A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ tag

We Have Spain’s Answer

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Last week Catalonia declared independence. I noted that what happens next will depend on Spain’s response. If Spain decided to ignore Catalonia, the country would realize its independence. If Spain decided to put the boot down on the Catalans’ throats, civil war could erupt. Now we know which direction Spain wants to go:

A Spanish judge has jailed two key members of the Catalan independence movement.

Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, who lead prominent separatist groups, are being held without bail while they are under investigation for sedition.

I’m sure this is going to go over well with the Catalans. But I also suspect that Spain is eager to egg the Catalans into a violent response so it has an excuse to send its shock troops in to cleanse the region of any and all dissidents (and non-dissidents that happen to look at the shock troops in the wrong manner).

Once again we see the futility of democracy. If a group of people decide to vote for an option that isn’t approved by their rulers, their “voice” (which is what I’m told votes are) is stifled and, if necessary, the people who voted the wrong way are violently dealt with. There are few cases that I can think of where secession has been accomplished through a ballot box.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Updating the Propaganda

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The current administration, just like the previous administration, doesn’t like the fact that the plebs have the ability to keep secrets from it. When the previous administration pushed prohibit effective cryptography, it was met with a great deal of resistance. Hoping to avoid the same failure, the current administration is updating its propaganda. It’s not seeking to prohibit effective cryptography, it’s seeking to promote responsible cryptography:

A high-ranking Department of Justice official took aim at encryption of consumer products today, saying that encryption creates “law-free zones” and should be scaled back by Apple and other tech companies. Instead of encryption that can’t be broken, tech companies should implement “responsible encryption” that allows law enforcement to access data, he said.

“Warrant-proof encryption defeats the constitutional balance by elevating privacy above public safety,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a speech at the US Naval Academy today (transcript). “Encrypted communications that cannot be intercepted and locked devices that cannot be opened are law-free zones that permit criminals and terrorists to operate without detection by police and without accountability by judges and juries.”

Encrypted communications that cannot be intercepted and locked devices that cannot be opened are law-free zones? He just made effective cryptography sound even more awesome!

Once again this administration is telling the plebs that they have no right to privacy, which tends to go over about as well as a lead balloon with the plebs. Moreover, this recommendation is one way. Notice how under these proposals the plebs aren’t allowed to have any privacy from the government but the government gets to maintain its privacy from the plebs by having legal access to effective cryptography? If the United States government is supposed to be accountable to the people, then by the government’s logic the people should have a means of breaking the government’s encryption as well.

There are two facts about the United States of America. Anybody can sue anybody else for any reason and high ranking officials can make any demands they want. Just as many lawsuits get tossed out due to lack of merit, many demands from high ranking officials are technically impossible. “Responsible encryption,” to use the euphemism, is not technically possible. Encryption is either effective or ineffective. If there is an intentional weakness added to an encryption algorithm then it will be exploited by unintended actors, not just intended actors.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Political Favors for Favored Businesses

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In celebration of the country’s favorite annual religious festival being held in Minneapolis this year, the Minneapolis City Council has announce that it will magnanimously allow bars to stay open until 4AM between February 2nd and 4th. But not every bar. Only those close enough to the Temple of Football:

Last week, Minneapolis City Council approved a resolution that will let bars near U.S. Bank Stadium stay open until 4 a.m. for the weekend of the Super Bowl, February 2–4.

The good news is, the chaos will probably be confined to downtown. As GoMN notes, only bars within the “designated area” can apply for the honor of serving the beer-pounding, pigskin-loving, out-of-town masses until the wee hours of the morning — meaning no, you won’t be able to meet up for super late drinks at the CC Club. Bars will also need to pony up a $250 fee for the special permit. (Gee, wonder if that will pay for itself.)

Excellent news for the bars who are fortunate enough to be situated next to The People’s Stadium but not so good news for every other bar.

Why shouldn’t bars elsewhere in the city also be allowed to stay up until 4AM during the Super Bowl? Better yet, why should any restrictions be placed on how late a bar can stay open? Why can’t bar owners decide for themselves how late they’ll keep their establishments open? And why are these special privileges only bestowed when the city will be packed with people from out of town (because, let’s face it, the Vikings aren’t going to be playing in the Super Bowl)? Are the people living in Minneapolis not good enough to deserve these special privileges?

Written by Christopher Burg

October 13th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Catalonia Declared Independence

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Yesterday the region of Catalonia declared its independence from Spain:

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and other regional politicians signed a document declaring Catalonia’s independence from Spain, but it was unclear if the document would have any legal value.

“Catalonia restores today its full sovereignty,” says the document, called “declaration of the representatives of Catalonia.”

“We call on all states and international organizations to recognize the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state. We call on the Catalan government to take all necessary measures to make possible and fully effective this declaration of independence and the measures contained in the transition law that founds the republic.”

I’m amused by the article noting that it’s unclear if the document has any legal value. Legal value to who? If the question is in regards to Spain, then the document has no legal value because as far as Spain is concerned it is illegal for any territory within its realm to leave. If the question is in regards to Catalonia, then the document has legal value because the Catalans believe that they have a right to secede from Spain.

The actual question of importance is, what will Spain’s response be? Spain must decide to either recognize Catalonia’s independence (officially or unofficially) or forcefully prevent Catalonia from operating independently. If Spain chooses the former, Catalonia becomes independent regardless of legality. If Spain chooses the latter, there very well could be a civil war.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 13th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Sorry State of Electronic Voting Machine Security

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A lot of people from different backgrounds have expressed concerns about the integrity of electronic voting machines. It turns out that those concerns were entirely valid:

It’s no secret that it’s possible to hack voting systems. But how easy is it, really? Entirely too easy, if you ask researchers at this year’s DefCon. They’ve posted a report detailing how voting machines from numerous vendors held up at the security conference, and… it’s not good. Every device in DefCon’s “Voting Machine Hacking Village” was compromised in some way, whether it was by exploiting network vulnerabilities or simple physical access.

Multiple systems ran on ancient software (the Sequoia AVC Edge uses an operating system from 1989) with few if any checks to make sure they were running legitimate code. Meanwhile, unprotected USB ports and other physical vulnerabilities were a common sight — a conference hacker reckoned that it would take just 15 seconds of hands-on time to wreak havoc with a keyboard and a USB stick. And whether or not researchers had direct access, they didn’t need any familiarity with the voting systems to discover hacks within hours, if not “tens of minutes.”

Just put those voting machines in the cloud! Everything is magically fixed when it’s put in the cloud!

Anonymous ballots are notoriously difficult to secure but it’s obvious that the current crop of electronic voting machines were developed by companies that have no interest whatsoever in even attempting to address that problem. Many of the issues mentioned in the report are what I would call amateur hour mistakes. There is no reason why these machines should have any unprotected ports on them. Moreover, there is no reason why the software running on these machines isn’t up to date. And the machines should certainly be able to verify the code they’re running. If the electronic voting machine developers don’t understand how code signing works, they should contact Apple since the signature of every piece of code that runs on iOS is verified.

And therein lies the insult to injury. The types of security exploits used to compromise the sample voting machines weren’t new or novel. They were exploits that have been known about and addressed for years. A cynical person might believe that the companies making these voting machines are just trying to make a quick buck off of a government contract and not interested in delivering a quality product. A cynical man might even feel the need to point out that this type of behavior is common because the government seldom holds itself or contractors accountable.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Technology

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Why Government Licensing is a Bad Idea

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Everybody seems to be a fan of government licensing until a politician they don’t like abuses it or threatens to abuse it. Donald Trump became upset with NBC because it reported that he said that he wanted a tenfold increase in nuclear weaponry. I wasn’t at the meeting so I can’t say one way or another whether he said that. However, in response to the report, Trump threatened to bring the weight of federal regulations down on NBC:

WASHINGTON — President Trump threatened on Wednesday to use the federal government’s power to license television airwaves to target NBC in response to a report by the network’s news division that he contemplated a dramatic increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

In a story aired and posted online Wednesday morning, NBC reported that Mr. Trump said during a meeting in July that he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, stunning some members of his national security team. It was after this meeting that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reportedly said Mr. Trump was a “moron.”

Mr. Trump objected to the report in a series of Twitter messages over the course of the day and threatened to use the authority of the federal government to retaliate.

Libel and slander are usually dealt with in court. Normally if somebody believes that they have grounds to retaliate over what somebody else said or wrote, the courts would be the place where they would take their case. But most of us aren’t high ranking members of the State. Those that are have access to other forms of retaliation that doesn’t involve potential roadblocks like juries. One such form of retaliation is licensing. If you’re involved in a business that is required to be licensed by a governmental body, pissing off any petty bureaucrat could result in your licensed being revoked without so much as a bench trial.

I’ve seen a lot of self-declared leftists decry Trump’s threat. A few of them have even recognized that this form of licensing can allow the government to violate the First Amendment. Unfortunately, I expect this recognition to disappear once one of their guys is in power again. At that point self-declared rightists will again recognize the dangers of government licensing and the cycle will continue. Until enough people can recognize the dangers of government licensing for longer than their opponent is in power we’ll never see this practice dismissed.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 12th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Learning Lessons the Hard Way

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My view of politics is bleak. I don’t believe voting is capable of bringing about meaningful change nor do I believe that the system can be changed from the inside even if decent people are elected to offices. No matter how often I point out the redundancies that prevent meaningful change from occurring within the State, people continue to argue that we (by which I assume they mean the royal we) have to keep trying. Perhaps those individuals, like this individual, will someday get a job within the State and learn the lesson the hard way:

This summer I got to see how Illinois government works from the inside when I accepted a high-level position at the governor’s office.

A lot of people have asked why I took the role, considering I have spent the bulk of my career railing against the government.

It came down to this: If I declined the job, I’d watch Illinois’ problems go unfixed and wonder if I could have made a difference. Or, I could enter the nucleus of state government and attempt to change the system from within.

[…]

The experience was eye-opening, but after six weeks I decided to leave the position. It was a dysfunctional workplace in a flailing administration. The bad I saw far outweighed any good I could do.

But perhaps worst of all is that I learned early on that there would be no fixing the system from within, especially from my role; this is a state government that has been broken for decades. It is designed to reject improvement in every form, at every level.

Then again they, like most people who enter government, might realize how awesome it is to receive a paycheck for doing nothing meaningful and forget all about their plan to change the system from within. But I digress.

The article is a great read and, although it’s discusses the Illinois government, the issues it brings up apply to any governmental body (or any bureaucracy in general). Promotions aren’t based on merit but on seniority and connections. Since promotions aren’t based on merit, apathy is rampant. Tradition rules. “We’ve always done it this way,” is considered a valid argument for doing something in governmental bodies. The combination of apathy and tradition dictating direction is a recipe for failure. Just ask any number of companies that failed due to apathetic employees pursing the things the company has always done.

Every single member of government is an interchangeable cog in a complex machine. Even an office as powerful as the presidency of the United States of America is unable to bring about any meaningful change, regardless of how much people believe otherwise, because the other cogs don’t want to shake up what they perceive to be a pretty good thing (being a government official is a pretty cushy job).

Written by Christopher Burg

October 11th, 2017 at 10:30 am

With “Friends” Like These

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) has a history of supporting gun rights when its convenient but throwing gun rights under the buss when its politically expedient. That being the case, it probably came as no surprise that the organization expressed support for legal restrictions on bump stocks:

The National Rifle Association has called for “additional regulations” on bump-stocks, a rapid fire device used by the Las Vegas massacre gunman.

The group said: “Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

It would have been nice if the NRA would have at least waited until the fight began before capitulating. Not surprisingly, the Republicans have expressed a willingness to implement such a restriction. Despite their rhetoric, like the NRA, Republicans have a tendency to support gun control whenever opposing it becomes politically inconvenient.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 9th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Catalonia Claiming to Declare Independence in a Matter of Days

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It seems that Spain’s clubs failed to break the spirits of Catalans. Even though Spanish law enforcers beat down over 800 people, Catalonia is still planning to declare its independence:

Catalonia will declare independence from Spain in a matter of days, the leader of the autonomous region has told the BBC.

In his first interview since a disputed vote on Sunday, Carles Puigdemont said his government would “act at the end of this week or the beginning of next”.

If the Catalan government follows through with its promise, Spain will have to either acquiesce or use force. Judging by its response to the vote, I’m lead to believe that Spain isn’t planning to acquiesce. Needless to say, this could escalate into a civil war. Hopefully Spain will recognize the fact that it has no right to claim ownership of Catalonia or its people and steps aside. But history has shown that few government will recognize or admit to their illegitimacy.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Being an Agorist is Easier than Ever

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Samuel Edward Konkin III introduced me to the idea that the State can be starved of resources if more economic activity moved into the unregulated black market. However, I always figured entering the black market would require dealing drugs, guns, or some other highly controversial good or service. I never imagined that I could enter the black market by selling household pets:

California could become the first state to outlaw so-called puppy mills with legislation that bans pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits that do not come from rescue organizations or shelters.

Animal rights activists believe that this bill will eliminate “puppy mills” and other breeding operations that often raise animals in inhumane conditions. However, that won’t be the outcome of this bill. What this bill will do is create a black market for household pets. On the upside, this will deprive California of any licensing and tax revenues associated with breeding pets.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2017 at 10:00 am