A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

It’s What Jesus Would Want

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One of the most interesting species on Earth is the American pseudo-Christian. Unlike Christians who have come to their beliefs through rigorous study of theology, the American pseudo-Christian generally hasn’t even read the book that they claim is the source of their beliefs. Whereas the Christian regularly attends some form of service and/or Bible study, the American pseudo-Christian tends to avoid any service unless it’s on Christmas and maybe Easter or if they’re feeling particularly guilty for something. I believe it’s the lack of thorough theological study that causes many American pseudo-Christians to treat idiots like Pat Robertson as faith leaders:

Appearing on Christian television show “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, said America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is too important to risk.

“These people are key allies,” Robertson said Monday on the show, first reported by Right Wing Watch. “I don’t think on this issue we need pull sanctions and get tough. I just think it’s a mistake.”

Robertson advocated for behind-the-scenes diplomacy instead of publicly leveling harsh sanctions. He repeatedly invoked the more-than-$100-billion arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. as reason not to go after the country widely viewed as the culprit behind Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“We’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of,” he said. “It’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.”

The Saudis are suspected of cutting a journalist up into small pieces? This isn’t even slightly surprising considering the other heinous acts committed by the Saudis? That’s terrible but it’s not so terrible that somebody should cancel a $100 billion weapons deal! Jesus certainly wouldn’t support ceasing weapons sales to murderers!

The real tragedy is that so many people mistake the American pseudo-Christian that composes the majority of the “Christian” right for Christians.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Obedience School

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The public schooling system isn’t about providing children with an education, it’s about turning children into obedient subjects. Any education a child may receive is nothing more than an unintended consequence. Nowhere is this more evident that in the Texas schooling system, which now requires students to pass an obedience class in order to graduate:

Starting this school year, English, history and math, are not the only classes required to graduate high school in Texas.

A new state law requires students in grades nine through 12 to receive a class, paired with a 16-minute video, that aims to teach them how to deal with law enforcement during a traffic stop.

Known as the Community Safety Education Act, Senate Bill 30 was signed into law by the 85th Texas Legislature to help ease tensions between police and students in the wake of multiple shootings by police of unarmed citizens that have taken place across the United States in recent years.

Law enforcers are gunning down unarmed citizens and the response isn’t to punish the law enforcers but to put the burden of surviving a law enforcement encounter on the citizenry? This says pretty much everything that needs to be said about statism.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 10:30 am

We’re All Collateral Damage

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Politicians usually talk a benevolent game. Seldom do you hear one outright state that they’re going to steamroll a group of individuals. That’s why it was refreshing to hear Nanci Pelosi state that if the Democrats regain power, those who disagree with them will be collateral damage:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said American voters will simply have to deal with the “collateral damage” that comes their way if Democrats craft economic policies in the years ahead.

The California Democrat recently sat down with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in the Big Apple to discuss public policy. The event, hosted by the Jewish organization 92nd Street Y, included a portion on climate change that sparked the lawmaker’s pronouncement.

“We owe the American people to be there for them, for their financial security, respecting the dignity and worth of every person in our country, and if there is some collateral damage for some others who do not share our view, well, so be it, but it shouldn’t be our original purpose,” she said Sunday.

At least she’s being straight up with us plebeians.

Truth be told, the opponents of the party in power are always collateral damage. Politics is nothing more than violence by proxy and the supporters of the party in power supported the party specifically because they wanted a truncheon wielded against their ideological opponents but were too chicken shit to wield it themselves.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 10:00 am

A Seemingly Good Idea with a Steep Price

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When you use a free e-mail provider, you are the product, which means that the provider most likely snoops through the contents of your e-mail to deliver targeted ads. Because of this I encourage people to move away from free providers. Paid e-mail providers are less inclined to snoop through your e-mails but the best option is to host your own e-mail server. Unfortunately, hosting e-mail is a pain in the ass so very few people are interested in doing it. A new product, Helm, is promising the best of both worlds: self-hosted e-mail without the complexity of administering an e-mail server. From a technical standpoint, it looks like a solid product:

The service takes a best-of-both-worlds approach that bridges the gap between on-premises servers and cloud-based offerings. The server looks stylish and is small enough to be tucked into a drawer or sit unnoticed on a desk. It connects to a network over Ethernet or Wi-Fi and runs all the software required to serve email and calendar entries to authorized devices. An expansion slot allows an additional five terabytes of storage.

The server also provides a robust number of offerings designed to make the service extremely hard to hack, including:

  • A system-on-a-chip from NXP that stores keys for full-disk encryption and other crypto functions to ensure keys are never loaded into memory, where they might be leaked. The disk encryption is designed to prevent the contents from being read without the key, even if someone gets physical possession of the device.
  • Support for secure boot and keys that are hardwired during manufacture so the device can only run or install authorized firmware and firmware updates. The devices are manufactured in the US or Mexico to ease concerns about supply-chain weaknesses.
  • Firmware that only communicates over an encrypted VPN tunnel. This measure prevents employees of the user’s ISP, or anyone monitoring the home or office connection, from knowing who the user is communicating with. The firmware also automatically generates TLS certificates from the free Let’s Encrypt service.
  • Before being backed up in the cloud, messages are encrypted using a key that’s stored on the personal server and is available only to the end user. That means if the cloud server is ever hacked or the provider is legally compelled to turn over the backed up data, it can’t be decrypted without the key.
  • Two-factor authentication that’s based on what Helm calls “proximity based security.” The tokens that generate one-time passwords can only be installed on a smartphone that has come into close physical proximity with the Helm device during pairing by someone who knows the device password. Pairing new phones, adding email accounts, or making other changes not only requires a device password but also an OTP from an already-paired phone.

Technical specifications and implementation often don’t match so I’ll be interested to see how well this product works in the wild. However, I’m guessing that this product isn’t going to fly off of the shelves because the price is steep:

The startup is betting that people will be willing to pay $500 to purchase the box and use it for one year to host some of their most precious assets in their own home. The service will cost $100 per year after that. Included in the fee is the registration and automatic renewal of a unique domain selected by the customer and a corresponding TLS certificate from Let’s Encrypt.

$500 is a lot of money for a consumer-grade embedded computer and a $100 per year subscription fee isn’t chump change no matter how you shake it. You can buy a ProtonMail subscription for significantly less and enjoy what most consumer would consider pretty reasonable security. But if you want a self-hosted e-mail option without the hassle that usually accompanies setting up and maintaining your own e-mail server (and have a few Benjamins to spare), this may be a product to look into.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Serving Your Overlords Forever

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It used to be if an actor died, they stopped acting but today’s digital editing technology allows even the dead to continue their career:

From Carrie Fisher in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to Paul Walker in the Fast & Furious movies, dead and magically “de-aged” actors are appearing more frequently on movie screens. Sometimes they even appear on stage: next year, an Amy Winehouse hologram will be going on tour to raise money for a charity established in the late singer’s memory. Some actors and movie studios are buckling down and preparing for an inevitable future when using scanning technology to preserve 3-D digital replicas of performers is routine. Just because your star is inconveniently dead doesn’t mean your generation-spanning blockbuster franchise can’t continue to rake in the dough. Get the tech right and you can cash in on superstars and iconic characters forever.

Unlike living actors, dead actors won’t refuse roles or fighting the director, which is great for propagandists. Imagine a future where a hologram of Hunter S. Thompson does a D.A.R.E. touring circuit or a hologram of Emma Goldman gives a lecture about the importance of government.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

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Perceived Behavior

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The reason “your side” is better behaved than “their side” is because you give people on “your side” a great deal of leeway and refuse to forgive even the most minor of transgressions perpetrated by people on “their side.”

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2018 at 10:00 am

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The End of TLS 1.0 and 1.1

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Every major browser developer has announced that they will drop support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.0 and 1.1 by 2020:

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have announced a unified plan to deprecate the use of TLS 1.0 and 1.1 early in 2020.

TLS (Transport Layer Security) is used to secure connections on the Web. TLS is essential to the Web, providing the ability to form connections that are confidential, authenticated, and tamper-proof. This has made it a big focus of security research, and over the years, a number of bugs that had significant security implications have been found in the protocol. Revisions have been published to address these flaws.

Waiting until 2020 gives website administrators plenty of time to upgrade their sites, which is why I’ll be rolling my eyes when the cutoff date arrives and a bunch of administrators whine about the major browsers “breaking” their websites.

Every time browser developers announced years ahead of time that support will be dropped for some archaic standard, there always seems to be a slew of websites, include many major websites, that continue relying on the dropped standard after the cutoff date.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Apocalyptic Financial Predictions Aren’t Just for Libertarians Anymore

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Apocalyptic financial predictions are a staple of libertarianism. This isn’t without merit. Governments around the world implement financial policies that can lead to nowhere but ruin. However, the mainstream media has always laughed at these libertarian predictions… until now:

Financial experts noted several ominous economic indicators, including skyrocketing student loans and U.S. household debts, that could predict a crash “worse than the Great Depression,” according to a report in the New York Post.

Goldman Sachs predicted that this year’s U.S. fiscal outlook would be “not good,” and that U.S. household debt had been increasing since the 2008 housing crisis led to American taxpayers bailing out the big banks.

In 2018, experts said, a $247 trillion global debt will be the greatest cause of the next cataclysmic financial crash. Additionally, low wages and the U.S. national debt’s steady rise are expected to drag down the economy.

This is from Newsweek of all sources.

Granted, the only reason the mainstream media is jumping onboard of the SS Financial Meltdown is because Trump is in office. If Hillary had won and implemented the same policies that Trump has, the mainstream media would still be laughing at predictions of financial meltdown. Regardless of their reasoning it’s still funny seeing this kind of story appearing.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Fiscally Conservative

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If you ask most people what one of the major difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is, they will tell you that the Republican Party tends to be more fiscally conservative. The Republican Party is in power now so a wave of fiscal conservation is upon us, right? Not so much:

The U.S. federal budget deficit rose in fiscal 2018 to the highest level in six years as spending climbed, the Trump administration said Monday.

The deficit jumped to $779 billion, $113 billion or 17 percent higher than the previous fiscal period, according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. It was larger than any year since 2012, when it topped $1 trillion. The budget shortfall rose to 3.9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

It turns out that neither party is fiscally conservative. And really, why should they be? They’re not spending their own money. They’re not even primarily spending out money. They’re spending the money that they’re printing. Since they can print an infinite amount of money, there is no motivation for them to spend less… at least until the whole financial system collapses due to an irreconcilable misallocations of resources. But that’s a problem for the next generation, right?

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Unleash the Zuckerberg Inquisition

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Yesterday Zuckerberg unleashed his inquisitors and they found a lot of heretics:

Facebook said it was removing the publishers and accounts not because of the type of content they posted, but because of the behaviors they engaged in, including spamming Facebook groups with identical pieces of content and using fake profiles.

“Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the company said in a blog post. “People will only share on Facebook if they feel safe and trust the connections they make here.”

So what kind of pages were removed? As of this writing, Cop Block’s main Facebook page has been unpublished along with a number of its state affiliate pages. Gun Laws Don’t Work, V for Voluntary, Punk Rock Libertarians, and many other anti-state pages were also found guilty of heresy.

This is where most libertarians flip their shit about Facebook’s censorship… on Facebook. I won’t debase myself in such a manner. Instead I will point out that it was foolish for so many anti-statists to centralized their content on a site owned and operated by a statist. While I recognize how easy Facebook makes it to reach a large audience, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. In exchange for accessing Facebook’s audience you have to submit to Facebook’s policies and those policies are (probably purposefully) vague and in a constant state of flux. One minute Facebook takes a hands off approach to content, the next it erases dissenting voices like the black plague erasing Europeans.

Of course this entire mess could have been avoided by simply doing the pre-Facebook status quo. Had all of these organizations kept their audience focused on their own websites and forums, there would have been nothing for Zuckerberg’s inquisitors to censor. Instead they opted for the ease of relying on Facebook. They pushed their audience to Facebook and thus put themselves under the rule of Zuckerberg. Now they’re paying the price. Some of these organizations are fortunate enough to still have their own websites and forums so they haven’t been completely erased but most weren’t so smart.

Once again I find myself beating this bloated corpse of a horse that is advocating for individuals and organizations to stop relying on centralized technologies and instead rely on their own infrastructure. Sadly, I know that the innards of this corpse are going to burst forth and spill all over the place before anybody follows my advice.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am