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Archive for the ‘Wall of Fame Assholes’ Category

FBI Director Concerned That Videos Of Police Beating People May Dissuade Police From Beating People

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James Comey, the current director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), has a lot of concerns on his plate. One of his biggest concerns is the propagation of effective cryptography, which is making it harder for his agents to snoop through any random schmuck’s data. Another concern of his is the propagation of high quality cameras:

WASHINGTON — The director of the F.B.I. reignited the factious debate over a so-called “Ferguson effect” on Wednesday, saying that he believed less aggressive policing was driving an alarming spike in murders in many cities.

James Comey, the director, said that while he could offer no statistical proof, he believed after speaking with a number of police officials that a “viral video effect” — with officers wary of confronting suspects for fear of ending up on a video — “could well be at the heart” of a spike in violent crime in some cities.

“There’s a perception that police are less likely to do the marginal additional policing that suppresses crime — the getting out of your car at 2 in the morning and saying to a group of guys, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’” he told reporters.

“Marginal additional policing” is a fancy way of saying harassment. Consider the example he gave. Why should a police officer pull over a car at two in the morning just to ask what the occupants are doing? If the officer didn’t catch them actually doing something illegal he shouldn’t have pulled them over. Period.

But the viral videos that Comey is referring to are videos of police using force. I’m an advocate of recording all police interactions. If you are a party to a police interaction you should record it, even if it’s something as minor as getting pulled over for speeding. You should also record any police interactions you come across. Police are almost never held accountable for wrongdoing in this country but the few times they are usually only happen because there was a video of the misconduct.

If the threat of being recorded on video dissuades police officers from harassing innocent people I would consider that an added bonus. Apparently Comey feels differently.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Being Able To Lookup Your Neighbor’s Income Online Is A Terrible Idea

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Statists come up with the dumbest ideas. One of latest stupid statist ideas is the idea that Norway’s practice of posting everybody’s tax returns online is a good idea:

But maybe the demand that Trump post his returns doesn’t go far enough. Maybe everyone’s tax returns should be a matter of public record. It sounds nuts, but in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, it’s the law, and it works. Norway’s been putting out records since 1814; in Sweden, they’ve been public since 1903.

Public tax returns help reduce gender and racial pay disparities, make labor markets more efficient, encourage workers to bargain for higher pay, prevent tax evasion, and create a rich font of data for economists and other researchers. The US ought to give the idea a try.

Why should anybody have any right to privacy at all? We might as well just put our medical records, voting records, and any other type of records online for everybody to see! And fuck those people who want to have control over their personal information. They’re obviously hiding something.

If you read the article you will discover that the author is a jealous individual trying to disguise that jealousy as pragmatism. He starts off by arguing that making tax return information publicly available would improve the job market. This claim is backed up by a great deal of statist nonsense such as imply that markets require perfect information (they don’t) and claiming that it’s impossible for employees to find out what their fellows at other companies are making if tax return records or private (apparently it never occurred to the author that you can just ask). But he eventually get’s to his real point:

Another thing about pay transparency: It makes it harder to evade your taxes. Adding scrutiny from not only the tax collection agency but your neighbors and competitors makes it tougher to fudge your reported income.

Making tax returns publicly available makes it easier for the State to steal wealth to fund its law enforcers, war machine, economic protectionism, and other atrocities. This is ultimately what every statist’s opposition to privacy boils down to. As believers in the One True State, they want to make it as difficult as possible for anybody who opposes their political god. Are private tax returns making it harder for their political god to steal? Make the records public! Is end-to-end cryptography making it harder for their political god to keep the citizenry in line? Restrict effective cryptography! Are anonymizing services allowing people to peacefully cell illicit goods? Ban anonymizing services!

This is why privacy is so important. The State and its worshippers want to know as much about you as possible. That way they can better know what you have so they can steal it and identify dissidents so they can crush them. Know that when somebody advocates that privacy must be curtailed they’re necessarily arguing that the State must be further empowered. Also know that the empowerment of the State always comes at the expense of individual freedom.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 20th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Why Does The TSA Suck? It’s Your Fault You Stupid Slave!

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been receiving a lot of well deserved flak in recent months. Security theater lines have been growing and now the TSA recommends air travelers show up two hours early to ensure they get through. It reminds me of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). When wait times increase the agency doesn’t hire more staff or make its processes more efficient, it demands people take more time out of their day. This shouldn’t surprise anybody though. Nobody has the option of using a competitor to the TSA, DMV, or any other government agency so the agencies have no motivation to improve their service.

But the public is pissed, which means boring congressional hearings could be in the TSA’s future. Probably hoping to avoid going to yet another meeting where they have to pretend to pay attention while congress members pretend to provide oversight, the heads of the TSA are trying to find some reason for its failure that will satiate the public. I doubt the reason it’s giving will work though since it’s resorted to blaming everybody besides itself:

The comments reflect a statement released earlier this week after long lines were reported at Newark, JFK and LaGuardia airport security checkpoints. When asked about those long lines, the TSA essentially blamed you in a press release, specifically passengers who bring too many carry-on items:

There are several factors that have caused checkpoint lines to take longer to screen passengers… including more people traveling with carry-on bags, in many cases bringing more than the airline industry standard of one carry-on bag and one personal item per traveler;

Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide…Individuals who come to the TSA checkpoint unprepared for a trip can have a negative impact on the time it takes to complete the screening process.”

Not surprisingly, it’s also blaming air passengers for not paying the agency its desired extortion fee:

In the past three years, the TSA and Congress cut the number of front-line screeners by 4,622 — or about 10 percent — on expectations that an expedited screening program called PreCheck would speed up the lines. However, not enough people enrolled for TSA to realize the anticipated efficiencies.

Perhaps the TSA should look inward. One of the biggest contributing factors to the length of security theater lines is likely the agency’s inconsistency. If you know what you have to do when you reach the checkpoint you can prepare ahead of time. For example, you might untie or entirely remove your shoes and take off your belt. You might also remove your liquids and laptop from your bags. When you arrive at the actual checkpoint you can efficiently put everything through the x-ray machine, opt out of the slave scanner, and be through as quickly as possible. But you can’t prepare yourself ahead of the checkpoint because you have no idea what you’ll be expected to do until some idiot with a badge is barking order at you.

If PreCheck is supposed to help reduce wait times and the TSA is actually committed to reducing wait times the agency should make the program free. That would encourage more people to sign up for it. You can tell that the program is more about extorting the public than making wait times shorter but the simple fact that PreCheck isn’t free (and since the TSA is a government agency it doesn’t have to concern itself with making a profit so making the program free isn’t a big deal).

Businesses know that the customer is usually right. A private security provider knows that absurdly long wait times in line will reflect negatively on the venue that hired them, which may hinder their chances of getting another contract in the future. Because of that they are more motivated to make the screening process as efficient as possible. They don’t tell an angry venue owner that the wait times are due to the incompetence of the customers because that excuse isn’t going to fly. But the government doesn’t have customers, it citizens (which is a fancy term for people being preyed on by the State). That being the case, it has no problem blaming its own failures on its citizens.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2016 at 11:00 am

I Guess Oracle Will Sue MariaDB Next

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Oracle is still butthurt over the fact that it snapped up Java when it purchased Sun Microsystems and still hasn’t figured out how to make it profitable. Google on the other hand, managed to take the Java application programming interface (API) and use it for Android, which is turning the company a tidy profit. After getting its ass handed to it in court only to have a dimwitted judge reverse the decision, Oracle is pushing forward with its desperate attempt to get its hands on some of the wealth Google created. Oracle is now claiming that Google owes damages. Why? Apparently because it’s offering Android for free:

Catz also testified that Oracle’s Java licensing business was hurt by Android. Customers that used to buy licenses for Java, including Samsung, ZTE, Motorola, and others, don’t buy licenses from Oracle anymore. “They don’t take a license from us anymore, because they use Android, which is free,” she said.

Licensing contracts that used to be $40 million deals are now $1 million deals, Catz said. She gave the example of Amazon, which was formerly a customer but chose to go with Android for the Kindle Fire. When Amazon came out with its popular mid-range Kindle, the Paperwhite, the e-reader company chose to license Java only after Oracle offered a massive discount.

“In order to compete, we ended up giving a 97.5 percent discount for the Paperwhite,” she said, “because our competition was free.”

As for the mobile licensing business, since the launch of Android, it has performed “very, very poorly,” Catz said.

What’s next? Will Oracle sue the people behind MariaDB? For those who don’t know, MariaDB is a fork of MySQL, which is another product that Oracle acquired when it purchased Sun Microsystems. MariaDB, like the Android API, is a free product based on software Oracle acquired through its purchase of Sun Microsofts that could be taking market share from its expensive software!

Should manufacturers and developers of a product that’s sold directly for money be able to sue competitors who offer a free alternative? If you ask some antitrust supporters the answer is yes. But if you ask anybody with a brain the answer is no.

Consider Oracle’s situation. Android basically ate its lunch because nobody is buying its mobile Java software. Does that indicate that Google is somehow at fault because it made Android free? No. Such an assumption would imply that free products always win in the market when that isn’t the case. Sometimes a free product is so shitty that an expensive alternative still wins out. Consider Microsoft Windows. It’s still the most popular desktop operating system out there even though Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and a number of other free alternatives exist. Why? Because Windows offers features that consumers want and alternative don’t offer. Software compatibility, driver support, etc. are desirable features to many people. So desirable in fact that they’re willing to pay for them even though a free alternative exists. Without those features consumers see the free alternatives as so shitty that the savings associated with using them aren’t worth it. In spite of what the famous saying says, you actually can compete with free.

Android isn’t winning over mobile Java simply because it’s free. It’s winning because it offers features that consumers want. There is a massive software library available for Android that isn’t available for mobile Java. Google includes many desirable applications including clients for its popular Maps and Gmail services. Hardware developers want consumers to buy their phones so they tend to favor software that consumers want, which is part of the reason so many Android mobile devices exist while so few Windows ones do.

Google isn’t responsible for Oracle’s dwindling mobile Java profits, Oracle is for not making it a compelling product.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2016 at 10:00 am

The Ignorant Stupidity That Is America

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They say ignorance makes people fearful. If that’s the case the United States must be one of the most ignorant countries on Earth. People here in the United States like to talk a big game but it seems like most of them are scared of their own shadows. This is made most obvious when people fight against any attempt to defang the State. If you mention cutting military or law enforcement budgets you’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded by people saying, “But then the child molesting hacker terrorists will get us!”

This fear has becoming especially ridiculous amongst airline passengers. 15 years after 9/11 and airline passengers are still seeing terrorists in every seat. Does the person next to you speak a language that sounds Middle Easter? They’re a terrorist! Is the person next to you writing Arabic numerals? They’re also a terrorist:

Menzio said he was flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday night and was solving a differential equation related to a speech he was set to give at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. He said the woman sitting next to him passed a note to a flight attendant and the plane headed back to the gate. Menzio, who is Italian and has curly, dark hair, said the pilot then asked for a word and he was questioned by an official.

“I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness,” he told The Associated Press in an email. “Instead, they tell me that the woman was concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strage things on a pad of paper.”

I guess the should have used Roman numerals. In all seriousness though, the fact that the woman sitting next to him saw a terrorist when she couldn’t make sense of what he was writing shows just how fearful this society has become. It’s even more absurd that the flight attendant who she passed the note to didn’t ignore the concern outright. Without any evidence the flight attendant called the badged men with guns to the plane to harass a passenger. Further adding to the absurdity was the security guards not dismissing the call for lack of evidence. But they were likely afraid of losing their jobs if the reporting passenger or flight attendant told the press that they reported a suspected terrorist and the security team failed to respond. And the media would certainly take the angle of lazy security guards putting passengers at risk of a terrorist attack over the angle of the security team acting in a reasonable manner when no evidence of wrongdoing is presented.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2016 at 10:30 am

The Problem With Statutory Laws

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Statutory law, like democracy, is often erroneously held up as a feature of truly great societies. The problem with statutory law is that it’s based on the belief that the decrees of legislators and the rulings of judges are justice. But justice is about righting a wrong as much as possible and statutory law often fails miserably at this. Consider the recent rape case in Oklahoma:

The case involved allegations that a 17-year-old boy assaulted a girl, 16, after volunteering to give her a ride home. The two had been drinking in a Tulsa park with a group of friends when it became clear that the girl was badly intoxicated. Witnesses recalled that she had to be carried into the defendant’s car. Another boy, who briefly rode in the car, recalled her coming in and out of consciousness.

The boy later brought the girl to her grandmother’s house. Still unconscious, the girl was taken to a hospital, where a test put her blood alcohol content above .34. She awoke as staff were conducting a sexual assault examination.

Tests would later confirm that the young man’s DNA was found on the back of her leg and around her mouth. The boy claimed to investigators that the girl had consented to performing oral sex. The girl said she didn’t have any memories after leaving the park. Tulsa County prosecutors charged the young man with forcible oral sodomy.

[…]

But the trial judge dismissed the case. And the appeals court ruling, on 24 March, affirmed that prosecutors could not apply the law to a victim who was incapacitated by alcohol.

“Forcible sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation,” the decision read. Its reasoning, the court said, was that the statute listed several circumstances that constitute force, and yet was silent on incapacitation due to the victim drinking alcohol. “We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language.”

According to the judge’s interpretation of the law a woman who is so intoxicated that she has been render unconscious cannot be forcibly sodomized. And Oklahoma’s law very well might be written in that way, which is the problem.

This case should be focusing on the wrong that was performed and the best way to correct that wrong as far as possible. In any sane justice system that would be the focus. The question of whether a person can consent if they’re not in a sound state of mind, for example, would probably be explored if the focus was on the wrong. Most people would likely agree that a person who is so drunk that they’ve passed out cannot consent to a legal control, let alone sex.

But under statutory law the focus isn’t the wrong but on what was written by legislators and ruled by other judges.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 30th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Don’t Make Vague Threatening Statements When You Carry A Gun

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Sometimes I become complacent in my assumption that gun owners as a whole are a pretty cool group. This is probably because most of my friends who own guns are really awesome people. But then a social issue hits the headlines and I’m reminded that a lot of gun owners are just as big of assholes as a lot of anti-gunners. This post is about one of those gun owners.

Target reiterated its bathroom policy, which is a sensible policy that allows transgender individuals to use the facilities of their gender, and now a bunch of social conservatives are announcing their plan to boycott the store. I have no issues as far as that goes since everybody should be free to associate or disassociate with anybody they choose for whatever reason they choose. But a handful of these social conservatives seem to be having a competition over who can be the biggest asshole about it.

The current winner of this competition may be Anita Staver. Staver felt the need to make a special announcement to alert the world that she will be carrying her firearm into a very specific place:

After Target announced its transgender customers and employees can use store bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver said she would be taking her Glock .45 into Target’s restrooms, saying the gun “identifies as my bodyguard.”

Most of us who carry a firearm don’t feel the need to specifically announce every single place we’re going to carry it. In fact when one go out of their way to make a special announcement that they’re going to carry a gun into a place that is currently being featured in heated debates — especially when that announcement contains language that belittles one side of the debate — it might come off as a bit threatening. Just maybe.

If you want to carry a gun, just carry the damn thing. Don’t be an asshole about it. And especially don’t make statements about the fact you carry that could very easily be perceived as threatening to a group of people you openly hold distain for. In other words, don’t be this asshole.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 28th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Yet Another Reason Why Democracy Sucks

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Democracy has been deified in our society and any dissent is treated as high treason. But I’m here to tell you that democracy sucks.

Democracy is built on the idea that whatever a majority of a voting body decides is somehow just. But what happens when the majority of a voting body decides your so-called rights are mere privileges and furthermore have deemed you no longer need those privileges?

A survey commissioned by the BBC suggests that 63 per cent of UK university students believe the National Union of Students (NUS) is right to have a “no-platform” policy, whereby individuals or groups with opinions deemed to be offensive can be banned from speaking on student union premises.

More than half (54 per cent) of students surveyed also thought the policy should be actively enforced against people who could be found intimidating.

The National Union of Students (NUS) is a democratic organization and a majority of the designated voting body decided to allow censorship on campus student unions. With that simple majority vote, which is also backed up by a majority of surveyed university students, anybody deemed to be supporting an offensive platform is barred from speaking at a location that their tax dollars may very well have funded.

Freedom of speech is a concept used to protect the minority from government censorship. But democracy is a concept that relies on the idea that the will of the majority is correct. The two concepts are opposed to one another because a democracy is oppositional to the minority.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 27th, 2016 at 10:00 am

How The State Makes Us Less Secure Part MLVII

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The State, by claiming to provide for the common defense and declaring a monopoly on justice, has a conflict of interest. Providing for the common defense would require it to disclose any vulnerabilities it discovers but it’s reliant on those vulnerabilities to obtain evidence to prosecute individuals accused of a crime.

Adding a new chapter to this ongoing saga is the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) decision to fight a court order to reveal a vulnerability it used to uncover the identify of Tor users:

Last month, the FBI was ordered to reveal the full malware code used to hack visitors of a dark web child pornography site. The judge behind that decision, Robert J. Bryan, said it was a “fair question” to ask how exactly the FBI caught the defendant.

But the agency is pushing back. On Monday, lawyers for the Department of Justice filed a sealed motion asking the judge to reconsider, and also provided a public declaration from an FBI agent involved in the investigation.

In short, the FBI agent says that revealing the exploit used to bypass the protections offered by the Tor Browser is not necessary for the defense and their case. The defense, in previous filings, has said they want to determine whether the network investigative technique (NIT)—the FBI’s term for a hacking tool—carried out additional functions beyond those authorised in the warrant.

People around the world rely on tor to protect themselves from tyrannical regimes. Journalists living in countries such as Iran, China, and Thailand are only able to continue reporting on human rights violations because Tor protects their identities. Sellers and consumers of verboten drugs, neither of whom are causing involuntary harm to anybody, successfully used Tor hidden services to make their trade safer. Victims of domestic abuse rely on Tor to get access to help without being discovered by their abusers. By refusing to publish the vulnerability it used, the FBI is putting all of these individuals in danger.

On another point, I must also emphasize that that the FBI is claiming the defense doesn’t need to know this information, which speaks volumes to the egotistical nature of the agency. Who is the FBI to decide what the defense needs to know and doesn’t need to know? Being the prosecuting party should already disqualify the FBI’s opinion on the matter due to its obvious conflict of interest.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 30th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Civil Forfeiture Is Back

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In December of last year the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced that would be suspending payments under the Equitable Sharing Program. There was much rejoice. But anybody familiar with statism knows that rules can change at the whim of a bureaucrat to no victories are permanent. The DoJ has just announced that it will resume payments again:

The Justice Department had suspended payments under this program in December, due to budget cuts included in last year’s spending bill.

“In the months since we made the difficult decision to defer equitable sharing payments because of the $1.2 billion rescinded from the Asset Forfeiture Fund, the financial solvency of the fund has improved to the point where it is no longer necessary to continue deferring equitable sharing payments,” spokesman Peter J. Carr said in an email Monday.

While he didn’t specify exactly where the new funding came from, Carr noted that the program is partly funded by the cash and other property seized under the program.

Civil forfeiture is one of the most brazen efforts by the State to redistribute wealth from the people to itself. Usually the State wraps its theft in justifications of providing services and due process. But civil forfeiture isn’t used to build roads or fund schools and spits in the face of due process by presuming guilt instead of innocence.

Due to the massive amount of pushback it wasn’t surprising to hear the DoJ announce it was suspending the program. The State likes people to believe its theft isn’t theft and public opinion was going against that fiction with civil forfeiture. It’s also not surprising to see the decision reversed, especially now that the media attention has died down, since civil forfeiture is one of the DoJ’s favorite tools to enhance the power of its law enforcers. And as we all know, a heavily armed law enforcer is a happy law enforcer and a happy law enforcer is much more willing to steal for their employer.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am