A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ tag

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

Colorado Initiative to Hinder Education

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Why are there so many people who believe that everything they don’t like should be illegal? There’s an initiative in Colorado to prohibit children under the age of 13 from using portable electronic devices:

If a Colorado initiative gets its way 49 other states are going to be looking like anarcho-capitalist havens. Initiative 29 or the “Preservation of a Natural childhood” could make selling smartphones, tablets, and any sort of handheld wireless technology to anyone aged 13 and younger illegal which is anything but natural.

A group of concerned parents decided that since they didn’t have such wonderful tools growing up they are “unnatural” and therefore bad for children. Parents not wanting their children to have portable electronic devices isn’t bad in of itself. But these concerned parents aren’t keeping their rule within their own homes. They’re demanding that the State enforce their household rules throughout Colorado.

Their claim is also fucking stupid. Children using portable electronics is unnatural? I wonder if parents who were born immediately before the invention of the printing press tried to prohibit children from acquiring books because they believed books were unnatural. If technology is unnatural then we’ve all been deprived of a “natural” childhood because we’ve all grown up in an era where technology is pervasive.

Not only is their claim stupid but they are also advocating that children throughout Colorado be deprived of incredible educational tools. Smartphones, tablets, and other portable electronic devices offer direct access to mankind’s greatest collection of knowledge, the Internet. There is also a plethora of education apps available for these platforms. I frequently use several foreign language apps such as Duolingo and Memrise on my iPhone. Apps exist for teaching children mathematics, how to read, how to code, about science, and many other valuable skills. To deprive children of these tools just needlessly handicaps their education.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 6th, 2017 at 10:30 am

More Evidence that Secession is Necessary

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The United States of America doesn’t respect the rights of individuals. Even the constitutionally granted rights are ignored by it. That alone is a solid argument for secession. Another solid argument is the fact that many of the individual states don’t get along very well. California, for example, has implemented a travel ban against eight states for official state business:

SACRAMENTO — President Trump’s proposed “travel ban” from several Muslim-majority countries has consistently been blocked by the courts. But California has a ban of its own — barring official travel to a growing list of pariah states.

The new law took effect in January, outlawing state employees and officials from using tax money to go to states with laws California deems discriminatory in regards to LGBT issues.

The first states on the list were Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. But late last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the list has doubled and now includes Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota and Texas, the second-largest state in the U.S.

I’m sure the eight listed states are jumping for joy. Likewise, they’re probably drawing up their own travel bans against California.

If each state starts issuing official travel bans for its employees based on disagreements between laws things could get interesting. Several states could issue official travel bans on California and New York for their restrictive gun laws. Other states could issue official travel bans against California and Minnesota for their fiscally irresponsible socialist policies. As Internet privacy laws start getting passed states could issue travel bans based on those. The options are practically limitless. In the end there could effectively be a blanket travel ban for the employees of individual states traveling for official business to other states.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if these travel bans for state employees traveling on official business end up being used as a precedence for banning any individual within the state from traveling, at least directly, to verboten states. If things continue at this rate, the future is going to be very interesting.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 28th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Hope for the Future

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It’s pretty clear that there’s no hope to be found amongst the current generation of rulers. However, Texans may have a glimmer of home in the next generation of rulers:

But it recently got a boost from some unlikely supporters: a contingent of high school boys.

Earlier this month, a secession bill won overwhelming support from the mock legislature in Texas Boys State, the American Legion’s summer program where youth leaders create and run their own government, as the Wise County Messenger reported Saturday. The vote, held June 15, marked the first time in the nearly 80 years since the program’s inception in Texas that both chambers of the Texas Boys State legislature voted in favor of seceding from the Union.

It’s nice to see at least some young individuals have their heads screwed on right about secession. There’s no saving the United States of America. Between crippling amounts of debt, a body of law that no individual can ever fully memorize, an unwillingness to respect both the rights of individuals and the constitutionally granted privileges of the individual states, etc. it’s clear that the only way to chisel out a little extra freedom is for the individual states to secede. Once they’ve seceded and become the new tyrants then the counties can secede and then the townships and finally the individuals.

Secession down to the last individual!

Written by Christopher Burg

June 28th, 2017 at 10:00 am

It’s Not Your Property, Serf

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Can you own property in the United States of America? Many people would make the mistake of answering yes to that question. But the United States itself as well as the individual states that make it up are democracies and democracies mean that individuals cannot own property. At best an individual can lease property from the government. If, for example, an individual fails to pay their rent property taxes the government will revoke their lease. And it’s not even a contractual lease because the rules can change whenever an empowered voting body votes to alter the terms:

Tom Erickson feels like someone is taking a bite out of his front yard.

A 12-foot-wide strip of lawn will become part of a multi-use path, which he says will reduce his front yard by about a third.

“It’s incredible to me that they can just grab your property,” said Erickson, who is fighting Woodbury city officials over the plan to create the path along Commonwealth Avenue.

Mr. Erickson paid a large buy in for the privilege to lease the property he currently lives on. He probably thought that his buy in entitled him to perpetual use of the same amount of property so long as he paid his rent on time. But the city officials voted to change the terms of his lease so now he’ll likely have to pay the same amount of rent (or more if the officials decide the trail increases his property value) for only two-thirds the amount of property.

What Mr. Erickson is experiencing isn’t unusual. City governments are constantly voting to change the terms of their denizens’ leases. Oftentimes they completely invalidate leases so they can be transferred to somebody else (this is usually referred to by the euphemism “eminent domain”). So Mr. Erickson should be grateful that he is being allowed to continue living on any of the property he’s currently paying rent for.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 23rd, 2017 at 11:00 am

Your Vote Really Doesn’t Matter

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I often pointed out that statistically your vote doesn’t matter. Moreover, your vote literally doesn’t matter:

Watching the ongoing clown show in Washington, Americans can be forgiven for asking themselves, “Why did we give this bunch of clowns so very much power over our nation and our lives?”

Well, don’t feel so bad, voters. Because you didn’t actually give them that much power. They just took it. That’s the thesis of Columbia Law Professor Philip Hamburger’s new book, The Administrative Threat, a short, punchy followup to his magisterial Is Administrative Law Unlawful? Both deal with the extraordinary — and illegitimate — power that administrative agencies have assumed in American life.

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But today, the laws that actually affect people and businesses are seldom written by Congress; instead they are created by administrative agencies through a process of “informal rulemaking,” a process whose chief virtue is that it’s easy for the rulers to engage in, and hard for the ruled to observe or influence. Non-judicial administrative courts decide cases, and impose penalties, without a jury or an actual judge. And the protections in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (like the requirement for a judge-issued search warrant before a search) are often inapplicable.

If you received a public school education, your civics teacher probably taught you that laws are written by Congress and signed or vetoed by the president. That’s a gross simplification of the actual process. While laws must be written by Congress and signed by the president, rules can be made by any government agency. Those agencies aren’t headed by elected officials yet they have the power to create rules that directly impact your life.

Gun owners are intimately aware of this since the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has the power to make rules based on its interpretation of the law. What is an Any Other Weapon (AOW)? According to the ATF you can turn your regular pistol into an AOW by attaching a vertical foregrip to its front rail. Likewise, according to the ATF an arm brace on an AR-15 pistol isn’t a short-barreled rifle… unless you hold it incorrectly. While the National Firearms Act (NFA) created these categories of weapons the ATF was given the power to decide exactly what those categories entail.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 21st, 2017 at 10:30 am

Legalizing More Thievery

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Civil asset forfeiture is simply a euphemism for theft. Unlike most other forms of government theft, civil asset forfeiture doesn’t even have the thin veil of criminal or civil charges either being proven in court or confessed to by the accused to justify it. Instead civil asset forfeiture relies on the concept of guilty until proven innocent. If a man with a badge believes that your assets are in any way tied to a drug crime they can legally steal them and the only way you can get them back back is by proving they aren’t, which is an impossible task.

While there has been a lot of pushback in recent years to civil asset forfeiture by a handful of individual states, the United States Senate is working hard to expand it:

A new bill seeks to track your money and assets incessantly, will enjoin any business with government ties to act as a de facto arm of DHS, and would steal all of your assets — including Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — should you fail to report funds when traveling with over $10,000.

Under the guise of combating money laundering, Senate Bill 1241, “Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017,” ramps up regulation of digital currency and imposes other autocratic financial controls in an attempt to ensure none of your assets can escape one of the State’s most nefarious, despised powers: civil asset forfeiture.

The best thing about a law like this is that most people won’t know about it and therefore will fail to comply with it out of sheer ignorance. Since ignorance of the laws isn’t an excuse a law like this creates a huge number of new criminals for the State to prey on.

There are a lot of banking laws that people violate every day because they are simply unaware of them and the government loves to go after them. The Internal Revenue Service was going after people who turned their legitimate deposits over $10,000 into multiple smaller deposits to avoid filling out reporting paperwork. Legally this is known as structuring and the law that prohibits it was passed under the guise of catching tax evaders but most people are entirely ignorant of it so they violate it accidentally. Senate Bill 1241 aims to create a similar law that will likely be violated by innocent people who are simply unaware of the law, which will give the State an excuse to seize their assets. Best of all, if it happens under civil asset forfeiture, the government doesn’t even have to prove guilt.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Undead Bureaucracy

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Remember Y2K? Most of us have probably forgotten about that apocalypse that never happened. But the government didn’t. In fact government offices were still reporting on their Y2K readiness status because that’s what the law commanded them to do:

Seventeen years after the Year 2000 bug came and went, the federal government will finally stop preparing for it.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies, including an obscure rule that requires them to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted some computers at the turn of the century. As another example, the Pentagon will be freed from a requirement that it file a report every time a small business vendor is paid, a task that consumed some 1,200 man-hours every year.

Bureaucracy is a lot like a zombie. Once it has been summoned it will shamble around trying to eat people forever. The only way to stop it is to take purposeful action to kill it.

Government offices should have stopped having to report on their Y2K readiness as soon as the year switched from 1999 to 2000. But the law requiring the offices to report on their readiness didn’t have a builtin expiration date and nobody in the Legislature took action to pass another law canceling those requirements so everybody kept going through the motions even though doing so was completely pointless.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Now You Can Vote Harder

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The security of voting has always been a joke. The people counting the votes could always manipulate the results, boxes of ballots could disappear, voters could vote more than once pretty easily, etc. Electronic voting machines could have solved many of these issues. Instead they are merely continuing the tradition of terrible security:

A 29-year-old former cybersecurity researcher with the federal government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Lamb, who now works for a private internet security firm in Georgia, wanted to assess the security of the state’s voting systems. When he learned that Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems tests and programs voting machines for the entire state of Georgia, he searched the center’s website.

“I was just looking for PDFs or documents,” he recalls, hoping to find anything that might give him a little more sense of the center’s work. But his curiosity turned to alarm when he encountered a number of files, arranged by county, that looked like they could be used to hack an election. Lamb wrote an automated script to scrape the site and see what was there, then went off to lunch while the program did its work. When he returned, he discovered that the script had downloaded 15 gigabytes of data.

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Within the mother lode Lamb found on the center’s website was a database containing registration records for the state’s 6.7 million voters; multiple PDFs with instructions and passwords for election workers to sign in to a central server on Election Day; and software files for the state’s ExpressPoll pollbooks — electronic devices used by pollworkers to verify that a voter is registered before allowing them to cast a ballot. There also appeared to be databases for the so-called GEMS servers. These Global Election Management Systems are used to prepare paper and electronic ballots, tabulate votes and produce summaries of vote totals.

The files were supposed to be behind a password-protected firewall, but the center had misconfigured its server so they were accessible to anyone, according to Lamb. “You could just go to the root of where they were hosting all the files and just download everything without logging in,” Lamb says.

Login passwords posted where they’re publicly accessible? That sounds like fun. Oh, and the site is running an old version of Drupal, which means it has plenty of vulnerabilities for malicious individuals to exploit. With this information in hand it might be possible for a malicious hacker to actually vote hard enough to change the results of an election.

What lessons can be taken away from this? The most obvious lesson is that the Georgia government doesn’t give a shit about security. With how important statists claim voting is you would think that hiring a few security researchers to verify the security of purchased voting machines and the systems they rely on would have been at the top of Georgia’s list. Apparently it wasn’t on the list at all. The second lesson that one could take away from this is that voting is meaningless. Not only are you more likely to die on your way to your polling place than to change the election with your vote but the security of the voting process is so terrible that there’s every reason to believe that your vote won’t be counted or will be counted incorrectly.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 15th, 2017 at 10:30 am