A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for May, 2017

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.

[…]

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 State’s Definition of Justice

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To most people the term justice creates images of people who were wronged being compensated by the individual(s) who wronged them. The State has a different view of justice. In the eyes of the State justice creates an image where it is compensated whenever anybody has been wronged. This skewed view of justice is what motivated the State to primarily pursue crimes that will be profitable to it instead of crimes involving a victim. It’s also why when the State wrongs somebody it resists compensating them:

A Tennessee man who served 31 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit is petitioning the state to compensate him $1 million for the years of his life that were taken away. All he’s gotten so far is $75.

In October 1977 a Memphis woman was raped in her home by two intruders. She later identified one of them as her neighbor, Lawrence McKinney, who was 22 at the time. He was convicted on rape and burglary charges in 1978 and sentenced to 115 years in jail.

DNA evidence cleared him of the charges in 2008, and when he was released in 2009, the Tennessee Department of Corrections gave him a $75 check to restart his life.

This story is from 2016 but a search indicates that he still hasn’t been compensated beyond $75 even though the State stole 31 years of his life.

If you kidnapped somebody and detained them for 31 years do you think that you’d get off with a $75 fine? Probably not. You’d likely face a lifetime in prison. But when it comes to rules the State’s attitude is that rules are for thee, not for me. Mr. McKinney will be lucky if he ever sees more than $75 from his case because the State wants to profit off of every crime, even its own.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 30th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Why Nobody Enjoys Dealing with Government

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One of the biggest problems when dealing with government is the lack of consistency. This lack of consistency costs people a tremendous amount of money. Towards the end of his reign, Obama improved relations between the United States and Cuba by loosening the idiotic sanctions placed by the former on the latter. This reestablished the opportunity for market actors that previously had no access to the markets in Cuba to create some new wealth. But today is a different day and the country is being run by a different team:

President Donald Trump is set to announce a rollback of former President Barack Obama’s policies toward Cuba, The Daily Caller has learned.

Two sources told TheDC that the development is due to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

This information coming from an anti-embargo group, which spoke on the condition of anonymity, was confirmed Sunday by John Kavulich of the nonpartisan U.S. – Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “The Trump Administration has been ‘ready’ since February 2017 to announce changes, but issues unrelated to Cuba have intervened,” Kavulich said.

If the Trump administration reverses Obama’s policies towards Cuba, it will be yet another incident of the market fronting unnecessary costs because the people in charge can’t make their minds up about anything. This is why every company in the United States is laser focused on short term profits. They take whatever they can get today because their business model may not be legal tomorrow.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 30th, 2017 at 10:30 am

It’s Not Your Property, Serf

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Every now and then people make the mistake of believing they can own property here in the United States of America. When people make such a mistake some petty bureaucrat is there to remind them that the freest country on Earth isn’t very free:

According to an article in the Salem News, the city government of Columbiana recently informed citizens that they don’t have a right to plant and maintain a garden in their own yards:

Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell said the garden issue came about as a result of the chicken issue.

He explained that people were asking why chickens couldn’t be allowed in the community while gardens were.

The city had no laws pertaining to residential gardens, which means they were technically not allowed.

According to the city’s laws, if something is not permitted it is prohibited.

‘Right now, if there is not something expressly in this code that says that you can have one, you technically can’t,’ Blakeman confirmed.”

Can you really claim to own property if you can only use it in manners specifically allowed by somebody else? No. At best you can claim that you’re renting it. At worst you are a serf that is taking care of the property for a lord. Strangely, I’ve been told that at one point in this country’s history the prevailing attitude was that if something wasn’t specifically prohibited it was permitted. While such a system wouldn’t really qualify as ownership either it would be a lot closer to the concept.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 30th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Monday Metal: Mexico by Alestorm

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Alestorm released No Grave But the Sea on Friday. The entire album, as expected, kicks ass but the catchiest song on it is by far Mexico:

Written by Christopher Burg

May 29th, 2017 at 10:00 am

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What Happens When You Look at Groups Instead of Individuals

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As humans we like to categorize things. Categorization is useful for many things. Categorizing books by subject and author makes them easier to find in a library or to search for online. Categorizing lumber by tree species makes it easier for consumers to find wood that fits their needs. But categorizing people presents some significant problems.

Each individual is unique. That uniqueness doesn’t stop when they become a member of a group. Two Democrats can have wildly different views about gun ownership, two Catholics can have wildly different views about same-sex marriage, and two Muslims can have wildly different views on women’s rights:

Akram’s work, al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam, stands as a riposte to the notion, peddled from Kabul to Mecca, that Islamic knowledge is men’s work and always has been. “I do not know of another religious tradition in which women were so central, so present, so active in its formative history,” Akram wrote.

Women scholars taught judges and imams, issued fatwas, and traveled to distant cities. Some made lecture tours across the Middle East.

[…]

If there was ever proof that a pious Muslim woman need not be a submissive wife and mother, it is the life of Aisha, the third of the Prophet’s eleven wives. She has divided opinions ever since the seventh century, among both Muslims and non-Muslims.

A top Islamic scholar, an inspiration to champions of women’s rights, a military commander riding on camelback, and a fatwa-issuing jurist, Aisha’s intellectual standing and religious authority were astonishing, by the standards of both our own time and hers.

Aisha is not the only wife of Muhammad whose life explodes notions of what constitutes a “traditional” Muslim woman. Khadija ran a caravan business in Mecca. A wealthy and successful trader, she was also a twice-widowed single mother, fifteen years Muhammad’s senior, and his boss.

Her marriage proposal to the future Prophet was forthright: “I like you because of our relationship, your high reputation among your people, your trustworthiness, your good character and truthfulness.”

I’m not sharing this article to start an argument about how Islam views women, I’m sharing it to show that there is disagreement within Islam about the religion’s views on women.

I hear too many people say, “Muslims believe killing infidels is acceptable,” or “Muslims believe that women shouldn’t have any rights.” Truth be told, there are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. It’s difficult enough to get three coworkers to agree on where to go for lunch so getting 1.5 billion people to agree on what a holy book says about anything is impossible.

Treating groups of individuals as a single entity is foolish. Each member of that group is likely to be quite different from the other members. They might have a single idea that holds them together but even their views on that idea are likely to differ.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The TSA is Working Hard to Make Your Life More Miserable

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How much do you hate the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)? I bet that you don’t hate it as much as you will. The TSA has announced that it’s investigating methods to make its security theater even more annoying and time consuming:

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the TSA’s plans are still vague, but the agency has been testing a variety of security procedures at smaller airports before expanding them to major cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Boston and others. In some cases, passengers were required to remove all food items or put any electronics larger than a cellphone — meaning tablets and kindles too — in separate bins. In one failed test, confused passengers were even asked to take out any paper items in their bags, including notepads. The TSA hasn’t announced which rules it will implement yet and even when it does, enforcement will vary at each airport and security line. There’s even the possibility that an agent could ask you to take something out and put it in a bin without warning. While compliance is optional, non-compliance means stepping out of line for a manual check.

The TSA, as it is apt to do, is blaming travelers for these proposed policies. According to the TSA checked luggage fees have caused air travelers to cram more stuff into their carry-on bags, which is making life difficult for the TSA’s x-ray machine observers. However, I find it difficult to believe that paper, which previous didn’t hinder x-ray scanners, suddenly developed the ability to hinder x-ray scanners. I also fail to see how requiring air travelers to place all of their electronic devices into separate bins will make life easier for x-ray machine observers. Perhaps the people proposing the requirements are just entirely stupid when it comes to security. That would explain the agency’s 95 percent failure rate.

Of course, any changes to the TSA’s already inconsistent security policies will lead to longer security lines, which means you’ll have to show up to the airport even sooner to guarantee you can get through the line in time to catch your flight. And you know what? Unless you can avoid air travel, there’s nothing you can do about it. Unlike market actors, you cannot choose to not do business with the TSA.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Do You Even Lift, Brah

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I can finally say that my proposal to help people cultivate their ego in order to spread freedom is backed up by SCIENCE!

A recent study showed that weak men are more likely to be socialist. Since the site requires you to register to read the entire article, I’ll include this image of the physically printed story:

As you know, one of the activities I mentioned to help bolster an individual’s ego is working out so this study is right up my alley. While I don’t have access to the research paper and therefore I don’t know what methodologies were used to determine how strong or socialist a subject was, how the subjects were chosen, or whether there was a control group, the study confirms my bias so it’s SCIENCE and you can’t argue against it!

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26th, 2017 at 10:00 am