No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

What happens when the municipal government shortens the length of yellow lights to boost the revenue generated by its red light cameras? If you’re a good person you strike back by disabling their red light cameras. Unfortunately, if you’re a good person you also face years in a cage for fighting back against the municipal pirates:

Stephen Ruth, who remains free on bail, was arrested in April shortly after he told a CBS affiliate that he was the culprit and that he dismantled the cameras “in order to save lives.” He said the county shortened the yellow light duration from 5 seconds to 3 seconds in a bid to make more money.

He’s accused of 17 felonies and faces a maximum seven-year prison sentence if convicted on all the charges. He pleaded not guilty Friday in a local court and wants to go to trial for snipping the wires on as many as 16 red light cameras on intersections on Route 25 between Coram and Centereach.

The lesson of this story is that you shouldn’t publicly announce your good deeds to the world. In this case the municipal government actually put people’s lives at risk by shortening the duration of yellow lights just so it could boost its revenue. That’s the kind of corrupt shit that happens when a handful of people are handed absolute power. But that power can be checked somewhat when good people undermine the government’s revenue generation.

Stephen Ruth is the type of everyday hero we need more of.

Switzerland Dodges a Bullet

The people of Switzerland demonstrated that their knowledge in mathematics is still sound. There was a proposal to implement universal basic income (UBI) and the people voted it down by a wide measure:

Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all.

Final results from Sunday’s referendum showed that nearly 77% opposed the plan, with only 23% backing it.

When I posted this link on Facebook one of my friends asked what my problem with UBI is. While there are a plethora of economic arguments to make against it my only real objection is the fact it can’t be implemented without government violence.

The wealth needed to fund UBI has to come from somewhere. There are two popular methods that governments use to fund their programs. The most common one is the seizing of wealth from the general populace, which is sometimes referred by the far more cuddly term “taxation”. If the Swiss government opted to fund UBI through taxation it would have been pulling the usual government routine of putting a gun to everybody’s head, demanding a tithe, and kidnapping and imprisoning anybody who refused to pay the tithe. As usual, if their intended kidnapping victims refused to go quietly they would be murdered.

The other common method governments use to fund their programs is printing money. This scam is more insidious since it doesn’t rely on overt violence. Instead of sending men with guns to thump skulls, a money printing scam steals wealth from anybody holding the government’s currency (this is why you don’t want to mess with government currency unless you’re under duress) by devaluing it. As more money is printed the purchasing power of each unit already in circulation diminishes.

No matter how you shake it, UBI can only be funded at the point of a government gun.

My Story Was Accepted Into The Second Agorist Writers’ Workshop Competition

The winners of the second Agorist Writer’s Workshop competition were announced yesterday:

Bridge at Adelphia by Lela Markham

Einstein & FDR by Peregrinus

Janus Doctrine by Calvin Mickel

Letters from Home by Cara Schulz

Marilyn Reimagined by Bokerah Brumley

Redfeather by Lyssa Chiavari

Runnymede Rebellion by Tim Walker

Teppichfresser by Mark Johnson

That Holy Anarchist Experiment by Justin Fowler

The Guard and the Crane by Heather Biedermann

The Invading Storm by Matthew Tanous

The Liberi by Christopher Burg

The Six-Sided Cabin of Calhoun County by Joseph Knowles

The Sixth Republic by Richard Walsh

The Vacant Chair by Diane L. Anderson

Warsaw by Eric Nies

Don’t let the fact that they accepted my short story worry you. The other authors are actually good. But my short story will deliver pirates, which should count for something. You’ll be able to pick up a copy of the collection when it’s released at AgoraFest in September.

If You Don’t Talk To Your Kids About State Violence, Who Will

Those of you who have watched Equilibrium probably remember the protagonist’s son. There are a few scenes in the movie where he, wearing his little jackboot uniform, ensures his father is taking his government mandated drug. In the movie the State trains the children to find offenders who aren’t taking their mandated drugs and goes so far as to train them to spy on their own parents. It’s an idea taken right out of the pages of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Sadly, that part of the movie isn’t entirely inaccurate today. Many parents unknowingly have little quislings living in their homes. To make matters worse, they often praise their children’s traitorous behavior. Take the Richardson family as an example:

Little 6-year-old Robbie Richardson called 911 on his dad when he “ran a red light.”

“911 what’s your emergency?,” Quincy Police Dispatcher Michael Bowes asks when he answers the call, a recording of which was obtained by ABC News.

“Um, Daddy went past a red light,” the dutiful kindergartner explained. “Daddy went past a red light. He has a black truck. He was in the brand new car, my mommy’s car, and we had to go to the car wash, and then he went past the red light.”

The 911 operator wasn’t a total douche and didn’t send a law enforcer to thump the father’s skull. But I’m sure the father had a good talk with his son about government violence, right? No:

As for their son, Robbie’s parents are proud of their little law-abiding citizen.

“I am proud of him that he knew if there was an emergency you call 911, but we were kind of in shock,” said McDonald. “We explained to him when we hung up the phone that you don’t call for those things, but if there was an emergency and someone needs to get a hold of the police, then you call.”

She’s now keeping clips of Robbie’s newfound fame because you never know what the future holds.

“He could become a police officer when he’s older and this would be cute to look back on,” she said. “I think I’m going to look into getting him a little ticket book.”

I’m going to have a headache all day from face palming after reading that. State violence begins at home. You should talk to your kids early on about the difference between actual crimes, ones involving a victim, and government decrees. Your children should also know that there is a chance of real violence anytime the police are brought into a situation. What may start as dad growing some cannabis so he can deal with his chronic pain, could end up in dead family pets and dad being kidnapped if a law enforcement agent finds out.

One thing is certain, if you don’t teach your children about government violence the public education system will brainwash them into believing the government is their friend. Programs like D.A.R.E. exist to convince kids at a young age that they can “trust police officers”, that “police officers are their friends”, and that they can always “tell a police officer anything”. These ideas could end up convincing your children to turn you in for violating a government decree.

If you don’t talk to your children about state violence, who will?

Another One Of Those Bad Apples

I’m not sure if this is one of those bad apples that makes the majority look bad, another isolated incident I keep hearing so much about, or a case of an officer who simply wanted to go home to his family at night. Regardless of the typical law enforcer apologist excuse you select, it’s important to remember that the rules are different for men with government badges:

A former Kenosha Police officer who planted evidence in a homicide investigation will not see jail time.

Kyle Baars was sentenced Wednesday to one year probation for felony misconduct in public office.

He was given permission to serve that probation in Illinois, and will be required to serve 80 hours of community service. He could serve a year in jail and one year of extended supervision if he violates the terms of his probation.

Baars could have been sentenced to 18 months in prison and given a $10,000 fine.

The former officer had admitted planting a bullet and an identification card in a backpack during an investigation into the 2014 shooting death of a Kenosha man.

On Wednesday, Baars called planting the evidence “a bad decision” but argued that he should be given credit for eventually admitting his actions and testifying at the homicide trial for one of the defendants that he had planted evidence.

One year of probation for planting evidence in the investigation of a legitimate crime? It’s good to be in the king’s employ. The sentence is ridiculous but the way the officer was handled with kid gloves is almost as ridiculous. Neither his fellow officers, the district attorney, or the judge ripped his ass properly. Instead he received a mild chiding by the judge for blaming other people.

This is just another case of the court system treating agents of the State differently than the rest of us. I’m fairly certain any non-state agent who planted evidence in a criminal investigation would receive a bit harsher of a sentence than one year of probation. I also doubt that excuses such as a “distinguished career” would be considered a legitimate legal defense. The sentencing would likely include the judge delivering much harsher words than a mere “Tsk, tsk. You shouldn’t have done that. That was naughty.”

Police are like you and me, only better!

The Phones Have Ears


Smartphone are marvelous devices but they also collect a great deal of personal information about us. Data stored locally can be encrypted but data that is uploaded to third party servers is at the mercy of the security practices of the service provider. If your mobile phone, for example, uploads precise location information to Google’s servers then Google has that information and can be compelled to provide it to law enforcers:

So investigators tried a new trick: they called Google. In an affidavit filed on February 8th, nearly a year after the initial robbery, the FBI requested location data pulled from Graham’s Samsung Galaxy G5. Investigators had already gone to Graham’s wireless carrier, AT&T, but Google’s data was more precise, potentially placing Graham inside the bank at the time the robbery was taking place. “Based on my training and experience and in consultation with other agents,” an investigator wrote, “I believe it is likely that Google can provide me with GPS data, cell site information and Wi-fi access points for Graham’s phone.”

That data is collected as the result of a little-known feature in Google Maps that builds a comprehensive history of where a user has been — information that’s proved valuable to police and advertisers alike. A Verge investigation found affidavits from two different cases from the last four months in which police have obtained court orders for Google’s location data. (Both are embedded below.) Additional orders may have been filed under seal or through less transparent channels.

This problem isn’t unique to location data on Android devices. Both Android and iOS have the ability to backup data to “the cloud” (Google and Apple’s servers respectively). While the data is encrypted in transport it is not stored in an encrypted format, at least no an encrypted format that prevents Google or Apple from accessing the data, on the servers. As Apple mentioned in the Farook case, had the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) not fucked up by resetting Farook’s iCloud password, it would have been feasible to get the phone to backup to iCloud and then Apple could have provided the FBI with the backed up data. Since the backed up data contains information such as plain text transcripts of text messages the feature effectively bypasses the security offered by iMessage. Android behaves the same way when it backs up data to Google’s servers. Because of this users should be wary of using online backup solutions if they want to keep their data private.

As smartphones continue to proliferate and law enforcers realize how much data the average smartphone actually contains we’re going to see more instances of warrants being used to collect user information stored on third party servers.

You Have No Right To Privacy In Minnesota If You Live In A Multiple Unit Dwelling

Are you a Minnesotan who lives in an apartment or condominium? If so, a local court of appeals has ruled that you have no expectation of privacy:

Stuart Luhm of Minnetonka had challenged his conviction on drug and weapons offenses because police did not have a warrant to enter his building in the August 2014 raid that was based on a tip from an informant.

The front door of the building is normally locked, but police used a key in a locked box to which police have access, and Brio the drug-sniffing dog confirmed that drugs were probably in the condo unit Luhm shared with a girlfriend.

That was the point when police got a search warrant and found large quantities of marijuana, 93 oxycodone tablets, 7 firearms, and two bullet-resistant vests.

Two members of the Court of Appeals ruled today that there is no expectation of privacy in the common areas of a condominium building. It also said the fact the building owners make access available to police negated the need for a warrant to enter the building.

What makes this case interesting is that the drug dog alerted in the common area and that gave the law enforcers the justification they needed to pull a warrant. Drug dogs are of questionable effectiveness, so the idea that a warrant can be issued because one alerted is a bit absurd in my book. But this ruling effectively opens the doors for law enforcers to enter multiple unit dwellings with drug dogs but without warrants, allow the dog to sniff around, and pull a warrant for any dwelling that the dog raises an alert on. That sounds like a wonderful revenue raising scam if I’ve ever seen one.

It also raises questions about medical cannabis users. What happens when a dog raises an alert on an apartment because it caught the sent of cannabis? The law enforcer can obtain a warrant, kick in the door, shoot the family pet, and basically force the medical cannabis user to divulge their medical history to somebody who isn’t a medical professional to avoid being kidnapped for the crime of not having purchased a single family house.

Since drug dogs are of questionable in their effectiveness, this ruling also opens the door for legal harassment of non-drug users. If a law enforcer wants to harass somebody living in an apartment all they have to do is bring a drug dog into the common area, claim the dog raised an alert on the apartment, pull a warrant, and legally enter and harass the person for however long they so choose (and maybe find evidence of another crime while they’re tossing the joint).

Of course, privacy has been dead for a long time in this country. This ruling doesn’t change much. But it’s worth noting because it’s a great example of how the courts and law enforcers often work together (as opposed to act as checks and balances against one another) to expand the State’s ability to expropriate wealth from the populace.

The Bill Of Rights Won’t Save You

You really need to use full disk encryption on all of your electronic devices. Modern versions of OS X and Linux make it easy. Windows is a bit hit or miss as BitLocker tries its damnedest to share your key with Microsoft’s servers. iOS has included full disk encryption by default — so long as you set a password — since version 8 and Android also includes support for full disk encryption. Use these tools because the Bill of Rights won’t protect your data from government snoops:

The government can prosecute and imprison people for crimes based on evidence obtained from their computers—even evidence retained for years that was outside the scope of an original probable-cause search warrant, a US federal appeals court has said in a 100-page opinion paired with a blistering dissent.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there was no constitutional violation because the authorities acted in good faith when they initially obtained a search warrant, held on to the files for years, and built a case unrelated to the original search.

The case posed a vexing question—how long may the authorities keep somebody’s computer files that were obtained during a search but were not germane to that search? The convicted accountant said that only the computer files pertaining to his client—who was being investigated as part of an Army overbilling scandal—should have been retained by the government during a 2003 search. All of his personal files, which eventually led to his own tax-evasion conviction, should have been purged, he argued.

From my layman’s understanding of the Fourth Amendment, it’s supposed to protect against government shenanigans such as snooping through your data that was obtained under a valid warrant but was unrelated to the case the warrant was issued for to build another case against you. Although the quote is most likely false, Mr. Bush supposedly said, “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!” in regards to the Constitution. While the quote is probably false the statement is not.

The Constitution cannot protect you. It is literally a piece of paper with words written on it. If you want some semblance of protection against the State you have to implement it yourself. Encrypting your devices’ storage would guard against this kind of nonsense assuming you weren’t foolish enough to decrypt the data for the State at any point. This is where features such as VeraCrypt’s (a fork of TrueCrypt that is being actively developed) hidden partition feature are nice because you can have a sanitized encrypted partition that you can decrypt and a hidden partition with your sensitive data. Since the hidden partition isn’t detectable the State’s agents cannot know whether or not it exists and therefore cannot compel you to decrypt it.

Utilize the tools available to you to protect yourself. Anybody who has been paying attention to recent American history knows that the supposed legal protections we all enjoy are little more than fiction at this point.

Your Rocket Surgeon Of The Day

If you’re going to attempt to rob a bank via a threatening note, you might want to check the other side of the paper you’re using:

One side of the note given to a bank employee demanded $5,000 to $10,000 and indicated the robber had a gun and explosives, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday. The other side of the note contained medical appointment information for a 1-year-old — the child of Jason David Ricci, 26.

I think a slow clap is appropriate here.