A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

The American Medical System

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What do you get when you take a wonderful free market medical system and continuously inject a little more government into it? The American medical system:

Sorry, let me explain a hospital to you: we give you medical care, then we charge whatever the hell we want for it.

If you don’t like that, go fuck yourself and die.

Honestly, there’s no telling what you’ll pay today. Maybe $700. Maybe $70,000. It’s a fun surprise! Maybe you’ll go to the ER for five minutes, get no treatment, then we’ll charge you $5,000 for an ice pack and a bandage. Then your insurance company will be like, “This is nuts. We’re not paying this.” Who knows how hard you’ll get screwed? You will, in three months.

When I buy gas, books, groceries, a cell phone plan, computers, or anything else, the prices are clearly posted. I know what a gallon of gas costs before I buy it. I know what a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs costs before I buy them. But when I need anything involving the medical industry, I seldom have any idea what I’m going to be charged. If I ask, I won’t get a straight answer (unless I’m dealing with one of the handful of wonderful medical facilities that deals in cash but they’re still pretty hard to find). I’ll be told that it will depend on my insurer.

My insurer is an asshole. It has continued to increase my premiums and deductibles will reducing my services. I’m stuck with it though because I, like most Americans, get my insurance through my employer and my employer isn’t big enough to strong arm insurers into providing better packages. This was an entirely different situation before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which mandated that every American do business with medical insurers and thus removed any motivation they had to provide a good product at a reasonable price. Before the ACA my insurance was pretty decent and if it hadn’t been decent, I could have found an individual plan that suited my needs.

The passage of the ACA was just one amongst decades worth of laws that slowly transformed the country’s free market medical system into the government controlled mess that won’t even clearly tell you what the product you’re buying costs. Unfortunately, most people subscribe to the idea that if something didn’t work then it wasn’t tried hard enough. If you ask most people how the medical system can be fixed, they’ll tell you, “More government!” Needless to say I’m not hopeful that I’ll be able to walk into a clinic and see a board that clearly advertises the prices being charged for offered services anytime soon.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Shooting Yourself in the Foot… with a Machine Gun

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Tumblr has been known for two things: pornography and social justice blogs. After December 17th it will only be known for social justice blogs. The service announced that it was going to commit corporate suicide by remove all pornography from the site. But Tumblr isn’t taking the easy way out. Instead it has opted to prolong its misery, to commit corporate seppuku if you will, by using machine learning to remove pornography from its site:

For some reason, the blogging site hopes that people running porn blogs will continue to use the site after the December 17 ban but restrict their postings to the non-pornographic. As such, the company isn’t just banning or closing blogs that are currently used for porn; instead, it’s analyzing each image and marking those it deems to be pornographic as “explicit.” The display of explicit content will be suppressed, leaving behind a wasteland of effectively empty porn blogs.

This would be bad enough for Tumblr users if it were being done effectively, but naturally, it isn’t. No doubt using the wonderful power of machine learning—a thing companies often do to distance themselves from any responsibility for the actions taken by their algorithms—Tumblr is flagging non-adult content as adult content, and vice versa. Twitter is filling with complaints about the poor job the algorithm is doing.

Machine learning has become the go-to solution for companies that want to make it appear as though they’re “doing something” without taking on the responsibilities. We’re already seeing the benefits of this decision. A lot of non-porn material is being removed by whatever algorithms they’re using and when users complain Tumblr can say, “Don’t blame us! The machine screwed up!” Thus Tumblr absolves itself of responsibility. Of course the three people who post non-pornographic content to Tumblr are likely to flee after tiring of playing Russian roulette with the porn scanning algorithm but I’m fairly certain Verizon, which owns Tumblr now, just wants to shutdown the service without listening to a bunch of people who still use the platform whine.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 6th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Worst Parents of the Year Award

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There are a lot of ways that parents can make the lives of their children miserable. One way for parents to start early down this path is to give their child a stupid name:

A Southwest Airlines gate agent at John Wayne Airport is accused of being awful in front of a five-year old girl – and on social media – because of her unique name.

The girl’s mother says the agent made fun of the name and even posted a photo of her boarding pass on social media for others to chime in.

Five-year-old Abcde Redford pronounces her name “ab-city.”

I guess some points go to the parents for at least getting five letters of the alphabet in the correct order.

Granted, I don’t think that the gate agent should have made fun of the child because the child was innocent. They should have ridiculed the parents for picking a name that would so inevitably cause their child to be picked on. If you want to give your child a unique name, there are a lot of excellent choices that aren’t as likely to result in ridicule from schoolmates (and gate attendants) as Abcde.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 30th, 2018 at 10:00 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

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

Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

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North Sentinel island is famous for one thing. One fucking thing. That thing is a tribe of people who immediately try to murder any outsider who sets foot on their little piece of land. If that’s not enough to dissuade you from going there, then you deserve whatever happens to you:

Fishermen who took the man to North Sentinel island say tribespeople shot him with arrows and left his body on the beach.

Local media say he was a missionary. He has been identified as John Allen Chau.

He should have went and played in an active volcano instead. His odds of survival would have probably been better.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 23rd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Darwin's Duty

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Not Enough Slaves

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Senator Tom Cotton has a reputation for saying incredibly stupid shit. However, I think he may have outdone himself:

Sen. Tom Cotton on Thursday slammed his colleagues’ efforts to pass sweeping criminal justice reforms, saying the United States is actually suffering from an “under-incarceration problem.”

[…]

“Take a look at the facts. First, the claim that too many criminals are being jailed, that there is over-incarceration, ignores an unfortunate fact: for the vast majority of crimes, a perpetrator is never identified or arrested, let alone prosecuted, convicted, and jailed,” Cotton said during a speech at The Hudson Institute, according to his prepared remarks. “Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes. If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem.”

The country with the highest incarceration rate in the world has an under-incarceration problem?

Moreover, Cotton’s statements about the inadequacies of law enforcers doesn’t add any weight to his argument. Assuming Cotton’s statistics are correct (which they probably aren’t), why do law enforcers only identify perpetrators in 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes? Could it be that instead of focusing their efforts on crimes where individuals were actually wronged they are focusing their efforts on victimless crimes that are profitable for the department like drug crimes?

Moreover, even if law enforcers were able to identify perpetrators in a majority of property and violent crimes, why should that increase the incarceration rate? The purpose of justice is supposed to be to make a victim as whole again as possible. For example, if somebody steals a $400 television, justice would be for the criminal to repay that $400 value to the victim as well as any expenses incurred (including personal time invested) for finding the thief and bringing them to justice. If that happens, the victim is back to where they were before the theft and thus is as whole again as reasonably possible.

Incarceration doesn’t make victims whole, it merely locks a criminal away so they can become a slave laborer for the state or one of its cronies. So what Cotton is really saying is that there aren’t enough slaves to work the prison plantations and he believes that any form of prison reform will only worsen the situation. If his concern was actually justice, he would still seek a reduction in incarceration rates.

Artisan… Headphone Jacks?

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Remember the good old days when you could plug the same pair of headphones into your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, television, and stereo without the assistance of dongles? Then Apple decided to show the world its “courage” by removing the near universal headphone jack and many other device manufacturers started following suit. One of the companies that followed suit was Essential. Simply removing the headphone jack wouldn’t be enough for me to mention that company specifically but the solution it announced is worth mentioning:

So if you really, really want to use wired audio, you can fork over a $150 for this accessory. That price seems just a bit excessive considering the entire phone has had fire sales for $250 and $224.

The Essential Phone is compatible with the usual headphone jack dongles, so this add-on is being pitched as an artisanally crafted accessory for the discerning audiophile. The company says the “limited edition” accessory is “handcrafted” and made from “100% machined titanium.”

And you thought the title of this post was pure mockery. Nope. Essential actually is advertising its headphone adapter as being an artisan head crafted” headphone jack. Will this be the accessory that turns the failing company around? I wouldn’t be the farm on it.

While I understand the market for luxury goods in general, I don’t understand the market for luxury electronics. Electronics tend not to stick around too long. A cellphone is generally upgraded every few years. Unless Essential makes a guarantee that this headphone adapter is going to be compatible with all future phones (considering the company’s financial situation it’s optimistic to believe the company will release another phone) this accessory will likely be obsolete in the near future. Why spend $150 for an accessory for a $250 phone when the entire kit will be disposed of in the near future? Buying artisan cellphone accessories seems as stupid to me as buying artisan water. You’re just going to piss out the water later in the day so why spend extra for it?

Written by Christopher Burg

November 20th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Chip-and-Fail

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EMV cards, those cards with the chip on the front, were supposed to reduce fraud but credit card fraud is rising. What gives? It turns out that the security provided by Chip-and-PIN doesn’t work when you don’t use it:

The reasons seem to be twofold. One, the US uses chip-and-signature instead of chip-and-PIN, obviating the most critical security benefit of the chip. And two, US merchants still accept magnetic stripe cards, meaning that thieves can steal credentials from a chip card and create a working cloned mag stripe card.

A lot of stores still don’t have credit card readers that can handle cards with a chip so you’re stuck using the entirely insecure magnetic strip. And most credit cards equipped with chips don’t require entering a PIN because Americans are fucking lazy:

The reason banks say they don’t want to issue PINs is that they’re worried it will add too much friction to transactions and make life difficult for their customers. “The credit-card market is pretty brutally competitive, so the first issuer who goes with PINs has to worry about whether the consumers are going to say, ‘Oh, that’s the most inconvenient card in my wallet,’’ says Allen Weinberg, the co-founder of Glenbrook Partners. “There’s this perception that maybe it’s going to be less convenient, even though some merchants would argue that PINs take less time than signatures.”

Since card holders face little in the way of liability for fraudulent transactions, they have little motivation to enter a four to six digit PIN every time they purchase something. If card holders aren’t motivated to enter a PIN, card issuers aren’t likely to require holder to enter a PIN because it might convince them to get a different card. It’s tough to improve security when nobody gives a damn about security.

Eventually the level of fraud will rise to the point where card issuers will take the risk of alienating some holders and mandate the use of a PIN. When that day finally comes, card issuers will discover that Americans are absolutely able to overcome any barrier if doing so allows them to continue buying sneakers with lights in them.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am