The Skies Have Eyes

We know that the government, primarily through its official surveillance department known as the National Security Agency (NSA), has been spying on Americans for years. When thinking about government surveillance I would bet things like wiretaps in data centers are the first things to come to mind. What about small aircraft? As it turns out the government has been using them to spy on you as well:

The US Department of Justice has been using airplanes to collect Americans’ cell phone data, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett.

The surveillance program, which is run by the US Marshals Service under the DOJ, has reportedly been in effect since 2007.

Officials have been using portable cell towers, known as “dirtboxes,” on small planes to collect identity and location information on cell phone users.

Those Cessna aircrafts fly from at least five airports near major cities, effectively allowing them to surveil most Americans.

Considering what we know thanks to Edward Snowden this isn’t surprising. Really this is just a Stringray with wings, which means it has a lot of range. What this story really shows is just how much time, effort, and money the state is dumping into its various programs to spy on each and every one of us.

Gun Owners in Washington Planning Act of Mass Civil Disobedience

During the election i594 passed in Washington, which requires all gun transfers to be performed through a federally licensed dealer. As you can guess gun owners are pissed. After all, what parent wants to pay a middle man just so they can give their child his or her inheritance to them? Who wants to pay a middle man just to get permission to sell a firearm to a friend? It’s a stupid law, it’s unenforceable, and it appears that Washington’s gun owners are planning to give their rulers a rightfully deserved gigantic middle finger:

Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners chose to become overnight felons rather than comply with that state’s new gun registration law. The defiance spurred the Hartford Courant editorial board to impotently sputter about rounding up the scofflaws.

New York’s similar registration law suffers such low compliance that state officials won’t even reveal how many people have abide by the measure—a desperate secrecy ploy that the New York State Committee on Open Government says thumbs its nose at the law itself.

Now Washington state residents pissed of about i594, a ballot measure inflicting background check requirements on even private transactions, plan an exercise in mass disobedience next month.

According to the event’s Facebook page they plan to gather en masse at the Washington State Capital and exchange firearms without involving any middle men. Since only federally licensed dealers can access the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to perform a background check these transfers will be in violation of the law.

I’m a big fan of civil disobedience because it shows how impotent the state is. Assuming half of the 6,100 people (as of this writing) marked as going show up it will be impossible for law enforcement agents to arrest them all. Even if they did manage to round them all up they probably wouldn’t have enough cages to keep them in. The state’s power is predatory in nature. It attempts to isolate individuals and attack them. But when it faces masses of people it must either back down or use violence on all of them, which quickly erases its legitimacy in the eyes of many.

This even will, in all probability, also cause many gun control loons to reveal their true faces. I’m sure social media outlets will be jam packed with comments by anti-gunners who claim to want peace demanding the police execute these unruly gun owners. Nothing brings out an anti-gunner’s violence nature like disobedient gun owners. I look forward to reading their rants for the LULZ.

Nobody is Beyond Redemption

I give modern policing a lot of shit on this blog. Oftentimes people mistake those rants as some kind of deep seated hatred for police officers. Truthfully I don’t hate police officers, at least not all of them. There are a lot of decent people who have, for some reason unknown to me, chosen to take up a life of crime. But their intentions are good and they generally remain good people. More importantly I don’t believe anybody is beyond redemption. Even the most vile individual can have a change in heart (although it’s rare). Counter Current News has an interview that proves this very fact. It’s with Raeford Davis a former officer of the Beavercreek Police Department. He went from being an enforcer of the state’s whims to one of the good guys:

One of those former “good cops” is Raeford Davis, and today he is an anarchist.

Davis was a police officer for six years. While troubled by many aspects of government law enforcement at the time, he explains that he was committed to the cause. Later, over a period of years, he began to understand the morality or lack thereof, behind policing the community as an arm an agent of the State.

Davis became immersed in the concepts of voluntarism, anarchism, the non-aggression principal and how destructive the current manifestation of law enforcement is to proper human interaction.

If one can go from a cop to an anarchist then there’s hope for anyone.

He’s going to be interviewed at 21:00 Central Time Zone tonight on Cop Block Radio. I’m sure it will be an interesting interview and will try to tune in.

First Parties are Spoiling Elections

Voting isn’t really my thing anymore since I’m not in the market for a master. But I have many friends that still play political games. Many of those friends aren’t entirely gullible and play political games for less evil political parties (often referred to as third parties). This means that they are subjected to constant accusations by people playing in the more evil political parties (the Democrat and Republican parties) of spoiling election. Republican will accuse people who vote Libertarian of letting the Democrats win (no, seriously, they actually claim that there’s a difference between the two parties) and Democrats will accuse people who vote Green of letting the Republican win (again, without any irony, claiming that there is a difference). But in reality it’s not people voting third party that spoils elections, it’s people voting for first parties:

The reason libertarians don’t vote for candidates from the two major parties is not because they suffer from a false consciousness that leads them to misapprehend their own political preferences. The reason they don’t vote for Republicans or Democrats is because—brace yourself now—they don’t want either Republicans or Democrats to win.

As far as libertarians are concerned, the 2 percent of Americans who vote libertarian don’t spoil an election. Rather, the 98 percent of Americans who don’t vote libertarian are the ones who spoil it for everyone else.

Republicans tend to blame Democrats for all of the country’s woes and Democrats tend to blame Republicans for the same. What we do know is that these two parties have been in power for a long time whereas third parties haven’t. Therefore it would seem that these two parties are responsible for the country’s woes. That being the case it would seem smart, if you’re going to play political games, to play political games for the parties that still don’t have a track record of fucking us all in the ass with a retractable baton.

3D Printing a Better Future

3D printers are moving towards a world where goods can be readily manufactured at home instead of relying on centralized supply chains. A lot of people in the first world don’t understand the ramifications of this technology but in the third world the advantages of 3D printers are becoming quite obvious:

A growing number of people are bringing the maker spirit to off-the-grid and underdeveloped regions across the globe. It’s part of an effort to create technologically self-sufficient communities, while bringing a little economic uplift in the process.

Nonprofit organizations like Field Ready and for-profit businesses such as re3D have already brought 3D printers to underdeveloped economies. In Haiti, Field Ready’s Eric James and Dara Dotz are working on 3D printing on-demand birthing kits, including umbilical clamps. As Dotz told me, Field Ready is also encouraging small scale manufacturing of agricultural tools via 3D printing.

“We’re working on printing simple things like oxygen splitters for oxygen tanks, which link the tank to the patient,” Dotz said. “Small clinics just can’t get [these] medical products and equipment, which bigger hospitals can buy in bulk at a discount. You can also wait six months to three years to get your equipment, and then there can be a lot of corruption with that as well.”

3D printers have two advantages that I really cherish. First they decentralize manufacturing, which makes controlling can and can’t be manufactured difficult for the state. Second they allow people to store raw resources and use them to make needed tools when (or near when) they’re needed. Keeping a stock of every tool you may need is generally more difficult than keeping stock of spools of plastic wire.

The first world probably won’t see these advantages in action for some time but the third world, as is often the case, is seeing the effects of innovation in the present.

Registration Leads to Harassment After Death

After the death of a loved one what’s the first thing you want to deal with? If you answer cops coming to your door in search of the deceased’s firearms I recommend moving to Buffalo, New York:

Buffalo, New York police are now visiting the homes of those recently departed in search of firearms as part of a new plan to help keep tabs on local guns.

The move, put into effect by Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, is described as an effort to stop firearms, specifically handguns, from winding up back in circulation and off the books.

“We recently started a program where we’re cross referencing all the pistol permit holders with the death records, and we’re sending people out to collect the guns whenever possible so that they don’t end up in the wrong hands,” Derenda told WGRZ. “Because at times they lay out there and the family is not aware of them and they end up just out on the street.”

As they say, registration leads to confiscation. That confiscation may happen on a random day of the state’s choosing or it may happen after a loved one has died. But this story proves once again that registration is a stupid idea. Oh, and it also proves that the state’s goons are assholes.

At Least One ISP Trying to Prevent Customers from Using Encrypted Communications

Once again the centralized nature of today’s Internet is biting us in the ass. In addition to Internet Service Providers (ISP) already throttling traffic we now have one wireless provider actively preventing its customers from using STARTTLS:

But the second example Golden Frog provides is much scarier and much more pernicious, and it has received almost no attention.

In the second instance, Golden Frog shows that a wireless broadband Internet access provider is interfering with its users’ ability to encrypt their SMTP email traffic. This broadband provider is overwriting the content of users’ communications and actively blocking STARTTLS encryption. This is a man-in-the-middle attack that prevents customers from using the applications of their choosing and directly prevents users from protecting their privacy.


This is scary. If ISPs are actively trying to block the use of encryption, it shows how they might seek to block the use of VPNs and other important security protection measures, leaving all of us less safe. Golden Frog provides more details of what’s happening in this case:

Golden Frog performed tests using one mobile wireless company’s data service, by manually typing the SMTP commands and requests, and monitoring the responses from the email server in issue. It appears that this particular mobile wireless provider is intercepting the server’s banner message and modifying it in-transit from something like “220 [servername] ESMTP Postfix” to “200 ********************.” The mobile wireless provider is further modifying the server’s response to a client command that lists the extended features supported by the server. The mobile wireless provider modifies the server’s “250-STARTTLS” response (which informs the client of the server’s capacity to enable encryption). The Internet access provider changes it to “250-XXXXXXXA.” Since the client does not receive the proper acknowledgement that STARTTLS is supported by the server, it does not attempt to turn on encryption. If the client nonetheless attempts to use the STARTTLS command, the mobile wireless provider intercepts the client’s commands to the server and changes it too. When it detects the STARTTLS command being sent from the client to the server, the mobile wireless provider modifies the command to “XXXXXXXX.” The server does not understand this command and therefore sends an error message to the client.

As Golden Frog points out, this is “conceptually similar” to the way in which Comcast was throttling BitTorrent back in 2007 via packet reset headers, which kicked off much of the last round of net neutrality concerns. The differences here are that this isn’t about blocking BitTorrent, but encryption, and it’s a mobile internet access provider, rather than a wired one. This last point is important, since even the last net neutrality rules did not apply to wireless broadband, and the FCC is still debating if it should apply any new rules to wireless.

The article is arguing from a net neutrality angle but I see this as a technical issue. This is only made possible because Internet access is centrally controlled and end-to-end encryption wasn’t in the original design. Decentralizing Internet access would be a major win because it would prevent any single organization from weakening Internet security by blocking encrypted traffic. And if end-to-end encryption was in the originally design (which, I understand, was not technically feasible at the time) this wouldn’t be possible because blocking encrypted communications would block any communications.

Net neutrality will not save us. After all the government, especially the National Security Agency (NSA), probably has a literal hard-on for this idea. Again I reiterate that the only way to save the Internet is to wrestle control over it away from the state and its corporate partners that are providing our Internet access. I will again point out that mesh networks are a pretty neat idea for accomplishing exactly this. Instead of howling for the government to step in and save us from itself I believe we should be investing our energies in trying to decentralize Internet access as much as possible.

What Authors Come Up With When They Understand Neither Technology or Guns

Most gun owners know that journalists employed by major media outlets have a notorious lack of understanding of guns. Their ignorance, as many people working in the computer field know, doesn’t just apply to guns through. When it comes to technology they are more often than not entirely clueless. So when guns and technology are combined in one article the only expectation should be totally stupidity and that’s what we have here:

Broadcast for Safe Firearms draws on the idea that if computers are now reliable enough for cars, medicine and fly-by-wire aircraft, they are probably reliable enough to provide a framework to cut down mass shootings.

The idea isn’t brand-new, as the authors note. Their addition to the research is to propose what they call a “context-aware system in the firearm” that can draw on information from sensors in the environment to make safety decisions.

In other words, instead of enforcing “safe environment” rules by way of checkpoints where guns are not permitted (on airplanes, in consulates and embassies and so on), “we propose to address these safety areas within the firearm itself”. The gun would negotiate its operations by communicating with the safety area transmitter.

If the author understood guns and technology he would know to call bullshit on this research immediately. It’s an unworkable idea. The first thing going against it is that it relies on a central authority to distribute the access control lists to each individual firearm. That means any firearm will only be as capable as the central authority allows it to be. It also means that there is one point of failure, which is never desirable. Another thing going against this idea is that it relies on wireless communications to enable or disable firearms. Wireless communication is an amazing technology but we still haven’t mastered foolproof communication. Something as simple as a concrete wall can block a wireless signal meaning many buildings suffer very spotty wireless coverage. Additionally the access control mechanism is easily defeated by those shielded carrying bags.

It’s also worth noting that this mechanism, like most gun control schemes, relies on controlling the design of a very simple mechanical device. How, exactly, does one integrate this technology in already existing firearms and prevent individuals with 3D printers or computer numerical control (CNC) machines from building firearms without this technology included?

Obama Urges FCC to Allow ISPs to Charge by the Byte

Net neutrality is back in the limelight again thanks to one idiotic senator and one idiotic president. First there is Ted Cruz, who seems entirely unaware of how the Internet currently works:

Cruz spokeswoman Amanda Carpenter echoed the senator in her own tweet, writing, “Net neutrality puts gov’t in charge of determining pricing, terms of service, and what products can be delivered. Sound like Obamacare much?”

The Internet in this country already moves at the speed of government thanks to the regulatory atmosphere that gives a handful of Internet Service Providers (ISP) a practical monopoly on providing Internet access. And Cruz’s spokeswoman isn’t much smarter since net neutrality doesn’t put the government in charge of pricing, terms of service, or what products can be offered. It’s just a fancy term for the status quo, which is all traffic being treated with equal priority. What would give the government control over such matters is if we went with what the government considers net neutrality, which is an even more heavily regulated market than the one that already exists.

But the Republicans weren’t the only ones to field an idiot to speak about the Internet this week. The Democrats fielded none other than Obama:

President Obama today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify broadband service as a utility and to impose rules that prevent Internet service providers from blocking and throttling traffic or prioritizing Web services in exchange for payment. Obama also said utility rules should apply both to home Internet service and mobile broadband.

Treat the Internet like a utility? That’s just urging ISPs to charge customers by the byte instead of charging by access speed. Furthermore it would give local governments more power to further monopolize Internet access. Many municipalities already grant one or two companies control over utilities such as water and electricity. Case in point, the government of Minneapolis has granted monopoly electricity contracts to Xcel Energy and monopoly natural gas contracts to Centerpoint Energy. Imagine if the Internet becomes a utility. Then municipal governments such as Minneapolis could grant monopoly contracts to the likes of Comcast. Not only would you potentially be paying by the byte but you probably wouldn’t even have the almost nonexistent choice between ISPs that you have today.

So long as rely on the state to solve this problem we’re going to get fucked hard. The only long-term solution is to decentralize Internet access provision. That’s why I’ve been working on mesh networking initiatives. Mesh networks provide a decentralized network that would be very difficult for the state to regulate if designed correctly. I’m sure other options exist for decoupling the Internet from the state and I would love to hear about them.

Be Careful When You Vote, You Never Know When the Rules Will Change

Voting can be a dangerous activity. Not only are the chances of dying on the way to the polling place greater than actually changing anything with your vote but the rules can chance at a moment’s notice. Take this woman for example, she was convicted of a nonviolent drug offense. She was told that her voting privileges would be restored after she served her probation. But then the rules changed in 2011 and she faced the possibility of more time in a cage:

Two months after I cast my ballot as a civics lesson for my daughter, the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation agents parked across the street from my house, questioned me, and eventually arrested me and charged me with voter fraud.

Let me explain: When I was convicted on a nonviolent drug charge in 2008, my defense attorney told me that once I served my probation, I would regain my right to vote automatically – correct information at the time. But Gov. Terry Branstad suddenly changed the rules in 2011, and now all citizens with a felony conviction lose their voting rights for life. Our Secretary of State Matt Schultz, in fact, has made this subversion of democracy a point of pride. He has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars hunting down and prosecuting people with past convictions who unknowingly registered or cast a vote.

Luckily for her the jury utilized its right of nullification and acquitted her. But they very well could have convicted her. So the moral of the story is that the rules of voting (and anything involved the state in general) are made up and what you’ve been told by a defense attorney doesn’t matter.