A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for October, 2018

Voter Fraud

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There are certain rules in the universe. Light travels at 299,792,458 meters per second, the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time, and arguments about voter fraud become more frequent as election dates near. An election is drawing near here in the United States so politicos are arguing about voter fraud. As is tradition the Republicans are arguing that voter fraud is a major problem while the Democrats are arguing it isn’t.

What amuses me most about this argument is that everybody involved in it uses the term voter fraud as if voting itself wasn’t a form of fraud. According to Wikipedia, “fraud is deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right.”

When people go to the voting booth, what are they trying to accomplish? They’re trying to get their preferred candidates into office. Why would they care about what candidates are in office? Because they hope that their preferred candidates will reciprocate by giving supporters special favors.

Mind you, no self-respecting voter will admit to this, which is where the deception comes in. If you ask 10 voters what they hope to accomplish by voting, you’ll probably hear 10 people tell you that they’re trying to make their nation, state, and/or local community better for everybody living in it. They don’t claim to being voting for themselves but for the greater good. Isn’t that so magnanimous?

If the claim to be voting for the benefit of everybody is a lie, what special favors might a voter hope to gain if their preferred candidates get into office? A business owner might hope that their preferred candidate will pass regulatory legislation that will hinder their competitors. An anti-gun activist might hope that their preferred candidate will pass legislation that prohibits nongovernmental entities from possessing firearms. A religious individual might hope that their preferred candidate will pass legislation that gives their religious beliefs force of law.

Voting is nothing more than a deception to realize unfair gain or deprive individuals of legal rights. When somebody commits what is commonly referred to as voter fraud, they’re simply cheating at cheating. That being the case, I believe that the term voter fraud is redundant and should instead simply be referred to as voting.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 23rd, 2018 at 11:00 am

Is Facebook Private or Public

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Is Facebook private or public? This is currently being hotly debated, even in libertarian circles where Facebook was by and large considered private up until it silenced a large number of libertarian-leaning groups and pages. I believe that in order to debate this topic, the definitions of public and private must first be established.

What distinguishes a private entity from a public one? I would argue that the characteristic that most distinguishes a private entity from a public one is whether or not you’re allowed to stop participating in it. If, for example, you stop participating in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you will likely be awakened some early morning by the sound of men with guns breaking down your door. If you’re lucky, they’ll kidnap you. If you’re unlucky, they’ll summarily execute you.

What happens if you stop participating in Facebook? You stop participating in Facebook. That’s it. No men with guns will kick down your door and kidnap or execute you.

Since participation in Facebook is voluntary, I will continue to argue that it is a private entity. Even if it does collect user information for the expressed purpose of selling it to government agencies (as many self-proclaimed libertarians have been arguing as of late), it’s still private because you’re not being cohered into participating in the information collection (until the IRS’s information collection).

Written by Christopher Burg

October 23rd, 2018 at 10:30 am

Reduced Competition

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Pat Robertson appealed to the people of the United States to overlook the Saudis’ minor transgression of butchering a journalist because a $100 billion weapons sale was on the table. Not only does it appear as though those weapons sales will continue but there may actually be more! One of the United States’ competitors has announced its intention of pulling out of future arms deal with Saudi Arabia:

BERLIN — In a move that could put further pressure on President Trump to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Sunday evening that her government would not approve new arms exports to the kingdom until further notice.

If the United States can exploit Germany’s decision, it could ensure that Germany never gets another arms deal with Saudi Arabia. That would put the United States one step closer to being the despotic regime’s sole arms dealer! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Written by Christopher Burg

October 23rd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Politics

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Monday Metal: Where the Hammer Hangs by Hammer King

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Written by Christopher Burg

October 22nd, 2018 at 10:00 am

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It’s What Jesus Would Want

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One of the most interesting species on Earth is the American pseudo-Christian. Unlike Christians who have come to their beliefs through rigorous study of theology, the American pseudo-Christian generally hasn’t even read the book that they claim is the source of their beliefs. Whereas the Christian regularly attends some form of service and/or Bible study, the American pseudo-Christian tends to avoid any service unless it’s on Christmas and maybe Easter or if they’re feeling particularly guilty for something. I believe it’s the lack of thorough theological study that causes many American pseudo-Christians to treat idiots like Pat Robertson as faith leaders:

Appearing on Christian television show “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, said America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is too important to risk.

“These people are key allies,” Robertson said Monday on the show, first reported by Right Wing Watch. “I don’t think on this issue we need pull sanctions and get tough. I just think it’s a mistake.”

Robertson advocated for behind-the-scenes diplomacy instead of publicly leveling harsh sanctions. He repeatedly invoked the more-than-$100-billion arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. as reason not to go after the country widely viewed as the culprit behind Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“We’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of,” he said. “It’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.”

The Saudis are suspected of cutting a journalist up into small pieces? This isn’t even slightly surprising considering the other heinous acts committed by the Saudis? That’s terrible but it’s not so terrible that somebody should cancel a $100 billion weapons deal! Jesus certainly wouldn’t support ceasing weapons sales to murderers!

The real tragedy is that so many people mistake the American pseudo-Christian that composes the majority of the “Christian” right for Christians.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Obedience School

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The public schooling system isn’t about providing children with an education, it’s about turning children into obedient subjects. Any education a child may receive is nothing more than an unintended consequence. Nowhere is this more evident that in the Texas schooling system, which now requires students to pass an obedience class in order to graduate:

Starting this school year, English, history and math, are not the only classes required to graduate high school in Texas.

A new state law requires students in grades nine through 12 to receive a class, paired with a 16-minute video, that aims to teach them how to deal with law enforcement during a traffic stop.

Known as the Community Safety Education Act, Senate Bill 30 was signed into law by the 85th Texas Legislature to help ease tensions between police and students in the wake of multiple shootings by police of unarmed citizens that have taken place across the United States in recent years.

Law enforcers are gunning down unarmed citizens and the response isn’t to punish the law enforcers but to put the burden of surviving a law enforcement encounter on the citizenry? This says pretty much everything that needs to be said about statism.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 10:30 am

We’re All Collateral Damage

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Politicians usually talk a benevolent game. Seldom do you hear one outright state that they’re going to steamroll a group of individuals. That’s why it was refreshing to hear Nanci Pelosi state that if the Democrats regain power, those who disagree with them will be collateral damage:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said American voters will simply have to deal with the “collateral damage” that comes their way if Democrats craft economic policies in the years ahead.

The California Democrat recently sat down with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in the Big Apple to discuss public policy. The event, hosted by the Jewish organization 92nd Street Y, included a portion on climate change that sparked the lawmaker’s pronouncement.

“We owe the American people to be there for them, for their financial security, respecting the dignity and worth of every person in our country, and if there is some collateral damage for some others who do not share our view, well, so be it, but it shouldn’t be our original purpose,” she said Sunday.

At least she’s being straight up with us plebeians.

Truth be told, the opponents of the party in power are always collateral damage. Politics is nothing more than violence by proxy and the supporters of the party in power supported the party specifically because they wanted a truncheon wielded against their ideological opponents but were too chicken shit to wield it themselves.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 10:00 am

A Seemingly Good Idea with a Steep Price

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When you use a free e-mail provider, you are the product, which means that the provider most likely snoops through the contents of your e-mail to deliver targeted ads. Because of this I encourage people to move away from free providers. Paid e-mail providers are less inclined to snoop through your e-mails but the best option is to host your own e-mail server. Unfortunately, hosting e-mail is a pain in the ass so very few people are interested in doing it. A new product, Helm, is promising the best of both worlds: self-hosted e-mail without the complexity of administering an e-mail server. From a technical standpoint, it looks like a solid product:

The service takes a best-of-both-worlds approach that bridges the gap between on-premises servers and cloud-based offerings. The server looks stylish and is small enough to be tucked into a drawer or sit unnoticed on a desk. It connects to a network over Ethernet or Wi-Fi and runs all the software required to serve email and calendar entries to authorized devices. An expansion slot allows an additional five terabytes of storage.

The server also provides a robust number of offerings designed to make the service extremely hard to hack, including:

  • A system-on-a-chip from NXP that stores keys for full-disk encryption and other crypto functions to ensure keys are never loaded into memory, where they might be leaked. The disk encryption is designed to prevent the contents from being read without the key, even if someone gets physical possession of the device.
  • Support for secure boot and keys that are hardwired during manufacture so the device can only run or install authorized firmware and firmware updates. The devices are manufactured in the US or Mexico to ease concerns about supply-chain weaknesses.
  • Firmware that only communicates over an encrypted VPN tunnel. This measure prevents employees of the user’s ISP, or anyone monitoring the home or office connection, from knowing who the user is communicating with. The firmware also automatically generates TLS certificates from the free Let’s Encrypt service.
  • Before being backed up in the cloud, messages are encrypted using a key that’s stored on the personal server and is available only to the end user. That means if the cloud server is ever hacked or the provider is legally compelled to turn over the backed up data, it can’t be decrypted without the key.
  • Two-factor authentication that’s based on what Helm calls “proximity based security.” The tokens that generate one-time passwords can only be installed on a smartphone that has come into close physical proximity with the Helm device during pairing by someone who knows the device password. Pairing new phones, adding email accounts, or making other changes not only requires a device password but also an OTP from an already-paired phone.

Technical specifications and implementation often don’t match so I’ll be interested to see how well this product works in the wild. However, I’m guessing that this product isn’t going to fly off of the shelves because the price is steep:

The startup is betting that people will be willing to pay $500 to purchase the box and use it for one year to host some of their most precious assets in their own home. The service will cost $100 per year after that. Included in the fee is the registration and automatic renewal of a unique domain selected by the customer and a corresponding TLS certificate from Let’s Encrypt.

$500 is a lot of money for a consumer-grade embedded computer and a $100 per year subscription fee isn’t chump change no matter how you shake it. You can buy a ProtonMail subscription for significantly less and enjoy what most consumer would consider pretty reasonable security. But if you want a self-hosted e-mail option without the hassle that usually accompanies setting up and maintaining your own e-mail server (and have a few Benjamins to spare), this may be a product to look into.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Serving Your Overlords Forever

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It used to be if an actor died, they stopped acting but today’s digital editing technology allows even the dead to continue their career:

From Carrie Fisher in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to Paul Walker in the Fast & Furious movies, dead and magically “de-aged” actors are appearing more frequently on movie screens. Sometimes they even appear on stage: next year, an Amy Winehouse hologram will be going on tour to raise money for a charity established in the late singer’s memory. Some actors and movie studios are buckling down and preparing for an inevitable future when using scanning technology to preserve 3-D digital replicas of performers is routine. Just because your star is inconveniently dead doesn’t mean your generation-spanning blockbuster franchise can’t continue to rake in the dough. Get the tech right and you can cash in on superstars and iconic characters forever.

Unlike living actors, dead actors won’t refuse roles or fighting the director, which is great for propagandists. Imagine a future where a hologram of Hunter S. Thompson does a D.A.R.E. touring circuit or a hologram of Emma Goldman gives a lecture about the importance of government.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Posted in Technology

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Perceived Behavior

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The reason “your side” is better behaved than “their side” is because you give people on “your side” a great deal of leeway and refuse to forgive even the most minor of transgressions perpetrated by people on “their side.”

Written by Christopher Burg

October 18th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Politics

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