A Geek With Guns

Discount security adviser to the proles.

Archive for the ‘You Can’t Cure Stupid’ tag

A Growing Idea

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More and more people are jumping onboard the idea that Trump is part of Clinton’s campaign:

How would Donald Trump assess Donald Trump’s candidacy? As he might put it: A lot of people are saying his campaign is an operation on behalf of the Democratic Party to destroy the Republicans.

“A lot of people are saying”? That’s not a very high evidentiary standard. What else?

Well, to start there is the photo. You know the one, where Trump and his new bride Melania are rubbing elbows with the Clintons. Bill Clinton spoke with Trump right before Trump announced his candidacy. Trump has of course contributed to Clinton campaigns in past years as well. This doesn’t even get into the fact that Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton are friends.

Previous evidence leads me to believe that Trump isn’t an idiot. He has raked in a ton of cash over his lifetime and became prominent enough to rub elbows with powerful political figures. Yet he seems to have become entirely incompetent overnight, which leads me to think he might be part of his good friend Hillary’s campaign.

Why do I care? The only reason I care is because I want this to be true so I can rub it in the faces of all those so-called gun rights activists telling gun owners they need to support Trump even though he has a long history of being anti-gun. If Trump is part of Hillary’s campaign they’re actually providing material support to her campaign and that would amuse me to no end.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Rocket Surgery

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has released a report that nobody will find surprising:

It’s not just your brakelight-riddled imagination: Freeway congestion in and around Minneapolis and St. Paul was the worst on record last year, according to a new report from Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The agency’s annual report on freeway congestion said congestion was up from 21.1 percent in 2014 to 23.4 percent last year. That’s the highest number since the agency started collecting data in 1993.

Anybody who lives in the Twin Cities knows that traffic congestion is terrible. But it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know why congestion is so bad. The blame is entirely on MnDOT. The brilliant men and women at MnDOT thought it would be a jolly good idea to tear up most of the major traffic arteries simultaneously. When you tear up a major traffic artery more traffic is forced onto the remaining arteries. If you tear up all but a few arteries the few remaining ones quickly exceed capacity and nobody can go anywhere quickly.

Not only did MnDOT decide to tear up all of the major arteries but it also seems entirely unconcerned with finishing any of the projects in a timely manner. Highway 100, for example, has been torn up all summer and still isn’t finished.

MnDOT’s report illustrates what everybody living in the Twin Cities already knows: whoever is in charge of planning road construction projects is a sadist who gets off on inflicting pain on motorists.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 4th, 2016 at 11:00 am

You Ought to Trust the Government with the Master Key

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The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) director, James Comey, has been waging a war against effective cryptography. Although he can’t beat math he’s hellbent on trying. To that end, he and his ilk have proposed schemes that would allow the government to break consumer cryptography. One of those schemes is call key escrow, which requires anything encrypted by a consumer device be decipherable with a master key held by the government. It’s a terrible scheme because any actor that obtains the government’s master key will also be able to decrypt anything encrypted on a consumer device. The government promises that such a key wouldn’t be compromised but history shows that there are leaks in every organziation:

A FBI electronics technician pleaded guilty on Monday to having illegally acted as an agent of China, admitting that he on several occasions passed sensitive information to a Chinese official.

Kun Shan Chun, also known as Joey Chun, was employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 1997. He pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to one count of having illegally acted as an agent of a foreign government.

Chun, who was arrested in March on a set of charges made public only on Monday, admitted in court that from 2011 to 2016 he acted at the direction of a Chinese official, to whom he passed the sensitive information.

If the FBI can’t even keep moles out of its organization how are we supposed to trust it to guard a master key that would likely be worth billions of dollars? Hell, the government couldn’t even keep information about the most destructive weapons on Earth from leaking to its opponents. Considering its history, especially where stories like this involving government agents being paid informants to other governments, there is no way to reasonably believe that a master key to all consumer encryption wouldn’t get leaked to unauthorized parties.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 3rd, 2016 at 10:00 am

To the Gulags, Slaves

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The centrally planned paradise of Venezuela is falling apart. People are starving. Animals are starving. And President Maduro keeps making the situation worse by ordering even more central planning. His latest decree, a socialist favorite, is to allow the government to force people to work in the fields:

International human rights activists are complaining that new laws have introduced forced labour in Venezuela.

“A new decree establishing that any employee in Venezuela can be effectively made to work in the country’s fields as a way to fight the current food crisis is unlawful and effectively amounts to forced labor,” Amnesty International said in a statement released on Thursday.

President Nicolás Maduro signed a decree at the end of last week that gives powers to the labor ministry to order “all workers from the public and private sector with enough physical capabilities and technical know-how” to join a government drive aimed at increasing food production.

They can be required to work in the agricultural sector for a 60-day period that can be extended for another 60 days “if the circumstances require it.”

I’m sure mandatory field work can be extended for an infinite number of 60-day periods.

President Maduro is either ignorant of history or a sadistic son of a bitch. The Soviet Union tried collectivizing agriculture and forcing people to work fields and the country never fully recovered from it. Bread lines were the norm until they were replaced by starvation. If you’re a student of history you know that making people slaves does not motivate them to work harder. Instead they work as little as possible to avoid being beaten too severely because they’re not getting anything for their efforts. I guarantee that the poor Venezuelans that are forced to work in the fields will produce very little foodstuff. And why should they? They don’t want to be there, they’re not knowledgable in the skills of agriculture, and they have every right to resist since they’re being coerced.

Venezuela is fucked. It should go down in the history books as yet another demonstration of the futility of central planning.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 2nd, 2016 at 10:00 am

Screaming at a Wall

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It’s election season so a lot of gullible people have developed very strong opinions about which of the two indistinguishable presidential candidates must win in order to stave off the downfall of civilization. These opinions are manifesting online as ridiculous comments that would be considered hyperbole if the commenters didn’t actually appear to believe what they’re posting. I’ve seen comments by a gay woman claiming that anybody who doesn’t vote for Clinton is literally trying to murder her. On the other side of the aisle I’ve seen comments by a well-to-do white man claiming that anybody who doesn’t vote for Trump will be responsible for the downfall of the United States because evil terrorists from the Middle East will flood through its unprotect borders.

How can such ridiculous comments be taken seriously by anybody? Because logic isn’t a play. We’ve devolved debate into an exercise of virtual signaling:

Children are largely deprived of the noble joy of discovering truths as revealed by successful action. Instead they are left with the ignoble gratification of pleasing a taskmaster by reciting an answer that is marked “correct.” And this goes far beyond academics. For the modern child, learning “good behavior” is not about discovering through trial and error what kinds of behaviors are conducive to thriving socially. Instead, it’s about winning praise and avoiding censure from authority figures.

Thanks to this conditioning, we have all become approval-junkies, always on the lookout for our next fix of external validation: for the next little rush of dopamine we get whenever we are patted on the head by others for being a “good boy” or a “good girl,” for exhibiting the right behavior, for giving the right answer, for expressing the right opinion.

This is why the mania for virtue signalling is so ubiquitous, and why orthodoxies are so impervious. Expressing political opinions is not about hammering out useful truths through the crucible of debate, but about signaling one’s own virtue by “tattling” on others for being unvirtuous: for being crypto-commies or crypto-fascists; for being closet racists or race-traitor “cucks;” for being enemies of the poor or apologists for criminals.

We live in a society that teaches children at an early age that truth doesn’t come from experimentation and discovery but from authority figures. Instead of seeking answers through reason we seek them through approval of authority figures. That requires expressing the “right” ideas and expressing them loudly in the hopes that people in authority will hear them and give an approving nod.

This is another side effect of the public indoctrination system. Instead of providing children the tools they need to learn; namely grammar, logic, and rhetoric; public schools focus on making children memorize “facts” and having them prove that they’ve memorized those “facts” by regurgitating them on tests. This focus on memorizing “facts” provided by authority figures often has lifelong ramifications. One such ramification is cognitive dissonance. Take supporters of the drug war, for example. They claim to support drug prohibitions because drugs can kill people. They ignore the fact that the solution they support, prohibition, also kills people. Heroine might kill you over time if you keep using it but an officer shooting you during a no-knock raid performed to find heroine may also kill you. The solution ends up doing the same thing as the problem but most supporters of the war on drugs will ignore you when you point that out. People in authority told them that the solution to drugs killing people is stronger laws and more rigorous law enforcement efforts so that’s what they believe.

Online debates often feel like you’re screaming at a wall because most of the other people debating you aren’t relying on logic. The only way you could get through to them is if you were able to become an authority figure in their eyes. Then they would happily regurgitate whatever you told them was factual.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 29th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Americans aren’t Ready for Most Things

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One of the worst characteristics of American society, which is probably common in most societies, is the popular attitude of resisting change. Many Americans resist automation because they’re afraid that it will take people’s jobs. Many Americans resist genetically modified crops because they think nature actually gives a shit about them and therefore produces pure, healthy foodstuffs. Many Americans resist wireless communications because their ignorance of how radiation works has convinced them that anything wireless causes cancer.

With such a history of resisting advancement I’m not at all surprised to read that most Americans are resistant to human enhancement:

Around 66 and 63 percent of the respondents even said that they don’t want to go through brain and blood enhancements (respectively) themselves. They were more receptive to the idea of genetically modifying infants, though, with 48 percent saying they’re cool with making sure newly born humans won’t ever be afflicted with cancer and other fatal illnesses. Most participants (73 percent) are also worried about biotech enhancers’ potential to exacerbate inequality. Not to mention, there are those who believe using brain implants and blood transfusions to enhance one’s capabilities isn’t morally acceptable.

The concern about exacerbating inequality really made me guffaw. Few pursuits could reduce inequality as much as biotech. Imagine a world where paralysis could be fixed with a quick spinal implant. Suddenly people who were unable to walk can become more equal with those of us who can. Imagine a world where a brain implant could help people with developmental disabilities function as an average adult. Suddenly people suffering from severe autism can function at the same level as those of us not suffering from their disability. Imagine a world where a brain implant can bypass the effects of epilepsy or narcolepsy. Suddenly people who cannot drive due to seizures or falling asleep uncontrollably can drive.

Human enhancement can do more to create equality amongst people than anything else. Physical and mental disparities can be reduced or even eliminated. Anybody who can’t see that is a fool. Likewise, any moral system that declares self-improvement immoral is absurd in my opinion. Fortunately, the future doesn’t give two shits about opinion polls and the technology will advance one way or another.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 28th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Garbage In, Garbage Out

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In computer science the term garbage in, garbage out is used frequently to note that if you have garbage data as an input you will get garbage data as an output. This is applicable in any research. A new study has been released that claims there is no racial bias in polices’ use of lethal force in the United States. Quite a few people have jumped on this because it supports their bias that there isn’t a problem with policing in this country. However, Radley Balko points out a serious flaw in the study. It uses reports written by police officers:

For the purpose of the discussion, let’s break shootings and killings by police into three categories: incidents that were illegal and unnecessary, incidents that were legal and necessary, and incidents that were legal but unnecessary. If you’re asking whether current laws and policies allow for too many police shootings, looking at how many shootings are justified under current law and policy is just question begging. It’s that last category — legal but unnecessary — that we want to explore. Unfortunately, it’s also a category that is plagued by subjectivity and the simple fact noted above: Most of the data we have comes from police reports themselves.

If we were to compile statistics on, say, medical mistakes in an effort to make policies that would improve the state of medicine, we wouldn’t get all of our data from written statements by the accused doctors or hospitals. If we wanted to compile data on conflicts of interest in politics, we wouldn’t rely on members of politicians to self-report and adjudicate when their vote may have been influenced by a campaign donation. But this is essentially what we do with shootings by police officers.

The study is simply an extension of the phrase, we investigated ourselves and found that we did nothing wrong. Studying police use of force in the United States is difficult because most of the data is created by the police themselves. There is very little third-party oversight and what little exists is usually tied to the law enforcement community in some manner.

I’m sure Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who killed Philandro Castile, wrote a report that exonerated him of wrongdoing. This isn’t just because he wants to avoid punishment but also because he probably wants to justify his actions to himself. We humans are great at twisting logic to justify our actions to ourselves. Thieves will tell themselves that since the person they were stealing from was wealthy no real harm occurred to him and therefore the theft was justified. Domestic abusers will tell themselves that they have to hit their partner in order to teach them important lessons. Police, likewise, will tell themselves that lethal force was necessary to preserve their lives. We cannot rely on the reports thieves, domestic abusers, and police write about their own actions because they are necessarily biased. So long as rely on such data as our input we’re going to get garbage as our output.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 15th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Do You Believe Being Armed is a Cultural Norm or Not

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The Star Tribune has stated that it received confirmation that Philando Castile had a carry permit. Being a permit holder added a unique element to his death because it necessarily means that he had a clean record (no felonies, no history of domestic abuse, etc.). Having a clean record means the boot lickers couldn’t justify the shooting by citing the victim’s history. Instead many of them are claiming that Castile didn’t put his hands on the steering wheel when he was pulled over which in combination with being armed justified the officer’s supposed fear for his life. What’s funny is that many of the people making this argument also claim to be pro-gun.

This is one of my favorite instances of cognitive dissonance. Gun rights advocates usually argue that being armed isn’t threatening in of itself. In fact they often scoff whenever an anti-gunners claims to be in fear for their lives when they see somebody who is armed. These gun rights advocates usually also argue that being armed should be a cultural norm. I agree with both sentiments. However, where I diverge from many supposed gun rights advocates is that my belief doesn’t give an exception to anybody wearing a badge.

Does somebody have grounds to be afraid for their life just because the see somebody else who is armed? If you don’t believe they do then why should an officer be justified in fearing for their life just because they’re interacting with somebody who is armed? It can’t be both ways, which is something a lot of supposedly pro-gun people fail to realize.

As I said, I personally believe being armed in of itself is not threatening behavior and I believe being armed should be a cultural norm. This also means that I don’t believe police officers have grounds to get all “Officer safety! My life is on the line!” just because they’re interacting with somebody who is armed.
You shouldn’t have to expect an officer to treat you any differently if you’re armed than if you’re unarmed. Being armed and not immediately taking a submissive position when being pulled over also shouldn’t justification for an officer to shoot you. People who claim to be supporters of gun rights and also believe that officers are justified in being afraid for their lives just because they’re interacting with somebody who are really anti-gunners who don’t realize it.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 11th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Apparently Forcing Everybody to Buy Insurance Doesn’t Make Prices Go Down

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I have some shocking news for you. Even though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed with the promise that forcing everybody to buy insurance would reduce prices the prices have — you might want to sit down because this is going to be shocking — gone up:

Insured Americans are having to shell out more and more for healthcare, particularly, hospital visits, researchers report this week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. From 2009 and 2013—before the biggest provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014—people with individual or employer-sponsored health insurances saw a 37 percent rise in out-of-pockets costs for a hospital stay. Average bills jumped from $738 to $1,013. That’s about a 6.5 percent increase each year. However, overall healthcare spending rose just 2.9 percent each year during that time-frame and premiums—the cost to buy insurance—rose by around 5.1 percent annually.

“Every year, people freak out about how high premiums have gotten and how they continue to grow exponentially, but [out-of-pocket costs are] actually growing even faster,” Emily Adrion, first author of the study and a researcher at the Center for Healthcare Outcomes and Policy at the University of Michigan, told Bloomberg.

What could possible be going on here? How can involving more government not fix a problem? The reason is actually quite simple. When you’re required to do business with somebody they have little motivation to provide you a quality service or keep your costs low. This is especially true in a market that is heavily protected against new competitors. The health insurance market, through regulatory protections, is hard for any new competitor to enter unless they’re in possession of billions of dollars. Because of that the already established insurance companies feel safe keeping their prices high so long as the other established companies also keep their prices high.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am

The B-Team

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In 2016 a wannabe commando unit was sent to a holding cell by a civilian judge to stand trial for a crime they did commit. These men promptly escaped from jail to the New York City underground by posting bail. Today, still wanted by the police, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can’t afford anybody better, maybe you can hire the B-Team.

John Cramsey’s 20-year-old daughter died from a heroin overdose four months earlier in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

He and two friends Dean Smith and Kimberly Arendt were stopped by police for driving with a cracked windscreen.

They told the arresting police officers that they were a group of vigilantes on their way to rescue a teenage girl.

I know this story is going to raise a lot of question. For starters, how did the police identify this crack commando team? Obviously they went to great lengths to be as inconspicuous as possible…

b-team-truck

Nothing says inconspicuous like a truck with neon green tastelessly plastered all over a truck. The target reticle painted on the side is a nice touch as well. I’m sure you’re wondering what the B-Team’s load out was.

A camouflage helmet, seven guns including rifles, and knives were recovered from the car, as well as cannabis, body armour and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

2,000 rounds of ammunition? I bet they were planning on using discount Mini-14s (Is there a discount Mini-14? Maybe, like, a Hi-Point carbine or something?) and didn’t plan to hit anything they shot at.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 24th, 2016 at 10:30 am