A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Your Corporate Overlords

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When people think gun control, they usually think of legislators passing laws to prohibit gun sales and ownership. But legislation is just one of many ways to control commerce. Intuit, the company that makes QuickBooks, has thrown a wrench into the operations of several gun stores:

A number of businesses were recently interrupted, without warning, after the company refused to process orders of gun-related sales, according to the New York Post.

Intuit is claiming that it hasn’t purposely cancelled any transactions, its service can be used to purchase firearms, and it is working diligently to get to the bottom of this. Who knows what the truth is? But I do want to take this opportunity to once again reiterate my belief that gun companies need to consider starting their own bank. Several banks have attempted to wield their influence by interfering with the firearm market. The only way to guard against such interference is to cut third-party banks out of the equation.

Corporations aren’t strangers to interfering with matters outside of their business. Large corporations can wield a tremendous amount of control. The silver lining is that, unlike government, corporations can be cut out of business markets.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 13th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Gun Rights

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Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

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Remember the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent who became separated from his weapon while dancing and ended up shooting somebody he attempted to retrieve his weapon in a panic? In a surprise twist, he has been arrested:

An off-duty FBI agent whose gun accidentally fired after it dropped out of its holster while he was doing a backflip at a Denver nightclub was taken into custody on Tuesday, jail records showed.

Chase Bishop, 29, turned himself in to the Denver County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday morning and was being held in a detention center in downtown Denver. He was charged Tuesday with one count of second-degree assault, the Denver County District Attorney’s Office said.

I feel the need to point out the verbiage used here. Notice how the report says that the FBI agent “accidentally” fired his firearm. While his actions were almost certainly accidental, it would have been better to use the word “negligently” since his negligence lead to the gun being fired. But negligence is when nongovernmental individuals unintentionally shoot somebody. When government agents unintentionally shoot somebody, it’s accidental.

As far as the charges go, I’d put money on the agent not being convicted. Law enforcers tend to enjoy a great deal of leeway when it comes to shooting bystanders, whether intentionally or accidentally. But it is nice to see that charges were actually filed and an arrest was made.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 13th, 2018 at 10:30 am

That’s a Shame

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The 34th Ferengi Rule of Acquisition states that war is good for business. However, the 35th rule states that peace is good for business. However, peace isn’t good for some businesses:

While the broad U.S. stock market reaction to the historic agreement between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to establish a new relationship committed to “peace and prosperity” was muted, shares of defense contractors took a dive.

Shares of Raytheon, which makes Patriot and Tomahawk missiles, closed 2.8% lower. Lockheed Martin, which supplies the Pentagon with air and missile defense systems as well as the F-35 Stealth fighter jet, tumbled 1.3%. And Northrop Grumman, which has increased its focus on cyber warfare and missile defense systems more recently, declined 1.5%. Boeing, which makes Apache helicopters and aerial refueling aircraft, dipped 0.1%. General Dynamics, a Navy shipbuilder, fell 1.6%.

That’s a shame.

If you own stocks in these companies, fear not! This “dive” is almost certainly temporary. The United States enjoys involving itself in wars far too much for peace to remain in the public’s eye for long.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 13th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in News You Need to Know

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The End of Enforceable Prohibitions

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I’m fond of pointing out to prohibitionists that the era of enforceable prohibitions is over:

In the very near future, governments will lose the ability to keep guns, drones, and other forbidden goods out of the hands of their subjects. They’ll also be rendered impotent to enforce trade and technology embargoes. Power is shifting from the state to individuals and small groups courtesy of additive manufacturing—aka 3D printing—technology.

Additive manufacturing is poised to revolutionize whole industries—destroying some jobs while creating new opportunities. That’s according to a recent report from the prestigious RAND Corporation, and there’s plenty of evidence to support the dynamic and “disruptive” view of the future that the report promises.

Throughout history power has ebbed and flowed. At times centralized authorities are able to wield their significant power to oppress the masses. At other times events weaken those centralized authorities and the average person once again finds themselves holding a great deal of power.

Technological advancements are quickly weakening the power of the centralized nation-states. Encryption technology is making their surveillance apparatus less effective. Cryptocurrencies are making it difficult for nation-states to monitor and block transactions. Manufacturing technology is allowing individuals to make increasingly complex objects from the comfort of their own homes. The Internet has made freely trading information so easy that censorship is quickly becoming impossible.

We live in exciting times.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 12th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Bizzaro Earth

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At some point in the past I must have fallen through an interdimensional portal because the universe I’m currently occupying is rather bizarre.

The good news is that Donald Trump can finally claim an accomplishment during his time in office. He actually met Kim Jong-un and had an apparently friendly talk with the North Korean leader that concluded with an agreement:

US President Donald Trump says his historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that ended in a joint agreement were “tremendous”.

The signed document includes a pledge from Mr Kim to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

But in an extraordinary media conference later, Mr Trump announced details not in the paper.

He said he would halt US military exercises in South Korea, something widely seen as a concession.

Of course the hawks have to shit all over this by claiming that agreeing not to hold military exercises in South Korea is capitulating. But agreements are about giving and taking and if agreement not to play war games in South Korea leads to a potential reduction in nuclear weapons, that’s not a bad trade off.

Now for the more bizarre, Dennis Rodman:

NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman gave an emotional, bizarre TV interview on Tuesday reacting to the highly anticipated summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat and sunglasses, Rodman, who has personally visited North Korea multiple times, spoke for roughly 20 minutes about his relationship with Kim and his expectations for the historic meeting between the two leaders as it got underway in Singapore. He began to cry about halfway through the interview, periodically dabbing his nose with a tissue.

Who would have thought that the most public American to meet with Kim Jong-un until the recent South Korean and United States summits would be a basketball star knowing for his eccentricities? In all likelihood, his meetings with Kim Jong-un played a not insignificant part in building the foundation for both summits.

While this universe is bizarre, it is damn interesting.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 12th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Politics

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Monday Metal: Kotikonnut by Korpiklaani

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Korpiklaani introduced me to folk metal, which still remains one of my favorite genres of metal. Likewise, Korpiklaani still remains one of my favorite bands. The band is releasing a new album and the first song off of it, Kotikonnut, has been posted for our listening pleasure:

Written by Christopher Burg

June 11th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Media

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You Must Guard Your Own Privacy

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People often make the mistake of believing that they can control the privacy for content they post online. It’s easy to see why they fall into this trap. Facebook and YouTube both offer privacy controls. Facebook along with Twitter also provide private messaging. However, online privacy settings are only as good as the provider makes them:

Facebook disclosed a new privacy blunder on Thursday in a statement that said the site accidentally made the posts of 14 million users public even when they designated the posts to be shared with only a limited number of contacts.

The mixup was the result of a bug that automatically suggested posts be set to public, meaning the posts could be viewed by anyone, including people not logged on to Facebook. As a result, from May 18 to May 27, as many as 14 million users who intended posts to be available only to select individuals were, in fact, accessible to anyone on the Internet.

Oops.

Slip ups like this are more common than most people probably realize. Writing software is hard. Writing complex software used by billions of people is really hard. Then after the software is written, it must be administered. Administering complex software used by billions of people is also extremely difficult. Programmers and administrators are bound to make mistakes. When they do, the “confidential” content you posted online can quickly become publicly accessible.

Privacy is like anything else, if you want the job done well, you need to do it yourself. The reason services like Facebook can accidentally make your “private” content public is because they have complete access to your content. If you want to have some semblance of control over your privacy, your content must only be accessible to you. If you want that content to be available to others, you must post it in such a way where only you and them can access it.

This is the problem that public key cryptography attempts to solve. With public key cryptography each person has a private and public key. Anything encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted with the private key. Needless to say, as the names implies, you can post your public key to the Internet but must guard the security of your private key. When you want to make material available to somebody else, you encrypt it with their public key so hey can decrypted it with their private key. Likewise, when they want to make content available to you they must encrypt it with your public key so you can decrypt it with your private key. This setup gives you the best ability to enforce privacy controls because, assuming no party’s private key has been compromised, only specifically authorized parties have access to content. Granted, there are still a lot of ways for this setup to fall apart but a simple bad configuration isn’t going to suddenly make millions of people’s content publicly accessible.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 8th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Finding New Justifications for Harassment

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The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has announced that it will stop arresting people for possession of small amounts of cannabis. At least that’s what you’d think if you were going by a lot of people’s comments. What MPD actually announced is far more limited in scope:

In a series of rushed announcements Thursday, authorities said that police would no longer conduct sting operations targeting low-level marijuana sales, and charges against 47 people arrested in the first five months of 2018 would be dismissed.

[…]

But in recent years, Minneapolis police have stepped up their presence on Hennepin Avenue in response to concerns about safety downtown. Using undercover officers posing as buyers, they arrested 47 people for selling marijuana on Hennepin between 5th and 6th streets.

MPD will stop having officers posing as buyers in order to find suckers to arrest. However, that doesn’t mean that the department will stop arresting people for possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Then there is the issue of demographics. When 46 of the 47 people you’ve arrested are black, red flags are raised. This is especially true when the arrests were the result of a sting operation that involved law enforcers initiating contact. Such demographics make it look as though the law enforcers in question were almost exclusively approaching black individuals and mostly ignoring people with lighter colored skin. But now that MPD has been caught apparently red handed, the racial profiling will cease, right? Don’t get your hopes up.

Anybody who studies the history of laws and how they’re enforced in the United States quickly learns that when law enforcers are caught targeting specific individuals, law that are claimed to prohibit such targeting are quickly passed but nothing changes. This is because law enforcers simply find another way to target those individuals using a different justification. A very good case can be made for the drug war actually being a continuation of Jim Crow laws. While the laws prohibiting drugs never specifically mention race, they tend to be enforced more rigorously against black individuals. But since the laws never mention race, when questions about the demographics of those arrested are asked, law enforcers have plausible deniability. They can claim that they were enforcing the law consistently but that blacks simply break those laws more frequently.

If MPD wants to racially profile, it can find a justification to do so that gives its officers deniability.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 8th, 2018 at 10:00 am

You Have Only the Rights You Can Take and Hold

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I lamented about living in a postliterate society when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips. Nobody read the fucking article so they decided that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious rights when it actually ruled in regards to procedural shenanigans. The American Institute for Economic Research has a good summary of what the ruling entails:

Reading this case literally, we can conclude the following. If you want to exercise property rights and behave as if you are free, according to the Supreme Court, you need to get religion right away and hope that the bureaucrats adjudicating your case put you down as a monster for that very reason. Then you can narrowly escape prosecution.

Otherwise you must comply. If you take the majority opinion on face value, had the deliberations in Colorado been undertaken with no invidious discrimination against the faith of the baker, the decision would have gone the other way.

In other words, you don’t have any rights.

I’ve discussed this matter before but it’s worth repeating. Questions regarding rights, such as whether or not you have the right to refuse to provide a good or service due to your personal religious convictions, are pointless. Why? To pull out one of my favorite George Carlin quotes, “Folks I hate to spoil your fun, but there’s no such thing as rights. They’re imaginary. We made them up. Like the boogie man. Like Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, Mother Goose, shit like that. Rights are an idea. They’re just imaginary.”

You can claim that you have the right to freely express yourself or the right to own firearms or the right to not incriminate yourself but you only actually have those rights if you can exercise them. Consider Jack Phillips’s case. He believed that he had the right to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage because his religious beliefs are at odds with such a union. When he tried to exercise his perceived right, government goons came down on him. Even after his Supreme Court victory, he doesn’t have the right to refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings because he failed to convince the Supreme Court, and by extent the various levels of government in the United States, that he had such a right. When (and it will be a matter of when, not if, because it’s human nature to push boundaries) another same-sex couple comes into his bakery wanting a cake for their wedding and he refuses, he’ll find himself in court all over again.

You only have the rights you can take and hold. How you take and hold them is irrelevant. If you are able to convince a group to respect your perceived rights, then you have taken and held those rights. If you have enough firepower at hand to scare people away from infringing on your perceived rights, then you have taken and held those rights. But if you can’t take and hold them, even if they’re written down on a fancy piece of paper, they don’t exist.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 7th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Defining Evil

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Anybody who has identified as a libertarian for any length of time has likely been accused of being a paid Koch brothers shill. The Koch brothers are evil incarnate who want nothing more than to kill every poor person on the planet. At least that’s what my self-proclaimed progressive friends continue to tell me. Those same friends also tell me that anybody who is working to topple Trump is doing God’s work. So now I’m left to wonder, are the Koch brothers still evil incarnate:

Powerful US billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are funding a multi-million dollar campaign against President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs.

Three political groups backed by the brothers say they will use advertising, lobbying and grassroots campaigns to push the benefits of free trade.

This is an excellent illustration of the trap most politicos fall into eventually fall into. They tend to define other politicos on a binary scale. Either you’re on “their” side and therefore good or you’re on the “other” side and therefor evil. But people are complex creatures and seldom fit nicely onto a binary political spectrum. Two good examples of this are pro-gun progressives and pro-choice conservatives. Even if every other political belief an individual in either group holds agrees with their respective political label, they are considered heretics by both sides.

I honestly don’t know much about the Koch brothers other than the check they’re supposed to send me for being a libertarian shill has yet to arrive (if this is due to an address mishap, would a representative of the Koch brothers please contact me so it can be corrected). I’m sure if I dug into their beliefs I would find things that I agree with and disagree with. This is probably true for every person on the planet. If you spend the time to get to know somebody, you’ll inevitable find that there are things on which you two agree and things on which you two disagree. Needless to say, having only a binary spectrum is insufficient for judging human beings.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 7th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

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