A Geek With Guns

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Archive for the ‘News You Need to Know’ Category

All Loyal Party Members are Expected to Subscribe to Pravda

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“News” today is already little more than propaganda for the State. But that isn’t enough for Obama. He wants wants a system in place to filter our information that isn’t propagandistic:

Pittsburgh (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Thursday decried America’s “wild, wild west” media environment for allowing conspiracy theorists a broad platform and destroying a common basis for debate.

Recalling past days when three television channels delivered fact-based news that most people trusted, Obama said democracy require citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions.

“We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to,” Obama said at an innovation conference in Pittsburgh.

“There has to be, I think, some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world,” Obama added.

What is true? If we’re talking about mathematical formulas or physics we can establish truth through logical deduction and the scientific method. But judging complex human interactions and philosophies as either true or false is a different beast.

Let’s take the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as an example. If I say the ACA has been a success would you believe my statement is true or false? It really depends on what you define as success. Supporters of the ACA will often look at the total number of people insured declare the ACA a success because the number is higher now than before the law was passed. Others will look at the rate health insurance premiums have increased and declare the ACA a failure because premiums today are higher than they were before the ACA was passed.

How do we determine “truthiness” (what a stupid word) when discussing things like whether or not a government program has succeeded? According to the government its programs are almost always successful. It will demonstrate success by pointing at various statistics it has chosen as being important. But other people will question the importance of those statistics. Going back to our example, is the total number of people who are covered by health insurance really an important number? There are arguments both for and against relying on that number to determine success. But which arguments are true and which are false?

Like so much in life, truth often boils down to personal philosophy. As a libertarian I believe the initiation of force is always wrong. Since the State’s existence is entirely reliant on initiating force I believe the State to be immoral. A utilitarian will likely disagree with me. They will likely find the State moral because it is the most utilitarian way to accomplish certain tasks. I will disagree with that and we’ll go back and forth because our ideas of morality are different.

The idea that we can create a system that can determine whether questions like our example are true is laughable because such a system will inevitably be colored by the personal beliefs of the designer.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Security Versus Law Enforcement

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Many (probably most) people don’t think twice when they see an armed police officer patrolling their neighborhood. But if private individuals do the same thing many people will flip out. Words such as vigilante are tossed around and people such as George Zimmerman are brought up. Which is really worse though? Let’s consider the following story about armed individuals patrolling their neighborhood:

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Armed with high-powered rifles, men dressed in fatigues and black T-shirts emblazoned with the word, “Security,” trekked through the streets of a Northwest Bexar County community in the wee hours of one recent morning. Many of their neighbors, meanwhile, slept soundly in their homes.

Members of the group, called the “Armed Volunteer Security Detail,” asked us not to reveal the exact location in which they patrol. However, the neighborhood is located in the area of Loop 1604 and Culebra Road.

The self-appointed keepers of the gated subdivision also were careful to hide their identities, shielding their faces from our camera. What they were not shy about, though, was their purpose—to make their community safer.

“We’re not out here enforcing law. I want to make that real clear,” said one member, who identified himself as Mr. Black. “We’re out here protecting people’s property rights.”

Black and the others formed the group, which is not sanctioned by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, in response to what they believe is an increase in crime.

Two guys decided to grabs their rifles and patrol their neighborhood after a perceived increase in crime. They’re basically doing the job we’re told law enforcers are supposed to do. Why do people think of them differently?

Common arguments brought up against private individuals patrolling neighborhoods are that law enforcers are accountable and receive specialized training. I think the recent string of killings by law enforcers that have lead to nothing more than the officers involved receiving paid vacations invalidates the claim that they’re more accountable. At least when a private individual shoots somebody there’s a thorough investigation and in a vast majority of cases if the shooting appears questionable the shooter will stand trail.

The second argument is also wrong in my opinion. The specialized training that law enforcers receive tends to be unrelated to security. They’re often taught how to identify somebody who is on drugs, kidnap people, confiscate property under civil forfeiture, and enforce traffic citations. Their training also tends to include nonsense such as their job being extremely dangerous and that they can’t trust anybody, which breeds paranoid and discourages rational responses to situations.

The two individuals in the linked story very clearly state that they’re not law enforcement. This is important because security and law enforcement are vastly different things. Security is the act of protecting life and property. Law enforcement is the act of enforcing the law no matter how ridiculous it is. Somebody who is providing security won’t give two shits about the cannabis plants you’re growing. They just want to make sure nobody steals your plants. Somebody who is providing law enforcement will toss a flash bang grenade into your toddler’s bedroom, kick in your door, and shoot your family pet (and maybe even you) because they received a tip that you are in possession of a prohibited plant.

I have no problem with security. I do have a problem with law enforcement. The two individuals in the story are doing nothing wrong in my opinion and I’d much rather have them patrolling my neighborhood than police officers. At least I know that they will be held to some level of accountability if they do something wrong and won’t gun down my dog because they heard I was in possession of a cannabis plant.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 14th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Make Way for Single Payer

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been wrecking havoc on the health insurance market. This is quite a feat considering how chaotic the health insurance market already was before the ACA was passed. But now things have gotten so bad that even the true believers’ faith is coming into question:

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable to many Americans — and that fixing it must be a priority for both state and federal lawmakers next year.

Dayton, who has been among the strongest advocates for the package of health care reforms, said that while the Affordable Care Act has been a success in insuring more people and providing access to insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions, it also has “some serious blemishes and serious deficiencies.”

Speaking to reporters, Dayton said insurance companies have driven up costs in order to participate in the state’s MNsure program — and gridlock in Washington, D.C., has made it difficult to pass reforms that could bring those costs back in line.

What reforms could possible bring the costs down? If you’re an intelligent person you know that the only reform that would accomplish that would be the abolition of government interference in the health insurance market. But that’s not going to happen. Instead I predict that the “reform” that will ultimately end up being passed is single payer health insurance.

Advocates of the ACA are already saying the United States should transition to a single payer model because they foolishly believe that such a model is good. On the surface it looks good because the costs involved in healthcare are hidden from tax payers. They only see it as another tax, which they usually don’t notice because it’s pulled out of their paycheck before they even get it. When costs are hidden from the consumer the product begins to be viewed as free.

Once the United States is on the single payer model healthcare will truly begin to diminish because it will be controlled by a body of people who don’t give a fuck about you. What politicians care about is themselves. And unlike us working stiffs whose personal gain comes from providing goods and services our fellow working stiffs want, politicians derive their profits from stealing your money. When you pay the State for health insurance it’s interested in maximizing its profits. However, unlike a private health insurance provider, the State receives no punishment for doing a bad job. You can’t stop paying your taxes if you’re unhappy with the service you’re receiving. So the State, unlike its private alternatives, has no incentive to do anything other than provide you with a cheap and shitty service. A good example of this is Department of Veteran Affairs, which has been providing lackluster healthcare to veterans for decades.

The only thing you can guarantee when the State admits that a problem exists is that you’re going to get screwed by the solution.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 13th, 2016 at 10:00 am

You’re the Product, Not the Customer

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In his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein coined the phrase there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (usually abbreviated as TANSTAAFL). The phrase is used by the main characters of the book to remind themselves and others that there’s no such thing as free. This is a lesson too many people fail to learn in real life. People are obsessed with the fantasy of free. They want free food, free money, free healthcare, and free online services.

People commonly make the mistake that online services such as Facebook and Twitter are free. On the surface they appear to be free since you don’t pay to use them. But TANSTAAFL. When you’re using a service for free you’re not the customer, you’re the product:

The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday outed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for feeding a Chicago-based company their user streams—a feed that was then sold to police agencies for surveillance purposes.


Geofeedia, which did not respond for comment, says it has more than 500 customers, including the Denver Police Department. That agency recently signed a $30,000 annual deal with the company. The money came from the agency’s “confiscation” fund. The department’s intelligence agency’s top brass wrote that it would allow cops to analyze and respond in real time to “social media content from anywhere in the world.”

Geofeedia, the actual customer, has been paying for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’s product, your personal information. It has then been turning around and selling it to various police departments, which use the information to more effectively expropriate wealth from the people they victimize. The only person not making any money on this deal is you. In fact, you’re losing money if any of the sold information about you is used by the police to take some of your wealth.

Because this revelation could turn into a loss of product for these sites they have apparently announced that they’ve cut off Geofeedia’s access. That shouldn’t make you feel better though. That access can be regranted at any time and there are likely many other companies doing the same thing as Geofeedia who just haven’t been caught yet. So long as you continue to be the product you shouldn’t believe any of your information is safe.

We’re All Terrorists Now

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In many governmental circles I’m considered a terrorist sympathizer. Why? It’s not because I’ve sold arms to terrorists or provided them logistical support. It’s because I teach people how to use secure communication tools, which can get you arrested in certain parts of the world:

Samata Ullah, 33, was charged with six terrorism offences after being arrested in a street in Cardiff on September 22 by officers from Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism squad.

The charge sheet includes one count of preparation of terrorism “by researching an encryption programme, developing an encrypted version of his blog site, and publishing the instructions around the use of [the] programme on his blog site.”

Ullah is also accused of knowingly providing “instruction or training in the use of encryption programmes” in relation to “the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or for assisting the commission or preparation by others of such acts.”

He has additionally been charged with being in possession of a “Universal Serial Bus (USB) cufflink that had an operating system loaded on to it for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation, or instigation of terrorism.”

This is the nightmare Orwell alluded to in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The State has become so controlling that merely providing an encrypted version of your blog, which I am currently doing since my blog is served exclusively over HTTPS, can be considered noteworthy enough to mention on a list of charges. The same goes for USB cufflinks. We are at a point that even mundane activities can be labeled criminal offenses if the State decides thrust the word terrorism upon you.

I have no doubts that this will come to the United States. The United Kingdom seems to be where new tyrannies are birthday and the United States seems to be where tyrannies go to grow up. And anybody who watched the hearings surrounding Farook’s iPhone, which the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) wanted to force Apple to break into, knows that the United States government is already at war with cryptography. If it passes a law mandating all domestic encryption include a government accessible back door I’ll be a criminal for teaching people how to use secure foreign encryption.

The American Education System Summed Up In One Tweet

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Apparently Gary Johnson isn’t the only person who is geographically challenged.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 10th, 2016 at 10:30 am

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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The status of Internet provision in the United States is pitiful. Speeds here are dwarfed by countries such as South Korea. Most people, because they’re a bunch of statists, blame this state of affairs on the Internet Service Providers (ISP). But the real culprit is the entity they use to maintain their near monopolies: the State.

Whenever an ISP’s near monopoly status is about to be threatened by a new competitor they run to the State for protection:

Charter Communications has sued the local government in Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky, in order to stop a new ordinance that gives Google Fiber easier access to utility poles.

Charter’s complaint in US District Court in Louisville on Friday (full text) is similar to one filed earlier by AT&T. Like AT&T before it, Charter wants to stop Louisville Metro’s One Touch Make Ready ordinance that lets new entrants like Google Fiber make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles instead of having to wait for incumbent providers to send work crews to move their own wires. Charter alleges that the ordinance violates its Fifth Amendment property rights and could cause service outages for its customers if Google Fiber’s installers make mistakes.


Charter’s challenge to the One Touch Make Ready ordinance alleges a violation of Fifth Amendment property rights and state utility laws. The Louisville ordinance gives Google Fiber “a government-sanctioned license physically to invade, take possession of, move, and interfere with [Charter’s] property,” the complaint said. While Charter owns its wires, the poles are owned by AT&T and the Louisville Gas & Electric Company, and wires are placed in public rights-of-way.

These lawsuits are always amusing. It’s always entertaining to see what kind of excuse established ISPs can come up with to keep new ISPs out of their territory. In this case Charter is arguing on the grounds of property rights. What makes this argument laughable is that Charter doesn’t own the poles in question. If anybody has grounds to complain about how the poles can by use it’s AT&T and the Louisville Gas and Electric Company. And even they wouldn’t get mush sympathy from me because they fall under the live by the State, die by the State clause.

The live by the State, die by the State clause is what I use to describe companies that have thrived due to government protections suddenly finding themselves the target of government regulations. AT&T, for example, enjoyed a long period of having a literal monopoly on telecommunications granted to it by the State. It begrudgingly surrendered that monopoly as part of a deal with Congress to allow it to enter the computer market. Today AT&T likes to complain whenever a regulation doesn’t go its way.

Charter, like most ISPs, is where it is today due to government protections. Namely state and municipal protections against competition. Through zoning and utility laws state and municipal governments have artificially restricted the number of ISPs that can operate in their territory. With few competitors Charter was able to rake in more cash without having to provide increasingly better service. Now those protections are being taken away and its crying foul. Meanwhile I can’t help but laugh. I’m not above admitting to enjoying when karma comes around and bites these politically connected companies in the ass.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 6th, 2016 at 10:00 am

At Least He Apologized

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Usually officers who use excessive force refuse to take responsibility for their actions. But once in a while an officer will attempt to make amends. Take this shining beacon of conscious. After unnecessarily deploying his Taser into a woman he baked a cake and wrote “Sorry I Tased You.” on it in frosting:

A local woman has filed a civil lawsuit against a former Escambia County deputy who allegedly discharged a stun gun into her chest and neck without provocation, tried to cover up the incident, then apologized by sending her a photo of an off-color cake.

The suit, filed in federal court by Stephanie Byron in May, also names Sheriff David Morgan in his official capacity as sheriff. The suit alleges Michael Wohlers used excessive force against Byron, violated her civil rights, committed battery against her and caused her hardships, including physical injuries, monetary loss, medical expenses, humiliation and mental anguish.


According to court documents, Wohlers later attempted to apologize to Byron by baking her a cake. Byron’s attorney, Alistair McKenzie, clarified Friday that Wohlers sent Byron a text message stating that he baked her a cake and wanted to give it to her. The text message included a photo of a cake with the phrase, “Sorry I Tased You” written on it.

I can’t see why Mrs. Byron is so upset. The officer apologized!

You really have to wonder what runs through some people’s heads. The officer must feel at least a little bit guilty for firing his Taser, which means he probably realized it was entirely unnecessary. But thinking that baking a cake was suitable compensation for battery. Physical assault causes real harm and therefore real compensation (as in monetary). A simple “Sorry, brah.” generally doesn’t cut it in those situations. Still, I’ll give points to the officer for at least acknowledging his fuck up and making some kind of apology. He did more than most of his ilk.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 5th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Worshiping Soldiers Encourages the Use of Mercenaries

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Mercenaries are a controversial topic. With the government relying more on private military companies (PMC) such as the infamous Blackwater (now Academi) there has been an increase in outrage by the general populace. As it turns out the general populace is totally fine with soldiers killing for king and country but they lose their shit when people kill for profit.

To gain a better understanding of PMCs I started reading The Modern Mercenary by Sean McFate. What I expected to be a fairly interesting read has turned out to be an absolutely fascinating read.

One of the points McFate makes that I found very interesting is that the side effect of the continue beatification of military personnel is an inventive for nations to utilize mercenaries. It makes sense. People loves heroes. People hate dead heroes.

It has become a mortal sin against statism to speak anything less than worshipfully about military personnel. Even as the general populace flips out about the State’s use of PMCs it continues to worship soldiers. Part of this worship is public outrage whenever soldiers are killed. In their eyes it’s not a mere soldier who has been killed by a genuine hero who was overseas protecting our freedoms. But since the general populace reviles PMCs their deaths occur without such outrage. In other words the hero worship of soldiers encourages the State to rely more heavily on disposable PMCs to do its dirty work.

Thus another vicious cycle is born. Due to their worship of soldiers all these people that are championing the use of government soldiers over private soldiers are unwittingly incentivizing the State to more heavily rely on PMCs.

It always amuses me when the religion of the State works against itself.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2016 at 11:00 am

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People are Wising Up

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What you’re in trouble who are you going to call? More and more people are saying, “Not the police.”

After news broke that a group of Milwaukee police officers savagely beat an unarmed black man named Frank Jude in 2004, the city saw crime-related 911 calls drop by about 20 percent for more than a year—totaling about 22,200 lost reports of crimes—according to a new study by a group of sociologists at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford universities.

The outcome wasn’t unique to Jude’s beating, the researchers found. Looking at the city’s 911 call-records from 2004 to 2010, they noted similar drops after other highly publicized local and national cases of police violence against unarmed black men.

The findings square with earlier research showing that communities—specifically black communities given recent events—become more cynical of law enforcement after brutality cases. But the new study, published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review, is the first to show that people actually change their behavior based on that elevated distrust. Namely, community members become less likely to report crimes to law enforcement, likely out of fear of interacting with police or skepticism that police will take them seriously and help.

This is the inevitable result of having unaccountable law enforcers. Instead of seeing law enforcers as protectors of the community people are beginning to see them as risks. And they’re right. Unaccountable law enforcers are risks because any profession that lacks accountability tends to attract unsavory individuals. People who want to enjoy having power over others are attracted to careers that allow them to indulge their desire. Law enforcement today is the product of a vicious cycle where a lack of accountability has attracted unsavory individuals and a glut of unsavory individuals in law enforcement agencies has discouraged increasing accountability.

We see this distrust every day in little ways. Companies hiring private security personnel instead of relying on the police. People being afraid to call 911 when somebody breaks into their home. Widespread protests whenever a police officer uses deadly force. All of these are signs that public trust in law enforcement has degraded.

What’s especially ironic is that the cop apologists, who claim to be aligned with law enforcers, are just making this divide worse. By automatically siding with police officers in every use of force situation the tough on crime crowd has been feeding the populace’s fear that law enforcers are generally unaccountable, which further erodes their trust in the police. If the tough on crime crowd really wanted to help the police that too would be demanding more accountability because that is the only way to rebuild trust between the people and law enforcers. But they’re too stupid to realize that their devout worship is actually detrimental to police so they are actually unwitting wrenches in the great law enforcement machinery.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2016 at 10:30 am