A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Your Government Doesn’t Love You’ 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

Counting People Killed by Law Enforcers isn’t Straight Forward

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How many people have been killed in the United States by law enforcers? That question is actually more complicated than it appears because there is a lot of questionable data being used to establish that number:

Over half of all police killings in 2015 were wrongly classified as not having been the result of interactions with officers, a new Harvard study based on Guardian data has found.

The finding is just the latest to show government databases seriously undercounting the number of people killed by police.

“Right now the data quality is bad and unacceptable,” said lead researcher Justin Feldman. “To effectively address the problem of law enforcement-related deaths, the public needs better data about who is being killed, where, and under what circumstances.”

Feldman used data from the Guardian’s 2015 investigation into police killings, The Counted, and compared it with data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). That dataset, which is kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was found to have misclassified 55.2% of all police killings, with the errors occurring disproportionately in low-income jurisdictions.

This revelation isn’t new nor should it be surprising. Statistics is often an exercise in creating the conclusion and fitting the data to that conclusion. If, for example, the government wanted to make its law enforcers appear to be less lethal, it could massage the number of people killed by its officers by coming up with a creative definition of law enforcement interaction. And government agencies can’t even claim a monopoly on this practice. It seems that most individuals and organizations use statistics to prove an already established conclusion instead of using statistics to establish a conclusion.

Now we have at least two sets of statistics on the number of people killed by law enforcers. Which set of numbers is correct? Who knows. The government has an obvious motivation to massage the numbers so it appears that fewer people are killed by law enforcers but Feldman may be motivated to massage the numbers so it appears that more people are killed by law enforcers. Most people will likely pick the set that proves their conclusion and call it a day. And do you know what? I can’t blame somebody for choosing that strategy because realistically both sets of statistics are probably misleading in some manner.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2017 at 10:30 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

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

Rewarding Incompetence

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A lot of people are very upset with Equifax at the moment. The company’s amateur hour security practices allow the personal information of millions of people to fall into unauthorized hands. You would think that a screw up of that magnitude would dissuade any rational business from doing business with it. Well the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) isn’t rational or a business so this shouldn’t surprise anybody:

Between March and July of this year, the credit rating agency Equifax, was infiltrated by hackers who made off with the sensitive personal information of more than 140 million Americans. That sounds like the kind of thing that might hurt a company’s credibility when it comes to security. But Politico is now reporting that the IRS will pay Equifax $7.25 million to “verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud.”

I don’t know why the IRS feels the need to pay Equifax to verify taxpayer identities when its database is in the wild. I’m sure the IRS could acquire a copy and just perform verify taxpayers itself.

I really need to get into government contracts. It seems like no screw up is so severe that it will dissuade the government from doing business with you.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 5th, 2017 at 10:00 am

You Have a Right to an Attorney… Except When You Don’t

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When somebody is arrested they’re given a Miranda warning, which, in addition to a few other things, informs the arrested individual that they have a right to an attorney. However, an individual’s right to an attorney, like every other right, is subject to change whenever it suits the State:

With its case falling apart, the prosecution did something drastic: It asked presiding Judge Andrew Hague to dismiss Rodriguez’s public defender on the grounds that it would not seek jail time. This meant Rodriguez was no longer entitled to a lawyer.

Since the vast majority of misdemeanor cases in Miami-Dade County do not end with a conviction (or subsequent jail time) the prosecutor’s decision not to seek jail time was a minor concession. The public defender objected, arguing that Florida law required Judge Hague to determine whether her removal would disadvantage Mr. Rodriguez. The judge ignored this request and discharged the lawyer.

On April 27, 2016, Rodriguez had his day in court, representing himself. Things did not go well. Rodriguez unwittingly waived his right to a jury trial after Judge Hague failed to explain what was happening. The prosecution’s case rested entirely on the testimony of the arresting officers. But because Rodriguez did not know how to follow up with the public defender’s requests for discovery and depositions, he was unprepared to challenge the officers’ testimony. To make matters worse, Judge Hague repeatedly and loudly berated Rodriguez for not knowing how to ask questions like a lawyer.

This case can be added to the stupidly long list of cases that demonstrate that the court system isn’t about justice.

Being a defendant or a prosecutor in a courtroom requires arcane knowledge. It’s not enough to argue your point, you have to argue it using the proper incantations. Failing to do so will bring the wrath of the man in the muumuu on you. He will declare your statement inadmissible. This is why representation is critical. You need a guy on your side who possesses the arcane knowledge of the courtroom. Without him, most people will be steamrolled by the other side.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Spain Apparently Wants Civil War

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The vote on secession in Catalonia has come and gone. The overwhelming majority of voters voted in favor of secession. However, in order to cast that vote they had to risk beatings from Spanish law enforcers:

The Catalan regional government is holding an emergency meeting to discuss the next steps towards declaring independence from Spain, a day after millions of Catalans voted in a tumultuous poll that left more than 800 people injured.

Preliminary results from Sunday’s vote showed that 90% of people cast their ballots in favour of independence, according to the Catalan government.

At least 844 people and 33 police were reported to have been hurt on Sunday after riot police stormed polling stations in a last-minute effort to stop the vote.

This vote wasn’t even binding and Spain’s law enforcers were willing to beat down over 800 people, which really shows Spain’s attitude towards Catalan independence. As far as Spain is concerned, the only way Catalonia is leaving is in a body bag. However, secession appears to be extremely popular in Catalonia so Spain is unlikely to succeed at keeping the people there under its boot indefinitely. If things continue down this road, Spain will eventually have to decide whether it will let Catalonia secede peacefully or require it engage in a civil war. I’m hoping for the former but based on Spain’s actions so far I fear the latter may be inevitable.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 3rd, 2017 at 10:30 am