A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag

Tyranny in New Zealand Isn’t Beginning

without comments

In the wake of New Zealand’s announced gun ban I’ve seen a lot of pro-gun people stating that this is the beginning of tyranny in New Zealand. However, tyranny in New Zealand isn’t beginning, it’s already well established. Yesterday I posted not just about the new gun ban but about New Zealand’s law that grants the government permission to lock somebody up for up to 14 years for publishing objectionable material. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that the government not only gets to jail people for posting objectionable material but it also gets to define what is objectionable.

None of this is new either. There is a long tradition of censorship in New Zealand, including filtering Internet traffic. As an amusing aside, New Zealand’s Internet filtering came almost immediately after its government promised not to implement Internet filtering:

In March 2009, the Minister for Communications and IT, Steven Joyce, stated that the government had been following the controversy surrounding Internet censorship in Australia, and had no plans to introduce something similar in New Zealand. He acknowledged that filtering can cause delays for all Internet users, and that those who are determined to get around any filter will find a way to do so.[5] Later in July of the same year, it was reported that the Department of Internal Affairs had plans to introduce Internet filtering in New Zealand.[6][7] The project, using Swedish software, cost $150,000.[8] February 2010 saw the first meeting of the Independent Reference Group, who are tasked with overseeing the responsible implementation of the DCEFS.[9] In March 2010, a year after Joyce stated that there were no plans to do so, the Department of Internal Affairs stated that the filter was operational and in use.[10] Tech Liberty NZ objected to the launch of the filter, but DIA defended the system and noted that trials over two years showed that the filter did not affect the speed or stability of the internet.[11]

Free speech, which is usually considered a cornerstone of a free society, hasn’t existed in New Zealand for a very long time. Banning firearms is just another step in the direction New Zealand has been traveling for a long time now.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 22nd, 2019 at 10:00 am

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

without comments

Ars Technica ran this story with the title China’s “democracy” includes mandatory apps, mass chat surveillance. The important part to note is the scare quotes around the word democracy. From the article:

As the National People’s Congress gathers in Beijing for the beginning of China’s “Two Sessions” political season, state media is making an international propaganda push on social media—including on platforms blocked by China’s “Great Firewall”—to promote China’s “system of democracy.”

[…]

That system of democracy apparently involves mass surveillance to tap into the will of the people. While China’s growth as a surveillance state has been well-documented, the degree to which the Chinese leadership uses digital tools to shape the national political landscape and to control Chinese citizens has grown even further recently. That’s because authorities have been tapping directly into Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members’ and other Chinese citizens’ online activities and social media profiles.

I’m using the Ars Technica article for illustrative purposes but the general attitude amongst Americans seem to be that China isn’t actually a democracy. However, democracy is a system where voters have the opportunity to gang up against each other. This inevitably results is a paranoid police state where everybody has voted to surveil and punish everybody else.

The primary difference between China and apparently freer democracies is where they started. Take the United States for example. It started with an almost powerless federal government and a strong mythology about individual freedom. It took a great deal of time for voters to first vote a larger government into existence and then vote to wield it against each other. The People’s Republic of China, other the other hand, started with a much more powerful government so there was no delay from voters having to first vote it more power before they could wield it against each other.

The things for which us enlightened people of the glorious Western democracies mock China are in our future. Just look at the massive surveillance apparatuses in the United States and United Kingdom. There is scarcely a thing you can do or a place you can go that isn’t surveilled by some government entity. The Ars Technica article discusses the effort China is putting into propagandizing its party members but the author likely failed to recognize the similarities between those efforts and the efforts in Western public education systems to propagandize young children. While most Western democracies aren’t as overt about controlling their news outlets as China is, all of the major supposedly independent media outlets are little more than government propaganda machines (how else are reporters going to get access to the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room or get themselves invited to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner).

Make not mistake, what we’re witnesses in China today is the endgame of any democratic system. To insinuate that China isn’t a democracy is to misunderstand what a democracy truly is.

With a Wave of My Hand

without comments

When I was in high school, I was taught about how the three branches of government counterbalance each other. The president can’t write or pass law. Congress can’t sign legislation into law. If the president and Congress conspire to do something illegal, the judicial branch can overrule their actions. But like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, the idea that the three branches of government balance each other out is a fairy tale.

The executive branch has continued to grow in power since the beginning of this country. Instead of slapping down attempts by the executive branch to grab more power the legislative branch has worked to retroactively declare those power grabs lawful. The judicial branch, which is ultimately ruled by the Supreme Court, which consists of judges nominated by the executive branch, has more often than not rubber stamped executive power grabs.

Now instead of Congress proposing and voting on legislation and the president signing it into law, new restrictions can be created by the executive bodies that have been granted regulatory power. The latest example of this is the reclassification of bump stocks as machine guns. Congress never passed legislation. The president said that he was going to ban them and one of his agencies, the Department of Justice, created a new regulation that declared bump stocks machine guns and thus put them in a category that is unlawful to own (machine guns that weren’t registered by May 19th, 1986).

This reclassification by an executive agency isn’t new. This has been the norm for decades. I just wanted to highlight it because, unlike Santa Claus, many people believe in the fairy tale of a balanced government well into adulthood.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 19th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Tim May Has Passed

without comments

Yesterday I learned that Tim May, the man who established the concept of crypto-anarchy, passed away:

Tim May, co-founder of the influential Cypherpunks mailing list and a significant influence on both bitcoin and WikiLeaks, passed away last week at his home in Corralitos, California. The news was announced Saturday on a Facebook post written by his friend Lucky Green.

In his influential 1988 essay, “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto,” May predicted that advances in computer technology would eventually allow “individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other” anonymously and without government intrusion. “These developments will alter completely the nature of government regulation [and] the ability to tax and control economic interactions,” he wrote.

The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto influenced me greatly. It was an important document when it was released and its importance has only grown since then. Today surveillance technology is pervasive, which has caused many people to feel hopeless but, as The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto pointed out, technological advances would also give people the power to communicate away from the gaze of Big Brother.

May’s predictions did pan out. Consider the Silk Road and it’s various offspring. Crypto-currencies enable people to avoid one of the government’s largest sources of control, monetary exchanges. Tor provides a protocol that allows people to view and host sites anonymously. When these two technologies were combined, the prohibition enforcers had a hell of a time taking it down and only managed to do so because the suspected creator made a post on a clear web forum with an e-mail address associated with an account on Silk Road. Today there are dozens of online drug markets veiled by Tor and crypto-currencies that the prohibition enforcers have so far been unable to take down.

There are numerous technologies available to allow us to communicate with each other secretly. Signal is probably the best example as it is both easy to use and its protocol has remains unbroken. Even clear web traffic has become more difficult to surveil. When Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency’s (NSA) pervasive domestic surveillance program, a lot of online traffic was transmitted in the clear. Today more and more traffic is transmitted in an encrypted manner, partially thanks to the efforts of Let’s Encrypt, which allows server administrators to setup trusted Transport Layer Security (TLS) connections for free.

Tim May and the ideas he helped establish deserve a lot of credit for influencing all of this. Fortunately, even though he is no longer with us, his ideas are established and will remain with us.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Score One for the First Amendment

without comments

James Webb came across a law enforcer expropriating wealth from a motorist and did what any red blooded American would do, he cranked up NWA’s Fuck the Police. The officer, having no self awareness or sense of humor, cited Webb for violating the city’s noise ordinance. Instead of paying, Webb decided to take the matter to court. The jury quickly decided that the case was “>stupid and ruled in Webb’s favor:

A man facing jail time for blasting the song “F the Police” and allegedly violating Pontiac’s noise ordinance was found not guilty by a jury.

[…]

“The police officer’s reasoning was that he said this music was vulgar. And part of the vulgarity was that it used the F word, but we had on the video that the first man the officer had pulled over; the officer is dropping F-bombs with him. So why is it OK for this man to hear the F-word but not other people?” said Nicholas Somberg, who represented Webb in court.

Webb chose not to pay the fine for allegedly violating the noise ordinance and instead chose to take the case to trial. The jury took all of nine minutes to come back with a not guilty verdict.

Kudos to Webb for taking the citation to court rather than paying it. Kudos to the jury for only taking nine minutes to decide that the accusation against Webb was stupid. And kudos to the officer whose argument was based on the vulgarity of Webb’s music while he was on camera using vulgarities himself.

Score one for the freedom of expression.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 12th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The American Medical System

with one comment

What do you get when you take a wonderful free market medical system and continuously inject a little more government into it? The American medical system:

Sorry, let me explain a hospital to you: we give you medical care, then we charge whatever the hell we want for it.

If you don’t like that, go fuck yourself and die.

Honestly, there’s no telling what you’ll pay today. Maybe $700. Maybe $70,000. It’s a fun surprise! Maybe you’ll go to the ER for five minutes, get no treatment, then we’ll charge you $5,000 for an ice pack and a bandage. Then your insurance company will be like, “This is nuts. We’re not paying this.” Who knows how hard you’ll get screwed? You will, in three months.

When I buy gas, books, groceries, a cell phone plan, computers, or anything else, the prices are clearly posted. I know what a gallon of gas costs before I buy it. I know what a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs costs before I buy them. But when I need anything involving the medical industry, I seldom have any idea what I’m going to be charged. If I ask, I won’t get a straight answer (unless I’m dealing with one of the handful of wonderful medical facilities that deals in cash but they’re still pretty hard to find). I’ll be told that it will depend on my insurer.

My insurer is an asshole. It has continued to increase my premiums and deductibles will reducing my services. I’m stuck with it though because I, like most Americans, get my insurance through my employer and my employer isn’t big enough to strong arm insurers into providing better packages. This was an entirely different situation before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which mandated that every American do business with medical insurers and thus removed any motivation they had to provide a good product at a reasonable price. Before the ACA my insurance was pretty decent and if it hadn’t been decent, I could have found an individual plan that suited my needs.

The passage of the ACA was just one amongst decades worth of laws that slowly transformed the country’s free market medical system into the government controlled mess that won’t even clearly tell you what the product you’re buying costs. Unfortunately, most people subscribe to the idea that if something didn’t work then it wasn’t tried hard enough. If you ask most people how the medical system can be fixed, they’ll tell you, “More government!” Needless to say I’m not hopeful that I’ll be able to walk into a clinic and see a board that clearly advertises the prices being charged for offered services anytime soon.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Intellectual Property Laws are Ineffective

without comments

I’ve enjoyed pointing out the absurdities that the concept of intellectual property enables. Now I want to address the matter from a more pragmatic angle.

Gun rights activists like to point out the fact that gun control laws are ineffective and thus passing them is pointless. Advocates for drug legalization like to point out the fact that drug prohibitions are ineffective and should thus be repealed. Both are sound arguments. Investing resources into enforcing ineffective laws is a waste. Those resources would be better redirected at effective means of addressing problems. Many of the people who make those two arguments are surprisingly inconsistent with their logic when it comes to intellectual property laws though.

Intellectual property laws are ineffective. I can pirate almost any creative work right now with a few keystrokes thanks to numerous piracy websites. The most notorious of these sites is The Pirate Bay. Governments around the world have attempted to use intellectual property laws to shutdown The Pirate Bay for more than a decade but the site remains online. Even when governments are able to shutdown a piracy site, several new ones appear in their place. And those are clearnet sites whose server locations and operators are, for the most part, easily found. There is a whole world of “darknet” piracy sites hidden with Tor Hidden Service, I2P, and similar protocols.

Piracy can’t even be thwarted in the physical world. Everything from counterfeit designer clothing and fashion accessories to counterfeit electronics can be readily had. Even the government of the United States can’t reliably distinguish counterfeit components from authentic ones.

Advocates of intellectual property continue to claim that intellectual property laws protect inventors and authors of creative works but the evidence indicates otherwise.

Intellectual property is a fairly modern concept. Before it came into being inventors and authors came up with other strategies to protect their works. The same is still true today even with intellectual property laws on the books. Coca-Cola, for example, doesn’t have a patent on its formula. Instead it relies on keeping it a secret. Kentucky Fried Chicken relies on the same strategy. Many online content creators make a living on content that they release for free. How do they accomplish this? By urging their fans to support them through services like Patreon. For a fee Twitch viewers can subscribe to the channels of creators they enjoy to support them. YouTube allows creators to monetize videos through advertising. Many inventors and authors utilize crowdsourcing services such as Kickstarter to get paid upfront before releasing their latest product.

Netflix, Spotify, and iTunes Music have also demonstrated that piracy can be reduced by offering a product in a convenient package at a reasonable price. Why bother searching through various pirating sites for a song when you can pay $10 a month to Spotify or Apple to access a vast all-you-can-consume buffet of music? Your time is worth money after all and for many people $10 a month isn’t a lot of money.

None of these strategies would likely exist if intellectual property laws were effective. If gun control laws and drug prohibitions are argued to be pointless because they’re ineffective, then so should intellectual property laws.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 6th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Weaponizing Dependencies

without comments

How I miss the halcyon days of the Internet when perceived slights were commonly forgotten after a short period of inconsequential shitposting. Today perceived slights often result in real-world consequences. The most recent example of this is ThotAudit, the result of a bunch of pathetic sexless whiners perceiving women slighting them. In response to their inability to get laid, they have decided to sic the Internal Revenue Service (IRC) and third-part payment processors on online sex workers:

The campaign is called the “ThotAudit,” in reference to the derogatory term “thot,” which stands for “that ho over there.” It began over the Thanksgiving holiday as a grassroots effort to intimidate sex workers and women who sell access to private pornographic social media accounts by reporting them to the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion—without evidence of wrongdoing. But it quickly morphed into a battle over who has the right to make money on the internet.

The harassers are taking advantage of user reporting tools made available by companies like PayPal, Venmo, and CirclePay, in an attempt to force their targets offline and freeze their finances. The tactic has far-reaching implications beyond adult entertainment. Foreign governments and other groups have abused the policies to silence opponents on platforms like Twitter and Facebook for years. Attacking through the payment processors is a new wrinkle on that approach.

What kind of lowlife piece of shit sics revenuers on people? I mean, come on! That’s below the belt, guys!

Back to the story at hand. There are two aspects that I want to discuss in this post.

The first is the extent individuals will go to avoid acknowledging and accepting their faults. When I was young, I wasn’t exactly drowning in pussy. I didn’t blame women for that though. I acknowledged and accepted my faults, namely my socially awkward nature. I worked to overcome those faults. By the time I hit my mid 20’s, I was still socially awkward but I was at least capable of schmoozing a room full of people and was capable of gaining the attention of members of the opposite sex. While I’m still a bit socially awkward today, I have a smoking hot wife and have little trouble meeting new people and entertaining people at a party (entertaining people is commonly seen as an attractive quality and thus a skill worth cultivating).

The key to my transformation was accepting my flaws and working to overcome them. Most people who call themselves incels suffer from a lack of self-awareness and an unwillingness to overcome their faults. The reason they’re not getting laid isn’t because women are conspiring against them, it’s because they have a number of flaws that make them unattractive. Instead of working to improve themselves, they’re taking actions that make them even less attractive. They’re actually going so far as to exacerbate their faults to avoid acknowledging their faults.

The second thing I want to discuss is something I harp on a lot, the dangers of being dependent on third-parties. Those making themselves part of ThotAudit are trying to convince third-party payment processors to stop processing payments for targeted online sex workers. By doing this, they’re destroying the livelihood of those workers. However, this tactic is only feasible because those workers are dependent on third-party payment processors. The fewer third-parties you depend on, the fewer dependencies exist that can be weaponized against you. While it’s trendy to recommend cryptocurrencies for sex workers, that’s not the only option. Online sex workers could try pooling their resources and establishing a payment processor for their industry, which is a suggestion I made to gun stores that were being blacklisted by third-party payment processors. You might not be able to control the infrastructure yourself but if you have to rely on a third-party, it’s better to rely on one that specifically caters to your industry. After all, if your business is porn, Tumblr might cast you overboard but Pornhub probably won’t.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 5th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Intellectual Property Means Not Owning Property

with 3 comments

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t subscribe to the concept of intellectual property. The biggest reason I don’t subscribe to the concept is because the concept itself is an oxymoron. Property implies ownership and ownership implies absolute control. Intellectual property takes the form of copyrights, trademarks, and patents. If you create a song and are granted a copyright, does that mean you own it? No. The copyright is granted by a government agency. The agency dictates the terms of the copyright. Usually it dictates limitations such as a time frame (for example, your copyright is only valid for so many years). The same is true of trademarks and patents. Receiving a copyright does not grant absolute control, it grants limited controls. Under the concept of intellectual property the only ownership that can be said to exist is government ownership over all creative works.

Things are even worse for consumers. Consider Nintendo’s recent announcement:

For nearly three years now, creators who wanted to make money from videos that included footage of Nintendo games had to go through the onerous approval and content requirements of the Nintendo Creators Program, which also gave Nintendo a 30 percent cut of any ad revenues. Today, Nintendo announced it would be halting that program at the end of the year, in favor of a new set of “basic rules” for video creators. If those rules are followed, Nintendo now says, “we will not object to your use of gameplay footage and/or screenshots captured from games for which Nintendo owns the copyright.”

[…]

In addition, Nintendo says video creators can only monetize these videos through a number of official partner programs on a handful of platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, and Facebook.

When you pay for a Nintendo game, you’re only paying for the privilege of playing it as far as Nintendo is concerned. If you dared to record yourself enjoying “your” game and clicked the monetize button on YouTube, you could expect a take down notice from Nintendo’s legal department because, as far as the company was concerned, it owned any footage made of its games and determined that it wouldn’t allow anybody to profit from “its” footage. Nintendo eventually eased up a bit and announced that it would allow you to profit from “its” footage so long as you gave Nintendo a 30 percent cut of the profits. Now it’s changing the rules again because as the owner of the games and, according to it at least, all footage of the games, it has the legal authority to do so. While you don’t have to become part of Nintendo’s Partner Program, you are restricted on where you can post footage from which you want to profit.

Imagine if these restrictions allowed under the concept of intellectual property were expanded to actual property. The construction company that built your home might be able to restrict you from monetizing any footage you made of the house. The manufacturer that built your vehicle might not allow you to post pictures of it on Instagram but only on Flickr. The manufacturer that built your computer might prohibit you from making an unboxing video. If any of the rules that apply to the concept of intellectual property were applied to actual property, most people would probably recognize how ridiculous the situation is.

In my opinion if you purchase a copy of a game, you should own that copy. You should be allowed to do whatever you want with it. If you want to record yourself playing it while you’re snorting coke off of a hooker’s ass and monetize that video, you should be allowed to do so (I also believe that you should be allowed to snort coke off of a hooker’s ass). There shouldn’t be a loophole that says any footage of that game is owned by the developer nor should there be any restriction preventing you from profiting from the game you purchased.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 30th, 2018 at 11:00 am

One of These Things is Just Like the Other

without comments

If you display a Nazi flag, you’re probably going to be persona non grata in your neighborhood (and will likely receive a visit from your local Antifa). This makes sense. The government that that flag represent murdered millions of innocent people. But why isn’t the same true if you display a Soviet Union flag:

This is the nub of the issue. While Naziism is intrinsically linked to the crimes of its followers, communism can always be separated. No one would tolerate a t-shirt emblazoned with Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini, yet the wildly oppressive Che Guevara is easily detached and morphed into a symbol of revolution.

The only real difference between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union is that Nazi Germany got its ass handed to it and therefore wasn’t around long enough to rack up the same body count as the Soviet Union.

As the article points out, “Nazis, rightfully, are seen as hateful and vicious because their ideology is built around the idea that one group is superior to the other.” This is the excuse more communist sympathizers give me when I ask why they’re so starkly against displaying Nazi symbology but willing to wear Soviet symbology. The argument doesn’t hold up though. Marxism, like Nazism, is built around the idea that one group, the proletariat, is superior to the other, the bourgeois. Like Nazism, which is built on the conspiracy theory that the Jews have oppressed the Aryan race, Marxism is build on the conspiracy theory that the bourgeois have oppressed the proletariat. And like Nazism, which results in the “oppressed Aryans” killing the “oppressor Jews,” Marxism results in the “proletariat” killing the “bourgeois.”

One should have as much revile for the Soviet Union and its symbology as one has for Nazi Germany and its symbology. Both were horrible, oppressive regimes that murdered millions.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2018 at 10:00 am