Archive for the ‘News You Need to Know’ Category
If you read the Bill of Rights; which really is a bill of temporary privileges, all of which appear to have expired; you might get the impression that you have some kind of right against self-incrimination. At least that’s what a plain reading of the Fifth Amendment would lead one to believe. But self-incrimination means whatever the man in the muumuu says it means. In Minnesota one of those muumuu clad men decided that being compelled to provide the cryptographic key that unlocks your phone isn’t protected under the Fifth Amendment:
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a judge’s order requiring a man to provide a fingerprint to unlock his cellphone was constitutional, a finding that is in line with similar rulings across the U.S.
What does this mean for us Minnesotans? It means that the first thing you should do in a police encounter is deauthorize your fingerprint reader. How do you do that? I’m not familiar enough with the various Android devices to know how they handle fingerprint readers. On the iPhone rebooting the phone will deauthorize the fingerprint reader until the password is entered. So iPhone users should hold down their home and lock buttons (or volume down and lock buttons if you’re using an iPhone 7) for a few seconds. That will cause the phone to reboot. If the phone is confiscated the fingerprint reader won’t unlock the phone so even if you’re compelled to press your finger against the sensor it won’t be an act of self-incrimination.
Why do I say deauthorize your fingerprint reader during a police encounter instead of disabled it entirely? Because disabling the fingerprint reader encourages most people to reduce their security by using a simple password or PIN to unlock their phone. And I understand that mentality. Phones are devices that get unlocked numerous times per day. Having to enter a complex password on a crappy touchscreen keyboard dozens of times per day isn’t appealing. Fingerprint readers offer a compromise. You can have a complex password but you only have to enter it after rebooting the phone or after not unlocking the phone for 48 hours. Otherwise you just press your finger to the reader to unlock your phone. So enabling the fingerprint reader is a feasible way to encourage people to use a strong password, which offers far better overall security (PINs can be brute forced with relative ease and Android’s unlock patterns aren’t all that much better).
Where do criminals get their guns? From other criminals:
Police are searching for the person who broke into an unmarked Ramsey County, Minn., sheriff’s car and stole an AR-15 rifle with a loaded magazine.
St. Louis Park police and the Ramsey County sheriff’s office are both very tight lipped about this unusual theft, executed Friday night by someone who seems to have known exactly what they were after and just how to steal it.
It amuses me that either the police or the author of this story saw fit to make the crime look more complex than it was. By “…someone who seems to have known exactly what they were after and just how to steal it.” the author means that the thief knew how to break open a car door and pry a firearm from a cheap locking mount. When criminals do that to a nongovernment car it’s usually referred to as a smash and grab. When criminals do that to a government car it’s referred to as an unusual theft executed by a highly cunning individual.
I know two people who have had firearms stolen from their vehicles (ironically, in both cases, the guns were in their vehicles because they had to enter a gun-free zone). In both cases the individuals did their due diligence to secure the gun but one can only do so much when it comes to securing something in an automobile. And in both cases the individuals called the police who showed up and spent most of their time giving a sermon about not leaving valuable items in plain site (which they hadn’t done). It amuses me that the police don’t appear to be giving themselves a stern talking to about leaving valuables in plain sight.
Yesterday Barack Obama showed the world that he still has some humanity buried deep under his bloodlust. As is tradition for exiting presidents, Obama handed out a series of pardons and commuted sentences to chosen federal prisoners. Amongst his list was Chelsea Manning:
In one of his last moves in office, President Obama has commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army private who leaked a massive trove of military secrets to WikiLeaks.
The former intelligence analyst’s prison sentence has been shortened to expire on May 17, 2017, according to a statement from the White House.
And by “leaked a massive trove of military secrets” NPR means evidence of war crimes.
While I could spend an entire post criticizing Obama’s unwillingness to pardon Chelsea or commute her sentence sooner, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
When people think about big polluters they usually imagine strip mines or coal burning power plants. Seldom do they imagine the United States military, which is one of the largest polluters in the world. However, Uncle Sam wants to mend his ways. He no longer wants to leave ruined cities in his wake. Now he wants to leave ruined cities covered in plant life in his wake:
The military fires hundreds of thousands of rounds during training, ranging from bullets to 155mm artillery shells. While casings are collected, and often recycled, the bullets themselves generally aren’t, and can take “hundreds of years” to break down in the environment. That can pollute the soil and water supply, harm animals, and generally look like crap if you stumble upon them.
To tackle the problem, the DoDo has made a proposal call for a biodegradable composite bullet impregnated with seeds that will survive the initial blast and searing velocities. The seeds should only sprout after being in the ground for several months and be safe for animals to consume.
I’m sure that’ll make all of the civilians Uncle Sam is blowing up feel better. Sure, little Achmed may be gone but there’s a tree growing where he was blown up so all is forgiven!
I’m really at a loss on this one. What the Department of Defense is asking for is ridiculous. Finding seeds capable of surviving a point blank explosion is already a tall order. But even if somebody can create such seeds what will be the point? People aren’t going to feel better about being bombed just because some trees grow out of the ruins of their cities. Trees aren’t going to offset the environmental destruction of artillery fire. This proposal seems like a tone deaf attempt to appeal to environmentalists.
What is a hero? Many people will claim it’s somebody who puts on a military or police uniform. Me? I believe a hero is somebody who acts morally, especially when they’re against an immoral enemy. Gordon Hirabayashi was a hero:
“This order for the mass evacuation of all persons of Japanese descent denies them the right to live,” Seattle native Gordon Hirabayashi wrote in 1942. “I consider it my duty to maintain the democratic standards for which this nation lives. Therefore, I must refuse this order of evacuation.”
With that, Hirabayashi became one of just a handful of Japanese-Americans who defied the government’s move to put more than 100,000 of them in detention camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. For his refusal, he was imprisoned more than a year.
As a friend said, “Hopefully the casket is built to accommodate his giant brass balls.”
The United States government, in order to drum up fear in the people at home, declared every American of Japanese descent an enemy of the State and rounded them up and put them into concentration camps. Mr. Hirabayashi told the United States government to go pound sand. In retaliation they kidnapped him and locked him in a cage. While, like his fellow Americans of Japanese descent, he ended up in a cage he didn’t do so willingly. He stood up for what was right. His defiance even forced the United States government, after four decades, to admit that it may have gone a bit far:
It took four decades for Hirabayashi to be vindicated, with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that the internment policy “had been based on political expediency, not on any risk to national security,” as The Associated Press writes.
Ludwig von Mises’ motto was, “Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito.” For those of you poor bastards who don’t know Latin it means “Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.” It’s a beautiful motto. If one abides by it then they stand the chance of becoming a real hero like Mr. Hirabayashi.
The shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport last week has the media once again asking the wrong questions. Take this moron for example. His little article is asking whether or not air travelers should still be allowed to have declared firearms in their checked luggage. What would a prohibition against firearms in checked luggage accomplish? It would serve to punish people like myself who often have firearms in their checked luggage but it would do absolutely nothing to enhance security (since, if you want to attack an airport, you can still drive to it with your personal vehicle).
This is the trend amongst the media. Since most reports are clueless about the topics they’re reporting on they ask idiotic questions and make equally idiotic suggestions. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest establishing security checkpoints to get into the airport so you can go through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint. Of course, when somebody shoots up the checkpoint to get into the airport there will be demands for a checkpoint to get near the airport so you can go through the checkpoint to get into the airport so you can go through the TSA checkpoint. If we listened to these yokels it would be checkpoints all the way down.
If you haven’t already, the next time you go through a TSA checkpoint pay attention to how many people are in line with you and how tightly packed together you all are. You’ll probably notice that there are quite a few people packed into a small space. Concentrations of people are a byproduct of security checkpoints and concentrations of people are tempting targets. There’s always going to be a beginning checkpoint where the line of people remain in an insecure area and that line will be vulnerable.
Adding a checkpoint to guard a checkpoint just moves the vulnerability to a different location. What’s needed to guard against threats like the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting is a decentralized force in the insecure area of the airport. Yes, I’m talking about armed personnel. An important part of any security model is an ability to respond to a failure. Insecure areas are always a problem in a security model but even a secure area needs personnel able to respond to a checkpoint failure. So long as the nearest force able to respond to an attack are minutes away an attacker will have a period of free reign. If people really want to harden airports they need to look at both allowing staff members to carry concealed weapons and/or hiring armed private security personnel.
What happens when you ignore a problem for an entire year? The problem doesn’t go away:
Despite ongoing national scrutiny of police tactics, the number of fatal shootings by officers in 2016 remained virtually unchanged from last year when nearly 1,000 people were killed by police.
Through Thursday, law enforcement officers fatally shot 957 people in 2016 — close to three each day — down slightly from 2015 when 991 people were shot to death by officers, according to an ongoing project by The Washington Post to track the number of fatal shootings by police.
The Post, for two years in a row, has documented more than twice the number of fatal shootings recorded by the FBI annually on average.
Why hasn’t anything been done to reduce the number of people being shot by police? Because the politicians rely on the police to be revenue generators and too many people worship the police as heroes.
I’ve written a lot about how being revenue generators makes politicians wary of curtailing bad law enforcement behavior. To summarize that point, the politicians don’t want to risk upsetting their biggest revenue generators because they might generate less revenue. If police officers are punished for shooting an innocent person during a no-knock raid they might be less inclined to go on the next no-knock drug raid and that would cut into the State’s civil forfeiture profits.
Hero worship is another problem. Whenever an individual rises to the status of hero they get a tremendous amount of leeway. Obviously bad behavior is explained away by the hero’s worshippers. After all, the individual is a hero and therefore can do no wrong. Ever since 9/11 law enforcers have been elevated from civil servants to heroes.
We see this come into play whenever an officer is in the news for doing something questionable or outright terrible. Cop apologists crawl out of the woodwork and find any excuse to justify the officer’s actions. Did the officer shoot a carry permit holder during an otherwise routine traffic stop? While the carry permit indicates that the victim wasn’t a felon or domestic abuser the cop apologists will still cite mundane nonsense like traffic citations as justification for the officer’s actions.
This hero worship also influences the actions of those who are tasked with holding law enforcers accountable. No politician, even a lowly municipal one, wants to be the person known for going against a hero. It’s bad for their public image and reelection efforts. So most of them are willing to turn a blind eye towards any issues involving law enforcers.
I imagine 2017 will also see approximately 1,000 people killed by police. Until law enforcers stop being revenue generators and stop being viewed as heroes the motivation to curtail their bad behavior won’t exist.
After eight years of unexplained absence the anti-war left is slowly creeping out of the woodwork!
Three days before Christmas, President-elect Trump tweeted (yes, tweeted) that the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and enhance its nuclear capability” until the world “comes to its senses regarding nukes.” The world, for its part, blinked in astonishment, wondering once again what Mr. Trump might mean, and why such a momentous announcement appeared via social media. Prior presidents generally undertook any shift in nuclear policy with care, and with the advice of experts in arms control and proliferation who have made keeping us safe their life’s mission. After all, when a single person has the power to rain down nuclear fire across the world, caution might not only be warranted, but expected.
As a quick aside, I think Trump’s attempt to take credit for Obama’s $1 trillion revamp of the United States’ nuclear arsenal is pathetic.
George Takei, who was a much more pleasant fellow to follow on social media when he wasn’t championing that butcher Hillary Clinton, took Trump’s tweet about expanding the United States’ nuclear arsenal personally and penned a scathing piece on nuclear weapons in general. Let me say that I appreciate Takei’s rant against nuclear weapons and wish more people would do the same. I also appreciate the handful of other articles penned by the anti-war left in recent times. But I’m forced to ask why these article are appearing again after eight years of silence.
During the George W. Bush’s presidency there was a strong anti-war sentiment coming from the left. Neoliberals, socialists, communists, and leftist anarchists all came together to hold protests against the United States’ wars throughout the country. When Obama first ran for president he did so on an anti-war platform, which gained him the support of the anti-war left. Once he won the election he continued Bush’s reign of terror but did so without protest from the supposedly anti-war left. In fact, they stayed mostly silent for all eight years of Obama’s presidency.
Now that a Republican has regained the presidency the anti-war left is suddenly making noise again. Unfortunately, for them, they lost all legitimacy after Obama took office. By only protesting the wars when Bush was in charge the anti-war left demonstrated that they weren’t anti-war at all. They were just anti-Republican-lead-war. Once a Democrat was ordering the slaughter they were silent. Now that a Republican will be ordering the slaughter again they are suddenly making some noise.
In other words, they’re a bunch of liars. But, hey, at least we can enjoy four years of public outrage over the wars even if that outrage isn’t actually because of the wars.
Most Americans, if asked, would probably say that they oppose discrimination. But deep down inside most Americans love discrimination, so long as it’s their form of discrimination.
Those who identify as political leftists have been very vocal about their opposition to discrimination. They’ve been taking every opportunity to state their objection to discrimination against non-whites, homosexuals, transgender individuals, poor individuals, and the mentally disabled. However, they seems to be perfectly fine with politically motivated discrimination.
Imagine if the restaurant owner from the first link put up a sign that read “If you’re black you can not eat here!” or if the person from the second link refused to help the stuck motorist because they had a gay pride bumper sticker. Most self-identified leftists would be up in arms. But the two individuals mentioned in those two links are being cheered by many of those same self-identified leftists. Why? Because those two individuals are discriminating in an approved manner.
Every one of us discriminates. When you cross the street to avoid the suspicious looking individual walking down the sidewalk you’re discriminating. When you avoid talking to your racist uncle at Christmas you’re discriminating. When you avoid the really drunk guy that won’t stop grabbing your ass at the bar you’re discriminating. Some forms of discrimination, such as the three I just mentioned, make sense. In those cases you’re discriminating to protect yourself, avoid starting a family fight, or avoid being sexually molested. But those forms of discrimination are also based on specific signals being produced by specific individuals.
Racially, sexually, and politically motivated forms of discrimination aren’t based on specific signals produced by specific individuals. They’re forms of collective discrimination where the only signal is membership in a group. Of course, everybody who discriminates against groups has a long list of reasons why their form of discrimination is proper even if they find other forms of group discrimination unacceptable.
I personally find collective discrimination, like all forms of collectivism, distasteful but fear that I’m in the minority because even the loudest opponents of collective discrimination seem to only oppose discrimination against groups that they like. When challenged they will have a long list of reasons why they’re not actually discriminating but all they’re doing is performing an act of cognitive dissonance.
What happens when a business makes more monetary promises than it can fulfill? Its assets are liquidated so that the proceeds can go towards paying off some of those promises. What happens when a government makes more monetary promises than it can fulfill? That seems like an important question to ask right now:
You can look at the financial health of Social Security in many ways.
Despite the huge numbers, there’s even a less generous way of looking at the fiscal shortfall.
A projection, known as the “infinite horizon,” takes into account all the program’s future liabilities, even those beyond the 75-year period that Social Security actuaries typically use in their calculations.
Under the infinite horizon, Social Security will have $32.1 trillion in unfunded liabilities by 2090, $6.3 trillion more than last year’s projection. (See the chart below.)
Social Security was sold as a safety net that would guarantee that retirees would have money even after they were no longer working. But like all government schemes, Social Security was just another mechanism to expropriate wealth from the people for the benefit of the State. The scheme was originally quite simple. Today’s valued dollars would be taken by the State so it could use them as it pleased and then returned at a future date after inflation had devalued those dollars significantly. But the scheme quickly became more complicated.
Since 1982 Social Security has been paying out more than it has been bringing in. This deficit, often referred to by cute names such as unfunded obligations or unfunded liabilities, is slated to ballon to $32.1 trillion by 2090. To put that in perspective, the current national debt is hovering near $20 trillion.
If Social Security (or the United States government for that matter) was a business it would be forced to file bankruptcy as there is no realistic way that it will ever be able to repay its debts.