A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for April, 2013

Another Reason to Encrypt Your Data

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In an interesting development a federal magistrate in Wisconsin has refused to order a suspect to decrypt his hard drive citing the Firth Amendment:

The issue is front and center as a federal magistrate is refusing to order a Wisconsin computer scientist to decrypt his data that the authorities seized from kiddie-porn suspect Jeffrey Feldman. The reason is simple: The Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination protects even those suspected of unsavory crimes, according to U.S. Magistrate William Callahan Jr. of Wisconsin, who wrote:

This is a close call, but I conclude that Feldman’s act of production, which would necessarily require his using a password of some type to decrypt the storage device, would be tantamount to telling the government something it does not already know with ‘reasonably particularity’—namely, that Feldman has personal access to and control over the encrypted storage devices. Accordingly, in my opinion, Fifth Amendment protection is available to Feldman. Stated another way, ordering Feldman to decrypt the storage devices would be in violation of his Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. (.pdf)

The issue of whether or not being forced to decrypt information is a violation of the Firth Amendment is still being debated. In Colorado, for example, a woman was ordered by a court to decrypt her hard drive and the decision was upheld by a federal appeals court. I’m sure this decision will be appealed and that’s when this battle will become more interesting. Still, for the time being, this ruling gives yet another reason to encrypt your data. It may offer you some legal protection against the watchful eye of the state.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 25th, 2013 at 11:00 am

I Love the Future

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The future we live in is great. In my pocket is a device that is able to give me access to the collected knowledge of mankind from almost anywhere in the world. My holster contains a firearm that has a frame made up mostly of plastic with sights that glow in the dark. My truck has oil in it that was developed entirely in a laboratory because dead dinosaurs aren’t thermally stable enough for my likings. The best part about the future though is that it’s constantly evolving. Within a few weeks, as Robb Allen pointed out, gun control will be a thing of the past:

After a panel on how copyright affects the 3D printing industry, he confirmed to Mashable what he had already hinted at before: that what was once unthinkable — a gun entirely made of 3D-printed parts — is actually right around the corner.

Will it work? Wilson thinks it will, and it won’t be just a one-shot wonder it will be able to fire a few shots before melting or breaking.

Wilson didn’t want to reveal too much about what could become the world’s first fully 3D-printed gun, saying he will make the actual announcement soon. He did reveal some details, however.

The gun will be made of 12 parts, all printed in ABS+, a very sturdy type of thermoplastic. There might be, perhaps, just one small metal part — a firing pin. While Wilson and his team are still designing the weapon, it won’t be a reproduction of an existing firearm, but instead a custom design.

Once an entire firearm can be manufactured on a 3D printer gun control will be dead. There is no way to stop the development of a tool when anybody can easily acquire the knowledge and means to create it. As I said, 3D printer technology will only become better and as it does the ability to create more complex devices, such as firearms, will become easier. At this point it’s merely a matter of time until the entire concept of gun control becomes nothing more than a pipe dream of tyrants.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 25th, 2013 at 10:30 am

So Much for Leaving Afghanistan in 2014

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Obama has made a big stink about getting the United States out of Afghanistan by 2014. When he first announced his plan I wondered how he was going to weasel out of it. When he said the United States was leaving Iraq he really meant that American soldiers were going to be replaced with mercenaries. It sounds like Obama is planning the same thing for Afghanistan except he’ll be replacing American soldiers with more flying murder machines:

The US military is due to pull most combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But after that, an armed American presence could remain over Afghan skies, depending on what agreement for continuing operations is reached between the US and Afghanistan. Air Force Major General H.D. Polumbo, Jr, told reporters at the Pentagon today that drones, including armed unmanned aerial vehicles operated by the US, will likely continue to be used to support the Afghan army’s operations through 2014 and probably on into 2015.

I’m sure the Afghan government will become very agreeable when Obama explains that they either accept drones flying in their sky or face being added to the kill list themselves.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 25th, 2013 at 10:00 am

The Advantages of Decentralized Security

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Terrorism is a tactic that has proven to be successful because it exploits basic economics. Two individuals with a couple of pressure cookers and some explosives placing an entire region under martial law can be considered nothing more than a successful attack. What made this response possible, in part, is the increasing centralization of security in the United States.

During the early days of the United States the founders envisioned a militia system, akin to what Switzerland has today, where the average person was armed and received basic military training. Between then and now the country transitioned from a militia system to a centralized standing army. Along with this transition have come many consequences. Thanks to its standing army the federal government began to enjoy the ability to crush any opposition, which it used to on several individual states that decided the whole Union thing wasn’t working out for them. As the advocates of a militia system predicted the existence of a standing army lead to tyranny. The establishment of tyranny is only one consequence of a standing army however. Another aspect that is seldom discussed is the sheer cost involved in maintaining a permanent military class.

Military spending for the United States has reach absurd levels. Nobody should be surprised by that, centralized systems are notoriously inefficient. The United States has further compounded its error by transforming the domestic police force into a standing army as well. America has changed a lot since the almost stateless Frontier was, well, a frontier [PDF]. Before the militarization of the police there existed an actual security market, which provided security at a much cheaper rate and with better results. In most cases of trouble the general population was armed sufficiently to deal with the matter. In cases where the general populace was unable or unwilling to deal with troublesome matters professional mercenaries would be hired. If a community was large enough to warrant a full time peacekeeper the townsfolk would come together to hire a sheriff, who would rely on the armed townsfolk for any matters he could not handle himself.

This decentralized system had many advantages. First, it was efficient. Resources only needed to be invested in security when problems occurred. When a professional police class exists they must be paid year around regardless of whether or not trouble exists. Even in today’s world police spend most of their time dealing with victimless “crimes” like exceeding the arbitrarily posted speed limit, parking in places posted as no parking zones, and the consumption of certain plants. Crimes involving victims are exceedingly rare so without victimless “crimes” the average police officer would be paid to, quite literally, stand around and do nothing.

The second advantage of a decentralized system is that the cost of committing crimes increases. Under a centralized system where only professional police officers are likely to be armed the cost of committing a crime against non-police officers is relatively low. If I wanted to rob my neighbor’s home I am reasonable sure I would encounter little, if any, resistance. Under a decentralized system more people are likely to be armed and training to use arms because there is no centralized entity they can put their faith in. If I wanted to rob my neighbor’s home under a decentralized system I would be more likely to encounter resistance, which would increase the cost of performing the act and likely discourage me from doing so.

Advantage number three is that a decentralized system relies primarily on individuals familiar with an area. This point was prominently made during the entire Boston fiasco. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wasn’t found by the police, he was found by a homeowner who noticed the tarp over his boat was amiss. The homeowner was familiar with the area, unlike many of the police officers brought in to deal with the situation. That knowledge allowed him to find the perpetrator even when the police could not. Familiarity with an area is invaluable when searching for a suspected wrongdoer. While a person unfamiliar with an area is unlikely to notice a small out of place detail a person who is familiar with the area is likely to take note if they’re actively searching for somebody.

Another advantage is that people are more likely to take interest in the affairs of friends, family members, and neighbors. If you rob, assault, or murder somebody you can be reasonably assured that your victim’s friends, family members, and neighbors are going to be none too happy with you. In general people don’t like to see those they like suffer harm. Police officers, especially those not from the afflicted area, are less likely to have an emotional investment in solving a crime.

When you combine these advantages you have a system that can deal with incidents like the Boston bombing in a much less resource intensive manner. The suspect is more likely to be found quickly due to everybody’s familiarity with the area, the resources needed to defend against the bomber are spread out amongst the armed populace instead of centralized by a single organizations, those with an emotional investment will be the ones seeking the perpetrator, and the crime may not have occurred in the first place because the cost of doing so would have been higher.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 24th, 2013 at 11:30 am

Californians are Paying for Their Own Oppression

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It’s bad enough that the state steals money from the general populace but it adds insult to injury when the state uses that stolen money to further oppress the very people it’s stealing from. The Californian government has set aside $24 million of stolen funds to steal peoples’ guns:

The California state legislature passed a bill Thursday approving $24 million to expedite the confiscation of the estimated 40,000 handguns and assault weapons illegally owned by Californians.

SB 140, authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), seeks to remedy the gun-confiscation backlog that has left thousands of illegal guns on the streets, including those owned by those with criminal convictions or serious mental illness.

“We are fortunate in California to have the first and only system in the nation that tracks and identifies individuals who at one time made legal purchases of firearms but are now barred from possessing them,” Leno said in a statement. “However, due to a lack of resources, only a few of these illegally possessed weapons have been confiscated, and the mountain of firearms continues to grow each day.”

What Mark Leno should have said was “We are fortunate in California to have a detailed firearm registration system that allows us to confiscate firearms we later declare verboten from people we no longer approve of.” This exemplifies the dangers of gun registries, they always end in confiscation. It also demonstrates why people should take a serious look at buying firearms on the “black” market. Instead of worrying about whether the state is later going to confiscate your legally purchased, and therefore registered, firearm you can sleep well at night knowing that your property is unknown to the state and therefore less likely to be stolen from you. That’s the only good thing about gun control laws, they encourage people to move their firearm purchased underground away from the Big Brother’s watchful gaze.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 24th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Rand Paul’s Apparently Flip-Flop on Domestic Drone Usage

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Libertarian sites are expressing shock from the supposed savior’s change in attitude regarding domestic drone usage. Last month Rand Paul performed a 13 hour filibuster against domestic drone usage but yesterday he had an apparent change of heart:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he would have supported police using drones in last week’s hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing.

“If there is a killer on the loose in a neighborhood, I’m not against drones being used to search them,” Paul told Fox Business Network.

[…]

Paul said that the question of an “imminent threat” was the pivotal one when considering drone policy.

“Here’s the distinction — I have never argued against any technology being used against having an imminent threat an act of crime going on,” Paul said. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a Drone kills him or a policeman kills him, but it’s different if they want to come fly over your hot tub, or your yard just because they want to do surveillance on everyone, and they want to watch your activities.”

I said an apparent change of heart because the sentiment expressed above isn’t actually a change in heart. Last year Mr. Paul introduced legislation that he claimed protected Americans from being killed by drones. I noted that there was a major hole in the legislation that effectively rendered it useless:

Sounds good so far, right? Let’s have a look at the exceptions mentioned in the above paragraph:

(1) PATROL OF BORDERS- The use of a drone to patrol national borders to prevent or deter illegal entry of any persons or illegal substances.

So drones will continue to be used to monitor the 100 miles “Constitution free zone” that 2/3 of the United States population lives within? It appears as though Rand Paul’s bill only protects 1/3 of the population from these unwarranted drone uses. That appearance is deceiving though as there are more exceptions:

(2) EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES- The use of a drone by a law enforcement party when exigent circumstances exist. For the purposes of this paragraph, exigent circumstances exist when the law enforcement party possesses reasonable suspicion that under particular circumstances, swift action to prevent imminent danger to life is necessary.

There it is, the one exception that makes this entire bill meaningless. Law enforcement don’t need a warrant to use a drone if they have “reasonable suspicion” that circumstances are such that imminent danger to life exists. “Reasonable suspicion” is another way of saying “because law enforcement wants to.” It’s a catchall phrase that has been used by law enforcement agents to avoid that pesky Forth Amendment.

If his legislation was any indicator Rand Paul has always been fine with using drones to kill Americans so long as the state’ arbitrary “terrorist” label is applied to the target beforehand. Everybody can stop being surprised now. Rand Paul isn’t being inconsistent, he’s always been find with killing Americans with drones.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 24th, 2013 at 10:30 am

Ancient Weapons Still Work

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If I’m going to bet my life on a weapon I’ll usually choose something modern. With that said ancient weapons can still get the job done as Latter-day Saints Bishop demonstrated:

Hoyal said 37-year-old Grant Eggertsen assaulted a 35-year-old female victim and tried to get inside her home as she was leaving. Hoyal said the two had a professional relationship in the past, and when that deteriorated the victim had obtained a stalking injunction against Eggertsen.

The victim screamed and ran from the home. Eggertsen gave chase, and a physical altercation took place. The victim tried to pepper spray Eggertsen, but that was not effective.

Several neighbors heard the noise and came outside and confronted Eggertsen. One of those neighbors was Kent Hendrix, who is a bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a black belt in karate.

[…]

Hendrix came outside with a samurai sword, and he wielded the weapon while he and other neighbors confronted and then chased Eggertsen away. Eggertsen ran to his car and drove off.

There are two lessons to be learned from this story. First, pepper spray isn’t always effective, which is why those of us who advocate for self-defense encourage individuals to carry a firearm. Second, swords may be ancient but they still command respect. I also want to give credit to the would-be victim’s neighbors. Neighbors coming to the aid of their fellows is sadly becoming more rare everyday so I can’t help it but be moved when community members actually take the initiative to help one another.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 24th, 2013 at 10:00 am

All Progress is Due to Anarchy

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Although the term anarchy is often incorrectly used as a synonym for chaos the true definition of the world means “without rulers.” While various branches of anarchism disagree about what is meant by “without rulers” most branches agree that it means an absence of coercive rule (the reason for the disagreement is the varying criteria regarding what is coercive). Within the realm of politics many people often refer to rights. Like the various branches of anarchism, the various political philosophies disagree about what constitutes a right but most of them share the definition of a right, which is the absence of coercive rule used to prohibit actions. The right to free speech really means an absence of coercive control over what somebody expresses. The right to keep and bear arms really means an absence of coercive control over possessing and carrying arms. In essence rights are anarchy. The debate between gun rights and gun control activists can therefore be boiled down to whether or not coercive force should be used to prevent somebody from possessing or carrying firearms and to what extent that force should be employed.

JayG over at MArooned made an excellent statement regarding rights:

Look, freedom is messy. It’s scary, and dangerous, and unpredictable. Living in a free society means, yes, it is possible that the wrong people might do something that winds up in innocent people getting hurt.

Rights are frightening to many people because the absence of control also means an inability to predict outcomes. Will an absence of control over firearm ownership lead to a more peaceful society or a more violent society? Although deductive logic and available research indicate the latter, there is no way to know what the future will bring. However we do know what the presence of control will bring, the status quo. To quote Jeffrey Tucker:

Anarchy is all around us. Without it, our world would fall apart. All progress is due to it. All order extends from it. All blessed things that rise above the state of nature are owned to it. The human race thrives only because of the lack of control, not because of it. I’m saying that we need ever more absence of control to make the world a more beautiful place. It is a paradox that we must forever explain.

Progress is only possible when there is an absence of coercive rule. Henry Ford didn’t streamline automobile production because a state goon put a gun to his head and said, “Make building cars more efficient.” Mr. Ford’s advancement of automobile production only came about because he was free to act on his idea. Steve Wozniak didn’t create the first affordable mass-produced personal computer because some thug told him to. The Apple I came about because Mr. Wozniak was a brilliant inventor who wanted to bring the power of computing to the average person. This wonderful communication system we call the Internet is another demonstration of the power of anarchy. While the infrastructure remained under the control of the state little happened. Once people were given unfettered access to the Internet is began to change society and we not sit here and enjoy the ability to watch movies and television shows on demand, listen to music on demand, and do our shopping from the comfort of our living rooms.

While freedom, that is to say the recognition of rights, may seem scary in the long run it usually turns out for the better. Coercive rule, on the other hand, tends to turn out far worse. Most of the scary things we learn about in history stem from extremely coercive regimes and individuals. It’s not surprising when you consider that those in power have an interest in maintaining the status quo. Politicians who expropriate wealth from the general population have a good reason to advocate for the disarmament of the general populace. Without doing so the general populace may decide to rise up when the politicians begin taking too much.

Gun control advocates believe they can make society better by inflicting more control on it. Their theory may sound good on paper but historically it’s unprecedented. More control generally means less progress. In fact enough control seems to return humanity to more barbaric times. As regimes or individuals gain more control over a population violence is often the result. This may be because people have an innate desire to be free, having control over a populace reduces the cost of inflicting violence upon them, more violence must be continuously implemented in order to gain more control, or some other reason(s). But history tends towards freedom being far less messy than the lack thereof. While bumps may occur in a free society those bumps tend to be relatively mild to the genocides and death camps that are so common with the most tyrannical regimes. In the end less control tends to be better for everybody and because of that more actions should be recognized as rights everyday.

Using Stolen Money to Steal More Money

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You have to admire how the state can steal money from you and use it to steal more money:

At least seven U.S. communities that received stimulus money as part of a $373 million government program to educate Americans about obesity and tobacco use potentially violated federal law by using the funds to lobby for higher taxes and new local laws, according to a report by the nonpartisan group Cause of Action.

The findings are part of a 19-month investigation by the nonprofit group on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Communities Putting Prevention to Work Program.”

First the state stole our money through taxation so it could give it to its cronies. After redistributing wealth from the general populace to the politically well-connected the politically well-connected used that money to push for the state to steal more money because they knew a portion of that money could go back to their coffers. Effectively, through stimulus money, the state created a continuous cycle that can only end when the general populace no longer has any money to take.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 23rd, 2013 at 11:00 am

Is the War on Drugs Worth This

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Many people, especially neoconservatives, believe that it’s the state’s duty to wage a holy crusade against drugs not produced by major pharmaceutical companies. In this holy crusade anything goes including theft and breaking and entering. As you would expect when the police decide to break into a home the consequences are often dire:

Brenda Van Zweitan, 51, was shot and killed during a 2010 drug raid on her home by the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Department. According to police, Van Zweitan was holding a handgun when they approached her in the home, and then refused to drop it when ordered to do so. Van Zweitan’s boyfriend was arrested without resistance.

In the weeks before the raid, however, Van Zweitan had been robbed, and the man she believed committed the robbery had threatened her on the Internet. Her friends and family also pointed to the fact that she had no prior criminal record, and that the police entered the home in a particularly aggressive and terrifying manor — by smashing through a sliding glass door — to suggest that she likely wasn’t aware that the armed intruders in her home were police. Van Zweitan was also a PTA member, a grandmother, and a local political and environmental activist.

There is no reason Mrs. Zweitan had to die. The police could have knocked on her door, presented a warrant, and went from there. Instead they dressed up in their tactical high speed, low drag mall ninja gear, busted through a sliding glass door, and waived their guns around like gangsters. Anybody inside the house would have been justified in assuming the people breaking into their home were generic street thugs and the need for self-defense was immediate. The police, of course, saw the homeowner holding a gun, a result that should have been expected when kicking in a sliding glass door, and opened fire.

In situations like this people often point out that police officers have to deal with violent thugs every day and therefore are apt to shoot when they see somebody present a weapon. That excuse may be acceptable if the police are acting like something other than common thugs but when they’re breaking into somebody’s home they should expect to see a firearm presented, realize that the firearm is being presented because the person believes non-state thugs are breaking in, and hold their fire until being fire upon. If they don’t want to get shot at they can knock on the door and present a warrant instead of going from zero to commando in .05 seconds.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 23rd, 2013 at 10:30 am