Friday, November 21, 2014

I May Have Just Found My Next Rifle

The Firearms Blog recently reported on some new offerrings and lower prices for their scout rifle:

Steyr Updates Scout Rifle Offerings

Originally these rifles had an MSRP of about $2,700 with street prices solidly over $2,300. Usually more than $2,400. Way too expensive for my income. Now Steyr has dropped the MSRP to about $1,700 with an additional $200 off until year's end. Street prices will hopefully be in the neighborhood of $1,300. That is still pretty expensive for a bolt action rifle but within my purchasing power right now.

I've only fired a couple dozen rounds through one and it was a heckuva rifle: Under 39 inches long, less than 7 pounds and very accurate. More than accurate enough for a field rifle. Plus it is just about the coolest bolt gun on the planet today.

The only the rifle I am interested in right now is the Varmint Express in .17 HMR. It will be a race to see which becomes available first.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Silk Road 3.0 Opens for Business?

According to this article a new Silk Road marketplace has opened up:

Silk Road 3.0 Opens for Business

I have no idea how long it will last nor I am I convinced it is not just a lure for entrapment of buyers. On the other hand, I don't think Silk Road sells anything I am interested in so that difference is probably moot. On the gripping hand, it may turn out to be an interesting example of how a free market responds to attempts to suppress it.

In reality, history is a process and has no side. That claim is just anthropogenic nonsense promoted by people who believe that their way of seeing the world is so righteous it doesn't need defending. Nevertheless, if history did have a side I like to think the DEA and FBI are operating on the wrong side of it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

It's not Just Feeding the Homeless

At first glance, this article seem to be about an outrageous exercise of state power. After all, despite cynical assertions to the contrary, Americans are among the most charitable people in the world. Who could object to feeding the hungry?

Fort Lauderdale Charges 90-Year-Old, Two Pastors for Feeding Homeless

Homeless activist Arnold Abbott, 90, and Christian ministers Dwayne Black of the Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale and Mark Sims of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs were handing out meals in a park on Sunday, two days after Fort Lauderdale's ordinance took effect, when police approached them with their sirens flashing, Black said. The three were issued citations and face a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.

"This is not how our government is supposed to work," Black told NBC News. "These are people who need to be fed, and we will be feeding [again] today at 5 o'clock."

The ordinance — the fourth one that Fort Lauderdale has passed this year concerning the homeless — requires groups handing out food to homeless to be at least 500 feet away from residential properties. It limits feeding sites for homeless to one in any given city block, and prevent feeding sites from being within 500 feet of each other.

First, let me be plain. There is no such thing as a "proper exercise of state power". That said, the institution is not going away quickly so the best I can hope for at this time is that government will act in a manner consistent with how a hypothetical owner of so-called "public property" would act.

So, in that light, how is government supposed to act? The fellows mentioned in the article are feeding the homeless but that action has foreseeable consequences. Handing out meals certainly encourages the recipients to congregate in the area. In addition to needing food the homeless will also need places to sleep as well as places to urinate and defecate. I doubt the owner of any property would encourage such activities on his on land. Since the taxpayers of Ft. Lauderdale are forced to pay for the property the homeless will occupy between feedings, the government has a responsibility to manage that property as if it was owned by those taxpayers.

So, while not perfect, restricting the ability of charities to feed the homeless is government working as it is supposed to.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gotta Get Me Some More Zombie Targets

Mike Vanderboegh has some interesting thoughts on the popularity of apocalyptic fiction on the television and in popular literature.

One other thing that bears mentioning. Have you noticed that just as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a metaphor for communist infiltration in the 50s, that "zombies" resemble present day collectivists? They are ravenous, hard to stop, go around in bunches, cannot be negotiated with or reasoned with, only walled out or confronted with deadly force. It is no accident that zombie targets are far more popular at firearm ranges these days than bullseyes. Wanna shoot a collectivist and still be under the radar? Shoot a zombie target. Nobody objects to that, perhaps because they can't break the code. I mean, what is the functional difference, if any, between Nancy Pelosi and a flesh-eating zombie?

I never looked at shooting zombie targets as a political statement but, in retrospect, it makes sense. Perhaps it is time for gun owners to shoot more such targets while imagining the images represent the collectivist du jour. Shooting them in effigy -- so to speak.

If you can't nuke 'em from orbit, shoot 'em in the head. It's the only way to be sure.

Waiting for Enemy Action

There is a saying about how to tell the difference between accident, coincidence and enemy action. It goes something like:

  • Once is happenstance.
  • Twice is coincidence.
  • Three times is enemy action.

Looks like the problem of voting machines switching attempted votes for a Republican candidate to the corresponding Democratic candidate has reached stage two. At least. Here is the most recent one:

'Calibration issue' pops up on Maryland voting machines

This incident was reported a few day earlier from Illinois' Cook County:

Cook County ballot box tries to cast GOP votes for Democrats

Calibration errors happen and, given the nature of government, it is unremarkable that they are not caught until a system goes into service. However, if such errors were really only errors they would be expected to favor each party's candidates in about equal numbers. That is not case here: In both of the recent reports the calibration errors have always favored the Democratic candidate.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Dose of Reality on Net Neutrality

The Social Justice Wackos are at it again.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said Friday that he and President Obama agree on the importance of protecting net neutrality.

"My position is unchanged," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said at a press conference. "The president and I agree—and have always agreed—on the importance of an open Internet."

But net-neutrality advocates responded that as long as Wheeler supports allowing large companies to pay for special "fast lanes" on the Internet, he and the president are miles apart. [emphasis added]

That's founded on a great big steaming load of codswallop sliding down your throat.

Net neutrality had always depended on a type of digital barter. Sometimes this is referred to as "in-kind" or "balanced" transport. In effect it means if you carry N terabytes of data from my network and I carry something close to the same from your network, we are in balance. If I expect you to carry my N terabytes of traffic but do not offer anything in return I am imposing costs on you without any corresponding benefit. I am using your bandwidth without giving anything in return.

These idiots seem to think that bandwidth is cheap or free. It is not and just because it is denominated in bytes instead of dollars does not change that. A backbone provider has to lay thousands of miles of fiber, buy very expensive switches and routers and hire highly-skilled engineers to keep it all working. What the SJWs are trying to do here is pervert a perfectly reasonable form of barter between carriers into some kind of entitlement for operations like Netflix. However, in any fair transaction, you must give at least as much as you receive or the distortions cause at least one of the parties in the transaction to close up shop.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Arrogance of Ignorance

It looks like law enforcement is pushing back against strong encryption they cannot get into.

FBI quest for smartphone data will fuel privacy battle

FBI Director James Comey said as much Thursday in a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, suggesting the agency might ask congress to force companies to provide what amounts to a “back door” to law enforcement to obtain password-protected data on targeted personal mobile devices.

Sigh...

I've argued before that there is no such thing as a backdoor that can only be used by law enforcement. A security hole is a security hole whether it called a "backdoor" or a "golden key". In fact, a deliberately planted backdoor -- as opposed to one resulting from design or programming error -- is worse because the bad guys know for sure it is there. To think that the Chinese or the Jihadis will not look for it and pick the lock is a sure sign of ignorance.

ETA: Another thought that occurred to me is that once the bad guys figure out how to exploit the government mandated "golden key" backdoor, the vendors will not be able to patch it without permission from the government!.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Radiation Resistance and DNA repair

Now this is interesting. Some scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Louisiana State University forced the evolution of extreme radiation resistance in e coli bacteria. That alone is unremarkable since it has been done before.

What makes this effort noteworthy is that they were also able to identify the cellular mechanisms involved and that there are active and passive mechanisms of detoxification of oxygen and DNA repair. This could have profound implications for human longevity.

Evolution of extreme resistance to ionizing radiation via genetic adaptation of DNA repair

If the above is too dry for you, here is a more "gee whiz" summary:

Engineering E. coli to Resist Ionizing Radiation Damage

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Got Capitalism?

Here is how the evil capitalists at Firestone are dealing with the Ebola outbreak.

Firestone Did What Governments Have Not: Stopped Ebola In Its Tracks

Dr. Flannery of the CDC says a key reason for Firestone's success is the close monitoring of people who have potentially been exposed to the virus — and the moving of anyone who has had contact with an Ebola patient into voluntary quarantine.

By most accounts, this Ebola outbreak remains out of control, with health care workers across West Africa struggling to contain it.

Asked what's needed to turn that around, Flannery says, "More Firestones" — places that have the money, resources and unwavering determination to stop Ebola.

The CDC certainly has the money and the resources but the bureaucracy may be lacking in the "unwavering determination" department. I am one of the last persons to advocate government should be run like a business. In fact, I am more likely to advise it be run out on a rail. However, if the state wants to get involved then the state actors fighting the outbreak need to look at what is working and Firestone's efforts are. Less time concentrating on the problem and more time concentrating on the solution.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Eliminate the Backdoor

Recently, there was a particularly brain-dead editorial in the Washington Post entitled Compromise needed on smartphone encryption.

Changing the name of a deliberately planted security hole from "backdoor" to "secure golden key" doesn't change the essential security problem. Even if you believe that your government can be trusted to never misuse the power of a backdoor, there is someone out there who will find it and use it for unintended purposes. There is no such thing as a "backdoor" that only law enforcement can use.

In 2005 the Ericsson switches used by Vodafone Greece were compromised. Software using the so-called "lawful interception" modules were exploited to intercept phone call from at least 100 government officials for seven months. Interestingly, the Greek Government did not request these modules be activated but they were still used by the, as yet, unidentified attacker.

In 2006 Telecom Italia users were wiretapped via exploits believed, at the time, to have been discovered during a penetration test. The provenance on this exploit is a little fuzzy -- I don't know for certain if it was deliberate backdoor or a programming error -- but it was found and, apparently, exploited.

In 2010 Chinese hackers discovered and exploited a backdoor into the Gmail system placed there by Google to comply with law enforcement intercept orders. The US government mandated that Google give law enforcement access and the Chinese discovered it then used it to gather private data.

Those are just some of the criminal uses of backdoors we know about.

There may be a good argument or two for not revealing an exploit that could be used against an enemy. I can only think of one and it is only passably good. There are, however, no good arguments I know of for deliberately creating a security hole in software -- no matter how much law enforcement wants it.