A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for May, 2018

I Bet the Detonations Look Breathtaking

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People who use lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), commonly referred to as acid, usually report that things look more brilliant than normal. I wonder how brilliant a nuclear blast looks when you’re under the influence of acid:

WASHINGTON (AP) — One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, “I absolutely just loved altering my mind.”

Meet service members entrusted with guarding nuclear missiles that are among the most powerful in America’s arsenal. Air Force records obtained by The Associated Press show they bought, distributed and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months on a highly secure military base in Wyoming. After investigators closed in, one airman deserted to Mexico.

[…]

None of the airmen was accused of using drugs on duty.

I’m actually comforted by the fact that people tasked with nuclear weapons are using mind expanding substances during their off time. My biggest worry is that people charged with nuclear weapons will act like mindless automatons who blindly follow orders and protocol. Anybody who has read either Command and Control by Eric Schlosser or The Death Hand by David E. Hoffman knows that individuals thinking independently instead of blindly following orders or protocol is the reason large portions of the world’s cities weren’t turned into ash.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2018 at 10:30 am

I’ve Been Told this Never Happens

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Whenever a gun control advocate is demanding that innocent gun owners be punished after a mass shooting, gun rights advocates point out that individuals carrying guns are the best defense against mass shootings. Usually this results in the gun control advocate claiming that such an event never happens:

An armed citizen gunned down a shooter at an Oklahoma City restaurant on Thursday, killing him, police said.

A man walked into Louie’s Grill & Bar and opened fire, striking two people. As the gunman was fleeing the scene, a bystander armed with a pistol confronted the shooter and fatally shot him outside the restaurant, Oklahoma City Police Captain Bo Mathews told reporters.

“Right now, all I know is that it was just a good Samaritan that was there and looks like he took the right measures to be able to put an end to a terrible, terrible incident,” Mathews said.

Since it’s CNN, I’m not surprised that the article used the verbiage “gunned down” but the fact that CNN ran this story at all is a bit surprisingly.

The key to reducing casualties in a mass shooting scenario is response time. The sooner armed resistance can be made against the shooter, the sooner the shooter will either kill themselves (a very common result in mass shooting scenarios) or disregard bystanders as they fight for their life. The fastest possible response time comes from somebody at the location when the shooting begins, which means the best way to decrease the number of casualties caused by a mass shooter is to allow individuals to carry a firearm on their person so that there’s a higher probability of an armed individual being at the location when the shooting starts.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Land of the Free

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My feelings for government agents are well known but even among such a rogues gallery Jeff Sessions stands out as particularly loathsome. I often compare him to a Saturday morning cartoon villain. He’s a two dimensional character who seem to be evil for the sole sake of being evil. In his latest disregard of common decency he has decided once again that the Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four were the heroes and should be emulated:

Sessions, however, refuses to accept this reality. Instead, he has claimed that the agreement caused 236 murders. He points to a journal article written by Paul Cassell, a former federal judge, and Richard Fowles, that asserts the reductions in stop-and-frisk encounters from 40,000 a month to 10,000 a month caused the additional murders in 2016. While the report accurately states the reduced number of stop-and-frisk encounters and the spike in murders in 2016, it provides no causal link between the two events.

The authors essentially suggest that a huge number of random stops will reduce crime because no one will ever know when they might be stopped and, therefore, will not carry weapons. Apparently, they are fine with randomly stopping hundreds of thousands of people, a practice with a greater than 84 percent error rate.

Remember when films portrayed Nazis and Cold War Eastern European guards asking for papers as bad guys? Those were the days! Speaking of Nazi Germany and Cold War Eastern Europe, those governments taught us that even if you establish the most ruthless police state imaginable, crime will still be rampant. Random harassment teaches people to avoid law enforcers, nothing more. Needless to say, with such an education a policy of randomly stopping and frisking individuals can only manage to catch the dumbest criminals.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Government Claims

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The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has claimed that law enforcers are being thwarted by dastardly criminals 7,800 times because the contents of modern smartphones cannot be easily decrypted. It turns out that the FBI has significantly exaggerated the number of devices that it has been unable to unlock:

Last year FBI Director Christopher Wray said it had failed to access 7,800 mobile devices, but tonight a Washington Post report reveals that number is incorrect. According to the Post, the accurate number is between 1,000 and 2,000, with a recent internal estimate putting at about 1,200 devices, and in a statement, the FBI responded: “The FBI’s initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported.”

7,800 versus 1,200? That’s only an exaggeration of a factor of 6.5, no big deal.

Lying is nothing new for the FBI, which raises two interesting questions. Why does anybody take what the FBI says at face value and why aren’t members of the agency fired when they lie? Everything the agency says should be taken with a giant grain of salt. Moreover, when agents lie to the public (you know, the people they supposedly serve) and Congress, no punishment is ever issued, which encourages agents to tell more lies.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2018 at 10:00 am

$1 Trillion Doesn’t Go as Far as It Once Did

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$1 trillion doesn’t go as far as it once did… literally:

The House Armed Services Committee has sent its report on the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the floor. And buried in that report are words of caution about the F-35C, the Navy’s version of the F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter—and the Navy’s whole carrier air capability in general. The reason for that concern is that the F-35C doesn’t have the range to conduct long-range strikes without in-flight refueling—and the Navy’s tanker planes are not exactly “stealth.”

Perhaps I’m mistaken but isn’t this something that should have been considered when the jet was initially being designed? Isn’t coming up with needed capabilities the first step in designing a jet?

I’m firmly convinced that the F-35 was never seriously meant to be a legitimate fighter jet. Instead I think it was meant to be a perpetual stimulus package for the defense industry. That’s the only logical explanation for dumping over $1 trillion into a jet that still cannot fulfill the missions for which it is designated.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2018 at 11:00 am

When the Government Is Big, Private Businesses Want to Do Business with the Government

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I find that a lot of people don’t think their positions through very thoroughly. For example, I know a lot of people who advocate for a large, powerful government but then become upset when they read stories like this:

SEATTLE — In late 2016, Amazon introduced a new online service that could help identify faces and other objects in images, offering it to anyone at a low cost through its giant cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services.

Not long after, it began pitching the technology to law enforcement agencies, saying the program could aid criminal investigations by recognizing suspects in photos and videos. It used a couple of early customers, like the Orlando Police Department in Florida and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, to encourage other officials to sign up.

See this capitalist shit? This is why we need socialism, comrades!

The supreme irony here is that most of the people I mentioned above fail to realize that the very thing they advocate for, a larger and powerful government, is what convinces businesses to pursue government contracts. It’s true that Amazon is operating on the capitalist principle of seeking profit. However, in a country where the government is large and powerful the most profitable contracts are often government contracts. If the governments in the United States were weak and poor, Amazon would have no interest in pursuing contracts with them. But they’re powerful and wealthy so Amazon, like everybody else, wants a piece of the pie.

Speak English or Else

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Be mindful of what language you speak in the land of the free:

(GREAT FALLS) Two U.S. citizens were stopped and questioned by a Border Patrol agent early Wednesday morning for speaking Spanish at a gas station in Havre.

Ana Suda – who was born in Texas and now lives in Havre – stopped with a friend at a Town Pump store to buy milk and eggs.

They were speaking Spanish when a Border Patrol agent asked them for their documents.

Speaking Spanish? Ihre Papiere, bitte!

In all fairness, I understand how this situation occurred. Put yourself in the agent’s shoes. You’re an American of moderate intelligence who hears two people speaking a language other than English. You can’t imagine that anybody would actively invest their time into learning another language so you’re fairly certain that those two people are from Mexico. You also know from your training that anybody from Mexico is probably here illegally. With this knowledge in hand you decided to do what you were hired to do, harass people.

The United States, like many superpowers before it, is decaying and the rulers are looking for somebody to blame (besides themselves, of course). As is tradition in decaying superpowers, the rulers of the United States has decided to place the blame firmly on the shoulders of barbarians outsiders. This has lead to the establishment of policies meant to seek out barbarian infiltrators and remove them and their immoral influence from this great nation. In other words, there’s a witch hunt on for outsiders and anything that isn’t considered expressly American is a sign of a witch.

Open Source Software and Private Property

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I’ve lamented periodically about the fact that consumers don’t own the software they “buy.” When you “buy” a piece of software, you’re usually entering into a license agreement, and an extremely one-sided agreement at that. However, there is respite from this onslaught against the concept of ownership and, ironically, it comes from a model that is usually claimed to be communistic by both its proponents and critics. That respite is open source software.

Open source software is the only software that you can seriously claim to own. While not all open source software licenses are equal, most of them do allow you to modify the code in whatever way you desire. With the source code in hand and the right to modify it at will, you can make whatever changes you want to an application. If a developer drops support for the application, you can either continue to support it yourself or hire a third-party to continue supporting it for you. If you’re not happy with a change a developer made, you can remove that change while still potentially including other added functionality that you did want. If the application is designed to be run on a server, you can host the application on your own server if you so desire.

In this way a movement that is usually considered communistic has done a better job of enabling private property rights over software than the model that is usually considered capitalistic.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 22nd, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in News You Need to Know

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Hardware is Cheaper than Developer Time

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Is your application performing poorly? Just throw more hardware at it! This attitude has become mainstream thanks to the widespread availability of cheap hardware and the high cost of developer time. Why pay a team of developers tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the performance of an application when you can buy a handful of relatively cheap servers and still be able to provide the performance your customers need?

What’s interesting about this equation is that consumers have been mostly shielded from it. However, when this equation does impact consumers, it usually raises some important questions:

Capcom will give Japanese Switch owners a chance to play last year’s Resident Evil 7 on the Switch later this week. But the port will only be playable as an online stream running on Capcom’s own servers, rather than a downloaded version that would run directly on the Switch’s relatively low-powered hardware.

[…]

But such a port would have required time and programming resources that Capcom might not have been willing to spare. With cloud streaming, on the other hand, getting the game onto the Switch is likely just a matter of setting up some servers to run the existing PC version, then writing a simple client to stream inputs and video/audio to and from the Switch. Streaming to the Switch means not having to compromise on graphical detail, but it could lead to stuttering and frame rate issues if the Internet connection isn’t absolutely solid.

Nintendo has been at a disadvantage for the last several console generations. Its consoles have been less powerful than its competitors, which has contributed to developers not porting games to Nintendo’s consoles. When games have been ported, developer time had to be invested in down scaling the game enough to run on the less powerful hardware.

With the widespread availability of high-speed Internet connectivity, an alternative strategy to porting a game directly has become possible. Instead of porting the game itself, the game can be run on more powerful hardware and the video can be streamed to the player. This would theoretically allow any game to run on almost any platform. A user could just as easily stream the game on their Switch as their phone.

But the universe abhors perfection so this strategy naturally has trade offs. The most obvious of these trade offs is latency. If the game is being run on a remote server, every button pressed by the player must be transmitted to that server. Even with a high-speed Internet connection that latency can be noticeable, especially for extremely fast paced games. But the more sinister trade off in my opinion is the fact that players can’t own the game since it exists exclusively on remote servers. At some point Capcom will decide that continuing to operate the Biohazard 7 servers is costing more money than the game is making. When that happens, the servers will be turned off and the players who paid for the game will no longer be able to play it.

I’ve lamented about the fact that consumers own fewer of the products they “buy.” The idea that paying a producer money for a product resulted in exclusive ownership has been replaced by the idea of licensing. You don’t purchase a tractor, you pay to license the software that runs on it and John Deere just happens to throw in the hardware for free. In the case of Biohazard 7, gamers aren’t buying the game, they’re paying for the privilege to stream the game for as long as Capcom allows.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 22nd, 2018 at 10:30 am

Posted in Technology

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Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves

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Government schools and prisons have a lot in common. Schools and prisons are often architecturally similar and attendance isn’t optional. The latter similarity has, not surprisingly, lead to a lot of students who are unhappy about being held against their will. Worse yet, many unhappy students show their displeasure, which can make the school as a whole look unpleasant. Fortunately, one school has a plan to combat this problem:

Northern Lebanon School District students in Pennsylvania must smile while walking the hallways at the institution or they will be punished, according to a report.

Students who do not smile in the hallways between periods will be instructed to, and if they refuse, they will be sent to the guidance counselor’s office to talk through their problems, reported Lebanon Daily News. Meanwhile, parents claim that reports of bullying in the district are mostly ignored by administrators.

A school is finally teaching children a real-world skill: how to bottle up emotions until they can manifest themselves in the form of a nice, healthy mental illness!

I guess it’s easier to threaten students with punishment if they don’t pretend to be happy than it is to make students legitimately happy by making the oppressive conditions in schools less oppressive.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 22nd, 2018 at 10:00 am