A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for February, 2018

Laws Are Irrelevant

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When you allow yourself to succumb to magical thinking, such as believing that society is a thing in of itself, you leave yourself vulnerable to other magical thoughts such as believing that laws are what establish safety and stability.

Whenever an act of violence makes it to the front pages of news sites, a lot of people start demanding laws be passed to protect people. When I see such demands being made in comment sections on the websites I frequent, I like to point out that laws are just words on pieces of paper and have no power to protect anybody. The believers in law then point out, as if I was unaware, that my argument should apply to all laws. They mistakenly believe that I’m only talking about whatever law they’re proposing but their rebuttal is correct, as I point out, I am talking about all laws. After that the believers in law tend to have a psychological breakdown and start screaming about how laws are what makes society possible.

Laws are not what make society possible. First of all, society isn’t an actual thing, it’s an abstraction that lives entirely in our imaginations. What most people commonly refer to as society is actually a complex collection of human interactions. And therein lies the truth of the matter. Laws aren’t what make those interactions possible. The will of the individuals is. The reason these complex collections of human interactions don’t regularly devolve into mass murder is because the individuals will it not to. It is you and your neighbor deciding not to kill each other that prevents either from being murdered at the hands of the other.

The impotency of laws is demonstrated every time a murder is committed. Murder has been declared illegal in pretty much every nation on Earth. But words on pieces of paper can’t interfere with an individual’s will. If an individual wills an act of murder, a murder will be attempted. I say attempted because realizing on a subconscious level that the law is incapable of protecting them the intended murder victim will likely attempt to defend themselves. Again, the law doesn’t offer them protection, their will to act does.

Even if every law were repealed tomorrow, people would still choose to act against those who act against them or others. That is what establishes safety and stability.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 20th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Investigating Potential Mass Murderers Isn’t Profitable

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One of the thing we learned about the shooter in Florida is that he was brought to the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ (FBI) attention but the agency did nothing:

The F.B.I. received a tip last month from someone close to Nikolas Cruz that he owned a gun and had talked of committing a school shooting, the bureau revealed Friday, but it acknowledged that it had failed to investigate.

The tipster, who called an F.B.I. hotline on Jan. 5, told the bureau that Mr. Cruz had a “desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts,” the F.B.I. said.

The information should have been assessed and forwarded to the Miami F.B.I. field office, the bureau said. But that never happened. On Wednesday, Mr. Cruz, 19, killed 17 students and teachers at his former high school in Parkland, Fla., law enforcement officials said.

Several theories to explain the FBI’s lack of followup have been put forward. Most of the theories, in my opinion, give the FBI too much credit by either coloring the agency as a bumbling fool or the perpetrator of a sinister conspiracy. I’m guessing the FBI’s failure to followup was about money. Murder isn’t a crime that allows an agency to rake in cash through civil forfeiture. If somebody had called in a tip claiming that the shooter was in possession of a great deal of heroine, the FBI would have probably been kicking the guys door in at oh dark thirty and executed any pets in the household. Why? Because drug crimes are profitable to enforce since they allow an agency to seize property without even having to prove the suspect guilty in court.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 20th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The States has Decided to Keep Its Political Prisoner

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Anybody who paid attention to the trial of Ross Ulbricht knows that he was railroaded. The judge ruled his defense inadmissible. Then when several officers involved with hunting down Ulbricht were found to have been corrupt, thus bringing the validity of any claims they made during the trial into question, but new trial was called. Ulbricht’s lawyer has continued to push for a new trial despite these setbacks. Unfortunately, it looks like the State will keep its political prisoner:

The federal judge overseeing the trial of Ross Ulbricht, the man convicted of creating the underground Silk Road drug website, has denied the Ulbricht legal team’s attempt to extend the normal three-year window for “post-conviction relief.” In essence, the move stifles Ulbricht’s new attorney’s extraordinary effort to re-open the case with new exculpatory evidence, on the off-chance that it exists.

Don’t forget that all of this was done because of a fucking website. Ulbricht was never charged with manufacturing, selling, or distributing any illegal substances. The only thing he was guilty of was running a website. But the State needed to make an example out of somebody and Ulbricht was the person it could get.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 20th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Monday Metal: Unfold Legend by Operadyse

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I’m in the mood for something that sounds epic. Fortunately, I found exactly what when I was searching for new metal to post:

Written by Christopher Burg

February 19th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Media

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Mental Illness Is a Meaningless Definition

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Now that I’ve skewered the vultures exploiting the Florida school shooting to forward their gun control agenda, it’s time for me to skewer my fellow advocates of gun rights.

Gun control advocates are quick to lump all gun owners, both those who have committed violent crimes with guns and those who haven’t, together and demand they all be punished. All too often gun rights advocates fall for the same collectivist nonsense. They’ll label the shooter mentally ill and by doing so throw individuals with mental illnesses under the bus.

Saying the shooter belonged to the collective of mentally ill individuals is, like all forms of collectivism, meaningless. Mental illness is such a broad term that saying somebody suffers from a mental illness says nothing specific. What kind of mental illness did the shooter suffer from? Were they schizophrenic? Were they autistic? Were they bipolar? Were they senile? There are a lot of recognized mental illnesses and only a handful of them carry any risk of instilling violent behavior in the sufferer.

I know, I know, anybody who is willing to kill innocent people is obviously mentally ill, right? If so, that means drone pilots and many law enforcers are mentally ill. Strangely enough, I generally don’t hear gun rights activists who label mass shooters as mentally ill apply the same label to drone pilots or law enforcers. It seems like the label of mentally ill is a euphemism for individuals they don’t like.

As tempting as it is, fighting fire with fire isn’t the best way to prevent a house from burning down. If a gun control advocate tries to use nonsensical collectivization to make their case, responding with your own flavor of nonsensical collectivization isn’t productive. It’s far more productive to call out their nonsense while simultaneously analyzing the problems that can be acted on (i.e. the real problems). There is no way to act on an individual belonging to an arbitrarily defined group. There are a ways to improve school security, response times, etc.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Fitting Definitions to the Narrative

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The shooting in Florida is the 18th school shooting in 2018! Or not. It turns out that the statistic that is being mindless regurgitated by much of the Internet is, like most such mindless regurgitations, malarkey. The statistic, not surprisingly, originates from Everytown for Gun Safety, which is an organization known for massaging definitions to fit its narrative:

Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counts as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.

Also listed on the organization’s site is an incident from Jan. 20, when — at 1 a.m. — a man was shot at a sorority event on the campus of Wake Forest University. A week later, as a basketball game was being played at a Michigan high school, someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot. No one was injured, and it was past 8 p.m., well after classes had ended for the day, but Everytown still labeled it a school shooting.

Everytown explains on its website that it defines a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.”

To borrow a phrase popularized by Mark Twain, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. The beauty of analyzing numbers is that you can whatever result you want if you use the proper definitions. If, for example, you want to maximize the number of school shootings in the United States, you merely need to define a school shooting as any incident where a firearm was discharged on school grounds. It doesn’t matter if the discharge happened at a school that has been closed for seven months or if the discharge was caused by a law enforcer’s lack of awareness of their surroundings.

Details matter but most people ignore them. When they see a headline that confirms their bias, they post it, usually without bothering to read the cited source. This is why most discourse is pointless. Facts aren’t being debated, confirmation bias is.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Beginning of the End for Unsecured Websites

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Chrome looks to be the first browser that is going to call a spade a spade. Starting in July 2018, Chrome will list all websites that aren’t utilizing HTTPS as unsecured:

For the past several years, we’ve moved toward a more secure web by strongly advocating that sites adopt HTTPS encryption. And within the last year, we’ve also helped users understand that HTTP sites are not secure by gradually marking a larger subset of HTTP pages as “not secure”. Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as “not secure”.

I think Let’s Encrypt was the catalyst that made this decision possible. Before Let’s Encrypt was released, acquiring and managing TLS certificates could be a painful experience. What made matters worse is that the entire process had to be redone whenever the acquired TLS certificates expired. Let’s Encrypt turned that oftentimes annoying and expensive process into an easy command. This made it feasible for even amateur website administrators to implement HTTPS.

The Internet is slowly moving to a more secure model. HTTPS not only prevents third parties from seeing your web traffic but, maybe even more importantly, it also prevents third parties from altering your web traffic.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 16th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Identifying Yourself with a Group Is Exhausting

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People really like identifying themselves with groups. We have a lot of self-proclaims libertarians, communists, atheists, theists, gamers, intellectuals, and so on. While these labels can serve as a sort of shorthand for explaining one’s beliefs, hobbies, etc., it seems like a majority of the time spent by individuals who identify themselves with groups is denouncing all of the other individuals who also identify themselves with the same group.

Consider the self-proclaimed libertarian. He may not have a racist bone in his body but he may be accused of being a racist by somebody who doesn’t identify themselves as a libertarian. Why? Because another self-proclaimed libertarian has openly espoused racist ideals and identity politics is all about guilt by association. So our hypothetical self-proclaimed libertarian must denounce the racist self-proclaimed libertarian. They might claim that racism and libertarianism are incompatible. They might claim that the racist isn’t a real libertarian for other reasons. They might apply an additional label, such as paleo-libertarian, to create distance between their libertarianism and the racist’s libertarianism. This is a lot of work. I know, I’ve been there.

The problem with identifying yourself with a group is that different people define different groups using different criteria. A self-proclaimed libertarian may define libertarianism as a belief in private property or the non-aggression principle. A self-proclaimed communist, on the other hand, may define libertarianism as a belief system that allows racism to thrive.

As a naturally lazy person, I’ve reached a point where I’d rather avoid all of the work identifying myself with a group entails. And, frankly, life is too short to fret about imaginary nonsense.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Individualism

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Finding Alternatives to Advertisements

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People often make the mistake that many webpages are free but there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Most websites still use the age old monetization technique of displaying advertisements. However, advertisements quickly evolved from relatively safe static imagines. They started becoming more annoying. Imagines turned into animations. Animations turned into full video that also played sound. These “enhancements” also requires clients to run code. Needless to say, users started getting annoyed and their annoyance lead to the creation of browser plugins that block advertisements.

Online advertising has turned into an arms race. Website visitors use an ad blocker, advertisers create a method to bypass ad blockers, visitors upgrade their ad blockers to bypass the bypass, and so on. This is leading a lot of people to question whether the online advertisement model can remain feasible. Fortunately, some websites that rely on online advertisements have begun experimenting with alternative revenue sources. Salon, for example, recently launched an experiment where visitors blocking advertisements are given the option to run cryptocurrency mining code in their browser:

Salon.com has a new, cryptocurrency-driven strategy for making money when readers block ads. If you want to read Salon without seeing ads, you can do so—as long as you let the website use your spare computing power to mine some coins.

If you visit Salon with an ad blocker enabled, you might see a pop-up that asks you to disable the ad blocker or “Block ads by allowing Salon to use your unused computing power.”

A lot of people are pissed about this but I, possibly for the first time ever, actually agree with what Salon is doing.

Unlike a lot of sites that are experimenting with running cryptocurrency mining code in visitors’ browsers, Salon is being entirely transparent about doing so. If you visit the site with an ad blocker enabled, you are presented with a very clear option to either disable your ad blocker or run cryptocurrency mining code. If you choose the latter, your computer’s fans will likely kick on as your processor ramps up.

I doubt browser based cryptocurrency mining will be a viable alternative to online advertising. Cryptocurrency mining, as the linked article shows, requires a lot of processing power. On a desktop that isn’t much of a concern. On a laptop or other battery powered device, that increased processor usage will drain the battery quickly. With more computing being done on battery powered devices, anything that noticeably reduces battery life will likely anger visitors. But I’m happy that websites are finally exploring alternatives to advertisements. It’s clear that visitors aren’t happy with the current state of the online advertising model. If website operators want to continue being profitable, they need to find a way to raise money that their visitors find acceptable.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Take That, Chronic Pain Sufferers!

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Opioids are fantastic painkillers but have the unfortunately side effect of also being highly addictive. This has may opioids an attractive crisis of the moment. Since politicians never let a crisis go to waste, a lot of them have been wasting a lot of our time decrying opioids and explaining their plan to do something. Some politicians want to restrict opioids even harder (because doing the same thing that hasn’t been working even harder is a recipe for success). Other politicians, such as Mark Dayton, realize that crises can be lucrative:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) – Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a “penny-a-pill” paid for by drug companies to fund an opioid stewardship program for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery efforts in Minnesota. The governor estimates the program would raise $20 million each year.

It should be noted that paid by drug companies is a euphemism for paid by consumers since all expenses incurred by producers are reflected in the prices consumers pay. However, telling the public that chronic pain sufferers will be footing the bill probably won’t be as well received as telling them that multibillion dollar corporations will be footing the bill.

Dayton’s proposal isn’t surprising in the least. The government loves to punish people who are following the current law. Who buys opioids from the legal drug manufacturers who will be paying this proposed tax? People who have received prescriptions from licensed medical professionals. Who buys opioids from black market actors who won’t have to pay Day’s proposed tax? Everybody else. So the moral of the story is that following the law is foolish because you’ll likely get fucked over at some point in the future.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2018 at 10:00 am