A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

Everything is Stand Your Ground Law Now

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If three armed individuals break into your home and you shoot them does that fall under stand your ground doctrine? According to our friends across the pound it does:

The intruders – who police say were armed with brass knuckles and a knife – were shot by a 23-year-old man in an act of “self-defence”, officers said.

The son may not face charges due to so-called stand your ground laws.

[…]

Two of the teenagers died inside the home and one ran outside before dying in the driveway.

I understand that learning what stand your ground doctrine means takes a whole 30 seconds of Google searching and that’s a lot of time when you’re trying to get your article in front of people who have the attention span of a goldfish. Still, it would benefit everybody if the facts being reported were accurate. In that sprit I will clarify the difference between castle doctrine, what the author was probably thinking of, and stand your ground.

Castle doctrine states that an individual has the right to defend themselves in their home without a duty to retreat. Stand your ground doctrine states that an individual has a right to defend themselves wherever they are, assuming they have a right to be there, without a duty to retreat. This case would fall more under castle doctrine than stand your ground.

But even in the absence of either law, assuming the facts currently being reported are accurate, this case looks like a pretty clear example of regular old self-defense. Three armed individuals wearing masks smashed a sliding glass window to gain entry into the home. That signals intentions that aren’t good for the homeowner.

You don’t find Girl Scouts smashing sliding glass windows to sell homeowners cookies. Even Jehovah Witnesses don’t go that far. So it’s fairly safe to assume that somebody breaking into your home doesn’t have good intentions.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 29th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Political Solutions Don’t Work

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A lot of people here in the United States are flipping out because the rulers are voting to allow Internet Service Providers (ISP) to sell customer usage data:

A US House committee is set to vote today on whether to kill privacy rules that would prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from selling users’ web browsing histories and app usage histories to advertisers. Planned protections, proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would have forced ISPs to get people’s consent before hawking their data – are now at risk. Here’s why it matters.

It amazes me that more people seem to be upset about private companies selling their usage information for profit than providing their usage data to law enforcers so the wrath of the State’s judicial system can be brought upon them. Personally, I’m far more concerned about the latter than the former. But I digress.

This vote demonstrates the futility of political solutions. At one point the privacy laws were put into place by the State. The process of getting those laws put into place probably involved a lot of begging and kowtowing from the serfs. But Congress and the presidency have been shuffled around and the new masters disagree with what the former masters did so all of that begging and kowtowing was for nothing.

The problem with political solutions is that they’re temporary. Even if you can get the current Congress and president to pass laws that will solve your particular problems, it’s only a matter of time until Congress and the presidency changes hands and undoes the laws you begged so hard to have passed.

If you want a problem solved you have to solve it yourself. In the case of Internet privacy, the best defense against snoopy ISPs is to utilize a foreign Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider that respects your privacy and is in a country that is difficult for domestic law enforcement to coerce. Using a VPN will deprive your ISP, and by extent domestic law enforcement, of your usage data.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 28th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Getting What You Want Good and Hard

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Stories of genies often involve a poor sap coming across a genie’s lantern, being granted three wishes, and receiving exactly what they wished for. The twist is that their wishes are usually poorly thought out and therefore the fulfillment of their wishes brings despair instead of joy. This is why when somebody expresses a poorly thought out desire I often tell them that I hope that they get everything wish for and that they get it good and hard.

At one point in time the United States government had virtually no involvement in marriage. The lack of government involvement meant practices such as polygamy were legal. This didn’t sit well with many Christians of the time. Relying on the fact that most of the people in the government were also Christians, they made a wish for the government to get involved in the institute of marriage and that wish was granted:

The idea that the Constitution protects only what happens between a person’s ears isn’t novel. It has roots in a series of laws, and the Supreme Court decisions that upheld them, from 1862 through 1890. The goal at the time was to rein in a new and dangerous-seeming religious movement called Mormonism by criminalizing its most eccentric practice: polygamy. But by claiming the right to regulate the behavior of people of faith, mainstream believers set the stage for the modern political left to step in and regulate them—and to have 150 years’ worth of precedents on their side when they did it.

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In 1852, the LDS Church began openly defending plural marriage. This is what elevated the “Mormon problem” to the national stage. Beginning in the 1850s, Eastern newspapers were rife with references to polygamy as “evil,” “licentious,” a “brutalizing practice,” “repugnant to our sentiments of morality and social order,” and “shocking to the moral sense of the world.” The New York Times editorialized repeatedly for taking direct action against the Latter-day Saints. “The fact, if it be a fact, that the women are willing to live in polygamy, is no reason for our allowing them to do so,” the editors of the paper wrote in March 1860. What had begun as rival groups skirmishing over frontier resources came to be seen as an existential conflict: The soul of the whole country seemed to be at stake if the federal government allowed such behavior to continue.

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In December 1881, Sen. George F. Edmunds of Vermont introduced a law to make anyone who accepted the Church’s teachings on polygamy ineligible to vote, hold public office, or serve on a jury. Again, the editors of the Times endorsed the act’s passage: “It must be admitted that the Edmunds bill is a harsh remedy for polygamy. But then the disease in Utah has gone beyond remedies that are not more or less heroic.”

It passed, as did another law five years later disincorporating the Church and declaring that all Church property and assets above $50,000 would be confiscated by the government.

The Christians of the day got what they wanted but they didn’t think their wish through very well. When you grant government power over something that power is almost always permanent. What happens when your group is no longer the primary influencer of the government? You suddenly find those powers you granted it being used against your wishes.

Today hardcore Christians find themselves at odds with the government when it comes to marriage. The government has become more liberal and has begun allowing same-sex marriages. This hasn’t sat well with many Christians who not only believe that marriage can only be between one man and one woman but also believe the governments should enforce their belief.

Marriage isn’t unique in this regard. Whenever a government gets involved in something the advocates of it doing so cheer… until that government no longer sides with their beliefs. Suddenly they find the power they granted to the government being used against their beliefs but are powerless to do anything about it.

Always keep in mind that granting government more power will turn out poorly in the long run.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 27th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Money Won’t Save Government Indoctrination Centers

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How many times have you heard a statist claims that government indoctrination centers, or public education to use their euphemism, don’t receive enough money? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that I’d have enough money to fund a government indoctrination center for 15 to 20 minutes!

Statists are predictable creatures. Whenever a government programs fails to deliver expected results they resort to claiming that the program simply didn’t receive enough funding. To them government programs are furnaces. If the program isn’t delivering expected results then you need to shovel more coal into it. But how much money is needed to make the furnace of government indoctrination centers produce some heat? Apparently a lot:

There’s also lots of waste and inefficiency when Uncle Sam gets involved. With great fanfare, President Obama spent buckets of money to supposedly boost government schools. The results were predictably bad.

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The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015… Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. ..The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

It was a “bet,” but he used our money. And he lost. Or, to be more accurate, taxpayers lost. And children lost.

[…]

Indeed, I’ve seen this movie before. Many times. Bush’s no-bureaucrat-left-behind initiative flopped. Obama’s latest initiative flopped. Common Core also failed. Various schemes at the state level to dump more money into government schools also lead to failure. Local initiatives to spend more don’t lead to good results, either.

Throwing more money into government indoctrination centers is an exercise in doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If shoveling money into the program was capable of fixing it then we’d have see at least some marginal improvement over the decades. But student performance continues to dwindle, the nation is becoming dumber.

Will statists listen to reason on this matter? Of course not. In their world all problems can only be solved by the State. If the State’s current initiatives aren’t working then it’s the fault of a hated political party, the free market, or a lack of funding. But the fault never lies with statism itself!

Written by Christopher Burg

March 23rd, 2017 at 11:00 am

Government Funding of Science is a Curse

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Donald Trump announced his budget. It’s what you’d expect from a neocon. Money was shuffled from neoliberal favored programs into the military:

Yesterday, the Trump administration released its first proposed budget outline. While this is just the first step in what will inevitably be extensive negotiations with Congress, it gives a clear indication of what Trump’s priorities are. First and foremost, he is focused on the military, which will see a $54 billion increase in spending, offset by cuts or wholesale elimination of programs elsewhere. Science is clearly not a priority, as it is repeatedly targeted for cuts in every agency that funds it.

But those cuts aren’t evenly distributed. NASA’s budget is almost entirely unscathed, although Earth sciences research funded by the agency will be cut to expand funding elsewhere. The National Science Foundation, a major source of grants for fundamental research, isn’t even mentioned, so there’s no sense of how it will fare. And the harshest cuts appear to be directed at biomedical research, which will see a dramatic 20 percent drop in funding for the National Institutes of Health.

As one would expect, the neocons are cheering this increase in military spending while the neoliberals are flipping out because the proposed budget cuts from their beloved science. What they fail to realize is that cutting funding for science would be a good thing for actual science.

Resource misallocation has plagued science for decades. Instead of science that focuses on the market (that would be you and me), companies have been allocating resources for the State’s pet projects in order to obtain government funding (which takes the form of tax dollars stolen from you and me). With less government funding to go around researchers would once again have to rely on the market to decide where resources were allocated. That would mean more research into making better goods and services instead of whatever idiotic pet project some random politician drummed up.

Of course, since the military budget is going up resource misallocation will continue to plagues science. Researchers will continue to focus on the State’s pet projects instead of what the market wants. Those pet projects will merely shift to making more effective methods of blowing shit up. This, of course, will anger the neoliberals because blowing shit up isn’t within their vision of what science ought to be. But the belief that science ought to be one thing or another and dictated by the State is the fundamental error being made here.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 22nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Minnesota Department of Human Services Questions Whether Mayo’s Desire to Get Paid Violates the Law

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Minnesota really is a socialist shithole. The CEO of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. John Noseworthy, announced that his organization will give preference to holders of private insurance because Medicaid has a rather nasty habit of not paying for services rendered. His announcement sparked a lot of controversy because idiot socialists (a redundant term, I know) think profit is evil. The State of Minnesota is so heavily infected with this idiotic belief that it has announced that the Department of Health and Human Services will investigate the Mayo to determine whether its desire to get paid violates the law:

The Minnesota Department of Human Services is probing the Mayo Clinic for possible violations of civil- and human-rights laws by putting a higher priority on patients with commercial insurance.

The review, confirmed Thursday by DHS Commissioner Emily Piper, follows reports that Mayo will give preference to privately insured patients.

Piper’s department is also evaluating its various contracts with the Mayo Clinic system, which reaches far beyond its Rochester home base. Those contracts served over 150,000 public program enrollees last year, including lab work and pharmacy services.

What the fuck is wrong with this state? Hell, what the fuck is wrong with this country? Anybody expressing an interest in wanting to get paid for services rendered shouldn’t even merit an acknowledgement in the back page of the local section of a newspaper. It should be assumed that everybody wants to get paid for providing goods or services.

Critics have been pointing out that the Mayo Clinic made a good amount of revenue last year. It’s as if they believe there is some amount of revenue that when exceeded is too much and therefore bad. Whether the Mayo Clinic made $100 million or $100 billion is irrelevant. Okay, I lied. Revenue is relevant because the more revenue a provider makes the more it can invest in provided better services in the future. This is especially true when you look at the costs the Mayo Clinic faces. Being involved in the medical industry in the United States is damn expensive. Upgrading wings to the latest and greatest doesn’t come cheap. The more revenue Mayo makes the better equipment and services it can provide. The less revenue Mayo makes the more dilapidated its facilities become and by extension the worse its services become.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 21st, 2017 at 11:00 am

Rise of the Warrior Politico

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As of late, virtue signaling has been turning into increasingly violent action in the political realm. Activists on both sides seem hellbent on demonstrating their piety to their political gods by attacking heathen worshipers of other political gods. While these activists seem to believe that they’re great warriors for doing what they’re doing the truth is they’re little more than live-action role players:

I can’t wait for the liberal genocide to begin,” exclaimed a demonstrator at a March 4 rally in Phoenix on behalf of President Trump, as an expression half-way between a sneer and a smirk creased his corpulent face. Asked by left-leaning independent journalist Dan Cohen to elaborate on what he said, the middle-aged man insisted that targeting political enemies for mass slaughter would be “a way to make America great again … it’s the liberals that are destroying this country.”

If the bloodletting this fellow cheerily anticipates were to ensue, he would be, at best, a spectator. He has taken too many trips around the Sun, and made too few trips to the gym, to be of any practical use in the hands-on business of eliminating the Enemy Within. Like most other people at that event, and others like it nation-wide, he was LARPing – Live-Action Role-Playing – in what could be seen as a contemporary re-enactment and updating of Weimar-era political street combat.

Having spent a great deal of time around gunnies I’ve encountered more than my fare share of wannabe warriors. You know the type. They talk about how they will rise up against the government when it becomes too tyrannical and sometimes form little militias with like-minded individuals so they can play weekend warrior. By and large these supposed warriors are a too old and too out of shape for the military, which should tell them something. Namely that they probably don’t have what it takes to make good warriors.

My advice for people wanting to get into the political warrior game is to hit the gym. First, you probably needs to get into shape if you want to fight. Second, it will give you an outlet for your aggression that is far more productive than whacking people you disagree with with a stick.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 21st, 2017 at 11:00 am

Cost Effective Drone Defense

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Fourth generation, or asymmetrical, warfare is much more reliant on economics than firepower. Instead of attacking an enemy directly, a military practicing fourth generation warfare tries to slowly chip away at its enemy until that enemy loses the ability or will to fight. If, for example, a military can cost their enemy $3 million by spending $200 it’s only a matter of time until their enemy is bankrupt:

A Patriot missile – usually priced at about $3m (£2.5m) – was used to shoot down a small quadcopter drone, according to a US general.

The strike was made by a US ally, Gen David Perkins told a military symposium.

“That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot,” he said.

According to the story, the missile was fired by an unspecified United States ally. Perhaps they were given the Patriot launcher for free and therefore aren’t concerned about the cost disparity. But anybody looking at the United States and its allies is probably getting some clever ideas. Sure, it’s unlikely that a Patriot will be used to take down a cheap quadcopter again but the basic idea is pretty solid, cheap drones can lead to an expenditure of expensive military equipment.

If the United States’ allies continue pulling this kind of stunt the country will have to decide whether it will keep handing out expensive toys or not. If not, its allies will be weakened and its enemies will be able to declare a victory. If so, the United States will continue throwing money down a hole until it’s bankrupt, which will cause its enemies to declare victory as well. There’s no winning when you enemy can cost you millions of dollars by spending a couple of hundred dollars.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Opportunity to Provide Free Labor to Billionaires

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Are you friendly? Can you pass a background check? Are you stupid enough to provide free labor to a multibillion dollar organization? If so, there’s an opportunity for you:

Minnesotans who aren’t Hall of Fame quarterbacks can still make a play to get in the action for the 2018 Super Bowl.

The Minnesota Host Committee needs 10,000 volunteers to run the event, and the process starts Wednesday with online applications.

[…]

Obviously, volunteers don’t get paid, but they do get a complete Super Bowl LII outfit unique to the effort that will include top-grade winter gear, including a parka built to withstand extreme cold, a sturdy backpack, beanie and thermos.

Talk about a sucker’s deal. 10,000 people will provide labor to the National Football League (NFL) and in return they only receive marketed attire that will allow them to act as free walking advertisements in the future. They don’t even receive a free ticket to the event they’re going to bust their asses for. And you know what? The Minnesota Host Committee will get its volunteers. It’ll probably get so many volunteers that it’ll be able to pick and choose who it wants.

To me this demonstrates the sordid state of economic education in this country. Anybody willing to provide free labor to a multibillion dollar organization is a goddamn fool in my book. Especially when you consider the fact that the organization needs workers and would therefore offer some kind of actual compensation if nobody was stupid enough to provide labor for free.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 16th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Vault 7 isn’t the End of Privacy

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There has been a lot of bad stories and comments about Vault 7, the trove of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents WikiLeaks recently posted. Claims that the CIA has broken Signal, can use any Samsung smart television to spy on people, and a whole bunch of other unsubstantiated or outright false claims have been circulating. Basically, idiots who speak before they think have been claiming that Vault 7 is proof that privacy is dead. But that’s not the case. The tools described in the Vault 7 leak appear to be aimed at targeted surveillance:

Perhaps a future cache of documents from this CIA division will change things on this front, but an admittedly cursory examination of these documents indicates that the CIA’s methods for weakening the privacy of these tools all seem to require attackers to first succeed in deeply subverting the security of the mobile device — either through a remote-access vulnerability in the underlying operating system or via physical access to the target’s phone.

As Bloomberg’s tech op-ed writer Leonid Bershidsky notes, the documentation released here shows that these attacks are “not about mass surveillance — something that should bother the vast majority of internet users — but about monitoring specific targets.”

The threats of mass surveillance and targeted government surveillance are very different. Let’s consider Signal. If the CIA had broken Signal it would be able to covertly collect Signal packets as they traveled from source to destination, decrypt the packets, and read the messages. This would enable mass surveillance like the National Security Agency (NSA) has been doing. But the CIA didn’t break Signal, it found a way to attack Android (most likely a specific version of Android). This type of attack doesn’t lend itself well to mass surveillance because it requires targeting specific devices. However, if the CIA wants to surveil a specific target then this attack works well.

Avoiding mass surveillance is much easier to deal with than defending yourself against an organization with effectively limitless funds and a massive military to back it up that specifically wants your head on a platter. But unlike mass surveillance, very few people have to actually deal with the latter. And so far the data released as part of Vault 7 indicates the surveillance tools the CIA has developed are aimed at targeted surveillance so you most likely won’t have to deal with them.

Privacy isn’t dead, at least so long as you’re not being specifically targeted by a three letter agency.