A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Monday Metal: To Erebor by Wind Rose

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Written by Christopher Burg

October 23rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

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Claiming to Support Libertarianism and Closed Borders is Intellectually Inconsistent

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If you spend enough time in libertarian anarchist circles, you’ll come to recognize various factions. Two libertarian anarchist factions that like to fight with each other are the advocates of open borders (more specifically the advocates of abolishing governmental borders) and the intellectually inconsistent advocates of closed borders.

Whereas advocates of open borders recognize the State as wholly illegitimate, advocates of closed borders see the State as semi-legitimate. On the one hand, it steals from them (and everybody else), which makes it a violator of private property rights and therefore illegitimate. On the other hand, it subsidizes their security (with, I might point out, stolen money but I digress) by providing law enforcers and a military. If you talk to an advocate for closed borders, you probably won’t hear them discuss the fact that the State is subsidizing them (since that would be admitting government subsidies are good and they generally claim otherwise). They’ll give several other reasons why the State is acting legitimately by controlling its borders, usually with an argument that tries to muddle private property lines with government borders, but no amount of hand waving makes the fact that they want their security subsidized go away.

Where the argument for closed borders begins to really fall apart though is when you compared government borders to private property lines. Property lines, like borders, aren’t a real thing. In the terminology of Max Stirner, property lines are a phantasm or a spook. They exist entirely in our minds, not in the natural world. However, like many human concepts, property lines can serve a purpose, which is to avoid conflict over scarce resources. Two people cannot consume the same piece of bread so to avoid fighting over a piece of bread it’s expedient to say one piece is my property and one piece is your property. Conflict is avoided so long as both of us recognize each other’s property claim.

Government borders serve a similar purpose but the resources differ. While one might think that the raw resources within a government’s borders are what it’s trying to claim ownership over, in reality governments care little about the raw resources themselves. What governments care about are the people that harvest those resources. Governments are also phantasms. They’re a concept in our minds, not a thing that exists in the natural world. The people who call themselves government, on the other hand, do exist in the natural world and they don’t like to do work. Instead, like a mafioso, they prefer to skim a little off the top of other people’s work. The individuals who call themselves government don’t want to till the fields or mine the mountains, they want to take a percentage of the wealth created by the people who till the fields and mine the mountains. To the government the only meaningful resource is the human being.

A funny thing happens under libertarianism when a human being is being claimed as a resource. Under the concept of the non-aggression principle, which is the closest thing to a common philosophical foundation most branches of libertarianism can agree on, slavery is illegitimate. One person claiming ownership over another person becomes a violator of the non-aggression principle as soon as the person making the claim attempts to assert their claim. Governments continuously assert their claims of ownership, usually under various euphemisms such as enforcing the law, over people.

Since one human being is incapable of doing two things at the same time, governments periodically come into conflict with one another over what they want a group of human beings to do. What happens when one government decides that it wants a group of humans to farm its territory while another decides that it wants them to mine its territory? Conflict. To avoid conflict the individuals calling themselves government have take the concept of private property lines and relabeled them national borders. Governmental borders quite literally exist to avoid conflict over human property. Since enforcing a claim of ownership over another human being is considered illegitimate under libertarianism, supporting the division of human property cannot be consider legitimate under libertarianism in any consistent manner.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 20th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Now You Too Can Be Big Brother

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We all know that Big Brother is watching us. Local law enforcers, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and various other government agencies are investing an incredible amount of resources into watching our every move. What if I told you that the day has finally come where you too can play an active role in Big Brother’s great surveillance apparatus? Axon is going to make that a reality:

Axon, the company formerly known as Taser, either wants to encourage helpful citizens or snitches—depending on how you feel about talking to police—to come forward.

On Thursday, the company announced “Axon Citizen,” a new “public safety portal” that lets civilians submit text, video, and audio files directly to participating law enforcement agencies that use its cloud storage service, Evidence.com.

While I spent the opening paragraph of this post mocking this product, I’m sadly aware of the fact that there are a lot of boot lickers out there who will actually use it. However, there is some hope that a bunch of decent people will get together and try to flood Evidence.com with useless data such as videos of lamp posts that are several hours long and high-definition pictures of pigeons. It would also be interesting to see exactly how much porn Evidence.com can store.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 20th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Spain’s Clever Plan to Thwart Catalan Secession

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Spain has decided that it has had just about enough of the Catalans wanting to split. In response Spain has decided to take away the regions autonomy:

Spain is to start suspending Catalonia’s autonomy from Saturday, as the region’s leader threatens to declare independence.

The government said ministers would meet to activate Article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take over running of the region.

Catalonia’s leader said the region’s parliament would vote on independence if Spain continued “repression”.

I’m sure this will convince the Catalans to stop striving for secession. After all, people who are actively trying to secede tend to respond really well when more of their rights are taken away from them.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

When You’re Trying to Be Very Smart™ but End Up Looking Stupid

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The announcement of the iPhone X was one of the biggest product announcements of the year. Not only is it the latest iPhone, which always captures headlines, but it includes a new facial recognition feature dubbed Face ID. With the popularity of the iPhone it’s inevitable that politicians will try to latch onto it to capture some headlines of their own. Al Franken, one of Minnesota’s congress critters, decided to try to latch onto the iPhone X by expressing concern about the privacy implications of the Face ID feature. This may appear to have been a smart political maneuver but the senator only managed to make himself appear illiterate since Apple had already published all of the technical information about Face ID:

Apple has responded to Senator Al Franken’s concerns over the privacy implications of its Face ID feature, which is set to debut on the iPhone X next month. In his letter to Tim Cook, Franken asked about customer security, third-party access to data (including requests by law enforcement), and whether the tech could recognize a diverse set of faces.

In its response, Apple indicates that it’s already detailed the tech in a white paper and Knowledge Base article — which provides answers to “all of the questions you raise”. But, it also offers a recap of the feature regardless (a TL:DR, if you will). Apple reiterates that the chance of a random person unlocking your phone is one in a million (in comparison to one in 500,000 for Touch ID). And, it claims that after five unsuccessful scans, a passcode is required to access your iPhone.

Franken should feel fortunate that Apple even bothered entertaining his concerns. Were I Tim Cook I would have directed a member of my staff to send Franken links to the technical publications with a request to have a member of his staff read them to him and not bothered giving him a TL;DR. After all, Apple’s time is worth far more money than Franken’s since it’s actually producing products and services that people want instead of being a parasite feeding off of stolen money.

Still I admit that it was pretty funny seeing Franken make an ass of himself yet again.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug

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A judge recently discovered that there is no backup for the evidence database used by the New York Police Department (NYPD):

As part of an ongoing legal battle to get the New York City Police Department to track money police have grabbed in cash forfeitures, an attorney for the city told a Manhattan judge on October 17 that part of the reason the NYPD can’t comply with such requests is that the department’s evidence database has no backup. If the database servers that power NYPD’s Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS)—designed and installed by Capgemini under a $25.5 million contract between 2009 and 2012—were to fail, all data on stored evidence would simply cease to exist.

[…]

Last year, NYPD’s Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Messner told the City Council’s public safety committee that “attempts to perform the types of searches envisioned in the bill will lead to system crashes and significant delays during the intake and release process.” The claim was key to the department’s refusal to provide the data accounting for the approximately $6 million seized in cash and property every year. As of 2013, according to the nonprofit group Bronx Defenders, the NYPD was carrying a balance sheet of more than $68 million in cash seized.

Convenient. In fact this is convenient enough for me to suspect that the lack of a backup is a feature, not a bug. Government agencies always seem to find a way to design a system in such a way that it is difficult for it to comply with data requests that could reveal embarrassing information about it. I’m sure NYPD would rather not have everybody knowing just how much cash it has stolen from people over the years. If there is especially corrupt activity going on in NYPD, which wouldn’t surprise me, being able to trash the entire evidence database would also be handy if a thorough investigation into the agency was started.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Another Evolution of the 3D Printed Handgun

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While politicians in Washington DC have been discussing gun control, denizens on the Internet have been busy evolving the 3D printed handgun. The WASHBEAR is a newly released 3D printed .22LR revolver:

It looks very similar to numerous Nerf guns. Like the Pepperbox handgun created by Hexen, the WASHBEAR has steel sleeves inserted into the chambers to reduce stress on the plastic. While this means that the entire gun isn’t 3D printable, steel inserts can be had at any hardware store.

Politicians and advocates of gun control can continue wasting their time but the truth is gun control is a fantasy. Granted, it has always been a fantasy but now we’re at the point where a person with even modest means can acquire everything necessary to build firearms. Gun control is dead. Technology killed it.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Safari 11, Multiline HTTP Headers, and NSPOSIXErrorDomain:100.

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I was happy when Mozilla announced that it was going to take a serious stab at the browser market again and released Firefox Quantum, a beta version of Firefox that runs significantly faster than the current stable version. So far I’ve been mostly impressed by it. However, Firefox Quantum has one significant flaw, it hogs the CPU. Even when idling I’ve noticed Firefox Quantum processes taking anywhere from five to 20 percent of the available power on one of my CPU cores. I decide to compare this CPU usage against Chrome and Safari, which lead me down quite the rabbit hole.

It all started when I tried to load my blog in Safari. Previous versions of Safari haven’t had any difficulty loading my site but when I tried to load it in Safari 11 I received the following error:

NSPOSIXErrorDomain:100 is about as useless as an error message can get. Unfortunately, Google didn’t provide me much insight. After a series of Google searches I did come across this article, which discusses some problems previous versions of Safari have had with Content Security Policies (CSP). Since I implemented a CSP for this site, I figured it was a good place to start. Low and behold, when I disabled my CSP the site loaded in Safari again.

This confused me since, as I mentioned earlier, my site, with its current CSP, loaded in previous versions of Safari. I thought that maybe one of the fields in my CSP had been deprecated or was misconfigured, which lead me to testing with a very simple one line CSP. When I tested with the simplified CSP my site loaded again. When I added an additional line to my CSP the site stopped loading again. That lead me to suspect the line feed characters. I split my CSP into multiple lines to make it easier to read and edit so it looked like this:

add_header Content-Security-Policy "default-src 'self';
  script-src 'self' 'unsafe-inline' 'unsafe-eval' https://s0.wp.com https://s1.wp.com https://s2.wp.com https://stats.wp.com;
  img-src 'self' https://secure.gravatar.com https://s0.wp.com https://s1.wp.com https://s2.wp.com https://chart.googleapis.com;
  style-src 'self' 'unsafe-inline' https://fonts.googleapi.com;
  font-src 'self' data: https://fonts.gstatic.com;
  object-src 'none';
  media-src 'self';
  child-src 'self' https://www.youtube-nocookie.com https://akismet.com;
  form-action 'self';";

I know it looks a little wonky since it includes unrecommended values like ‘unsafe-inline’ and ‘unsafe-eval’ for script-src but those, as well as a few other odd values such as the ‘data:’ font-src value, are needed by WordPress, which was developed before CSPs were a thing. But I digress. I decided to collapse the entire HTTP header value into a single line so it looked like this:

add_header Content-Security-Policy "default-src 'self'; script-src 'self' 'unsafe-inline' 'unsafe-eval' https://s0.wp.com https://s1.wp.com https://s2.wp.com https://stats.wp.com; img-src 'self' https://secure.gravatar.com https://s0.wp.com https://s1.wp.com https://s2.wp.com https://chart.googleapis.com; style-src 'self' 'unsafe-inline' https://fonts.googleapi.com; font-src 'self' data: https://fonts.gstatic.com; object-src 'none'; media-src 'self'; child-src 'self' https://www.youtube-nocookie.com https://akismet.com; form-action 'self';";

After I did that my site loaded in Safari again. Then I reverted my configuration to the original multiline version but changed the standard UNIX new line character \n to the Windows (which is also the standard for the web) \r\n. After I did that my site failed to load again. Safari simply didn’t like new line characters appearing in a header entry.

It seemed that Safari 11 was unhappy with something that every other browser, including its predecessors, are still perfectly happy with. I suspected this was a bug in Safari but decided to do some digging before submitting a bug report. This was a good choice because I was mistaken. Searching for information about multiline headers lead me to this entry on Stack Overflow, which lead me to RFC 7230. Amongst other things, RFC 7230 deprecated multiline header fields:

Historically, HTTP header field values could be extended over multiple lines by preceding each extra line with at least one space or horizontal tab (obs-fold). This specification deprecates such line folding except within the message/http media type (Section 8.3.1). A sender MUST NOT generate a message that includes line folding (i.e., that has any field-value that contains a match to the obs-fold rule) unless the message is intended for packaging within the message/http media type.

It turns out that Safari 11 is adhering strictly to RFC 7230. And as of this writing it’s the only browser doing so. It also turns out that I’ve been unknowingly writing my CSP against the HTTP standard all along.

The moral of the story is if Safari 11 throws an NSPOSIXErrorDomain:100 error, check your HTTP headers to ensure they don’t contain multiline values.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, Safari 11 uses significantly less CPU power than Firefox Quantum. Chrome also uses significantly less CPU power than Firefox Quantum. But it’s worth noting that Firefox Quantum is beta software and its CPU usage may improve before its final release.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

What’s Mine is Mine. What’s Yours is Mine Too.

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The United States is a nation of laws and in a nation of laws everybody is equal under the law! If I had a dollar for every time somebody has said that to me, I’d own my own private sovereign island. But I don’t receive a dollar for every time somebody says that to me and everybody isn’t equal under the law here in the United States. If you’re an employee of the government, you have some special legal privileges. For example, if you work for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you can confiscate somebody’s property even if they haven’t been found guilty of a crime:

Oh Suk Kwon, who left South Korea for America in 1976, served as a fleet mechanic in the U.S. Army. After four years in the military, decades of working in an electrical plant and as an auto mechanic, after raising the kids and seeing them off to their adult lives, Kwon finally bought a gas station in Ellicott City in 2007. It meant everything to him.

Just a few years after he opened it, zealous government investigators fishing for criminals seized all of the station’s money on a hunch — and wiped the family out.

No, they weren’t money launderers or terrorists or mobsters or tax evaders. The government found no evidence of criminal activity.

But after the investigation ended, after the gas station went under, and Kwon’s wife died amid the stress of it all, after he moved from his neighborhood in shame and the Internal Revenue Service changed its policy so no other small business would get steamrolled this way — the agency won’t give Kwon his money back.

That’s $59,117.47 the IRS is holding on to.

I’ve mentioned the IRS’s use of laws against structuring, breaking up single deposits greater than $10,000 into multiple deposits under $10,000, to attack small businesses. Structuring laws were supposedly passed to thwart tax evaders but most individuals accused of structuring were doing it because a bank teller told them that if they didn’t break up their large deposits, they would have to fill out a bunch of additional paperwork. In other words, they were accused of a crime they didn’t even know existed.

But the IRS hasn’t given a shit about intent. The letter of the law has allowed the agency to confiscate money from small businesses (large businesses can afford a dedicated legal team and are therefore more of a hassle for the IRS to go after) so it has done exactly that. When it is later revealed that the accused individual was committing structuring because they were unaware of the law and were even advised to do so by their bank teller, the IRS points to the letter of the law to avoid having to give the back.

If everybody was equal under the law, the people could steal money from the IRS just as it steals money from them. But everybody isn’t equal under the law. The IRS and other government bodies can steal from you but you cannot steal from them.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am

A Step in the Right Direction

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The governments of the countries in the European Union aren’t known for their respect of gun rights. It seems like most of them would prefer if their citizens were completely disarmed. There is one exception though. The Czech Republic. While other governments in the European Union have been steadily disarming their citizens the government of the Czech Republic has been slowly expanding the gun rights of its citizens:

The lower house of the Czech parliament has agreed to alter the constitution so that firearms can be held legally when national security is threatened.

The amendment gives Czechs the right to use firearms during terrorist attacks.

It was passed by the lower house by a big majority, and is likewise expected to be approved by the upper house.

The move by parliament is a challenge to EU gun control rules which restrict civilians from possessing certain kinds of semi-automatic weapons.

While allowing firearms to be held legally when national security is threatened is such a vague standard that it could turn out to be useless, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s also nice to see some politicians realize that the solution to decentralized attackers is decentralized force.

Asymmetrical warfare is notable, in part, by the fact that there is no front line. Soldiers amassed on a border are fairly useless when the opposition is infiltrating individual fighters behind your front lines to commit isolated attacks. Under such circumstances the only solution is to have a good number of armed individuals behind enemy lines that aren’t easily identifiable by the infiltrating attackers (if they are easily identifiable, the infiltrators will be able to identify them and avoid them). While having a good number of armed unidentified individuals won’t necessarily dissuade the infiltrator, it will greatly reduce the time it takes for force to be brought against them, which can cut down the number of people they can kill.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2017 at 10:00 am