A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘You’re Doing it Right’ tag

Hope for the Future

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It’s pretty clear that there’s no hope to be found amongst the current generation of rulers. However, Texans may have a glimmer of home in the next generation of rulers:

But it recently got a boost from some unlikely supporters: a contingent of high school boys.

Earlier this month, a secession bill won overwhelming support from the mock legislature in Texas Boys State, the American Legion’s summer program where youth leaders create and run their own government, as the Wise County Messenger reported Saturday. The vote, held June 15, marked the first time in the nearly 80 years since the program’s inception in Texas that both chambers of the Texas Boys State legislature voted in favor of seceding from the Union.

It’s nice to see at least some young individuals have their heads screwed on right about secession. There’s no saving the United States of America. Between crippling amounts of debt, a body of law that no individual can ever fully memorize, an unwillingness to respect both the rights of individuals and the constitutionally granted privileges of the individual states, etc. it’s clear that the only way to chisel out a little extra freedom is for the individual states to secede. Once they’ve seceded and become the new tyrants then the counties can secede and then the townships and finally the individuals.

Secession down to the last individual!

Written by Christopher Burg

June 28th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Twin Cities Pride Disassociates Itself with Local Gang Members

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After Officer Yanez was declared not guilty by a jury a lot of people are finally waking up to the realization that the police can literally get away with murder. This realization has lead a great deal of anger as well as a desire by many to disassociate themselves from the police as much as possible. The organizations of Twin Cities Pride, for example, announced that they will only have the legally mandated police presence. Not surprisingly this decision has created some butthurt in police circles:

St. Paul Deputy Police Chief Mary Nash said she was disappointed and that her colleagues have shared their frustration.

Nash, the department’s LGBTQ liaison, said 12 to 25 St. Paul officers have taken part in the parade in previous years.

“I understand people are angry and we can respect their feelings, but the reality is at the end of the day if we can’t work together it becomes more challenging to become better as a community and to become better as a police department,” Nash said.

It’s hard to work together with people who take every opportunity to steal from you and have a propensity for killing you because you had a taillight out, you were selling cigarettes, the officer smelled cannabis, your skin was too dark, or any of the plethora of other reasons cops have murdered peaceful individuals. Perhaps if the police made themselves easier to work with more people would be willing to work together with them.

At least Nash’s statement was, I believe, heartfelt and pretty decent. Bob Kroll’s statement? Not so much:

Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said organizers should be “ashamed” and called the action “disturbing.”

“It’s shameful to see this group of leadership head in this direction,” Kroll said in a statement. “With the uptick in terrorist attacks worldwide, this outward anti-police sentiment is alarming. For an organization that prides itself on being accepting and inclusive, the hypocrisy amazes me.”

Uptick of terrorist attacks? That’s the kind of old fashioned fear mongering that I’ve come to expect from Kroll. As for this disassociation going against Pride’s history of inclusiveness, I will paraphrase one of the dumbest phrases I constantly hear from the alt-right and statist libertarians and apply it intelligently. Inclusiveness isn’t a suicide pact. Just because you’re inclusive doesn’t mean you have to associate with people whose job is literally extorting wealth from you.

I’m glad to see some pushback against the police. Perhaps someday there will be enough pushback to wake some police officers up enough to perform some serious introspection. If that were to happen, they might change their behavior and everybody could benefit.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 23rd, 2017 at 10:30 am

A Rare Legal Victory

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Once in a while the State sees fit to throw us serfs a bone. Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that rejecting disparaging trademarks is a violation of the First Amendment:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law that prohibits the government from registering trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment, a decision that could impact the Washington Redskins’ efforts to hang on to its controversial name.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. delivered the opinion for a largely united court. He said the law could not be saved just because it evenhandedly prohibits disparagement of all groups.

“That is viewpoint discrimination in the sense relevant here: Giving offense is a viewpoint,” Alito wrote.

He added that the disparagement clause in the law “offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

The First Amendment is supposed to protect all forms of speech against government censorship. Since the government maintains a monopoly on trademarks it’s refusal to issue trademarks that it has deemed disparaging is a form a censorship.

Free speech is a hot topic at the moment. A lot of people, especially on college campuses, are hellbent on censoring the speech of individuals they disagree with. While there is no problem with private individuals and organizations censoring whatever speech they feel like (something a lot of free speech advocates forget) there is a huge problem when the government gets involved in deciding what forms of speech are acceptable and what forms are not. One of the biggest problems is how the definitions of acceptable and unacceptable change when the party in power changes. Allowing government to censor speech might sound reasonable at first because they’re censoring the speech you disagree with but when the other party comes into power your speech might suddenly be censored as well. The tendency of government to perform legal creep should be enough for everybody to oppose it when it tries to restrict the privileges we often mistakenly refer to as rights.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Undead Bureaucracy

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Remember Y2K? Most of us have probably forgotten about that apocalypse that never happened. But the government didn’t. In fact government offices were still reporting on their Y2K readiness status because that’s what the law commanded them to do:

Seventeen years after the Year 2000 bug came and went, the federal government will finally stop preparing for it.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies, including an obscure rule that requires them to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted some computers at the turn of the century. As another example, the Pentagon will be freed from a requirement that it file a report every time a small business vendor is paid, a task that consumed some 1,200 man-hours every year.

Bureaucracy is a lot like a zombie. Once it has been summoned it will shamble around trying to eat people forever. The only way to stop it is to take purposeful action to kill it.

Government offices should have stopped having to report on their Y2K readiness as soon as the year switched from 1999 to 2000. But the law requiring the offices to report on their readiness didn’t have a builtin expiration date and nobody in the Legislature took action to pass another law canceling those requirements so everybody kept going through the motions even though doing so was completely pointless.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Technology to the Rescue

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One of the reasons that the State fails to maintain its control is because it’s competing with the creative potential of every human on Earth. Let’s take the drug war. The federal government of the United States has been dealt significant blows in its crusade against cannabis in recent years as individual states have legalized consumption of the plant either entirely or in approved manners. Hoping to regain some semblance of control, the feds tried to use their influence on the banking industry to make life difficult for cannabis related businesses. However, the centralized banking system isn’t as powerful as it once was:

Enter bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that consists of digital coins “mined” by computers solving increasingly complex math problems. At least two financial-technology startups, POSaBIT and SinglePoint Inc., use the cryptocurrency as an intermediate step that lets pot connoisseurs use their bank-issued credit cards to buy weed.

[…]

Once a customer decides on which marijuana product to buy, an employee asks if he or she would like to use cash or digital currency, Lai said. If the buyer prefers the latter, the Trove employee explains that the customer can use a credit card to buy bitcoin through a POSaBIT kiosk, with a $2 transaction fee tacked on.

The customer, who would now own bitcoin equal to the value of the purchase, can then redeem the currency in the store. Or the buyer can keep their bitcoin and use it anywhere else that accepts the currency. If the customer finishes the purchase in the store, POSaBIT, which pockets the transaction fee, then sends the value in U.S. dollars to Trove’s bank account.

Cryptocurrencies have been making the State red in the face ever since the first person realized that they could be combined with hidden services to perform anonymous online transactions. Now they’re disrupting the fed’s war on drugs in the physical world in states where cannabis has been legalized.

Cryptocurrencies are a technology gun stores should also be looking into. Banks have been closing the accounts of many businesses tied to the gun market. Technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum could allow these businesses to circumvent the need for centralized banks by either utilizing an intermediary like the cannabis industry is starting to do or by being a direct store of wealth outside of a third party’s control.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 15th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

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Municipal governments usually claim that the will help tenants when they find themselves being wronged by their landlord. Many tenants throughout the country try to take those governments up on their offer only to find out that what a government says is not necessary what a government does.

A man in Augusta, Maine found himself living in a property infested with bedbugs. The landlord was apparently unwilling to address the issue so the man went to the municipal government for help. Not surprisingly, the municipal government made no effort to help him so the man submitted an official protests:

Earlier that day the man had made a complaint at the office against his landlord, claiming a bed bug problem in his apartment building. He became angry after being told that he did not qualify for assistance.

“He whipped out a cup (full of live bedbugs) and slammed it on the counter, and bam, off they flew, maybe 100 of them,” said City Manager William Bridgeo.

The bedbugs landed on the counter and on an employee. The building closed until an exterminator could kill and dispose of the bugs.

With a cup full of bugs the man was able to shutdown an entire government building. That’s a cheap denial of service attack. Unfortunately, the man’s bedbug problem will likely remain unresolved but at least he didn’t roll over and take it when the municipal government weaseled out of one of the offers is made the denizens of Augusta.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 7th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Intellectual Property Dealt a Hard Blow

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I pull no punches when it comes to my views on intellectual property. While I want intellectual property abolished entirely, I do admit that some uses are more egregious than others. One of the most egregious uses is restricting what consumers can do with a product after they’ve purchased it. John Deere made headlines by using intellectual property laws to prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment. Printer manufacturers have also been using intellectual property laws to restrict consumer access to third-party ink. The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling dealt a hard blow to those printer manufacturers:

The US Supreme Court voted 7-1 to place more limits on the rights of patent-holders, striking down a decision by the nation’s top patent court for the second time in two weeks.

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Lexmark sued Impression, alleging two different kinds of violations of patent law. First, Impression was accused of buying Return Program cartridges, altering their chips, re-filling them, and re-selling them in the US. Second, Impression bought some Lexmark cartridges abroad and imported them into the US. Lexmark said all the cartridges in that second group infringed its patents, whether they were Return Program cartridges or Regular. The Federal Circuit held that in both cases, Lexmark could go ahead and sue, in part because Impression had full knowledge of exactly the restrictions that were placed on the cartridges.

The Supreme Court reversed on both counts. As to the US sales of Return Program cartridges, “Lexmark exhausted its patent rights in these cartridges the moment it sold them,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the majority. “A patentee is free to set the price and negotiate contracts with his purchasers, but may not, ‘by virtue of his patent, control the use or disposition’ of the product after ownership passes to the purchaser.” [Emphasis in original.]

Once I’ve purchased a product it should be mine to do with as I please. If I want to send my spent ink cartridge to a company that specializes in bypassing measures designed to prevent me from refilling the cartridge then I should have every right to do so. Being able to do whatever you want with your property (so long as it doesn’t harm another person or their property) is the very definition of ownership.

In recent decades companies have been abusing intellectual property laws to restrict what consumers can legally do with their property. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was one of the worst instances of consumer restriction because it actually made the act of bypassing any form of manufacturer restriction implemented to guard copyrighted material outright illegal. This combined with software copyright laws created an environment of consumer feudalism where consumers were effectively serfs who licensed products and could only use them in manners expressly permitted by the manufacturer lords. Fortunately, the current Supreme Court appears to be reversing this trend.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 31st, 2017 at 11:00 am

On an Editorial Board, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog

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“Where’s your peer reviewed paper,” is a question many people instinctively ask when you present an idea that conflicts with one of their beliefs. The idea of requiring scientific peers to review research papers before they are considered scientifically sound is a good one. However, peer reviews are only as good as the people reviewing them. Many “scientific” journals exist not to verify scientific vigor but to prey on gullible researchers who are often new to their field. When such journals review a scientific paper you don’t know if the review was done by a human being or a dog:

Ollie’s owner, Mike Daube, is a professor of health policy at Australia’s Curtin University. He initially signed his dog up for the positions as a joke, with credentials such as an affiliation at the Subiaco College of Veterinary Science. But soon, he told Perth Now in a video, he realized it was a chance to show just how predatory some journals can be.

“Every academic gets several of these emails a day, from sham journals,” he said. “They’re trying to take advantage of gullible younger academics, gullible researchers” who want more publications to add to their CVs. These journals may look prestigious, but they charge researchers to publish and don’t check credentials or peer review articles. And this is precisely how a dog could make it onto their editorial boards.

The peer review process, like many things surrounding the scientific method, is often poorly understood by laymen. To those who have hoisted science onto a religious pedestal the words “peer review” are more of a magical incantation that makes the words that follow infallible. To those who understand the scientific method the words “peer review” means that the credentials of the peers need to be verified before their review is given any weight.

There are a lot of scam artists out there, even in scientific fields. Don’t trust research just because it was peer reviewed. Try to find out whether the peers who reviewed the research are likely knowledgeable about the subject or are really just a bunch of dogs.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 31st, 2017 at 10:30 am

That’s a Shame

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Here in Minnesota we have a part time Legislature. With the exception of special sessions, the Legislature is constitutionally limited to meeting for a total of 120 days every two years. While that sounds pretty sweet it means that we deal with a lot of special sessions and, more annoyingly, have to hear about a bunch of political drama at the beginning of the year.

This year, as with most years, the biggest political drama involves how the government is planning to spend other people’s money. After the usual backroom deals and partisan showmanship the Republicans and Democrats came to an agreement on an overall budget. The budget was signed by Mark Dayton but he failed to sign the bill that would fund the Legislature itself:

Gov. Mark Dayton invited a high-stakes constitutional clash Tuesday by signing bills that will fund the executive branch while eliminating funding for the Legislature, leaving lawmakers with dwindling cash to continue operations.

[…]

The Senate budget is about $30 million and is carrying a reserve of about $3 million, Gazelka said.

The House budget is roughly twice that and has a reserve of about $7 million, Daudt said, meaning both chambers would run out of money in a matter of months — especially in the case of a protracted legal fight. Most of the money to fund the Legislature goes to pay lawmakers and the staff required to do their work.

The Legislature won’t be receiving other people’s money? That’s a shame. Whatever will us Minnesotans do without our lawmakers being paid to create new ways to oppress us?

Written by Christopher Burg

May 31st, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Evil Humans Do

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I’m not sure if this has always been there or if it’s a fairly modern thing but there is certainly a trend, at least here in the United States, for people to dehumanize anybody they view as evil. A good example of this is the alt-right and the anti-fascists. The alt-right describe the anti-fascists as violent psychopaths incapable of empathy who want nothing more than to see the world burn. The anti-fascists describe the alt-right as, well, violent psychopaths incapable of empathy who want nothing more than to see the world burn. Both sides have effectively dehumanized each other because they view each other’s philosophies as evil.

But evil isn’t perpetrated by inhuman monsters, it’s perpetrated by humans:

One of the key themes of Tizons’ article is that his family was, in many senses, almost a caricature of the striving, American-dream-seeking immigrant experience. They were normal. They were normal and yet they had a slave. To which one could respond, “Well, no, they’re not normal — they are deranged psychopaths to have managed to simply live for decades and decades with a slave under their roof. That is not something normal people do, and it’s wrong to portray it as such.”

But the entire brutal weight of human history contradicts this view. Normal people — people who otherwise have no signs of derangement or a lack of a grip on basic human moral principles — do evil stuff all the time. One could write millions of pages detailing all the times when evil acts were perpetrated, abetted, or not resisted by people who were, in every other respect, perfectly normal. It’s safe to say, to a certain approximation, that all of us — I really mean this; I really mean you and your family and everyone you love — could, in a different historical context, have been a slaver or a Holocaust-perpetrator or at the very least decided it wasn’t worth the trouble to contest these grotesque crimes. Because that’s the human condition: We don’t have easy access to a zoomed-out view of morality and empathy. We do what the people around us are doing, what our culture is doing. Tizon’s Filipino family came from a place where a form of slavery was quite common, and moving to America didn’t change that fact.

One of my favorite characters in any television show is Obergruppenführer Smith from The Man in the High Castle. He’s a ruthless member of the American arm of the SS but at the same time one would probably describe him as a good family man. He has a happy marriage and cares deeply for the wellbeing of his children. The reason I like him so much as a character is because he shows what real evil looks like.

Too often once we categorize somebody as evil we become entirely unable to identify any human characteristics in them. Doing this creates an interesting archetype that actually hinders us in detecting evil. We’ll identify somebody like Charles Manson, who made his beliefs very obvious by carving a swastika into his forehead, as evil but we’ll assume that somebody who appears to be a good parent and spouse is entirely incapable of evil. You see this periodically when somebody is found guilty of an especially heinous crime and people who knew the perpetrator talk about how nice of a person they were, how quiet and well mannered they were, and how they can’t believe that the perpetrator would have committed such a crime.

Us humans are complex creatures made even more complex by being social creatures. Most of us have a general tendency to fit in, which leads us to generally go with the flow when it comes to social norms. We’re also capable of compartmentalizing ourselves. We can be extremely caring to friends, family, and strangers alike but at the same time have a day job that many would consider evil. People caught in that kind of situation are often unaware of it because they’ve compartmentalized their personal and professional lives.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2017 at 10:30 am