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Archive for the ‘government’ Category

A science fiction writer of my acquaintance claimed that he was an anarcho-capitalist. I pointed out that he was ignoring the central problem of anarchy theory. And that central problem of anarchy theory is the problem of power.

“Pure” anarchism wants to remove anything in society that could be possibly a source of power. Unfortunately people have inherent power due to their physical abilities, and thus inherent differences in power, a large man skilled in fighting has much more power than a small woman not skilled at fighting. Add in weapons and weapons skills and character traits like sociopathy and ruthlessness (a ruthless sociopath will always win a gunfight, because he’ll just shoot you in the back without a thought before you even know you’re in a gunfight), and clearly there must be power structures to regulate all of this, otherwise you have the most ruthless and vicious sociopaths ruling everything at gunpoint. Anarchists do a lot of hand-waving about voluntary self defense associations yada yada, but that’s not what has ever happened. Instead you get warlordism, rule by the most ruthless and vicious sociopaths ruling everything at gunpoint, because the ruthless sociopaths are the ones willing to shoot their way through innocents to get to the top.

Now, add in capitalism, which is yet another source of power — power grows from the barrel of a gun, as Mao put it, and capital buys lots of guns — and the need for power structures to regulate everything becomes even more dire. Now, what is that power structure going to look like? The only way to do it without rule of gun (which leads to atrocity since only the most ruthless and vicious win that leadership contest) is to get buy-in from the majority of the people, i.e., democracy. At which point you no longer have anarchism, since people then vote for things that will make more comfortable for themselves and their neighbors and relatives — as they should, since that’s sort of the whole point of a society.

All of which is just a long way of saying that pure anarcho-capitalism cannot work as a system because it would end up with warlordism, like in Somalia or Afghanistan. And since warlords get their power by being vicious sociopaths, it’s generally not a happy fun time for the population involved. Capitalism is good because it is the best way we have of creating wealth, and wealth is good for people and for a society (both Dan and I know the former from personal experience), but it is also a source of power, and like all sources of power has to be regulated. At that point the anarcho is gone, and what you have is just capitalism.

– Badtux the Capitalist Penguin

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A former ICE chief counsel is facing prison time for stealing immigrants’ identities.

ICE defends America from the Singing Children of Mass Cuteness.

ICE commits 1,600 violations of the Constitution of the United States of America.

ICE has been violating its own policy as well as a court order and the Constitution by failing to exercise individual due process and instead doing mass incarceration. Turns out that due process requires that you make individual determinations, not a blanket “all of group X will be incarcerated”. Who coulda figured?!

Am I saying that a massive paramilitary organization with almost no oversight has ended up being a huge problem, overstepped its authority wildly, and turned into a terrifying force that threatens to permanently damage our democracy by trampling on our most fundamental rights at every opportunity? No way. Surely nobody in Congress could have seen that coming. It’s so unexpected. SNRK.

It’s built into the agency’s genome, people. By creating an agency that has only a single purpose — deporting as many people as possible — the Homeland Security Act created an agency that has an incentive to trample people’s rights in a lawless rush to deport as many people as possible (like, duh?). ICE is irredeemably corrupt. The agency should be abolished and re-established as a new combined entity with USCIS as INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, with a director who is as committed to naturalizing new citizens as he is to deporting wannabe-citizens. Having an entire department that is only about deporting immigrants — and not at all about naturalizing immigrants — gives them an incentive to trample on rights in order to deport as many people as possible, whereas a more balanced agency’s incentives work differently.

But hey, as long as it’s brown people having their rights trampled on, who cares, right? Right?!

– Badtux the Sadly Snarky Penguin

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I mean, this isn’t even controversial. It’s a warning right there when you log into a government computer that anything you do there is a public record. Note that confidential information has to go onto a separate confidential network that has different protections, but if it’s not confidential information, it’s a public record, and can be retrieved via FOIA request by *anyone*.

Let’s not forget how Wikileaks got Hillary Clinton’s emails: A FOIA request by a VICE reporter. Not by hacking her server. Nope. Just by scraping the emails off the State Department’s servers as they publically released them in response to Jason Leopold’s FOIA request. Jason Leopold isn’t law enforcement. Jason Leopold is just an ordinary citizen who files requests for public documents. And gets them, albeit sometimes having to sue to get them.

If you are a law enforcement officer, getting access to public documents is even easier. You show up with your badge and say you need them for law enforcement purposes. They hand you what you ask for. That’s it. Because they’re public documents. There isn’t a need to get a warrant to get access to information already owned by the public, especially information that could be FOIA’ed. About the only thing that requires additional paperwork is if there are privacy rights involved — e.g., if you’re requesting records that have been deemed “private” under various privacy acts, you’ll need to file paperwork saying that you need the information for law enforcement purposes. You still don’t need a warrant, because it’s still information the government already has — you only need a warrant for information the government *doesn’t* have. None of that privacy stuff even applies to emails sent to or from government computers. You explicitly waive all privacy rights when you log on to a government computer. It’s right there in the notice that you’re forced to sit through. Anybody can file a FOIA request and get those emails. Anybody. Doesn’t require a badge, or anything, just two working brain cells and a fax machine (yeah, most departments require FOIA requests to be faxed. Hilarious, huh?).

None of which is brain surgery, and anybody who has ever been a government employee knows all of this. Well, except the Trump administration. Which claims that Mueller’s request of emails sent by Trump administration officials on government computers was “improper”. Because they’re fucking morons. Duh. Look, it’s been over twenty years since I was last a government employee, and even *I* remember that anything I generate using government equipment is a public record! Fuck, now that Mueller has these emails, it’s time to get Jason Leopold on the case again, because I’m curious to see what’s in them. The only real question is whether Wikileaks (which appears to be an arm of the Russian government) will throw off their reputation as Russian stooges and publish the emails…

– Badtux the Not-moron Penguin

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Did the economy do better under Ronald Reagan than under Jimmy Carter? There’s lefties who argue that Republicans are *always* worse than Democrats, but then Republicans shout, “Jimmy Carter!”. Was it true?

Technically yes. According to the St. Louis Fed, GDP in chained billions of dollars was 5732.462 in on 1/1/1977, and 6635.726 on 1/1/1981 when Reagan took office, for an average increase of 3.9% per year. GDP in chained billions was 8831.544 when Reagan left office, for average increase of 4.1% per year. So yeah, technically, you’re right, Reagan’s economy performed better than Jimmy Carter’s, but it’s like claiming that your guy will give us 11 cents rather than the other guy’s 10 cents. Nobody’s going to get too excited about the minimal difference there.

When you look at wages, on the other hand, things look different. In inflation adjusted dollars (taking Bureau of Employment Statistics numbers and feeding them into the official inflation calculator), average hourly wage for non-supervisory workers fell from $21.82 in January 1977 to $20.07 in January 1981, or an average of 2% per year. From there they then fell to $19.35 in January 1989. So: average hourly wages for non-supervisory workers fell by 0.45% per year under Reagan, as versus 2% per year under Carter.

In both cases the working class was fucked. But they were fucked less under Reagan than under Carter.

So I call foul on the notion that Republicans are *always* worse for the economy (and for wages) than Democrats. It is true that Clinton and Obama did better than any Republican president back to Eisenhower, but Jimmy Carter is the counter-example that proves that the rule really isn’t a rule.

On the other hand, Reagan’s policies decidedly set up today’s situation where wages are in free-fall for everybody who’s not one of us technology elites, so this isn’t saying that Reagan was a great President or anything. I mean, real wages fell during his Presidency. You can’t say a President is great if real wages fall during his presidency. On the other hand, he was not the Worst president of the past fifty years. That honor falls on Jimmy Carter, a nice man who tried (and tries) to do right, but a lousy President.

– Badtux the Numbers Penguin

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People with Type 1 diabetes are having to turn to the black market for the insulin they need to stay alive. This is especially true if they’re allergic to the particular bacterium genetically engineered to produce the specific brand of insulin that their insurer covers. The new genetically-engineered insulin was supposed to solve the allergy problem that faced some users of the pig or cow insulin because it’s people insulin, not pig insulin or cow insulin. Instead it created its own allergy problems because some of the proteins of the bacteria that produced the insulin end up in the insulin, and allergies happen due to those proteins, too.

And to top it all off, because these are genetically engineered insulins, the vendors raised the price to outrageous sums. Meanwhile, the cheap animal insulins are no longer available on the U.S. market — the only way to get cheap insulin now is to import it illegally on the black market from Canada.

The core problem here is that insurers and drug makers are quite willing to kill Americans suffering from Type 1 diabetes in order to increase their profits. If you suffer from Type 1 diabetes and don’t get your insulin when you need it, you *die*. But insurers and drug makers don’t care. They don’t have to. It’s not as if there was some entity called “government” that had the power to regulate them and force them to bring cheap animal insulin back on the market again, after all. This “government” thing? It must be imaginary, right?

Say hello to Libertopia, folks, where drug makers are quite happy to kill people for profit because they don’t care and they don’t have to.

– Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

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3 month old baby labeled a terrorist because a box was checked wrong on the visa form.

Now, one question: What good is a box on a visa form that basically asks, “Are you a terrorist”? A real terrorist isn’t going to check that box “Yes”. The only people who are going to check that box are going to be people who get confused and think they’re checking “No” rather than “Yes”, like an elderly grandmother filling in a visa form for her grandchild.

But hey, this is America, and bureaucratic stupidity is sort of, well, how things are done here. So…

– Badtux the Baffled Penguin

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So, Rep. John Lewis. You know why he’s bald? It’s because he has a steel plate in his head from having his skull smashed in by racist KKK-affiliated cops for the crime of marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. He was one of the original “Big Six” civil rights leaders who organized the March on Washington where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

And for his work towards freedom, he was called a terrorist by the KKK-affiliated bigots of the South, and beaten, gassed, jailed, and is lucky to be alive today. There were several instances where the KKK almost got him. But by luck of the draw he made it out alive. Not everybody did.

But you know who else just called Rep. John Lewis a terrorist? The NRA. Putting themselves firmly on the side of the KKK. They’re not even pretending anymore. They’re an organization of white people whose main reason for wanting guns is because them darkies is gettin’ uppity. Gotta keep’em in their place, y’know. The tree of freedom needing the blood of dark-skinned people and all that.

I find it interesting that the Rep. John Lewis finds it necessary at this late stage of his life to resort to the non-violent tactics that he used in the 1960’s, but those non-violent tactics were not terrorism then, and are not terrorism now. In both cases he protested for the right to vote, in today’s protests for the right to vote on laws regulating gun sales, and of course in the 1960’s for the right to vote, period.

What I do know is that if House speaker Rep. Paul Ryan calls out the police to forcibly remove him and his supporters from the House chambers, you are going to see a shitstorm like you haven’t seen since the aftermath of Bloody Sunday. You will see footage of Lewis being attacked by police in the House chambers interposed with footage of Lewis being beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge non-stop for the next four months in the campaign ads of every single Democrat running for office outside the Deep South as a reason for why they must be elected and Republicans voted out. Hell, even for some Democrats *within* the Deep South, if they’re in majority-minority districts and want to get their voters really riled up so that they vote for Democratic Senators and a Democratic President in disproportionate numbers. It would, in short, be the biggest mistake that Rep. Ryan has made in his life, other than perhaps the mistake of running for Speaker of the House, where it’s clear that he’s way over his head. Which is why he’ll probably do it.

Pass the popcorn, already… sounds like we’re on a ride on the WayBack Machine. Next stop, Selma, Alabama!

– Badtux the Wayback Machine Penguin

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