A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Superdickery’ tag

The FCC’s Wealth Redistribution Plan

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The Fascist Communications Commission (FCC) has revealed its latest plan for wealth redistribution. The agency wants to tax successful online businesses so it can give that money to Internet Service Providers (ISP):

A Federal Communications Commission advisory committee has proposed a new tax on Netflix, Google, Facebook, and many other businesses that require Internet access to operate.

If adopted by states, the recommended tax would apply to subscription-based retail services that require Internet access, such as Netflix, and to advertising-supported services that use the Internet, such as Google and Facebook. The tax would also apply to any small- or medium-sized business that charges subscription fees for online services or uses online advertising. The tax would also apply to any provider of broadband access, such as cable or wireless operators.

The collected money would go into state rural broadband deployment funds that would help bring faster Internet access to sparsely populated areas. Similar universal service fees are already assessed on landline phone service and mobile phone service nationwide. Those phone fees contribute to federal programs such as the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which pays AT&T and other carriers to deploy broadband in rural areas.

As somebody who grew up in a rural area and still has family in a rural area I can say with some certainty that ISPs aren’t using the money they’re getting from these taxes to provide rural communities with broadband Internet. Fortunately, there are methods for rural communities to get broadband Internet and, best of all, it doesn’t require any wealth redistribution.

The claim that the taxes will be used for rural broadband initiatives is just another euphemism to avoid calling the tax what it is, plundering the pockets of plebs to line the pockets of ISPs with good government connections.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2018 at 11:00 am

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

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What happens if you witness a bad crash in front of you and stop to help the injured parties? You get detained and have to pay to get your vehicle out of the impound lot:

Davis managed to get the survivor out of the car, but the second person in the car, 21-year-old Kyree Payne of Northeast D.C., died.

Davis, who lives in Baltimore and was on his way to work, says he told D.C. Police everything he witnessed and was allowed to leave. But when he was just a block away, he was pulled over by a D.C. Police officer – and that’s when his nightmare began.

“He said, ‘You’re being detained because you were a witness to a vehicle where someone died in an accident,'” Davis said.

Davis said he was made to wait for about two hours and was harshly questioned, before he claims a police supervisor told him because he witnessed a fatal crash, his car was being towed.

Davis also said that he was not involved in the crash and that his driver’s license is active and his car is registered and insured — as police gave him no citations. Unfortunately for Davis, he will have to find a way to work as his car is still impounded.

That’ll teach him for being a good Samaritan!

Of course the officer is claiming that Davis’s car was impounded because Davis refused to show a valid driver’s license. Davis refutes the officer’s claim and since the story points out that he does have a valid driver’s license, I’m inclined to side with Davis. However, a more important question is, so what if Davis didn’t have a valid driver’s license? He pulled a survivor out of a car wreck that was bad enough to leave the other occupant dead. I think a scene like that has far more important issues to address than the validity of anybody’s driver’s license. And the fact that he stopped to help people should have at least netted him a get out of a petty offense card.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Tax Them to Death

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The government here in the frozen tundra of Minnesota likes to tax us plebs hard. However, as bad as we get bled it’s nothing compared to California. It’s clear that the government of California doesn’t see the denizens cursed to live in its state as people but as cattle. Every time you turn around the government is enacting or proposing a new tax. Yesterday it was reported that a new proposal is to tax text messages. But a proposal of a new tax in California isn’t anymore newsworthy than pointing out that the name of the day today ends in “y.” What is amusing though is the number of euphemisms that are used to make the new proposal sound like something other than theft:

As mobile phone users have shifted their usage patterns away from voice calls, voice call revenues for PPP have dropped by about a third, while the budget for subsidizing poorer users has risen by almost half. So California’s PUC is exploring its options and, as texts share infrastructure with voice calls — even if the medium is different — it estimates it could raise $44.5 million a year with the change. Applied retroactively it could amount to a bill of more than $220 million for California consumers.

You see? It’s for the poor! If you complain about this proposed tax, you’re obviously a rich baron who hates poor people! Oh, and this proposed tax isn’t actually stealing money from you. You see, “revenues” are down because you stupid plebs don’t call your mother enough so this is really just reclaiming cash that has been lost because of you assholes!

As the article points out though, text messaging is declining as chat applications take their place. This proposed tax will be irrelevant in short order, which means the Public Utilities Commission will be looking for a new way to bleed Californians in a few years. This is the vicious cycle of taxation. A tax is placed on a popular consumer activity, that activity is eventually replaced by a different activity, a new tax is placed on the new popular consumer activity, and so on.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 13th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Changing the Rules

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As the tirade against intellectual property I posted last week probably demonstrated, I really don’t like it when content creators change rules after I’ve purchased a product. It should also come as no surprise that the gaming industry has inspired yet another rant from me by changing the rules after purchase since the gaming industry seems to be the biggest offender in this regard.

Capcom released Street Fighter V in 2016. Fighting games aren’t my thing so I never purchased it but a lot of people did, for the full new game price of $60. Then, as it tradition with Capcom, a new edition of the same game was was released for $40. So far, so good. However, Capcom has announced that those who paid $40 for the new Arcade Edition will now have to deal with in-game ads:

Capcom is introducing “sponsored content” to Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition on December 11th to promote its purchasable bundles, costumes and the Pro Tour. You’ll see them on costumes, in certain stages and on pre-fight loading screens.

While Capcom is offering players the option to disable ads, doing so will negatively impact their game play experience by making unlockables trickle out at a glacial pace, which is the same strategy free-to-play games employ (buy in game currency or you’ll be grinding forever).

I have no objection to ad supported, free-to-play, or subscription games so long as I’m told up front how the developer is going to make its money. I do object when developers charge full price for a game and then change the business model after the fact. This is the reason I no longer purchase or play games on my iPhone. It’s quite common for mobile game developers to charge a price up front and then transition to a free-to-play model at a later date. When the transition occurs, the gameplay is almost always altered to make advancing in the game much more time consuming (not necessarily more difficult, just time consuming) to encourage you to buy in-game currency. If you purchased the game before the transition occurred, you’re effectively charged twice for the same game.

Unfortunately, the app store model makes this bait and switch tactic much easier to pull off. If an old computer game did this, I just wouldn’t install any updates after the transition occurred. However, with the app store model there generally isn’t a way to download previous versions of an app so even if you avoid installing updates after a developer changes to a new business model, you won’t be able to install the version you had if you have to reformat your phone. The same is also true on modern consoles where only the latest version of a game can be downloaded from the online app store and only the latest update can be applied to a physical copy of the game.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 12th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Never Trust a Surveillance Company

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The parliament of the United Kingdom (UK) decided to pull a Facebook on Facebook by collecting the company’s personal information. Not only did the parliament collect Facebook’s personal information but it’s now airing the company’s dirty laundry. There are a lot of interesting tidbits to be found within the documents posted by the parliament but one in particular shows Facebook’s ruthlessness when it comes to collecting your personal information:

The emails show Facebook’s growth team looking to call log data as a way to improve Facebook’s algorithms as well as to locate new contacts through the “People You May Know” feature. Notably, the project manager recognized it as “a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective,” but that risk seems to have been overwhelmed by the potential user growth.

Initially, the feature was intended to require users to opt in, typically through an in-app pop-up dialog box. But as developers looked for ways to get users signed up, it became clear that Android’s data permissions could be manipulated to automatically enroll users if the new feature was deployed in a certain way.

In another email chain, the group developing the feature seems to see the Android permissions screen as a point of unnecessary friction, to be avoided if possible. When testing revealed that call logs could be collected without a permissions dialog, that option seems to have been obviously preferable to developers.

“Based on our initial testing,” one developer wrote, “it seems that this would allow us to upgrade users without subjecting them to an Android permissions dialog at all.”

If you’re using Facebook on a Google operating system, you’re in the center of a surveillance Eiffel Tower, and I’m not talking about the monument!

The history of Android’s permission system has not been a happy one. Until fairly recently Android had an all or nothing model where you either had to grant an application all the permissions it asked for or you couldn’t use it. Not surprisingly this resulted in almost every app requesting every possible permission, which turned the permissions dialog into a formality. Android 6.0 changed the permission system to mirror iOS’s. When an app running on Android 6.0 or later wants to access a protected feature such as text messages, the user is presented with a dialog alerting them to the attempted access and asks if they want to allow it.

If you read the excerpts, you’ll see that Facebook was concerned about the kind of public relations nightmare asking for permission to access call and text message logs could bring. At first the company was planning to only request permission to access call logs, hoping it wouldn’t cause a ruckus. However, once somebody figured out a way to add the additional capabilities without triggering any new permission requests, Facebook moved forward with the plan. So we know for a fact that Facebook knew what it was doing was likely to piss off its users and was willing to use underhanded tactics to do it without getting caught.

You should never trust a company that profits by collecting your personal information to respect your privacy. In light of the information released by the UK’s parliament, this goes double for Facebook.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 7th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Weaponizing Dependencies

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How I miss the halcyon days of the Internet when perceived slights were commonly forgotten after a short period of inconsequential shitposting. Today perceived slights often result in real-world consequences. The most recent example of this is ThotAudit, the result of a bunch of pathetic sexless whiners perceiving women slighting them. In response to their inability to get laid, they have decided to sic the Internal Revenue Service (IRC) and third-part payment processors on online sex workers:

The campaign is called the “ThotAudit,” in reference to the derogatory term “thot,” which stands for “that ho over there.” It began over the Thanksgiving holiday as a grassroots effort to intimidate sex workers and women who sell access to private pornographic social media accounts by reporting them to the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion—without evidence of wrongdoing. But it quickly morphed into a battle over who has the right to make money on the internet.

The harassers are taking advantage of user reporting tools made available by companies like PayPal, Venmo, and CirclePay, in an attempt to force their targets offline and freeze their finances. The tactic has far-reaching implications beyond adult entertainment. Foreign governments and other groups have abused the policies to silence opponents on platforms like Twitter and Facebook for years. Attacking through the payment processors is a new wrinkle on that approach.

What kind of lowlife piece of shit sics revenuers on people? I mean, come on! That’s below the belt, guys!

Back to the story at hand. There are two aspects that I want to discuss in this post.

The first is the extent individuals will go to avoid acknowledging and accepting their faults. When I was young, I wasn’t exactly drowning in pussy. I didn’t blame women for that though. I acknowledged and accepted my faults, namely my socially awkward nature. I worked to overcome those faults. By the time I hit my mid 20’s, I was still socially awkward but I was at least capable of schmoozing a room full of people and was capable of gaining the attention of members of the opposite sex. While I’m still a bit socially awkward today, I have a smoking hot wife and have little trouble meeting new people and entertaining people at a party (entertaining people is commonly seen as an attractive quality and thus a skill worth cultivating).

The key to my transformation was accepting my flaws and working to overcome them. Most people who call themselves incels suffer from a lack of self-awareness and an unwillingness to overcome their faults. The reason they’re not getting laid isn’t because women are conspiring against them, it’s because they have a number of flaws that make them unattractive. Instead of working to improve themselves, they’re taking actions that make them even less attractive. They’re actually going so far as to exacerbate their faults to avoid acknowledging their faults.

The second thing I want to discuss is something I harp on a lot, the dangers of being dependent on third-parties. Those making themselves part of ThotAudit are trying to convince third-party payment processors to stop processing payments for targeted online sex workers. By doing this, they’re destroying the livelihood of those workers. However, this tactic is only feasible because those workers are dependent on third-party payment processors. The fewer third-parties you depend on, the fewer dependencies exist that can be weaponized against you. While it’s trendy to recommend cryptocurrencies for sex workers, that’s not the only option. Online sex workers could try pooling their resources and establishing a payment processor for their industry, which is a suggestion I made to gun stores that were being blacklisted by third-party payment processors. You might not be able to control the infrastructure yourself but if you have to rely on a third-party, it’s better to rely on one that specifically caters to your industry. After all, if your business is porn, Tumblr might cast you overboard but Pornhub probably won’t.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 5th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Using Approved Forms of Violence

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A college in Michigan has announced that it has developed a plan to defend against shooters. Faculty and students will be given hockey pucks:

Oakland University, a public school in Rochester Hills, near Detroit, is distributing thousands of 94-cent hockey pucks for just that reason.

The distribution, which began earlier this month, stemmed from a March faculty active-shooter training session, which followed February’s shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 dead.

A participant at the training asked Oakland University Police Chief Mark Gordon what items people could use to defend themselves on the campus, which has a no-weapons policy, the Detroit Free Press reports.

There are so many levels of hypocrisy here that I’m not even sure where to begin.

I guess I’ll start with the layer that seems to me to be the most obvious. The school has a no-weapons policy. It is providing faculty and students with hockey pucks for the express purpose of hurling them at an active shooter. In other words the hockey pucks are meant to be used to hurt people. A common word to describe a tool that is meant to hurt somebody is “weapon.” So the school no longer has a no-weapons policy. What it really has is a prohibition against unapproved weapons.

Now that the school no longer has a no-weapons policy, I think that it’s fair to ask what the purpose of the previous no-weapons policy was. If it was protection, the school has admitted that its no-weapons policy was incapable of fulfilling that purpose by distributing weapons. If it was meant to be a moral statement about the superiority of nonviolence, the school can no longer claim any moral high ground since it is now encouraging faculty and students to use violence. The only possible purpose that is left is that the policy is meant to conceal from faculty and students the fact that certain types of weapons exist. The only thing this accomplishes is prohibiting faculty and students from having a more effective means of self-defense if they want to stay within the rules.

This policy is a demonstration of pure cognitive dissonance. The school doesn’t want to admit that it’s no-weapons policy doesn’t provide any protection against weapons. In order to avoid admitting that it has attempted to equip faculty and students with “totally not weapons” to give them the illusion that they might survive when a bad person violates the no-weapons policy. The bureaucrats who administer the school know there is a threat but are unwilling to give faculty and students sanction to effectively defend themselves. In other words they are knowingly putting the people under their authority in danger.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 29th, 2018 at 11:00 am

This Time Will Be Different

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Albert Einstein is often credited with say, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” General Motors (GM) announced that it would be laying off 15 percent of its workforce. While tariffs aren’t entirely to blame for GM’s problems, they did contribute:

When President Trump announced tariffs last summer, Detroit’s Big Three automakers — GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler — all trimmed their profit forecasts for the rest of the year, citing the rising commodity costs that would lead to hikes in prices and manufacturing costs. GM took a hard stance, warning of the fallout within the auto industry and saying that the tariffs risked “undermining GM’s competitiveness against foreign auto producers by erecting broad brush trade barriers that increase our global costs” in comments filed with the Commerce Department in June.

So tariffs didn’t bring economic prosperity to the automobile market (or any other market) so the solution must be more tariffs:

Donald Trump has renewed threats to impose tariffs on imported cars after General Motors announced job cuts and plant closures.

The US President tweeted that tariffs were “being studied” and that duties could have stopped the GM closures.

Tariffs have done nothing by damage to the economy so the solution is obviously more tariffs! There really should be a constitutional amendment that requires all incoming presidents to read the collected works of Ludwig von Mises and pass a comprehension test to guard against this kind of economic stupidity.

What’s even worse than the fact that the United States has a president that is committing economic seppuku is the fact that his successor will likely leave all of the tariffs in place. For some reasons politicians have an aversion to undoing the bad policies of previous politicians.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 29th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Totally Not a Registry

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Boulder, Colorado passed an ascetically frightening firearm ban but tossed a few crumbs from the table to those who owned such firearms before the arbitrarily selected cutoff date. So long as an owner properly registers his firearm in the city’s totally not a registry they can keep them. What does the city’s totally not a registry look like? Surprisingly it looks an awful lot like a registry:

In order to be part of Boulder’s “This-Is-Not-A-Registry” program, anyone who owned one of the banned firearms prior to June 15th, 2018 must go to the police department and have it “certified” before Dec 31st, 2018. They must then keep the certificate with the firearm at all times – forever – otherwise they’re a criminal. Lose this piece of paper? The firearm will be confiscated. Don’t comply? Criminal. Allegedly there are no copies of these certificates kept.

Requirements for certification include: Valid photo ID, the firearm being certified (unloaded and secured in vehicle), and a new background check. If the the background check comes back clear, two certificates per firearm will be issued. The cost is $20 for the first firearm and $5 for each additional firearm.”

I’m sure this information won’t be used when the law is change in the near future to prohibit the ownership of these firearms even if they were possessed by the currently selected cutoff date. No siree. Absolutely will not happen. Your freedom is guaranteed or your money back!

Written by Christopher Burg

November 29th, 2018 at 10:00 am

One of These Things Is Just Like the Other

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Since I already wrote one post about the similarities between Obama and Trump today I might as well keep writing on the theme. A lot of people are up in arms because border agents used teargas on immigrants who were trying to cross the imaginary line that separates the United States from Mexico. How horrible is it that Trump authorized the use of such violence against poor, defenseless women and children (as his critics put it)?! Of course the people crying foul now didn’t utter a peep when the same thing happened under Obama:

Under President Donald Trump, CBP’s use of the substance has hit a seven-year record high, with the agency deploying the substance a total of 29 times in fiscal year 2018, which ended on September 30, 2018, according to the agency’s data.

However, the data also showed that the substance was deployed nearly the same number of times in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 under former President Barack Obama, with CBP using the substance 26 times in fiscal year 2012 and 27 times in fiscal year 2013.

Once again we see the hypocrisy that is common amongst the most vocal of politically opinionated individuals. When a politician on the “other” team does something, the politically opinionated scream bloody murder. When a politician on “their” team does the exact same thing, the politically opinionated clap their hands, cheer, and wax poetically about how effective “their” politician is.

I tend to consider most politically opinionated individuals to be unprincipled but that’s not entirely accurate. They do have one principle, which is that “their” party is always right. Even when “their” party does something they disagree with it’s only because it was forced into doing so by the “other” party. I believe that technically qualifies as a principle but it’s a stupid one to have in my opinion.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 28th, 2018 at 10:00 am