I’ll Be Off For A Few Days

Grandma Burg passed away at 8:45 on Christmas Day. She made it 90 years on this rock and although it is certainly hard on those of us still cruising on this spaceship her final years weren’t easy ones and it’s comforting knowing her suffering is over. And a more appropriate day than Christmas could not be had for a person as dedicated to Christ as herself.

In her 90 years she managed to raise five kids and keep my grandfather in line (no easy feat). Not only that but she managed those accomplishments while maintaining the most positive attitude I’ve every witnessed. She was a great person and this spaceship is diminished by her loss.

I’ll be away from this blog for a few days. Between the funeral and other matters that must be attended to my focus will be very much elsewhere.

Smith And Wesson Don’t Believe You Own Your Gun

Update: Smith and Wesson has apologized for being legal cunts. I guess they didn’t have their lawyers on a short enough leash, which is a problem common to most companies. Glad to see they backed off.

My original article is below for preservation purposes.

For years now I’ve been contemplating buying a Smith and Wesson M&P. They’re wonderfully designed pistols. The only thing I don’t like about them is the trigger doesn’t have a tactile reset. Fortunately Apex triggers add that functionality so I need only buy one and drop it in, right? Wrong. According to Smith and Wesson making such modifications violates their precious intellectual property rights:

That’s one of Brownells’ series of ‘Dream Guns‘ (above), highly customized, one-off project guns Brownells gins up as examples of what’s possible if you want to put some money, time and love into your stock pistol. They use these as come-ons for trade shows and such, as attractions to get passers by to stop and check out their wares. Their latest effort, a Smith & Wesson M&P, wasn’t well received by the venerable Springfield gun maker…

They had their IP attorneys send a love letter to Brownells and the other aftermarket companies who collaborated on the M&P Dream gun.

There is a picture of the legal threat Smith and Wesson mailed to Apex, Brownells, DP Custom Works, Blowndeadline Custom, and SSVi. Although I find this entire situation ridiculous I do appreciate Smith and Wesson going out of its way to save me the money I would have otherwise dropped on one of their pistols.

I believe it’s perfectly valid to void the warranty if a customer makes a modification to a product. But threatening a lawsuit over imaginary property being violated is absurd. But this is becoming more common. John Deere already claims farmers don’t own the tractors they purchase because those tractors contain software and that software implies the entire piece of machinery is being licensed. Automotive manufacturers are also using intellectual property laws to justify preventing customers from making certain modifications to their vehicles.

What’s interesting about Smith and Wesson’s case is that it doesn’t involve software, which is the goto excuse used to claim owners don’t actually own the products they buy. Instead it’s claiming that displaying its logo on one of its own guns violates the company’s trademark. I guess anybody who modifies a Smith and Wesson firearm is supposed to file off any logos.

While I fully admit I haven’t purchased a Smith and Wesson firearm in years, the last time I did I didn’t sign any contractual agreement to remove all of the company’s logos if I modified the firearm (if such an agreement were demanded I wouldn’t have bought the gun). Since there is no cause for Smith and Wesson to claim I don’t own the pistol and I didn’t sign a contract making me responsible for removing its logos I’m curious on what grounds they plan to enforce this newfound legal power trip. Granted, I won’t have to worry about it because this kind of nonsense will ensure I take my money elsewhere.

Post Office Censoring Speech

The United States Post Office had decided to get into the censorship of speech business. Cannabis is legal in several states now. Not surprisingly this legalization has created a desire by cannabis related business to advertise their goods and service. Nothing illegal is being advertised so everything should be cool, right? Wrong. The Post Office is claiming that since cannabis is still illegal on a federal level it’s illegal to mail any advertisements for cannabis, even if those advertisements don’t cross state lines:

The confusion started in Portland, Ore., where local newspapers have been running ads for dispensaries and manufacturers in the state’s now-booming weed industry after voters legalized recreational pot for adults last year, following medical pot in 1998.

In November, Portland’s postal district issued a memo to newspaper publishers, telling them they are breaking the law by running ads for pot and using the U.S. mail to deliver their papers.

The reason? The U.S. Postal Service is a federal entity. Even though Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska have legalized recreational marijuana and 23 other states have legalized medical pot, any newspaper running ads in those states violates a federal law preventing advertising for illicit goods.

Since the Post Office still enjoys a monopoly on delivering first class mail it would also be illegal for some of these advertisements to be shipped through another company. With that said, this would make a hell of a good act of civil disobedience. There is one bright side though, the Post Office is apparently unable to enforce this censorship:

But there’s a twist. The Postal Service apparently has no authority to stop the mailers if their publications contain pot ads. The new policy directs postmasters to send a report to the local U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service.

The matter would, in theory, then be turned over to a law enforcement agency for prosecution, although it’s unclear whether this kind of crime would be prosecuted. Federal authorities have generally not cracked down on pot sales in states where they’re legal.

This does show one of the major downsides of any monopolization in the mailing market. A mailing agent with a monopoly can end up becoming a censor. Either by refusing to deliver certain goods or material containing particular forms of speech a mailing agent, without any competitors, can create a prohibition without even having to go through the usual legislation process.

I’m A Good Little Slave And You Should Be One Too

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decreed that anybody who owns a drone must register. Sally French, a reporter for Forbes, registered herself and wrote an opinion piece encouraging others to do the same. It’s titled “I registered my drone. Here’s why you should too” but it might as well be titled “I’m a good little slave who rolls over on command and you should too!”

I logged onto the site and entered my name, home address and email address.

There is a registration fee, so I also had to enter my credit card information. The registration fee is $5 per drone owner — the same $5 processing fee charged for any aircraft registration — but the FAA says it will refund the $5 fee for drones registered through Jan. 20 to encourage participation.

Once I hit the “next” button, I received a personal identification number and certificate to print out (though like most millennials, I don’t have a printer). I did write the identification number on a sticker, which I then pasted on my drone, an original DJI Phantom that I have been flying since early 2013.


Registration is intended to force some education upon pilots who may not have malicious intent, but also may not have read the “Know Before You Fly” guidelines included with most drone purchases in the U.S. It also means that government and law enforcement officials will be able to track down reckless drone operators — something that, until now, they haven’t been able to do.

The fool! Registration is not intended to educate drone pilots, it’s meant to rake in a little extra cash for the FAA. Although $5 per operator, a fee that’s being refunded until January 20th, doesn’t sound like much when you consider the FFA estimates one million drones will be sold this Christmas alone you can see the cash, which requires the FAA to do almost nothing, becomes a tidy sum. And anybody familiar with how government extortion works knows that the initial $5 fee is just the bait and the price will only go up. But the registration fee isn’t the real money maker. There is an up to $250,000 fine for anybody who flies a drone without registering with the FAA by February 19th. Since a lot of drone owners will likely remain unaware of the FAA regulation there a large pool of suckers the FAA is going to be able to extort some money out of.

Now let me explain why you shouldn’t register your drone. If you do your name and home address will be made publicly available:

The FAA finally confirmed this afternoon that model aircraft registrants’ names and home addresses will be public. In an email message, the FAA stated: “Until the drone registry system is modified, the FAA will not release names and address. When the drone registry system is modified to permit public searches of registration numbers, names and addresses will be revealed through those searches.”

Sounds like a public wall of shame to me. But you know this list will be abused. Most likely drone manufacturers will use it to send you unwanted advertisements via snail mail (hey, look, the registration system raises some money for the Post Office too). And anybody looking to steal a drone knows exactly where to go.

In this day and age it has become obvious that publicly releasing personal information is dangerous. The fact the FAA’s official policy is to public release the names and home addresses of every registered drone pilot is reason enough not to register. If the FAA isn’t willing to protect the privacy of its “customers” then nobody should do business with it.

So instead of being a good little slave who rolls over on command think about giving the FAA a giant middle finger.

Demanding The Benefits Of The Monopolized Legal System But Not Accepting The Detriment

Black Lives Matter is planning another protest at the Mall of America. After losing court battles over last year’s demonstration due to incompetency the Mall of America is obtaining a restraining order against the organization this year:

The protesters want to demonstrate at the country’s biggest mall to draw attention to the Nov. 15 police killing of a black Minneapolis man, Jamar Clark, and to ramp up the pressure on investigators to release video of the shooting. Authorities say they won’t release it while state and federal investigations are ongoing.

The mall wants to avoid the type of disruption caused by a Christmas-time demonstration last year, when thousands of protesters angry over the absence of charges involving police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City forced the temporary closure of mall stores. Dozens of people were arrested.

This case is particularly amusing to me because the Mall of America is relying on the very monopolized legal system is willfully ignores. In this case the it’s trying to get the monopolized legal system to issue a restraining order because it doesn’t want protesters on its property (although I might argue that the special privileges it receives from the State invalidate any claims it might have to being private property). But the Mall of America willfully ignores the law prohibiting land lords from banning the carrying of firearms:

Both Cornish and Strawser said Minnesota law prohibits a landlord, such as the Mall of America, from restricting the “lawful carry or possession of firearms by tenants or their guests.” Strawser added, “carrying at the Mall of America does not violate the law, only the mall’s wishes.”

There are few things I dislike more than hypocrites. If you support the State’s monopolized legal system then you should abide by it entirely. On the other hand, if you don’t support the State’s monopolized legal system then you should avoid utilizing as much as possible. You shouldn’t expect to have your cake and eat it too.

Political Victories Are Only Temporary Victories

I hate redoing work. This is part of the reason I don’t pursue politics. Any political victory is only a temporary victory. At some future point the victory you achieved will be undone. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) is just the latest example of this. If you go through the history of the bill you will see it was introduced and shutdown several times:

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act was introduced on July 10, 2014 during the 113th Congress, and was able to pass the Senate Intelligence Committee by a vote of 12-3. The bill did not reach a full senate vote before the end of the congressional session.

The bill was reintroduced for the 114th Congress on March 12, 2015, and the bill passed the Senate Intelligence Committee by a vote of 14-1. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky) attempted to attach the bill as an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, but was blocked 56-40, not reaching the necessary 60 votes to include the amendment. Mitch McConnell hoped to bring the bill to senate-wide vote during the week of August 3–7, but was unable to take up the bill before the summer recess. The Senate tentatively agreed to limit debate to 21 particular amendments and a manager’s amendment, but did not set time limits on debate. In October 2015, the US Senate took the bill back up following legislation concerning sanctuary cities.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This time the politicians attached CISA to the budget, which as we all know is a must pass bill:

Congress on Friday adopted a $1.15 trillion spending package that included a controversial cybersecurity measure that only passed because it was slipped into the US government’s budget legislation.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin, inserted the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) into the Omnibus Appropriations Bill—which includes some $620 billion in tax breaks for business and low-income wage earners. Ryan’s move was a bid to prevent lawmakers from putting a procedural hold on the CISA bill and block it from a vote. Because CISA was tucked into the government’s overall spending package on Wednesday, it had to pass or the government likely would have had to cease operating next week.

Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, said the CISA measure, which backers say is designed to help prevent cyber threats, got even worse after it was slipped into the 2,000-page budget deal (PDF, page 1,728). He voted against the spending plan.

All those hours invested in the political process to fight CISA were instantly rendered meaningless with the passage of this bill. However, the bill can be rendered toothless. CISA removes any potential liability from private companies that share customer data with federal agencies. So long as private companies don’t have actionable information to share the provisions outlined in CISA are inconsequential. As with most privacy related issues, effective cryptography is the biggest key. Tools like Off-the-Record (OTR) messaging, OTR’s successor Multi-End Message and Object Encryption (OMEMO), Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), Transport Layer Security (TLS), Tor, and other cryptographic tools designed to keep data private and/or anonymous can go a long ways towards preventing private companies from having any usable data to give to federal agencies.

In addition to effective cryptography it’s also important to encourage businesses not to cooperate with federal agencies. The best way to do this is to buy products and services from companies that have fought attempts by federal agencies to acquire customer information and utilize cryptographic tools that prevent themselves from viewing customer data. As consumers we must make it clear that quislings will not be rewarded while those who stand with us will be.

Effective cryptography, unlike politics, offers a permanent solution to the surveillance problem. It’s wiser, in my opinion, to invest the time you’d otherwise waste with politics in learning how to properly utilize tools that protect your privacy. While your political victories may be undone nobody can take your knowledge from you.

If You See Nothing, Say Something

As this election season continues Bernie Sanders seems hellbent on proving to the world that economics isn’t the only thing he’s entirely ignorant about. During the Democratic Party circlejerk he decided to demonstrate his ignorance on what an emergency entails:

That was Sanders’ response to ABC News debate moderator David Muir Saturday night, who asked him about the neighbors of the San Bernardino terrorists who suspected something was amiss about the would-be mass shooters but never reported them for fear of accusations of profiling.

“That’s kind of a no-brainer. If somebody is loading guns and ammunition into a house, I think it’s a good idea to call 911. Do it,” Sanders said.

Muir pressed, “But I’m asking about profiling, because a lot of people are afraid of that.”

Sanders wanted no more of that topic and decided to move on.

Setting aside my feelings about the government operated 911 system, the idea behind it isn’t bad. 911 is a universal number that can be called to report emergencies (and possibly get help, but that’s not guaranteed). The idea is to beat the simple three digit number into people’s heads hard enough that during a major emergency they will remember to call it. Is somebody is suffering a heart attack? Call 911. Is somebody robbing a store? Call 911. Are you a good citizen and want to snitch on your neighbor for having expired tags on their vehicle? Don’t call 911. It’s not an emergency because there is no immediate risk of harm so get your quisling on by dialing the local police department’s direct number (then strongly consider flagellating yourself for your sin).

Is a neighbor carrying firearms and ammunition into their house an emergency? Is there an immediate risk of harm? No. So it’s clearly not an emergency. It’s not even illegal so don’t both annoying your local police department either. Just accept that your neighbor isn’t a dumbass and therefore has a means to defend themselves.

The problem with a universal emergency number is that it’s susceptible to denial of service attacks. If everybody starts flooding the number with inane bullshit the real emergency calls can’t get through. In fact this is already a very real problem. What Sanders is advocating, that people report even more inane bullshit to 911, will only further exacerbate the problem. That will only make it even more difficult for people who are trying to report a real emergency to get ahold of a 911 operator.

Take me, for example. If my neighbors followed Bernie’s advice they’d have to call 911 almost every other weekend when I returned from the range. Instead of having the operator free to accept calls involving houses on fire, people having heart attacks, etc. they have to waste time explaining to the caller that 911 is for emergencies only.

Petty Tyrant Syndrome Leads To Gentrification

I’ve found another outbreak of Petty Tyrant Syndrome. This time it’s happening right here in the Twin Cities. The overlords of Columbia Heights are tired of all the blue collar workers on Central Avenue. Why? Apparently blue collar workers give off the wrong image. Instead of having the street populated with productive people the overlords wants people unproductively sipping lattes in coffee shops. In order to bring up this unproductive utopian vision the overlords have banned any new automobile related business from opening on the street:

Columbia Heights residents can buy an oil filter on nearly every corner of Central Avenue. But there’s no coffee shop where they can linger over a newspaper and sip a latte.

That’s a problem, city leaders say.

Fearful that a glut of mechanics, auto-parts stores and gas stations along Columbia Heights’ main drag is pulling down the city’s image and muscling out other businesses, the City Council is banning new auto-related businesses for up to six months.

City leaders figure that will be enough time to tighten up zoning regulations and set more design controls with an eye toward attracting a more eclectic mix of restaurants, shops and small service businesses along Central Avenue.

You thought I was joking about that sipping lattes remark, didn’t you? Here again we have a handful of people using their power to force everybody to comply with their vision of what is best. Because they’re unproductive bureaucrats who have time to sip lattes in a coffee shop for hours they are forcing everybody else to go along with their plan. I can’t help but think that there’s also a desire to see auto shops booted from the street because they’re run by people who get dirty doing their job. As we all know, people who get dirty are better heard, not seen, at least when you’re a petty bureaucrat trying to foster an image of sterile sameness.

Even more important to the overlords than their vision is the issue of income. Not for the businesses but for the city. Trendy hipsters with more money (technically it’s their parent’s money) than brains are cruising around on their brakeless fixies so they have no need for automobile related businesses. They’re also a major part of the group dumb enough to pay the stupidly high rental rates of high-density luxury apartments. So without them it’s hard to attract developers of said apartments, which means the city doesn’t get to collect absurd amounts of property taxes. Gentrification exists because cities want to increase their income and the easiest way of doing that is to replaces the lower and lower-middle class with the upper and upper-middle class. And in the end that’s what the result of this ban and rezoning scheme will be, gentrification.

To Save The Fish We Must Kill The Fish

In the neighborhood of Bristol some people decided that they wanted to stop fishing in one of the local lakes to prevent wildlife from being harmed by lines and hooks. Tot his end they banned fishing in the lake. But that apparently want’s enough. Now they are moving forward with a plan to save the local wildlife by killing it:

Last year, the local Neighbourhood Partnership voted to ban fishing at St George’s Park lake to stop wildlife being harmed by fishing line and hooks.

It has now approved an option proposed by Bristol City Council to destroy the fish rather than relocate them.

It’s a solution only the combination of well meaning idiots and government could support. Of course some of the loonies have said they don’t want to kill all of the fish; only enough to protect the fish from fishers.

Few things are more stupid than well meaning people with the power to force their will on others.