A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for October, 2016

Monday Metal: Silver Lake by Dark Moor

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I feel like playing some power metal this week so we’re going to go with Dark Moor:

Written by Christopher Burg

October 31st, 2016 at 10:00 am

Posted in Media

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Obedience to the Law isn’t Praiseworthy

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Without government who would deport the heinous criminals? Take this bloke for instance. This heinous criminal has been illegally living in this country for almost four decades. His crime? You won’t believe it. He had the audacity to be adopted by parents who couldn’t be bothered to fill out some paperwork:

Adam Crapser was brought to the United States when he was 3, to start a new life — new parents, new culture, new country.

But his adoptive parents didn’t complete his citizenship papers. Then they abandoned him to the foster care system.

And now, as a 41-year-old father of four, he’s being deported. Despite his appeals for help, he has been ordered to be sent back to South Korea, a country The Associated Press describes as “completely alien to him.”

We need to get this son of a bitch out of the country less he continues his terrible crime spree!

This man was brought into this country when he was 3-years-old, spent almost all of his childhood and his entire adulthood here, and now has to go to a country he’s totally unfamiliar with through no fault of his own. Stories like this are why I scoff when people hold up the law as being high and might. The law isn’t moral, it’s arbitrary. Some idiots in Washington DC, idiots who almost nobody in this country considers examples of even modestly acceptable morality, wrote some words down, took a vote, and passed those words off to their associate who was occupying the White House at the time to rubber stamp it. Through that process a man who was brought into this country almost four decades ago became a heinous criminal.

When people say this nation is a nation of laws what they’re actually saying is that this nation is a nation of arbitrary orders issued by politicians. There’s nothing admirable about that and there’s nothing admirable about being compliant with those laws. But people do admire (more accurately worship) this nation’s arbitrary system or laws and even brag about being obedient to it.

Yes, believe it or not, a lot of people think that being a law abiding citizen is praiseworthy. There are people who brag about being law abiding citizens. Why? I have no idea. I mean, seriously, am I supposed to give them a gold star and a pat on the back? Is publicly professing obedience to masters admirable? Is there some reason I should view them as being better than the poor son of a bitch facing deportation because he was adopted by people who couldn’t fill out some forms?

Over time I’ve learned that there’s seldom anything admirable about being a law abiding citizen but there is a great deal to be admired about being a law breaking citizen.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 28th, 2016 at 11:00 am

The Weakest Link in a Security System is Usually the Human Component

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No matter how secure you make your network you will always have one significant weakness: the users. Humans are terrible at risk management and if somebody doesn’t understand the risks involved in specific actions it is almost impossible to train them not to do those actions. Consider phishing scams. They often rely on e-mails that look like they’re from a specific site, say Gmail, that include a scary message about your account being unlawfully accessed and a link to a site where you can log in to change your password. Of course that link actually goes to a site controlled by the phisher and exists solely to steal your password so they can log into your account. But most people don’t understand the risks of trusting any official looking e-mail and visiting whatever link it provides and entering their password so training people not to fall for phishing scams is a significant challenge.

Even people who are in positions where they should expect to be targets of hackers fall for phishing scams:

On March 19 of this year, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta received an alarming email that appeared to come from Google.

The email, however, didn’t come from the internet giant. It was actually an attempt to hack into his personal account. In fact, the message came from a group of hackers that security researchers, as well as the US government, believe are spies working for the Russian government. At the time, however, Podesta didn’t know any of this, and he clicked on the malicious link contained in the email, giving hackers access to his account.

While the United States government and some security researchers point the finger at Russia it should be noted that this kind of scam is trivial to execute. So trivial that anybody could do it. For all we know the e-mail could have been sent by a 13-year-old in Romania who wanted to cause a bunch of chaos for shits and giggles.

But speculating about who did this at this point is unimportant. What is important is the lesson that can be taught, which is that even people in high positions, people who should expect to be targets for malicious hackers, screw up very basic security practices.

If you want to make waves in the security field I suggest investing your time into researching ways to deal with the human component of a security system. Anybody who finds a more effective way to either train people or reduce the damage they can do to themselves (and by extent whatever organizations they’re involved in) while still being able to do their jobs will almost certain gain respect, fame, and fortune.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 28th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Posted in News You Need to Know

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Who Watches the Watchmen

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Who watches the watchmen? Not Congress:

DO THE COMMITTEES that oversee the vast U.S. spying apparatus take intelligence community whistleblowers seriously? Do they earnestly investigate reports of waste, fraud, abuse, professional negligence, or crimes against the Constitution reported by employees or contractors working for agencies like the CIA or NSA? For the last 20 years, the answer has been a resounding “no.”

This article is an excellent read for anybody who thinks Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and other whistleblowers should have gone through “proper channels.” It covers a couple of examples of individuals who did go through “proper channels” only to discover that the government has no interest in voluntarily overseeing itself (shocking, I know). Take William Binney for example:

Enraged that a program they believed could have prevented the 9/11 attacks had been jettisoned, Binney and his colleagues privately approached the House Intelligence Committee. When that failed to produce results, they issued a formal complaint to the Defense Department’s inspector general.

The subsequent investigation validated the allegations of the NSA ThinThread team. But in spite of this vindication, all who had filed the complaint were subsequently investigated by the FBI on bogus charges of leaking classified information. The episode is now the subject of an Office of Special Counsel whistleblower reprisal investigation, involving former NSA senior manager and ThinThread proponent Tom Drake. I have read the Defense Department inspector general report, which is still almost completely classified, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking its declassification. The Pentagon has stonewalled my request for more than a year and a half.

Not only were his pleas ignored but Congress even sicced its attack dogs, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), on him. When the response for going through “proper channels” is both being ignored and having men with guns storm your home early in the morning, which is exactly what the FBI did, and hold your family at gunpoint the message is quite clear, Congress doesn’t want any of the State’s dirty laundry being aired.

Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden aren’t criminals, they’re products of a government that both sweeps its illegal activities under the rug and viciously attacks anybody who tries to raise an alarm. They both did what was necessary to bring attention to some really nasty government programs. Instead of calling them traitors why not put the blame where it belongs with Congress? Because they’re supposedly the watchmen but they’re not only failing to do their job but they’re also attacking anybody who tries to help them do their job.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am

I Hope the ACA Mandates the Coverage of Lube

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a massive stack of paper that no single person could ever hope to read and fully comprehend. I only hope that somewhere buried in that mountain of paper is a clause that requires insurance companies to cover lube because us Minnesotans are going to need a lot of it:

Big rate increases next year in the state’s individual market mean that Minnesotans who buy health insurance on their own will pay above-average premiums — a startling reversal from 2014 when individual market rates in much of the state were among the lowest in the nation.

A federal report this week looked at rates for “benchmark” plans across 44 states and found a family of four in Minnesota will pay $1,396 per month for the coverage. That’s about 28 percent higher than the average across most of those states at $1,090 per month.

Everybody is getting fucked in the ass by the ACA but us Minnesotans are going to get fucked a bit harder. Predictably a lot of people are upset about this and have decided that the only fix for more government is even more government. Democrats are talking more seriously about single payer while the Republicans are obsessing over what they want to replace the ACA with. With both major political parties seemingly uninterested in deregulating the healthcare market this situation is only going to get worse.

At least the universe has a sense of humor because the number of people covered by health insurance, the metric being used by proponents of the ACA to prove it has been successful, is going to dwindle as fewer and fewer people are able to afford even a basic health insurance plan. When that happens the proponents of the act will have to find a new metric to declare victory with (which won’t change anything but watching them desperately scramble to spin things into victory again will be amusing to watch).

Written by Christopher Burg

October 27th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Secure Your Assets

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Anybody with more than two braincells to rub together and has even a modest knowledge of economic history knows that you can’t trust the State for your retirement. The government issued funny money is in a constant state of devaluation, which means every slip of its paper you save will be worth much less when you retire. Because of that, smart people find alternative ways to preserve their wealth for retirement. Some people invest a portion of their wealth in the hopes they can grow it faster than the rate of inflation while others prefer to rely on time proven precious metals.

If you look at historical trends the latter is a pretty solid choice if your goal is to preserve your purchasing power. However, if you’re going to opt for precious metals you need a secure method of storage, to spread out your assets, and probably a decent insurance policy because physical assets can be stolen:

ST. PAUL, Minn. – St. Paul Police are looking into an reported burglary that stripped a female resident of her entire life savings.

Police spokesman Steve Linders confirms that the alleged victim, a 57-year-old who lives on the 1600 block of Abell Street, had her valuables stashed in her bedroom because she does not trust banks. The thieves got away with 100 gold bars valued at more than $1,200 apiece, $60,000 cash and a diamond ring valued at $36,000.

I’ve seen quite a few comments making fun of the fact that her lack of trust in banks caused her to lose her life savings. But if your money is in a bank account its purchasing power is constantly being stolen in the form of inflation so acting high and mighty because you keep your government funny money in a bank is just as stupid as keeping all of your gold in one location and not properly securing it.

By the description of her storage method (stashing it in her bedroom) I’m left to assume she didn’t have her gold in a quality safe. If you’re going to have a lot of gold on hand you should invest in a decent safe that can be bolted to the ground (i.e. a decent gun safe). Bonus points can be had if you can also conceal the safe. But a quality safe offer two advantages. First, it greatly increases the time it takes for a burglar to get to your valuable assets. Burglaries are often smash and grab affairs where the burglars want to minimize the amount of time that they’re in a house. The more secure your assets are the less attractive they will be to a petty thief looking to get in and out. The second advantage a quality safe offers is fire protection. You don’t want to lose your retirement if your house burns down.

In addition to a quality safe you also want to spread your assets around. Keeping all of your eggs in one basket is not a wise idea. I would personally recommend against a safety deposit box at a bank because the State can and has seized them. And since the United States government has confiscated gold in the past it’s not unreasonable to think another gold confiscation might occur. You’re better off having trustworthy family members or close friends or have a second piece of property where you can install a quality safe and store some of your assets.

The third thing, which can be tricky if you’re concerned about another possible government gold confiscation, is having an insurance policy. Precious metals are valuable and valuable assets should be insured against loss. However, insuring your precious metals also means records of the metals existence will exist. If the government decided to do another gold confiscation they very well may require insurance companies to surrender information on customers who have insured precious metals. Then again, an insurance policy is a nice thing to have if burglars break into your home and get into your safe. It’s one of those risk-reward formulas that you have to figure out for yourself.

Storing your retirement savings in government funny money in a bank is not a good idea but if you’re going to do something else you need to be smart about. Simply buying gold isn’t a solid plan if you don’t have a way of securing that gold longterm.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 27th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Denying Math

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Many of the e-mails released by WikiLeaks about Clinton’s campaign have been, shall we say, embarrassing. Of course the e-mails haven’t dissuaded Clinton’s true believers but they might cause a slight inconvenience during the election if people on the fence begin to perceive her for the criminal she is. The only defense the campaign has offered against any of these e-mails is that they are fake but math doesn’t lie:

In order to bloc spam, emails nowadays contain a form of digital signatures that verify their authenticity. This is automatic, it happens on most modern email systems, without users being aware of it.

This means we can indeed validate most of the Wikileaks leaked DNC/Clinton/Podesta emails. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest is to install the popular Thunderbird email app along with the DKIM Verifier addon. Then go to the Wikileaks site and download the raw source of the email https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/2986.

Cryptographic signatures are wonderful things. In addition to verifying that a communication was sent by a specific individual or organization, cryptographic signatures also indicate whether or not the contents of the communication have been altered. Thanks to anti-spam measures we have a form of digital signature on many e-mails by default. This means that we can verify that the WikiLeak released e-mails remain unaltered.

A failure to understand the technology they’re using continues to bite politicians in the ass. But it’s good for us mere plebs because it gives us a glimpse behind the curtains of the State and that glimpse continues to show uglier and uglier things.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 27th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Public-Private Surveillance Partnership

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People often split surveillance into public and private. Public surveillance is perform directly by the State and is headed by agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Private surveillance is performed by corporations such as Harris Corporation, Facebook, and AT&T. Some libertarians and neoconservatives like to express a great deal of concern over the former because it’s being performed by the State but are mostly accepting of the latter because they believe private entities should be free to do as they please. However, the divide between public and private surveillance isn’t so clean cut. Private surveillance can become public surveillance with a simple court order. Even worse though is that private surveillance often voluntarily becomes public surveillance for a price:

Investigators long suspected Charles Merritt in the family’s disappearance, interviewing him days after they went missing. Merritt was McStay’s business partner and the last person known to see him alive. Merritt had also borrowed $30,000 from McStay to cover a gambling debt, a mutual business partner told police. None of it was enough to make an arrest.

Even after the gravesite was discovered and McStay’s DNA was found inside Merritt’s vehicle, police were far from pinning the quadruple homicide on him.

Until they turned to Project Hemisphere.

Hemisphere is a secretive program run by AT&T that searches trillions of call records and analyzes cellular data to determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.

[…]

n 2013, Hemisphere was revealed by The New York Times and described only within a Powerpoint presentation made by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Times described it as a “partnership” between AT&T and the U.S. government; the Justice Department said it was an essential, and prudently deployed, counter-narcotics tool.

Before you decide to switch from AT&T to Verizon it’s important to note that every major cellular provider likely has a similar program but they haven’t been caught yet. We know, for example, that Sprint has a web portal to make law enforcement access to customer data quick and easy and Verizon has a dedicated team for providing customer information to law enforcers. Those are likely just the tips of the icebergs though because providing surveillance services to the State is lucrative and most large companies are likely unwilling to leave that kind of money on the table.

At one time I made a distinction between public in private surveillance insofar as to note that private surveillance doesn’t lead to men with guns kicking down my door at oh dark thirty. It was an admittedly naive attitude because it didn’t figure how private surveillance becomes public surveillance into the equation. Now I make no distinction because realistically there isn’t a distinction and other libertarians should stop making the distinction as well (neoconservatives should also stop making the distinction but most of them are beyond my ability to help).

Branding

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Hoping everybody will forgive it for the R51 fiasco, Remington has unveiled two newly designed handguns, the RP9 and RP45.

The RP9 and RP45 are Remington’s entry into the striker fired polymer framed handgun market. Here are two renders borrowed from the linked Firearm Blog post. Tell me if you notice anything.

remington-rp45-right-side

remington-rp45-left-side

Remington appears to be worried that users of its RP9 and RP45 pistols will forget who made it because the company’s branding appears to cover every single available surface. Big Remington logo on both sides of the grip? Check. A big Remington logo on the right side of the slide? Check. The word Remington on the left side of the slide? Check. Even the magazine floor plats have the Remington logo imprinted into them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they engraved the word Remington on the inside of the slide as well.

Compare the RP9 and RP45 to either a Glock or Smith and Wesson M&P pistol. Glock engraves its logo on the front lefthand of the slide and imprints a small logo on the lefthand side of the grip. Smith and Wesson is slightly more pretentious in that it imprints a small company logo on both sides of the grip and also engraves the company’s name on the righthand side of the slide. Still, the logos aren’t huge and gaudy. Remington, on the other hand, seemed to have some mandate that every available surface must be as covered as possible by either the company name or logo. I’m almost shocked that they didn’t just forego slide serration so more logos could be engraved on the slide.

Gaudy branding is a particular pet peeve of mine. When I was building my AR-15 I actually had a somewhat difficult time finding parts that weren’t covered in the manufacturer’s branding. BCM and Fail Zero (and others whose names escape me at the moment), for example, have their logos printed on the front of their bolt carrier groups (so everybody is sure of what brand of bolt carrier group you’re using when its locked forward).

I get it, companies need to advertise. But if you expect me to be a walking billboard for your company then I want something in return. For example, if a gun manufacturer did something similar to Amazon with its Kindle line where it charges you slightly more to not display ads (which is what company branding is) plastered everywhere on the gun I’d consider paying (or, more likely, going with a less pretentious manufacturer). Or the company could pay me a minute monthly or yearly fee to use the gun I purchased as a billboard.

I greatly appreciate companies that keep their branding on their products to a tasteful minimum.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 26th, 2016 at 10:00 am

The State Giveth and the State Taketh Away

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Do you trust the United States government? Believe it or not, there are fools out there that still do. Unfortunately, many of these fools get suckered into military enslavement (I call it enslavement as opposed to service or employment because an individual who enters the military voluntarily cannot later leave voluntarily and the contract they sign is entirely one sided). Why? For some it’s because they believe the military allows them to serve their country (and that serving a country is noble). For others it’s because they’re out of employment options and need the cash, which is why the State often offers enlistment bonuses. But there is no honor amongst thieves. As the ultimate thief in the territory the United States government is more than happy to demand those enlistment bonuses back:

Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.

Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.

I guess this is what the United States government means when it speaks of treating soldiers with respect and dignity.

There are two important details worth noting here. First, the obvious. The California National Guard misrepresented the deal to the soldiers signing up yet it is not the entity being punished. Instead of the California National Guard being forced to repay the money it wasn’t authorized to distribute the soldiers who signed up with the understanding that they would receive the enlistment bonus are being required to give it back with interest. This solution seems to be acceptable to the United States government. As always, when the State screws up it’s the people who pay.

Second, and this is where my label of enslavement comes in, the contract the soldiers signed when they joined the California National Guard are apparently very one sided. There are very few ways for a member of the military to change the contract they sign, which includes submitting themselves to an alternative justice system, but the State seems to be able to change the contract for any reason whatsoever. If a member of the military wants more pay they’re shit out of luck. If the State later wants the enlistment bonus it paid a member when they joined it can do so without issue and even charge interest.

The State submits us to continuous propaganda about how solider are heroes and how us mere civilians should treat them as such. But the State prefers us to do as it says, not as it does because it has no issue treating soldiers like shit. Of course, in the long run, this will be detrimental to the State because it will have a more difficult time finding people for its meat grinder and those already getting ground up may turn out to view their employer less favorably. An unhappy military is a less efficient expropriator of foreign wealth than a happy military.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 25th, 2016 at 10:30 am