A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

Government Funding of Science is a Curse

without comments

Donald Trump announced his budget. It’s what you’d expect from a neocon. Money was shuffled from neoliberal favored programs into the military:

Yesterday, the Trump administration released its first proposed budget outline. While this is just the first step in what will inevitably be extensive negotiations with Congress, it gives a clear indication of what Trump’s priorities are. First and foremost, he is focused on the military, which will see a $54 billion increase in spending, offset by cuts or wholesale elimination of programs elsewhere. Science is clearly not a priority, as it is repeatedly targeted for cuts in every agency that funds it.

But those cuts aren’t evenly distributed. NASA’s budget is almost entirely unscathed, although Earth sciences research funded by the agency will be cut to expand funding elsewhere. The National Science Foundation, a major source of grants for fundamental research, isn’t even mentioned, so there’s no sense of how it will fare. And the harshest cuts appear to be directed at biomedical research, which will see a dramatic 20 percent drop in funding for the National Institutes of Health.

As one would expect, the neocons are cheering this increase in military spending while the neoliberals are flipping out because the proposed budget cuts from their beloved science. What they fail to realize is that cutting funding for science would be a good thing for actual science.

Resource misallocation has plagued science for decades. Instead of science that focuses on the market (that would be you and me), companies have been allocating resources for the State’s pet projects in order to obtain government funding (which takes the form of tax dollars stolen from you and me). With less government funding to go around researchers would once again have to rely on the market to decide where resources were allocated. That would mean more research into making better goods and services instead of whatever idiotic pet project some random politician drummed up.

Of course, since the military budget is going up resource misallocation will continue to plagues science. Researchers will continue to focus on the State’s pet projects instead of what the market wants. Those pet projects will merely shift to making more effective methods of blowing shit up. This, of course, will anger the neoliberals because blowing shit up isn’t within their vision of what science ought to be. But the belief that science ought to be one thing or another and dictated by the State is the fundamental error being made here.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 22nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Rise of the Warrior Politico

without comments

As of late, virtue signaling has been turning into increasingly violent action in the political realm. Activists on both sides seem hellbent on demonstrating their piety to their political gods by attacking heathen worshipers of other political gods. While these activists seem to believe that they’re great warriors for doing what they’re doing the truth is they’re little more than live-action role players:

I can’t wait for the liberal genocide to begin,” exclaimed a demonstrator at a March 4 rally in Phoenix on behalf of President Trump, as an expression half-way between a sneer and a smirk creased his corpulent face. Asked by left-leaning independent journalist Dan Cohen to elaborate on what he said, the middle-aged man insisted that targeting political enemies for mass slaughter would be “a way to make America great again … it’s the liberals that are destroying this country.”

If the bloodletting this fellow cheerily anticipates were to ensue, he would be, at best, a spectator. He has taken too many trips around the Sun, and made too few trips to the gym, to be of any practical use in the hands-on business of eliminating the Enemy Within. Like most other people at that event, and others like it nation-wide, he was LARPing – Live-Action Role-Playing – in what could be seen as a contemporary re-enactment and updating of Weimar-era political street combat.

Having spent a great deal of time around gunnies I’ve encountered more than my fare share of wannabe warriors. You know the type. They talk about how they will rise up against the government when it becomes too tyrannical and sometimes form little militias with like-minded individuals so they can play weekend warrior. By and large these supposed warriors are a too old and too out of shape for the military, which should tell them something. Namely that they probably don’t have what it takes to make good warriors.

My advice for people wanting to get into the political warrior game is to hit the gym. First, you probably needs to get into shape if you want to fight. Second, it will give you an outlet for your aggression that is far more productive than whacking people you disagree with with a stick.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 21st, 2017 at 11:00 am

Cost Effective Drone Defense

without comments

Fourth generation, or asymmetrical, warfare is much more reliant on economics than firepower. Instead of attacking an enemy directly, a military practicing fourth generation warfare tries to slowly chip away at its enemy until that enemy loses the ability or will to fight. If, for example, a military can cost their enemy $3 million by spending $200 it’s only a matter of time until their enemy is bankrupt:

A Patriot missile – usually priced at about $3m (£2.5m) – was used to shoot down a small quadcopter drone, according to a US general.

The strike was made by a US ally, Gen David Perkins told a military symposium.

“That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot,” he said.

According to the story, the missile was fired by an unspecified United States ally. Perhaps they were given the Patriot launcher for free and therefore aren’t concerned about the cost disparity. But anybody looking at the United States and its allies is probably getting some clever ideas. Sure, it’s unlikely that a Patriot will be used to take down a cheap quadcopter again but the basic idea is pretty solid, cheap drones can lead to an expenditure of expensive military equipment.

If the United States’ allies continue pulling this kind of stunt the country will have to decide whether it will keep handing out expensive toys or not. If not, its allies will be weakened and its enemies will be able to declare a victory. If so, the United States will continue throwing money down a hole until it’s bankrupt, which will cause its enemies to declare victory as well. There’s no winning when you enemy can cost you millions of dollars by spending a couple of hundred dollars.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Opportunity to Provide Free Labor to Billionaires

without comments

Are you friendly? Can you pass a background check? Are you stupid enough to provide free labor to a multibillion dollar organization? If so, there’s an opportunity for you:

Minnesotans who aren’t Hall of Fame quarterbacks can still make a play to get in the action for the 2018 Super Bowl.

The Minnesota Host Committee needs 10,000 volunteers to run the event, and the process starts Wednesday with online applications.

[…]

Obviously, volunteers don’t get paid, but they do get a complete Super Bowl LII outfit unique to the effort that will include top-grade winter gear, including a parka built to withstand extreme cold, a sturdy backpack, beanie and thermos.

Talk about a sucker’s deal. 10,000 people will provide labor to the National Football League (NFL) and in return they only receive marketed attire that will allow them to act as free walking advertisements in the future. They don’t even receive a free ticket to the event they’re going to bust their asses for. And you know what? The Minnesota Host Committee will get its volunteers. It’ll probably get so many volunteers that it’ll be able to pick and choose who it wants.

To me this demonstrates the sordid state of economic education in this country. Anybody willing to provide free labor to a multibillion dollar organization is a goddamn fool in my book. Especially when you consider the fact that the organization needs workers and would therefore offer some kind of actual compensation if nobody was stupid enough to provide labor for free.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 16th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Looking Good While Thumping Skulls

without comments

The Los Angeles Country Sheriff’s Department decided that its current silver colored metal uniform ornaments are no longer in vogue. To correct this horrible fact the department is going to spend $300,000 of taxpayer money on replacing all of its current silver colored ornaments with brass colored ornaments:

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is getting down to brass tactics.

Sheriff’s officials are spending $300,000 on items they say would make deputies look more professional in their jobs and could help make them safer.

But the taxpayer dollars won’t go toward tools such as higher-quality ballistic vests, backup guns or body cameras, all of which are optional items that deputies have to pay for on their own.

Instead, Sheriff Jim McDonnell is spending the money on a minor cosmetic makeover of deputies’ uniforms: changing the color of their belt buckles and other metal pieces of gear from silver to gold. That way, the metallic bits — all made of brass — will match the gold-hued tie clips, lapel pins and six-pointed star badges that deputies already wear, McDonnell said.

This waste of money wouldn’t be so bad if the department was a business with funds acquired through voluntary trade. But the department is funded entirely through expropriating wealth from the people is claims to protect. I doubt the color of the metal ornaments will even be noticed by 99.9 percent of the department’s victims clientele. After all, who really gives a shit what color the metal ornaments on an officer’s uniform are when they’re either responding to your 911 call or thumping your skull because your skin color is a bit too dark for their liking? Since nobody will likely notice nor care about this change it’s an even bigger waste of taxpayer money than most expenditures.

But I’m sure the officers will feel better knowing that the metal bits on their belt finally match their tie clips.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 15th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Threw It On the Ground

without comments

Hypothetically speaking, if you walked up to a teenage girl, grabbed her, and slammed her into the ground what would you expect to happen? If you said that you’d expect to go to prison you don’t have a badge:

A North Carolina police officer who was shown on a video throwing a 15-year-old girl to the ground while trying to break up a fight at a high school in January will not face criminal charges, the Wake County district attorney said this week.

The district attorney, N. Lorrin Freeman, said in a statement that a grand jury had declined to bring criminal charges against the officer, Ruben De Los Santos, for his actions in the cafeteria at Rolesville High School on Jan. 3. Ms. Freeman had asked the grand jury to review whether the case showed “willful failure to discharge duties” and “assault on a female.”

Grand Juries tend to indite everybody unless they have a badge. For some reason, when the accused party has a badge, grand juries almost always vote against pressing charges.

On the upside, the officer resigned:

The police department in Rolesville, a town of about 5,000 people 15 miles northeast of Raleigh, said it put the officer on paid administrative leave after the incident. He resigned last Thursday, the department said in a statement.

Hopefully that means that a police union can’t force the department to hire him back. The downside to this is that the officer is free to terrorize people in another community.

At the end of the day, this story yet again demonstrates that if you want to beat the shit out of people legally you can become a police officer.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 10th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Is Your Child’s Toy a Snitch

with one comment

The Internet of Things (IoT) should be called the idiotic attempt to connect every mundane device to the Internet whether there’s a good reason or not. I admit that my more honest version is a mouthful but I believe it would remind people about what they’re actually buying and that could avoid fiasco like this:

Since Christmas day of last year and at least until the first week of January, Spiral Toys left customer data of its CloudPets brand on a database that wasn’t behind a firewall or password-protected. The MongoDB was easy to find using Shodan, a search engine makes it easy to find unprotected websites and servers, according to several security researchers who found and inspected the data.

The exposed data included more than 800,000 emails and passwords, which are secured with the strong, and thus supposedly harder to crack, hashing function bcrypt. Unfortunately, however, a large number of these passwords were so weak that it’s possible to crack them, according to Troy Hunt, a security researcher who maintains Have I Been Pwned and has analyzed the CloudPets data.

When you buy something you should ask yourself what the benefits and costs are. People often make the mistake of thinking that the cost is purely the amount you have to pay at the store. But there are always other hidden costs. In the case of these IoT stuffed animals one of the costs is brining a surveillance apparatus into your home. Sure, most people probably aren’t too worried about toy manufacturers having a bug in their home. But another cost is the risk of the remotely accessible surveillance device being accessed by an unauthorized party, which is what happened here.

The sordid history of security failures that plagues the IoT market should be considered whenever you’re buying an IoT product.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 2nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Let the Hunger Games Begin

with one comment

The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts (MIA) had the pleasure of hosting a fight between some protesters and some people accused of being neo-Nazis:

A shoving match broke out in a most unlikely place, the typically serene Minneapolis Institute of Art, where three people who appeared to be neo-Nazis fought with several others in another group of activists, a witness said Sunday.

Security guards arrived at the mayhem Saturday afternoon on the museum’s third floor, broke up the confrontation and had one of the reputed neo-Nazis on the floor, said museum visitor Will Bildsten.

A friend of Bildsten’s said he saw punches thrown during the fracas.

Normally I wouldn’t share a random story about two groups getting into a scuffle in a museum. But the comments I’ve been hearing about this warrant some comment from me.

As you might expect, a lot of people have been cheering the activists who engaged the accused neo-Nazis. This is all part of the “Is it okay to punch a Nazi,” trend. One side believes violence is an unacceptable response to somebody exercising their free speech, regardless of how vile that speech is. The other side thinks people have a moral obligation to use force against anybody advocating fascism. It’s the second group I want to pan right now.

Why do I have a moral obligation to violently attack advocates of fascism but not advocates of Marxism–Leninism? In fact, many of the people demanding Nazis be violently attacked wherever they are are advocates of Marxism–Leninism. There is no meaningful difference between the two groups other than one is for national socialism while the other is for international socialism and they use different ways of labeling groups they want to wipe out.

Fascists want to wipe out Jews, Marxist–Leninists want to wipe out kulaks. Fascists want to wipe out people who aren’t white, Marxist–Leninists want to wipe out people who aren’t proletariats. Fascists want to wipe out opponents to fascism, Marxist-Leninists want to wipe out counter-revolutionaries. What’s especially interesting is that these different labels are often applied to the same groups of people. Jews are frequently labeled kulaks and bourgeois, for example.

All I’m asking for is some goddamn consistency. Those who are against using violence in response to any form of speech are already acting consistently. But if you believe it’s okay to punch a fascist then you should be equally fine with punching a Marxist-Leninist. Both philosophies are equally vile.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 28th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Public Health isn’t a Thing

with one comment

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

with 2 comments

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