A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

How Every Election Should Turn Out

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On election day I follow the advice of the great philosopher George Carlin:

And I’m not alone. During presidential elections voter turnout usually hovers around 60 percent, which means roughly 40 percent of eligible voters stay home as well (thank them for not trying to force their beliefs on you). Voter burnout during non-presidential national elections is generally lower while municipal elections are usually lower yet. In Wichita, Kansas the turnout for City Council District 1 was even lower than most municipal elections:

Three hours into voting for Wichita City Council District 1, the race was locked in a four-way tie.

Zero, zero, zero to zero.

Advance voting in the Aug. 1 primary election opened at 8 a.m. Monday at the Sedgwick County election office downtown.

But by 11 a.m., “We haven’t had anyone vote yet,” Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said. “It’s sad.”

By the end of the day a total of seven people showed up to the polls. Everybody else in that district might want to find out who those seven fools were and steer clear of them since they obviously have an interest in forcing their beliefs on their neighbors but I digress. Democratically elected governments derive their “legitimacy” from numbers. The more people who vote for a government the more “legitimate” it claims to be. However, when nobody votes or only a handful of people vote the elected government can’t claim much “legitimacy.” How can an elected official claim to represent the people if only three or four people voted for them?

One of the best ways to strip a democratically elected government of its “legitimacy” is to join the rest of us who stay home on election day. After all, if the president was actually decided by the choice made by the plurality of eligible voters then Donald Trump wouldn’t be in office nor would anybody else because the plurality said that they didn’t want a ruler (See how easy it is to point out that the president doesn’t actually represent the people?).

Written by Christopher Burg

July 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Government Doesn’t Care About Your Privacy

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If you leak personal, often referred to as classified, information about the government you may get kidnapped by its enforcers and thrown in a cage for decades. But the government doesn’t treat your personal information in the same regard as its own:

People who spoke up about their concerns over privacy suddenly found key private details, including their email and sometimes even home addresses, released by none other than President Donald Trump’s administration. The presidential commission charged with investigating alleged fraud that has been plagued by controversy from the start published a 112-page document of unredacted emails of public comment on its work, which to no surprise are largely negative of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. When it published the comments, the White House didn’t remove any of the personal information, meaning many of the comments are accompanied by personal details of the person who wrote it.

This is another reason why I don’t waste my time responding to government requests for public input. Not only is it a waste of time since the government doesn’t actually care about the public’s input but the personal information of anybody who does respond often ends up being publicly released. This is especially dangerous for people who have legitimate threats to their lives such as women who are hiding from abusive exes or a public figure who is being stalked by an obsessive fan.

While Slate implied that this was unique to the Trump administration, it’s actually quite common for the government to release personal information about people who submit comments to its requests as part of the public record. My recommendation for government requests for comment is the same as my recommendation for voting, don’t waste your time interacting with the government.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 18th, 2017 at 10:00 am

More Evidence that Secession is Necessary

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The United States of America doesn’t respect the rights of individuals. Even the constitutionally granted rights are ignored by it. That alone is a solid argument for secession. Another solid argument is the fact that many of the individual states don’t get along very well. California, for example, has implemented a travel ban against eight states for official state business:

SACRAMENTO — President Trump’s proposed “travel ban” from several Muslim-majority countries has consistently been blocked by the courts. But California has a ban of its own — barring official travel to a growing list of pariah states.

The new law took effect in January, outlawing state employees and officials from using tax money to go to states with laws California deems discriminatory in regards to LGBT issues.

The first states on the list were Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. But late last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the list has doubled and now includes Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota and Texas, the second-largest state in the U.S.

I’m sure the eight listed states are jumping for joy. Likewise, they’re probably drawing up their own travel bans against California.

If each state starts issuing official travel bans for its employees based on disagreements between laws things could get interesting. Several states could issue official travel bans on California and New York for their restrictive gun laws. Other states could issue official travel bans against California and Minnesota for their fiscally irresponsible socialist policies. As Internet privacy laws start getting passed states could issue travel bans based on those. The options are practically limitless. In the end there could effectively be a blanket travel ban for the employees of individual states traveling for official business to other states.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if these travel bans for state employees traveling on official business end up being used as a precedence for banning any individual within the state from traveling, at least directly, to verboten states. If things continue at this rate, the future is going to be very interesting.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 28th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Hope for the Future

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It’s pretty clear that there’s no hope to be found amongst the current generation of rulers. However, Texans may have a glimmer of home in the next generation of rulers:

But it recently got a boost from some unlikely supporters: a contingent of high school boys.

Earlier this month, a secession bill won overwhelming support from the mock legislature in Texas Boys State, the American Legion’s summer program where youth leaders create and run their own government, as the Wise County Messenger reported Saturday. The vote, held June 15, marked the first time in the nearly 80 years since the program’s inception in Texas that both chambers of the Texas Boys State legislature voted in favor of seceding from the Union.

It’s nice to see at least some young individuals have their heads screwed on right about secession. There’s no saving the United States of America. Between crippling amounts of debt, a body of law that no individual can ever fully memorize, an unwillingness to respect both the rights of individuals and the constitutionally granted privileges of the individual states, etc. it’s clear that the only way to chisel out a little extra freedom is for the individual states to secede. Once they’ve seceded and become the new tyrants then the counties can secede and then the townships and finally the individuals.

Secession down to the last individual!

Written by Christopher Burg

June 28th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Undead Bureaucracy

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Remember Y2K? Most of us have probably forgotten about that apocalypse that never happened. But the government didn’t. In fact government offices were still reporting on their Y2K readiness status because that’s what the law commanded them to do:

Seventeen years after the Year 2000 bug came and went, the federal government will finally stop preparing for it.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies, including an obscure rule that requires them to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted some computers at the turn of the century. As another example, the Pentagon will be freed from a requirement that it file a report every time a small business vendor is paid, a task that consumed some 1,200 man-hours every year.

Bureaucracy is a lot like a zombie. Once it has been summoned it will shamble around trying to eat people forever. The only way to stop it is to take purposeful action to kill it.

Government offices should have stopped having to report on their Y2K readiness as soon as the year switched from 1999 to 2000. But the law requiring the offices to report on their readiness didn’t have a builtin expiration date and nobody in the Legislature took action to pass another law canceling those requirements so everybody kept going through the motions even though doing so was completely pointless.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Now You Can Vote Harder

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The security of voting has always been a joke. The people counting the votes could always manipulate the results, boxes of ballots could disappear, voters could vote more than once pretty easily, etc. Electronic voting machines could have solved many of these issues. Instead they are merely continuing the tradition of terrible security:

A 29-year-old former cybersecurity researcher with the federal government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Lamb, who now works for a private internet security firm in Georgia, wanted to assess the security of the state’s voting systems. When he learned that Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems tests and programs voting machines for the entire state of Georgia, he searched the center’s website.

“I was just looking for PDFs or documents,” he recalls, hoping to find anything that might give him a little more sense of the center’s work. But his curiosity turned to alarm when he encountered a number of files, arranged by county, that looked like they could be used to hack an election. Lamb wrote an automated script to scrape the site and see what was there, then went off to lunch while the program did its work. When he returned, he discovered that the script had downloaded 15 gigabytes of data.

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Within the mother lode Lamb found on the center’s website was a database containing registration records for the state’s 6.7 million voters; multiple PDFs with instructions and passwords for election workers to sign in to a central server on Election Day; and software files for the state’s ExpressPoll pollbooks — electronic devices used by pollworkers to verify that a voter is registered before allowing them to cast a ballot. There also appeared to be databases for the so-called GEMS servers. These Global Election Management Systems are used to prepare paper and electronic ballots, tabulate votes and produce summaries of vote totals.

The files were supposed to be behind a password-protected firewall, but the center had misconfigured its server so they were accessible to anyone, according to Lamb. “You could just go to the root of where they were hosting all the files and just download everything without logging in,” Lamb says.

Login passwords posted where they’re publicly accessible? That sounds like fun. Oh, and the site is running an old version of Drupal, which means it has plenty of vulnerabilities for malicious individuals to exploit. With this information in hand it might be possible for a malicious hacker to actually vote hard enough to change the results of an election.

What lessons can be taken away from this? The most obvious lesson is that the Georgia government doesn’t give a shit about security. With how important statists claim voting is you would think that hiring a few security researchers to verify the security of purchased voting machines and the systems they rely on would have been at the top of Georgia’s list. Apparently it wasn’t on the list at all. The second lesson that one could take away from this is that voting is meaningless. Not only are you more likely to die on your way to your polling place than to change the election with your vote but the security of the voting process is so terrible that there’s every reason to believe that your vote won’t be counted or will be counted incorrectly.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 15th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Inevitable Happened

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With how polarized politics has become here in the United States it was inevitable that somebody was going to show their piety to their beliefs by performing an act of violence:

A gunman opened fire during an early morning baseball practice for Republican members of Congress on Wednesday, reportedly firing dozens of shots at a field in Alexandria, Va. Those wounded include Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama told CNN.

I want to clarify that when I wrote “their beliefs” I didn’t mean that the gunman was certainly a supporter of the Democrat Party. The individual could be a disenfranchised Republican who is upset about Donald Trump receiving the party’s presidential nomination, revolutionary anarcho-communist, or any other flavor of individual who has an axe to grind with the Republican Party. Then again it could be a random act of violence or even a supporter of one of the many country’s the United States is currently at war with. We’ll just have to wait an see on that.

Unfortunately, this act of violence will likely result in a rapid expansion of the police state. Rulers generally don’t take threats to their lives very well and usually respond by bringing down the might of their forces on everybody. Hopefully the expansion isn’t as bad as it was immediately after 9/11 but I wouldn’t hold by breath.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 14th, 2017 at 11:00 am

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I Don’t Think Theresa May Understand How Networks Work

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Politicians never let a tragedy go to waste. After another attack in London Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was quick to exploit the tragedy by using it to call for restricting the Internet:

The Prime Minister said introducing new rules for cyberspace would “deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online” and that technology firms were not currently doing enough.

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London attack shows too much tolerance for extremism in UK, May says
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,” Ms May said.

“We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.”

She obviously doesn’t understand how networks works.

Networks are groups of interconnected people or computers. While the Internet is the largest network in the world it is not the only network, which is what Theresa’s proposal fails to address. She seems to think that restricting the Internet, a proposal which is absurd by itself, would silence the forces her government is at war with. It wouldn’t. Even if there was a way to effectively restrict what kind of content is posted on the Internet it would simply cause those being restricted to create a separate network.

What shape would such a network take? While predicting the future is impossible there are some precedences that could give us an idea. Guifi.net, for example, is a mesh network that spans most of Catalonia. Even if every Internet connection to Guifi.net was severed the nodes on the network would still be able to communicate with one another. Drug cartels also built their own large scale network in Mexico.

Humans are social creatures and therefore strive to build networks. Every attempt to interfere with this drive has failed. Even the mighty Roman Empire, despite its best efforts, was unable to stop early Christians from networking. Eventually they networked to such a scale that they Christianized the empire. Theresa May can make whatever proposal she desires but even if it is implemented it will fail because it’s attempting to interfere with one of humanity’s most basic drives.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 6th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Heads Will Roll

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A lot of people were making a big stink about some washed up comedian posting a picture of herself holding up a fake severed head of Donald Trump. Apparently the people flipping out about that picture haven’t heard of GWAR:

Comedian/actress, etc. Kathy Griffin has found herself under fire this week after posing with a fake severed head of United States President Donald Trump. GWAR have been quick to point out in the below video however, that they did it first. You can watch the band’s Beefcake The Mighty discuss that below.

People’s selective outrage has always fascinated me. GWAR has had severed heads of presidents as part of its show for ages now and nobody gave a shit. But when a comedian who most people have probably forgotten does the same things people get butthurt. I’m not sure why this is but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d guess it’s because GWAR isn’t being overtly political. Inserting politics into something that unremarkable has a tendency to make it remarkable to many people.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 2nd, 2017 at 10:00 am

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That’s a Shame

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Here in Minnesota we have a part time Legislature. With the exception of special sessions, the Legislature is constitutionally limited to meeting for a total of 120 days every two years. While that sounds pretty sweet it means that we deal with a lot of special sessions and, more annoyingly, have to hear about a bunch of political drama at the beginning of the year.

This year, as with most years, the biggest political drama involves how the government is planning to spend other people’s money. After the usual backroom deals and partisan showmanship the Republicans and Democrats came to an agreement on an overall budget. The budget was signed by Mark Dayton but he failed to sign the bill that would fund the Legislature itself:

Gov. Mark Dayton invited a high-stakes constitutional clash Tuesday by signing bills that will fund the executive branch while eliminating funding for the Legislature, leaving lawmakers with dwindling cash to continue operations.

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The Senate budget is about $30 million and is carrying a reserve of about $3 million, Gazelka said.

The House budget is roughly twice that and has a reserve of about $7 million, Daudt said, meaning both chambers would run out of money in a matter of months — especially in the case of a protracted legal fight. Most of the money to fund the Legislature goes to pay lawmakers and the staff required to do their work.

The Legislature won’t be receiving other people’s money? That’s a shame. Whatever will us Minnesotans do without our lawmakers being paid to create new ways to oppress us?

Written by Christopher Burg

May 31st, 2017 at 10:00 am