A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

Peak Bureaucracy

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Never underestimate a bureaucracies absolutism when it comes to following its own rules:

As the plane was preparing to take off for a second time and depart from the Great White North, the aircraft ran into a mechanical issue. Natalie Noonan, a United Airlines spokeswoman, told Global News that the door of the aircraft wouldn’t shut because it had likely frozen in the frigid temperatures.

However, because the airport had no customs officers on duty overnight, passengers were unable to leave the plane.

[…]

As the hours ticked away, temperatures continued to drop, sinking to as cold as -26 degrees Fahrenheit around 8 a.m. AST in Goose Bay, according to Weather Underground data.

I’m sure United Airlines is relieved to not be the source of the problem. However, I’m doubting the passengers sitting on a plane with a door that wouldn’t close in subzero weather were seeing the wisdom of barring them from deplaning because a bureaucrat wasn’t present to process their papers.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 22nd, 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

One Weird Trick to Avoid Not Receiving a Refund

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in its quest to make the federal government “shutdown” as painful as possible, has announced that while it will continue to take your money, it won’t return your refund:

During a shutdown, the IRS typically doesn’t perform audits, pay refunds or offer assistance to taxpayers if they have questions, especially outside of the filing season. And while some of the lights may still be on in the building, the agency is currently operating with only 12.5 percent of its workforce, or fewer than 10,000 federal employees.

A lot of people are upset about this but I’ve got one weird trick to avoid not receiving your refund: don’t overpay. If you receive a refund on your taxes, it means you gave the government an interest free loan that it is returning to you. If you adjust your withholdings properly, you won’t overpay and therefore won’t need to worry about a refund.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 7th, 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

If We Screw Up, It’s You Who Pays

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What happens if you’re arrested by a law enforcer under suspicion of possessing drugs, forcefully subjected to a anal cavity search (after an x-ray turned up nothing), and then found innocent of all wrongdoing? You receive a $4,595.12 bill for having the inside of your asshole inspected:

They collaborated to sedate a suspect and thread an 8-inch flexible tube into his rectum in a search for illegal drugs. The suspect, who police said had taunted them that he’d hidden drugs there, refused consent for the procedure.

At least two doctors resisted the police request. An X-ray already had indicated no drugs. They saw no medical need to perform an invasive procedure on someone against his will.

[…]

When they were done, the hospital lawyer overruled its doctors. The lawyer told his doctors that a search warrant required the doctors to use “any means” to retrieve the drugs, records show.

So St. Joe’s medical staff knocked out the suspect and performed the sigmoidoscopy, in search of evidence of a misdemeanor or low-level felony charge, records show.

[…]

So, was it worth the risk? The X-ray was right. The scope found no drugs.

And when they were done, St. Joe’s sent the suspect a bill for $4,595.12.

Will you look at that? The radar shows a lawsuit coming in fast!

In a just world the law enforcers would be punished for trying to force doctors to perform a medical procedure that wasn’t necessary. The judge would be punished for issuing a warrant without any probably cause (a gut feeling and divine inspiration don’t qualify as probably cause). And the hospital’s lawyer would be punished for ordering the doctors to perform an invasive procedure even though an x-ray had already proven that the suspect had no drugs hiding inside of his ass (a hospital’s lawyer is supposed to keep the hospital out of legal trouble not embroil it in situations that will obviously result in a lawsuit).

However, this isn’t a just world. I suspect that the hospital will be punished but I’m all but certain that the law enforcers and the judge will get away scot-free.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2018 at 11:00 am

Once Again Courts Find Law Enforcers Have No Duty to Protect You

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One of the most common arguments made by gun rights advocates is that keeping and bearing arms is essential for self-defense. One of the most common counterarguments made by gun control advocates is that people should rely on professionals to protect them. Professionals in their case means law enforcers, which leaves a giant hole in their counterargument. Courts have consistently ruled that law enforcers have no duty to protect people. A new ruling clarifies that that lack of duty includes children:

A federal judge says Broward schools and the Sheriff’s Office had no legal duty to protect students during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed a suit filed by 15 students who claimed they were traumatized by the crisis in February. The suit named six defendants, including the Broward school district and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, as well as school deputy Scot Peterson and campus monitor Andrew Medina.

Bloom ruled that the two agencies had no constitutional duty to protect students who were not in custody.

Whenever I’ve pointed this consistent ruling out to gun control advocates they’ve had to resort to the extremely weak counterargument that while law enforcers aren’t obligated to protect people, no decent law enforcer would shirk from doing so. Arguments based on what people should do can be immediately dismissed when discussing violence because people should refrain from initiating acts of violence. When the argument of self-defense arises, it is because what people should do has already been thrown out of the window. More specifically though the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School proved that there are law enforcers who will shirk from defending people.

As far as the courts are concerned, when somebody initiates violence against you, you’re on your own. If I were a student, I’d trust a teacher who likely has an emotional incentive to protect me far more than a random law enforcer who has no obligation whatsoever to protect me. Since I’d put more trust in a teacher, I’d prefer they have the option of being armed so they are better equipped to defend me if the need arises (as an added bonus, the need to defend me would be less likely to arise since the school would no longer be a tempting soft target).

Written by Christopher Burg

December 19th, 2018 at 11:00 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

A Plea Bargain Is Not Proven Guilt

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Last week major media sources published stories claiming that a woman was guilty of being a spy for Russia. However, if you spent a few seconds reading the articles, you quickly learned that she wasn’t proven guilty by a jury. She signed a plea bargain:

A Russian woman accused in the US of acting as an agent for the Kremlin to infiltrate political groups has pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors.

The key part in that sentence is, “in a deal with prosecutors.”

Imagine you’re brought before a prosecutor. The first thing they show you is the long list of charges that they’re bringing against you. If you’re found guilty of even some of the charges, you’re looking at decades behind bars. However, the prosecutor is willing to cut you a deal. If you sign an admission of guilt, you will only face five years in prison. You know that you’re innocent by do you believe that you’ll be able to convince a jury of that? Even after the judge gives the jury instructions that will stack the odds against you? Even if the prosecutor has an unfair advantage because their transgressions against court procedure often go unpunished? Even though many of the laws you’re accused of violating are so vaguely written that it’s nearly impossible for anybody to argue their innocence against them? Wouldn’t it be better to take the five years in prison rather than the very likely decades you’ll face if this case goes to a rigged court?

These are the questions one must ask themselves when a prosecutor puts a deal in front of them. In my opinion it’s one of the most corrupt aspects of the American judicial system. At a minimum I wish news agencies would reflect this ridiculousness by clearly stating in both the headline and the article that the suspect wasn’t found guilty but merely signed a plea bargain.

None of this is to say that this woman isn’t guilty as Hell. She very well may be a Russian spy. But I don’t believe signing a piece of paper under duress is the same as proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am