A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Wall of Fame Assholes’ Category

Regulating People to Death

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Here in the United States we often express the costs of regulatory burdens in dollars. We only have the luxury of doing this because our economy hasn’t completely choked to death on regulations yet. However, Venezuelans aren’t so fortunate. Their economy has choked to death and now they have to express the costs of regulatory burden in human lives:

Several of his cavernous henhouses sit empty because, Escobar said, he can’t afford to buy more chicks or feed. Government price controls have made his business unprofitable, and armed gangs have been squeezing him for extortion payments and stealing his eggs.

Venezuela’s latest public health indicators confirm that the country is facing a dietary calamity. With medicines scarce and malnutrition cases soaring, more than 11,000 babies died last year, sending the infant mortality rate up 30 percent, according to Venezuela’s Health Ministry. The head of the ministry was fired by President Nicolás Maduro two days after she released those statistics.

Child hunger in parts of Venezuela is a “humanitarian crisis,” according to a new report by the Catholic relief organization Caritas, which found 11.4 percent of children under age 5 suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition, and 48 percent “at risk” of going hungry.

Starvation is the inevitable result of government meddling in economic matters. Socialism tends to reach starvation faster because the amount of government meddling in economic affairs is greater than other forms of statism. But the same result can be reached under the economic system of the United States as well.

Statists enjoy rolling their eyes at libertarians who talk about regulatory burden but government regulations can and do kill people. And when regulations start killing people governments don’t suddenly realize the errors of their ways and loosen their grip. They double down because they know people can’t stop doing business with them.

We’re seeing this happen right now in Venezuela. Venezuelans are starving to death and the Maduro regime is tightening the noose further. The Venezuelan government, like all governments, doesn’t give a shit about the people it claims rulership over. It only cares about lining its own pockets.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2017 at 11:00 am

DHS is Banning Laptops in the Cabins of All Flights Coming from Europe

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Are you flying from Europe to the United States? If so, you might be required to place your laptop in your checked baggage:

The Department of Homeland Security plans to ban laptops in the cabins of all flights from Europe to the United States, European security officials told The Daily Beast. The announcement is expected Thursday.

Initially a ban on laptops and tablets was applied only to U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East. The ban was based on U.S. fears that terrorists have found a way to convert laptops into bombs capable of bringing down an airplane. It is unclear if the European ban will also apply to tablets.

Why would the Department of Fatherland Motherland Homeland Security (DHS) do this? It’s not for security reasons. Laptops that are carried onto planes go through an x-ray machine so screeners can see if anything looks amiss inside of them. As the article points out, putting laptops in the storage area of the plane is also more dangerous on average since detecting igniting lithium-ion batteries is more difficult. If this ban was for security reasons it would make no sense. However, if the ban is for creating a general state of anxiety, then it makes perfect sense.

Governments rule through fear. If a people believe there is a threat that only the government can defend them against, they’re much more likely to role over and take whatever abuse the government is inflicting upon it. The United States government exploits this fear but constantly reminding its people that there might be terrorists hiding under any bed and in any closet. This constant fear mongering reminds people that there are people out there who might try to kill them and the government hopes that will convince them that they need it.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Everything Old is New Again

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History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Every government needs scapegoats. The United States and Europe have Islam. Islamists in the Middle East have the United States and Europe. North Korea has South Korea. Every government has somebody. In fact, almost every government has multiple somebodies. In addition to Islam, the United States also has North Korea and North Korea, likewise, has the United States. Islamists in the Middle East have the United States, Europe, and Israel.

The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. If a government doesn’t have multiple scapegoats, it runs the risk of running out. Russia has had the United States for a long time but it, like every other government, is constantly looking for more. Recently, if found a new scapegoat in the form of Jehovah’s Witnesses:

MOSCOW — Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, an extremist organization, banning the group from operating on Russian territory and putting its more than 170,000 Russian worshipers in the same category as Islamic State militants.

The ruling, which confirmed an order last month by the Justice Ministry that the denomination be “liquidated” — essentially eliminated or disbanded — had been widely expected. Russian courts rarely challenge government decisions, no matter what the evidence.

What threat could a small non-violent denomination have to the Russian people? None whatsoever. But that’s not the point. The point is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a minority religion within Russia, which means a lot of Russians aren’t familiar with them so the State can therefore mold the believers into whatever it needs. The Russian government also knows that ordering the religion disbanded won’t work, it will merely push the believers underground. This, again, is exactly what the government wants. If the religion is allowed to exist above ground then its believers can openly present themselves to the masses. This makes it easier for them to show Russians exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses really are all about. If their religion is forced underground, they cannot openly present themselves so the State is more or less free to propagandize against them.

It’s an old trick but an effective one. Now the Russian government will be free to blame whatever ills it has inflicted on its people on Jehovah’s Witnesses and show the people why they need their government to protect them.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 28th, 2017 at 10:30 am

License, Please

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Occupational licenses are sold to the public as a mechanism for protecting consumers from fraudulent providers. Licenses don’t actually provide such protections since they’re just pieces of paper. More importantly, they can actually reduce protections since their existence convinces people that actual protections, such as regular inspections by private independent inspection organizations, aren’t as necessary. So what purpose do occupational licenses server? They serve as a source of revenue for the State as well as a mechanism for it to lash out at its critics:

In September 2014, Mats Järlström, an electronics engineer living in Beaverton, Oregon, sent an email to the state’s engineering board. The email claimed that yellow traffic lights don’t last long enough, which “puts the public at risk.”

“I would like to present these facts for your review and comments,” he wrote.

This email resulted not with a meeting, but with a threat. The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying responded with this dystopian message:

“ORS 672.020(1) prohibits the practice of engineering in Oregon without registration … at a minimum, your use of the title ‘electronics engineer’ and the statement ‘I’m an engineer’ … create violations.”

In January of this year, Järlström was officially fined $500 by the state for the crime of “practicing engineering without being registered.”

How dare he practice engineering without a license? The audacity of this criminal scum!

You almost have to admire the vindictive nature of the State. An individual came forward offering information that could potentially lead to the correction of a bug in a system and the State slaps him with a fine for daring to question its authority. Welcome to America, the freest goddamn country on Earth!

Written by Christopher Burg

April 26th, 2017 at 10:00 am

It’s Time to Play Sheriff’s Department or ISIS

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Much of the Middle East is currently engaged in a war with a government that has a penchant for broadcasting videos of a guy talking while masked men stand behind him looking all serious. While the location makes it obvious that I’m talking about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the description of the organization alone would apply equally to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department:

Florida Sheriff Peyton Grinnell has a no-nonsense take on handling America’s heroin epidemic.

In a widely-shared video posted on the sheriff’s Facebook page, Grinnell appears at a lectern, flanked by the rest of Lake County’s “community engagement unit” — four Kevlar-clad deputies in face masks.

Here’s an image of Sheriff Peyton Grinnell and his gang of merry men:

Tell me, without the badges and word “Sheriff” plastered on their uniforms, would you be able to tell the difference between them and ISIS? I’d certainly be hard pressed to do so.

The reason ISIS uses this kind of imagery is because it’s intimidating, which makes sense since that government’s goal is to scare people into submission. Supposedly a sheriff’s office is tasked with protecting and serving a community so why would one project an image of intimidation? Perhaps it’s not interested in protecting and serving. Perhaps it’s interesting in subjugation.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Fly the Extremely Hostile Skies

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When you buy a plane ticket you’re renting a seat aboard a particular flight from one airport to another, right? Wrong. You’re buying a chance to use a seat aboard a flight, not a guarantee. Buying a planet ticket is like playing a lottery, albeit with much better odds:

In plain language under Rule 25—on page 35 if you print it out—the agreement says exactly what happens if the flight is oversold. “If there are not enough volunteers, other Passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily,” the language reads. (Of course, the deplaned man was not denied boarding, he was already boarded.)

I’ve been on many overbooked flights. Since I don’t fly very often the fact that I’ve been on many overbooked flights illustrates how prevalent the practice of overbooking is. This mostly works because whenever a flight is overbooked the poor schmuck working at the front desk will offer people who volunteer to take a later flight some kind of compensation and they usually get enough volunteers. However, I’ve often wondered what would happen if they didn’t get enough volunteers. Fortunately, United answered the question:

CHICAGO, IL — A man aboard a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville was forcibly lifted from his seat, dragged down the aisle and removed from the plane as horrified passengers protested and recorded the episode on their smartphones Sunday night at O’Hare International Airport.

The man was among four passengers randomly selected on the full flight to give up their seats for United Airlines employees who needed to be in Louisville by Monday, according to witnesses. Flight 3411 was overbooked, according to the airline.

If a flight is overbooked and the airliner doesn’t get enough volunteers then a few cops are sent aboard to rough up a passenger and forcefully remove them. As an aside, I’ll note that the officers had no problem roughing up and removing that paying passenger. But I’ll leave the moral judgement of that fact for you to make.

I would go so far as to accuse United, and every other airline, of fraud since they’re misrepresenting their product. With the exception of the 3,000 pages of legalese hidden in some dark recess of their websites, every airline strongly implies that when you buy a flight ticket you’re reserving a seat aboard a selected flight. Some airlines even allow you to select a seat. However, you’re not reserving a seat, you’re buying a chance at getting a seat, which is not what is being advertised. What makes matters worse is that the State is willing to subsidize this fraudulent practice by providing the muscle to deal with any customers who are unhappy about getting ripped off.

While other airlines also sell lottery tickets instead of flight tickets, they haven’t been caught sending police aboard when somebody loses. Because of that, I would recommend playing the lottery with another airliner. At least then if you lose you might not get roughed up.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 11th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Internet of Things Means Not Owning Your Devices

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Every consumer product can be made better by connecting it to the Internet, right? If you prefer licensing your products instead of owning them then that may be the case. However, if you’re like me and believe that you should own the products you buy, then that may not be the best idea.

A poor schmuck purchased an Internet connected garage door opener then later ran afoul with the company’s support has learned a valuable lesson about the difference between licensing and ownership:

Denis Grisak, the man behind the Internet-connected garage opener Garadget, is having a very bad week. Grisak and his Colorado-based company SoftComplex launched Garadget, a device built using Wi-Fi-based cloud connectivity from Particle, on Indiegogo earlier this year, hitting 209 percent of his launch goal in February. But this week, his response to an unhappy customer has gotten Garadget a totally different sort of attention.

On April 1, a customer who purchased Garadget on Amazon using the name R. Martin reported problems with the iPhone application that controls Garadget.

[…]

Grisak then responded by bricking Martin’s product remotely, posting on the support forum:

Martin,
The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. I’m happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I’m not going to tolerate any tantrums.

At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036… will be denied server connection.

Welcome to the Internet of Things where any device can be remotely bricked by an angry service provider!

When it comes to Internet connected devices I ask two questions. First, is the device being provided by a company that has a good security track record? Second, what benefits would I derive from connecting that device to the Internet?

The first question is important to ask about any device that will be connected to the Internet because you don’t want your Internet connected coffee pot to become part of a botnet or act as a gateway for a malicious actor to access your network. While the second question is subjective, I believe it’s important to consider. Why, for example, would I want my garage door opener to connect to the Internet? I only want the garage door to open when I’m entering or leaving the garage. For me, there is no value in being able to open my garage door while I’m sitting at work. Furthermore, having to unlock my phone and open an app takes longer than pressing a button on a remote control attached to my vehicle’s visor. So an Internet connected garage door ends up being less convenient for me than a regular one. Answering the second question just saved me a potential security vulnerability in my network and the possibility of having my device bricked by a pissy provider (not to mention it probably saved me some money).

Written by Christopher Burg

April 6th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Watch a Dying Business Thrash Desperately

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I will go so far as to say that Let’s Encrypt revolutionized the Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate market. While there were some free sources of certificates, the general rule remained that you had to pay if you wanted to implement a secure connection for you website. Then Let’s Encrypt was released. Now anybody can implement a secure connection for their website for free. On top of that, Let’s Encrypt greatly simplified the process of managing certificates. So it’s no surprise that certificate vendors are feeling the squeeze and responding desperately:

The fact that Let’s Encrypt is now being used to make phishing sites look legit is a total burn for us, and a potential house fire for users who rely on simple cues like the green padlock for assurance. According to certificate reseller The SSL Store, “between January 1st, 2016 and March 6th, 2017, Let’s Encrypt has issued a total of 15,270 SSL certificates containing the word ‘PayPal.'”

Keep in mind that the SSL Store is a provider of those incredibly overpriced certificates, so Let’s Encrypt’s mission isn’t necessarily in their interests. Even still, their post points out that the “vast majority of this issuance has occurred since November — since then Let’s Encrypt has issued nearly 100 ‘PayPal’ certificates per day.” Based on a random sample, SSL Store said, 96.7 percent of these certificates were intended for use on phishing sites.

The reseller added that, while their analysis has focused on fake PayPal sites, the firm’s findings have spotted other SSL phishing fakers, including Bank of America, Apple IDs, and Google.

The SSL Store paints a frightening picture. But the picture requires ignoring two facts.

First, TLS doesn’t verify if a website is legitimate. TLS verifies that the URL you’re connecting to matches the name in the certificate provided by the server and that the certificate was issued by a trusted authority. For example, if you connect to https://paypaltotallyascam.com, TLS will verify that the URL in the certificate is for https://paypaltotallyascam.com and that the certificate was issued by a trusted authority. However, TLS is not magical and cannot determine whether the site is a scam or not.

Second, you can’t even pull a certificate with Let’s Encrypt unless you have a registered URL. So why is Let’s Encrypt getting all of the blame but not the Domain Name System (DNS) registrar that allowed the domain to be registered in the first place? Because DNS registrars aren’t a threat to The SSL Store’s business model, Let’s Encrypt is.

This report by The SSL Store is nothing more than the desperate thrashings of a dying business model.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 4th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Most Fragile Economy On Earth

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Venezuela is in late stage communism. The economy is in shambles, people are starving, and the government is looking for somebody, anybody, to blame besides itself. At this point in communism most of the former baddies; such as bourgeois, speculators, and price fixers; have either been “reeducated” or wiped out so the only people left to blame are regular folk like farmers and bakers:

In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country.

In a statement, the government said the bakers had been selling underweight bread and were using price-regulated flour to illegally make specialty items, like sweet rolls and croissants.

The government said bakeries are only allowed to produce French bread and white loaves, or pan canilla, with government-imported flour. However, in a tweet on Thursday, price control czar William Contreras said only 90 percent of baked goods had to be price-controlled products.

If your economy is so fragile that bakers making sweet rolls and croissants can destabilize it then your country is far beyond the point of no return. It is literally game over. Also, I really found Mr. Contreras’ comment hilarious. Only 90 percent of baked goods have to be price-controlled products.

The more the Venezuelan government pushes the closer the nation will be to revolution. It’s only a matter of time until the people of Venezuela decide that they’ve had enough abuse and rise up against their tormenters. I look forward to that day.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 23rd, 2017 at 10:30 am

It’s Not Your Property

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One of the easiest mistakes to make in the United States is assuming that you can own property. If you could own property you wouldn’t have to pay rent and you could do whatever you wanted with it so long as your activities didn’t harm your neighbors or their property. But here in the United States you have to pay rent, usually referred to by the euphemism “property taxes,” and you can only do approved activities on what is mistakenly referred to as your property:

A Pennsylvania family thought building a hockey rink in the backyard was the solution for keeping the kids active during the winter — until town officials told them to tear it down.

“We want a space for them to… just get outside and get some exercise and kind of bring back the old school fun that we had when we were kids,” Terry Beam told Fox News.

This is the second winter the Beam family made a hockey rink Beam says, but it didn’t sit well with South Middleton Township authorities this year. In a letter to the family, the township engineer said the rink was a violation.

“A drainage easement is located on your property,” the letter noted. “By placing objects and fences that block the water, such as the skating rink constructed on your property, the amount of storage available is reduced, and the basin will not function as designed.”

I’m sure somebody will note that hindering a drainage basin could cause harm to neighbors’ properties. But the ice rink isn’t being removed because their was evidence that it was hindering the purpose of the drainage basin, it’s being removed because the government said so.

When the government says something it doesn’t care if its statement is logical, truthful, or supported by evidence. All it cares about is its authority. Slaves will either obey whatever the government says or it will punish them. This attitude means that the idea that government serves the people is a myth and that the idea that an individual can own property is also a myth.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 15th, 2017 at 11:00 am