What What, In The Butt? Government.

What is the biggest concern facing Michigan? Some may say it’s the poisoned water in Flint. Others may say it’s the devastated economy in Detroit. The Michigan Senate has decided it’s butt sex:

Those who violate bans on anal sex in the US state of Michigan now face up to 15 years prison time, after the Michigan Senate passed a controversial bill last Thursday (February 4), and despite the US Supreme Court ruling the legislation to be unconstitutional.

I’m of the opinion that where one man sticks his dick is none of my concern so long as everybody involved has consented. That’s why the puritans’ fascination with male genitalia baffles me. But this doesn’t surprise me. Since humanity first developed the really bad idea of letting a handful of us rule everybody else the State has been very interested in what people do in their bedrooms. And bathrooms. And living rooms.

Basically the State is very interested in everything that happens in your home. That way it can tax, fine, or otherwise extort wealth from people. Do you want to remodel your a room? You need to buy a permit! Do you want to enjoy anal sex with your partner(s)? That’s a finable and jailable offense! Do you want to grow a plant that you use for medicinal properties? Excellent! Not only is that a finable and jailable offense but civil forfeiture can come into play as well!

The reason there are so many laws on the books is because the State wants a cut from every activity humanly possible. This is just another example of the State trying to get a piece of some action.

The Pervasiveness Of Government Databases

Let’s discuss government databases. The United States government maintains numerous databases on its citizens. Many of these databases are populated, if not entirely, in part by algorithms. And unlike Amazon’s recommendation algorithms or Google’s search algorithms, government algorithms have real world consequences. Because government databases have become so pervasive these consequences can range from being barred from flying on a plane to signing up for the latest video game:

Last weekend Muhammad Zakir Khan, an avid gamer and assistant professor at Broward College in Florida, booted up his PC and attempted to sign up for Epic Games’ MOBA-inspired Paragon beta. Unbeknownst to Khan, however, was that his name name—-along with many others-—is on the US government’s “Specially Designated Nationals list,” and as such was blocked from signing up.

“Your account creation has been blocked as a result of a match against the Specially Designated Nationals list maintained by the United States of America’s Office of Foreign Assets control,” read the form. “If you have questions, please contact customer service at accounts@epicgames.com.”

There’s an interesting series of connections here. The first connection is Mr. Khan’s name appearing in the Specially Designated Nationals list. The second connection is the database, which is used to enforce the United States government’s various sanctions, applying to the Unreal 4 engine. The third connection is the game utilizing the Unreal 4 engine. In all likelihood Mr. Khan’s name was added to the database by an algorithm that adds anybody who has an arbitrarily selected number of characteristics that include such things as last names and religions.

So, ultimately, Mr. Khan was being prevented from signing up for a game because the government believes if they prevent modern video game technology from entering Iran, North Korea, or other countries under sanctions that the citizenry will start a revolution. Being human (or at least somewhat close approximations thereof) the agents charged with enforcing these sanctions chose to automate the process as much as possible, which resulted in a database likely automatically populated algorithmically.

Thou Shalt Not Discuss Manufacturing Firearms

The United States government has been trying fruitlessly to stifle the spread of any information it deems inappropriate for centuries (at least since the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts). Back in the 1990s the government was trying to restrict the sharing of information about of strong cryptography, claiming such algorithms were munitions (I’m not making this up). Now the government is doubling down on its stupidity and trying to prevent the sharing of information related to manufacturing 3D printed firearms:

As readers of Reason know well, Cody Wilson is living proof the government has already been acting on the belief they have this power to prevent certain technical details about gun making from spreading to the Internet without their approval—in Wilson’s case, CAD files to for a 3D printed plastic handgun. And they’ve already been sued for it by Wilson.

Wilson this morning tells me that in making this regulatory move public, it’s almost like the people he’s suing are begging for an injunction to stop them. The proposed regulation is even signed by one of the same people Wilson is suing, C. Edward Peartree, director of the Office of Defense Trade Controls Policy. (One might argue that this is a person being sued in some sense backtracking to cover his own legal ass by stating that the seemingly objectionable actions he’s being sued over are settled lawful regulations, though I don’t know if a court would agree with that argument one way or the other.)

The State Department, Wilson says, could have gone to the next hearing on his case on July 6 “and say we are changing the rule, we will address [Wilson’s complaints about the 1st, 2nd, and 5th amendment issues with their censorious practice], moot the case.” Instead they are “completely explicit” with these new announced regs, “doubling down” on their supposed power to require government license for certain kinds of speech related to weapons usable for self-defense.

Wilson says his suit had to try to demonstrate that the government had such a policy for prior approval of speech. Now the government is “saying our policy is literally that there is such a requirement and always has been.” Wilson seems to think it might make it easier to get an injunction against the government’s threats to him to take down from his servers information related to the home-making of plastic guns via 3D printers. We’ll see.

Attempts to restrict the proliferation of information don’t worry me. The state can write as many laws as it wants but in the end people will always ignore restrictions on sharing information. Thanks to strong cryptographic tools, which the state tried but failed to control in the 1990s, it’s trivial for people to post and read information anonymously. And the task will only become more futile as the state tightens its grip. Arrests, charges, prosecutions, and imprisonments will encourage more and more people to utilize tools such as Tor to protect their anonymity. As more people use these tools the task of the state to identify and attack sharers of information will become more infeasible.

This battle has been waging since at least the invention of the printing press and will continue to wage until humanity rids itself of the yoke of statism. But it is a battle that the state can never win because it is only a handful of individuals going against the collected creativity of the masses.

Citizen Patrol Aimed at Defending Against Police Shootings

Neighborhood watch, as it currently exist in the United State, is a concept born of the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese. The watches were created in response to the lack of intervention from onlookers of the crime. Today there are still groups of individuals who patrol their neighborhoods in the hopes of preventing crime. But there is one crime most neighborhood watches fail to consider. Shooting by the largest violent gang operating in our neighborhoods, the police, often go unchallenged by neighborhood watches. A group of individuals in Dallas are looking to change that. They have established a neighborhood watch expressly for the purpose of protecting the people from the police:

A new group calling itself the Huey P. Newton Gun Club launched armed self-defense patrols Wednesday with one stated purpose: to protect Dallas neighbors from police.

Group leader Charles Goodson said recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the killing of an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown by a white police officer is only part of the reason for the new Dallas patrols.

The group is named after Huey P. Newton, a founder of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s who was killed by a rival militant in 1989.

“We don’t think that what happened to Michael Brown in St. Louis is an isolated incident. We have so many Michael Browns here in the city of Dallas,” Goodson said.

Another leader, Huby Freeman, said the group wants to educate neighbors about the right to bear arms and the need for it.

“We believe we can police ourselves and bring security to our community, ridding our community of black-on-black crime, violence, police terror, etc., etc.,” Freeman said.

Police brutality is a major problem in this country and it’s nice to see people looking for a solution other than begging the state to be a little less vicious. It’s unfortunate but police officers are unlikely to face consequences for committing acts of murder. Even if evidence against an officer is damning it’s common for him or her to receive a paid vacation and then get reinstated once the media is no longer covering the event. Once in a great while an officer will get fired from the department but that’s a rare enough occurrence to almost be relegated for folklore.

Who watches the watchmen? In most cases nobody. But if this idea takes off there could be watchmen overseeing the watchmen and that could decrease police brutality. If nothing else it would be nice if there were neighborhood watches that would intervene when police officers decided to go all ‘roid rage on somebody.

Suddenly Everything Changed in Washington DC

It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Last week a federal judge ruled that Washington DC’s ban on carrying a firearm was unconstitutional. That was a surprising ruling in of itself but most people, myself included, expected that the Washington DC police would simply ignore the ruling. In another surprising turn of events the Washington DC Police Chief has ordered his soldiers to not arrest people who are lawfully carrying within the city’s borders:

As of 6:24 p.m. on July 27, 2014, this is a welcome development. Many have said that the D.C. political establishment will ignore the judges order. This shows that Police Chief Lanier is, at minimum, unwilling to be found in contempt. Notice the broad extent of the order: no arrests for a person who can legally carry a gun in D.C. or any State.

Mind you I wouldn’t want to be a guinea pig because I’m not convinced that the DC police will actually leave people carrying within the city alone. But the fact that the city’s Police Chief ordered his troops not to is pretty shocking on its own.

I wonder how long it will be until the city finds a way to reimplement a ban that meets the arbitrary requirement of constitution.

Trigger Warning: The Author of This Blog is an A-Hole

There are so many feel good movements on the Internet that I can’t keep track of them all. Some of the most prevalent ones (that I’m aware of) are the push for people to use gender neutral terms (which is really fucking difficult when the language you’re using is English), stop using the word retarded, and include trigger warnings on any material that may trigger a traumatic memory of people you haven’t met. The last one has been gaining some traction as of late and it appears to be spreading outside of the Internet:

It’s a phrase that’s been requested this semester by a number of college students to be applied to classic books — The Great Gatsby (for misogyny and violence), Huck Finn (for racism), Things Fall Apart (for colonialism and religious persecution), Mrs. Dalloway (for suicide), Shakespeare (for … you name it). These students are asking for what essentially constitute red-flag alerts to be placed, in some cases, upon the literature itself, or, at least, in class syllabuses, and invoked prior to lectures.

These feel good movements, in addition to being an attempt to protect everybody’s sensitive feelings, generally have an (sometimes) unintended side effect: censorship. As the article goes on to state:

Of course, life doesn’t come with a trigger warning, even if it should. And while a classroom conversation about emotionally fraught subjects would seem not only advisable but also just part of any decent teaching method, slapping a trigger warning on classic works of literature seems a short step away from book banning, a kind of censorship based on offenses to individual feelings.

Whenever I run across a comment that says some permutation of “Dude, add a trigger warning!” (Dude? Way to jump to assumptions that all offense things on the Internet are posted by men you misandrist asshole!) it triggers my trigger, which is triggered whenever I run across somebody bitching because there isn’t an included trigger warning. How is the author of an article or a comment supposed to know that the content of his work is going to set off some random stranger’s traumatic memories?

Of course the opinion that trigger warning are bullshit isn’t generally accepted within the halls of the social justice warriors so they will often demand that you be censored for expressing it. And if you do include a trigger warning they will demand that you be censored because you posted something online that you expected to trigger somebody’s traumatic memories.

Imagine a class of 30 students. Each student has lived a separate life full of different experiences from every other member of the class. More than likely more than one of the students has suffered a traumatic experience and it’s also likely the the type of trauma suffered by each sufferer is different from the other sufferers. What happens when the instructor of a literature class chooses to assign Huck Finn and one of the students who suffered racial trauma objects? That instructor will be faced with deciding to assign a different book or being labeled an asshole for making a student who is triggered by the assigned material read it. Since the former is less likely to end in a week long bitchfest on Twitter as social justice warriors create a clever hashtag to use to derogatorily refer to the instructor he or she will probably choose to assign a different book. So let’s say that the instructor decides to assign Mrs. Dalloway instead only to find out one of his students was traumatized by a past attempt to commit suicide. Again we return to one of two options. Eventually the only titles that become acceptable to assign are sanitized tomes devoid of almost everything that makes for a great work (namely addressing or exploring a controversial topic).

In addition to being based entirely on random people’s feelings, trigger warning are also time period dependent. Consider many of the works of Samuel Clemens. Many of his titles contain what we now consider to be very racist language. But when they were written the terms used were part of the vernacular. When the books were written nobody would have demanded a trigger warning be added to the book. So in addition to having to predict the feels of every potential reader authors and publishers must either predict what will offend individuals in the future or periodically update the included trigger warnings.

Trying to manage such a subjective time sensitive clusterfuck as trigger warnings on novels is retarded (I’m just going to tick off all of the easily offendeds’ boxes). Because of the difficult of managing such a mess colleges and instructors will choose the much easier path of assigning completely sterile works to the detriment of students everywhere.

An Argument for Cryptocurrencies

The financial industry is a quagmire of censorship, morality policing, and market control. How the financial industry restricts markets is pretty easy to ascertain. Numerous laws exist that prohibit the transfer of money for transactions that the state has declared criminal. That makes the use of the financial industry to perform transactions for things like cannabis more difficult. But how does the financial industry perform censorship and police morality? By deciding who can and cannot have a bank account. We’ve seen this before with gun stores mysteriously having their bank accounts closed. But gun store owners aren’t the only target of the financial industry’s morality policing. The adult entertainment industry has also come under the financial industry’s ire:

Just as ISPs and search engines can become weak links for digital speech, too often financial service providers are pressured by the government to shut down speech or punish speakers who would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment. It’s unclear whether this is an example of government pressure, an internal corporate decision, or some combination.

Chase has yet to give an official statement on why the accounts are being closed. At least one of the customers affected by Chase’s decision to shut down adult entertainers’ accounts, Teagan Presley, was told by Chase that her account was being shut down “because she’s considered ‘high risk.'” According to NY Daily News, her husband Joshua Lehman (whose account is also being closed) reports receiving conflicting information from Chase about why the accounts were being shut down:

I’ve heard three different reasons…When I went into our branch, they said it was the nature of our business. When I called, they said they were closing my personal account because my wife is an ‘infamous’ adult star. When I talked to my branch again, they said it wasn’t because we were in the adult industry but because we did business with a convicted felon.

This isn’t the first time Chase has been under fire for morality-based account closures. In 2013, Chase faced a lawsuit from the founder of MRG Entertainment for denying loans to people within the adult entertainment industry. And just a few months ago, Chase refused to process payments for Lovability, an online condom store. After bad press and public pressure, Chase reversed its decision, but it’s unclear whether Chase ever changed the policies that led to the decision in the first place.

Bank accounts are an Achilles heel for most “legitimate” businesses. Without one it’s difficult, if not impossible, to accept credit and debit card payments and many banks will only cash checks for account holders (or charge non-account holders a nasty cashing fee). Imagine if every bank refused to allow MidwayUSA or Brownells to have a bank account. Those stores would likely be finished.

Centrally controlled financial services, like most centrally controlled industries, are dangerous things to rely on. At any point those services can be used to enforce selected ideals. This is why I see decentralized financial systems, namely cryptocurrencies, as an important development.

I will use Bitcoin as an example because it is the most well known, but there are many cryptocurrencies out there with similar advantages. Bitcoin is a decentralized system. It doesn’t attempt to judge whether or not a transaction is legal, moral, or otherwise acceptable. The only thing the Bitcoin network attempts to do is ensure transactions are recorded and the appropriate amount of Bitcoin is transferred between accounts. Adult entertainers can bypass the financial industry’s censorship by accepting Bitcoin and may have to resort to doing so if things continue as they have been.

Cryptocurrencies really shine, at least in my opinion, because they enable the transfer of wealth without the risk of third-party judgements. As governments and industries (but I repeat myself) continue their efforts to control markets it will become more important to develop tools that allow people to bypass their controls. Obviously cryptocurrencies aren’t the be-all and end-all. Controls can still be inflicted by delivery services, manufacturers, and many other middlemen that are commonly involved in a transaction.

Risk Assessment

I’m beginning to think that the downfall of our society won’t be caused by economic hardship but by our society’s ever growing unwillingness to accept any risk. Consider this story:

That’s what parents are asking after hearing about a Long Island middle school’s decision to ban most balls during recess and also require supervision of tag, even cartwheels, due to safety concerns.

No longer allowed at the Weber Middle School in Port Washington, New York: footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, lacrosse balls and any other hardballs that could injure a child. Also off limits: rough games of tag and cartwheels unless an adult supervisor is on hand.

“We want to make sure our children have fun but are also protected,” Dr. Kathleen Maloney, superintendent of Port Washington Schools, said in a local television interview, noting how playground injuries can “unintentionally” become very serious.

Even at a very young age children are being taught that risk is unacceptable. While playground injuries are never favorable they are also notably rare when you consider how many students play on playgrounds versus how many students are injured on playgrounds. Combine that ratio with the fact that a vast majority of playground injuries are likely minor scrapes and cuts. How often has a kid been killed playing football. I’m sure somebody can point out one or two stories but such an occurrence is statistically rare.

But banning games involving balls and unsupervised tag reinforced a zero tolerance policy of risk. When you think about it, much of the ills our society faces may be attributed to an unwillingness to accept risk. Economic polices are an example of this. The Federal Reserve, and with it ills such as fractional reserve banking and continuous inflation, was put in place to supposedly mitigate the risk of booms and busts (it failed obviously). Whenever a single company manages to commit an act of fraud the state moves in with sweeping legislation that causes hardship for every other company. These laws are usually met with widespread support form the general public who believes our society must do something to ensure the risk of fraud is wiped from the face of the Earth. Outside of economics, the Affordable Car Act (ACA) is another example of our society being unwilling to accept risk. In the hopes of eliminating the risk of uninsured people there was a law supported by some very loud individuals for a law that mandates everybody buy insurance.

Risk can never be abolished. It is ever present in everything we do. Since it cannot be eliminated we must learn how to live with it. Risk assessment is an important skill, one that cannot be learned in a sterile world where we’re taught only to consider risk unacceptable. The harder we work to eliminate all risk the more risky our society it likely to become.

What Anarchy Looks Like

People often mistaken anarchy with roaming gangs of Molotov cocktail throwing angst-filled teens. It’s a cute vision that statists can tell their children during bedtime stories to scare them into compliance but the reality of anarchy is quite different. Anarchy, when you boil everything down, is the opposition of hierarchy. We anarchists don’t like rulers. So what happens when people finally begin to ignore those who claim a right to rule? Acts of civil disobedience:

Park authorities have issued citations for 21 tourists and visitors who entered Grand Canyon National Park after the government shutdown started. And in response — and in the face of the furlough of other workers — the park has bolstered its security team to monitor the land around the clock.


Despite the shutdown and the closure of the park, Mr. Wright said law enforcement will patrol the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Meanwhile, most park workers outside of the security and law enforcement section have been furloughed.

Isn’t it funny how the state has the money to pay thugs to issue citations during this “shutdown”? More to the point, these are the kinds of acts you can expect during a time when people finally begin opposing their rulers. Violence isn’t the inevitable outcome. Most people, after becoming dissatisfied with their rulers, simply go about their business as always. Usually the rulers bring armed thuggery into the equation because violence is all they know but, in general, most people act just as peaceful when they no longer acknowledge their rulers as when they do.

We’re Here to Help

What happens with private a private organization uses unmanned aerial vehicles to map a disaster area in order to help with recover efforts? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) steps in and stops them:

Friday saw a reprieve in the weather and we are able to get a perfect flight off in the town of Longmont to capture aerial imagery for damage assesment at the intersection of the overflowing St Vrain river and equally inundated Left Hand Creek. In less than an hour the imagery was processed and provided to the Boulder EOC. Just as Falcon UAV was off to another damage assessment in Lyons, Colorado we were requested to standdown for National Guard helicopters now supporting evacuation efforts.

Enter FEMA…….

Early Saturday morning Falcon UAV was heading up to Lyons to complete a damage assessment mapping flight when we received a call from our Boulder EOC point of contact who notified us that FEMA had taken over operations and our request to fly drones was not only denied but more specifically we were told by FEMA that anyone flying drones would be arrested. Not being one to bow to federal bureaucrats we still went up to Lyons to do a site survey for how we can conduct a mission in the near future to provide an adequate damage assessment to this storm raveged community.

People mistakenly believe that government is necessary to help people when natural disasters strike. In truth the state more often hinders efforts to assist those afflicted than it does to help them. As this story demonstrates, private individuals are more than willing to rise to the call of their fellow human beings in need. It’s just difficult to rise to such an event when the state continuously stomps on your head to keep you down.