A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for April, 2014

Google May Be Looking at Prioritizing Encrypted Sites in Search Results

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One of the things that I believe to be unnecessary this day and age are unencrypted sites. When certificate authorities offer free certificates for personal use there are no real barriers left preventing the adoption of HTTPS on every website. Google may agree as it appears that it is looking into prioritizing websites that use HTTPS in its search results:

In a move that experts say could make it harder to spy on Web users, Google is considering giving a boost in its search-engine results to websites that use encryption, the engineer in charge of fighting spam in search results hinted at a recent conference.

The executive, Matt Cutts, is well known in the search world as the liaison between Google’s search team and website designers who track every tweak to its search algorithms.

Cutts also has spoken in private conversations of Google’s interest in making the change, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person says Google’s internal discussions about encryption are still at an early stage and any change wouldn’t happen soon.

I hope that the person familiar with the matter is correct. The information leaked by Edward Snowden demonstrated to all of us that an insecure Internet is no longer a viable option. We need to move to an Internet where all information is encrypted. Doing so wouldn’t just make it harder for organizations like the NSA to spy on our communications but it would also make it more difficult for malicious hackers to intercept user authentication information. By prioritizing encrypted sites Google could help convince more site administrators to use HTTPS for their sites.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2014 at 11:00 am

Welcome to the New Server

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Sorry for the lack of new content on Friday but I chose this weekend for server migration. Back in May I changed my server over to OpenBSD 5.3. Since then I’ve found OpenBSD to be a good server but upgrading it and adding features is a huge pain in the ass. Since I am my own server administrator and I have less free time than I did last year I’ve decided to change my server over the Ubuntu 14.04 Server. Why Ubuntu? Because it’s easy to setup, update, and there are guides for doing anything and everything posted all over the Internet. In other words I’m getting lazier in my old age.

I’m hoping this move will cut down on my maintenance time a bit. When Heartbleed struck I was basically left to compile a new version of Nginx with OpenSSL 1.0.1g in order to patch the vulnerability. The reason for this is because OpenBSD doesn’t offer much in the way of support for older versions of their operating system and if you want to use the patch provided by OpenBSD you have to download the operating system’s source code and compile the patch. That’s more headaches than doing sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade. While the OpenBSD method may be better in many regards it’s more time consuming and that’s a tradeoff I can’t afford at the moment.

Anyways there are likely a few bugs I haven’t figured out and fixed yet so bear with me.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2014 at 10:30 am

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Monday Metal: War Eternal by Arch Enemy

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Arch Enemy has released a new song with their new vocalist. Angela Gossow has been swapped out for Alissa White-Gluz of The Agonist fame. Overall I think she fits the band pretty well:

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2014 at 10:00 am

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The Minnesota GOP Setting Itself Up to Fail Again

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It’s nice to sit on the sidelines and observe the great political competitions as they play out. People often criticize those of us on the sidelines and claim that we’re not pulling our weight. But we see things from our vantage point that those playing the games do not. One example is the apparent inability of those playing for the Minnesota Republican Party (MNGOP) to see how ineffective their strategies are.

The MNGOP is currently putting its weight behind taking Al Franken’s seat. Considering Franken’s political track record this competition should be in the bag. Franken’s track record of supporting draconian intellectual property and Internet censorship laws and defending the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance apparatus should be enough ammunition to get young politicos fired up against him. At that point the MNGOP would only need to run a candidate who could stop himself from saying stupid shit in public, advocated Internet freedom, and demanded the abolition of the NSA to achieve victory.

But anybody with knowledge of Minnesota politics knows that the MNGOP can’t bring itself to use winning strategies. Instead one of the leading candidates for the MNGOP senate candidacy has decided to play the Democrat Party’s war on women strategy:

In a petition published on her Facebook page yesterday, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Julianne Ortman says a recently released secret recording of Al Franken joking around in an Arizona driveway shows he “still doesn’t take women seriously.”

Here is the video in question:

Pro tip: never attempt to use your opponent’s strategy against them unless you actually understand it. The war on women strategy only works when the target has said something in a serious manner that makes him look misogynistic. It’s a strategy that works wonderfully against Republican candidates because they have a habit of saying very stupid shit in public. But Franken has never really said anything too misogynistic so using the strategy against him is foolish. In fact the video, which makes it obvious that Franken was trying to be comical, does more to humanize him than make him look misogynistic.

But the failboat doesn’t only dock at that harbor. Ortman also demonstrates that she’s not opposed to the NSA’s surveillance apparatus:

The FISA Court first was authorized in 1979 and operates in secret and ex parte (only the government gets to present its case). It makes sense that we don’t want our foreign enemies to know how we are gathering information to protect ourselves. However, I am deeply concerned that the court has migrated to granting orders authorizing the wholesale gathering of information about presumably innocent private citizens and residents of the United States under the guise of intelligence gathering against unnamed foreign threats. This is where there must be more transparency. To begin with, we should insist that the FISA Court’s analysis and legal justifications be reviewed and discussed publicly by policymakers, with the right of the general public to be heard and considered.

Justifying secret courts is something only a petty authoritarian would do. So that justification was the first mistake. The second mistake was asking for more transparency instead of complete abolition of the secret court. She could have said that the secret courts made sense at the time but now their time has passed and saved herself from looking like a complete authoritarian. But she chose to justify the establishment of the secret courts and then argue that they are still necessary but a little additional oversight would be nice. Franken’s campaign won’t be able to argue against secret courts due to its candidate support of the NSA surveillance apparatus. What it will be able to do is point out that Ortman also supports the NSA surveillance apparatus and render the issue irrelevant for the race.

To quote my friend, “This is why the GOP can’t have nice things.” The party is flailing in a desperate search for a life preserver. Franken’s seat would be pretty easy to snatch if the MNGOP would use an effective strategy. Instead it’s marketing a candidate who is little more than Fraken lite. I’m not aware of any races where an incumbent was removed from office by a candidate advertising him or herself as a lite version of the incumbent.

What’s even more pathetic is that the MNGOP will likely pull the same stupidity in the governor race. Mark Dayton has burned a lot of bridges and his seat could easily be taken but the MNGOP will likely run another lackluster candidate and use absolutely idiotic campaign strategies to ensure its defeat.

This is one hell of a game to observe but I sure am glad that I’m not playing it.

Michael Bloomberg Really is Arrogant

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Michael Bloomberg has always been a power-hungry tyrant but his acts could always be written off with the standard “trying to do the right thing” schtick. But a an article about Michael Bloomberg’s continuing push for gun control his arrogance really showed:

Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

I may not be the more educated man when it comes to Christianity but most of the people I know who identify as Christians don’t believe that they will be fast tracked into Heaven. Usually they state something along the lines of “When I die I will be judged by God. I only hope that I lived a life worthy of entering his kingdom.”

Mind you this doesn’t surprise me. The man is obviously a tyrant who believes he alone knows what is best for everybody else. But most tyrants are smart enough to keep their arrogance somewhat low-key.

As for his push for more gun control, whatever. He managed to rule New York City with an iron fist and an overtly violent police force. But his track record on pushing for gun control elsewhere has been lackluster. I don’t see him being able to single-handedly overcome the entire gun rights movement. After all, pride goeth before the fall.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 16th, 2014 at 10:30 am

When Different Government Departments Have Mutually Exclusive Missions

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Trying to unwrap every mission the federal government has tasked itself with is practically impossible. The beast as grown so large that no single individual can fully grasp it. There are many dangers inherit in such a massive system. One of those dangers is different departments holding mutually exclusive mission. Take the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for instance. One of its missions [Warning: link is operated by a dangerous gang of violent criminals] is to defend the nation’s communication infrastructure. This would imply discovering and notifying the public about potential security exploits. Now consider the National Security Agency (NSA). Its mission is to exploit vulnerable system of both domestic and foreign entities in order to spy on them. This mission is mutually exclusive to DHS’s:

WASHINGTON — Stepping into a heated debate within the nation’s intelligence agencies, President Obama has decided that when the National Security Agency discovers major flaws in Internet security, it should — in most circumstances — reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used in espionage or cyberattacks, senior administration officials said Saturday.

But Mr. Obama carved a broad exception for “a clear national security or law enforcement need,” the officials said, a loophole that is likely to allow the N.S.A. to continue to exploit security flaws both to crack encryption on the Internet and to design cyberweapons.

It is impossible for the government to both protect the nation’s communication infrastructure and not inform the public about major security flaws. When you discover a security flaw you cannot know for certain that you’re the only one who knows about it. Any number of people could have discovered it beforehand. That being the case you cannot assume that the flaw isn’t being actively exploited by nefarious individuals or organizations. Therefore the only way to protect the general public is to disclose information regarding the exploit so it can be fixed.

This is one of the reasons why any mission statement given by a government agency is meaningless. While one government agency may be tasked with a certain mission another agency is likely tasked with the exact opposite mission.

Taxes Are Proof of Government Sadism

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It’s April 15th, which is the date taxes are due for most people in the United States. If ever there existed proof of government sadism it’s the tax system.

Consider this. The government already knows who your employer is. Your employer is requires to file withholding taxes, take out Social Security “benefits”, and other various taxes for the government. If you have children the state issued Social Security numbers, which means it knows how many children you have and when they were born. Getting married requires a marriage license issued by the government. Basically everything applicable to filing taxes is information already possessed by the government.

This being the case it would seem trivial for the government to kick off a script at the end of the year that collects all information on an individual related to taxes, determines what that individual owes or is owed, and send him or her a bill or check. Instead the federal government demands that you fill out the fucking paperwork. To add insult to injury it then has the audacity to charge you fines and possibly put you in a cage if you fill that paperwork out in an unsatisfactory manner.

One can only conclude that the government is making the act of paying taxes more painful than necessary because it gets off on causing pain.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 15th, 2014 at 11:00 am

The Statist Solution is Always More Government

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Statists have to be some of the least creative individuals on the planet. For every problem that exists their only solution is more government. The current crusade being waged here in Minnesota is distracted drivers:

ST. PAUL, Minn. – It’s difficult for law enforcement to detect distracted drivers, but thanks to an effort that utilizes a school bus, a pair of Ramsey County Sheriff’s deputies lead a crackdown operation that started on Friday.

So we have men with badges and guns driving school buses in the hopes of finding a person looking at their phone so they can be issued a big fat citation. According to their logic:

Distracted driving is a growing problem in Minnesota.

No. The lack of self-driving automobiles is a growing problem in Minnesota (and everywhere else). With a little creativity we can solve the problem of people wanting to utilize their otherwise underutilized driving time by providing a technological solution. Self-driving automobiles would allow drivers to text, tweet, like things on Facebook, and search Craigslist for cheap furniture all while traveling to work, home, or somewhere else.

Instead of sinking resources into sending costume-clad men with guns to fine drivers why not invest those resources into developing more reliable systems for automating automobiles. Hell the damned things already exist and have performed phenomenally in trials. Why not pass legislation that legalizes the use of self-driving automobiles here in Minnesota? The quicker the technology is matured the quicker this problem ceases to be a problem.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 15th, 2014 at 10:30 am

Sporting Purpose

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Today (well technically a few days ago) is a day ending in “y”, which means somebody in Congress is losing their shit over the existence of firearms and the ability of the peasantry to acquire them. A letter submitted by our rulers in Congress was sent to our ruler in the White House urging him to enforce the ban on importing “military-style firearms” (firearms that have aesthetic features that offend many politicians). What interesting though is the argument made for why the President can prohibit their importation:

Enforcing the import ban would require no congressional action as the President has very broad authority under the 1968 Gun Control Act to prohibit the importation of firearms and ammunition unless they are “generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

I think it’s safe to say that any claims that “military-style firearms” are not recognized as being suitable for sporting purposes are false. As it turns out “military-style firearms” are used in one of the fastest shooting sports in the country: 3-gun. 3-gun almost necessitates the use of rifles with quickly swappable standard capacity magazines. Anybody attempting to complete with a bolt-action rifle, for example, will find themselves entirely outclassed as well as holding up the entire stage for their extended run.

3-gun scoring is a combination of accuracy and time. The faster you complete a stage the better your score tends to be. Being able to top off your rifle, handgun, and shotgun quickly will greatly benefit your score. Anybody who has participated in a 3-gun match has noticed AR-pattern rifles and other “military-style firearms” dominate. And that, I believe, puts the whole sporting purpose debate to rest.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 15th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Bringing Serfdom Back

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I’ve expended a lot of electrons on discussing the lord-serf relationship that exists between the government and the people. But until today the analogy hasn’t been completely literal. In an apparent attempt to prove my analogy the government has begun reviving the ancient practice of inherited debt:

Holding children responsible for the debt incurred by their parents is a feature of historical feudalism and a few modern third-world shitholes.

Developed countries, by and large, assume that a debt dies with the person who willingly incurred it, or at least stops with his or her estate. “By and large,” I write, because the U.S. government has broken with centuries of tradition holding individuals responsible for their choices, opting to withhold tax refunds from children whose parents incurred vague and often ill-documented obligations to the feds.

I’m sure this practice will only continue to grow. Soon we will see the government’s courts arguing that private debt incurred by parents is inherited by their children. This practice will also change another dynamic. We hear a lot of complaining from “progressives” about inherited wealth creating perpetually powerful families. Inherited debt will accomplish the exact opposite: perpetually powerless families. With that said this would also be the likely death knell of the United States as times of perpetual powerlessness have traditionally lead to uprisings by the downtrodden.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 14th, 2014 at 10:30 am