A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘News You Need to Know’ Category

Living in the Freest Country on Earth

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A lot of people living here in the United States remain adamant that it is the freest country on Earth. Even those who don’t believe that it is the freest country on Earth are skittish about calling it a police state. However, I can’t think of any other term that describes the state of a nation where this kind of nonsense takes place:

Los Angeles will be the first US city to start equipping its subways with body scanners. But the Southern California metropolis isn’t using the bulky, slow-operating models that populate US airports: Instead, LA’s Metropolitan Transit Authority will deploy portable trunk-sized scanners that can survey people from 30 feet away at a rate of 2,000 individuals an hour.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. When the Transportation Security Administration installed body scanners at airports, there was a short period where people expressed outrage at the idea. After that short period almost everybody rolled over and accepted it. Now that practice is coming to subways in Los Angeles and I predict a similar result. There will be a short period of outrage but everybody will roll over like the good little slaves they are in short order. Then this system will come to trains (including municipal light rail) and buses and eventually you won’t be able to go anywhere without being subjected to a full body scan.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Suing the Baker: Episode Two

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Remember when advocates for religious liberty were cheering the Supreme Court when it ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding due his religious beliefs? Remember when I pointed out that the ruling had nothing to do with religious liberty because the court ruling related to a technicality, the arguments being put forth by either the defendant or prosecutor? That minor detail that so many people skipped over ensured that this was inevitable:

The Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and was vindicated by the Supreme Court earlier this year is mounting another legal challenge this week after refusing to bake a gender-transitioning cake.

Shortly after the Supreme Court agreed to hear baker Jack Phillips‘ case, an attorney requested he create a cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside to represent a gender transition from male to female.

As a Christian, Mr. Phillips would not make the cake since it conflicted with his beliefs, which was his same reasoning for refusing to bake the same-sex couple’s wedding cake.

The state of Colorado has come after Mr. Phillips again, suggesting state law requires him to bake the gender change cake.

Since the Supreme Court didn’t make a ruling on the arguments presented, the issue was never legally resolved, which pretty much guaranteed that somebody else would take Phillips back to court for the same reason.

It’ll be interesting to see how this case turns out. Will it reach the Supreme Court again? If so, will the Supreme Court once again rule on a technicality to dodge the controversy that will be the result of any ruling based on the arguments presented? If it rules on a technicality again, will we see a third episode (hint: we will)?

Written by Christopher Burg

August 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Don’t Believe Everything You Read on the Internet… or in a Book

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The Internet is a platform for everybody, and I mean everybody. From scientists to conspiracy theorists. From medical professionals to witch doctors. From professional chefs to idiots who don’t know that the ingredients they’re recommending are toxic:

Holmgren’s idealized Little House lifestyle led to online fame and eventually helped her land a book deal. Which is fine. Holmgren’s Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen: The Ultimate Field Guide to Evoke Curiosity and Wonderment with More Than 80 Recipes and Foraging Tips hit shelves earlier this year. And amazingly, she had more to say than would fit in that subtitle—upon its release, Holmgren and her forest-find-decorated home were featured in publications like the Star Tribune.

Here’s the problem: Forager’s Kitchen also includes recipes that use raw morel mushrooms. There’s a smoothie in there made with raw elderberries.

Both of which are toxic if served uncooked.

The Internet gave Holmgren a platform and according to Shitty Pages she has risen through the ranks and is now an “Instagram influencer” (whatever the fuck that is). Thanks to fame that the Internet enabled her to accrue, she was able to publish a physical book. It just so happens that following the advice in her book could lead to some discomfort. So, yeah, thanks Internet!

I’m rather sad that this book is being recalled. I think a lot of people would benefit from direct experience in not believing every idiot thing that they read.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 16th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Dream Job

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I never thought that I’d say this but I may be moving to Venezuela. It turns out that the socialist government there has brought back my dream profession:

Political and economic crises are exploding from Venezuela to Nicaragua to Haiti, sparking anarchy and criminality. As the rule of law breaks down, certain spots in the Caribbean, experts say, are becoming more dangerous than they’ve been in years.

Often, observers say, the acts of villainy appear to be happening with the complicity or direct involvement of corrupt officials — particularly in the waters off collapsing Venezuela.

“It’s criminal chaos, a free-for-all, along the Venezuelan coast,” said Jeremy McDermott, co-director of Insight Crime, a nonprofit organization that studies organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.

While I’m sure these pirates are being condemned by the Venezuelan government, the two groups are actually doing the exact same thing except the former doesn’t have as much pomp or as many rituals.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 15th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Body Camera Didn’t Record the Summary Execution Because It Was Hacked

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The aftermath of DEF CON when the high profile exploits discussed at the event hit the headlines is always fun. Most of the headlines have focused on the complete lack of security that exists on electronic voting machines. I haven’t touch on that because it’s an exercise in beating a dead horse at this point. A story that I found far more interesting due to its likely consequences is the news about the exploits found in popular law enforcer body cameras:

At Def Con this weekend, Josh Mitchell, a cybersecurity consultant with Nuix, showed how various models of body cameras can be hacked, tracked and manipulated. Mitchell looked at devices produced by five companies — Vievu, Patrol Eyes, Fire Cam, Digital Ally and CeeSc — and found that they all had major security flaws, Wired reports. In four of the models, the flaws could allow an attacker to download footage, edit it and upload it again without evidence of any of those changes having occurred.

I assume that these exploits are a feature, not a bug.

Law enforcers already have a problem with “malfunctioning” body cameras. There are numerous instances where multiple law enforcers involved in a shooting with highly questionable circumstances all claimed that their body cameras malfunctioned simultaneously. What has been missing up until this point is a justification for those malfunctions. I won’t be surprised if we start seeing law enforcers claim that their body cameras were hacked in the aftermath of these kinds of shootings. Moreover, the ability of unauthorized individuals to download, edit, and upload footage is another great feature because footage that reflects poorly on law enforcers can be edited and if the edit is discovered, officials can claim that it must have been edited by evil hackers.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 14th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Minneapolis’ Very Own Tent Town

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Minneapolis has achieved another milestone in its march towards progress, it now has its very own Hooverville:

Yanez lives at the heart of a sprawling homeless settlement that has formed and grown quickly this summer in the shadows of the Little Earth housing project near the intersection of Hiawatha and Cedar avenues in south Minneapolis.

Their numbers have multiplied in recent weeks, reaching about 60 men, women and children this week, turning this narrow stretch of grass into one of the largest and most visible homeless camps ever seen in Minnesota.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Every large city has a homeless population living within it. People who share hardships often come together and form a community. However, by forming a community these individuals have also made their existence undeniable, which will likely cause them more hardship in the near future.

City officials do not like homeless individuals. When city officials learn about the existence of a group of homeless individuals, they tend to sic their dogs on them. The angle of this story is that this Hooverville is a public health crisis. That will likely be the justification city officials use when they send their law enforcers to confiscate these individuals’ tents and tell them that they have to go be homeless somewhere else (that is, after all, how city officials always “help” the homeless).

Written by Christopher Burg

August 14th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Cost of Centralization

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Alex Jones is having a lot of fun as of late. On top of recent court battles he now gets to add the pain of having his content removed from several major aggregators:

Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify took their most aggressive steps yet to penalize conspiracy theorist and prominent right-wing talk show host Alex Jones for violating their hate speech policies.

Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and Google are all private businesses that have every right to refuse service to anybody. Moreover, I understand why any company would want to refuse service to Alex Jones. However, this is yet another lesson on the cost of centralization.

The aggregation of a majority of people’s information is now controlled by a handful of companies. This situation would be egregious if those companies used heavy handed tactics to coerce creators into relying on their services for distribution. But the power that companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google hold was given to them by creators who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of distribution themselves. Now that those companies have that power, they can make creators who don’t have their own distribution channel disappear.

Alex Jones is better off than many in this case because he, as far as I know, maintains his own infrastructure so his content is still available to his fan base. But other creators should be paying attention. If you don’t maintain your own infrastructure, everything you’ve created and your connection with your fans would vanish with the snap of a few companies’ fingers.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 7th, 2018 at 11:00 am

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Altering the Deal

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I’ve never understood the business model of relying entirely on one other company for revenue. It might sound like a good idea at first, especially if the other company is being especially generous, but if the other company changes the deal, you’re shit out of luck:

Apple is shutting down an App Store affiliate program that shared a small percentage of revenue generated by third-party links to purchase apps or in-app content.

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Apple’s decision comes as a sucker punch to outlets like mobile gaming news and reviews site TouchArcade, which has long relied on the App Store affiliate program for a significant chunk of its revenue. As TouchArcade editor Eli Hodapp writes in a despairing post, the loss of the “reliable” affiliate revenue stream could very well kill the site, which will now lean more heavily on Patreon donations and Amazon affiliate links to stay afloat.

“I genuinely have no idea what TouchArcade is going to do,” Hodapp writes. “It’s hard to read this in any other way than ‘We went from seeing a microscopic amount of value in third-party editorial to, we now see no value.’ … I don’t know how the takeaway from this move can be seen as anything other than Apple extending a massive middle finger to sites like TouchArcade, AppShopper, and many others who have spent the last decade evangelizing the App Store and iOS gaming.”

Maybe deciding what TouchArcade will do if Apple cancels its affiliate program is something that should have been considered earlier. Especially since not too long ago Apple changed the terms of its affiliate program to reduce the amount of money affiliates received.

Threat modeling isn’t an exercise that should be performed exclusively by a company’s security team. Security threats are just one kind of threat that businesses face. Loss of revenue sources is another threat that must be considered.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 3rd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Government Giveth and Government Taketh Away

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One of the most aggravating aspects of living in a major metropolitan area is that a vast majority of the people living here mindlessly parrot whatever the local government tells them to parrot. If, for example, the local government says that there is a housing shortage and that the only way to bring housing prices down is to build a lot of high-density residential buildings, a vast majority of people living here will start demanding more high-density residential buildings be built. Moreover, if the local government says that people should be using mass transit, a vast majority of people living here will start telling everybody to use mass transit. But what happens if you decide to use mass transit and then the local government takes it away from you:

Metro Transit says it is suspending dozens of bus trips because of a driver shortage, effective Tuesday.

The suspensions started just after 6 a.m.

Metro Transit said in an online posting it was stopping 67 bus trips on 40 of its routes until further notice. The transit agency says it is short about 90 drivers, despite a recent push to recruit new operators across the Twin Cities.

There are quite a few people living in the Twin Cities, especially in Minneapolis, who have fallen for the local government’s mass transit propaganda so fully that they no longer own their own automobile. It works for them because the government is subsidizing their transportation by providing mass transit at taxpayer expense. However, government is an arbitrary beast and can giveth one moment and taketh away another.

What happens if you’re one of those poor schmucks who relied on one of those 67 bus trips to get to and from work? If you own an automobile, you at least have the option to drive. If you don’t own an automobile, you’re not stuck paying for Uber or Lyft rides twice a day, which will get pretty damned expensive.

Relying on an arbitrary beast like government is one of the most foolish things an individual can do. At any moment a bureaucrat may decide that the service you rely on is no longer necessary or is impossible for the government to reliably fulfill and it will go away. When that happens, you have zero recourse.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 2nd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Dimwitted Sheep

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It is fortune for the United States government that it rules over such dimwitted and malleable sheep for if it wasn’t, it might suffer some kind of resistance whenever it inserted itself further into their everyday lives:

Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.

The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

Fortunately for the United States government, this new infringement on its subject’s supposed rights will meet with at most a few days of people making statements about how outraged they are before they roll over like the docile domesticated animals they are.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 31st, 2018 at 10:30 am