Service To The State Is Rewarded

When an elected official does wrong people respond by saying, “Vote him out!” If the offender is an appointed official people say, “Fire him!” These people have mistaken voting out or firing government officials as a form of punishment. It’s not. In fact getting voted out or fired is often what unlocks lucrative opportunities for the ousted official:

Four-star General Ray Odierno retired from his position as U.S. Army chief of staff on Friday. Now, less than a week after mustering out, he’s cashing in. The former general has taken a job as a senior adviser to the investment firm JPMorgan Chase.

In a press release posted on JPMorgan’s website on Thursday, the firm announced that Odierno is joining the company in “a senior advisory capacity,” providing “strategic advice and global insights” to CEO Jamie Dimon as well as the company’s board of directors. The announcement also said Odierno “will represent JPMorgan Chase through engagement with clients, government officials and policy makers in the U.S. and internationally.”

In this case the official retired but is enjoying the same treatment as most former government officials. Former government officials are valuable commodities for corporations. They come with a lot of contacts and influence. For a corporation wanting to manipulated the regulatory environment to favor itself at the expense of its competition people with political contacts and influence are very desirable.

This is why elections are meaningless. When a politician is ousted they merely move to the private sector to rake in even more cash. And when their replacement sees what benefits await them if they play the same game as their predecessor any prices they made during their campaign fly out the window.

Go ahead and vote out bad politicians and demand elected officials fire bad appointed government stooges. You’re only setting up the stage for them to get a big payout and another person to set themselves up for a future payout.

3D Printers and Mesh Networks And Rockets. Oh my!

As some of you are probably aware I’m one of the organizers for AgoraFest. Most of us who organize the event are huge fans of technology and science fiction. That’s the reason we’re focusing a lot of technology at AgoraFest this year. We’ll have 3D printers, drone races, model rocketry, and a mesh network there. Some are probably curious what all of those have to do with AgoraFest. I decided to do a quick write up explaining how those things, well everything besides the drones (I’ll explain that later), relate to agorism as a whole. Feel free to head over to the link and read it in lieu of an actual article here.

Security Exists As A Spectrum

When I discuss security, be it online or offline, I often mention threat models and cost-benefits analysis. Unless you understand what you’re defending against it’s impossible to develop an effective defense. And if you don’t perform a cost-benefits analysis you may end up investing far more into securing something than it’s worth. The thing with threat models and cost-benefits analysis is that they’re, like security in general, subjective. This is a fact lost on many people as Tam so eloquently explained:

People buy into safety. It’s important for people to feel safe. For some reason, people view safety as a binary state and not an ongoing process. Therefore, when something comes along to remind us that we might not be as safe as we think we are, or there’s an optional activity we could undertake to improve our safety, it rustles our jimmies and we get all upset and fling poo at that thing and wave branches at it until it goes away and we can return to feeling safe. It’s why people who ride without helmets come up with all kinds of BS excuses about hearing and wind drag rather than just admitting “Hey, I’m comfortable with the extra risk of skull fractures in order to feel the wind in my hair.”


And here’s the thing: It’s okay to not wear a helmet. It’s okay to not carry a gun. It’s okay to not like the Gadget. It’s okay to open carry and not take thirty-eleven years of BJJ and weapons retention training. It’s still (mostly) a free country… *but own the types of risk you’re assuming*. Don’t hand-wave them away and shoot the messengers who point them out. Say “Look, I’m comfortable with these risks and don’t want to make the life commitments it would take to mitigate them” and most people will totally understand that.

People often get caught up in their binary view of security. This phenomenon has lead to countless discussions that were ultimately pointless. Motorcycle helmets are a classic example of this. Before donning a helmet a motorcycle rider first does some threat modeling. Usually the threats involve large four-wheel vehicles the motorcyclist has to share the road with. After identifying potential threats they then add perceived risks of encountering those threats to the model. Then they do a cost-benefits analysis. Many feel the costs of a helmet; the lack of feeling wind on their face, for example; outweigh the benefits when applied to their threat model. You can bitch at them all you want but security is subjective.

Carrying a gun is another example. I carry a gun because the costs, to me, are lower than the benefits. My manner of dress lends itself to carrying and concealing a firearm and my setup is comfortable. The benefits, for me, are having a tool available if I should happen to be attacked. Although my threat model indicates the risk of me being attacked is very low it’s still high enough to offset the low costs of carrying a gun. Somebody else may look at their threat model, which also sees the risk of being attacked as very low, and compare it to the costs of completely changing their manner of dress to conclude carrying a gun is more costly than the benefits provided. They’re not right or wrong; security isn’t binary.

As a general rule, unless it’s asked of me, I try to avoid critiquing other people’s security plans. There’s just no point unless I known what criteria they used to develop their plans. While a lack of a home alarm system may seem incredibly stupid to some people it may be more cost than its worth to somebody who has really good theft insurance.

The Best Argument For Encryption Yet

I’ve made a lot of good arguments favoring effective encryption. Effective encryption protects at risk people from oppressors by concealing their identities and communications, ensures data integrity by preventing third parties from altering data unknowingly, provides a way to verify authenticity and the identity of content creators, etc. Ironically though Jeb Bush made have inadvertently made the best argument for effective encryption:

“If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job—while protecting civil liberties—to make sure that evildoers aren’t in our midst,” Bush said in South Carolina at an event sponsored by Americans for Peace, Prosperity, and Security, according to The Intercept.

Effective encryption makes the American government’s job harder?


Assault, murder, theft, extortion, and kidnapping should be hard and anything that makes those criminal activities harder is a good thing.

Regel Theaters Searching Bags For Fun And Profit

I seldom go to movie theaters anymore and when I do it’s usually second-run theaters. Paying $15.00 or more to subject myself to sitting in a cramped, uncomfortable seat in a crowded theater fully of people playing with their brightly backlit smartphones for two hours doesn’t appeal to me. So Regel’s announcement that it will assume all paying customers are violent criminals doesn’t really impact me but you should probably know about it if you frequently go to theaters:

One of America’s largest cinema chains, Regal, is now searching bags of film-goers following several attacks on movie theatres across the US.

Regal’s updated policy says it wants customers and staff “to feel comfortable and safe” in its cinemas.


“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America,” Regal Entertainment Group’s admission policy now reads on the company’s website. The company has not yet commented publicly on the new regulations.

“To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission,” it continues.

While this policy is being implemented under the guise of safety I think it has more to do with profits. Tickets aren’t the only thing expensive about going to a movie theater, the food and drink is also expensive. If you read Regel’s admittance policy you’ll see what is probably the real reason bag searches are now being performed:

Outside Food or Drink:
No outside food or drink is permitted in the theatre.

Because of the price of movie theater food and drinks a lot of people smuggle their own in. Accusing paying customers of smuggling in food and drinks probably won’t sit well but claiming the searches are for safety may sit well enough (after all, it works for sporting events).

Searching bags for weapons isn’t effective anyways. I (as well as most people I know) always carry my weapons on my person. My knives are in my pockets and my handgun is in a tuckable in-the-waistband holster. Carrying weapons in a bag that can be easily separated from my person is bad form.

So keep in mind if you’re going to go to a movie that Regel’s will treat you like a criminal in the hopes of making more money off of you.

Advances In Technology Creates New Markets Which Creates New Jobs Which Creates New Wealth

One of the most idiotic claims I hear, usually from members of the labor movement, is that automation is taking American jobs. They get made when I use self-checkout kiosks at the grocery store because they think that mindless machine is eliminating a human worker permanently. Ironically they rant at me as they’re demanding the minimum wage be increased. If anything encourages a business owner to seek a way to automate labor it’s forcing them to pay a laborer more than they make for the company. Another irony is they often post their rants online using a machine that has done more to wipe out manual labor than anything else.

Here’s the thing, when automation obsoletes human labor the people who are displaced aren’t eliminated from the workforce forever. Us humans are adaptable. In fact we wouldn’t be the dominant species on this planet if we weren’t. When our set of skills is obsoleted by automation we can learn new skills. In fact the replacement of human labor by automation has lead to the increase in the number of skills needed and therefore the number of laborers needed. That’s right, technology has actually created more jobs than it has destroyed:

In the 1800s it was the Luddites smashing weaving machines. These days retail staff worry about automatic checkouts. Sooner or later taxi drivers will be fretting over self-driving cars.

The battle between man and machines goes back centuries. Are they taking our jobs? Or are they merely easing our workload?

A study by economists at the consultancy Deloitte seeks to shed new light on the relationship between jobs and the rise of technology by trawling through census data for England and Wales going back to 1871.

Their conclusion is unremittingly cheerful: rather than destroying jobs, technology has been a “great job-creating machine”. Findings by Deloitte such as a fourfold rise in bar staff since the 1950s or a surge in the number of hairdressers this century suggest to the authors that technology has increased spending power, therefore creating new demand and new jobs.

Their study, shortlisted for the Society of Business Economists’ Rybczynski prize, argues that the debate has been skewed towards the job-destroying effects of technological change, which are more easily observed than than its creative aspects.

Computers may have eliminated the need for most secretarial labor but it created the need for hardware developers, programmers, technical support specialists, network engineers, and a ton of other jobs that exist only because computers are now pervasive throughout our society.

Automation is a wonderful thing. It creates more wealth that can be invested in more ventures that employs more people. Librarians well-versed in the Dewey Decimal Classification system may not be in high demand anymore but Google, Microsoft, and DuckDuckGo have employed a lot of people to build, improve, and maintain their search engines. In addition to creating those jobs automation also lead to entirely new markets. Data mining, for example, wouldn’t exist if massive amounts of searchable data didn’t.

3D printing is an emerging technology that stands to replace a lot of human labor in manufacturing. But it also stands to open up markets for improving 3D printer technology, material engineering for 3D printers, engineering goods so they can be more easily manufactured with 3D printers, designing 3D models to print, etc.

Advances in technology creates new markets which creates new jobs which creates new wealth which leads to advances in technology. It’s a beautiful cycle of creation. The people who claim automation eliminates jobs are bloody idiots. Automation creates new jobs.

Stop Playing With That Thing

If you use amateurs as your front line defense don’t be surprised when you get amateur results. An Oklahoma gun range has followed in the tradition of another asshole range owner by declaring their facility off limits to Muslims (How can they tell if somebody is Muslim by looking at them? Here’s the secret, “Muslim” is usually a code word for “brown person.”). Needless to say this has resulted in the range owner receiving various threats because issuing threats on the Internet is pretty much a risk-free method of demonstrating your disapproval. Hoping to share in the infamy spotlight a group of self-proclaimed patriots heeded the call, gunned up, and rushed to protect the gun range. One of the patriots demonstrated why you don’t want amateurs providing your security:

The gun fell out of the holster and discharged, with a bullet hitting the man in the wrist, Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson said, according to KOTV and the Tulsa World newspaper. The man was expected to survive.

First of all let us set aside the silliness of the gun falling out of its holster and discharging on impact. Although I’m sure there are exceptionally shitty holsters out there I feel safe in saying a vast majority of them will retain a firearm enough to prevent it from falling out. In addition to that most firearms are now equipped with a drop safety to prevent exactly this kind of scenario.

What’s more likely is this patriot pulled out his gun to either play with it or shot it off, dropped it, and inadvertently pulled the trigger when he attempted to catch it.

Not let’s address the issue of security. The range owner claims that he’s been receiving death threats, which wouldn’t surprise me as making such threats is almost risk-free these days. When you receive death threats you have to decide whether you feel they are credible or not. If you don’t believe they’re credible you ignore the. If you do believe they are credible you take measures to protect yourself. Hiring guards is one such measure a person could take. But there’s a difference between one of these patriots, which are almost always mouthy but otherwise mostly harmless, and professionals. If the range owner felt the threats were legitimate he should have hired professional guards to protect his business. Professional guards aren’t as apt to make amateur mistakes like play with their firearm. And if an incident does occur they’re more likely to have the training necessary to deal with it.

I Can’t Imagine Why You Get Accused Of Racism

Like almost everything that involves itself with the Republican Party the Tea Party movement very quickly went to shit. Now the Tea Party is synonymous with neoconservative Christianity, which differs greatly from regular Christianity in that it focuses primarily on hatred. Two groups facing the brunt of the Tea Party’s wrath are immigrants and Muslims (the latter often being a member of the former). Quite often when a self-proclaimed Tea Partier goes on an anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim tirade they are accused of racism and act totally dumbfounded, shocked even, that such an accusation would be made against them! They quickly accuse the accuser of playing the race card because they can’t imagine how anybody could legitimately claim their words were being racist!

I’m a fan of helping out when I can so I’m going to take a moment to explain why so many people who make up the Tea Party movement are accused of racism. To illustrate my explanation I’m going to reference a brand new post on the Central Minnesota Tea Party’s page:

Morrison County to be the recipient of 1000 Islamic refugees from Somalia! All American communities like Willmar and St. Cloud have been inundated, now they have their sights set on this community. Please read and consider the following;

Notice how the article didn’t cite the 1,000 Islamic refugees number? That’s going to be a common theme here. Another common theme is going to be the almost exclusive focus on the refugee’s religion and place of origin, which happens to be the thing racists almost exclusively focus on. You might be able to see where the accusations of racism stem from.

Did you know that the health system in St. Cloud reported having over 18,000 Somalis in their data base and that St. Cloud Apollo High School with a Somali population of 50% has had hundreds of visits by the police? Not surprising, American students and teachers alike are leaving for other schools. With the threat of a law suit, Apollo High has had to install foot baths for its growing Somali students. Also, Counties south of St Cloud, where the STEM Program buses many of these refugees, the main bus company involved, quit their contracts because of chaos on the buses which involved Somali students.

What does it matter how many Somalis are in the St. Cloud health system database? Assuming the number is accurate, which isn’t a safe assumption since the number isn’t cited, it doesn’t tell us anything. Is this statistically significant for some reason? How does the number compare to the overall population of St. Cloud? Do we know most of these database entries aren’t due to new immigrants getting up to speed on vaccinations they likely didn’t receive in Somalia? It’s a vapid statement. The same goes for the uncited percent of Somalis in the St. Cloud Apollo High School and number of police visits. In fact every statement in this paragraph is made without any kind of backing. Making baseless, sinister accusations against a population of people based on where they’re from is the basic definition of racism. I think it’s pretty easy to see why Tea Party opponents make accusations of racism.

I was going go do a play by play of this entire article to illustrate why people accuse Tea Partiers of racism but I realized I’d be repeating myself. If you’re interested in the claims made go ahead and click on the link and read the post by “Admin” (hiding behind a default user name is probably wise when writing such drivel). A lot of accusations are made but none of them are backed up with citations. It’s basically paragraph after paragraph of “Admin” badmouthing Muslims and Somalis. So I’ll save a lot of typing and skip to the final part of interest:

Concerned citizens in St. Cloud were successful in preventing the building of a huge Mosque with a 50 foot high minaret which could have called Muslims to prayer starting at 5AM, and could have continued blasting away five times a day. Prevent this from happening to your community by; 1) NOT contributing to the following groups: Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, World Relief Minnesota, Minnesota council of churches or UNICEF. 2) Make copies of this and pass it on.

Answer me this, why does a political organization care at all about whether or not a mosque was constructed? The only reason I could see one caring is if property rights were violated to prevent the mosque from being built (of course the Tea Partiers tend to oppose property rights so I could see them being OK if property rights were violated in this case). Otherwise there’s no political issue here at all. And while I admit that I’m not fully versed on the finer points of Islam I’m fairly certain minarets don’t make sound and therefore don’t “blast away five times a day.” Yes, I’m poking fun at the phrasing there. But the solution to somebody standing on a minaret and yelling prayers at 05:00 is to hold them to the same noise ordinances as everybody else. Done. It’s not that damn difficult.

Since there is no political reason for anybody in the Tea Party to comment on this mosque in any official capacity (generally posting on the website of an organization is considered “official capacity”) one can only assume a personal vendetta against Muslims, which is certainly a form of bigotry. Since the Muslims in question are apparently all Somalis, based on the tirade above this paragraph, it also comes off as racist.

The purpose of this post isn’t to accuse every Tea Partier of being racist so feel free to save me the, “Not all Tea Partiers are racist,” comments. I know that. My point is to illustrate why Tea Partiers are accused of racism. When posts such as this appear on a website for a local Tea Party group it’s very easy to accuse the group of racism.

Now I’m going to throw in a bonus. What can be done about this? If you are a Tea Partier and you believe the label is worth saving (although I can’t fathom why) then you need to speak out against this shit just like all those Muslims who are ignored by neoconservative Christians speak out against radical Islam. Boot these people from your meetings and official gathers (you can do that but utilizing that principle I mentioned earlier called “property right”). As long as you remain silent and let these people join your reindeer games you’re going to get accused of, at the very least, associating with racists.

CryptoParty On August 30th

I don’t have much for you today because I spend my evening at a meeting hammering out the final details of an upcoming CryptoParty. On August 30th CryptoPartyMN will be hosting a CryptoParty at the Hack Factory. We’re still figuring out a few final details but we will be discussing public-private key cryptography, Off-the-Record (OTR) messaging, full disk encryption, and Tor for certain. We may cover other topics as time permits.

For those who don’t know these events are meant to be hands-on. You bring your laptops, tablets, and phones and learn how to utilize secure communication tools. Hopefully I’ll see a few of you there.