A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Somebody calls the police to report a potential crime and the police arrive and shoot the person who called them while their body cameras were mysteriously turned off:

Minneapolis police responded to a call of a possible assault. At some point, a weapon was fired and a woman fatally shot. The BCA is now in charge of the investigation. They say the officers involved had body cameras, but they were not turned on.

Last year the City of Minneapolis spent $4 million to equip the officers in its department with body cameras. This was done in an attempt to restore some of the public’s trust in the department after its officers were involved in a serious of very questionable shootings. Here we are over a year later and that $4 million investment has been entirely wasted since when incidents like this happen body cameras are turned off for some inexplicable reason.

Unfortunately, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), as far as I know, has no policy in place for punishing officers who don’t turn on their body cameras (and if the department does it obviously doesn’t enforce it), which means these officers probably won’t receive any discipline. Moreover, the officers involved will probably say the magical words, “We feared for our lives,” which will ensure that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) absolves them of any wrongdoing.

The only way body cameras can be useful is if departments implement policies that severely discipline officers for using nonfunctional (which would have to cover everything from the body cameras not being turned on to the batteries dying partway through a shift) body camera while on duty. So long as an officer can turn their camera off at will without repercussions they will only serve the purpose of collecting evidence against those who the police interact with. But I’ve said all of this before and I’m sure I’ll have to continue saying it until the day I die.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Monday Metal: The World is Yours by Arch Enemy

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Arch Enemy has released a new song for its upcoming album, Will To Power. The song is exactly what you’d expect from Arch Enemy. There are growling vocals, solid guitar work, and, of course, revolutionary lyrics.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 17th, 2017 at 10:00 am

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Backdoor Gun Confiscation

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Yesterday I was involved in a rather lengthy debate on gun rights. The debate started, as many debates surrounding gun rights currently start, with the shooting of Philando Castile and the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) almost complete lack of comment on the matter until very recently (which was, to put it generously, a very lukewarm comment).

As the debate went on the fact that Castile had tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in his system, which indicates that he had used cannabis prior to being pulled over, came up. A few individuals were saying that Castile’s permit was invalid because he was illegally using cannabis while the other side was pointing out that the NRA should have been raising Cain over the fact that a carry permit can be revoked over using cannabis. That sparked a debate over whether or not the NRA should stick strictly to guns or venture into areas that intersect with guns as well.

This probably won’t surprise anybody but I’m of the opinion that the battle for gun rights cannot be won by focusing strictly on gun issues alone. Whenever the gun issue intersects with another issue gun rights advocates should get involved. I believe this because the issues that intersect with gun rights but are necessarily strictly related to gun rights are currently being used to expand an already massive backdoor confiscation system.

Outside of a few states like California and New York there isn’t a lot of push for legal firearm confiscation programs. There are pushes for prohibitions against purchasing firearms with certain features but, with the exception of California, these pushes have all grandfathered in currently owned firearms. However, there is a mechanism already in place that allows the State to both confiscate currently owned firearms and prohibit individuals from owning firearms again. That mechanism is expanding the number of laws otherwise unrelated to guns that prohibit gun ownership.

For example, users of prohibited drugs cannot own firearms. Felons, including nonviolent felons, cannot own firearms. The latter is especially concerning when you consider that the average working professional commits three felonies a day. If you’re a working professional you’re likely committing a few felony crimes unknowingly. Confiscating your firearms would only require a prosecutor to bring charges against you and prove your guilt in a court. On the surface most of those felony crimes are entirely unrelated to guns yet they can be used as a backdoor confiscation mechanism.

Therein lies the problem with sticking strictly to the gun issue. So long as gun rights advocates and organizations are unwilling to involve themselves in issues that intersect with firearm ownership they will leave the biggest gun confiscation mechanism untouched and gun control advocates will continue to expand the number of crimes that revoke gun ownership privileges.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 14th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Adult Daycare

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Colleges have always been epicenters of political discourse. At one time they were considered bastions of free speech where young adults had the opportunity, sometimes for the first time in their lives, to speak their minds without fear of reprimand. Slowly though colleges, like almost every other institution for learning, became adult daycares. Instead of treating students as adults they were more and more treated as older high school students. This treatment of students has become worse over time and now even prestigious colleges like Harvard are trying to control who students can and cannot associate with:

A faculty committee has recommended that the College forbid students from joining all “fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations”—including co-ed groups—with the goal of phasing out the organizations entirely by May 2022.

In a 22-page report released Wednesday morning, the committee proposed that the policy—which would replace existing penalties for members of the social groups that are set to go into place in the fall—apply to students entering in the fall of 2018.

“All currently enrolled students including those who will matriculate this fall will be exempt from the new policy for the entirety of their time at Harvard,” according to the report. “This will lead to a transition period, whereby USGSOs would be phased out by May 2022.”

The committee suggested that Harvard model its new social group policy very closely on those enforced by Williams College and Bowdoin College, both of which forbid students form participating in social clubs during their time as undergraduates.

I will start this rant off by first pointing out that Harvard is a private institution and therefore can set whatever policies it damn well pleases. After all, this post isn’t aimed so much at criticizing the colleges themselves but the students who attend them.

The fact that students continue shackling themselves with debt for the “privilege” of having their lives micromanaged into adulthood baffles me. Sure, having a degree from Harvard looks damn good on a resume but there are other options out there. You can, for example, still get very good jobs from attending much cheaper universities. Hell, you can get a job that pays well by attending a technical school. Better yet, you can flex your entrepreneurial muscle and become your own boss without ever having to give a dime to an adult daycare.

Harvard is proposing to control who students can and cannot associate with. The proper response to such strong-arming is for students to practice their right of voluntary association to disassociate with Harvard. Harvard is a private institution and therefore governed heavily by market forces. If enough students decided to go elsewhere, it would cut into Harvard’s profits. That would eventually force it to decide to either start treating its adult students like adults or to slowly decay into a penniless institution whose staff is left having to reminisce about the good old days when they could afford to pay high-quality teachers instead of cut-rate rejects who were fired from every other institution.

Colleges don’t have to be daycares. It’s within the students’ power to change it.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 14th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Murder Includes a Nice Severance Package

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Killing Philando Castile has been lucrative for Officer Yanez. Not only did he enjoy a paid vacation but he also received a generous severance package:

“A reasonable voluntary separation agreement brings to a close one part of this horrible tragedy. The City concluded this was the most thoughtful way to move forward and help the community-wide healing process proceed.”

According to a copy of the agreement supplied by the city’s attorney in the matter, Yanez will receive a lump sum of $48,500 minus applicable deductions and tax withholdings.

He also will receive payment for up to 600 hours of accrued personal leave. The agreement did not note how much time he has accrued.

Yanez was making $72,612.80 a year when he fatally shot Castile on July 6, 2016, during a traffic stop on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights.

$48,500 plus 600 hours of accrued personal leave for murdering somebody is a pretty decent deal. Granted, he’ll have to hang low for a while and wait for this entire mess to blow over before another department will likely take him on.

When a police officer screws up they receive a paid vacation until whatever they did falls out of the news cycle. When they screw up more they might get fired and have to wait until their union forces their department to reinstate them. When they really screw up they are brought before a grand jury to be exonerated. When they really screw up they’re brought before a jury to be exonerated and given a nice severance package.

I must say, being a police officer and screwing up sounds like a good gig.

What the NAP Is, What the NAP Isn’t

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The non-aggression principle (NAP) is a pretty straight forward ethical guideline that states that the initiation of force is unethical. It’s basically a rewording of the Golden Rule and forms the foundation of libertarianism. However, there seems to be some confusion regarding what the NAP is and isn’t. Most of this confusion originates from the “libertarian” nationalists who, for whatever reason, want to associate themselves with libertarianism but don’t want to actually abide by libertarian principles.

“Libertarian” nationalists have been saying that the NAP doesn’t apply to non-libertarians. If somebody, for example, espouses communist ideals then, according to these individuals, you can initiate as much aggression against them as possible. Leave it to nationalists to espouse collectivist ideals while simultaneously claiming that they oppose collectivism.

The NAP, like all ethical systems, applies only to the individuals practicing it. If you practice the NAP then it applies to you. If you don’t practice the NAP then it doesn’t apply to you. While there is some disagreement about what exactly constitutes aggression, in general libertarians tend to believe that if everybody abided by the NAP then the world would be a better place. To that end many libertarians have formed relationships with others who abide by the NAP. In such cases the NAP applies to each individual in those relationships because they all choose to abide by it.

In addition to being simple, the NAP is also philosophically neutral. Libertarians aren’t the only individuals who can abide by the NAP. Anybody who practices voluntary association can abide by the NAP. That means somebody who doesn’t believe in private property but believes in voluntary association, such as voluntary socialists, can abide by the NAP. If they do, then the NAP applies to them. If a libertarian chooses to aggress against them then it is the libertarian who the NAP cease to apply to since through their act of initiating aggression they demonstrated that they do not abide by it (moreover, the voluntary socialist being aggressed against is well within their rights under the NAP to defend themselves aggressively).

“Libertarian” nationalism is an oxymoronic philosophy because it claims to be both individualist and collectivist in nature. This nonsensical combination of philosophies leads its proponents to make rather absurd statements such as claiming that the NAP applies to collectives instead of individuals who choose practice it.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Mistaken Identity

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It’s a day ending in “y” so there must be another “isolated incident” where one of the “rare” bad apples in law enforcement performs a heinous act. Today’s heinous act involves a case of mistaken identity. Officers were searching for a 25 to 30-year-old 5′ 10″ tall 170 pound black male. When they came across a 19-year-old 5′ 2″ tall 115 pound black girl they mistook her for the suspect and served and protected the shit out of her:

On the day Tatyana Hargrove rode her bike to try to buy her dad a Father’s Day gift, temperatures in Bakersfield, Calif., had reached triple digits, so she stopped on the way home to take a drink of water in the shade.

The 19-year-old girl turned around at the intersection where she had paused and noticed three police cars. One of the officers, she said, had already drawn his gun.

What followed, according to both Hargrove and police, was a case of mistaken identity and an altercation in which police punched Hargrove in the mouth, unleashed a police K-9 dog on her and arrested her. Though the incident took place June 18, it gained wider attention this week after the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP shared a video of Hargrove’s account on its Facebook page that garnered millions of views.

On the day police stopped Hargrove, officers had been looking for a suspect — described as a 25- to 30-year-old, bald black man standing 5-foot-10 and weighing about 170 pounds — who had threatened several people with a machete at a nearby grocery store, according to a police report.

She was black, the suspect was black, and they all look alike, right? According to these fine officers that must be the case but I’d bet money most of us lowly untrained civilians would be able to tell the difference immediately.

Had the arrest not been captured on video it’s likely that this entire incident would have disappeared down a memory hole. Since this was caught on video though it means that there will likely be an internal investigation that will find that the officers followed their training and are therefore innocent of all wrongdoing. But to show how benevolent it is, the department will likely be willing to drop the charges against the girl (as is often the case, the girl was charged for “resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault” even though the officers delayed themselves by assaulting her instead of continuing their search for the suspect). With that said, there is a chance that the officers involved will be fired from the department… only to be reinstated when their union strong arms the department into doing so. There might even be a jury trial where the prosecutor brings the most difficult to prove charges they can against the officers, evidence is withheld from the jury, and the jury is given instructions on how to rule based on the letter of a law written in such a way that an officer cannot be charged under it.

You know, when I put it that way, it really sounds like we live in a police state. Weird.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 13th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Perhaps We Should Start Copyrighting Communications

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Law enforces in Oakland, California pulled the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in to assist with a murder case. The assistance that the local law enforcers were looking for was the FBI’s Stingray cellular interceptors, which the agency was more than happy to provide. However, the FBI didn’t bother acquiring a warrant before deploying its interceptors, which didn’t sit well with the suspect’s attorney. In response to the attorney’s protest the Department of Justice (DoJ) said that it didn’t need a warrant because cellular signals are emitted and therefore not private:

The DOJ says that because the stingray was configured to act like a “pen register,” originally a century-old device designed to capture incoming and outgoing calls, and solely capture non-content data, then it was not a search. Use of pen registers, as well as the use of 1970s and 1980s-era “beepers” (short-range FM radio transponders) that can reveal a given location, have been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court. Plus, because Ellis wasn’t found in his own apartment, but in another apartment, he could not claim a privacy interest. And finally, even if Ellis could claim a privacy interest in his phone, that still doesn’t matter, DOJ attorneys claim.

“However, signals emitted from a phone are not the same, since they are not by their nature private,” prosecutors continue. “They reveal nothing about the person and are being transmitted out to the world, or at least to a third-party service provider, just like the beeper signals in Knotts.”

This brings me to an interesting point. Cellular signals are encrypted, albeit poorly. In order to intercept cellular signals Stingray devices have to break that encryption. If we look at another law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), we can see that the actions taken by the government would be considered illegal if they were being used to bypass some form of copyright protection.

The DMCA makes it illegal to bypass any copyright protection mechanism, no matter how shitty it is. If a copyrighted work is encrypted with the Data Encryption Standard (DES), a broken encryption algorithm, and an unauthorized party breaks that encryption to bypass the copyright protection they have committed a crime under the DMCA.

Perhaps people should start claiming copyrights on the contents of their phone calls and text messages. Maybe they could then gain some protection against organizations that are bypassing the poor encryption that is used to keep their communications confidential.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 13th, 2017 at 10:00 am