A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for September, 2013

Rastafarian Wins Right to Possess Pipe in Minnesota

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Freedom of religion is an interesting topic in the United States. So long as you’re a member of a mainstream religion you generally enjoy a decent amount of religious freedom. Those who participate in lesser known religions are seldom as lucky. Take the Rastafarian movement whose members partake in the spiritual use of cannabis. Many Rastas have been arrested for possessing cannabis or drug paraphernalia. These arrests are an affront to religious freedom, which is a statement the Minnesota Court of Appeals agrees with:

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has sided with a 15-year-old Rastafarian, ruling that his right to religious expression trumps his being found guilty in Ramsey County of a drug paraphernalia offense for carrying a glass pipe.

In Monday’s reversal of the District Court on the petty misdemeanor case from September 2012, Court of Appeals Judge Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks wrote that the teenager has a “genuinely held belief in possessing a cannabis pipe” as part of observing his faith.

Therefore, Halbrooks continued, the prosecution had “failed to meet its burden” of showing that it had a “compelling state interest” in enforcing the statute in this case.

“The state improperly … argues that because the pipe may be used for an illegal purpose,” the teen is guilty, Halbrooks wrote.

What makes this case more interesting is that the teen was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. He didn’t have actual cannabis on him, just a pipe. But even if he were in possession of cannabis he should be free from persecution if one is truly free to exercise their religious beliefs. This is an idea that often rubs people the wrong way because they believe religions like the Rastafari movement will enjoy a sudden glut of converts. To that I say this: may the best religion win. If a desire to smoke cannabis is strong enough that people are willing to convert to the Rastafari movement then, perhaps, other religions may want to look into the spiritual use of cannabis.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 25th, 2013 at 10:00 am

#Anarchy in Detroit

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The Reason Foundation has started a four-part series titled #Anarchy in Detroit (I’m pretty sure the pound sign is there merely to promote the series on Twitter). Unlike statists who like to point at the ills brought on by statism as examples of anarchy, Reason is showing events that actually arise from anarchy (i.e. spontaneous order). The first part of this series covers a group of individuals who have taken it upon themselves to mow the public parks:

But while politicians, unions, and investors slug it out in bankruptcy court and grasp for their share of what little cash is left, ordinary citizens are left to fend for themselves in a city with no functioning government. This is Reason TV’s coverage of what happens when people are left to their own devices and forced to come up with creative ways to pick up the pieces and find solutions in a city they once loved.

This is #Anarchy in Detroit, a four-part series showcasing what actual Detroit residents are doing to make the Motor City a better place to live.

In Part I, Tom Nardone is tired of seeing Detroit’s public parks go unmowed by the city government. He thinks that children should have a place to play. So, he hops on his mower and does it himself. Then, he invites others.

“I was surprised when the first person showed up. I was like, ‘All right. I guess someone’s as crazy as I am,'” says Nardone.

Hence, the Mower Gang is born.

During discussions of anarchism statists will often ask asinine questions thinking they’re checkmates. One of the most common questions, a question so common that it is mocked relentlessly in anarchist circles, is “Who will build the roads?” The answer to that question is the same answer to other such questions: those who see a need for them. Who will maintain the public parks? The people who see value in maintained public parks. Who will teach the children? The people who see value in educating youths. Since the state is composed of people anything it can do anybody else can do.

Spontaneous order can be summed up as the outcome of people doing what they believe needs to be done. Instead of a top-down method of dictating what needs to be done, spontaneous order allows each individual to act on what they believe needs to be done. Generally the former ends up with tremendous amounts of resources being put towards building weapons to expropriate wealth from others while the latter generally results in neighborhoods and markets.

Anarchy isn’t something to be feared, statism is.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 24th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Zero Common Sense Strike Again

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Whoever came up with the idea of zero tolerance polices must have been a very poor prophesier. When you remove the ability to consider the context of situations you end up with a system that rules everybody guilty of something. Public schools, which are supposed to be bastions of tolerance and understanding, have numerous zero tolerance policies. These policies lead to idiocy like children being prohibited from taking over the counter medications. They also lead to students who play with Airsoft guns on their own property being suspended:

Like thousands of others in Hampton Roads, Khalid Caraballo plays with airsoft guns. Caraballo and his friend Aidan were suspended because they shot two other friends who were with them while playing with the guns as they waited for the school bus.

The two seventh graders say they never went to the bus stop; they fired the airsoft guns while on Caraballo’s private property.

[…]

Khalid and Aiden aren’t only suspended, they were recommended to be expelled for a year for “possession, handling and use of a firearm.”

The case revolves around whether the students were on private property or at the bus stop. Let’s assume, for a moment, that the school administrators who weren’t at the bus stop when the incident happened somehow were correct when they declared where the student were standing. Even if the students were at the bus stop they weren’t on the bus nor were they at school. How can the school administrators claim jurisdiction over the bus stop and private property in such an absolute way that they feel suspending, and possibly expelling, those students is within their power? How does it make sense to suspend and possibly expel students for playing with toys? There is no victim and therefore no crime. The only “crime” is a violation of the school’s zero tolerance policy, which must state the mere thought of a firearm constitutes a violation and can lead to expulsion.

The school administrators are threatening to ruin the students’ lives without having any proof of wrongdoing, let alone wrongdoing on school governed property. This is insanity is the inevitable result of zero tolerance policies.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 24th, 2013 at 10:30 am

Fingerprint Folly

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It was only a matter of time before somebody found a way to crack the fingerprint reader on the iPhone 5S. Coming in as the first group to publicly announce a bypass is the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), which has a habit of breaking security systems:

The biometrics hacking team of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) has successfully bypassed the biometric security of Apple’s TouchID using easy everyday means. A fingerprint of the phone user, photographed from a glass surface, was enough to create a fake finger that could unlock an iPhone 5s secured with TouchID. This demonstrates – again – that fingerprint biometrics is unsuitable as access control method and should be avoided.

[…]

“In reality, Apple’s sensor has just a higher resolution compared to the sensors so far. So we only needed to ramp up the resolution of our fake”, said the hacker with the nickname Starbug, who performed the critical experiments that led to the successful circumvention of the fingerprint locking. “As we have said now for more than years, fingerprints should not be used to secure anything. You leave them everywhere, and it is far too easy to make fake fingers out of lifted prints.”

I’ve never been a fan of biometrics. While it’s true that using features unique to a person can be used to uniquely identify that person it’s also true that, as Frank Reiger of the CCC pointed out, one cannot change their biometrics:

“We hope that this finally puts to rest the illusions people have about fingerprint biometrics. It is plain stupid to use something that you can´t change and that you leave everywhere every day as a security token”, said Frank Rieger, spokesperson of the CCC.

If you can’t change your authorization token and somebody compromises that token things aren’t going to end well. Fingerprints are especially bad tokens because they can be lifted from many of the surfaces we touch. An authorization token isn’t very secure when you go around telling everybody about it.

With that said, if Apple’s fingerprint reader is convenient enough that people actually use it it will have served its purpose. While an unchangeable security token that you leave everywhere you touch isn’t great it’s better than no authorization control whatsoever.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 24th, 2013 at 10:00 am

All Work and No Play

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All work and no play makes me a rather unproductive blogger.

After this weekend’s AgoraFest I’m left with no energy to write so I’m going to take a break this morning and hopefully catch up on some much needed rest. I’ll put some fresh material up when I’m feeling more energized.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 23rd, 2013 at 10:00 am

Posted in Side Notes

Tagged with

AgoraFest 2013

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I’ve got nothing for you today, sorry. This week has been a little hectic as I’ve been finishing up what I need to do for my AgoraFest talks. If you look at the schedule you’ll note that I’m doing four presentation on crypto-anarchy covering Off-the-Record Messaging, OpenPGP, Tor, and TrueCrypt. I will also be giving a short presentation during the Ten Talks about my idea to stop basing societal agreements on geographic location.

To make matters more difficult access to reliable Internet connectivity is in question so I’ve had to build a couple of server images to host the software I want to distribute and perform the demonstrations on. Nothing makes crypto-anarchy talks more exciting than questionable Internet connectivity.

Anyways, I plan to be back on Monday with more material. Until then enjoy yourselves and remember that it’s not too late to sign up for AgoraFest.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 20th, 2013 at 10:00 am

Posted in Events

Tagged with ,

What Makes Me Laugh

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The day before yesterday, if you talked to many members of the gun rights community, you would have learned that Starbucks sell some of the best damned coffee this side of Sagittarius A*. In addition to absolutely banging coffee you would have also learned about Starbucks’ excellent selection of delectable pastries. You would wonder why anybody would bother going to the obviously inferior likes of Dunn Brothers or Caribou Coffee when they could have excellence from a company that has always been rabid supporter of right to keep and bear arms!

Somehow Starbucks managed to change everything it did overnight. Now asking many members of the gun rights community about Starbucks will lead you to learn about its absolutely shitty coffee. You may wonder exactly how shitty Starbucks’ coffee is. Fear not because you will be told that you need only imagine the worse coffee you’ve ever had and multiply its shittiness by infinity + 1. But don’t worry because these friendly advice givers will gladly point you to the local Super America, which they will note has way better coffee for a fraction of the price. You will also be warned about the dry, flavorless concoctions that Starbucks tries to pass off as pastries. Fortunately Super America sells pastries. They may be three day old pastries but, according to the gun rights activists I’ve talked to today, they still taste way better than Starbucks’ pastries.

Seriously guys, this shit is hilarious. I haven’t seen this many opinions change this quickly since Orson Scott Card announced his hatred of homosexuality.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 19th, 2013 at 11:00 am

We Need to Talk

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Everybody in the firearm community has heard about Starbucks’ request. Whether that open letter persuades you to stop frequenting Starbucks is your business and I fully respect whatever decision you make. But we need to talk about overreaction for a minute.

Us gun owners are used to dealing with gun control advocates who, regardless of their claims, have an end goal of abolishing non-government ownership of firearms. It’s natural for us to get angry when we hear somebody like Dianne Feinstein demanding Congress pass a law prohibiting the most popular rifle in the United States. We don’t like people trying to take our shit. But we must also realize that just because a person or organization isn’t on our side doesn’t mean they’re on the other side.

The reaction from both the gun rights and gun control sides regarding this Starbucks request has been completely overblown. I’m not going to spend much time addressing the gun control community because, from my point of view, their reactions are commonly overblown. But those of us in the gun rights community should hold ourselves to a higher standard than our intellectual opponents. That means stating facts, not fabrications.

I can’t even count how many members of the gun rights community have said Starbucks is banning guns in its stores. That’s a flat out lie. In fact the letter clearly states that guns aren’t being banned and that the request that gun owners not bring their firearms into Starbucks’ stores will not be enforced. There’s a huge difference between requesting gun owners not bring guns into a store and prohibiting gun owners from bringing guns into stores. If you’ve been telling people that Starbucks’ is banning firearms knock it off. You’re not helping anybody by making gun owners look like liars.

I would also like to specifically address the gun owners who have taken this opportunity to continue their personal crusades against open carry. To you I have only this to say: fuck off. OK, I actually have more to say. You guys have been sitting on your high horse prophesying doom and gloom for gun owners because some have the audacity to not conceal their firearms. I’ve got news for you sunshine, most of us who do open carry, whether it be all the time or periodically, have had no negative interactions. I open carry whenever I’m on a bicycle because concealing my firearm is almost impossible. When I stop at intersections or take a break I often have very pleasant conversations with other bikers. Not once has a fellow trail rider freaked out or otherwise acted in a negative way towards me. I’m not hurting any cause. A vast majority of people who open carry are in the same boat. The problem isn’t open carry activists, it’s assholes.

Every community has its set of assholes. These people usually take the form of attention whores. They want people to pay attention to them and perform outlandish deeds in order to get the attention they so desperately crave. If you walk into a store openly carrying a gun, make your purchase, and go about your business you aren’t hurting anybody or any cause. If you walk into a store openly carrying a rifle, yell “Hey everybody, I have a big ass rifle! Look at me!”, make your purchase, and go about seeking attention from everybody by marching around with your rifle for no reason whatsoever then you are an asshole. The line between not asshole and asshole isn’t even that thin. It’s almost 100 fucking yards thick! 99 percent of the time you can determine whether or not you’re going to cross that line by asking a simple question: will doing this make me an asshole? If you have to ask if something will make you an asshole it almost certainly will.

My point is it doesn’t matter if you’re openly carrying a gun or not; if you’re an asshole people are going to reactive negatively. I’ve seen plenty of gun rights activists who oppose open carry act like completely douche bags when questioned by somebody who is either anti-gun or neutral in the gun debate. Being rude doesn’t help anybody, period. If you want to bitch about a group of gun owners bitch about the ones being jerk-offs. That reminds me, I also have something I want to say to the asshole in the shooting community: fuck off. You’re the reason so many people outside of the shooting community view us as uneducated attention seeking rednecks.

That’s really all the critical things I have to say (for now). On a non-critical note, if you feel as though Starbucks no longer wants your business then feel free to stop going there. Just as Starbucks has every right to deny business to people you have every right to not frequent businesses. Vote with your feet and tell anybody who is curious why you’re voting that way. I’ve never been a frequent Starbucks customer. While I do like Starbucks’ coffee I can’t justify the cost when making my own is so much cheaper. But I won’t boycott Starbucks over its recent requests. My reading of the letter leads me to believe Starbucks isn’t coming out against gun owners but against being used as a political pawn. I understand that position; I don’t like being used as a political pawn either. Starbucks never said I couldn’t bring my gun into its stores. It simply asked nicely that I don’t, unless I want to.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 19th, 2013 at 10:30 am

Empty Promises

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One of the things that annoys me most about the state is its constant empty promises. It’s always promising us great things include free healthcare, protection from predatory businesses, and roads but never actually delivers. In keeping with this tradition the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has begun hinting at a possible 10 day shutdown due to sequestration:

FBI officials are hinting that the agency might furlough employees for more than 10 weekdays and shut down its offices on those dates if the government-wide spending cuts known as the sequester continue through the next fiscal year.

Such a plan would affect FBI personnel more than the agency’s current sequester measures, which do not involve unpaid leave. It would also impact investigations and intelligence gathering, as only essential employees would remain on the job during furlough days.

It sounds too good to be true. 10 days without the FBI manufacturing terrorists to stop? I’m disappointed that the FBI would offer us such hope only to dash it by not shutting down.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 19th, 2013 at 10:00 am

The Folly of Basing Society Agreements of Geographic Regions

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In one of my ever fewer forays into /r/Libertarian I found an interesting link by a user who was looking for feedback on a proposted libertarian constitution he wrote. I decided to take a look at it and noticed that it started off with “We the Citizens of the State of New Hampshire…” That brought up a criticism I have of most attempts by libertarians to establish a libertarian society: they have a tendency to based their society on geographic regions.

I believe it’s time to free ourselves of those imaginary lines drawn on pieces of paper. Geographic regions mean far less today than they did a century ago. The advent of efficient and quick transportation technology combined with effective real-time communication technology has allowed humanity to live a more mobile existence than it did in the past. Thanks to modern avionics I can be anywhere in the Continental United States in a matter of hours. Likewise, I can communicate with my associates via e-mail, instant messenger, video conferencing or telephone from wherever I end up. These technologies have allowed me to become members of geographically separate groups. Throughout the year I communicate with my Defcon friends and once a year we all travel to Las Vegas to meet. I would argue that I’m more of a member of the Defcon community than I am of the Minnesota community. The same goes for my membership in the shooting, gun blogging, agorist, and anarchist communities.

Communities, when all said an done, are groups of people who interact with one another. The Internet has allowed these interactions to take place regardless of geographic separation, which has rewritten the rules on social agreements. Libertarian societies, in my opinion, should take shape in the form of mutual aid societies. What other reason would libertarians get together other than for mutual benefit? Libertarian philosophy, especially when you begin moving towards complete anti-statism, isn’t based on geography; it’s based on voluntary interactions. Those interactions can largely take place regardless of physical location. If one of my fellows is in need of assistance I can transfer a quantity of Bitcoin (or pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents) to him instantly and he can use that to access needed resources local to him.

There are times when geographic agreements make sense. A group of people living around a lake, for instance, would likely benefit from laying down some common mutually agreeable ground rules. But general agreement between fellows one voluntarily interacts with need not be so restricted.

It would do the libertarian community well to toss off the shackles of physical location. We live in a great big world that floats around in a great big universe. Why restrict ourselves to infinitesimal points in a practically limitless area?

Written by Christopher Burg

September 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am