A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

Believe Everything You Read

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During this moral panic of fake news, a lot of people have expended a great deal of energy arguing over what news sources are trustworthy and what news sources spew lies. Most of the people arguing in this debate lack any arguments remotely approaching objectivity. Instead they declare whatever sources agree with their biases as trustworthy and whatever sources disagree with their biases as great deceivers.

I tend to take a more cynical approach. I assume anything being fed to me by a major media outlet is mostly bullshit with, at most, a few kernels of truthful information buried in the muck. My cynicism allows me to read stories like this with no feeling of surprise:

A German journalist who trekked to Fergus Falls, Minn., to profile a rural Midwest community after President Donald Trump’s inauguration wrote that he was greeted at the city limits by a sign that read: “Mexicans Keep Out.”

Problem is, the sign reporter Claas Relotius described in his March 2017 article in Der Spiegel, a German language news magazine, never existed. Some of the quotes in the story were made up, too, as were some of the anecdotes — from a brewery hosting a Super Bowl viewing party (the brewery was closed that day) to the city administrator hosting a “Game of Thrones” quiz night (the city leader said he doesn’t even own a TV).

On Wednesday, Der Spiegel disclosed that Relotius, an award-winning reporter, confessed to fabricating at least 14 articles out of the nearly 60 he wrote since 2011, including the descriptive article about Fergus Falls.

If Der Spiegel was on your list of trustworthy sources, you might want to scratch it off. If Der Spiegel was on your list of great deceivers, don’t let the feeling of smugness overcome you because I guarantee you that Relotius isn’t alone. Most major media outlets likely have at least one if not several Relotiuses.

Determining if a story is “fake news” requires more than checking if it aligns with your personal biases. It requires performing an investigation into the journalists’s supposed investigation. If the journalist quoted somebody, you need to find that person and verify that they said what the story claims they said. If the journalist claimed to have seen a sign, you have to go to where the sign supposedly was and verify that it existed or, if it has been removed, find photographic evidence that it existenced. Without that kind of due diligence a journalist could be lying and nobody would be the wiser, unless he later confesses as Relotius did.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2018 at 10:30 am

War Is Good

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Remember the aftermath of 9/11 when Bush entangled the United States in several Middle Eastern conflicts? It lead to the rise of a very fervent anti-war left.

Then Obama came into power. The anti-war left fell silent. I guess they were on vacation or something.

Now Trump has undone one of the products of Bush’s legacy and announced that the United States is pulling out of Syria, which has cause the anti-war left to not only decide that Bush’s wars were OK but that his wars were absolutely necessary!

I have to assume that during its mysterious eight year disappearance, the anti-war left was taken away to Room 101 and taught the importance of Big Brother’s wars. Either that or the anti-war left was never actually against war and merely exploited Bush’s war in order to criticize somebody who worshiped the wrong political god.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2018 at 10:00 am

With a Wave of My Hand

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When I was in high school, I was taught about how the three branches of government counterbalance each other. The president can’t write or pass law. Congress can’t sign legislation into law. If the president and Congress conspire to do something illegal, the judicial branch can overrule their actions. But like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, the idea that the three branches of government balance each other out is a fairy tale.

The executive branch has continued to grow in power since the beginning of this country. Instead of slapping down attempts by the executive branch to grab more power the legislative branch has worked to retroactively declare those power grabs lawful. The judicial branch, which is ultimately ruled by the Supreme Court, which consists of judges nominated by the executive branch, has more often than not rubber stamped executive power grabs.

Now instead of Congress proposing and voting on legislation and the president signing it into law, new restrictions can be created by the executive bodies that have been granted regulatory power. The latest example of this is the reclassification of bump stocks as machine guns. Congress never passed legislation. The president said that he was going to ban them and one of his agencies, the Department of Justice, created a new regulation that declared bump stocks machine guns and thus put them in a category that is unlawful to own (machine guns that weren’t registered by May 19th, 1986).

This reclassification by an executive agency isn’t new. This has been the norm for decades. I just wanted to highlight it because, unlike Santa Claus, many people believe in the fairy tale of a balanced government well into adulthood.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 19th, 2018 at 10:30 am

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

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