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Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag

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

Cultural Libertarianism

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Elizabeth Nolan Brown, one of the few remaining writers at Reason worth reading, wrote an article discussing a particular pebble that has been in my shoe as of late — cultural libertarianism:

Today’s “cultural libertarians” claim to be concerned, first and foremost, with free speech and fending off the “illiberal” or “regressive left.” Where they succeed, from a libertarian-no-qualifier perspective, is in igniting the passions of young people toward the protection of civil liberties. Where they fail is by turning off more people in the process than they win over, delighting in the kinds of tactics and stunts that provoke but little else. Going to a feminist rally and holding up signs saying “there is no rape culture” may seem edgy when you’re 20, but most people realize that intruding on private events just to throw shade simply makes you an asshole, not a radical for free expression.

That paragraph sums up my feels quite concisely. While libertarianism certainly allows for individuals to make complete asses of themselves and I would never use coercive force to stop somebody from making an ass of themselves, I do get tired of these libertarians who seem hellbent on making asses of themselves.

Whenever a feminist, social justice advocate, or any other person these libertarian reactionaries have deemed leftists make a statement they are quick to respond. And by respond I mean with as offensive of statements as possible, not anything that would lead to constructive conversation. In addition to make these reactionaries look like asses their behavior is also counterproductive. There is a lot of common ground between libertarianism and feminism, social justice advocacy, and other so-called leftist philosophies.

Consider racism. If you try to discuss the issue of racism you’ll inevitably have one of these reactionaries calling you a social justice warrior and saying various racial slurs over and over in a pathetic attempt to be edgier than my Benchmade. But the fact of the matter is, many laws in the United States do institutionalize racism even though they claim to be neutral on the matter of race. This is a topic libertarians and advocates of social justice could work together against the State.

An important question to ask yourself, if you’re a libertarian, is whether you actually want to move society towards libertarianism. If you do then being edgy isn’t going to cut it (I’m not apologizing for that pun, it’s a damn good pun). The only way we’ll move society towards libertarianism is by making libertarianism appealing (it’s that damn market rearing its head again). This is where socialists tend to succeed over libertarians. A socialist can tell somebody facing oppression that their oppression will be a thing of the past because the socialist government will come down on their oppressors like a bag of hammers… and sickles (seriously, these are good puns, don’t try to tell me otherwise). Libertarians needs to explain how the State, by legislating oppression, is the biggest enabler of oppression. That requires actually listening to people’s stories and working with them to figure out a way libertarian principles can solve or at least reduce their problems.

I, like many libertarians, am a contrarian by nature so I understand that telling a group of feminists discussing rape culture that rape culture isn’t a real thing can sound amusing. But it’s also counterproductive (and a really shitty thing to do). What is far more productive, and I know this because it’s what I’ve done, is to listen to them and try to work with them to achieve mutual goals (which is why I invest so much time in advocating self-defense, because rape is a real problem and everybody should be able to defend themselves against rapists).

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am

Loyalty To The Party

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Politics is a necessarily collectivist activity. This is why I find the Libertarian Party amusing. Admittedly, of all the political parties out there — with the exception of the Guns and Dope Party — I hate the Libertarian Party the least. But the fact that it must constantly be at odds with itself makes for some top tier comedy.

I was at the Minnesota Libertarian Party Convention this weekend, helping run the Agorist Suite (I wasn’t part of the convention itself outside of giving a security talk), and the topic of John McAfee stating he would not vote for Gary Johnson came up a few times. What I found most interesting is that a lot of libertarians were very upside by McAfee’s statement. Apparently the most important aspect of being a Libertarian Party candidate is loyalty to the party.

These are the kinds of collectivist traps one finds themselves in when claiming to be an individualist but participating in the political process. McAfee’s personal choice to not support Gary Johnson shouldn’t be an issue. He shouldn’t be expected to provide active support to a party that nominates a candidate he doesn’t approve of. Yet his announcement is being treated like high treason by some. Many have even said his statement has convinced them not to support him any longer.

One of the reasons I don’t involve myself in the political process is because I’m not willing to set aside my individualist principles. If somebody says they won’t support a party because of personal objections I’m not willing to harangue them over it. In fact such an action would demonstrate to me that the person is more of an individualist than the people criticizing them.

I can’t help but doubt the feasibility of any means the requires compromising expressed philosophical beliefs.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Some Inspiration For You

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Those of us living under the boot of the State — which is to say almost all of us — need a little inspiration from time to time. Fortunately, many animals seem less willing to accept their chains that humans. Last week two heroic animals reminded us that freedom is something to always be strived for.

First up was Inky the octopus:

By the time the staff at New Zealand’s National Aquarium noticed that he was missing, telltale suction cup prints were the main clue to an easily solved mystery.

Inky had said see ya to his tank-mate, slipped through a gap left by maintenance workers at the top of his enclosure and, as evidenced by the tracks, made his way across the floor to a six-inch-wide drain. He squeezed his football-sized body in — octopuses are very malleable, aquarium manager Rob Yarrall told the New Zealand website Stuff — and made a break for the Pacific.

Next up was Cha Cha the chimpanzee:

A chimpanzee named Cha Cha escaped from a zoo in Sendai, Japan, and led police and zoo staff on a dramatic two-hour chase through a residential neighborhood, according to NHK, Japan’s largest broadcaster.

cha-cha-vs-the-man

I have a similar reaction when somebody tries to cage me.

Unfortunately Cha Cha was recaptured. But failure usually precedes success so there’s still hope.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2016 at 10:00 am

A New Hero Arises

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Setting aside my general hatred of intellectual property, I want to discuss an especially heinous abuse of intellectual property laws. A lot of research done in the United States is funded by tax dollars. We’re told this is necessary because the research wouldn’t be done if it was left to the market and that we shouldn’t complain because the research benefits all of us. But the research fueled by tax funding seldom benefits all of us because the findings are locked away being the iron curtain of publisher paywalls. We may have been forced to fund it but we don’t get to read it unless we’re willing to pay even more to get a copy of the research papers.

Aaron Swartz fought against this and was ruthlessly pursued by the State for his actions. Now that he has left us a new hero has risen to the call. Alexandra Elbakyan is the creator and operator of Sci-Hub, a website created to distribute research papers currently secured behind paywalls:

But suddenly in 2016, the tale has new life. The Washington Post decries it as academic research’s Napster moment, and it all stems from a 27-year-old bioengineer turned Web programmer from Kazakhstan (who’s living in Russia). Just as Swartz did, this hacker is freeing tens of millions of research articles from paywalls, metaphorically hoisting a middle finger to the academic publishing industry, which, by the way, has again reacted with labels like “hacker” and “criminal.”

Meet Alexandra Elbakyan, the developer of Sci-Hub, a Pirate Bay-like site for the science nerd. It’s a portal that offers free and searchable access “to most publishers, especially well-known ones.” Search for it, download, and you’re done. It’s that easy.

“The more known the publisher is, the more likely Sci-Hub will work,” she told Ars via e-mail. A message to her site’s users says it all: “SCI-HUB…to remove all barriers in the way of science.”

I fear many libertarians will be quick to dismiss Alexandra because she espouses anti-capitalist ideals. But it’s important to focus her actions, which are very libertarian indeed. She is basically playing the role of Robin Hood by liberating stolen wealth from the State and returning it to the people. The money has already been spent so it cannot be retrieved but what it bought, research, is still there and should be returned to the people as compensation for the original theft. That is all freely releasing tax funded research is and for her part Alexandra should be treated as the hero she is.

Another Hero Becomes A Political Prisoner Of Uncle Sam

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Anybody who has been paying attention to the depravities of the State won’t be surprised by this post. It is a post about another hero who has been turned into a political prisoner by the State. This hero worked to reduce the violence in the drug market by keeping both buyers and sellers anonymous. He did this in spite of the fact that the last person who followed this path ended up imprisoned for life. Unfortunately the fate of his predecessor likely convinced this hero to plead guilty and suffer a reduced sentence rather than be railroaded by the State’s courts:

Last week, a federal judge in Washington formally accepted the guilty plea of Brian Farrell, the 28-year-old who had been accused in 2015 of being the right-hand man to the head of Silk Road 2.0, the copycat website inspired by the infamous Tor-enabled drug website.

In a 2015 press release, the Department of Justice said that SR2 had generated approximately $8 million per month since it began in November 2013.

While the State was busy sending Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams to people’s houses at oh dark thirty to kick in their doors, shoot their dogs, and kidnap them because they were in possession of a plant, Brian Farrell was helping run a service that kept those psychotic law enforcers away from both buyers and sellers. After all, neither drug buyers or sellers actually commit actual crimes. There is no victim in a mutually agreed upon transaction.

Due to the illegal nature of the drug trade violence often does creep into the mix though. Most of this violence occurs between competing dealers but sometimes it occurs when disagreements arise between buyers and sellers. Since the State has declared the drug trade illegal, claims a monopoly on dispute resolution services, and ruthlessly pursues anybody who creates a dispute resolution service for drug market actors there are few places for a wronged seller or buyer to go. Silk Road and Silk Road 2 acted as both a marketplace and a dispute resolution service. Through escrow, mediation, and user reviews both Silk Roads allowed wronged parties to have their disputes resolved peacefully. In fact there was no way for wronged parties to resort to violence since all parties were anonymous.

Online drug marketplaces are considered illegal by the State. But the vast majority of crimes perpetrated in relation to these marketplaces are those committed by the State as it uses its capacity for violence to terrorize and punish anybody involved in the drug trade.

Brian Farrell, like Ross Ulbricht before him, should be remembered as a hero who tried to stem the tide of government violence.

An Armed Society Is A Polite Society

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Muslims are a minority in the United States. Anti-Muslim sentiments are also at a high. Those two points create the perfect conditions for anti-Muslim bigots to act brave and mighty. Heinlein wrote, “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” From this one can infer that an unarmed society is an impolite society. Manners are bad when one faces no consequences for their actions.

A group of anti-Muslim bigots planned to hold a protest at a mosque in Dallas. I’m sure the participants had crusader-like visions of appearing brave and powerful compared to the infidels they planned to protest. Especially since they were brining weapons and likely assume their targets were going to be unarmed. But things didn’t turn out quite as they expected:

A few hundred South Dallas residents, mostly black, flooded Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to oppose a planned demonstration by a mostly white group that routinely protests outside mosques.

Both sides were armed.

Dallas police stood guard on a funeral home’s roof as black counterprotesters swarmed the parking lot of Eva’s House of Bar-B-Q, vowing to defend their streets and chanting “black power.”

“This is what they fear — the black man,” said activist Olinka Green. “This is what America fears.”

The anti-mosque group showed up in camouflage, carrying guns and an American flag, FOX 4 reported. They left soon after and the protests ended without incident.

Instead of protesting an unarmed group of Muslims the protesters found themselves up against armed counterprotesters. As is usual in case when two equally armed but disagreeing groups come into contact, the conflict ended peacefully. The protesters, seeing their perceived advantage vanish, decided to withdraw rather than risk a conflict with a group that could put up an effective resistance. In effect the protesters saw that they might actually have to back up their actions with their lives and decided it would be smarter to take the polite route than to continue their impolite actions.

Time and time again history has shown us what happens when one group enjoys overwhelming force over another: genocide. I advocate that everybody wanting to bear arms do so. But I especially encourage members of oppressed groups to bear arms. The biggest enabler of oppression is force disparity. This is why oppressors always try to disarm their intended victims. After the Civil War the State passed arms control laws specifically aimed at disarmed newly freed blacks. In the aftermath of the 1857 Indian rebellion Britain passed weapon control laws aimed at disarming Indians. When the Third Reich came to power it passed laws expressly forbid Jews from owning firearms. But without force disparity oppression is much more costly to perpetrate. With the risks of oppressing a target group increased most would-be oppressors tend to keep their actions to mere words whispered behind closed doors.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 5th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

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The second worst casualty of a major attack is the presumption of innocence. Too often people are demanding heads to role and assume anybody questioned, arrested, or charged because of an attack should be hanged. This leads to a lot of stupidity such as the xenophobia that began running rampant immediately after the attack in Brussels. Investigations take time and a lot of initial judgements based on preliminary evidence are proven wrong as this story illustrates so perfectly:

BRUSSELS — The Belgian authorities on Monday conceded another enormous blunder in their investigation into the attacks last week on Brussels. They freed a man they had charged with terrorism and murder, acknowledging that a witness had mistakenly identified as a bomber in a dark hat and white coat in an airport surveillance photo.

The man, who was arrested on Thursday and charged on Friday, was released after three days in custody, during which some officials publicly vilified him as a terrorist. On Monday, the police said that the real attacker, one of the men who blew up a departure hall at Brussels Airport, remained at large, and they issued a new plea to the public to help identify him.

The release of the man — who has been identified by the Belgian news media and Belgian officials as Fayçal Cheffou, who has called himself a freelance journalist — is a stunning setback for the Belgian authorities, who have struggled for more than a year to get a handle on the growing threat of Islamic State militants.

A lot of people were demanding gallows be built so Cheffou could be immediately executed. Had they gotten their way an innocent man would have been dead and nobody would have been any closer to determining who else was connected to the attack in Brussels. This is why the presumption of innocence is important, especially in high profile event such as this one.

I know everybody hates to hear it but the only appropriate way to respond to the aftermath of an attack is to have patience. Nothing is gained by rash responses. In fact rash responses often cause the same thing as the initial attacks: innocent people being injured or killed.

Property Taxes Encourage Gentrification

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Property taxes are often used by municipal governments to raise funds for the services they’ve monopolized. These services include paychecks for municipal employees, which often includes the very people who voted to implement the current property tax rates.

Because property taxes are used to fund municipal services they’re also a popular topic for political do-gooders. Whenever a perceived blight on the city arises; whether it be homelessness, crime, or environmental issues; the do-gooders demand the property taxes be raised to fund programs to alleviate the blight. Oftentimes these do-gooders are also the same people who complain about gentrification. As politics tends to do, this creates a vicious cycle that leads people to be at odds with themselves.

The very property taxes that fund municipal services are also an incentive for municipal governments to gentrify entire neighborhoods. Gentrification, after all, leads to an increase in property taxes since older, lower-valued properties are replaced with newer, higher-valued properties. Together a few home built in the 1940s tend to have a much lower property value than a single high-density apartment complex. Since property taxes are almost always tied to the value of a property a municipal government can make more money off of the high-density apartment complex than the old homes.

As the number of municipal services increases the number of city employees also increases. That means a larger and larger block of municipal voters are dependent on the rate of property taxes. Furthermore, municipal employees, like every other kind of employee, want to see their pay increase over time. Since politicians tend to want to stay in office instead of finding meaningful employment they have a vested interest in pandering to the majority of voters. How can members of a city council promise municipal employees that their jobs won’t go away and that they’ll get their desired raises? By raising property taxes, of course. As an added benefit the increase in property taxes allows the members of the city council to increase their pay as well.

I’m sure you can see the vicious cycle that forms from this. Wanting to increase the amount of money brought in by property taxes, the municipal governments continue to implement programs that encourage lower-valued property be replaced by higher-valued properties. As these programs fulfill their intended goal the number of properties affordable by poorer individuals continues to decrease. In effect property taxes, instead of being a form of relief for the poor, create a cycle that incentivizes municipal governments to push the poor out of the city.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 23rd, 2016 at 11:00 am

TANSTAAFL

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Everything should be free is the attitude a lot of people hold towards software. If you charge $9.99 for an application you spent months writing and will spend years maintaining you’ll probably receive at least some backlash for having the audacity to charge for it. But the universal principle of TANSTAAFL, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, >applies even to software.

The developers of Caddy, a web server that I’ve admittedly never used, wrote an explaining why they’re asking for money. As it turns out, in spite of what many people who don’t develop software believe, creating and providing open source software involves some notable expenses:

Today you will notice an addition to the Download page: a “Payment” section. Is Caddy no longer free software?

The truth is, it never was. There’s no such thing as free software. The question is, “Who pays the price?”

In the case of Caddy, it has been the developers. The obvious problem with this is that it’s not sustainable in our economy.

[…]

In less than a year, Caddy has well over 20,000 downloads — many of which aren’t counted as the project is cloned and built locally and deployed to both development and production environments. We’ve accrued over 4,500 stars on GitHub, processed hundreds of pull requests, and have dozens of participants in our chat rooms. I can’t speak for other Caddy developers because donations are private, but thanks to very generous donors last year, our web hosting is paid (for now) and I’ve received a little over $150 for my time.

[…]

Keep in mind that commercial offerings for similar web servers cost anywhere from $80 one-time to $1900/yr. (And none of them do what Caddy does.) My text editor costs $70, even just your domain name probably costs ~$12/yr. (If you support us well enough, we’ll send you swag!)

Too many people, typically those who don’t develop software, have the attitude that all software should be free (as in price, but the ambiguity of the term free is why I refer to software with unburdened source code as open source software instead of free software). The app economy is a perfect example of this. It’s why many developers have moved towards nickel and diming customers with in-app purchases or selling a subscription service. When they tried to charge reasonable fees for their software up front people bitched. And now people are bitching because software developers are relying on in-app purchases and subscription services.

Too many people have gotten it into their heads that software should be free (again, as in price). Don’t fall into that trap. Software development incurs a lot of expenses. Time, computers, electricity, and web hosting are just a handful of things needed for software development and none of them are free.

As I said, I haven’t used Caddy. But it does seem to be popular so I’m going to assume it’s a quality product. That being the case, I do hope enough users begin paying for it to keep the developers afloat. It’s always sad to see a good software product fall into obscurity because the developers weren’t being compensated and had to abandon the project for something that actually paid the bills.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 11th, 2016 at 11:00 am