A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Law and Disorder’ tag

Be Careful In Legal Gray Areas

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There are a lot of vague laws. For example, if you own a computer numerical control (CNC) machine and use it to build a firearm you’re legally in the clear so long as you can legally possess the firearm where you live. However, if you let somebody else use the machine are you still in the clear? You can legally manufacturer your own firearm so long as you don’t transfer it but what constitutes manufacturing your own firearm? This is one of those legal gray areas that one should be careful about operating in:

According to investigators, Crowninshield, known online as “Dr. Death,” would sell unfinished AR-15 lower receivers, which customers would then pay for him to transform into fully machined lower receivers using a computer numerically controlled (CNC) mill. (In October 2014, Cody Wilson, of Austin, Texas, who has pioneered 3D-printed guns, began selling a CNC mill called “Ghost Gunner,” designed to work specifically on the AR-15 lower.)

“In order to create the pretext that the individual in such a scenario was building his or her own firearm, the skilled machinist would often have the individual press a button or put his or her hands on a piece of machinery so that the individual could claim that the individual, rather than the machinist, made the firearm,” the government claimed in its April 14 plea agreement.

CNC machines add a new twist to manufacturing. Instead of being required to learn how to use a series of tools a person can now download specifications, place a raw block of material in a machine, press a button, and grab a coffee while they wait for the machine to finish doing its thing. Crowninshield decided that if he had his customer press the button that started the milling process then they would legally be manufacturing the firearm. I agree with that interpretation but since he plead guilty we don’t know what the courts think of that interpretation.

The lesson this story teaches is that one needs to be careful when operating in legal gray areas. Although you’re at risk of being arrested and charged for anything you do, you’re at especially high risk when the law isn’t clear about whether your activity is legal or illegal.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 24th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Without Government Who Would Punish the Victims

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Let’s say that you’re in an interracial marriage. Now let’s say a rather unpleasant individual spray painted a racial slur on your garage door. Under the circumstance you’d expect the government to step in to find the vandal and arrest them, right? What would you say if the government decided to fine you for the graffiti through?

The N-word was written on the couple’s garage door over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, but so far, no one has been arrested for the crime.

Heather Lindsay, who is white, said they won’t scrub it off until authorities “do their job” and “not just cover it up and sweep it under the table as they have done in the past.”

The Stamford, Conn., officials have slapped the couple with a blight citation, which carries a $100 daily fine.

The first thing worth noting is the fact that Mrs. Lindsay feels the need to leave the graffiti up in order to motivate the police to do their supposed job. Unfortunately, police are generally disinterested in enforcing property crimes because the State doesn’t stand to rake in a ton of cash off of them. Second, what Mrs. Lindsay does with her own property should be her own business. If she wants to leave the graffiti up then she should be able to leave it up. Third, and this is the most important point in my opinion, Mrs. Lindsay shouldn’t be held responsible for removing the graffiti, the perpetrator should be.

Under any sane justice system the perpetrator is the only person required to right their wrong. Under statism the victim is just as likely to suffer as the perpetrator. This is especially true when the crime that was committed wasn’t one that is generally profitable to the State. I guess the State has to make its profit somewhere.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 23rd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Not All Anonymity is Created Equal

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Whenever I discuss secure communications I try to hammer home the difference between confidentiality and anonymity. Most popular secure communication services such as Signal and WhatsApp provide the former but not the latter. This means unauthorized users cannot read the communications but they can find out which parties are communicating.

Another thing I try to hammer home is that not all forms of anonymity are equal. Several services are claiming to offer anonymous communications. These services don’t claim to offer confidentiality, the posts are public, but they do claim to conceal your identity. However, they tend to use a loose definition of anonymity:

On Sunday, a North Carolina man named Garrett Grimsley made a public post on Whisper that sounded an awful lot like a threat. “Salam, some of you are alright,” the message read, “don’t go to [Raleigh suburb] Cary tomorrow.”

When one user asked for more information, Grimsley (who is white) responded with more Islamic terms. “For too long the the kuffar have spit in our faces and trampled our rights,” he wrote. “This cannot continue. I cannot speak of anything. Say your dua, sleep, and watch the news tomorrow.”

Within 24 hours, Grimsley was in jail. Tipped off by the user who responded, police ordered Whisper to hand over all IP addresses linked to the account. When the company complied, the IP address led them to Time Warner, Grimsley’s ISP, which then provided Grimsley’s address.

There’s a great deal of difference between anonymity as it pertains to other users and anonymity as it pertains to service providers. Whisper’s definition of anonymity is that users of the service can’t identify other users. Whisper itself can identify users. This is different than a Tor hidden service where the user can’t identify the service provider and the service provider can’t identify the user.

When you’re looking at communication services make sure you understand what is actually being offered before relying on it.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 23rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Posted in Technology

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What Do You Own

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When you purchase a computer do you own it? What about your cell phone? Or your automobile? At one time the answer to these questions was an absolute yes. Today, not so much:

Cars, refrigerators, televisions, Barbie dolls. When people buy these everyday objects, they rarely give much thought to whether or not they own them. We pay for them, so we think of them as our property. And historically, with the exception of the occasional lease or rental, we owned our personal possessions. They were ours to use as we saw fit. They were free to be shared, resold, modified, or repaired. That expectation is a deeply held one. When manufacturers tried to leverage the DMCA to control how we used our printers and garage door openers, a big reason courts pushed back was that the effort was so unexpected, so out of step with our understanding of our relationship to the things we buy.

But in the decade or so that followed those first bumbling attempts, we’ve witnessed a subtler and more effective strategy for convincing people to cede control over everyday purchases. It relies less—or at least less obviously—on DRM and the threat of DMCA liability, and more on the appeal of new product features, and in particular those found in the smart devices that make up the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).

I’ve annoyed many electrons criticizing the concept of intellectual property. The idea that somebody has a government granted monopoly on something simply because they were the first to receive a patent is absurd in my opinion. But we live with much more absurd ideas today. Due to the way software copyright and patent laws work, if a company loads software onto a device they can effectively prevent anybody from owning it. At most a buyer can acquire a limited use license for those devices.

Combining software copyright and patent laws with the Internet of Things (IoT) just amplifies this. Now there are a bunch of devices on the market that rely on continuous Internet access to the manufacturers’ servers. If the manufacture decides to drop support for the product it stops working. This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) didn’t make it illegal for you to hack the device and load your own software onto it that allowed it to continue working.

Right now we’re dealing with relatively cheap IoT devices. If your $99 Internet connected thermostat stops working it sucks but it’s not something that is so expensive that it can’t be replaced. But what happens when IoT comes to, say, automobiles? What happens when critical functions on an automobile cease to work because the manufacturer decides to drop support for one of the Internet connected components. Suddenly you’re not talking about throwing away a $99 device but a machine that cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Although this scenario might sound absurd to some I guarantee that it will happen at some point if software copyright and patent laws continue to be enforced as they have been.

The Only Solution is Prisons in Space

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What is a greater accomplishment, putting a man on the moon or building a prison? I would imagine that most of the people reading this would choose the former. In fact, I hope that most of the people reading this would consider the comparison absurd. But when you’re talking to a politician the two accomplishments are of equal importance:

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) pointed to one of man’s greatest scientific achievements as evidence that his state could build more prisons.

Noting that 2019 would mark the 50th anniversary of his state putting a man on the moon, Bentley argued that Alabama should be able to build more facilities.

“If Alabamians can put man on the moon, we can build new prisons,” Bentley said during his State of the State address on Tuesday. The Saturn V rocket, which propelled Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969, was built at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) put a man on the moon they first asked themselves what would be accomplished by doing so. Then they asked themselves whether a cheaper solution existed. Because NASA is a government agency the motivation was statist in nature, to show the world that American had a bigger dick than the Soviet Union. There wasn’t a cheaper option because putting a man on the moon was the only way to overcome the fact that the Soviet Union put the first satellite and man into space. No lesser endeavor would have done.

But Governor Bentley isn’t even smart enough to ask why more prisons are necessary or whether a cheaper solution exists. The reason more prisons are necessary is because politicians continue creating new laws that turn formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. There are a lot of cheaper options for dealing with that problem. For example, the politicians could simply stop creating new crimes. Better yet, they could save the state some money by decriminalizing a bunch of currently criminal actions. Then they could commute the sentence of anybody currently rotting in a cage for committing one of those crimes. Instead the politicians continue creating new crimes so, of course, see the need to also create new prisons.

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Governor Bentley decides to combine the two ideas and demand that Alabama build prisons in space.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 22nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Your Privilege to Privacy Has a Lot of Exception

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I remember hearing a rumor that the Bill of Rights included an amendment regarding privacy. You wouldn’t know it living in our society though. Between the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive surveillance apparatus, law enforcement’s tendency to deploy cell phone interceptors without so much as a warrant, and the recent trend of municipal governments deploying license plate scanners throughout their realm of influence it’s pretty obvious that if we had a right to privacy it’s effectively dead now. But every so often the courts find a shred of privacy remaining. When they do they work efficiently to destroy it:

It’s a case I first wrote about a year ago when the Minnesota Court of Appeals reinstated charges against a Meeker County resident after a district court threw out the case against Leona Rose deLottinville because sheriff’s deputies captured her while she was visiting a boyfriend. The lower court had also ruled that evidence seized in the arrest could not be used against her because the warrant for her arrest did not authorize police to search her boyfriend’s apartment.

In upholding that decision Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court said the woman, who was suspected of possessing meth, had no greater expectation of privacy when visiting another home than in her own home. [Updated]

[…]

“We understand that a homeowner might well be surprised and distressed to learn that police may enter at any time to arrest a guest,” he said. “But there is no indication in this case of any such abuse; deLottinville was visible to the officer before he entered the home. And the question of what rights the homeowner may have in such a situation is not before us.”

In a dissent, however, Justice Margaret Chutich said Lillehaug the majority opinion “fails to protect the right of a host from unreasonable governmental intrusion into the sanctity of her home, a right at the ‘very core’ of the Fourth Amendment.”

Of course the majority ruled based on the rights of the kidnapped individual, which completely ignored the rights of the homeowner. At least Justice Margaret Chutich understood this fact. Unfortunately, she was part of the minority and as we all know in a democracy the majority rules.

I believe the potential for abuse of this ruling is obvious. Home owners in Minnesota can now lose their privacy privileges if they invite the wrong person over. How can a homeowner decided whether or not they’re inviting the wrong person over? I guess they have to call their local police department and ask if a warrant has been issued for any guests they have over.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 17th, 2017 at 10:30 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

Streamlining Subjugation

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The United Kingdom is planning to streamline its subjugation of its subjects. As things currently stand, pleading guilty to a crime requires at least signing a piece of paper and mailing it in. But soon subjects of the crown will be able to plead guilty by logging into a website:

A government report has confirmed it plans to roll out a scheme that allows petty criminals to plead guilty online and then have their sentence handed out over a computer.

“Under this proposal, defendants who opt in to the online procedure and plead guilty will be offered the option to accept a pre-determined penalty (including the payment of any appropriate compensation and costs), be convicted and pay the amount immediately.” said the report.

Progress!

This really isn’t as big of a story as some might think. Right now it’s aimed at petty “crimes” that usually don’t require a court hearing. But like those petty “crimes”, this is yet another example of a so-called justice system morphing into a pure revenue generation system.

If a “crime” doesn’t even require a court hearing then it’s not really a crime because there generally isn’t a victim. Consider the “crimes” that this system will be initially used for:

Initially the system will be tested with petty crimes that are non-imprisonable such as: Railway fare evasion, tram fare evasion, and possession of unlicensed rod and line.

If the railways and trams are privately owned then somebody who uses them without paying the required fare is guilty of trespassing. Justice in that case is the trespasser paying the owed fair and any expenses the railway and tram owners faced in collecting the owed fee. If the railways and trams are owned by the State then no crime has been committed because the State cannot legitimately own property. I shouldn’t say that no crime has been committed. The State committed the crime of theft to acquire the resources to build the railways and trams. Conveniently, the State’s courts, which have monopolized justice, won’t prosecute that crime though.

What about possession of an unlicensed rod and line? That’s not a crime no matter how you look at it.

So the real story here is that the United Kingdom’s court system is continuing its evolution into a revenue generation system. Creating a website for people to log into to plead guilty to non-crimes is just streamlining the process of subjugation that already exists.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 10th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Increasing Government Opaqueness

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Barack Obama promised to create the most transparent government in history. After eight years his administration managed to create one of the most opaque governments in history. His predecessor’s administration, which at least saved us the lying about creating a transparent government, is continuing in his footsteps:

But on March 1st, the FBI is intentionally rolling back the technological clock, and will only allow requests via fax or snail mail, plus a limited amount through their online portal.

This will undoubtedly hinder the public’s ability to get information from the agency. On top of eliminating a far less burdensome method of communication, submitting through the FBI’s portal requires including personal information, including phone number and address, and agree to the site’s terms of service. Nested in the TOS is the requirement that users only make one FOIA request per submission per day.

At least the current administration won’t get a free pass from the political left like the last one did.

This change in policy is an example of the low level nonsense the State pulls to make the lives of its detractors more difficult. On the surface it doesn’t seem like much. After all, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) hasn’t been changed. Below the surface the difficulty of filing a FOIA request has been increased slightly, which will likely discourage some people from filing such requests. In time the difficulty will be raised slightly again and again and again. Eventually filing a FOIA request will be such a pain in the ass that almost nobody will do it. Then the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) will have achieved its goal of making FOIA a toothless law without having to actually violate it.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 10th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Without Government Who Would Attack the Homeless

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According to statists, the State is necessary to provide a social safety net for those with nothing. Like all statist beliefs it exploits that unease people feel when they are uncertain about their ability to provide for their needs. Why do statist beliefs have to exploit our unease? Because they’re entirely fictitious.

What demographic has less than the homeless? Homeless individuals generally have about as close to nothing as one can get without actually having nothing. Since the State provides a social safety net that means it is providing the homeless with clean water, food, clothing, and shelter, right? Wrong. The State doesn’t give a shit about people who have nothing to steal so instead of providing the homeless with a social safety net it is waging war against them:

Enforcement of new regulations targeting homeless people who live in their vehicles will start today, reports KPCC. The new rules dictate where people living in RVs and cars can park. For example, parking “for habitation purposes” on residential streets from 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. is now banned.

And, living in a vehicle is prohibited at all times within one block, or 500 feet, of schools, pre-schools, daycare facilities, and parks.

Results from the 2016 homeless count found more than 7,000 people live in their cars in Los Angeles, says KPCC.

Politicians create regulations like this in the hopes that they will make the lives of homeless individuals so miserable that they’ll go somewhere else and thus become somebody else’s problem. They aren’t even particularly coy about it. Yet people continue to buy into the statists’ bullshit claims.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 9th, 2017 at 10:30 am