Books and Glocks

So the President made yet another inflammatory statement recently regarding the ease of getting guns in the United States: “We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” Even Politifact declared that statement to be “Mostly False“.

And I agree with that conclusion.

In terms of legal ability, it is certainly easier to buy a book than a Glock. Right now I can go online and purchase a Glock pistol and a copy of Barack Obama’s book. The difference, though, is I can have Obama’s book shipped right to my door. I can’t do that with a Glock pistol. Books you can have shipped anywhere. Guns? Not legally, at least.

But there’s an underlying question to the President’s blanket statement: are there places in our society where a teenager can more easily get their hands on a gun than a book? Unfortunately yes. It’d be naive to say otherwise.

And we’re talking about places where lawlessness prevails, where standing laws are not only ignored by the community, but sparsely enforced by the police and local governments. We’re talking about places where crimes are largely not investigated and arrests are infrequent. Where crime is rampant. Where young black men especially are at highest risk of dying young.

It is already against Federal law for a person under 21 to possess a pistol, and for a person under 18 to possess a long gun — you’re not seeing much of those on the streets though. And it’s against the law for someone without a tax stamp to possess an NFA firearm, and against the law for any member of a “prohibited class” to possess any firearm.

But when the laws either are not being enforced or cannot be enforced, lawlessness will prevail. So yes there are areas of the country where guns are easier to find than books, easier to get than books. At the same time, though, these are likely places where the people would rather have guns than books. And that is what needs to be addressed.

And there are organizations trying to address that concern.

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No, you won’t face Federal charges for sharing your Netflix password

I really wish that people would read an appellate decision along with the applied statutes before making asinine statements. In this instance the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in US v. Nosal is the one being misrepresented to mean that sharing your Netflix password is a Federal crime.

The problem is the case in question dealt with corporate espionage, in which a former employee “borrowed” the login credentials of a current employee with the intent of mining confidential customer data. David Nosal, the appellant in this instance (meaning not the one appealing a lower court decision), also mined customer data while still employed with the intent of using it to compete against his employer in complete violation of standing agreements.

And because “password sharing” was somewhat involved here — despite the fact the case involved accessing internal company resources to which Nosal had lost authorized access — everyone is blowing out of proportion the implications. And I do mean blowing out of proportion. Way out of proportion.

To the point where they’re making it sound like sharing your Netflix password with a family member or friend is somehow worth 5000 USD.

The relevant statute that was applied is 18 USC § 1030(a)(4) — emphasis mine:

[Whoever] knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value, unless the object of the fraud and the thing obtained consists only of the use of the computer and the value of such use is not more than $5,000 in any 1-year period.

And there’s a reason the bar is set that high.

When the law was passed in 1986, password sharing was likely common. But there comes a point where sharing a password can be problematic. For example, I worked in health care for over 10 years. I’ve had access to patient information, as well as confidential information that was gathered and organized with regard to competitors. If I shared my passwords with anyone, you’d bet I’d fall under the jurisdiction of the above-quoted statute. And the same with where I currently work, which is in Electronic Discovery.

The question is the potential loss to the company owning the system being accessed in an unauthorized manner. Federal power is not something to be exercised willy-nilly, and the Federal government — whether via statute, regulation, or policy (such as the “Petite” policy) — ensures that prosecutorial power is not exercised unless there is a very clear reason. Mining confidential company information, whether about customers or trade secrets, can easily exceed the 5000 USD minimum statutory limit.

Sharing your Netflix password, thereby depriving Netflix of 10 USD up to 25 USD per month through a lost household subscription? Not even close.

To get to that point, you’d have to share your password with a significant number of people. And Netflix (or Hulu, Amazon Prime or what have you) would probably not even allow that many people to access the account anyway, and would probably even terminate it long before it got to that point.

And what about the other provisions of 18 USC § 1030? Do any of them apply to Netflix, or other similar media service, and sharing your password? No. Read the statute if you don’t believe me.

So don’t start thinking that the Ninth Circuit just declared it illegal to share your Netflix password. They didn’t do any such thing.

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Building a PC isn’t that difficult

It’s rather odd how a site named “Motherboard” would write an article called “PC Gaming is Still Way Too Hard“. To quote Total Biscuit:

I bought my first computer in 1998. Let me tell you that things today are a HELL of a lot simpler than they were back then. You have many things so much easier today trying to build a system. In part this is due to the number of parts manufacturers being only a handful. You don’t have many different manufacturers all vying for your money.

And the value you get for your dollar today? Don’t even get me started.

Here’s Motherboard’s super simple guide to building your first gaming PC:

  • Step 1: Have an unreasonable amount of disposable income.
  • Step 2: Have an unreasonable amount of time to research, shop around, and assemble parts for your computer.
  • Step 3: Get used to the idea that this is something you’re going to have to keep investing time and money in as long as you want to stay at the cutting edge or recommended specifications range for new PC games.

This is only if you do things wrong. You can build a decent gaming system for under 1000 USD. It all depends on your expectations. If you’re wanting top notch performance, a system that will scream and keep screaming for years to come, then yes, you need a huge amount of disposable income and you need to keep upgrading.

Most people who build a gaming system aren’t going to do that. They want a system that will perform comfortably for several years before they need to worry about upgrading. And for that you don’t need a hellacious amount of money. Again, 1000 USD is a good target, but you can get away with building a decent system for less.

I’d say that the minimum you need to consider spending for a decent gaming system is 750 USD for what goes in the chassis. The introduction of the AMD RX 480 certainly makes this possible while being able to get good performance.

If it sounds like a bad deal, I agree, which is why the majority of people are better off with an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, despite why the awfully self-titled “PC Master Race” might tell you.

It’s called the “PC Master Race” because PCs have almost always had specifications far out-performing any console on the market. If you’re willing to spend the cash, you can build a system that will play any game on the shelf at Ultra HD 4K, with varying levels of frame rates. And for slightly less, you can at least get a system that’ll perform very well at 1440p.

But at the same time, technology is always moving, so you need to decide how well you’re willing to keep up.

And it starts with the processor. Invest in a good processor today and it’ll carry you for at least 5 years, and then all you’re upgrading is the graphics card, perhaps adding memory.

PC hardware companies like Intel and Nvidia are always in the process of introducing new chips while phasing out older ones, and doing enough research to say with authority that I got the right CPU at the right time is a full time job.

There really isn’t a such thing as “the right CPU at the right time”. There’s the CPU you have, and there’s ones that are better. They are always introducing new and better chips simply because that is what the market not only wants, but needs.

Remember what I said earlier about how you don’t need to spend a hellacious amount of money to build a good gaming system? The author of the Motherboard piece apparently never go that memo:

Let’s take for example the manual for my—brace yourself—”ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus VIII Hero” motherboard. As you can tell by its ridiculous name, this thing is being marketed specifically to people who are building PCs to play games, but there’s no easy-to-find “quick setup guide.”

The ASUS RoG isn’t built for gamers. It’s built for enthusiast gamers. The people who not only build a system for gaming, but also for overclocking, for trying to squeeze every last bit of performance out of their hardware as possible. And it carries a price tag reflecting this.

If you’re not going to delve into the advanced features a motherboard has to offer, save your money and go with something a little lower-end. The RoG mainboards are expensive, and not for the faint-at-heart. And as he discovered with the manual, the board is intended for experienced enthusiast builders, not beginners.

The process of physically building a PC is filled with little frustrations like this, and mistakes can be costly and time consuming. I have big, dumb, sausage fingers, so mounting the motherboard into the case, and screwing in nine (!) tiny screws to keep it in place in a cramped space, in weird angles, where dropping the screwdriver can easily break something expensive—it’s just not what I’d call “consumer-friendly.”

Yes, nine screws. And trust me, I’ve built into tighter spaces than you’ll ever realize. When I said that building PCs today is significantly easier than when I first started, I wasn’t even close to joshing.

Beginning to end, the whole process of building the computer took me almost five hours, and I had to make two emergency calls to PC Gamer’s Fenlon during the process: once when I couldn’t figure out why the case fans weren’t spinning, and again when the computer didn’t recognize an ethernet cable. I was literally bleeding from a cut on my hand by the end of it, which my YouTube guides said was common. I bled for this fucking thing.

And I’ve bled as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cut myself working on the inside of a computer. It’s one of the hazards with working in tight spaces with sharp corners and pins. But 5 hours for building a PC isn’t uncommon. It is a day-long effort, so if you expected to buy parts and sit down and get everything put together in an hour or two, it has never been like that. At least not if you want to do it right.

Also, it seems the people at the forefront of PC gaming and who spend the most money on it are totally fine with the status quo.

No we’re not fine with the status quo. Never have been.

Back when I was first building a system, finding a chassis that allowed for tool-less installation of parts was a godsend. Most good chassis today use thumbscrews for the add-in cards, but you still need a screwdriver for the mainboard screws. And depending on your chassis you may need to install the power supply first and pull the CPU cable before installing the mainboard or it’ll be hell trying to pull it through later — my Zalman Z12 Plus is like that.

18 years ago, modular power supplies didn’t exist. They weren’t even semi-modular. You couldn’t buy custom cable kits to get the exact connectors you needed. And they certainly weren’t sleeved. That’s one way things are much easier.

Cable management is also much, much easier in chassis today. I still have chassis that I bought 10+ years ago, and another chassis my father bought me while I was still in college. You had to get creative with cable management to keep your system from overheating due to lack of airflow since chassis back then also didn’t have room for several 120mm fans. The standard was only 80mm. Compare building a system in those to the latest chassis by Corsair, NZXT, and other makers today and that’ll show you how easy things really are.

The fact that chassis designs are changing constantly with new ideas coming up all the time shows that we’re not fine with the status quo. You just have no idea the current state of affairs and how they compare over the last three decades. Innovation takes time. Be glad you’re not having to hand-solder chips onto PCBs anymore to build your system. My father’s done that.

It’s hard to put all these PC parts together because they’re made by different companies, but there isn’t even pressure from consumers to come up with better, universal standards that will make the whole experience easier.

And this is what I mean by the fact you have no idea the state of affairs.

ATX is a standard. PCI-Express is a standard. PCI is a standard. SATA. USB. M.2. These are all standards. All of the power connectors inside the chassis follow particular standards. All the data cable connectors follow another standard.

Seriously, if a site named “Motherboard” allowed one of its writers to post this ignorant tripe, I’m very concerned about the rest of their content.

However, this also makes PC gaming insular. Accessibility isn’t a priority for the most enthusiastic users, so there’s no reason to make the experience of getting into PC games easier.

Since when? Sure in the early days things were like that, where you were spending two or three grand on a computer. It was exclusive and insular only because it had a large barrier to entry. But it’s a load of crap to say that accessibility isn’t a priority. It absolutely is a priority. Because when building PCs is easier on the end user, everyone wins. Trust me when I say that things have gotten a lot easier over the years as well. You just haven’t seen it because you haven’t been building and upgrading systems for 18 years.

But bear in mind as well that there are only so many ways you can make it easier.

The only reason it’s hard is because of poor design, and the design continues to be poor after all these years because they’re willing to put up with it.

The ATX standard is over 20 years old now. That standard defines numerous things that actually allow you to have choice. The other standards also allow you to have choice.

This isn’t to say that new standards aren’t possible. They absolutely are. AT was the previous mainboard/computer standard. For add-in cards, we’ve had ISA, E-ISA, VESA, PCI, PCI-64, AGP (graphics only), and now PCI-Express.

Here’s something to bear in mind: that the overall design of a computer hasn’t changed much compared to before I was born shows that we’re actually doing something right, and you’re just complaining because building your computer wasn’t what you’d consider easy. Well there are plenty of things that most don’t consider easy. I’d love to have great woodworking skills. Instead what I can do is trade an afternoon’s time building a computer for a woodworker in exchange for him spending an afternoon building me a cabinet or desk.

The design of a computer and the standards involved are with flexibility in mind. Making a design flexible means that some convenience is traded for choice. And personally I’d rather have a lot of choice and some inconvenience than being able to buy a computer with the click of a mouse but having very limited choice in the process — e.g. Apple.

And with a lot of things in life, I think that’s true for most everyone.

Sadly, most players will never make the switch [to PC] because they rightly assume that it’s too much of a headache. I can tell you with some authority, it is.

And that’s why people like me are around, who are willing to build computers for friends and family at no cost. Hell on one of my recent projects, Desert Sapphire, I took a thousand dollar LOSS building that system, and another loss of probably close to 500 USD delivering it to him. But it was worth it because I love building computers.

Seriously was there no one you could call who’d build the system for you and save you the trouble?

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Advice and consent and…. rape?

I wish I was making this up…

Over on Facebook a group called Americans Against the Republican Party posted this image:

13620902_1223157781039418_2178108383391420741_n

And this is the comment I left:

With regard to nominations, the Senate is under no obligation to confirm any nominee, nor are they under any obligation to even grant a hearing.

I really wish Democrats would stop acting like the Senate is there just to rubber-stamp whomever the President nominates for a particular post. In case you’ve missed it, Article II says (emphasis mine) “by and with the ADVICE and CONSENT of the Senate”. Well the Senate, in exercising the “advice” part of that, has told the President that they will not entertain any Supreme Court nomination at this time. And that is entirely within their purview, entirely within their right.

Guess what, if Trump is elected President and the Democrats take over the Senate, the Democrats will have the same power to refuse to entertain any of Trump’s nominees for the Supreme Court. And if that were to happen, I GUARANTEE that not a single Democrat will complain. At the same time, though, I know the Republicans would complain.

It is, however, part of Congress’s job to oversee and investigate the actions of the Executive Branch, given that it is Congress who grants the Executive Branch any authority at all, so they have an implicit obligation to ensure that authority is not being abused.

Again, I wish I was making this up. A person named Steve Brown replied:

Actually, according to Article II, by the Senate not holding hearings, or a vote implies consent of the nominee.

There was really only one way to respond to this, unfortunately:

Actually, no it isn’t. Under no interpretation would silence imply consent. Seriously, from what dark corner of your posterior did you come up with that asinine conclusion?

I mean, for fuck’s sake, do I have to explain *rape* to you in order for you to see how fucking stupid of a statement that is?

And the screen capture of it in case he decides to remove his comment:

conversation

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And this is why gun rights activists don’t like the media

Seriously, CBS?

Due to this [“curio or relic”] status, which the SKS shares with many other models of Berettas, Colts, Remingtons, Rugers and other firearms that are at least 50 years old, gun dealers said that in some states and jurisdictions the Soviet-era rifle can be purchased online and delivered to your door without securing a permit.

To purchase the SKS online and other firearms that are at least 50 years old (excluding Title II firearms) and have it sent directly to you, you must have a Federal Firearms License. Specifically, you need a Type 3 Federal Firearms License, also called a “Curio & Relic” license, or C&R license for short, which is available to civilians instead of gun sellers.

Note: Firearms classified under Title II of the National Firearms Act of 1968 cannot be obtained with a Type 3 FFL regardless of age. Such transfers must still go through a Type 1 FFL Class III SOT dealer and follow the procedure defined by the ATF.

Obtaining a C&R license requires going through the ATF application process with a 30 USD fee that includes an FBI background check and approval by the local law enforcement authority (county sheriff or local police chief, whichever has immediate jurisdiction over you). Once that comes back as clean, the license you receive is valid for up to three years and must be renewed to continue to receive its privileges. If it expires you have to go through the application process again. Note that a person with an expired Type 3 FFL is not required to surrender any firearms obtained by that FFL when the license expires.

And one other note: your Federal Firearms License is public record. As of June 2016, there are 57,990 active Type 3 FFLs, and 56,580 Type 1 FFLs (licenses needed to be in the business of selling firearms). You can find the names and addresses for everyone who has ever been issued an FFL from January 2013 onward through the ATF website.

And if you purchase a firearm using your Type 3 FFL, you must present the FFL to the seller. If you buy it online, this means you need to send a copy of the FFL to the seller. If you’re buying it in a store face-to-face, for example you’re buying an M1911 issued during WWII in a store outside your home State, you must have the FFL with you to present when you acquire the firearm.

So it’s not “delivered to your door without securing a permit”. The FFL is the permit. A common civilian without the Type 3 FFL cannot order a Mosin Nagant online and have it delivered to their door. The FFL is required to allow that to happen.

Numerous people have pointed this out to CBS in the comments to the above-linked article. I’m not holding my breath on them posting a correction or retraction.

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Trickle-down economics, or why you have a computer or smartphone

Many on the left do not understand how “trickle-down economics” works. The more accurate name is “supply-side” economics. Colloquially it’s been called Reaganomics, though Reagan was hardly its first advocate.

To understand supply-side economics, you need to first understand how markets work, specifically the law of supply and demand. Just by that name, it should be quite apparent how supply-side economics is supposed to work. But largely we end up with misrepresentations such as this:

Trickle down economics do not work. Otherwise, all the wealth would not be hoarded by the top 1 percent. You’re welcome.

My reply to seeing this was pretty straightforward:

Welcome for what? Clearly by that statement you don’t know how to define wealth.

If you’re defining wealth only in terms of cash, then no, trickle-down economics won’t work. But it was never about cash. It’s about investments and wealth as defined in terms other than cash. And if you define wealth properly, trickle-down economics has worked.

You’re sitting in front of proof of that.

The rich aren’t hoarding cash. That’s the biggest fallacy a lot of people have about them. The net wealth of the wealthiest people in the world isn’t cash. Sure they do have a lot of cash in the bank. But Bill Gates isn’t sitting on $50+ Billion in cash.

But I don’t have time to explain the intricacies of economics and supply-side (aka “trickle-down”) economics and how it has worked. Again you’re sitting in front of proof of how it has worked and does work.

You’re welcome.

The law of supply and demand, in short, presupposes that items and services that are traded have both a supply — someone to provide the item or service — and demand — someone willing and able to buy said item or service. Suppliers have two options in the market: either chase existing demands and needs, or create something that will, hopefully, create its own demand.

A clear example of this is the iPhone. Until the iPhone hit the market, there really wasn’t much demand for smart phones outside the business and enterprise sector. The phones that did exist were “smart enough”. And most of what was offered with regard to smart phones was tailored largely for that market. Until Apple started developing the iPhone. What made the iPhone unique is the market it targeted: the common customer. It wasn’t aimed at enterprise.

When you chase after existing demands and/or needs, that is demand-side economics. The pharmaceutical companies are a clear example of this: they can only ever chase after demand (the need to treat and prevent diseases and disorders) and can never operate on the supply-side of the curve. This is one reason new drugs and treatments are so expensive at introduction: prices can only come down as supply goes up to meet demand. Until then, many will be priced out of the market for that drug, but it requires others buying those drugs to help bring prices down — it’s a rather interesting paradox of market economics.

But when you innovate with the attempt to create new products and/or services that did not previously exist, that is supply-side economics: providing supply to generate demand, as opposed to trying to provide supply for existing demand.

Much of how supply-side economics works, however, is through investment. Again, as I said above, it is never about cash. And the world’s richest aren’t sitting on billions of dollars in cash, but billions of dollars in securities representing investments in companies.

Investment is where supply-side economics happens. And most of modern life in the first world is testimony to not only how it works, but that it works. And works quite well.

But let’s tackle the wealth of the rich, and why the rich seem to only get richer. It’s simply about accounting. When a person invests their money, they are, in short, trading asset for asset when buying securities. The investment does not change the investor’s net wealth unless the value of the investment (the stocks or bonds received when the investment was made) goes down on the trading markets.

For example if you buy 1000 USD worth of stocks in Microsoft, your net worth hasn’t changed. Only the amount of cash you have changed. So if your net worth (defined as all assets less all liabilities) is 100,00 USD before buying the stock, it will still be 100,000 USD after buying the stock. But the value of the stock can change, and any changes in that stock will change your net worth.

This is why it appears the rich are getting richer. It’s all in how you define wealth. But, again, they’re not sitting on cash. Sure they have a lot of cash in the bank, and fractional reserve banking gives everyone else access to that money, but it’s a minority of their net wealth which includes real estate, ownership stakes in companies and initiatives, and securities.

So let’s go back to Apple a moment. If a rich person invests 1 Million USD in Apple to help them bring about a new product, and Apple’s stock goes up as a result, that investor’s net worth went up. That stock entitles the investor to dividends, which gives a cash return on their investment along with any change in value.

But until the investor sells the stocks, the investor is out 1 Million USD in cash. The dividends aren’t going to make that up for years. So are the rich “hoarding” wealth? Nope.

Instead their money is invested in many ways. They buy all kinds of securities, giving that cash over to companies to put to use. They put their cash into banks, thereby providing liquidity for fractional reserve banking to work. The money you were loaned to buy a house or car, and the money the builders and auto makers were loaned to build the houses and cars, is thanks to the rich making various investments in numerous different directions.

And those investments have “trickled down” to much of the middle and lower class in many ways. It’s merely the fact it hasn’t been purely in cash that has the left in an uproar.

Decades ago, even the Looney Tunes explained very succinctly — TWICE — how supply-side (“trickle-down”) economics works:

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Limiting the exercise of rights, and the risks of freedom

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.

— Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 84

Alexander Hamilton felt that a bill of rights was not only unnecessary, but dangerous. And in declaring such, as stated plainly above, he also laid a prediction onto the future: that declaring rights into the Constitution will actually be used to claim powers that don’t actually exist. Instead they’ll be used as a challenge by governments to see just how close to the line they can skirt before a particular action becomes an infringement.

Indeed even with the actual declared powers of Congress, this has become the case, basically interpreting the declared powers as being able to do pretty much anything they want. The bastardization of the power to “borrow Money on the credit of the United States” (see Article I, Section 8) is the reason the public debt of the United States (not including intragovernmental holdings) is 13.9 TRILLION USD.

Indeed much of what Congress has done requires an extra-constitutional reading of the Enumerated Powers, much like how Sheila Jackson Lee [D-TX(18)] made a very extra-constitutional interpretation of the Fifth Amendment arguing against a House of Representatives bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

The Ninth Amendment was a response to Hamilton’s prediction:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

From the Ninth Amendment we have numerous claims of rights that are not enumerated, per se, in the Bill of Rights or anywhere else in the Constitution. Indeed one such right is that of privacy, first recognized by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479 (1965). As I’ve argued previously, the Ninth Amendment is intended to be a fence around the Federal government and the State governments by way of incorporation. Even if the Second Amendment were repealed, the Ninth Amendment would still hold that a person has the right to keep and bear arms:

As such, taking away the Second Amendment, completely nullifying it, does not mean no one can own firearms because the Ninth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment would still control. As such the only way a ban on firearms can go through is if we have an Eighteenth Amendment equivalent with regard to firearms — and imagine how well that would go over.

Imagine indeed how well it would go over. The history of Prohibition shows just how well it would go over. Which is why the despots in Washington and the various State legislatures around the United States aren’t wanting to go full-tilt into doing this. They know it would be a disaster greater than Prohibition. It would, quite likely, lead to a second civil war in the United States and the largest armed resistance to a standing law ever in US history.

So instead they come as close to repeal as possible, to nullify the operative clause of the Second Amendment without following the Article V process to do it properly. They pass laws that seek to deter the exercise of rights, or put so many encumbrances as possible in place. We’ve seen this with gun rights as well as abortion. Indeed, California has just enacted even more gun laws in an attempt to one-up New York and Illinois as having the most stringent gun control laws in the United States. And there are already declarations of non-compliance by gun rights proponents. And there have been instances wherein civilians have shown up armed to city council meetings and State legislatures as a show of resistance to attempts to enact new gun control laws.

And all the while, gun control proponents say that our Second Amendment rights “are not unlimited”. They’re not incorrect on that mark. Indeed Thomas Jefferson would likely agree with them. But only insofar that that the right to keep and bear arms doesn’t mean the right to shoot anyone you damned well please:

of Liberty then I would say that, in the whole plenitude of it’s extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will: but rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.

Their fallacy is in saying “Since the Second Amendment isn’t unlimited, we can pass any gun restrictions we want (short of an outright ban), and they’re all perfectly reasonable because your rights aren’t unlimited.” In other words not being unlimited means they can be limited to the point where they might as well not exist.

To borrow the colloquialism, the right to swing your fist ends at my body. The right to swing a melee weapon ends at my body. The right to keep and bear arms ends when you decide to shoot me. In each of these instances, however, you retain your right to assault me only if I have presented a credible threat to your safety or life in a circumstance not of your own creation. At no other time do you have a right to assault me.

And no reasonable person declares that our right to keep and bear arms means we have the right to commit mass murder or shoot anyone. But the presentation of claims against the Second Amendment operates on a presumption of malicious intent by those seeking to exercise their rights. Indeed, one might as well presume that everyone who wants to exercise their First Amendment rights intends to do so only to cause offense or spread hatred. Though the colloquial social justice warrior is one step shy of such a presumption, at least with regard to all white, hetero-normative, cisgender males.

Crime is a risk of freedom generally.

Offensive and hate speech is a risk of the general freedom of speech. Acquittals of terrorists, killers, child pornographers, and child sex abusers is a risk of the general protections of due process, the warrant requirement for searches, and the protection against self incrimination, including the Miranda rule. Drunks, violent drunks, and drunk drivers, whether or not their drunkenness kills themselves and/or others, is a risk to allowing the consumption of alcohol. As is the risk of women being victims of rape and sexual assault.

And armed crimes, including homicides by firearm, and suicides by firearm are risks inherent in the general right of the people to keep and bear arms.

Again crime is a risk of freedom generally, and a risk to freedom when used by despots as justifications to infringe freedom generally.

Indeed the condescending attempts by the government to limit the Second Amendment rights can basically be summarized as such: “Well these mass murderers and criminals show that you generally cannot be trusted with firearms. We’ve let you have your fun with them, but now we need to take them back and can’t let you have them anymore.”

Instead of taking away rights, the idea is to instead go after the minority who abuse them to the demonstrable harm of others. If you wish to prevent that minority from being able to abuse the rights and liberties we all enjoy, you must do so without infringing on the rights and liberties we all enjoy.

In other words if you want to swing your fist, you must ensure that in doing so you assault only the person you intend, and only with demonstrable reasonable justification. This is why responses to gun control efforts following the Orlando massacre include asserting not just the Second Amendment, but also the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of Due Process.

Regardless of how hard we try, you cannot legislate away evil. All attempts fail. Because legislating away evil requires the commission of greater evils. It requires the enactment and empowerment of a despotic government. And those desiring such a government will presume to be immune from the exercise of its power until they discover, usually entirely by surprise, they are not, that the hands of despots reach to everyone, even those who thought they were politically favored.

This is why much of our existing law isn’t about attempting to legislate away evil, but providing a process for responding to it. The problem is so many people think we can legislate away evil that they want to take away the ability for civilians to respond to it, and that is the manifestation of the greater evil that history shows is the inevitability of such desires, and one that society must generally oppose.

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How to screw up your computer

I’m not a computer support expert. Or at least I don’t assert that I am. I do have experience with computer support. I was the go-to guy for computer support issues while living on campus at Peru State College. I still cannot to this day understand why most of the problems I had to fix seemed to crop up in Morgan Hall (women’s only residence hall). Anyway…

A person who does assert that he is a “PC Support Expert” wrote an article for About.com called “13 Ways You’re Probably Screwing Up Your Computer“. Let’s get into this. Note that I may not cover every point, only those where I hold disagreement.

You’re not backing up continuously

One big way to screw up your computer, and by extension yourself, is to back up in some way that’s not continuous.

This is a LEVEL 10 SCREW UP!

Yes, you should be backing up your data continuously, as in virtually nonstopall the timeat least once per minute.

Backing up your data is extremely important. There are horror stories galore about people not making backups of important stuff. It’s one of the reasons I built a NAS, and I mention in Part 2 of that build log the need to set up off-site backups (commonly referred to as “cloud backups”).

Let’s get one thing straight: continuous backups are not necessary! Indeed, they can actually be detrimental, because you could end up overwriting a backed-up copy unintentionally. For example, let’s say that your computer is set to have your files backed up automatically to a cloud account. Your computer gets hit with a ransomware virus and those files are encrypted. Your cloud backup now contains the encrypted files, meaning you’ve basically just lost everything.

This is where two concepts need to be introduced, neither of which are discussed by the “expert”: incremental backups and redundancy.

Redundancy means simply having multiple copies of your important data. This means not backing up your data continuously, but keeping multiple current copies of it. Given how many online services offer free trials and free accounts up to a particular storage limit, there is no excuse to not have pictures and other important documents and data backed up to multiple online accounts, with all of them kept reasonably current. There are numerous tools available to allow you to do this quickly and seamlessly.

Incremental means just what it says: backups that are done incrementally. This means that only files within the target folders that are changed as of the time the backup is made are grouped together into a “transaction” and backed up as one set. But the older copies are still retained until you decide to get rid of them. This means in the aforementioned ransomware attack, you’ll still have an unencrypted copy of your (backed up) files sitting in your archive where you can recover it.

It also means that you can recover files if you make inadvertent changes, such as if you inadvertently overwrite a file.

So to summarize with regard to back-ups, there are a few points to keep in mind:

Make incremental backups. This also means that you should always be retaining older versions of your important files so you can recover from inadvertent changes and file corruption.

Back up only what you cannot recover. Since many cloud backup services charge based on how much data you back up, make sure that you only back up what you genuinely cannot replace or rebuild. Pictures are one classic example. But it’s not necessary to back up your music and movie collection if you can re-download the files or rebuild them from physical copies.

Back up periodically, but not continuously. Doing “continuous” backups is not necessary, and I’ve never seen it recommended. Nightly backups are the most frequent I’ve seen recommended. If the data is more mission critical — such as if you’re a content creator of any kind — then more frequent backups may be worthwhile, but you’ll likely never need any kind of “continuous” backup.

Not updating your anti-virus software

This one is a no-brainer. You need to have anti-virus software on your system. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 come with it by default, but the Windows Defender in Windows 7 is not an anti-virus. For Windows 7, you need Microsoft Security Essentials.

That said, there are sometimes pop-up messages that ask you to do this manually or notices that appear on screen about needing to update the core program before definition updating can continue.

Unfortunately, I see people screw up all the time by closing these… without reading them at all! A message that shows up over and over is usually a good indication that’s it’s important.

So stop screwing up your computer’s ability to fight the bad guys and make sure your antivirus program is updated! Just open the program and look for the “update” button.

Actually if your anti-virus software isn’t updating in the background without prompting you, get rid of it and find one that does. For example the aforementioned Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows 7) update automatically in the background.

At the same time, though, antivirus software can also be more of a problem than a solution. Antivirus software has been plagued with concerns of false positives, in which the antivirus signatures cause the software to believe that critical system files are infected, causing those files to be quarantined, likely on a forced reboot since files cannot be deleted while they are in use.

At my previous job, the systems were “protected” with McAfee (which I haven’t trusted since before the turn of the century), and once it mistook one of the critical files for Microsoft Visual Studio as being infected and quarantined it. Every engineer who relied on Visual Studio (which was about half the engineering staff, myself included) suffered downtime at a critical point in the release cycle due to this.

So long as you’re not engaging in risky Internet activities, you should be fine if your antivirus software isn’t completely up to date.

Not patching software right away

Once these vulnerabilities in Windows have been discovered, a patch has to be created by the developer (Microsoft) and then installed (by you) on your computer, all before the bad guys figure out how to exploit said vulnerability and start doing damage.

Microsoft’s part of this process takes long enough so the worst thing you can do is extend that window of opportunity any longer by procrastinating on installing these fixes once provided.

There are greater risks to your system’s security than running outdated software. For example if you’re running on a public WiFi without the Windows Firewall enabled, you’re exposing yourself to greater risks. The Windows Firewall has been included in Windows since XP Service Pack 2 in response to widespread worm attacks on Windows systems, something I had first hand experience combating while at Peru State College.

Your web browser, though, is actually more likely to be a security concern than the operating system. And this is true regardless of your operating system. In other words, Macs aren’t immune, and Linux isn’t immune. And I detest the clueless fuckwits who try to say differently.

Let me put it this way: when a high-profile SSL vulnerability is discovered in Apple’s Safari browser that causes the browser to accept any properly-formed SSL certificate, valid or not, for what is supposed to be a secured connection, and that vulnerability is also known to exist on all Safari browsers, including the ones embedded into the iOS operating system on iPhones and iPads, all Apple fanboys have lost any right to claim that any Apple operating system is secure.

Don’t also forget the fact that any software on your computer can be a security concern. But keeping software completely up to date isn’t always the best practice, as software patches can, at times, introduce bugs. But so long as you’re not far out of date, and you’re not exposing yourself to other risks, running out-of-date software isn’t the security concern many make it out to be.

You’re still using Windows XP

If you’re still using Windows XP then your computer is still vulnerable to all of the security issues that have been found, and corrected in later versions of Windows, since May of 2014!

There are numerous reasons to still be using Windows XP. For example, older games may not be compatible with newer versions of Windows. Legacy software is often a reason to stick with a legacy operating system. And there are numerous reasons to stick with legacy software packages, the chief one being that migration may be extremely time consuming and prone to errors or incomplete data migrations, presuming it’s possible at all.

But using a legacy operating system isn’t necessarily a problem. It all depends on how that operating system is being used. And the chief concern comes when that legacy system is connected to a network or the Internet.

There are many things you can do to mitigate potential security concerns in legacy operating systems. With Windows XP, that means making sure you are running Service Pack 3 and have all the latest updates from there and have the firewall enabled.

But bear in mind as well, as I said, that other software on the system are more likely points for security concerns, so make sure to keep all of that up to date as well, and be smart in how you use the system.

You’re letting needless files fill up your hard drive

In general, having “stuff” on your computer that doesn’t do anything but take up space is not anything to worry about it. When it can be an issue is when the free space on the drive gets too low.

The operating system, Windows for example, needs a certain amount of “working” room so it can temporarily grow if need be. System Restore comes to mind as a feature that you’ll be happy to have in an emergency but that won’t work if there’s not enough free space.

To avoid problems, I recommend keeping 10% of your main drive’s total capacity free. See How to Check Free Hard Drive Space in Windows if you’re not sure how much you have.

And I’d recommend keeping at least 25% of your main drive’s total capacity free, depending on the total capacity of the drive and how you use the remaining space. This is especially the case if you have a solid state drive (SSD), as having too little free space on your SSD can cause it to slow down faster.

It’s a well-known, well-documented phenomenon with SSDs that they get slower over time, or at least with more writes to the sectors on the drive. Having too little free space limits the number of sectors to which the SSD’s controller can write data. Combine that with doing a lot of writes, rewrites, and deletes in that limited space, and that phenomenon can manifest much faster than typical. To overcome this eventual slowness, the firmware and controllers in an SSD never write data to the same sectors over and over, instead keeping track of how many write have been made to sectors so it knows which ones to avoid.

There are numerous ways to free up space on your system as well. In general, though, look for the largest files you can safely get rid of. And use the Windows Disk Cleanup utility to free up space in the system areas used by the operating system.

You’re not defragging on a regular basis

And here’s where the author gets so many things wrong:

To defragment or not to defragment… not usually a question. While it’s true that you don’t need to defrag if you have an solid state hard drive, defragging a traditional hard drive is a must.

NEVER DEFRAG AN SSD. Let me repeat that. NEVER DEFRAG AN SSD! Remember that phenomenon I mentioned earlier that causes an SSD to slow down? Running a defrag utility regularly on an SSD will cause that to happen significantly faster. Much faster than not having a lot of free space on the drive. Again this is just the nature of how SSDs work.

SSDs have no seek penalty, which is what defragmenting a drive is supposed to overcome, so defragmenting an SSD is not only unnecessary, it’s potentially damaging.

However, the built-in Defrag tool for Windows 8 and Windows 10 will not defragment a solid state drive — provided the drive is actually detected as one. It will instead “trim” it, meaning it will scan the drive for unused blocks and make sure they are empty. This keeps write speeds at top notch for the drive. Your operating system should be running this periodically, but if the Defrag tool says the drive needs optimizing and it hasn’t been run in a significant period of time, go ahead and “Optimize” the drive as it only takes a few seconds.

And for a typical platter hard drive (HDD), running a regular defragment on your entire drive has not been necessary since Windows XP. Keeping an HDD defragmented is so important for performance that Microsoft included it in the operating system. Not just with the operating system, but in the operating system. When your system is idle for a set period of time, the operating system will do some light defragmenting on your hard drive. Leave your system on overnight at least once a week and it’ll make some optimizations to your HDD for you.

But it is not a full defrag. But you likely also don’t need to run a full defrag either. Depending on your HDD capacity and how much of that is occupied and the level of fragmentation, a full defrag will take hours, possibly longer than a day.

That’s why Microsoft and other OS developers introduced the background defrag into the OS. Periodic partial defrags are better than waiting around for a full defrag on tens to hundreds of gigabytes of data to finish. HDDs are faster today than they were 10 years ago, but they’re still significantly slower than SSDs, and the seek penalty that HDDs have means a full defragment is going to take forever depending on the fragmentation level.

If your system is running slow, chances are a full defrag on the drive is going to make little difference — it’ll be a lot of time for little gain. You’re better off cleaning off the system what you don’t need — this includes uninstalling needless applications and cleaning up files (see previous section). Depending on what you’re doing now compared to when you bought the system, a memory upgrade may also be in order. If you’re using an HDD, consider upgrading to an SSD, which can give an almost instantaneous performance boost to any system.

A cheap way to improve performance is to buy an inexpensive USB 3.0 flash drive and use the ReadyBoost feature in Windows. I do this on an older laptop since I don’t have an SSD in it, yet.

Given how much just in that one point that was incorrect, the “expert” really needs to study up.

You’re not [physically] cleaning your computer

In upgrading my wife’s computer, I showed pictures of the water cooling radiators caked in dust. The fans weren’t as bad but definitely needed cleaning.

Not properly cleaning your computer, however, especially a desktop computer, is an often overlooked maintenance task that could eventually screw up your computer something severe.

This is a LEVEL 4 SCREW UP!

Here’s what happens: 1) your computer’s many fans collect dust and other grime, 2) said dirt and grime build up and slow down the fans, 3) the computer parts cooled by the fans begin to overheat, 4) your computer crashes, often permanently.

In other words, a dirty computer is a hot computer and hot computers fail.

He’s exaggerating hard here.

First, there are numerous safety features built into modern computer components to prevent them from being damaged by excessive heat. Processors and graphics cards will “throttle” down in speed to keep temperatures down. So if you notice that your system is going very slow and the fans in your system sound like you’re standing next to a runway at a commercial airport, chances are you’ve got some serious thermal issues.

Cleaning out the dust in fans is certainly necessary to keep the fans performing at their peak. The weight of the dust on the fans will slow them down a little while wearing them out faster. But the difference in airflow is only a few cubic feet per second. For most 80mm and larger case fans, this is negligible.

It’s when dust settles on the internal components that thermal problems can arise, so it’s a good idea to keep the inside of your system cleaned out. Power down the system and let it sit for at least an hour to cool down, grab a can of compressed air and your vacuum cleaner, and go to town. You can also grab a clean soft bristle paint brush to go after any stubborn or hard to reach areas. Pay attention to dust on heatsinks as well, such as the cooler on your CPU and graphics card. Oh, and leave the system plugged in while you do this to keep it grounded, especially if you’re using a paint brush to assist.

If you have an air compressor, make sure to have it at a low PSI and keep it a nominal distance away or you could risk damaging your components. Use a clean paintbrush to loosen any stubborn dust instead of a higher PSI or closer distance.

In desktops, be sure not to miss the [fans] in the power supply and in the case. Increasingly, video cards, RAM, and sound cards have fans too.

A lot of graphics cards have fans — it’s been the case for at least the last 15 years — but lower-end graphics cards tend to have only passive heatsinks. Still clean those off as dust can severely degrade cooling performance since those rely entirely on airflow in the case to stay cool. But RAM doesn’t have fans on it by default. You can buy active RAM coolers, but those are largely unnecessary unless you’re overclocking your RAM.

And I don’t know of any sound cards that have active cooling.

At the same time, keep an eye on system temperatures using a utility such as CPUID HWMonitor.

You’re putting off fixing problems that you can probably fix yourself

If your system is still covered under any kind of warranty, consult that warranty before attempting any kind of repairs to make sure you’re not voiding it. But the author largely isn’t talking about anything requiring you to access the physical hardware.

Instead he’s talking about running utilities and such on your system to diagnose and possible correct some concerns. And a lot of issues can be corrected doing this. Certainly not all, but most common concerns can.

It’s the ones that require internal access to the hardware of the system that tend to be more involved. At the same time, these are issues that aren’t necessarily easy to diagnose. Your computer running slow, for example, has several causes and several potential solutions, so you need to diagnose it further. Online forums can aid you in that endeavor.

* * * * *

And that’s it for this one. It’s amazing how many misconceptions get published all the time about computers. It often makes it difficult to discern what’s fact and what isn’t. As I’ve shown above, some of the advice given online can be quite misleading as well.

But at least there are always plenty of acutal experts out there who are willing to counter all of this and publish information that is correct.

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Obama’s scorecard isn’t as great as you think

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1. Unemployment is low because of the number of disenfranchised workers who are no longer looking for work, plus the fact that a significant number of those who found jobs after long stints of unemployment aren’t on their previous career paths anymore. In other words, unemployment being low doesn’t mean those who are working are any better off than before. Looking at unemployment to determine the quality of the job market is like looking at GDP to determine the state of the economy.

2. Like the quality of jobs in relation to unemployment, much of the insurance sold on the individual market under Obamacare is, in practicality, worthless. The deductibles are so high that most with these plans will never actually use their insurance. So all these plans do is take *more* from the pockets of those who likely can barely afford to pay it while giving virtually nothing in return.

3. My 401(k) would like to heavily disagree with how well the stock market is doing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is just an index total and doesn’t represent the full status of the stock market. And the current state of the stock market has many analysts worried it’s forming another bubble.

4. Only if you compare against the deficit for FY 2009. If you exclude FY 2009, all deficits under Obama except for 2015 have been higher than the highest deficit under Bush, and Obama has presided over the largest increases in the national debt in history.

5. It’s lower than it was under Bush, but the current rate of inflation is the same as it was in 2002. This isn’t necessarily a good thing for consumers, and neither were the periods of deflation that were seen in 2009 and for virtually all of 2015.

6. Not quite as much as they think. Revenues for GM and Ford have both held steady since about 2011. Revenue for GM is higher than 2008. Ford, on the other hand, is seeing *lower* revenue compared to 2006 and 2007. About the only reason they can be said to be “booming” is because both Ford and GM tried to shed liabilities by the Billions of dollars from 2009 onward.

7. At what cost? “Clean energy” needs so much in subsidies right now that it would never survive in the free market. It just cannot compete against nuclear energy and fossil fuels when it comes to energy density and energy per dollar.

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A compromise on the “terrorist watch list”

A lot of the gun control talk in recent days following the Orlando attack has centered around the “terrorist watch list”, a covert list of individuals maintained by the Federal government that can be used to deny a person a number of privileges, including being able to board a plane.

So no surprise that the Federal government would want to expand it to include infringing the Second Amendment.

The biggest problem with the watch list is the fact it is full of mistakes. Names that shouldn’t be on there. The list has been used to deny children entry to a plane. And it’s likely damned near impossible to get your name removed, or at least an exception made so that a particular person happening to bear that name isn’t unjustly targeted. And yet they expect us to trust them with that list when it comes to navigating the waters known as the Constitution? Okay, if they want that power, we need a compromise.

Currently the FBI has the ability to place up to a 3 day hold on a firearm transfer when a background check is requested through NICS. Three days is plenty of time for the Department of Justice to file for an emergency injunction with the District Court that has jurisdiction over the area where the sale was to take place. As the person against whom the injunction is filed would have the opportunity to defend themselves against the injunction, the due process requirement would be satisfied provided the injunction is only temporary and includes the caveat that Federal or State charges against the person be filed within the provided window (30 days, for example) or the person’s rights will be restored.

The injunction should also require more than the Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security merely saying “he’s on the terror watch list”, as they’d have to give more substantial reasons to deny the sale to satisfy the Fifth Amendment, basically providing all the evidence as to why that person was on the list. The Court could even require the evidence satisfy the burden of probable cause. This would also give the opportunity for a counter-motion to order the Department of Justice or Homeland Security to remove the person from the watch list if that burden is not satisfied, while also raising the burden of proof to the point where if the government is even going to attempt to deny a person their rights, there should be enough evidence to arrest them and put them on trial. But then if they had that kind of evidence, the only thing that would be stopping the DoJ from putting them on trial is not having enough evidence to satisfy the burden of beyond reasonable doubt.

This isn’t much different than what currently goes on with other criminal trials. For example pre-trial injunctions forbidding contact between a defendant and an alleged victim are common in cases of domestic assault. If the defendant is convicted, the injunction may become permanent, while it is lifted if the defendant is acquitted.

This brings the terror watch list out of the realm of secrecy while also giving Democrats what they want: the ability to use it to temporarily deny gun purchases. Anything more than this requires a criminal trial and conviction on felony charges.

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