A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

It’s Happening

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The aftermath of this election is the gift that keeps on giving. After eight years of loving Big Brother and mocking anti-state ideas, neoliberals are suddenly espousing anti-state ideas. The appointment of Betsy DeVos has a lot of neoliberals upset because they think she is going to destroy the public education system (I wish that were true but it’s not). Some of them are so upset that they’re considering a formerly crazy libertarian idea:

In protest of school choice advocate Betsy DeVos becoming the next education secretary, some liberals threatened to homeschool their children. Lost on them, apparently, is the irony of that threat.

As I mentioned, the Education Secretary doesn’t matter if you don’t put your children into a government indoctrination center. Apparently this point has sunk in with a few neoliberals.

Granted, I know these people will have a change of heart when their team is in power again but it’s nice to see that for at least four years some neoliberals will be open to a few libertarian ideas. Perhaps one or two of them will take the ideas to heart and permanently overcome their statist tendencies.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Everything is a Conspiracy

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When Obama was in office a bunch of neocons claimed that he was planning to use the United Nations military to establish martial law, secretly a Muslim Brotherhood operative trying to bring Sharia to the United States, plotting the destruction of Israel, and a whole bunch of other conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, the neoliberals were calling those neocons paranoid and mocking them ruthlessly.

Today a bunch of neoliberals are claiming that Trump is planning to abolish the public schools, reestablish institutionalized racism, round up and kill homosexuals, and a whole bunch of other conspiracy theories. Likewise, now the neocons are calling neoliberals paranoid and mocking them ruthlessly.

As it turns out, this sudden flip in conspiratorial thinking is pretty common:

Even as Democrats decry the false claims streaming regularly from the White House, they appear to have become more vulnerable to unsupported claims and conspiracy theories that flatter their own political prejudices. The reason isn’t just that a Republican now occupies the White House. Political psychology research suggests that losing political control can make people more vulnerable to misinformation and conspiracy theories.

This isn’t surprising. Anybody who isn’t directly embroiled in the political mess of this country but pays attention to those who are have noticed this type of behavior. When a politico’s team is in power all is great and the world is moving in the right direction. When a politico’s team isn’t in power everything is terrible and the world is going to come crashing down. Regardless of the situation, politico’s will tend to believe whatever news fits their personal bias. If they think everything is great they’ll believe any news that supports that bias and label any news that doesn’t as fake or propaganda. The same goes for when they think everything is terrible.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 16th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Someone Would Do That? Just Go On the Internet and Tell Lies?

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I admit that my bullshit detector isn’t perfect but I think it’s pretty well calibrated. One of the things that always raises a red flag on my bullshit detector are stories that seem to be a little too perfect for a group or individual. When the news broke that immigrants were running rampant and sexually assaulting women in Germany the story raised a few red flags. It just fit too perfectly into the alt-right’s narrative. Of course I had nothing but a gut feeling to go on since I can’t read German (yet) so I was relegated to the sources available to me. As it turns out, my bullshit detector wasn’t wrong:

But police confirmed on Tuesday to the Frankfurter Rundschau that their investigation of the allegations had led them to believe that they were spurious.

“Interviews with alleged witnesses, guests and employees led to major doubts with the version of events that had been presented,” the police said.

“One of the alleged victims was not even in Frankfurt at the time the allegations are said to have taken place.”

The police were indeed unequivocal in how they understood the events to have unfolded.

“Masses of refugees were not responsible for any sexual assaults in the Fressgass over New Year. The accusations are completely baseless,” the police said.

Before the Bild report, no sexual assaults were reported to police from Fressgass over New Year.

I’m sure the alt-right will either completely ignore this story or explain it away as a conspiracy by the police to coverup immigrant crime.

The first casualty of politics is language. The second is the truth. Usually the former is used for the latter. But sometimes the truth is killed by good old fashioned lying.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 16th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Rules are for Thee, Not for Me

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The State makes hypocrites of everybody involved in it. At some point even the most principled individual will have to compromise those principles. Take Representative Devin Nunes, for example. He strongly supports the National Security Agency’s (NSA) widespread surveillance program when it’s used against you and me. But when surveillance is used against him and his ilk he suddenly hates it:

Back then there was a bipartisan push to try to require some more due process in National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance of Americans. Nunes used the deadly attack on the nightclub in Orlando to argue against it, claiming it would hamper the government in its fight against the war on terror.

But while he was opposed to protecting you and me from unwarranted government surveillance, apparently Nunes does think that the feds recording a call between ex-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and a Russian ambassador in December is beyond the pale. From The Washington Post:

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that the most significant question posed by the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn is why intelligence officials eavesdropped on his calls with the Russian ambassador and later leaked information on those calls to the press.

“I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting a review of Russian activities to influence the election. “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”

The ability of politicians to hold two mutually exclusive beliefs simultaneously never ceases to amaze me. Usually their cognitive dissonance comes out when discussing so-called rights. Most politicians seem to believe that the State has unlimited rights whereas the people have no rights.

The right to free speech? The State can say whatever it wants, even if it’s false, but the people should have certain restrictions placed upon what they can say. The right to bear arms? The people should be heavily restricted in what they are allowed to possess while the State should be allowed to have an unlimited number of goddamn nuclear weapons. The right to privacy? As Mr. Nunes demonstrated, the State should enjoy an expectation of privacy while the people should be surveilled at all times.

The politicians espousing their cognitive dissonance always have a convenient excuse. The right to free speech is dangerous when that speech is seditious, hateful, untrue, etc. The right to bear arms is dangerous in general because people use weapons to kill other people. The right to privacy is a direct threat to national security because it makes it more difficult for the State to find terrorists. All of these excuses would apply equally to the State but the politicians never mention that.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Your Browser is a Snitch

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The privacy-surveillance arms race will likely be waged eternally. The State wants to spy on people so it can better expropriate their wealth. Private companies want to spy on people so they can collect data to better serve them and better target ads at them. The State wants the private companies to spy on their users because it can get that information via a subpoena. Meanwhile, users are stuck being constantly watched.

Browser fingerprinting is one of the more effective tools in the private companies’ arsenal. Without having to store data on users’ systems, private companies are able to use the data surrendered by browsers to track users with a surprising degree of accuracy. But fingerprinting has been limited to individual browsers. If a user switches browsers their old fingerprint is no longer valid… until now:

The new technique relies on code that instructs browsers to perform a variety of tasks. Those tasks, in turn, draw on operating-system and hardware resources—including graphics cards, multiple CPU cores, audio cards, and installed fonts—that are slightly different for each computer. For instance, the cross-browser fingerprinting carries out 20 carefully selected tasks that use the WebGL standard for rendering 3D graphics in browsers. In all, 36 new features work independently of a specific browser.

New browser features are commonly used for tracking users. In time those features are usually improved in such a way that tracking becomes more difficult. I have no doubts that WebGL will follow this path as well. Until it is improved through, it wouldn’t be dumb to disable it if you’re trying to avoid being tracked.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Tips for Getting Past Customs

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Customs in the United States have become nosier every year. It makes one wonder how they can enter the country without surrendering their life by granting access to their digital devices. Wired put together a decent guide for dealing with customs. Of the tips there is one that I highly recommend:

Make a Travel Kit

For the most vulnerable travelers, the best way to keep customs away from your data is simply not to carry it. Instead, like Lackey, set up travel devices that store the minimum of sensitive data. Don’t link those “dirty” devices to your personal accounts, and when you do have to create a linked account—as with iTunes for iOS devices—create fresh ones with unique usernames and passwords. “If they ask for access and you can’t refuse, you want to be able to give them access without losing any sensitive information,” says Lackey.

Social media accounts, admittedly, can’t be so easily ditched. Some security experts recommend creating secondary personas that can be offered up to customs officials while keeping a more sensitive account secret. But if CBP agents do link your identity with an account you tried to hide, the result could be longer detention and, for non-citizens, even denial of entry.

I believe that I first came across this advice on Bruce Schneier’s blog. Instead of traveling with a device that contains all of your information you should consider traveling with a completely clean device and accessing the information you need via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you reach your destination. When you’re ready to return home wipe all of the data.

The most effective way to defend against the snoops at the border is to not have any data for them to snoop.

The other tips are good to follow as well but aren’t as effective as simply not having any data in the first place. But I understand that isn’t always feasible. In cases where you’re traveling somewhere that has unreliable Internet connectivity, for example, you will need to bring the data you need with you. If you’re in such a situation I recommend only brining the data you absolutely need.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2017 at 10:00 am

A Socialist by Any Other Name

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I’ve seen several people celebrating the antics of anti-fascists. And I get it. I also hate national socialists. But in most cases the anti-fascists being celebrated are international socialists.

The reason I’m not celebrating their antics is because I don’t see any meaningful difference between national and international socialists. If you look at their history, both groups have a tendency to fill mass graves. Their criteria on who to kill may differ but in the end they both have lists of enemies that they purge when the opportunity presents itself.

So, no, I’m not going to cheer on a bunch of international socialists just because they’re fighting national socialists. Frankly, I want the two camps to wipe each other out.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 14th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Unintended Consequences

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Whenever the State involves itself in an issue there are unintended consequences (okay, the consequences could be intended but I’ll give the politicians the benefit of the doubt in this case). When the State involved itself in the alcohol market by prohibiting its manufacture, sale, and consumption criminal organizations arose to provide the prohibited good. Today we’re seeing the same thing happen again as the State has involved itself in the markets of several other substances. When the State further involved itself in the healthcare market health insurance premiums skyrocketed.

What happens when the State involves itself in immigration? Unintended consequences:

For four months every year he employs almost exclusively Hispanic male workers to pick the harvest. This year he had 64 men out in the fields.

Then HB56 came into effect, the new law that makes it a crime not to carry valid immigration documents and forces the police to check on anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally.

The provisions – the toughest of any state in America – were enforced on 28 September. By the next day Cash’s workforce had dwindled to 11.

Today there is no-one left. The fields around his colonial-style farmhouse on top of a mountain are empty of pickers and the tomato plants are withering on the vine as far as the eye can see. The sweet, slightly acrid smell of rotting tomato flesh hangs in the air.

On Friday, the 11th circuit appeals court in Atlanta blocked the first of those measures, but allowed the state to continue detaining suspected illegal migrants. So it is unlikely that Cash’s workers will dare to reappear.

The blow to Cash can be measured in those $100,000 – money he says he had wanted to put aside as insurance against a poor crop in future years. But it can also be measured in other ways.

A great deal of manual labor in this country is performed by “illegal” immigrants. Why? Because they’re willing to do the work for the pay being offered, unlike most Americans. When those immigrants aren’t available to do the work the work often ends up not being done, which costs producers money and consumers available goods.

Immigration is a hotly debated topic amongst libertarians. One camp believes that the State has the authority to decide who can and cannot cross the arbitrary lines it has created. The other camp, i.e. the correct libertarians, don’t recognize the State has a legitimate entity and believe that the only person who can decide who can and cannot enter a property is the owner. If a farmer wants to allowed laborers from Mexico to enter their property then those Mexicans can enter the property. Property rights cease to exist the second the State is allowed to dictate who can and cannot enter the farmer’s property.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 14th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Good People Exist in This World

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With all of the terrible shit that happens in this world I periodically need a reminder that there are some really good people out there. Take Mohamed Bzeek, for example:

The children were going to die.

Mohamed Bzeek knew that. But in his more than two decades as a foster father, he took them in anyway — the sickest of the sick in Los Angeles County’s sprawling foster care system.

He has buried about 10 children. Some died in his arms.

Now, Bzeek spends long days and sleepless nights caring for a bedridden 6-year-old foster girl with a rare brain defect. She’s blind and deaf. She has daily seizures. Her arms and legs are paralyzed.

Bzeek, a quiet, devout Libyan-born Muslim who lives in Azusa, just wants her to know she’s not alone in this life.

I have nothing but respect for Mr. Bzeek. Taking in and caring for children that are terminally ill is a tremendous emotional burden but it makes the last days of those children more comfortable. The world would be a far better place if it had more Mohamed Bzeeks in it.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 14th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Monday Metal: The Roman by Ex Deo

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Ex Deo released a music video for one of the songs on their upcoming album, The Immortal Wars. It’s awesome, as Ex Deo’s music tends to be:

Written by Christopher Burg

February 13th, 2017 at 10:00 am

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