepared remarks. “Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes. If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem.”

The country with the highest incarceration rate in the world has an under-incarceration problem?

Moreover, Cotton’s statements about the inadequacies of law enforcers doesn’t add any weight to his argument. Assuming Cotton’s statistics are correct (which they probably aren’t), why do law enforcers only identify perpetrators in 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes? Could it be that instead of focusing their efforts on crimes where individuals were actually wronged they are focusing their efforts on victimless crimes that are profitable for the department like drug crimes?

Moreover, even if law enforcers were able to identify perpetrators in a majority of property and violent crimes, why should that increase the incarceration rate? The purpose of justice is supposed to be to make a victim as whole again as possible. For example, if somebody steals a $400 television, justice would be for the criminal to repay that $400 value to the victim as well as any expenses incurred (including personal time invested) for finding the thief and bringing them to justice. If that happens, the victim is back to where they were before the theft and thus is as whole again as reasonably possible.

Incarceration doesn’t make victims whole, it merely locks a criminal away so they can become a slave laborer for the state or one of its cronies. So what Cotton is really saying is that there aren’t enough slaves to work the prison plantations and he believes that any form of prison reform will only worsen the situation. If his concern was actually justice, he would still seek a reduction in incarceration rates.

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

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

The Human Capacity for Self-Deception

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It’s common upon hearing news of an individual committing some kind of atrocity to wonder how they ever brought themselves to do it. It’s also common to act rather indignant when that individual argues that their heinous act was actually for the great good because it’s automatically assumed that they’re lying to protect their own skin. However, humans have a marvelous capacity for self-deception as demonstrated by classified documents revealed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

One of the most important lessons of the CIA’s torture program is the way it corrupted virtually every individual and institution associated with it. Over the years, we have learned how lawyers twisted the law and psychologists betrayed their ethical obligations in order to enable the brutal and unlawful torture of prisoners.

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Perhaps the most striking element of the document is the CIA doctors’ willful blindness to the truth of what they were doing. CIA doctors decided that waterboarding actually “provided periodic relief” to a prisoner because it was a break from days of standing sleep deprivation. Similarly, CIA doctors decided that when a different prisoner was stuffed into a coffin-sized box, this provided a “relatively benign sanctuary” from other torture methods. CIA doctors described yet another prisoner — who cried, begged, pleaded, vomited, and required medical resuscitation after being waterboarded — as “amazingly resistant to the waterboard.” Incredibly, CIA doctors concluded that the torture program was “reassuringly free of enduring physical or psychological effects.”

This reminds me of a quote from Rudolf Diels, Himmler’s predecessor:

The infliction of physical punishment is not every man’s job, and naturally we were only too glad to recruit men who were prepared to show no squeamishness at their task. Unfortunately, we knew nothing about the Freudian side of the business, and it was only after a number of instances of unnecessary flogging and meaningless cruelty that I tumbled to the fact that my organization had been attracting all the sadists in Germany and Austria without my knowledge for some time past. It had also been attracting unconscious sadists, i.e. men who did not know themselves that they had sadist leanings until they took part in a flogging. And finally it had actually been creating sadists. For it seems that corporal chastisement ultimately arouses sadistic leanings in apparently normal men and women. Freud might explain it.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was likely looking for particular sorts of individuals to staff its prison camps. Namely individuals who weren’t squeamish in the presence of torture. Moreover, the CIA likely attracted many unconscious sadists who didn’t really know why they found the job description appealing. And the agency was almost certainly creating sadists by putting individuals in increasingly more sadistic positions that eventually desensitized them to the jobs that they were doing.

People who like to inflict physical pain generally don’t need to justify their actions to themselves. But what about the unconscious sadists and those who were perfectly normal before taking a job at a CIA prison camp? They likely had some difficulty sleeping at night… at first. Oftentimes when an individual’s actions bother their conscious they try to justify their actions to themselves. “I wasn’t torturing him, I as providing periodic relief by giving him a break from forced sleep deprivation!” “The methods used to interrogate these individuals don’t leave enduring physical or psychological effects so is it really that harmful?” “If we don’t use these methods, we won’t be able to find out the information we need in time to save lives!” Eventually most people are able to convince themselves that what they did was good and they are able to sleep soundly at night. Through this method a seemingly well adjusted individual can perform heinous acts and truly believe that what they’re doing is actually a good thing.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Risking Lives to Enforce Petty Offenses

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There’s no offense so petty that law enforcers won’t risk lives to enforce it:

In Bloomington, police topped 90 miles per hour in a chase to nab a driver whose car had a missing license plate.

In nearby Eagan, an officer reached speeds up to 107 miles per hour in hopes of catching a driver wanted for shoplifting.

State troopers chased a car at 115 miles per hour after spotting an air-freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror.

Over the last three years, law enforcement officers throughout Minnesota have overwhelmingly engaged in high-speed, high-risk chases for low-level offenses, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation has found.

An examination of more than 700 court cases since 2016 shows police officers, deputies and Minnesota State Patrol troopers chased drivers for non-violent offenses 95 percent of the time.

Not only is risking lives to enforce petty offenses far riskier than the payoff justifies but high speed chases are also unnecessary in a surveillance state.

Law enforcement departments throughout the country have invested heavily in surveillance technologies. Many cities are now covered with license plate scanners and those scanners are often sophisticated enough to identify the make and model of a vehicle as well as to uniquely identify a vehicle by bumper stickers and other external features. It’s quickly becoming impossible to evade law enforcement using a vehicle. This means that instead of engaging in a high speed chase, law enforcers could instead tell dispatch to track the vehicle using the expensive surveillance technology already in place. The suspect can still be arrested and innocent bystanders don’t have to be put at risk to do it.

But using tracking technology doesn’t offer the adrenaline rush that engaging in a high speed chase does so I can see why that option isn’t utilized very often.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Go Be Homeless Somewhere Else

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Minneapolis made national news because of its Hooverville. What didn’t get as much headline attention is St. Paul’s Hooverville. Fortunately for the government of St. Paul (but unfortunately for the homeless individuals) the lack of national attention has meant that it has more freedom to deal with its homeless encampment. The St. Paul Police Department distributed flyers that informed the individuals in the encampment that have to go be homeless somewhere else:

Late last week, St. Paul city officials said they were increasingly worried about how the onset of wintry weather was affecting a camp of homeless people at the base of Cathedral Hill, and hoped to come up with a plan for them over the next couple weeks.

Early Tuesday morning, they took action: police officers and workers from the Department of Safety and Inspections visited the encampment alongside Interstate 35E and handed out fliers.

“To protect your health and safety,” the flier told campers, “this site will be permanently cleared at 10 a.m. on Thursday, November 15th. You are required to vacate the site and not return.”

To protect their health and safety their community will dismantled and their meager possession will be taken if not cleared out by the deadline. Makes sense.

The flyers do promise the homeless individuals transportation to the handful homeless shelters in the area, which will appease the residents of St. Paul who want the homeless people gone but in a manner that won’t upset their conscious. However, if the homeless shelters were able to provide these individuals what they need, they probably would be using them instead of camping in tents in the winter. The homeless shelters in the Twin Cities are overcrowded and usually kick guests out in the morning so they have to find somewhere to hunker down until the shelter opens up again. But none of this matters because the existence of the shelters is only being mentioned on the flyers to make the act of destroying the encampment appear magnanimous.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Disposable Soldiers

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The United States government is constantly demanding that we treat soldiers as heroes. However, this is a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” While the government is demanding that we treat soldiers as heroes, it’s treating them as a disposable commodity:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged that the failure of a new IT system for processing claims for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits has been holding up payments for months and causing financial hardship for thousands of veterans. “Many of our Post-9/11 GI Bill students are experiencing longer than typical wait times to receive monthly housing payments,” the VA said in a statement, with processing times averaging “a little over 35 days” for first-time veteran applicants. More than 82,000 veterans were still waiting for housing payments for the fall semester as of November 8, with some having lost housing as the result of non-payment.

I’ve yet to hear a positive experience from a veteran who has had to deal with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Whenever the VA’s abysmal record is dragged out for yet another round of political maneuvering, politicians act outraged at how this nation’s supposed heroes are being treated and pledge to get to the bottom of it. Of course they never do and the system continues to provide endless pain to the veterans who have to rely on it. I doubt this will ever change because politicians use the term “human resource” in its most literal sense, to them humans are a resource to be used and discarded afterwards.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 14th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Every Vote Matters

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Another national election has concluded. That can only mean that Florida is steeping in electoral shenanigans again:

The elections board in Florida’s Miami-Dade County has collected a set of mysterious ballots in the Opa-locka mail facility after Democrats raised concern about the uncounted votes.

The uncounted ballots have emerged as one of many battles over the fiercely contested Florida elections that moved this weekend into a recount phase.

Suzy Trutie, a spokesperson for the county’s supervisor of elections, told CNN there were 266 ballots in the shipment and that the votes will not be counted. Florida law requires all ballots sent by mail to arrive at the election facility by 7 p.m. on Election Day, and these ballots did not meet that standard, Trutie said.

There are two possible explanations here. The first is that these votes were somehow lost in the mail. The second is that these votes were conjugated out of thin air when it a race was so close that ballots had to be recounted. Neither explanation supposed the advocate of democracy’s claim that every vote matters.

If the first explanation is true, then the votes of the 266 individuals who voted on those ballots don’t matter because they weren’t received by the legal deadline. If the second explanation is true and the people arguing that those ballots should be counted get their way, the power of the legitimate votes that were cast will be watered down.

It turns out that creating a pseudonymous voting system that is also secure is a task that has so far eluded the people of the United States. So long as that continues to be the case, your vote really can’t be said to matter.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 14th, 2018 at 10:30 am