A Geek With Guns

Discount security adviser to the proles.

Forensic Voodoo

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If you hang out with enough gunnies you’ll eventually run across Mr. Tough On Crime. Mr. Tough On Crime is remorseless. If somebody has been stopped by a police officer Mr. Tough On Crime more often than not has already judge them to be a criminal. In his eyes the police only stop people who are perpetrating crimes. And if you’ve been convicted of a crime Mr. Tough On Crime will forever disparage your name because you were proven to be filthy criminal scum. Judge Dredd has nothing on Mr. Tough On Crime.

But how guilty are the people sitting in prison right now? Last year it was revealed that microscopic hair forensics was basically voodoo. As it turns out, microscopic hair forensics cannot reliably tell one person from another. This has raised the question about what other supposedly scientific forensic techniques are bullshit and therefore what individuals in prison are actually criminals:

The White House will release a report Tuesday that will fundamentally change the way many criminal trials are conducted. The new study from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) examines the scientific validity of forensic-evidence techniques—DNA, fingerprint, bitemark, firearm, footwear and hair analysis. It concludes that virtually all of these methods are flawed, some irredeemably so.

Americans have long had an abiding faith in science, including forensic science. Popular TV shows like “CSI” and “Forensic Files” stoke this confidence. Yet the PCAST report will likely upend many people’s beliefs, as it should. Why trust a justice system that imprisons and even executes people based on junk science?

Only the most basic form of DNA analysis is scientifically reliable, the study indicates. Some forensic methods have significant error rates and others are rank guesswork. “The prospects of developing bitemark analysis into a scientifically valid method” are low, according to the report. In plain terms: Bitemark analysis is about as reliable as astrology. Yet many unfortunates languish in prison based on such bad science.

Mr. Tough On Crime is a blithering idiot. Condemning anybody who has ended up in one of the State’s slave labor facilities is asinine because many crimes don’t even involve a victim (and therefore aren’t actually crimes) and even when there is a victim the guilt of the accused perpetrator is often not proven beyond a reasonable because so much forensic “science” is voodoo.

I blame a great deal of this on the State’s monopoly on the legal system. Since the State has declared a monopoly on the legal system it is the prosecuting party in almost all criminal cases. The State is necessarily biased against anybody charged with a crime because its job is to prosecute them, not discover the truth about the crime. Many forensic labs work for the prosecutor and are therefore also biased against the defendant because they want to make their paying client happy so they’ll purchase their services again. The judge, at best, is a neutral party but realistically, as en employee of the State, is likely going to be biased against the defendant as well, which is a major problem because they instruct the jury. Members of the jury are often clueless about forensic techniques so they often lap up what the forensic labs, which are usually on the side of the prosecutor, feed them. Jurors are also usually ignorant about their rights as jurors, which is exacerbated by the judge lying to them. Often the only person in a court room that isn’t gunning for the defendant is their lawyer.

With odds like that, it’s difficult to have much faith in a guilty verdict, especially when a great deal of the forensic “evidence” submitted against the defendant isn’t any more reliable than guesswork.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 30th, 2016 at 11:00 am

How Low Things Have Sunk

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This election should have been a slam dunk for both parties. The Republican Party nominated its worst candidate and the Democratic Party nominated its worst candidate. The only reason this election hasn’t been a slam dunk for one side is because of how terrible both of the candidates are.

What makes this amusing though is the mental gymnastics each party’s supporters are performing in order to justify supporting their party’s nominee. Republicans are trying to claim that Trump has had a change of heart and is now pro gun and democrats are trying to sweep Hillary’s impressive criminal record under the rug. Although the former were more interesting to me earlier in the election the latter are becoming more interesting to me now. Take the e-mail scandal that Hillary is involved in. She managed to disappear an extensive list of e-mails from her personal server, which she wasn’t supposed to be using. How are her supporters justifying this? By pointing out that none other than George W. Bush did it:

Clinton’s email habits look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration. Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails. This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America’s recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and, later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

It has come to this. Hillary’s supporters have to compare their candidate to the presidential candidate that has, for 16 years now, been labeled the single most evil individual in history. The only defense Hillary’s supporters have left is pointing out that the Great Satan did it too (but worse because he’s more evil).

I compared this election to a dumpster fire on many occasions but I think that’s an inaccurate analogy. At least a dumpster fire destroys trash. Everybody involved in this election will be free to inflict themselves on us again in another four years. If historical trends continue, the candidates next election will be so deplorable that the only defense their supporters will have is that their candidate hasn’t eaten a baby on live television during prime time.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 30th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Reminder: Private Quantitative Easing is Illegal

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A man in Idaho was recently sentences to a year in jail and three months of home imprisonment. His crime? Following the Federal Reserve’s plan to stimulate the economy through quantitative easing:

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — A northern Idaho man who created counterfeit $50 bills using a computer printer has been sentenced to a year in jail and three months home confinement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 51-year-old Daniel Keith Snyder of Hope also on Monday in federal court was ordered to pay $1,150 in restitution and have three years of supervised release.

Quantitative easing, more common referred to as counterfeiting, is, like kidnapping and assault, perfectly legal if performed by the State but illegal if performed by a private individual. So remember, just because the State does it doesn’t mean you, a lowly peasant, can do it.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Even the President Admits That the System is Rigged

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Two days ago was National Register to Vote Day. It amounted to the Internet asking what I was doing to encourage my friends to register to vote and me responding that I don’t encourage my friends to actively participate in their own subjugation. Voting exists to give the subjects the false belief that they have a say in the actions of their rulers. You can see this by simply looking at the ballot. For each office a ballot will list any running candidates and leave a space if you want to write somebody else in. What isn’t on the ballot is the option to abolish the office. As Noam Chomsky said, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views.” You are allowed, at most, to choose your master from a curated list but you can’t choose to do something radical.

The system is rigged. This fact has become so obvious that even the rulers are publicly admitting it:

President Barack Obama warned in a radio interview on Wednesday that Americans who vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein in November risk putting Donald Trump into the White House, as he sought to blunt momentum for third-party candidates.

“If you don’t vote, that’s a vote for Trump,” Obama said in an interview on the Steve Harvey Morning Show. “If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump.”

There it is, plain as day. And you know what? He’s right. At least about third-party presidential candidates having no chance of winning (he’s still wrong about not voting or voting for a third-party candidate being a vote for Trump). Third-party candidates exist to create the illusion of choice. Their presence on the ballot legitimizes the State in the eyes of many people who are unhappy with the two major parties by creating the illusion that other alternative exist. In reality your only choice on the ballot is whether you want a republican or a democratic ruler (and in reality even that is a false choice based on how poorly Trump has been polling).

Here’s my question, if you know the game is rigged why bother playing it? You don’t have an actual choice, you have a curated list of choices deemed acceptable by the rulers. And if you don’t live in a swing state you don’t even have that. Here in Minnesota, for example, Hillary is going to win. Any vote that isn’t for her won’t count in any meaningful way. Any vote for her is merely an exercise in electoral masturbation since it serves no purpose other than increasing the magnitude of her victory.

Why waste precious minutes or hours of your life in a meaningless exercise? There are so many more productive things you could do. You could read a book, go to the range, hit the gym, smoke a joint, or trim your toenails. But you won’t gain anything by playing a rigged game.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 29th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Confidentiality Versus Anonymity

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The Intercept has started a bit of a shit storm by pointing out that iMessage doesn’t encrypt metadata:

APPLE PROMISES THAT your iMessage conversations are safe and out of reach from anyone other than you and your friends. But according to a document obtained by The Intercept, your blue-bubbled texts do leave behind a log of which phone numbers you are poised to contact and shares this (and other potentially sensitive metadata) with law enforcement when compelled by court order.

Every time you type a number into your iPhone for a text conversation, the Messages app contacts Apple servers to determine whether to route a given message over the ubiquitous SMS system, represented in the app by those déclassé green text bubbles, or over Apple’s proprietary and more secure messaging network, represented by pleasant blue bubbles, according to the document. Apple records each query in which your phone calls home to see who’s in the iMessage system and who’s not.

Is this an affront to privacy? Is Apple showing bad faith in its promise to deliver a more security communication system? No and no. The issue at hand here is that Apple has promised confidentiality but hasn’t promised anonymity, which are two different things.

Confidentiality means that a communication isn’t accessible to unauthorized parties. In other words what was communicated is secret. Anonymity means that the parties communicating are secret. A confidential message isn’t necessarily anonymous and an anonymous message isn’t necessarily confidential.

iMessage and other secure communication applications such as WhatsApp and Signal use an identifier that are tied to your real-life persona, your phone number. Using phone numbers as identifiers allows these apps to easily scan your contacts list to see who does and doesn’t have the application. While they do keep what is being communicated secret they make no attempt to keep who is communicating secret.

Tor, on the other hand, attempts to provide anonymity but doesn’t necessarily provide confidentiality. With the exception of hidden services, every website you access through Tor goes through an exit node. Unless the site you’re accessing utilizes Transport Layer Security (TLS) the contents of the site are accessible to the exit node operator. On Tor the content being communicated isn’t necessarily confidential but the parties communicating are.

Applications such as Ricochet attempt (I use this qualifier because Ricochet is still experimental) to provide both confidentiality and anonymity. Not only are the communications themselves kept secret but the parties who are communicating is also kept secret. But since Ricochet users are anonymous be default the application can’t go through your contacts list and automatically inform you who does and doesn’t have the application.

There’s nothing sinister afoot here. Apple, WhatsApp, and Signal never claimed to deliver anonymity. Even if they didn’t use phone numbers as identifiers they still wouldn’t deliver anonymity since they make no attempt to conceal your IP address. Everybody that is freaking out about this is freaking out about the fact that Apple isn’t providing something it never claimed to provide.

There are no magic bullets. Before choosing the right tool for the job you need to develop a threat model. Unless you know what you are guarding against you can’t effectively guard against it. Confidentiality works well to protect against certain types of snoops. Law enforcers wanting to dig through the contents of messages to find evidence of illegal activities and advertisers wanting the same but to acquire information to better sell your products are threats where confidentiality is important but anonymity may not be required. Law enforcers wanting to create a social graph so it can target friends of specific individuals and censors wanting to learn who is putting out unapproved material are threats where anonymity is important but confidentiality may not be required. On the other hand, depending on your threat model, all of the above may be threats where confidentiality and anonymity are required.

Know your threats and know your tools. Make sure your tools address your threats. But don’t get upset because a tool doesn’t address your threat when it never claimed to do so.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 29th, 2016 at 10:30 am

You Can’t Squeeze Blood from a Turnip

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I have yet another story of civil forfeiture for you. But this one is a little different. Instead of it being a story about cops stealing property that the owner is never able to get back this story starts out with the courts siding with the owner. However, there’s a plot twist. The stolen property has already been sold:

For eight years, Michiganders Gerald and Royetta Ostipow have been fighting the seizure and forfeiture of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of their property.

Last month they prevailed when a judge ordered the return of virtually everything that had been taken from them. But the Ostipows’ victory was short-lived, for they soon discovered that the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office had sold their property years ago, while their forfeiture case was still being actively litigated.

So, it’s back to court for the Ostipows.

You can’t get what isn’t there but at least the system works… for the rulers. Law enforcers were able to steal and hock Mr. and Mrs. Ostipow’s stuff for financial gain. In order to fight the seizure the Ostipows had to invest money in a lawyer and hours in the court system, which helped keep the court employees employed. Then when the court finally ruled in favor of the Ostipows they found out that they would have to spend more money on lawyers, and by extent help pay the salaries of more court employees, because their property was pawned off years ago. If the federal court sides with them then the city that employs the officers will likely be forced to pay damages, which very well may lead to a tax increase to make up for the loss to the city.

In the end everybody involved with the State profits while the Ostipows have to continue hemorrhaging cash and will never be able to reclaim the hours of their life that have been lost.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 29th, 2016 at 10:00 am

The Signal Desktop App Now Works with iOS

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The developers behind Signal, an application that allows you to send secure text messaging and make secure phone calls, released a Chrome app some time ago. The Chrome app allowed you to link your Android device with the app so you could use Signal on a desktop or laptop computer. iOS users were left out in the cold, which annoyed me because I spend more time on my laptop than on my phone (also, because I hate typing on my phone). Fortunately, Signal for iOS now supports linking with the Chrome app.

It’s simple to setup and works well. If you, like me, don’t use Chrome as your primary browser and don’t want to open it just to use Signal you can right-click on the Signal App in Chrome and create a shortcut. On macOS the shortcut will be created in your ~/Applications/Chrome Apps/ folder (I have no idea where it puts it on Windows or Linux). Once created you can drag the Signal shortcut to the dock.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 28th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Expanding the Scope of the TSA

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Government agencies only expand, they never contract. Although the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has failed 95 percent of red team exercises the agency hasn’t been abolished. Instead Congress wants to reward the agency by expanding its scope to guard the trains that practically nobody uses:

Several U.S. senators want the TSA to focus more attention and resources on rail, highway, and marine transportation, which would mean greater security oversight at such places as Amtrak stations and Megabus coach stops. A bipartisan bill introduced Thursday by Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) would require the TSA to use a risk-based security model for these transport modes and to budget money based on those risks. It would require a wider use of the agency’s terrorist watch list by train operators and more detailed passenger manifests along with tighter screening of marine employees. The legislation also would increase the TSA’s canine use by as many as 70 dog-handler teams for surface transportation.

Why bother? No terrorist attack has been performed on an Amtrak train. Compared to airliners Amtrak trains are practically ghost towns. They’re low value targets to an attacker looking to rack up as high of a body count as possible. Obviously this isn’t about security so what is it about? My guess is that it’s about police state bullshit.

Remember all those movie scenes where the Nazi or Soviet officer asks passengers boarding a train for their papers? It used to be the thing were we told to fear for obvious reasons. But those scenes are pornography for statists. They show everything statists desire: control, order, and obedience. And they swooped in the second they had an excuse to implement the exact same system for air travelers. When you line up in the security theater line at an airport you hand your papers to a TSA agent who looks them over and decides whether or not your can move forward. If you’re a Jew or a kulak on the terrorist watch lists your trip ends there and you’ll be escorted away but a thug in a uniform. Now that every is used to kowtowing to government agents demanding to see our papers Congress is ready to expand the TSA’s scope. It won’t surprise me if the nation’s highways are someday littered with surprise TSA checkpoints.

Never ending expansion such as this is why I have a zero tolerance policy towards government. If you give government an inch it will slowly take a mile. The only sane solution is to not have a government at all.

Moral Hypocrisy

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Whenever discrimination appears to rear its ugly head a large number of people demand that the State fix it. Never letting an opportunity to expand its power to go waste the State has heeded these demands and appointed itself as the ultimate authority in dealing with discrimination.

Case in point, the United States Department of Labor (DoL) is filed a lawsuit against Palantir because the organization appears to be discriminating against Asians. The funniest part is the threat the DoL is making:

Should the suit succeed, the Labor Department has asked for an order canceling all of Palantir’s current and future government contracts, which would include those with the F.B.I. and the United States Army.

“Federal contractors have an obligation to ensure that their hiring practices and policies are free of all forms of discrimination,” said Patricia A. Shiu, who is director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

That’s rich!

An organization that literally uses slave labor is threatening to cancel its contracts with an organization that may be discriminating against Asians in its hiring practices. How much more hypocritical can an organization get?

People turn to the State and demand that it enforce morality. But the State is an immoral creature that lies, cheats, steals, and kills. It is like hiring a fox to guard a hen house. Sure, on the surface it may appear to be doing exactly what you want it to do but if you have the guts to take a look under the surface you’ll see that it’s doing far more horrific shit than the entities it’s going after.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Down with Plague

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I had a blast at AgoraFest but TANSTAAFL and I’m paying for it with a nasty case of plague.

The new venue, for the most part, was better than the old venue in my opinion. The one downside was the lack of shower facilities. There was only two showers, one in the men’s room and one in the women’s room. Next year I’ll bring a solar shower and a small popup shelter for it. There was also a lack of power drops at the campsites but that has encouraged me to look into building a solar generator. They’re actually pretty cheap to setup now that the price of decent solar panels has come down significantly.

On Friday morning I gave a presentation on building AR-15 rifles. After lunch I lead a small expedition to a public range and we did some shooting. Next year, now that I know how good the range facilities are, I’m going to have a more formal shooting event. On Saturday I gave a presentation on assembling a bug out bag, attended and performed a reading at the unveiling of the new agorist short story collection, and gave a short speech about the need for anarchists to become stronger, smarter, and faster than statists.

Some of the other highlights of AgoraFest included the Discordian tent. It was easily identified by a giant inflated golden apple and contained the expected Discordian affairs inside. There was an excellent presentation on astronomy but, sadly, the cloud cover didn’t allow us to do any stargazing. Two individuals were operating small bookstores with fine selections of anarchist literature. One of the attendees brought Arduino boards and held a small introduction course. The agorist space center returned so kids had an opportunity to launch model rockets. And we ended the whole affair with a terrific firework show.

It was a ton of fun and I’m looking forward to next year.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 27th, 2016 at 10:00 am

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