A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

Defending Against Propaganda

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Fake news and propaganda are still hot issues for a lot of people. Why? Most likely because they’re products of the public schooling government indoctrination system and are therefore unable to differentiate between facts and fiction when they’re being reported by a respected authority figure. When you can’t tell the difference between the two the fact that some of what you’re being told is factual while the other is fictional probably seems very scary.

But that’s OK because there are some solutions that will fix everything:

In a sense, social media audiences need basic “stranger danger” lessons. Every kid knows that the nice person offering candy and a ride might actually be trying to kidnap them. We need the same instincts in online public spaces, too. The friendly person tweeting at you from Georgia might actually be a bot under the control of Russian hackers. Don’t trust Internet people until you know them.

One of the most hopeful responses I’ve seen to these problems has come from an unlikely place: the Girl Scouts of America. The group has just created a cybersecurity badge that girls can earn alongside more traditional badges for skills like camping, first aid, and music (apparently the “whittling” badge I was so proud of as a kid is no longer offered).

It’s encouraging to see the Girl Scouts teaching cybersecurity to children, because this is the kind of basic skill that people will need more than ever in years to come.

Perhaps the next step will be encouraging teachers and librarians to teach kids defensive social-media skills. Lessons would start with the basics, like how to find the sources for an article and how to understand who has made edits on Wikipedia. More advanced students could be trained to recognize the kinds of bots that are used in propaganda campaigns. Eventually, students could learn to build tools that block known sources of malicious information, much the way Block Together works to prevent the spread of trolling and sockpuppet armies on Twitter.

While education about computer security is extremely beneficial, the flaw of the above proposals is that they rely too much on domain specific knowledge and dictation from authority.

The greatest defense against propaganda is an educated populace. A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that an educated populace is one where a large percentage hold college degrees of some sort. The fact that people often exclusively tie education and college together is a good example of how bad the government indoctrination system is in this country.

Whether a population is education or not has nothing to do with pieces of paper. The ultimate determining factor is whether or not the overwhelming majority of the populace is capable of independent thought. That is to say, an educated populace is one where critical thinking is in abundance and reliance on authority figures for knowledge is at a minimum. An uneducated individual is willing to accept any knowledge provided to them by an authority figure whereas an educated individual will be skeptical of any knowledge provided by an authority figure and attempt to verify it through personal investigation.

Propaganda becomes less effective when individuals default to a state of skepticism. Therefore the most effective tool for fighting against propaganda is teaching individuals how to think for themselves. Once they can do that they can seek out the knowledge they need to further guard themselves. Having authority figures dictate to individuals what is or isn’t propaganda and what they should or should not do to guard against it only exacerbates the problem because it keeps those individuals in a state of mind where they seek knowledge from authority, which is what propagandists rely on.

Unfortunately, the State relies on propaganda and therefore has a vested interest in teaching people to blindly accept knowledge from authority instead of seeking it out themselves. That being the case, the government indoctrination system will continue doing its damnedest to prevent students from thinking for themselves. Until parents stop sending their children to these indoctrination centers propaganda will continue being effective.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 28th, 2017 at 11:00 am

It’s a Cyberpocalypse

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Have you ever had a sneaking suspicion that an author of an article was given a keyword and paid based on the number of times they managed to insert that keyword into their article? I’m fairly certain that’s what precipitated this article. Doing a page search for “cyber” resulted in 29 hits.

If you can overcome the tedium of reading the word “cyber” every other sentence, you’ll find an article discussing the difficult the United States is having with fighting the Islamic State. It turns out that treating a decentralized organization like a centralized organization results in bad tactics. Who could have guessed that?

What’s even funnier though is the little tidbit the author snuck in that is supposed to justify the United State’s prohibition on carry-on electronics on flights originating from certain airports:

Even one of the rare successes against the Islamic State belongs at least in part to Israel, which was America’s partner in the attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Top Israeli cyberoperators penetrated a small cell of extremist bombmakers in Syria months ago, the officials said. That was how the United States learned that the terrorist group was working to make explosives that fooled airport X-ray machines and other screening by looking exactly like batteries for laptop computers.

Those must be some fantastically shitty x-ray scanners if they can’t actually tell the difference between legitimate laptop parts and bombs.

That tidbit might justify the carry-on electronics ban if it was in any way uniform. But the ban targeted specific airports, which means any terrorist with one of these highly advanced laptop bombs could get around the prohibition by flying to another airport, perhaps one in Europe, first and then flying to the United States from there. In other words, the “solution” to this threat wouldn’t have protected anybody and was therefore implemented for other reasons or was nothing more than security theater.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 13th, 2017 at 10:30 am

I Don’t Think Theresa May Understand How Networks Work

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Politicians never let a tragedy go to waste. After another attack in London Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was quick to exploit the tragedy by using it to call for restricting the Internet:

The Prime Minister said introducing new rules for cyberspace would “deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online” and that technology firms were not currently doing enough.

[…]

London attack shows too much tolerance for extremism in UK, May says
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,” Ms May said.

“We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.”

She obviously doesn’t understand how networks works.

Networks are groups of interconnected people or computers. While the Internet is the largest network in the world it is not the only network, which is what Theresa’s proposal fails to address. She seems to think that restricting the Internet, a proposal which is absurd by itself, would silence the forces her government is at war with. It wouldn’t. Even if there was a way to effectively restrict what kind of content is posted on the Internet it would simply cause those being restricted to create a separate network.

What shape would such a network take? While predicting the future is impossible there are some precedences that could give us an idea. Guifi.net, for example, is a mesh network that spans most of Catalonia. Even if every Internet connection to Guifi.net was severed the nodes on the network would still be able to communicate with one another. Drug cartels also built their own large scale network in Mexico.

Humans are social creatures and therefore strive to build networks. Every attempt to interfere with this drive has failed. Even the mighty Roman Empire, despite its best efforts, was unable to stop early Christians from networking. Eventually they networked to such a scale that they Christianized the empire. Theresa May can make whatever proposal she desires but even if it is implemented it will fail because it’s attempting to interfere with one of humanity’s most basic drives.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 6th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Create Wealth, Not Jobs

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Expanding on my previous post, many people have fallen into the trap of believing that the solution to unemployment is to create more jobs. On paper is seems to make sense. If people don’t have jobs then the solution is to create jobs. However, unemployment is a symptom of a problem, not the actual problem itself:

But employment is not an end in and of itself. Rather, it is a means to an end: namely the increased standard of living that the worker obtains by trading his labor for wages.

In a free market, employment is a value creation process — with jobs stemming from the wants and needs of consumers as conveyed through the price system.

It is this productive nature of free-market jobs that make them desirable and capable of increasing a worker’s standard of living.

Wages spring directly from, and are proportional to, the degree in which a job creates wealth by helping to satisfy an unmet need. As is the case for all mutually-agreeable trades in a free market, both sides gain and wealth is created: the worker receives wages that he values more than his labor and the consumer receives a product or service he values more than its price.

In other words, a worker’s wages are reflective of the additional wealth he helped create, which enables his newly improved standard of living.

Because government-created jobs are devoid of this wealth creation process, they are merely a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the program’s beneficiaries.

Unemployment stems from a lack of wealth. Most often the lack of wealth is caused by government. Through their burdensome regulations governments place roadblocks in front of entrepreneurs that prevents them from creating new wealth. Through their burdensome taxes governments siphon wealth from practically everybody under their rule. Government regulations also force currently existing wealth to be misallocated.

Solving unemployment by having the government create jobs actually exacerbates the problem. Since governments needs to siphon more wealth from the economy to create jobs there is less wealth in the hands of producers and consumers, which means consumers aren’t able to buy as much so producers respond by producing less. Eventually the drop in production forces producers to lay off employees, which increases the amount of unemployment. You can see where this vicious cycle ends up.

The solution to unemployment is to reduce the amount of wealth being siphoned by governments. With more wealth in hand entrepreneurs can create more wealth, which will actually allow the unemployment issue to be solved.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 1st, 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

Regulating People to Death

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Here in the United States we often express the costs of regulatory burdens in dollars. We only have the luxury of doing this because our economy hasn’t completely choked to death on regulations yet. However, Venezuelans aren’t so fortunate. Their economy has choked to death and now they have to express the costs of regulatory burden in human lives:

Several of his cavernous henhouses sit empty because, Escobar said, he can’t afford to buy more chicks or feed. Government price controls have made his business unprofitable, and armed gangs have been squeezing him for extortion payments and stealing his eggs.

Venezuela’s latest public health indicators confirm that the country is facing a dietary calamity. With medicines scarce and malnutrition cases soaring, more than 11,000 babies died last year, sending the infant mortality rate up 30 percent, according to Venezuela’s Health Ministry. The head of the ministry was fired by President Nicolás Maduro two days after she released those statistics.

Child hunger in parts of Venezuela is a “humanitarian crisis,” according to a new report by the Catholic relief organization Caritas, which found 11.4 percent of children under age 5 suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition, and 48 percent “at risk” of going hungry.

Starvation is the inevitable result of government meddling in economic matters. Socialism tends to reach starvation faster because the amount of government meddling in economic affairs is greater than other forms of statism. But the same result can be reached under the economic system of the United States as well.

Statists enjoy rolling their eyes at libertarians who talk about regulatory burden but government regulations can and do kill people. And when regulations start killing people governments don’t suddenly realize the errors of their ways and loosen their grip. They double down because they know people can’t stop doing business with them.

We’re seeing this happen right now in Venezuela. Venezuelans are starving to death and the Maduro regime is tightening the noose further. The Venezuelan government, like all governments, doesn’t give a shit about the people it claims rulership over. It only cares about lining its own pockets.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2017 at 11:00 am

It’s Science!

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Reason posted an article claiming that research shows that you can’t even pay somebody to read information that contradicts their beliefs. However, if you read the about the methodology you learn that the researchers didn’t offer to pay people to read information that contradicted their beliefs:

The study gave participants two options: they could read an article about same-sex marriage that matched their own perspective, or they could read an article about same-sex marriage that contradicted their views on the subject. They were told that if they selected the article with which they disagreed, they would be entered in a drawing to win $10. But if they selected the more comforting, self-affirming article, they would only stand to win $7.

Being entered into a lottery isn’t payment, it’s a chance at payment.

I bring this article up to illustrate how poor research can quickly lead to stupid conclusions and headlines. Initially reading the research might lead one to believe that it gives evidence to the possibility that some people won’t read contradicting information even if there is a reward. But when you stop to think about the methodology used you quickly realize that the research was inadequate at addressing incentive. Some people might not be willing to read contradicting information for a chance to be entered in a lottery with a slightly better payoff but they might be willing to do so for straight up cash. $10 might not convince some people to read contradicting information but $20 or $30 might.

I also bring this article up because it shows that neocons and neoliberals aren’t the only people who allow themselves to use poor research to reach a desired conclusion. Libertarians can and do fall into that trap as well.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Socialist Hiding Behind the Curtain

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It seems like there’s a socialist hiding behind almost every libertarian. If you prod most libertarians enough you’ll eventually find that one hot topic where they’re willing to put a bullet in the head of individualism and hang its corpse for all to see. For a lot of these libertarians that topic is international socialism. While they claim to be against socialism in all forms they will gladly join the ranks of the national socialists if they’re fighting international socialists. Another one of these topics that’s starting to creep up is universal basic income. A few libertarians have fallen for the automation scare and are using that as justification for why society must implement universal basic income.

Interestingly enough, this tendency of self-proclaimed anti-socialists to have very strong socialists sentiments isn’t isolated to libertarians:

I’ve critiqued that idea elsewhere, but what I find interesting about it is that for all these years, Murray wasn’t really an opponent of big government or the welfare state. He was just looking for a more effective way to administer it. So his legacy as a critic of welfare is in danger of being eclipsed by his advocacy for universal welfare.

You could make similar observations about how it was the Heritage Foundation that cooked up the “individual mandate” at the center of Obamacare, how “cap-and-trade” global warming regulations were dreamed up under the Reagan administration and pushed as a “free-market” solution, and how it was Milton Friedman who helped develop income-tax withholding.

I believe one of the reasons socialism has enjoyed such great success in spreading (even though it has been an abysmal failure when implemented) is because it has been able to infiltrate its opposition. Even people who consider themselves ardent anti-socialists have been infected with socialist thinking.

How could socialism become so pervasive in society? I attribute it to statism. Individualism is the antithesis of statism. That being the case, believers in the State have to believe in at least some amount of collectivism. If a person claims to be an anti-statist but advocates some amount of statism they have already established the cognitive dissonance in their head that allows them to claim to be individualists while promoting socialist ideas. Statists then push their belief onto children through the public education socialist indoctrination system. After all, it’s always good to them while they’re young! The children who were subjected to the indoctrination system then grown up, become teachers, and being the vicious cycle anew. Within a few generations the idea that individualism can even exist is almost completely removed from society.

Libertarianism can’t hope to win the fight against socialism if its biggest supporters are advocating socialist ideas.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Religion of Science

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One might get the impression that I’m opposed to science based on how much I’ve been harping on scientism as of late. Truth be told, I’m actually a huge advocate of science, which is why I’m investing so much time into criticizing scientism.

Science is supposed to be about using observations to develop hypotheses and testing those hypotheses through experimentation. It’s supposed to be different from faith. But most of the people cheering the greatness of science are treating it as a religion. Scientists are being treated like priests, their words are being treated as law and their characters are being treated as sacred. This has lead to religious zealotry:

In late July 2014, a Twitter user named @dogboner posted a photo of a man on a subway train working on his laptop, accompanied by the caption, “Some guy using his laptop on the train like a dumbass nerd lol.” The “dumbass nerd” in question was astrophysicist, author and TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson. Instantly, “@dogboner” (whose real name is Michael Hale) faced a tweet-storm of abuse and haranguing from social media users for whom Tyson has emerged as a kind of messiah of modern rationalism.

The photo was shared on the popular Facebook page “I Fucking Love Science” (which currently engages some 25 million-plus users), leading to even more angry call-outs. Hale was called “stupid,” an “underachieving burnout,” and worse. One person encouraged Hale to “fall into an ocean of A.I.D.S.” Few had bothered to consider that the original tweet was nothing but the sort of stupid, ironized joke that savvy Twitter users major in. Legions of self-satisfied rationalists and armchair logicians who pride themselves on their superior intellect were effectively fleeced.

Beyond being (really, really) funny, the incident was revealing. It spoke to the vehemence and belligerence science seems to inspire in popular culture. It also laid bare the frothing cults of personality surrounding people like Tyson, Bill Nye, Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield (who live-streamed parts of his 2013 mission to YouTube, including a much-shared acoustic guitar rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”), and other modern pop-star scientists.

The irony, of course, is that most of the people who lashed out at Mr. Hale probably don’t know any scientists who don’t regularly appear on television. In this way they mimic many self-proclaimed Christians who are only aware of popular televangelists and wouldn’t recognize the names of even well-known historical theological scholars.

I’m going to blame the government indoctrination system that is often mistakenly called an education system. Government indoctrination centers tend to teach by authority. What the teach says is supposed to be accepted by the students with blind obedience. Everything written in the textbooks is supposed to be accepted as truth. Students who question the teachers or the textbooks are often dismissed with a wave of the hand or outright punished. Unfortunately, imprinting this system on children at a young age likely makes them seek out authority figures instead of seeking out knowledge.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, who I have never met but would enjoy getting a beer with sometime, has become one such authority figure. People seeking out an authority figure on science have latched onto him, as many Christians latch onto televangelists, because he’s charismatic and entertaining. However, it’s no crime to be entirely unaware of him, especially if one’s interests aren’t in astrophysics. Likewise, it’s no crime to be entirely unaware of Aziz Sancar. Who is Aziz Sancar? He’s a microbiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I’m not a chemist so I was also unaware of him and only found him when doing a search for scientists who have made notable accomplishments but haven’t enjoyed appearing on every television channel known to man. My point is that most self-proclaimed lovers of science are probably entirely unaware of his existence and that’s OK.

Science ceases to be science when it becomes blind faith and cults of personality. The masses currently demanding science-based policies appear to be primarily composed of worshipers of scientism, not people with an actual understanding of the scientific method. They don’t want science-based policies, they want policies inspired by the sermons of their priests.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Old Man Yells at Cloud

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Noam Chomsky calls himself an anarchist. He’s even loved by many socialist anarchists. While I have no problem admitting that Chomsky has written some brilliant things about the nature of power, he seems almost entirely ignorant about history. Consider his latest claim:

Noam Chomsky has argued the Republican Party is the most “dangerous organisation in human history” and the world has never seen an organisation more profoundly committed to destroying planet earth.

The eminent intellectual, who is famed for his radical views, said the Trump administration had shown total and utter disregard for the future of the planet and appeared dedicated to dismantling previous legacies to tackle climate change.

Noam might have a point if the Republican Party was competent.

Oh, and if organizations such as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and other similarly horrible regimes didn’t paper our histories. Those regimes murdered millions whereas the Republican Party so far has been unable to come even close to matching those numbers. As for pollution, the Soviet Union showed even less regard for its environmental impact than the United States. Today, China still shows almost no regard for the amount of pollution it’s dumping into the environment.

This is what happens when you let your political bias color everything. Whatever goes against your beliefs become the most horrible things in the world. Anything that indicates those things aren’t the most horrible things in the world disappear down a memory hole.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 12th, 2017 at 10:30 am