A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Superdickery’ tag

Where Criminals Get Their Guns

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Where do criminals get their guns? From other criminals:

Police are searching for the person who broke into an unmarked Ramsey County, Minn., sheriff’s car and stole an AR-15 rifle with a loaded magazine.

St. Louis Park police and the Ramsey County sheriff’s office are both very tight lipped about this unusual theft, executed Friday night by someone who seems to have known exactly what they were after and just how to steal it.

It amuses me that either the police or the author of this story saw fit to make the crime look more complex than it was. By “…someone who seems to have known exactly what they were after and just how to steal it.” the author means that the thief knew how to break open a car door and pry a firearm from a cheap locking mount. When criminals do that to a nongovernment car it’s usually referred to as a smash and grab. When criminals do that to a government car it’s referred to as an unusual theft executed by a highly cunning individual.

I know two people who have had firearms stolen from their vehicles (ironically, in both cases, the guns were in their vehicles because they had to enter a gun-free zone). In both cases the individuals did their due diligence to secure the gun but one can only do so much when it comes to securing something in an automobile. And in both cases the individuals called the police who showed up and spent most of their time giving a sermon about not leaving valuable items in plain site (which they hadn’t done). It amuses me that the police don’t appear to be giving themselves a stern talking to about leaving valuables in plain sight.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 19th, 2017 at 10:00 am

In Order to Save the Children We Must Damn the Children

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People love to bitch about the government indoctrination centers public education system. And with good cause. If you believe that the purpose of public schools is to educate children then you can’t help but admit that they’re doing an abysmal job. When I see people bitching about public schools I sometimes like to amuse myself by asking them what the solution is. Unless the person I’m asking is a libertarian the solutions proposed are almost always some variant of “We need to provide more funding to public schools!” While I find the idea of throwing even more money into the pit to fix a fundamental failure absurd, I at least understand why somebody might come to that conclusion. However, I came across a proposed solution that is so absurd that I can’t fathom how the proposer came up with it:

For Hannah-Jones, sending Najya to the neighborhood school was a moral issue. “It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it’s also upheld by individual choices,” she says. “As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children … we’re not going to see a change.”

The only way to fix public schools is to damn every child to them!

This proposal is nothing less than collective punishment. Collective punishment is a statist belief that I find especially heinous. But in this case it’s more heinous than usual because the people being punished, children, had no involvement in creating the problem whatsoever. Why should every child be condemned to a poor education when it was adults that created the horrible public education system in the first place? If you’re going to punish somebody, why not punish those adults instead?

I consider myself an open minded person. But collective punishment and collective suicide, which is what dumbing down every child in the nation is, are two beliefs I cannot bring myself to even entertain.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Public Private Data Cycle

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Just as the Austrian school of economics has a business cycle I have a data cycle. The Public Private Data Cycle (catchier web 3.0 buzzword compliant name coming later) states that all privately held data becomes government data with a subpoena and all government data becomes privately held data with a leak.

The Public Private Data Cycle is important to note whenever somebody discusses keeping data on individuals. For example, many libertarians don’t worry much about the data Facebook collects because Facebook is a private company. The very same people will flip out whenever the government wants to collect more data though. Likewise, many statists don’t worry much about the data the government collects because the government is a public entity. The very same people will flip out whenever Facebook wants to collect more data though. Both of these groups have a major misunderstanding about how data access works.

I’ve presented several cases on this blog illustrating how privately held data became government data with a subpoena. But what about government data becoming privately held data? The State of California recently provided us with such an example:

Our reader Tom emailed me after he had been notified by the state of California that his personal information had been compromised as a result of a California Public Records Act. Based on the limited information that we have at this time, it appears that names, the instructor’s date of birth, the instructor California driver’s license number and/or their California ID card number.

When Tom reached out to the CA DOJ he was informed that the entire list of firearms trainers in California had been released in the public records act request. The state of California is sending letters to those affected with the promise of 12 months or identity protection, but if you are a CA firearms instructor and haven’t seen a letter, might bee a good idea to call the DOJ to see if you were affected.

This wasn’t a case of a malicious hacker gaining access to California’s database. The state accidentally handed out this data in response to a public records request. Now that government held data about firearm instructors is privately held by an unknown party. Sure, the State of California said it ordered the recipient to destroy the data but as we all know once data has be accessed by an unauthorized party there’s no way to control it.

If data exists then the chances of it being accessed by an unauthorized party increases from zero. That’s why everybody should be wary of any attempt by anybody to collect more data on individuals.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Your Private Medical Data isn’t So Private

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People seem to misunderstand the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPPA) Act. I often hear people citing HIPPA as proof that their medical data is private. However, misunderstandings aren’t reality. Your medical data isn’t private. In fact, it’s for sale:

Your medical data is for sale – all of it. Adam Tanner, a fellow at Harvard’s institute for quantitative social science and author of a new book on the topic, Our Bodies, Our Data, said that patients generally don’t know that their most personal information – what diseases they test positive for, what surgeries they have had – is the stuff of multibillion-dollar business.

The trick is that the data is “anonymized” before it is sold. I used quotation marks in that case because anonymized can mean different things to different people. To me, anonymized means the data has been scrubbed in such a way that it cannot be tied to any individual. This is a very difficult standard to meet though. To others, such as those who are selling your medical data, anonymized simply means replacing the name, address, and phone number of a patient with an identifier. But simply removing a few identifiers doesn’t cut it in the age of big data:

But other forms of data, such as information from fitness devices and search engines, are completely unregulated and have identities and addresses attached. A third kind of data called “predictive analytics” cross-references the other two and makes predictions about behavior with what Tanner calls “a surprising degree of accuracy”.

None of this technically violates the health insurance portability and accountability act, or Hipaa, Tanner writes. But the techniques do render the protections of Hipaa largely toothless. “Data scientists can now circumvent Hipaa’s privacy protections by making very sophisticated guesses, marrying anonymized patient dossiers with named consumer profiles available elsewhere – with a surprising degree of accuracy,” says the study.

With the vast amount of data available about everybody it’s not as difficult to identify who “anonymized” data applies to as most people think.

HIPPA was written by an organization that hates privacy so it’s not surprising to see that the law failed to protect anybody’s privacy. This is also the why legislation won’t fix this problem. The only way to fix this problem is to either incentivize medical professionals to keep patient data confidential or to give exclusive control of a patient’s data to that patient.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Dropping Bombs for Mother Gaia

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When people think about big polluters they usually imagine strip mines or coal burning power plants. Seldom do they imagine the United States military, which is one of the largest polluters in the world. However, Uncle Sam wants to mend his ways. He no longer wants to leave ruined cities in his wake. Now he wants to leave ruined cities covered in plant life in his wake:

The military fires hundreds of thousands of rounds during training, ranging from bullets to 155mm artillery shells. While casings are collected, and often recycled, the bullets themselves generally aren’t, and can take “hundreds of years” to break down in the environment. That can pollute the soil and water supply, harm animals, and generally look like crap if you stumble upon them.

To tackle the problem, the DoDo has made a proposal call for a biodegradable composite bullet impregnated with seeds that will survive the initial blast and searing velocities. The seeds should only sprout after being in the ground for several months and be safe for animals to consume.

I’m sure that’ll make all of the civilians Uncle Sam is blowing up feel better. Sure, little Achmed may be gone but there’s a tree growing where he was blown up so all is forgiven!

I’m really at a loss on this one. What the Department of Defense is asking for is ridiculous. Finding seeds capable of surviving a point blank explosion is already a tall order. But even if somebody can create such seeds what will be the point? People aren’t going to feel better about being bombed just because some trees grow out of the ruins of their cities. Trees aren’t going to offset the environmental destruction of artillery fire. This proposal seems like a tone deaf attempt to appeal to environmentalists.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 11th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Crime Pays

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That’s a nice piece of property you have there. It would be a same if anything were to happen to it.

We usually associate such extortion with the mafia or other nongovernment gangs but they’re petty crooks when compared to local municipalities. The City of Minneapolis raked in over $1.7 billion with this scheme:

The city of Minneapolis issued more than $1.7 billion in building permits last year, the fifth year in a row that the city has burst the billion-dollar bubble.

The 2016 tally, announced Friday, is the second highest Minneapolis has seen since 2000. The only year to dwarf it was 2014, when the city issued $2 billion in permits with the construction of the new U.S. Bank Stadium and surrounding development.

Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Building permits are useful for illustrating two things. First, that local municipalities can make a killing on permit fees even though each individual permit may seem fairly cheap. Second, that you can’t own property in this country. You can rent it from the State, which will allow you to use it in approved manners so long as your rent is paid up. But if you fail to pay your rent or seek the landlord’s blessing anytime you want to use it you may find yourself facing a man in a muumuu who will either send you to a cage or extort more money out of you (or both).

Written by Christopher Burg

January 11th, 2017 at 10:00 am

How Fake News Happens

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Fake news has remained one of the big boogeyman ever since Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidential election. But what is fake news? At one time fake news was referred to as tabloids. Then fake news became known as Onion articles. Now fake news seems to mean whatever news one disagrees with. But there is actual fake news and it usually stems from so-called legitimate media outlets:

The original article was posted online on the Washington Post’s website at 7:55PM EST. Using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, we can see that sometime between 9:24PM and 10:06PM the Post updated the article to indicate that multiple computer systems at the utility had been breached (“computers” plural), but that further data was still being collected: “Officials said that it is unclear when the code entered the Vermont utility’s computers, and that an investigation will attempt to determine the timing and nature of the intrusion.” Several paragraphs of additional material were added between 8PM and 10PM, claiming and contextualizing the breach as part of a broader campaign of Russian hacking against the US, including the DNC and Podesta email breaches.

Despite the article ballooning from 8 to 18 paragraphs, the publication date of the article remained unchanged and no editorial note was appended, meaning that a reader being forwarded a link to the article would have no way of knowing the article they were seeing was in any way changed from the original version published 2 hours prior.

Yet, as the Post’s story ricocheted through the politically charged environment, other media outlets and technology experts began questioning the Post’s claims and the utility company itself finally issued a formal statement at 9:37PM EST, just an hour and a half after the Post’s publication, pushing back on the Post’s claims: “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems. We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding.”

Fake news tends to be the result of journalists jumping the gun instead of performing a investigation. In this case a journalist or journalists at the Washington Post received information about malware being found on a laptop at a power station. Instead of investigating the story further the journalist(s) wove a story about Russian hackers attacking the United States’ power grid. Had they waited for a response from the power company they would have known that the laptop wasn’t even connected to the network and was therefore a nonissue.

We see this happen with every breaking story. In fact it happens so often that I now consider the term “break story” to mean “incoming bullshit.” The talking heads on your moving picture boxes, the writers for news websites, and your friends on Facebook all crave attention. In the case of the former two attention equals money and in the case of the latter attention equals an ego boost. Either way, the people reporting about a breaking story have no information to go on so they’re just speculating. Furthermore, because journalists are often ignorant about the technical matters surrounding the story they’re reporting on, their speculations tend to be fantastical.

While tabloids are often advertised by their creators as real news almost everybody with the ability to think critically knows they’re bullshit. The Onion straight up admits to being a satire site. So-called legitimate journalists don’t have an excuse to be propagating false information. In fact, the job of journalism once involved investigating stories so true information could be reported. Yet they end up being the biggest propagators of false information time and again.

If you really despise fake news you should be demanding that journalists do their job by waiting until they have some factual information to report before reporting.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 10th, 2017 at 10:30 am

To Serve and Protect

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It’s winter, which means Mother Nature is doing her best to kill us in even more brutal ways than normal. One of her favorite weapons is snow. Snow can turn a smoothly operating highway into a parking lot. Some brave humans attempt to defend us against her frozen water by removing it from our roads. However, their job is rather difficult to do when America’s heroes are out punishing them:

Whenever it snows, Mitch Fisher is ready to help his neighbors, whether it’s clearing the sidewalks or trying to clear the street. When the area’s Christmas storm hit, he was out plowing his street with his ATV.

“I take care of the neighbors. They’re all elderly and I like to help them out,” Fisher said.

On Wednesday, however, a Pocatello police officer cited Fisher for an infraction — placing or depositing material on a public right of way. It carries a cost of more than $200.

As usual, the police are claiming it was a safety issue. Either snow on the road isn’t a safety issue or the police are trying to justify extortion. Take your pick.

I’m quite familiar with what Mr. Fisher was doing because my father does the same thing whenever it snows. Since he has a tractor with a bucket on the front he can move a lot of snow quickly. Because of that he often plows his driveway and the neighbors’ driveways. All of the snow is dumped on his or the neighbors’ lawns so it’s out of the way. By doing this his neighbor’s are happy. However, it’s an example of somebody voluntarily acting to make lives better and we know that the State doesn’t want that.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 10th, 2017 at 10:00 am

What Do You Do for Money, Honey

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How far would you go to make a buck? Would you be willing to put lives at risk for personal gain? Fortunately, most people aren’t in a position where they have to ask themselves these questions. But politicians are.

Let’s consider the ride sharing industry. Uber and Lyft allow people with cars to make a little extra cash by providing taxi services. Having this option available has been a boon for passengers as they are no longer restricted to the taxi cartels. However, the taxi cartels have been petitioning their protectors, municipal governments, to stifle their ride sharing competitors. Several major cities have responded by passing regulations that are too burdensome for Uber and Lyft.

In addition to increasing the costs for passengers, kicking Uber and Lyft out of cities has had another side effect. Incidents of drunk driving have increased:

However, after the city of Austin passed new burdensome regulations on the ridesharing economy last summer, Uber and Lyft both decided to cease operating within city limits. In the several months since their departure, driving under the influence (DUI or DWI) arrests have already spiked according to the Austin Police Department’s own data.

Before Uber came to town in 2014, Austin Police Department’s data showed that the city had an average of 525 drunk driving arrests per month. When these numbers were revisited a year after ridesharing came to Austin, drunk driving arrests had dropped by five percent. This trend continued the following year when the number of drunk driving arrests dropped by an additional 12 percent, bringing the average number of arrests to about 438 per month.

In May of 2016, the same month Uber and Lyft made the decision to leave Austin, the monthly rate of drunk driving incidents was down to an average of 358. However, within the first few months of Uber and Lyft’s absence, the number of DUI arrests increased by 7.5 percent from the previous year. In the month of July alone, the city had 476 drunk driving arrests.

This puts the city politicians in a position where they have to ask themselves if they’re willing to put lives at risk for personal profit. Drunk driving citations are big money for cities. Cartelizing the taxi business also makes cities a decent chunk of change. Providing protection to the taxi cartels can also lead to lucrative campaign contributions. But it all comes at the expense of putting motorists on the road at risk of being killed by a drunk driver.

Part of the reason I despise politicians so much is because they are in a position to profit off of our misery and often take opportunities to do so. Although I won’t go so far as to say the politicians in Austin, Texas were purposely being malicious when they passed regulations against Uber and Lyft (I can’t read minds, after all), I will say that they are in a position to ease people’s misery by removing those regulations. The question now that we have data showing the consequences of booting Uber and Lyft out of the city is whether or not Austin’s politicians are willing to forgo the money they’re making off of the regulations they passed. Needless to say, I’m not optimistic.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 6th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Streisand Effect

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The Internet doesn’t lend itself well to censorship. In fact, attempts to censor information usually lead to a great deal of public scrutiny. Take Ham Radio Deluxe, for example. Until a few days ago I hadn’t heard of the software or the company that creates it. But then the company tried to make a negative review posted by a user go away. Now I’ve not only heard of the company but I know that it’s a company that I won’t ever do business with:

This tactic, however, is a new twist on the old “punish customers for negative reviews” game. A user of Ham Radio Deluxe wasn’t too happy with its apparent incompatibility with Windows 10. He posted a negative review of the software at eHam.net, calling out the company for its seeming unwillingness to fix the underlying issue.

[…]

The “customer support” at HRD Software then pointed the user to its terms of service, stating that it had the right to do what it had just done. HRD Software reserves the “right” to “disable a customer’s key at any time for any reason.” Then it told him the blacklisting would be revoked if he removed his negative review. Bonus: mention of a capital-A “Attorney” for added seriousness, I guess.

If you remove the eHam review, which was blatantly false, we will remove the blacklist from you call. You are not buying software, you are buying your callsign’s access to the software. the so called bug you reported is not one in HRD, but one in the CAT commands of the FT­3000 radio, which have been verified with yaesu. Again refer to section 8 of the TOS, which was written by our Attorney.

There are many ways to deal with negative reviews. Usually the best option is to ignore them. Not everybody is going to have a good experience with your product so you need to accept that some users will give negative reviews. If a particular negative review is hurting business you can either act on that review by improving your product or you can issue a rebuttal if the review is based on false information. What you should never do is try to coerce the reviewer into deleting their review. That looks scummy to everybody watching.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 6th, 2017 at 10:00 am