A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for December, 2018

If We Screw Up, It’s You Who Pays

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What happens if you’re arrested by a law enforcer under suspicion of possessing drugs, forcefully subjected to a anal cavity search (after an x-ray turned up nothing), and then found innocent of all wrongdoing? You receive a $4,595.12 bill for having the inside of your asshole inspected:

They collaborated to sedate a suspect and thread an 8-inch flexible tube into his rectum in a search for illegal drugs. The suspect, who police said had taunted them that he’d hidden drugs there, refused consent for the procedure.

At least two doctors resisted the police request. An X-ray already had indicated no drugs. They saw no medical need to perform an invasive procedure on someone against his will.

[…]

When they were done, the hospital lawyer overruled its doctors. The lawyer told his doctors that a search warrant required the doctors to use “any means” to retrieve the drugs, records show.

So St. Joe’s medical staff knocked out the suspect and performed the sigmoidoscopy, in search of evidence of a misdemeanor or low-level felony charge, records show.

[…]

So, was it worth the risk? The X-ray was right. The scope found no drugs.

And when they were done, St. Joe’s sent the suspect a bill for $4,595.12.

Will you look at that? The radar shows a lawsuit coming in fast!

In a just world the law enforcers would be punished for trying to force doctors to perform a medical procedure that wasn’t necessary. The judge would be punished for issuing a warrant without any probably cause (a gut feeling and divine inspiration don’t qualify as probably cause). And the hospital’s lawyer would be punished for ordering the doctors to perform an invasive procedure even though an x-ray had already proven that the suspect had no drugs hiding inside of his ass (a hospital’s lawyer is supposed to keep the hospital out of legal trouble not embroil it in situations that will obviously result in a lawsuit).

However, this isn’t a just world. I suspect that the hospital will be punished but I’m all but certain that the law enforcers and the judge will get away scot-free.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2018 at 11:00 am

Believe Everything You Read

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During this moral panic of fake news, a lot of people have expended a great deal of energy arguing over what news sources are trustworthy and what news sources spew lies. Most of the people arguing in this debate lack any arguments remotely approaching objectivity. Instead they declare whatever sources agree with their biases as trustworthy and whatever sources disagree with their biases as great deceivers.

I tend to take a more cynical approach. I assume anything being fed to me by a major media outlet is mostly bullshit with, at most, a few kernels of truthful information buried in the muck. My cynicism allows me to read stories like this with no feeling of surprise:

A German journalist who trekked to Fergus Falls, Minn., to profile a rural Midwest community after President Donald Trump’s inauguration wrote that he was greeted at the city limits by a sign that read: “Mexicans Keep Out.”

Problem is, the sign reporter Claas Relotius described in his March 2017 article in Der Spiegel, a German language news magazine, never existed. Some of the quotes in the story were made up, too, as were some of the anecdotes — from a brewery hosting a Super Bowl viewing party (the brewery was closed that day) to the city administrator hosting a “Game of Thrones” quiz night (the city leader said he doesn’t even own a TV).

On Wednesday, Der Spiegel disclosed that Relotius, an award-winning reporter, confessed to fabricating at least 14 articles out of the nearly 60 he wrote since 2011, including the descriptive article about Fergus Falls.

If Der Spiegel was on your list of trustworthy sources, you might want to scratch it off. If Der Spiegel was on your list of great deceivers, don’t let the feeling of smugness overcome you because I guarantee you that Relotius isn’t alone. Most major media outlets likely have at least one if not several Relotiuses.

Determining if a story is “fake news” requires more than checking if it aligns with your personal biases. It requires performing an investigation into the journalists’s supposed investigation. If the journalist quoted somebody, you need to find that person and verify that they said what the story claims they said. If the journalist claimed to have seen a sign, you have to go to where the sign supposedly was and verify that it existed or, if it has been removed, find photographic evidence that it existenced. Without that kind of due diligence a journalist could be lying and nobody would be the wiser, unless he later confesses as Relotius did.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2018 at 10:30 am

War Is Good

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Remember the aftermath of 9/11 when Bush entangled the United States in several Middle Eastern conflicts? It lead to the rise of a very fervent anti-war left.

Then Obama came into power. The anti-war left fell silent. I guess they were on vacation or something.

Now Trump has undone one of the products of Bush’s legacy and announced that the United States is pulling out of Syria, which has cause the anti-war left to not only decide that Bush’s wars were OK but that his wars were absolutely necessary!

I have to assume that during its mysterious eight year disappearance, the anti-war left was taken away to Room 101 and taught the importance of Big Brother’s wars. Either that or the anti-war left was never actually against war and merely exploited Bush’s war in order to criticize somebody who worshiped the wrong political god.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 21st, 2018 at 10:00 am

You’re Unboxing It Wrong

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Apple has spent the last couple of years transitioning itself from a consumer electronics company to a luxury products company. For the most part it has been doing a good job of this. The company’s attention to detail on its products is easy to see. However, when you’re a luxury products company, expectations go up. Somebody who buys a Seiko 5 isn’t likely to throw a fit because the second hand doesn’t sweep smoothly. Somebody who spends the big bucks on a Rolex is probably going to be unhappy if their second hand isn’t gliding smoothly over the watch face. Likewise, somebody who buys an Amazon Fire table is probably willing to tolerate a number of limitations and defects. Somebody who spends no less than $799 on an iPad Pro is probably going to be unhappy if their brand new tablet is bent out of the box:

Apple has confirmed to The Verge that some of its 2018 iPad Pros are shipping with a very slight bend in the aluminum chassis. But according to the company, this is a side effect of the device’s manufacturing process and shouldn’t worsen over time or negatively affect the flagship iPad’s performance in any practical way. Apple does not consider it to be a defect.

The thing about being a luxury products company is that you need to make your customers feel special. Telling them that they have to live with a defect on a brand new product isn’t going to fly, especially when your cheaper competitors are apt to replace new products that have any kind of defect whatsoever (if you received a slightly bent Fire table, Amazon would probably get a replacement heading your away immediately).

Apple’s response on this matter is reminiscent of Steve Jobs’s response to people complaining about the iPhone 4 dropping calls when they held it in their left hand (for those who don’t know, he told them that they were holding it wrong). That might have flown when the iPhone was a reasonably priced option on the market but I have my doubts that such a cavalier attitude is going to fly now that Apple’s products are priced as high as they are.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 20th, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Unseen Threat of Advertising Companies

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Most people have a very poor understanding about how advertising companies work. Everybody who uses Facebook and doesn’t use an ad blocker sees ads. They may even consciously recognize that those ads are how Facebook makes money. What they often don’t understand though is that Facebook isn’t just displaying ads, it’s also selling their personal information to third-parties. Even when people do understand that their personal information is being sold to third-parties, they often don’t understand what exactly is being sold. They assume it’s the content they upload like photos and decide it’s not a big issue because they lead a “boring” life. But then they discuss intimate and sometimes embarrassing medical issues with family members through Facebook’s messaging service:

The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

The unseen threat of advertising companies is that all of the data they collect is potentially for sale and you have no idea to whom they’re selling.

A lot of people probably don’t care if Netflix or Microsoft have access to their “private” messages. But technology companies aren’t the only kids on the block with big bucks. Do you really want your health insurance company having access to your “private” messages? That medical issue that grandma messaged you about may be hereditary and the fact that you might face it at some point may convince your health insurance company to up your premium. Would Facebook provide access to your “private” messages to health insurance companies? You have no way of knowing.

And even if Facebook guaranteed that they wouldn’t sell your “private” messages to health insurance companies, they could change their policy down the road (Facebook is, after all, notorious for making changes to privacy policies without notice). Or another party to whom Facebook is selling your “private” messages may sell them to health insurance companies. Once the data exists on Facebook’s servers you lose all control over it.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 20th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Hero We Need

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Gun buybacks are not only improperly named (you can’t buy back something you never owned in the first place) but they’re also pointless. However, they’re often good for a few laughs. Take this wonderful woman for example:

I love it when people blatantly mock government nonsense.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 20th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Once Again Courts Find Law Enforcers Have No Duty to Protect You

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One of the most common arguments made by gun rights advocates is that keeping and bearing arms is essential for self-defense. One of the most common counterarguments made by gun control advocates is that people should rely on professionals to protect them. Professionals in their case means law enforcers, which leaves a giant hole in their counterargument. Courts have consistently ruled that law enforcers have no duty to protect people. A new ruling clarifies that that lack of duty includes children:

A federal judge says Broward schools and the Sheriff’s Office had no legal duty to protect students during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed a suit filed by 15 students who claimed they were traumatized by the crisis in February. The suit named six defendants, including the Broward school district and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, as well as school deputy Scot Peterson and campus monitor Andrew Medina.

Bloom ruled that the two agencies had no constitutional duty to protect students who were not in custody.

Whenever I’ve pointed this consistent ruling out to gun control advocates they’ve had to resort to the extremely weak counterargument that while law enforcers aren’t obligated to protect people, no decent law enforcer would shirk from doing so. Arguments based on what people should do can be immediately dismissed when discussing violence because people should refrain from initiating acts of violence. When the argument of self-defense arises, it is because what people should do has already been thrown out of the window. More specifically though the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School proved that there are law enforcers who will shirk from defending people.

As far as the courts are concerned, when somebody initiates violence against you, you’re on your own. If I were a student, I’d trust a teacher who likely has an emotional incentive to protect me far more than a random law enforcer who has no obligation whatsoever to protect me. Since I’d put more trust in a teacher, I’d prefer they have the option of being armed so they are better equipped to defend me if the need arises (as an added bonus, the need to defend me would be less likely to arise since the school would no longer be a tempting soft target).

Written by Christopher Burg

December 19th, 2018 at 11:00 am

With a Wave of My Hand

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When I was in high school, I was taught about how the three branches of government counterbalance each other. The president can’t write or pass law. Congress can’t sign legislation into law. If the president and Congress conspire to do something illegal, the judicial branch can overrule their actions. But like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, the idea that the three branches of government balance each other out is a fairy tale.

The executive branch has continued to grow in power since the beginning of this country. Instead of slapping down attempts by the executive branch to grab more power the legislative branch has worked to retroactively declare those power grabs lawful. The judicial branch, which is ultimately ruled by the Supreme Court, which consists of judges nominated by the executive branch, has more often than not rubber stamped executive power grabs.

Now instead of Congress proposing and voting on legislation and the president signing it into law, new restrictions can be created by the executive bodies that have been granted regulatory power. The latest example of this is the reclassification of bump stocks as machine guns. Congress never passed legislation. The president said that he was going to ban them and one of his agencies, the Department of Justice, created a new regulation that declared bump stocks machine guns and thus put them in a category that is unlawful to own (machine guns that weren’t registered by May 19th, 1986).

This reclassification by an executive agency isn’t new. This has been the norm for decades. I just wanted to highlight it because, unlike Santa Claus, many people believe in the fairy tale of a balanced government well into adulthood.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 19th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Trump Is Pro-Gun and Other Stores to Which Your Republican Friends Cry Themselves to Sleep

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Remember the when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) ruled that bump stocks were legal and that it wouldn’t issue any new rulings in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting? That was entirely thanks to having a National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed president in the White House! If Hillary had won, she would have immediately banned bump stocks and moved on to banning all of our guns. I know, Trump later announced his intentions to ban bump stocks but that was just part of his 5-million-dimensional chess game to lure those stupid libtards into a clever trap! He was never going to actually go through with it!

If you believed any of that, contact me because I’ve got a great deal on a bridge to sell you:

The Trump administration rolled out a new federal regulation Tuesday officially banning bump-fire stocks.

Those who possess the devices, which make it easier to fire rounds from a semi-automatic weapon by harnessing the gun’s recoil to “bump” the trigger faster, will have 90 days to turn in or otherwise destroy them from the date that the final rule is published in the federal register — likely this Friday — according to senior DOJ officials.

What makes this change especially interesting is that every bump stock has been manufactured after the May 19th, 1986 cutoff date for registering new machine guns that was enacted into law by the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act. Unless some kind of legal exception is made, which doesn’t appear to be the case, there will be no legal way for current bump stock owners to register their “machine guns” and therefore their only legal option will be to get rid of them.

In summary the NRA endorsed a candidate who had a history of supporting gun control pushed gun control and after 90 days everybody who legally purchased a bump stock will become a felon unless they get rid of their “machine guns.”

Written by Christopher Burg

December 19th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Tim May Has Passed

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Yesterday I learned that Tim May, the man who established the concept of crypto-anarchy, passed away:

Tim May, co-founder of the influential Cypherpunks mailing list and a significant influence on both bitcoin and WikiLeaks, passed away last week at his home in Corralitos, California. The news was announced Saturday on a Facebook post written by his friend Lucky Green.

In his influential 1988 essay, “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto,” May predicted that advances in computer technology would eventually allow “individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other” anonymously and without government intrusion. “These developments will alter completely the nature of government regulation [and] the ability to tax and control economic interactions,” he wrote.

The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto influenced me greatly. It was an important document when it was released and its importance has only grown since then. Today surveillance technology is pervasive, which has caused many people to feel hopeless but, as The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto pointed out, technological advances would also give people the power to communicate away from the gaze of Big Brother.

May’s predictions did pan out. Consider the Silk Road and it’s various offspring. Crypto-currencies enable people to avoid one of the government’s largest sources of control, monetary exchanges. Tor provides a protocol that allows people to view and host sites anonymously. When these two technologies were combined, the prohibition enforcers had a hell of a time taking it down and only managed to do so because the suspected creator made a post on a clear web forum with an e-mail address associated with an account on Silk Road. Today there are dozens of online drug markets veiled by Tor and crypto-currencies that the prohibition enforcers have so far been unable to take down.

There are numerous technologies available to allow us to communicate with each other secretly. Signal is probably the best example as it is both easy to use and its protocol has remains unbroken. Even clear web traffic has become more difficult to surveil. When Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency’s (NSA) pervasive domestic surveillance program, a lot of online traffic was transmitted in the clear. Today more and more traffic is transmitted in an encrypted manner, partially thanks to the efforts of Let’s Encrypt, which allows server administrators to setup trusted Transport Layer Security (TLS) connections for free.

Tim May and the ideas he helped establish deserve a lot of credit for influencing all of this. Fortunately, even though he is no longer with us, his ideas are established and will remain with us.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am