A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for June, 2016

The Black Market Prevails

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When people think black markets the image of drug deals shooting it out over gang wars often comes to mind. But the black market is far more than that. Like the white market, the black market is composed of both savory and unsavory sorts. How many people have paid somebody in cash so both parties could avoid the additional burden of taxes? Don’t answer that because such activity is illegal. But anybody who has done that has also participated in the black market.

As the burdens of operating in the white market continue to grow so does the black market. For example, a recent article points out that Canada’s black market is thriving:

Canada’s underground economy is still thriving, according to a new report from Statistics Canada, in spite of efforts to cut down on the number of transactions that “escape measurement because of their hidden, illegal or informal nature.”

The value of Canada’s underground economy in 2013 totalled $45.6 billion, or about 2.4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

That’s pretty much exactly where the numbers were in 2012, give or take a few billion dollars, and where they’ve been hovering since 2002.

Agorism, unlike political action, works as a strategy for weakening the State because it relies on activities people do already. While the State can increase its efforts to stop unapproved transactions it is still an organization of a few people trying to outwit the entirety of humanity. Needless to say, the odds of the State effectively thwarting the black market are approximately zero. And as the State increases the burden of operating in the white market, those people it is attempting to extort will use their creativity to find ways of avoiding those burdens by moving their activities into the black market.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 23rd, 2016 at 10:00 am

When Kodak Accidentally Discovered A-Bomb Testing

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I was busy with a CryptoParty meeting last night so I didn’t have time to write up any posts. To compensate you fine reader I’ll leave you with this fascinating story about how Kodak accidentally discovered atomic bomb testing:

The ground shook, a brilliant white flash enveloped the sky, and the world changed forever. Code name “Trinity,” the bomb test at dawn on July 16, 1945 in Alamogordo, New Mexico was the first large-scale atomic weapons testing in history. Only three weeks later two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.

More than 1,900 miles away from Alamogordo, at the Rochester, NY headquarters of Eastman Kodak, a flood of complaints came in from business customers who had recently purchased sensitive X-ray film from the company. Black exposed spots on the film, or “fogging,” had rendered it unusable. This perplexed many Kodak scientists, who had gone to great lengths to prevent contaminations like this.

Julian H. Webb, a physicist in Kodak’s research department, took it upon himself to dig deeper and test the destroyed film. What he uncovered was shocking. The fogging of Kodak’s film and the Trinity test in New Mexico were eerily connected, revealing some chilling secrets about the nuclear age.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 22nd, 2016 at 10:00 am

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John Brennan is an Idiot

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You probably read the title of this post and wondered what Brennan did this time to piss me off. Truthfully he didn’t really piss me off this time. What he did was make a public statement that really requires being an idiot to make.

Everything old is new again. As before, the United States government is busy debating whether or not mandatory backdoors should be included in civilian encryption. Security experts have pointed out that this is a stupid idea. Crypto-anarchists have pointed out that such a law would be meaningless because the Internet has enabled global communications so finding foreign encryption algorithms that don’t include a United States backdoor would be trivial. Hoping to refute the crypto-anarchists, John Brennan made this statement:

Brennan said this was needed to counter the ability of terrorists to coordinate their actions using encrypted communications. The director denied that forcing American companies to backdoor their security systems would cause any commercial problems.

“US companies dominate the international market as far as encryption technologies that are available through these various apps, and I think we will continue to dominate them,” Brennan said.

“So although you are right that there’s the theoretical ability of foreign companies to have those encryption capabilities available to others, I do believe that this country and its private sector are integral to addressing these issues.”

Theoretical ability? Let’s have a short discussion about the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). AES is one of the most prolific encryption standards in use today. Most full disk encryption tools, many Transport Layer Security (TLS) connections, and a load of other security tools rely on AES. Hell, many devices even include hardware acceleration for AES because it’s so heavily used. AES was originally a competition held by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to find a modern encryption standard. In the end an algorithm called Rijndael won. Rijndael was created by Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen. If those two names sound foreign it’s because they are. Joan and Vincent are Belgians. So one of the most common encryption algorithms in use today, an algorithm chosen by an agency of the United States government no less, was created by two foreigners. I’d say foreign encryption tools are a bit beyond theoretical at this point.

Adding insult to injury, let’s discuss Theo de Raadt. Theo, for those who don’t know, is the creator and lead developer of both OpenBSD and OpenSSH. OpenBSD is an operating system known for being security and OpenSSH is probably the most common secure remote connection tool on the planet. Both of them are developed in Canada:

It’s perhaps easy to forget, but the cryptographic landscape was quite different in 1999. A lot has changed since then. Cryptographic software was available, but not always widespread, in part due to US export controls. International users either had to smuggle it out printed on dead trees, or reimplement everything, or settle for the 40 bit limited edition of their favorite software. Many operating systems originated in the US, so it was difficult to integrate cryptography top to bottom because there needed a way to build the export version without it. OpenBSD had the advantage of originating in Canada, without such concerns. The goto public key algorithm of choice, RSA, was encumbered by a patent for commercial use. The primary symmetric algorithm was still DES. You could use blowfish, of course, but it wasn’t officially blessed as a standard.

Again, the availability of foreign encryption tools is more than theoretical. I would think the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which is supposedly tasked with spying on foreign countries, would be very aware of that. But the CIA has a long history of failure so it being unaware of very real encryption tools originating in foreign countries isn’t really that surprising.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 21st, 2016 at 10:30 am

The State’s War Against the Homeless Continues

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Who can those with nothing turn to for help? Many people will say the government and they would be wrong. The State hates the homeless because they have nothing to steal. Therefore it wants them to go away. While outright murdering homeless individuals would be frowned upon, making the lives of homeless individuals so miserable that they migrate elsewhere and become somebody else’s problem is perfectly acceptable to the general public.

San Diego, hoping to make the lives of homeless individuals within its borders more miserable, has installed large rocks under many roadways to prevent homeless individuals from sleeping there:

In late April, after jagged rocks were installed along a freeway underpass to drive out homeless encampments, a city spokesman told reporters the project was at the request of residents of Sherman Heights, a working-class neighborhood just east of the 5 Freeway, who felt unsafe walking down Imperial Avenue.

Turns out, it had more to do with San Diego’s upcoming time in the spotlight as the host of baseball’s All Star Game at Petco Park on July 12.

Sherman Heights is never mentioned in more than 700 pages of email documents about the rocks, obtained under the California Public Records Act

[…]

Casey included the rocks in a checklist of work to be done before the All-Star Game. Emails also show that initial plans called for rocks along the base of a wall at Tailgate Park, between 12th and 14th streets and outside the New Central Library — which overlooks the ballpark — to keep away homeless people.

[…]

In a later email, Casey emphasized that the rocks needed to be of different heights so that no one could put down a plank of wood to try to sleep.

Those homeless people are such an eyesore and they’ll make the city look bad come baseball season so we need to make their lives miserable in the hopes that they’ll go somewhere else. How the State treats the homeless may be the single most illustrative example of how the State “fixes” problems. It never actually works to address the problems it’s “fixing”, it just sweeps them under the rug and tells people everything has been taken care of.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am

Monday Metal: She Wolf by Visionatica

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This week we’re going to listen to a new band, Visionatica. It’s a symphonic metal band and if this song is any indication the band holds promise.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2016 at 10:00 am

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The State is a Kleptomaniac

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Nobody’s coming for your guns!

How many times have you heard that over the last week? I must have heard it a few dozen times. It’s the go-to response to any gun control loving statist. It’s also bullshit as is any statement that is based on the premise that the State won’t steal something.

Consider all of the things the State has stolen from people. If you’re working in the white market the State is stealing a percentage of every hour you work in the form of Social Security, income tax, and other assorted taxes. Long ago the State stole everybody’s property. You aren’t allowed to own your home, you’re only allowed to rent it. If you stop paying rent property taxes, the State evicts you. With the exception of a few states, the State is trying to steal your fucking plants cannabis and every state is trying to steal your heroin, cocaine, acid, and other chemicals it has decided you don’t need. What about non-recreational drugs? The State has taken a lot of those as well or locked them behind permission slips prescriptions. For Christ’s sake, the State has stolen your fucking candy. And your guns? If you meet one of the ever growing list of criteria, including being arbitrarily labeled a felon, the State tries to take your guns.

So, yes, the State is coming for your guns. In fact, it’s coming for everything you have. Theft is compulsive behavior for the State. It’s a kleptomaniac. Anybody who claims it isn’t coming for something is a fool.

“Libertarian” Vice Presidential Candidate

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Supposedly the Libertarian Party tries to get libertarians elected into offices. The party has a funny way of going about that goal though. For example, the party hasn’t nominated an actual libertarian presidential candidate for at least as long as I’ve been old enough to vote. This year’s ticket is no different.

Gary “Ban the Burqa” Johnson was nominated to be the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate this year. Although the Libertarian Party doesn’t allow presidential candidates to outright pick their running mates, the party voters are usually willing to roll over and approve whoever their presidential candidate wants. Johnson wanted Bill Weld and the Libertarian Party, apparently deciding it didn’t want any libertarians on its presidential ticket, was happy to comply.

After the shooting in Orlando Weld decided to show his anti-libertarian colors:

Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts now running as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president, called today for a 1,000-agent task force to combat Islamic State adherents in the United States, and for a tip line where Muslims could inform on radicalism.

“Let’s face it: The United States is under attack right now by ISIS and ISIS copycats,” Weld said. “They have a deep pool to pull from. There are over 3 million Muslims in the United States — maybe Mr. Trump will want to deport them all, but the better approach is to work with the community.”

Weld, who served as U.S. attorney and then assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s criminal justice division, suggested that the DOJ could take a cue from a program that worked in Massachusetts. The “Drop-a-Dime Project,” a nonprofit tip line created by community leaders, was used by law enforcement to pursue tips about crime in Boston’s black neighborhoods and to achieve breakthroughs in drug investigations.

“We’d get all kinds of tips,” Weld said. “The residents of Dorchester and Mattapan were only too happy to help. There may be some people out there leaning toward ISIS, people who would want to shelter the people going around killing other people. But for every pair of ears that would be sympathetic, there will be pairs that will not be sympathetic.”

I thought the Libertarian Party was all about shrinking government, not growing it. I guess this is what happens when the party doesn’t nominates a libertarian for its vice presidential candidate.

I know the Libertarian Party, especially now that it’s pulling people from the Republican Party, has a lot of statists within its ranks so this idea may sound appealing to them. Let’s consider the effectiveness of such a program. I’ll start by once again quoting Bruce Schneier, “If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get amateur security.” This is something libertarians tend to inherently understand. If you setup a program where average Joes are expected to rat out their neighbors you will get a lot of noise and very little, if any, signal.

How do you tell if somebody expressing sympathies for the Islamic State (IS) is merely angry at the way the United States and European countries have treated the Middle East or is planning to commit acts of murder in the organization’s name? Most people can’t tell and that’s the problem with this kind of tip line. It would be flooded with “tips” from people who think somebody speaking out against the United States dropping bombs on wedding parts is sympathizing with IS. Many of the “tips” would likely come from people who just don’t like their Muslim neighbors and see the tip line as a way to get the State to harass them. Well’s proposal would create a 1,000-agent (you do have to appreciate how all of these proposals involve an arbitrary number of agents that is almost always cleanly divisible by 10) task force that does nothing productive (in other words, it’ll be just like every other government agency).

I’m glad I don’t play politics anymore. If I did I’d be depressed this election cycle because there are exactly zero acceptable candidates running for office.

Some Good News

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I have some good news for a change. It’s not surprising that gun sales are up. Gun sales always go up when the State starts talking about restricting them. What is a pleasant surprise is that the Pink Pistols are gaining a lot of memberships:

The Pink Pistols is a national gun club for gays and lesbians. It saw its membership soar from about 1,500 members on Saturday to 3,500 on Monday.

Dozens of new chapters are springing up, including one Smith is creating in Colorado Springs. He said it’s something he feels compelled to do, even though he’s heterosexual.

“I look at it as a disenfranchised minority that needs someone who’s willing to say I’m a resource who’s here and willing to help,” he said.

Another chapter also appears to be forming in the Denver area. The Pink Pistols typically meet on a regular basis at firing ranges to practice shooting.

I’m a huge fan of marginalized individuals arming themselves. I also give kudos to anybody who isn’t a member of a marginalized group providing aid to those who are. Gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals still face high amounts of violence just for being who they are. If they make it known that they are armed and willing to defend themselves the people who traditionally prey on them may start to think twice.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 17th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Equal Slavery Shouldn’t Be the Goal

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A lot of debate has occurred on the topic of equality, especially equality between men and women. Equality can mean many things but to the State the only form of equality that matters is slavery:

The New York Times reported today:

“The United States Senate voted to pass a defense bill today that would require young women to sign up for a potential military draft for the first time in U.S. history.”

This issue was bound to come up eventually, as women have recently been allowed to compete for combat positions on the front line. Captain Kristen Griest’s recent completion of Army Ranger School and assignment as an Infantry officer is evidence of this shift in both policy and culture.

The accepted logic goes that if women have equal access to all jobs in the military, they ought to have equal responsibility with respect to the draft. And make no mistake: even though there has not been a draft since the 1970s, the ultimate purpose of Selective Service registration is precisely to enable a draft when deemed necessary.

Many are applauding these changes as an important step towards “equality” and recognition of women’s capabilities. But the focus on equality is masking the underlying injustice of the law in the first place. The more important issue is that forcing anyone to register for Selective Service is unjust because it is based on coercion (and has the potential to place otherwise peaceful people into violent situations). Let’s examine why.

Equal slavery shouldn’t be the goal. The complete abolition of slavery should be the goal. Let’s not mince words, the draft is slavery. It is a mechanism where the State can force you, at the point of a gun, to join its ranks so it can send you off to murder people who you’ve never met and have in all likelihood caused you no harm. Instead of debating whether women should be equally subjected to enslavement, the people of the United States should have been demanding Selective Service registration be abolished.

This is usually where some statist says, “What if somebody was invading the United States? Shouldn’t everybody be forced to fight for the greater good?” It’s a dumb question. Nobody should be forced to fight for a collective ideal. If so few people are willing to fight the invading force that it stands to conquer the nation then it’s obvious that the people didn’t see the nation as worthy of saving. Isn’t that the will of the people? Isn’t that what this supposedly glorious democracy is all about?

Men and women should be equally free to pursue their wants. They should also be equally free from slavery.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 16th, 2016 at 10:30 am

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies

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Like clockwork, people are demanding the State make it harder for everybody to defend themselves. When this happens many gun owners have a habit of turning to two organizations: the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association (NRA). They’re supposedly friends of gun owners but if these are our friends we scarcely need enemies.

Let’s start with the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. Mr. Trump has never been a friend to gun owners but he pretended to be one while campaigning and a lot of people bought it. After the shooting in Orlando he decided to talk with the NRA about abolishing due process:

Trump never favored gun rights so his stance isn’t surprising. Considering Trump’s history and the absurdity of what he’s proposing you would expect the NRA to tell Trump to go pound sand, right? Wrong:

The National Rifle Association said on Wednesday it stood by its position on terrorism watch lists and access to firearms, saying sales to potential buyers who are on the lists should be delayed while they are investigated by the FBI.

In a statement, the gun lobbying group said it welcomed a meeting with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. It also said protections needed to be put in place to allow people wrongfully put on a terrorism watch list to be removed.

The problem with the terrorist watch lists is that they’re secret lists with secret criteria. Nobody knows whether they’re on one of the lists and nobody knows what the criteria is for being put on the list. What we do know, thanks to leak, is that there are 680,000 names on these lists and more than 40 percent of them aren’t even tied to known terrorist organizations.

The NRA is trying to be the middle ground by claiming people on the lists should have their purchase postponed while the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) harasses investigates them. It also says that additional protections should be implemented to allow people wrongfully put on the lists to get their name removed. Of course, we don’t know what criteria is used to place somebody on the lists so we don’t know what wrongfully listed means. If one of the criteria for appearing on the lists is being a gun owner then everybody who owns a gun isn’t wrongfully on the list.

The fact that the terrorist watch lists eliminate due process should automatically mean zero punishment whatsoever befalls anybody whose name appears on any of the lists. Since the lists eliminate due process the NRA shouldn’t even give them the time of day or show any willingness to negotiate with people wanting to utilize them. Instead it kowtows like a good serf and begs for a few table scraps. What a fucking joke.

Who needs Michael Bloomberg and his lapdogs when we have “friends” like these selling us down the river?

Written by Christopher Burg

June 16th, 2016 at 10:00 am