A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

Misplaced Children

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The United States government has a difficult time keeping tracking of things. The Pentagon misplaces trillions of dollars; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives misplaces a lot of guns; and the Department of Health and Human Services misplaces over a thousand children:

Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children last year after a government agency placed the minors in the homes of adult sponsors in communities across the country, according to testimony before a Senate subcommittee Thursday.

The Health and Human Services Department has a limited budget to track the welfare of vulnerable unaccompanied minors, and realized that 1,475 children could not be found after making follow-up calls to check on their safety, an agency official said.

Are these kids living happily with their sponsors? Have they been sold to human traffickers? Nobody knows, especially not the government agency tasked with knowing exactly this. Of course, as always, the failure is being blamed on a lack of funding. Government agencies are the only entities that I’m aware of that expect or outright demand a pay raise when they perform poorly.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Missed Opportunities

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Toys ‘R’ Us is one of many victims of the recent retail apocalypse. Now that its assets are being liquidated, we’re learning that the company missed some potentially significant opportunities:

Among the URLs purchased by Toys ‘R’ Us and now up for sale are sex-toys-r-us.com, kinkytoysrus.com, and aforementioned adult-toys-r-us.com. There are also more benign domain names, like toysrussucks.com, burgers-r-us.com, and cigars-r-us.com.

If Toys ‘R’ Us had associated businesses for those URLs, it probably wouldn’t be in its current financial situation.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Find a Career in Letting Children Get Gunned Down

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Are you looking for a career that will allow you to live comfortably in your old age? Try a career in standing by while the children you’re tasked with protecting get gunned down:

Scott Peterson, the Broward County sheriff’s deputy who failed to engage the Parkland high school shooter, is eligible to receive an annual pension in excess of six figures.

The Sun Sentinel obtained records from the Florida Department of Management Services showing that Peterson, who retired in the weeks after the March shooting, is due to collect $8,700 per month. That works out to slightly more than $104,000 a year. Peterson, who is 55 years old, will be able to receive that pension for the rest of his life, and Broward County taxpayers will cover 50 percent of his health insurance premiums.

I guess the only solace here is that half of his health insurance premiums will quickly gobble up $104,000 per year at the rate it’s increasing.

My criticism here isn’t so much against Peterson (I’ve already criticized him) but against the department that employed him. Peterson failed to do his job and that failure likely lead to unnecessary deaths (shooters tend to off themselves upon meeting armed resistance so Peterson’s mere presence with a firearm would have stood a very high chance of immediately resolving the situation). He should have been terminated from the department for that. Instead the department let him retire and collect his absurd pension.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Shame Only Works on Those Who Feel Shame

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It seems like every time I turn around it’s election season again. Primary seasons has just come and gone for some states, which means a bunch of statists just finished up trying to make people feel guilty for not suffering the same bullshit they just suffered:

Some Pennsylvania voters have received letters publicising whether they had voted in previous elections before they head to the polls on Tuesday.

The letters appeared to be intended to “embarrass” people into voting by revealing their voting record compared to that of friends and neighbours.

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The information used in the letters comes from a public registry that costs $20 (£15) to access. This data is typically used by political parties for voter outreach.

“What if your friends, your neighbours, and your community knew whether you vote?” the letter asks.

What if my friends, neighbors, and community members knew whether I voted? They already do because I’m quite loud about the fact that I don’t vote.

Blackmail, which is what these letters are threatening, only works if the person being threatened wants a secret kept secret. As soon as the person being threatened ceases to care about whatever secret somebody is threatening to reveal, blackmail no longer works. If, for example, somebody is threatening to reveal that you didn’t vote in the last election, the best thing you can do to take their power away is publicly advertise the fact that you didn’t vote in the last election.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Tipper Gore Would Be Proud

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Fighting “hate” is all the rage these days. Facebook, Twitter, and now Spotify have all made pledges to fight “hate” on their platforms. But how does one define hate? Spotify decided that it didn’t want to tackle that difficult philosophical question itself so it outsourced the exercise to a few organizations including the Southern Poverty Laws Center (SPLC):

According to the policy, any tracks or artists identified as “hate content”—defined as music that “principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability”—will be either removed from Spotify altogether or suppressed in promotions and stripped out of any platform-generated playlists.

The “hateful conduct” part of the policy will take aim at musicians’ off-the-clock behavior. “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful,” the company explains, that will affect the company’s dealings with them. R. Kelly, who has been accused of sexually abusing underage girls, appears to be the first casualty of this policy: The singer’s music will still stream at Spotify but will no longer be promoted there.

Several advocacy groups will help Spotify identify “hate content.” Among them: the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and GLAAD.

Since the SPLC is involved, anything that isn’t left of communism will probably get purged.

What will the aftermath of this policy announcement look like? If other streaming services decide to follow along, we will likely see an increase in music piracy again. People aren’t going to suddenly not want to listen to music by an artist simply because the SPLC decided it was hateful. If Spotify or Apple Music won’t stream the music people want, they will stop paying for those services and find their music elsewhere. This is how things have always worked.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Going from Smart to Stupid

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Last year the National Rifle Association (NRA) appointed Pete Brownell, the CEO of Brownells Inc., as its president. It was a smart decision. Brownell comes off as a reasonable human being and is a strong advocate for gun rights. This year the NRA decided to perform a complete 180 degree turn and elected a public relations nightmare:

Oliver L. North, who became a household name in the 1980s for his role in the Iran-contra scandal, will become the next president of the National Rifle Association, the gun rights organization said Monday.

The gun control crowd is already having a field day with this decision and I don’t blame them. It looks a bit hypocritical when an organization that talks insistently about “responsible gun ownership,” “law-abiding citizens,” and “enforcing the laws that already exist” has a bona fide weapon smuggler as its president.

Supporters of the NRA are trying to spin this by pointing out that the Iran-contra fiasco happened a long time ago but that is irrelevant. Time tables don’t matter in the realm of public perception. All that matters is whether gun control advocates are able to convince enough people that North’s previous actions are still relevant in the context of gun politics. If they can accomplish that, the NRA will face even more opposition.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11th, 2018 at 10:30 am

He Just Wanted to Go Home to His Family

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Discharging a firearm in an uncontrolled environment always carries a certain amount of risk. This is just one or many reasons why it’s smart to avoid deadly force when possible. But law enforcers often have a different attitude. Many law enforcers seem to think that even minor situations should be escalated to deadly force:

A deputy with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office fatally shot a groundhog in Eldersburg on Sunday in an incident captured on video that has been widely shared on social media.

The deputy stopped when he observed the groundhog acting oddly, department spokesman Cpl. Jon Light said.

“It doesn’t appear that it had bitten anyone at that point,” Light said.

It is unclear whether the groundhog was rabid, Light said.

If an animal appears to be acting oddly, it’s probably smart to call animal control since individuals who deal specifically with animals are more likely to know whether something is wrong with the animal or if it’s seemingly odd behavior is actually normal. What isn’t smart is getting out of your vehicle and approaching it. What’s even dumber is needlessly discharging a firearm at it when there are other people in the vicinity.

With all of that said, at least this law enforcer waited until the animal was actually acting aggressively against him (possibly because the animal wasn’t happy with the enforcer acting aggressively towards it) before he shot it. That amount of restraint is far more than is commonly shown by his fellows in situations like this.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 9th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Eight Percent of the Time It Works Every Time

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The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is the embodiment of government incompetence. It has failed 95 percent of red team exercises, which doesn’t bode well for the agency’s general ability to detect weapons before air travelers are able to enter the “secure” area of an airport. However, the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on government incompetence. The United Kingdom (UK) also has its own program that has a failure rate of 90 percent:

A British police agency is defending (this link is inoperable for the moment) its use of facial recognition technology at the June 2017 Champions League soccer final in Cardiff, Wales—among several other instances—saying that despite the system having a 92-percent false positive rate, “no one” has ever been arrested due to such an error.

Of course nobody has been arrested due to a false positive. When a system has a false positive rate of 92 percent it’s quickly ignored by whomever is monitoring it.

False positives can be just as dangerous as misses. While misses allow a target to avoid a detection system, false positives breed complacency that quickly allows false positives to turn into misses. If a law enforcer is relying on a system to detect suspects and it constantly tells him that it found a suspect but hasn’t actually found a suspect, the law enforcer quickly ignores any report from the system. When the system does correctly identify the suspect, there’s a good chance that the law enforcer monitoring it won’t even bother to look at the report to verify it. Instead they’ll just assume it’s another false positive and continue sipping their tea or whatever it is that UK law enforcers do most of the time.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 9th, 2018 at 10:00 am

It’s Not Your Phone, Pleb

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The Fourth Amendment is often cited whenever a legal issue involving privacy arises. While I recognize that the “rights” listed in the Bill of Rights are actually temporary privileges that are revoked the second they become inconvenient to the government, I think that it’s worth taking a look at the language:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

What’s noteworthy in regards to this post is the fact that nowhere does the Fourth Amendment state that measures have to be taken to make information easily accessible to the government once a warrant is issued. This omission is noteworthy because a lot of the political debates revolving around computer security are argued as if the Fourth Amendment contains or implies such language:

Dubbed “Clear,” Ozzie’s idea was first detailed Wednesday in an article published in Wired and described in general terms last month.

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  1. Apple and other manufacturers would generate a cryptographic keypair and would install the public key on every device and keep the private key in the same type of ultra-secure storage vault it uses to safeguard code-signing keys.
  2. The public key on the phone would be used to encrypt the PIN users set to unlock their devices. This encrypted PIN would then be stored on the device.
  3. In cases where “exceptional access” is justified, law enforcement officials would first obtain a search warrant that would allow them to place a device they have physical access over into some sort of recovery mode. This mode would (a) display the encrypted PIN and (b) effectively brick the phone in a way that would permanently prevent it from being used further or from data on it being erased.
  4. Law enforcement officials would send the encrypted PIN to the manufacturer. Once the manufacturer is certain the warrant is valid, it would use the private key stored in its secure vault to decrypt the PIN and provide it to the law enforcement officials.

This proposal, like all key escrow proposals, is based on the idea that law enforcers have some inherent right to easily access your data after a warrant is issued. This idea also implies that your phone is actually the property of the various bodies of government that exist in the United States and they are therefore able to dictate in what ways you may use it.

If we are to operate under the assumption that law enforcers have a right to easily access your data once a warrant is issued, we must necessarily admit that the “rights” outlines in the Fourth Amendment doesn’t exist since the language offers no such right to law enforcers.

You Get a Job! You Get a Job! You Get a Job!

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Bernie Sanders seems to think that he’s still relevant even though his party during the last presidential nomination process actively conspired against (which isn’t to say he would have gotten the nomination if his party didn’t conspire against him). His latest announcement is a plan to guarantee every American a job:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will announce a plan for the federal government to guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker “who wants or needs one,” embracing the kind of large-scale government works project that Democrats have shied away from in recent decades.

Somebody has to build and staff the gulags! Of course this is Bernie Sanders we’re talking about so…

A representative from Sanders’s office said they had not yet done a cost estimate for the plan or decided how it would be funded, saying they were still crafting the proposal.

Why am I not surprised?

Make-work programs sound like a good idea on paper… to the economically illiterate. The problem is that they operate outside of the market, which means there is no feedback mechanism that indicates whether the work is in demand or not. Instead they are decreed by whatever politicians crafted the plan. That usually translates into those politicians’ cronies receiving labor subsidized by tax payers in order to cut their costs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sanders’ plan resulted in Lockheed’s next manufacturing plant being built by government subsidized labor. Sure, that may not be his intention but once the program exists his intentions will be irrelevant, only the intentions of those who control the program will matter.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 26th, 2018 at 10:30 am