A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘You’re Doing it Wrong’ tag

Public Health isn’t a Thing

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Gun control advocates have been trying to make the case that guns are a “public health” issue for ages. I came across this nonsense again when read Ars Technica (which is a great site when it comes to technology but its writers are mostly ignorant of guns):

BOSTON—Because both criminal violence and gun rights have become contentious political topics, research on the health and safety aspects of gun ownership in the US is barely funded. In fact, many have questioned whether it should be studied at all. But Northeastern University’s Matthew Miller used a talk at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to argue that there’s an area where the data shows a clear link between gun access and public health and that this topic reveals some hints as to how to better manage safety.

The issue in focus is suicide.

Here’s the thing, “public health” isn’t a thing.

Health is something that can only be determined on an individual basis. Sure, you can say ‘x’ number of people suffer from ‘y’ ailment but that information is of limited use because you need to look at each individual suffering from ‘y’ individually. The reason one person, for example, suffers from chronic headaches may be entirely different than why another person suffers from chronic headaches. What factors allow and individual exposed to people suffering from a highly virulent disease to avoid becoming infected? What factors cause a generally mild disease to turn into a life threatening condition for an individual?

The problem with collectivizing health is that it leads to absurd conclusions such as firearms causing suicides. Suicidal tendencies need to be analyzed on a case by case basis. This probably surprises collectivists because they like to think of everybody has being an identical cog in the great machinery of society but different people suffer from suicidal thoughts for different reasons. Some of those individuals are suffering from chemical imbalances in the brain. Others have suffered a lifetime of torment and just want it to stop. There are a plethora of potential causes for suicidal thoughts.

Another issue with collectivizing health is that is leads to blanket policies that can hinder sufferers from seeking treatment. Consider this claim that guns are related to suicides. It’s likely to lead to a policy that prohibits people deemed suicidal by the State from owning firearms. What happens when a gun owner starts suffering from suicidal thoughts but doesn’t want to reach out for help because they’re afraid of losing their guns? The answer is that they don’t seek help and try to deal with the problem alone.

I wish people would stop falling into these collectivist traps.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 21st, 2017 at 11:00 am

Getting the Right Idea

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Yesterday I wrote a post about some neoliberals threatening to homeschool their children. Homeschooling isn’t the only anti-state idea neoliberals are getting though. Some are now claiming that they won’t pay their taxes because Trump was elected president:

Andrew Newman always pays his taxes, even if he hates what the government is doing with them. But not this year. For him, Donald Trump is the dealbreaker. He’ll pay his city and state taxes but will refuse to pay federal income tax as a cry of civil disobedience against the president and his new administration.

Newman is not alone. A nascent movement has been detected to revive the popularity of tax resistance – last seen en masse in America during the Vietnam war but which has been, sporadically, a tradition in the US and beyond going back many centuries.

Bombing children in the Middle East, having the highest prison population in the world, widespread unwarranted surveillance, civil forfeiture, and a plethora of other horrible government programs weren’t enough to convince them to not pay their taxes. But Trump getting elected? That warrants such action.

This is me not really giving a shit about their tax protest.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they’re finally understanding why us libertarians are so opposed to government power. But their protests ring a bit hallow when it’s obvious that the only thing they’re upset about is who is in power, not what people in that position of power has been doing. I’m sure these same people would gladly pay their taxes if Hillary was in power regardless of what horrible shit she was doing because the only thing that matters to them is the party, not the actions.

While I do appreciate their sentiment I must also admit that I look forward to seeing their reaction once they realize that taxation, regardless of what they have previous claimed, is backed by the barrel of a gun.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

A Socialist by Any Other Name

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I’ve seen several people celebrating the antics of anti-fascists. And I get it. I also hate national socialists. But in most cases the anti-fascists being celebrated are international socialists.

The reason I’m not celebrating their antics is because I don’t see any meaningful difference between national and international socialists. If you look at their history, both groups have a tendency to fill mass graves. Their criteria on who to kill may differ but in the end they both have lists of enemies that they purge when the opportunity presents itself.

So, no, I’m not going to cheer on a bunch of international socialists just because they’re fighting national socialists. Frankly, I want the two camps to wipe each other out.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 14th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Public Private Data Cycle

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Just as the Austrian school of economics has a business cycle I have a data cycle. The Public Private Data Cycle (catchier web 3.0 buzzword compliant name coming later) states that all privately held data becomes government data with a subpoena and all government data becomes privately held data with a leak.

The Public Private Data Cycle is important to note whenever somebody discusses keeping data on individuals. For example, many libertarians don’t worry much about the data Facebook collects because Facebook is a private company. The very same people will flip out whenever the government wants to collect more data though. Likewise, many statists don’t worry much about the data the government collects because the government is a public entity. The very same people will flip out whenever Facebook wants to collect more data though. Both of these groups have a major misunderstanding about how data access works.

I’ve presented several cases on this blog illustrating how privately held data became government data with a subpoena. But what about government data becoming privately held data? The State of California recently provided us with such an example:

Our reader Tom emailed me after he had been notified by the state of California that his personal information had been compromised as a result of a California Public Records Act. Based on the limited information that we have at this time, it appears that names, the instructor’s date of birth, the instructor California driver’s license number and/or their California ID card number.

When Tom reached out to the CA DOJ he was informed that the entire list of firearms trainers in California had been released in the public records act request. The state of California is sending letters to those affected with the promise of 12 months or identity protection, but if you are a CA firearms instructor and haven’t seen a letter, might bee a good idea to call the DOJ to see if you were affected.

This wasn’t a case of a malicious hacker gaining access to California’s database. The state accidentally handed out this data in response to a public records request. Now that government held data about firearm instructors is privately held by an unknown party. Sure, the State of California said it ordered the recipient to destroy the data but as we all know once data has be accessed by an unauthorized party there’s no way to control it.

If data exists then the chances of it being accessed by an unauthorized party increases from zero. That’s why everybody should be wary of any attempt by anybody to collect more data on individuals.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

How Fake News Happens

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Fake news has remained one of the big boogeyman ever since Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidential election. But what is fake news? At one time fake news was referred to as tabloids. Then fake news became known as Onion articles. Now fake news seems to mean whatever news one disagrees with. But there is actual fake news and it usually stems from so-called legitimate media outlets:

The original article was posted online on the Washington Post’s website at 7:55PM EST. Using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, we can see that sometime between 9:24PM and 10:06PM the Post updated the article to indicate that multiple computer systems at the utility had been breached (“computers” plural), but that further data was still being collected: “Officials said that it is unclear when the code entered the Vermont utility’s computers, and that an investigation will attempt to determine the timing and nature of the intrusion.” Several paragraphs of additional material were added between 8PM and 10PM, claiming and contextualizing the breach as part of a broader campaign of Russian hacking against the US, including the DNC and Podesta email breaches.

Despite the article ballooning from 8 to 18 paragraphs, the publication date of the article remained unchanged and no editorial note was appended, meaning that a reader being forwarded a link to the article would have no way of knowing the article they were seeing was in any way changed from the original version published 2 hours prior.

Yet, as the Post’s story ricocheted through the politically charged environment, other media outlets and technology experts began questioning the Post’s claims and the utility company itself finally issued a formal statement at 9:37PM EST, just an hour and a half after the Post’s publication, pushing back on the Post’s claims: “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems. We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding.”

Fake news tends to be the result of journalists jumping the gun instead of performing a investigation. In this case a journalist or journalists at the Washington Post received information about malware being found on a laptop at a power station. Instead of investigating the story further the journalist(s) wove a story about Russian hackers attacking the United States’ power grid. Had they waited for a response from the power company they would have known that the laptop wasn’t even connected to the network and was therefore a nonissue.

We see this happen with every breaking story. In fact it happens so often that I now consider the term “break story” to mean “incoming bullshit.” The talking heads on your moving picture boxes, the writers for news websites, and your friends on Facebook all crave attention. In the case of the former two attention equals money and in the case of the latter attention equals an ego boost. Either way, the people reporting about a breaking story have no information to go on so they’re just speculating. Furthermore, because journalists are often ignorant about the technical matters surrounding the story they’re reporting on, their speculations tend to be fantastical.

While tabloids are often advertised by their creators as real news almost everybody with the ability to think critically knows they’re bullshit. The Onion straight up admits to being a satire site. So-called legitimate journalists don’t have an excuse to be propagating false information. In fact, the job of journalism once involved investigating stories so true information could be reported. Yet they end up being the biggest propagators of false information time and again.

If you really despise fake news you should be demanding that journalists do their job by waiting until they have some factual information to report before reporting.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 10th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Streisand Effect

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The Internet doesn’t lend itself well to censorship. In fact, attempts to censor information usually lead to a great deal of public scrutiny. Take Ham Radio Deluxe, for example. Until a few days ago I hadn’t heard of the software or the company that creates it. But then the company tried to make a negative review posted by a user go away. Now I’ve not only heard of the company but I know that it’s a company that I won’t ever do business with:

This tactic, however, is a new twist on the old “punish customers for negative reviews” game. A user of Ham Radio Deluxe wasn’t too happy with its apparent incompatibility with Windows 10. He posted a negative review of the software at eHam.net, calling out the company for its seeming unwillingness to fix the underlying issue.

[…]

The “customer support” at HRD Software then pointed the user to its terms of service, stating that it had the right to do what it had just done. HRD Software reserves the “right” to “disable a customer’s key at any time for any reason.” Then it told him the blacklisting would be revoked if he removed his negative review. Bonus: mention of a capital-A “Attorney” for added seriousness, I guess.

If you remove the eHam review, which was blatantly false, we will remove the blacklist from you call. You are not buying software, you are buying your callsign’s access to the software. the so called bug you reported is not one in HRD, but one in the CAT commands of the FT­3000 radio, which have been verified with yaesu. Again refer to section 8 of the TOS, which was written by our Attorney.

There are many ways to deal with negative reviews. Usually the best option is to ignore them. Not everybody is going to have a good experience with your product so you need to accept that some users will give negative reviews. If a particular negative review is hurting business you can either act on that review by improving your product or you can issue a rebuttal if the review is based on false information. What you should never do is try to coerce the reviewer into deleting their review. That looks scummy to everybody watching.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 6th, 2017 at 10:00 am

CNN and Hackers

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The media’s portrayal of hackers is never accurate but almost always amusing. From hooded figures stooping over keyboards and looking at green ones and zeros on a black screen to balaclava clad individuals holding a laptop in one hand while they furiously type with the other hand, the creative minds behind the scenes at major media outlets always have a way to make hackers appear far more sinister than they really are.

CNN recently aired a segment about Russian hackers. How did the creative minds at CNN portray hackers to the viewing public? By showing a mini-game from a game you may have heard of:

In a recent story about President Obama proposing sanctions against Russia for its role in cyberattacks targeting the United States, CNN grabbed a screenshot of the hacking mini-game from the extremely popular RPG Fallout 4. First spotted by Reddit, the screenshot shows the menacing neon green letters that gamers will instantly recognize as being from the game.

Personally, I would have lifted a screenshot from the hacking mini-game in Deus Ex, it looks far more futuristic.

A lot of electrons have been annoyed by all of the people flipping out about fake news. But almost no attention has been paid to uninformed news. Most major media outlets are woefully uninformed about many (most?) of the subjects they report on. If you know anything about guns or technology you’re familiar with the amount of inaccurate reporting that occurs because of the media’s lack of understanding. When the outlet reporting on a subject doesn’t know anything about the subject the information they provide is worthless. Why aren’t people flipping out about that?

Written by Christopher Burg

January 4th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Everybody Loves Discrimination

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Most Americans, if asked, would probably say that they oppose discrimination. But deep down inside most Americans love discrimination, so long as it’s their form of discrimination.

Those who identify as political leftists have been very vocal about their opposition to discrimination. They’ve been taking every opportunity to state their objection to discrimination against non-whites, homosexuals, transgender individuals, poor individuals, and the mentally disabled. However, they seems to be perfectly fine with politically motivated discrimination.

Imagine if the restaurant owner from the first link put up a sign that read “If you’re black you can not eat here!” or if the person from the second link refused to help the stuck motorist because they had a gay pride bumper sticker. Most self-identified leftists would be up in arms. But the two individuals mentioned in those two links are being cheered by many of those same self-identified leftists. Why? Because those two individuals are discriminating in an approved manner.

Every one of us discriminates. When you cross the street to avoid the suspicious looking individual walking down the sidewalk you’re discriminating. When you avoid talking to your racist uncle at Christmas you’re discriminating. When you avoid the really drunk guy that won’t stop grabbing your ass at the bar you’re discriminating. Some forms of discrimination, such as the three I just mentioned, make sense. In those cases you’re discriminating to protect yourself, avoid starting a family fight, or avoid being sexually molested. But those forms of discrimination are also based on specific signals being produced by specific individuals.

Racially, sexually, and politically motivated forms of discrimination aren’t based on specific signals produced by specific individuals. They’re forms of collective discrimination where the only signal is membership in a group. Of course, everybody who discriminates against groups has a long list of reasons why their form of discrimination is proper even if they find other forms of group discrimination unacceptable.

I personally find collective discrimination, like all forms of collectivism, distasteful but fear that I’m in the minority because even the loudest opponents of collective discrimination seem to only oppose discrimination against groups that they like. When challenged they will have a long list of reasons why they’re not actually discriminating but all they’re doing is performing an act of cognitive dissonance.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 30th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Trump Will Turn the Propaganda Machine into a Propaganda Machine

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Post election outrage is probably the only thing that is more annoying than pre-election campaigning. It doesn’t matter who wins, all of us end up having to listen to the apocalyptic predictions of the supporters of the losing candidate.

If you listened to all of the outrage you would believe that Trump is going to single handedly destroy the entire United States government (trust me, he won’t, if he could I’d support the guy). And the predictions are becoming more bizarre and more disconnected from reality. Take this prediction, which is titled “Trump could convert government news agencies to propaganda machines”:

One more thing President-elect Trump will inherit when he takes office next month: a large, state-run media operation with little or no impartial oversight. As the Washington Post‘s editorial board wrote this weekend, the United States’ official external news sources Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and others are about to lose the buffer that keeps the content they project to the world fair and objective.

Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Liberty are fair and objective? Jesus Fucking Christ. How stupid are the people who write this nonsense? Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were never fair and objective. Both stations were created for the expressed purpose of spreading propaganda:

During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe (RFE) was broadcast to Soviet satellite countries and Radio Liberty (RL) targeted the Soviet Union. RFE was founded as an anti-communist propaganda source in 1949 by the National Committee for a Free Europe. RL was founded two years later and the two organizations merged in 1976.

Not only where both stations designed to be propaganda machines but they even received a great deal of funding from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until 1972. Voice of America (VoA) is also a propaganda machine, although a more subtle one. Instead of being overtly anti-communist, the purpose of VoA is to spread general propaganda showing the United States in a positive light.

Any claims that Trump will turn these stations into propaganda machines are based on the false assumption that these stations aren’t already propaganda machines or were ever anything but propaganda machines.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate Trump too. In fact I probably hate him more than most of the people freaking out about him. But he wasn’t elected to the position of god emperor. He was elected to be the president and the president only has so much power. Unfortunately, he is unable to destroy the United States government so let’s all stop claiming he will. Such claims just give people false hope.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 14th, 2016 at 11:00 am

History Repeats Itself

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I swear that the United States government is hellbent on repeating all of its dumbest mistakes over and over again. One mistake that the United States loves to repeat is handing out weapons to groups that will eventually use those weapons against it. This strategy was a staple of the Cold War. During that period the United States would hand weapons out like candy to anybody who declared themselves in opposition to the Soviet Union. Today the same strategy is being used although the weapons are being handed to anybody who declares themselves in opposition to whatever particular nation or organization is the flavor of the day. Right now the flavor is Syria:

Washington, D.C. – Congress for the first time authorized the Department of Defense to provide vetted-Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles.

The provision is contained within the $619 billion Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the Senate on Dec. 8 and the House on Dec. 2.

Under the bill, the Secretaries of Defense and State must submit a report to Congress explaining why they determined Syrian groups need man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).

We keep hearing that it’s impossible to vet Syrian refugees but apparently it’s not too much trouble to vet entire Syrian rebel groups.

If you’ve read any history, even badly, of the proxy wars that were waged by the Soviet Union and the United States you know how this will play out. The Secretaries of Defense and State will submit a report to Congress, which will give Congress the ability to cover its ass. Congress will authorize the transfer of weapons to the Syrian rebel groups. Those weapons will then eventually be used to shoot down a commercial airliner or some such nonsense and Congress will act shocked and demand to know where this terrorist organization (they cease being a rebel group when they no longer serve the United States’ interests) obtained such weaponry.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 13th, 2016 at 10:00 am