A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Shut Up Slave’ tag

Obedience School

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The public schooling system isn’t about providing children with an education, it’s about turning children into obedient subjects. Any education a child may receive is nothing more than an unintended consequence. Nowhere is this more evident that in the Texas schooling system, which now requires students to pass an obedience class in order to graduate:

Starting this school year, English, history and math, are not the only classes required to graduate high school in Texas.

A new state law requires students in grades nine through 12 to receive a class, paired with a 16-minute video, that aims to teach them how to deal with law enforcement during a traffic stop.

Known as the Community Safety Education Act, Senate Bill 30 was signed into law by the 85th Texas Legislature to help ease tensions between police and students in the wake of multiple shootings by police of unarmed citizens that have taken place across the United States in recent years.

Law enforcers are gunning down unarmed citizens and the response isn’t to punish the law enforcers but to put the burden of surviving a law enforcement encounter on the citizenry? This says pretty much everything that needs to be said about statism.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 10:30 am

We’re All Collateral Damage

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Politicians usually talk a benevolent game. Seldom do you hear one outright state that they’re going to steamroll a group of individuals. That’s why it was refreshing to hear Nanci Pelosi state that if the Democrats regain power, those who disagree with them will be collateral damage:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said American voters will simply have to deal with the “collateral damage” that comes their way if Democrats craft economic policies in the years ahead.

The California Democrat recently sat down with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in the Big Apple to discuss public policy. The event, hosted by the Jewish organization 92nd Street Y, included a portion on climate change that sparked the lawmaker’s pronouncement.

“We owe the American people to be there for them, for their financial security, respecting the dignity and worth of every person in our country, and if there is some collateral damage for some others who do not share our view, well, so be it, but it shouldn’t be our original purpose,” she said Sunday.

At least she’s being straight up with us plebeians.

Truth be told, the opponents of the party in power are always collateral damage. Politics is nothing more than violence by proxy and the supporters of the party in power supported the party specifically because they wanted a truncheon wielded against their ideological opponents but were too chicken shit to wield it themselves.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Unleash the Zuckerberg Inquisition

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Yesterday Zuckerberg unleashed his inquisitors and they found a lot of heretics:

Facebook said it was removing the publishers and accounts not because of the type of content they posted, but because of the behaviors they engaged in, including spamming Facebook groups with identical pieces of content and using fake profiles.

“Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the company said in a blog post. “People will only share on Facebook if they feel safe and trust the connections they make here.”

So what kind of pages were removed? As of this writing, Cop Block’s main Facebook page has been unpublished along with a number of its state affiliate pages. Gun Laws Don’t Work, V for Voluntary, Punk Rock Libertarians, and many other anti-state pages were also found guilty of heresy.

This is where most libertarians flip their shit about Facebook’s censorship… on Facebook. I won’t debase myself in such a manner. Instead I will point out that it was foolish for so many anti-statists to centralized their content on a site owned and operated by a statist. While I recognize how easy Facebook makes it to reach a large audience, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. In exchange for accessing Facebook’s audience you have to submit to Facebook’s policies and those policies are (probably purposefully) vague and in a constant state of flux. One minute Facebook takes a hands off approach to content, the next it erases dissenting voices like the black plague erasing Europeans.

Of course this entire mess could have been avoided by simply doing the pre-Facebook status quo. Had all of these organizations kept their audience focused on their own websites and forums, there would have been nothing for Zuckerberg’s inquisitors to censor. Instead they opted for the ease of relying on Facebook. They pushed their audience to Facebook and thus put themselves under the rule of Zuckerberg. Now they’re paying the price. Some of these organizations are fortunate enough to still have their own websites and forums so they haven’t been completely erased but most weren’t so smart.

Once again I find myself beating this bloated corpse of a horse that is advocating for individuals and organizations to stop relying on centralized technologies and instead rely on their own infrastructure. Sadly, I know that the innards of this corpse are going to burst forth and spill all over the place before anybody follows my advice.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Just Vote Harder

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If somebody is a member of the Libertarian Party, I generally assume that they have at least a basic understanding of the evil of government. If somebody has been a member of the Libertarian Party for a few election cycles, I generally assume that they have firsthand experience of how the two ruling parties prevent third parties from gaining a foothold in the political system. If somebody has been a member of the Libertarian Party for a few election cycles and still believes in the political process, I generally assume that they’re an idiot.

If you’ve recently joined the Libertarian Party, or any third party for that matter, and believe that you’re going to make a difference by helping a candidate break into the two party political system, let me give you an idea of what you’re in for:

Third party candidates are used to getting snubbed when it comes to political debates, but Dale Kerns says he was promised a spot in an October 20 senatorial debate in the Philadelphia media market—only to have the invitation rescinded as the debate neared, apparently at the request of the station hosting it.

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Emails obtained by Reason show that Kerns’ campaign was twice assured of a spot in a televised debate by executives at the state’s chapter of the League of Women Voters, which typically plays a role in organizing debates. In March, Suzanne Almeida, the then-executive director of the group, told Kerns’ campaign manager that Kerns would “certainly” be invited to “participate in candidate forums after the primary.”

In late August, the campaign again contacted the League of Women Voters seeking information about planned debates. Jill Greene, who had taken over as executive director in July, responded on August 29 to say that she was currently trying to plan a Senate debate with the League’s media partners and that she would “be sure to include Mr. Kerns and Mr. Gale.”

Six weeks later, after the debate had been scheduled for October 20 on Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate, WPVI-TV, Greene emailed Kerns’ campaign manager John Odermatt to deliver the bad news. The League had asked to include Kerns and Gale in the debate, she said, but “other organizers” did not “feel as if current polling warranted an invitation.”

This is nothing new. In fact, this is the status quo. This is also why voting doesn’t matter.

Apologists for democracy claim that voting is how the people let themselves be heard but one only needs to take a look at a ballot to recognize the facade. A ballot consists of a list of officer with approved candidates for each office. The first indicator that voting isn’t what the apologists claim it to be is the fact that the names that appear on the ballot must be approved. The second indicator is the fact that the only choice is what candidate to put into the office. What if you want to abolish the office entirely (which is what every self-proclaimed libertarian should want to do to every office)? You can’t voice that opinion on a ballot.

If you’re involved in a third party, you’re playing a game where the rules are set by your opponent. Not surprisingly, your opponent is setting the rules in such a way that you’re guaranteed to lose.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 12th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Your Password, Please

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Since I live in the United States, I spend most of my time lambasting its government’s infringements on privacy. But the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on violating individuals’ privacy. Every government has an interesting in violating rights. The hot privacy violation at the moment is demanding access to cell phones. Cell phones are becoming more integrated into our daily lives every day, which makes them a treasure trove of personal information. Here in the United States the government has made several efforts to force cell phone manufacturers to include a backdoor it can access. New Zealand has taken a different approach. If you don’t hand over your password to law enforcers, you will be fined:

New Zealand privacy activists have raised concerns over a new law that imposes a fine of up to NZ$5,000 (more than $3,200) for travelers—citizens and foreigners alike—who decline to unlock their digital devices when entering the country. (Presumably your phone would be seized anyway if it came to that.)

The Southern Pacific nation is believed to be the first in the world to impose such a law.

As a general rule, especially when crossing borders, it’s best to travel with clean devices and access whatever information you need remotely when you arrive at your destination. For example, instead of storing contract information on your cell phone when traveling, you might consider have your contract information on a remotely accessible server. When you get to your destination, you can log into the server and grab the phone numbers you need when you need them. When you’re ready to leave the country, you can factory reset your phone so your call log is erased.

Such a plan isn’t bulletproof. A factory reset phone is suspicious in of itself. Unfortunately there are no silver bullets. Every defensive measure has a list of pros and cons. You have to decide which set of pros and cons best fit your situation.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 5th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Making Security Illegal

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A recent court ruling has potentially made secure devices and effective security services illegal:

The Canadian executive of a 10-year-old company that marketed its purportedly secure BlackBerry services to thousands of criminals (who paid at least $4,000 per year, per device) has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge, federal prosecutors in San Diego said Tuesday.

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As the Department of Justice said in a Tuesday statement:

To keep the communications out of the reach of law enforcement, Ramos and others maintained Phantom Secure servers in Panama and Hong Kong, used virtual proxy servers to disguise the physical location of its servers, and remotely deleted or “wiped” devices seized by law enforcement. Ramos and his co-conspirators required a personal reference from an existing client to obtain a Phantom Secure device. And Ramos used digital currencies, including Bitcoin, to facilitate financial transactions for Phantom Secure to protect users’ anonymity and launder proceeds from Phantom Secure. Ramos admitted that at least 450 kilograms of cocaine were distributed using Phantom Secure devices.

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At the time of his arrest, the Department of Justice said that the Ramos case was the “first time the U.S. government has targeted a company and its leaders for assisting a criminal organization by providing them with technology to ‘go dark,’ or evade law enforcement’s detection of their crimes.”

From what I could ascertain, the reason Vincent Ramos was arrested, charged, and declared guilty was because he offered a device and service that allowed his customers to actually remain anonymous. This is what most Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers, I2P, Tor, and other anonymity services offer so will one of them be the next Department of Justice target?

I’m going to take this opportunity to go on a related tangent. Ramos was charged because his devices and service were being used by other people to facilitate illegal activities such as selling cocaine. Ramos himself wasn’t, as far as I can tell, performing those illegal activities. Since the illegal actions in this case weren’t performed by Ramos, why was he charged with anything? Because the illegal activities being performed with his devices and service were related to the drug war and the drug war has served as the United States government’s excuse to go after anybody it doesn’t like.

Anything that can be tacitly tied to the drug war can be punished. If an officer doesn’t like you, they can claim that the cash you have on hand is evidence that you are participating in drug crimes and use civil forfeiture to seize your stuff. If your roommate is dealing drugs without your knowledge, prosecutors can claim that you actually do have knowledge and charge you with a plethora of crimes. If you offer a product that anonymizes users, prosecutors can charge you for aiding drug dealers. All of the supposed civil rights you enjoy suddenly go out the window when the word drugs is involved.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Want to Avoid Being Swatted? Sign Up for Our Anti-Swatting Service Today!

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You know police procedures are inadequate when convincing SWAT teams to storm random addresses happens so often that there’s a term for it. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) was recently caught up in a rather embarrassing swatting incident. Instead of taking responsibility for its inadequate procedures it has decided to put the burden on the citizenry:

On its official “swatting” resource site, the Seattle Police Department acknowledges how swatting works, along with the fact that citizens have requested a way to submit their own concerns or worries about being a potential victim. (Full disclosure: after having my own personally identifiable data distributed in a malicious manner, I asked SPD for this very thing… in 2015.)

“To our knowledge, no solution to this problem existed, so we engineered one,” SPD’s site reads. The site claims that swatting victims are “typically associated with the tech industry, video game industry, and/or the online broadcasting community.”

SPD’s process asks citizens to create a profile on a third-party data-management service called Rave Facility (run by the company Smart911). Though this service is advertised for public locations and businesses, it supports private residences as well, and SPD offers steps to input data and add a “swatting concerns” tab to your profile.

Want to avoid being swatted? Sign up for our anti-swatting service today! If you don’t sign up, then the department cannot be held responsible for murdering you when some random jackass on the Internet calls in a fake hostage situation.

What gets me is not just that swatting happens so often that there’s a term for it but that it happens so often that the SPD website has a page dedicated to it. If swatting happens so often that your department has to dedicate a page to it, then your procedures for responding to random hostage situation calls need some serious overhauling.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2018 at 10:00 am

But He’ll Defend Our Gun Rights

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Donald Trump paid lip service to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun rights, which was enough to convince many gun owners that he would protect gun rights. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody with more than two brain cells to rub together but he lied:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday his administration is just a few weeks away from finalizing a regulation that would ban so-called bump stocks, devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns.

“We’re knocking out bump stocks,” Trump said at a White House news conference. “We’re in the final two or three weeks, and I’ll be able to write out bump stocks.”

Now to sit back and wait for his apologists to claim that this is really just part of his 517 dimensional chess game to defend gun rights from those evil liberals.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 3rd, 2018 at 11:00 am

We’re Not Telling You the Rules

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The politicians in California have passed the first law regulating the security of Internet connected devices. However, manufacturers of said devices are going to have a difficult time complying with the law since the rules are never defined:

This bill, beginning on January 1, 2020, would require a manufacturer of a connected device, as those terms are defined, to equip the device with a reasonable security feature or features that are appropriate to the nature and function of the device, appropriate to the information it may collect, contain, or transmit, and designed to protect the device and any information contained therein from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure, as specified.

The California bill doesn’t define exactly what a ‘reasonable security feature’ would be but it mandates that connected devices come with unique passwords that users can change, which isn’t the case for many IoT products. If someone can log into the device outside a LAN, then it must have either preprogrammed passwords that are unique to each device (no more default login credentials) or a way to generate new authentication credentials before accessing it for the first time.

You must implement ‘a reasonable security feature or features’ but we’re not going to tell you what those features are. Oh, and if you fail to comply with our undefined rules, you will be subject to punishment. Anyways, good luck!

That sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?

Written by Christopher Burg

September 25th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Bias within the System

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Radley Balko wrote an excellent article outlining just the tip of the iceberg that is the overwhelming evidence that the legal system in the United States is racial biased.

The entire article is worth reading but I wanted to take a moment to highlight the third paragraph because it addresses a common myth about the system:

Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives concluded, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal-justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising.

One thing on which the “left” and “right” (in this context “left” is being used to refer to those who believe the system is racially biased while “right” is being used to refer to those who disagree with those on the “left”) commonly agree is that the definition of a racially biased system is based on those within it. The “left” tend to argue that the legal system in the United States is racist because the majority of those within it are racists. The “right” often adopt this definition because it’s easy to argue against. Since both groups subscribe to this definition of systemic racism, the argument over whether the legal system is racially biased tends to involve people on the “right” pointing to people within the system who aren’t racist while people on the “left” refute their argument by claiming that those people are actually racist (if no evidence exists supporting their accusation, they argue that the person is a closet racist).

Systemic racism isn’t defined by who composes the system but by what rules govern the system.

The legal system in the United States would continue to show a racial bias even if the entire system was composed by individuals who didn’t contain a single racist bone in their body (assuming, of course, that they also followed the rules). This is because the rules governing the system ensure a racially biased outcome. How is that accomplished without the laws overtly being based on race? By criminalizing activities that are more often enjoyed by individuals who belong to a target race (I say this with the understanding that race itself is arbitrarily defined).

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say we have a racist politician who wants to write a law that will primarily put more black men in prison. How can he go about accomplishing this without mentioning race in his law? First he would identify an activity that is more often enjoyed by black men than white men. If we’re discussing fashion, it is more common for black men to wear pants that hang below their waist than it is for white men so that would make a good candidate. So our hypothetical politician could write a law criminalizing the act of wearing pants that hang below the waist. What do you think the arrest statistics are going to look like after one year? They will almost certainly show that far more black men were arrested than white men. As an added bonus, the arrest statistics will likely contain a few white men, which will give the politician evidence to argue that the law isn’t racist. Even if the majority of people who are tasked with enforcing the law (again, assuming they follow the rules) aren’t racist, the statistics will show a racial bias because the law targets an activity more commonly enjoyed by black men.

A system like this will more reliably deliver the desired outcome of its creators than a system that is composed of individuals who share the same desires as its creators. Why? Because the people who compose a system tend to change rather quickly whereas the rules that govern a system tend to change far less frequently. Moreover, even if the system is infiltrated by individuals who disagree with its creators’ desires, there isn’t anything they can do to change the system without breaking the rules (and thus being exposed and dismissed).

It’s unfortunate that the definition of systemic racism is far more complex than the commonly used definition. People tend to shy away from complexity. Although shying away from complexity is a sane default, it’s the wrong response when the seemingly simpler definition is wrong.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 19th, 2018 at 11:00 am