Don’t Use Wi-Fi for Security Cameras

I’ve been asked for my opinion on Wi-Fi security cameras many times. My opinion is to avoid them. Wi-Fi is susceptible for many easy to perform attacks. For example, Wi-Fi deauthentication attacks are a favorite of script kiddies because they are so easy to perform. I’ve demonstrated how easy it is to many friends. WPA3 helps alleviate this, but most access points that I’ve seen are still using WPA2. If you buy a Wi-Fi camera that can’t use WPA3, it is vulnerable to this trivial attack.

Deauthentication attacks aren’t the only way to bring a Wi-Fi network down. Wi-Fi is a wireless protocol, which means it’s susceptible to jamming. When I explain this to friends, they often say that I’m being overly paranoid. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you:

A serial burglar in Edina, Minnesota is suspected of using a Wi-Fi jammer to knock out connected security cameras before stealing and making off with the victim’s prized possessions. Minnesota doesn’t generally have a reputation as a hotbed for technology, so readers shouldn’t be surprised to hear that reports of Wi-Fi jammers used to assist burglaries in the U.S. go back several years. PSA: even criminals use technology, and more are now catching on — so homeowners should think about mitigations.

This is the exact thing I’ve been warning about since Wi-Fi cameras came on the market.

The purpose of a security camera is in the name: security. You want security cameras to be a deterrence and, failing that, to collect evidence that can be provided to law enforcers, insurance companies, etc. A Wi-Fi camera isn’t going to deter a burglar who has access to jamming hardware and knows how to use it. Wi-Fi cameras that have been disconnected from their recording device aren’t going to collect evidence (a camera with a built-in SD card could, but then you’re trusting an SD card, which is a crap shoot).

If you’re going through the trouble of buying and installing security cameras, get hard wired cameras. There are a lot of excellent Power over Ethernet (PoE) options on the market. PoE cameras only require a single Ethernet cable to provide both power and data connectivity.

In Praise of Pen and Paper

Back before the Internet became ubiquitous, one of the most commonly given pieces of computer security advice was to not write passwords down on Post-It notes and stick them to your computer. The threat model was obvious. Anyone sitting down at the computer would have access to the password. This threat model was the most common one back then. While writing passwords down on Post-It notes isn’t a good idea today, it’s actually quite secure against today’s most common threats because a piece of paper can’t be accessed remotely. Ubiquitous Internet connectivity has shifted the most common threat models from local access to remote access.

Data breaches, ransomware, and distributed denial of service are three of the most common forms of attack we read about today. Data breaches in business and government networks have resulted to tremendous amounts of personal information being leaked online. Ransomware attacks can grind businesses to a halt by locking away the data needed to complete day to day tasks. Likewise, distributed denial of service attacks can bring businesses to a halt because so much data has been uploaded to other people’s computers. If those computers are knocked offline, the data uploaded to them becomes inaccessible. A folder containing information written on paper forms stored in a filing cabinet can’t be stolen remotely. It can’t be maliciously encrypted remotely. Access to it can’t be taken away remotely.

The benefits of paper don’t stop there. Paper has an intuitive interface. You pick it up and you read it. Accessing information on a piece of paper doesn’t require trying to figure out a command line or graphical user interface designed by a mad programmer who seemed to take design cues from Daedalus. The user interface of paper also doesn’t change. You don’t have to worry about a software company releasing an update to a piece of paper that drastically changes the user interface for no reason other than the sake of changing it.

Paper is resilient. Data stored on a computer can be corrupted in so many ways. A file loaded into RAM can be corrupted due to a memory error and that corrupted data can be dutifully written to disk and then included in backups. It’s possible that a file that is accessed infrequently can be corrupted without anyone noticing until all of the backups of the uncorrected file are cycled out. A file can also be corrupted while it’s stored on a hard drive or SSD. Paper doesn’t suffer such weaknesses.

Writing information down on paper has a lot of security and integrity benefits. None of this is to say there aren’t downsides to using paper. But the next time you read about patient information being leaked online because a hospital suffered a data breach, consider how much safer that information would have been if it had been stored on paper forms instead of a database. When half of the Internet disappears due to another Cloudflare misconfiguration and you are unable to perform a task because the information you need is hosted on somebody else’s computer, consider that you’d still be able to complete the task if the information was on a paper form in your filing cabinet.

Just because a technology is old doesn’t mean it’s completely outdated.

No True Gray Man

Through some twist of cosmic karma, there seems to be a universal rule dictating that any group of carry permit holders must discuss the concept of the gray man. Through an addendum to the universal rule, this discussion must always devolved into No True Gray Man where each participant points out why every other participant is failing to be a gray man.

The concept of the gray man seems simple enough. If you don’t want unwanted attention, you need to blend in with the general populace. This is important to many carry permit holders because they know that if a bad guy is able to mark them as a carry permit holder, then they will be the first target should that bad guy decide to act like a bad guy. Such a grizzly fate can only be avoided by becoming indistinguishable from the background mass of people, to become a gray man. The question is, how does one achieve the coveted status of gray man?

As a frequent (and almost always unwilling) participant in this conversation, I have learned the characteristics of the gray man.

  • The gray man does not wear tactical pants. The only people who wear tactical pants are people who are carrying a gun. No exceptions.
  • The gray man does not wear a tactical shirt. What is a tactical shirt? Any button down shirt that has pockets. Unless it’s not.
  • The gray man does not wear camouflage.
  • The gray man does not wear any clothing with an emblem of any firearm manufacturer.
  • The gray man does not wear hiking boots unless they’re in gaudy colors.
  • The gray man does not use a backpack with MOLLE webbing.
  • The gray man does not use any pack other than a fanny pack because all other packs scream that the owner is carrying a gun.
  • The gray man does not walk too fast. People who walk too fast attract attention and are easily identified as a man with a gun.
  • The gray man does not walk too slow. People who walk too slow are obviously trying to avoid attention and are therefore easily identified as a man with a gun.

If you do all of these things, you will blend in perfectly with the masses and by extent achieve the coveted status of gray man! Unless, of course, you actually practice all of the other things you’re told to practice such as keeping your head on a swivel, not reducing your awareness of your surroundings by wearing earbuds and staring at your phone, crossing the street to avoid an individual or group that you believe could be trouble, or otherwise maintaining any awareness of your surroundings.

The problem I have with most gray man conversations is that they focus almost exclusively on clothing. There is another, and I will argue more important, component of blending in with the masses: behavior. Go to a public place like an airport, mall, or the downtown of a city and watch the people. Take note of how they dress and behave. I can’t tell you how many backpacks with MOLLE webbing I’ve seen at the airport. Those backpacks aren’t unique to carry permit holders. It’s fall here in the Midwest, which means it’s jacket season. Here in my rural community I see countless people wearing camouflage jackets. They don’t stick out at all because hunting is a common pass time in these parts. Many of the fashion trends declared as faux pas by the carry permit holder crowd are actually quite common amongst the general population. I can shuffle through an airport, mall, or city downtown in a 5.11 tuxedo with a Multicam backpack covered in MOLLE webbing and attract little to no attention. However, I can stomp through the same airport, mall, or city downtown in jeans and a t-shirt and attracted more attention. I just have to change my behavior.

If you spent some time people watching, you’ll notice a few trends. Most people look down at the ground as they walk. A lot of people wear earbuds in public and many more are glued to their phone. I once watched a girl whose eyes were glued to her phone walk into a moving car in a Menard’s parking lot. She was lucky that the driver noticed her and stopped the car before she hit him. Many, if not most, people are in varying states of overweight. The people who stick out are the ones who look up and forward as they walk, are obviously aware of their surroundings, and are in good physical shape. In other words, the people who practice all of the things self-defense classes teach are the people who stick out regardless of how they dress.

The gray man as typically discussed in carry permit holder circles is fudd lore. You cannot simultaneously be a gray man and practice good self-defense principles because the behavior of people who practice good self-defense principles causes them to stick out. But I’m also here to tell you that it doesn’t matter. Going back to my remark about being able to attract attention wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I specifically said more attention, not a lot of attention. This is because, short of running around screaming racist slurs (simply screaming is unlikely to attract much attention as most people work to ignore it) with my hair on fire, it’s difficult to attract much attention because most people are oblivious to their surroundings. They’re not just passively oblivious either. They actively work to remain oblivious. They wear earbuds to deafen themselves. They stare at their phones to blind themselves. They do everything they can to not have any awareness of what’s happening around them.

The good news is that you’re a gray man to the general population no matter what you do. The only people likely to notice you are other carry permit holders and bad guys. Being noticed by other carry permit holders usually isn’t a big deal. You might make a new friend (or you might sucked into a No True Gray Man discussion). Being noticed by a bad guy isn’t necessarily a problem either. The main point of practicing good self-defense principles is to signal that you’re a hard target. The reason for signaling this is because most bad guys are looking for soft targets. A bad guy noticing you and identifying you as a hard target is a typically a good thing because it will often dissuade them from choosing you as a victim. Even if a bad guy decides to target you first because you’re a potential hindrance to his ability to target others nearby, the fact that you’re practicing good self-defense principles improves your survivability. If you were blending in with the general population, if you were actively preventing yourself from being aware of your surroundings, you would have zero chance of identifying the bad guy beforehand and would therefore have no chance to defend yourself.

Don’t let yourself get suckered into believing that a change of wardrobe will allow you to achieve gray man status. If you practice good self-defense principles, you’re going to stick out no matter what you wear. Wear what you like to wear. Carry backpacks that you like to carry. Walk how you like to walk. Enjoy your life.

Starting a Home Gym

When I read through gun communities, I’m happy to see more talk about the importance of physical fitness. Threat assessment is something humans tend to be poor at doing. Case in point, there are a lot of people who choose to carry a firearm for self-defense, which is a smart response to the threat of physical violence. However, many if not most of those people have a terrible diet, do little if any physical training, and/or exercise poor sleep hygiene. Diet, exercise, and sleep are your best defenses against ailments like heart disease. Even though the statistics of suffering from a heart condition are significantly greater than being faced with physical violence, most people (in general, not just amongst those who carry a firearm) don’t bother to address that threat.

I’ve had some manner of home gym since at least 2016 (those are the earliest exercise logs I found). My first home gym was a couple of kettlebells, a small clearing in my tiny apartment living room, and a door frame pull-up bar. Besides the addition of a few kettlebells, it didn’t change much until I bought a house. When my wife and I bought our house, I set aside a space in the unfinished utility room to be my home gym. I laid some rubber matting over the concrete floor and acquired a standalone pull-up bar (technically it’s a half rack, but I wouldn’t trust it with my weight). Over time I added more kettlebells and this year I finished phase one, which was to expand the size, complete my kettlebell set, and add some adjustable dumbbells.

Since I started with a very modest setup, I thought that I’d write some advice on starting your own home gym.

Let me start by addressing an obvious question, why would you want to start a home gym. The answer is, you might not. If you live close to a nice gym, you might be better served getting a membership there. I can tell you why I started a home gym though. If these answers resonate with you, you might be well served by starting one too. When I decided that I need to start exercising, I did an honest analysis of myself. This analysis left me facing to criteria. First, I knew that if I had to drive to get to a gym, I’d inevitably use that as an excuse to skip workouts. If my gym was in my living room, that excuse was immediately off of the table. Second, I’m impatient. Waiting for my turn at a piece of equipment would drive me nuts. This is especially true when I’m busy and want to crank out a workout quickly so I can get on to other things.

My two biggest reasons for starting a home gym was to eliminate two excuses that I knew I’d eventually make to skip a workout: having to drive and having to wait in line. Both ultimately boil down to time. I would use the classic excuse of “being too busy.” There are other advantages to a home gym besides saving time. Gym memberships are a reoccurring expense. When you buy equipment for your home gym, you own it. There’s no reoccurring expense unless you decided to upgrade (with the exception of machines requiring maintenance). The monthly gym fee is cheaper in the short run, but in the long run a home gym is cheaper. Another advantage of a home gym is that you make the rules. Different gyms have different rules. Gyms that cater to casual exercisers (which are sometimes the only gyms available in an area), like Planet Fitness, have rules to foster a casual atmosphere. You can absolutely get fit at those gyms, but their rules aren’t conducive to certain types of behavior like grunting loudly when lifting, yelling when you make a personal best, or slamming weight down. You can grunt, yell, and slam weights down all you want in your home gym (this may not be true if you’re living in an apartment on floors two or up). Along with picking the rules, you also get to pick the music. I enjoy the freedom of cranking up Iron Maiden or Ex Deo during a workout without having to wear headphone.

Now that you’ve thought about the advantages and decided a home gym is right for you, you need to ask a simple question: what resources do you have to work with?

What you have to work with will determine the type of home gym you can build. The first resource you need to consider is money. The more money you have, the more equipment you can buy. If you’re looking at your bank account and feeling like you can’t afford to get gains, worry not. You don’t need a lot of equipment or any equipment at all to get gains. Equipment opens up options. As I will note below, you can start a home gym with nothing but yourself. My equipment recommendations will assume you’re impatient and want to get your gym started as soon as possible. Therefore my recommendations are based on buying new equipment rather than hunting for good deals on used equipment. If you’re patient, used equipment will save you a lot of money, but at the cost of delaying your home gym setup. My opinion is to strike while the iron is hot. If you’re interested in starting a home gym right now, get equipment right now before that interest wanes. Once you have a basic home gym and are using it consistently, start searching for deals on used equipment to expand your setup. With that caveat out of the way, let me begin.

Let’s start with budget. If money is extremely tight, you may want to focus your training on calisthenics (body weight exercises). Your body is actually an excellent platform by itself. When I have to fly somewhere, I can’t realistically bring a kettlebell with me. I’m of the opinion that doing something is better than doing nothing so if I don’t have access to equipment, I will do calisthenics. No equipment is necessary for calisthenics so there’s no upfront cost. If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, you can enhance your calisthenics workouts with a pull-up bar and a pair of gymnastic rings, both of which are cheap. Gymnastic rings can be hung from a pull-up bar. While a door frame mounted pull-up bar isn’t ideal for hanging gymnastic rings, I can confirm from experience that they do work (you just have bend your knees for things like ring holds). If you have a bit more money to spend, buy a set of resistance bands. Resistance bands are extremely versatile and you can recreate a lot of weighted exercises with a bit of creativity. During my next flight, I plan to bring my resistance bands so I can get a solid workout in my hotel room if the hotel doesn’t have any strength training equipment.

If you have $100 to spend, I recommend investing in a kettlebell or two. As of this writing, for $100 you can get a kettlebell up to 24 kg in weight from Rep Fitness and Titan Fitness. Both sites offer good quality kettlebells and free shipping. I would recommend against cheaper kettlebells like the enamel coated ones on Amazon. Often the handles aren’t finished well and have protrusions that can make them uncomfortable to use. With that said, if that’s all you can afford, they’re far better than nothing. On his podcast Dan John has mentioned that he find a 20 kg kettlebell to be a good starting weight for most men. I started with a 20 kg kettlebell and agree with his assessment based on my experience. Kettlebells are versatile. You can use them for both strength training and conditioning. You can use them in very tight spaces. You can easily carry them outside and enjoy a workout in your backyard when the weather is nice. In my opinion, kettlebells are the best bang for buck you can get when it comes to workout equipment. Dumbbells are another option if money and/or space are right. Keep in mind that you typically want to buy dumbbells in pairs whereas many kettlebell programs are designed for a single kettlebell.

If you have $500 to spend, my recommendation remains the same except I will suggest buying a set of kettlebells that include at least one each of 16 kg, 20 kg, and 24 kg (if there are any women reading, you will probably want to chop those weights down by four to eight kilograms). Dumbbells become a more attractive option at $500 since you can accord to buy several pairs or you can buy a set of PowerBock Elite EXP adjustable dumbbells and have money left over. I own a pair of these and really like them. They’re not as awkward to work with as they look. There are also expansion plates available that let you take each dumbbell up to 90 pounds.

If you have thousands of dollars to spend, the sky is the limit. At that point your main consideration becomes space rather than budget so let’s talk about environment. If you don’t have a lot of space to work with (which I didn’t when I started), you may want to focus on equipment that can be used in tight spaces. If you live in an apartment, you may be limited in what you’re allowed to install. Management might be upset if they see a power rack bolted through your floor or a deadlift platform in your living room. You’ll also want to be conscientious towards your neighbors (assuming you like or are at least neutral towards your neighbors). Unless you’re on the ground floor, dropping a weight onto an apartment floor is likely to agitate the downstairs neighbors. Especially if you do it habitually.

Everything I mentioned above: pull-up bars, gymnastic rings, resistance bands, kettlebells, and dumbbells can all be used in tight spaces. Barbells require a wide enough space to accommodate the bar and enough space for a bench and at least a half rack. You can still do a barbell setup in a pretty small space though. Machines are space hungry. My wife’s elliptical takes up a good chunk of space. Treadmills, air bikes, rowing machine, and other cardio oriented machines typically have sizable footprints. Strength training machines also tend to be space hungry. If you want to include machines in your home gym, you’ll want a room that you can dedicate to it. Keep in mind that there are wall mounted half racks that can be folded up when you’re not using them and a lot of benches are designed to be stood upright when not in use. That allows you to reclaim space when you’re not working out. If you have a large space like a shed or a garage (assuming you don’t already put vehicles in it), you can pretty much get whatever you can afford.

You can start a home gym with very little money and space. Obviously more money and space brings more options. But don’t be discouraged from setting up a home gym just because your budget is tight or because you live in an apartment.

Anarchism Isn’t a Social System

Despite not using social media, I still find myself entering discussions with people who remain convinced, despite all of the evidence around us, that statist is the best -ism. In one of the more entertaining conversations on the topic I’ve had, the statist said, “Anarchism sucks as a social system.” I surprised him when I agreed. Anarchism does indeed suck as a social system because a social system can never be anarchism by definition.

Consider the etymology of anarchism. The word anarchism is composed of the Ancient Greek prefix an-, meaning without, and the word arkhos, meaning ruler. Therefore, anarchism literally means without rulers. Now consider a few of the popular social systems advocated by self-proclaimed anarchists. I will start with anarcho-communism. The inclusion of the word communism tells you up front that the system isn’t going to be without rulers. Anarcho-communists believe in the abolition of private property and the implementation of some bizarre system of personal (which they insist definitely isn’t private) property and collectively owned property. The question is, who defines what constitutes private personal property versus collectively owned property? Collectives using democratic principles, of course! Therein lies the problem. A democratic system necessarily has a ruler, the majority vote. If you’re desires don’t align with the majority vote, you’d better shut your trap or face the consequences (which will probably be decided by the same people who voted against your desires)!

What about the mutualists? Mutualism is better defined than anarcho-communism, but just barely. Mutualists advocate for a mutual-credit bank that provides producers nearly interest-free loans (a little interest is OK to cover overhead expenses and we all know such a system could never be manipulated or abused). Moreover, mutualism has a slightly less convoluted system of private property based on usage. If you’re using property for productive purposes, you get to keep using it. If you’re no longer using property for productive uses, someone else can claim it. Hence we’re faced with the questions, who defines what is nearly interest-free in regards to loans and who defines what productive use of property is? Whoever is allowed to answer those questions and enforce their dictates is by definition a ruler.

Finally, let’s consider anarcho-capitalism. According to every other flavor of anarchism, anarcho-capitalism isn’t real anarchism. I guess that means I can skip it. Anyways, if you were curious, the rulers under anarcho-capitalism are the private property owners.

I can think of no social system that could also be without rulers. Therefore, I cannot think of any social system that fit the definition of anarchism. Maybe I lack creativity. Feel free to correct me. Until I’m corrected, I will continue to advocate that anarchism is a method of individual liberation rather than a social system.

The next logical question is, how do I view anarchism through the lens of a method of individual liberation? The answer to that is I view it as methodologies that allow individuals to ignore, bypass, cripple, neuter, obliterate, or otherwise free themselves from unwanted hierarchy. This is one reason I continue to cite the works of Samuel Edward Konkin III. If you set aside his views on Agorist class theory, Agorism is a methodology that uses counter-economics to allow individuals to bypass and potentially cripple and even destroy the hierarchy of the State. It also advocates for individuals to be entrepreneurs so they can control their livelihood rather than depend on another entrepreneur. I also continue to cite the works of Max Stirner, Renzo Novatore, and Friedrich Nietzsche because their writings serve as methods for individuals to liberate themselves from the thought structures (brainwashing) trapping them into believing that being subject to a hierarchy is necessary (or even more absurdly, freedom). The works of crypto-anarchists and the products of cypherpunks are also of significant value because they allow individuals to liberate themselves from the corporate/government surveillance apparatus.

Once freed from unwanted hierarchy, an anarchist is able to define their lives on their terms. They may decide to associate freely with specific other individuals for mutual benefit. Those associates may be long lasting or very short lived. They may choose to help or harm others (and face the consequences of either). They may choose to try to survive on their own. But before they can forge ahead with their life on their own terms, they must be free to do so. Anarchism is, in my opinion, the methodology that one can use to be without rules, an anarchist by the literal definition.

Year Plus Check-In

I was updating my server and realized that it’s been a little over a year since I posted any content. Do I feel bad? Not at all. As I’ve always said, this blog is more for me than you. But I thought that I’d give a little update for the two people that added my blog to their RSS reader and forgot to remove it.

My biggest focus for the last year has been me. By that I mean I’ve been getting even more into physical fitness. I completed the first phase of my home gym project this year. It went from a small section in my unfinished utility room to a significantly larger section of that room. I have a complete set of kettlebells, which means I have pairs of every weight from 16 kg to 48 kg in 4 kg increments. I also bough a set of PowerBlock Elite EXP adjustable dumbbells (a great opportunity to abuse that free shipping Amazon Prime gives). Horse mats are the typical go-to for flooring options for home gyms, but I opted for Amorim sports flooring. It’s not a squishy as horse mats and doesn’t have the same room clearing stench when you first get them. You may notice no mention of a barbell and accompanying weights. Right now I’m getting the results I want from kettlebells. There’s also not enough space in my utility room for a power rack and barbell setup. When I get around to building a shed, I plan to have a space in it set aside for a barbell setup. Finally, I bought an elliptical, but that’s more for the wife than me. I used it when the weather isn’t conducive to walking or rucking.

I was running Pavel’s Rite of Passage kettlebell program towards the end of 2022 and through much of 2023. However, I changed programs when I finished my kettlebell set because I had doubles of every weight and wanted to take advantage of them (Rite of Passage is an excellent program and I highly recommend it). I ran Geoff Neupert’s Dry Fighting Weight program since it combines two of my favorite exercises: clean and presses and front squats. The only lift that was missing from my top three were snatches. Low and behold he released his new Maximorum program this year, which uses double clean and presses, double front squats, and one arm snatches. I’m beginning that program this afternoon.

On other fronts, I haven’t relapsed on social media. I haven’t logged into Facebook or Twitter (or X as it’s not called) for almost three years now. I still use Matrix and Signal, but neither of them are designed to suck as much time from your life as possible so I actually enjoy popping on and off of them. My wife and I (which is to say mostly my wife) expanded our garden. We have nine raised beds and a few small plots used for odds and ends.

If the two of you who forgot to remove my blog from your RSS read are still reading, I plan to add more content in the coming months. Expect to see a few articles related to physical fitness. I will likely write some posts related to guns since that is the reason I started this blog. Don’t expect to see any content related to the upcoming election since I don’t care about rigged games played by geriatrics.

Decentralized Social Media

When I abandoned Facebook, I also decided to abandon all centralized social media platforms. In their place I opted to make use of decentralized services instead. To that end I joined various Matrix chat rooms on multiple servers and spun up a few of my own. I recently joined a Mastodon instance and have been enjoying the community on that instance as well as interacting with people on other instances through federation. Although not technically a social media platform (nor a decentralized one), I also participate in and even run a few group chats on Signal.

This setup takes me back to the days before Facebook gobbled up half of the Internet. Before Facebook, online social interactions were spread amongst a dozen or more chat clients (ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, XMPP, etc.) and thousands of forums. Most forums had a theme. If you wanted to discuss guns, you would join any of the many gun forums. If you wanted to discuss video games, you would join any of the many video game forums. There were forums for the most niche of subjects.

For those who missed those days of the Internet and only know the post-Facebook Internet, what I just described probably sounds like chaos because you needed a separate account for each chat platform and forum (and this was in an era before password managers). However, the chaos came with many upsides. The most notable of which was that getting banned from one platform or forum didn’t result in you being banned from every other. People today often complain when they receive a temporary or permanent ban on Facebook, Twitter, or other centralized social media platform because it means they’re banned from interacting with all of their friends. To make matters worse, the number of rules and therefore the number of reasons you can receive a ban continues to increase. And since many bans are completely automated, you can find yourself barred from interacting with all of your online communities because an automated moderation system took an innocent thing you posted the wrong way.

Compare that with the decentralized social media experience I described in the first paragraph of this post. If I’m banned from one Matrix or Mastodon instance, I can sign up for an account on another instance. In the case of Matrix, you can choose to encrypt all messages in a room, which prevents the administrators of your Matrix instance from reading any of your comments (and therefore banning you for it). Signal actually forces encryption on all rooms so the same is always the case on that platform. Federation on Mastodon and Matrix means that you can continue to interact with your acquaintances even if you migrate to another server, which fixes the biggest issue with pre-Facebook chat clients and forums (if you were banned from one, you couldn’t interact with your acquaintances on that platform unless they also used another platform).

I’ve also discovered that I prefer to keep a lot of my social media activity isolate from my other social media activity. It wasn’t uncommon for me to post something on a public Facebook group just for a friend who didn’t like the topic of that group to show up and try to engage in a fight. This was even more common on Twitter, which is just a public forum. But when I post something on a Mastodon instance, only users on that instance and anybody federating with that instance (who are usually federating because they’re interested in the topic(s) found on that instance) see it. This cuts down on the bullshit from the peanut gallery. This is even more true for Matrix since most rooms are topical and the only people who join those rooms are interested in the topic.

Whereas I found centralized social media aggravating because everything I posted was visible to all of my friends, decentralized social media has been very pleasant. I can post anarchism content to anarchist rooms and not have to argue with statist friends. I can post gun content to gun rooms and not have to argue with anti-gun friends. I can post online privacy content to online privacy rooms without my technology illiterate friends taking it as an opportunity to seek free technical support. While trolls do pop in from time to time, they’re rare and generally more fun since they’re not my friends and I therefore don’t give a shit about their feelings.

While decentralized social media may seem inconvenient compared to centralized social media, I strongly urge you to give it a try. You may find that what you currently perceive to be an inconvenience, such as not all of your friends being on one platform, is actually beneficial.

Bypassing Online Censorship

This post reiterates a theme this blog had for a long time. If you don’t own your publishing platform, you’re at the mercy of whoever does. I’m bringing this topic up again for two reasons. The first reason is as a response to the number of messages friends keep sending me about individuals or groups they follow, all of whom express opinions not in line with the party in power, being removed from the likes of Twitter and Facebook. The second reason is to give some historical context about the nature of avoiding censorship.

Whenever somebody alerts me that an anarchist, libertarian, Austrian economist, or any other individual outside of the mainstream gets banned from Twitter or Facebook, I roll my eyes. Of course they were removed. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, etc. are all services that depend on having a large user base. Any online service that depends on having a large user base is going to cater to the mainstream. Moreover, the mainstream attitude is very much in favor of censorship. In order to cater to the mainstream, these services will remove anybody who expresses ideals outside of the mainstream.

Censorship isn’t a new phenomenon. I will actually argue that it’s the norm rather than the exception. The concept of free speech as we understand it is the product of Enlightenment thinking. And while the Enlightenment was popular throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, it wasn’t as popular throughout the rest of the world and its popularity has waned significantly in Europe. But even Enlightenment thinkers often supported censorship of ideas they found especially distasteful.

Just as censorship isn’t a new phenomenon, neither is bypassing censorship. Anarchists are often targets of censorship. Not surprisingly many governments overtly censored anarchists, but even private publishers are often unwilling to publish and distribute material written by anarchists. As a result zines became a popular way for anarchists to publish and distribute their writings. Under the Soviet Union, any literature deemed counterrevolutionary (in other words any literature that showed the communist leadership as anything other than saints) was typically censored. The heavy handed censorship of the Soviet Union gave rise to Samizdat.

Both zines and Samizdat material were self-published works. The author or one of their associates would create copies using whatever means available, usually photocopies or hidden printing presses, to create copies of their works. Those copies were then distributed by hand. Often the copies would circulate from person to person. Zines and Samizdat material were typically crude because they were created with no budget and without the benefit of sophisticated printing equipment. Neither usually circulated far. A handful of copies would usually be traded amongst a handful of like minded individuals.

Today’s modern world has analogs to zines and Samizdat. Self-hosted services such as Mastadon and Element allow like minded individuals to communicate with each other via services that they can control. Peer-to-peer services such as Retroshare allow each individual to completely control their own node. It’s also possible to self-host a website. This blog is hosted on a server in my basement. There are also old school methods such as private e-mail lists that allow anybody with an e-mail client to connect to an e-mail server being hosted by a like minded individual.

The most common criticism of these services is that not everybody is on them. While true, this is a feature, not a bug, for anybody interested in distributing ideas outside of the mainstream. Do you think your grandparents are going to enjoy or be convinced by your radical posts on Facebook? If you do, you’re a fool. The only result of posting your non-mainstream ideas to centralized services used by the masses is its removal because eventually Karen is going to see it, she is going to be offended by it, and she is going to report it. Shortly after she reports it, it will be removed because the service needs her (or more specifically the masses who think like her) more than you.

The Purpose of Government Lists

Statists tend to believe that government lists are beneficial or at worst benign. They tend to believe that government has good cause for creating lists. That part is true. Government does have good cause for creating lists. But that cause is neither beneficial or benign. It’s to inflict ill on those they deem worthy of punishment.

The Attorney General of California just demonstrated this by publishing the name and home address of every carry permit holder in the state:

California Attorney General today announced new and updated firearms data available through the California Department of Justice (DOJ)’s 2022 Firearms Dashboard Portal. The dashboard is accessible though DOJ’s OpenJustice Data Platform. The announcement will improve transparency and information sharing for firearms-related data and includes broad enhancements to the platform to help the public access data on firearms in California, including information about the issuance of Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permits and Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs).

The Attorney General claims this is to improve transparency, but it’s obviously retaliation for the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, which found that requiring carry permit applicants to provide proper cause violated the Second Amendment.

By publishing this information, the Attorney General provided burglars who want guns with a list of homes to hit, abusers who have lost track of their victims with their victim’s hiding places, and every other ne’er-do-well with the identities and home addresses of people whose only “crime” was to obtain a carry permit. Of course, this was the intent because the Attorney General is angry about not being able to deny California denizens the legal privilege of carry a means of self-defense.

Slavery Didn’t End

Yesterday was Juneteenth, a holiday to celebrate the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. Unfortunately, based on news articles and social media posts, many if not most people are under the mistaken belief that Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t end slavery in the United States (and the anti-slavery laws and Thirteenth Amendment that followed), it changed the rules of slavery. Prior to the Emancipation Proclamation people of African descent could be owned by private individuals in specific states. While the Emancipation Proclamation prohibited that practice, it didn’t prevent all forms of slavery.

In the post Emancipation Proclamation United States whether one can be a slave is no longer determined by skin color and whether one can own slaves is no longer determined by the state in which they reside. Instead whether one can be a slave is determined by criminality and the only legal slave owners are the federal and state governments and their contractors.

Yes, this post is yet another one of my rants about the existence of Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, state level versions of UNICOR such as MINNCOR, and government contracted private prisons. All of these organizations utilize slave labor, but many people seem to be willing to ignore this fact because the slaves are criminals. But I will again remind you that the legal system in the United States is so convoluted that the label criminal is effectively arbitrary. Back in 2011 the book Three Felonies a Day was published. The book pointed out that working professionals in the United States unknowingly commit an average of three felonies per day. The only reason they aren’t all criminals is because the state either hasn’t caught them or hasn’t enforced its laws against them. But if the state doesn’t like somebody it can chose to investigate them and enforce any of its numerous laws against them and thus make them a criminal.

So when you see news anchors, politicians, and celebrities celebrating an end to slavery, remember that slavery is still alive and well in the United States. The rules may have changed, but the practice never ended.