A Geek With Guns

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Archive for the ‘Shut Up Slave’ tag

Berning The Middle East Down

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One thing that marks this presidential election is the complete absence of a mainstream anti-war candidate. In 2008 and 2012 Ron Paul was the predominant anti-war candidate for the Republicans and Obama pretended to be anti-war in his 2008 campaign. But this year not a single major candidate is even pretending to be anti-war. When I point this out somebody inevitably brings up Bernie Sanders but even he isn’t hiding his murderous desires:

QUESTION: Senator Sanders, you said that you think that the U.S. airstrikes are authorized under current law, but does that mean that the U.S. military can lawfully strike ISIS-affiliated groups in any country around the world?

SANDERS: No, it does not mean that. I hope, by the way, that we will have an authorization passed by the Congress, and I am prepared to support that authorization if it is tight enough so I am satisfied that we do not get into a never-ending perpetual war in the Middle East. That I will do everything I can to avoid.

(APPLAUSE)

But the President, no President, has the ability willy-nilly to be dropping bombs or using drones any place he wants.

HAYES: The current authorization which you cite in what Miguel just quoted which is the authorization to use military force after 9/11. That has led to the kill list. This President — literally, there is a kill list. There is a list of people that the U.S. government wants to kill, and it goes about doing it. Would you keep the kill list as President of the United States?

SANDERS: Look. Terrorism is a very serious issue. There are people out there who want to kill Americans, who want to attack this country, and I think we have a lot of right to defend ourselves. I think as Miguel said, though, it has to be done in a constitutional, legal way.

HAYES: Do you think what’s being done now is constitutional and legal?

SANDERS: In general I do, yes.

So he’s hoping, as president, he’ll receive authorization to continue doing what Bush and Obama have already been doing. But even more concerning is his support of the kill list.

I’ve discussed the kill list several times but I’ll summarize the problem with it for the benefit of newer readers. The names that appear on the kill list aren’t people who have been found guilty through due process. In fact we only know a little bit about the secret criteria used to justify adding names to the list and that information only came from an unauthorized leak. Sanders believes murdering foreigners without due process is both constitutional and legal.

To put this as diplomatically as I can, fuck Sanders. Anybody who claims he’s an anti-war candidate is either a liar or ignorant.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Yet Another Reason Why Democracy Sucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

April 27th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Religious Freedom*

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Mississippi recently passed House Bill 1523 [PDF] into law. The bill was described by its proponents as legislation to protect religious freedom by prohibiting the government from discriminating against actions performed due to strong religious convictions. What the proponents of the bill forgot to mention was the giant asterisk that noted the restrictions. House Bill 1523 only protects your religious freedom as long as you believe the right things:

SECTION 2. The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:

(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;

(b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and

(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

If your religious beliefs our outside of those three criteria this bill does not protect them. For example, members of the Church of the Phenomenological Agorist hold a strong moral conviction that participation in the black market is not only righteous but a holy duty. Even though black market participation is a strongly held moral conviction the government will still ruthlessly pursue discriminatory action against them.

Do your religious beliefs acknowledge polygamy? If so those beliefs actually directly go against this bill since it only protects beliefs that acknowledge marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Don’t like it? Tough shit. You should have chosen a governmentally protected religion.

So long as you believe one of the three approved beliefs the government of Mississippi will not prosecute you for refusing to perform a wedding or bake a cake nor will it prosecute you for enforcing bathroom assignments. It will not restrain itself from prosecuting you for, for example, refusing service to police officers, something the Church of the Phenomenological Agorist strongly encourages, or people who discriminate against polygamous families.

This bill isn’t about religious freedom, it’s about religious discrimination. It creates two tiers for religions: those that subscribe to the beliefs specifically noted in the bill and those that do not. Members of religions in the first tier receive special treatment from the Mississippi government. Members of all other religions have to suffer the full brunt of the government’s boot stomping down on their faces.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 7th, 2016 at 11:00 am

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.

Having Your Surveillance Cake And Eating It Too

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At one point it wasn’t uncommon for employers to issue company devices to employees. Things have changed however and now it is common for employers to expect employees to use their personal devices for work. It seems like a win-win since employees don’t have to carry two cell phones or use whatever shitty devices their company issues and employers safe money on having to buy devices. However, it leads to an interesting situation. What happens when the employer wants to surveil an employee’s personal device? That’s the battle currently being waged by Minnesota’s state colleges and their employees:

Two faculty unions are up in arms over a new rule that would allow Minnesota’s state colleges and universities to inspect employee-owned cellphones and mobile devices if they’re used for work.

The unions say the rule, which is set to take effect on Friday, would violate the privacy of thousands of faculty members, many of whom use their own cellphones and computers to do their jobs.

“[It’s] a free pass to go on a fishing expedition,” said Kevin Lindstrom, president of the Minnesota State College Faculty.

But college officials say they have an obligation under state law to protect any “government data” that may be on such devices, and that as public employees, faculty members could be disciplined if they refuse to comply.

If the universities have such a legal obligation then they damn well should be issuing devices. Data is at the mercy of the security measures implemented on whatever devices it is copied to. When businesses allow employees to use personal devices for work any data that ends up on those devices is secured primarily by whatever measure the employee has put into place. While you can require certain security measures such as mandating a lock screen password on the employee’s phone, employees are still generally free to install any application, visit any website, and add any personal accounts to the device. All of those things can compromise proprietary company data.

By issuing centrally managed devices, the universities could restrict what applications are installed, what webpages devices are willing to visit, and what accounts can be added.

There is also the issue of property rights. What right does an employer have to surveil employee devices? If so, how far does that power extend? Does an employer has the right to surveil an employee’s home if they work form home or ever take work home? Does an employer have the right to surveil an employee’s vehicle if they use that vehicle to drive to work or travel for work? When employers purchase and issue devices these questions go away because the issued devices are the employer’s property to do with as they please.

If an employer wants to surveil employee devices then they should issue devices. If an employer is unwilling to issue devices then they should accept the fact they can’t surveil employee devices. If an employer is under a legal obligation to protect data then it needs to issue devices.

How The State Makes Us Less Secure Part MLVII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

March 30th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Civil Forfeiture Is Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

March 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am

For Statists The Only Response Is Attacking Individual Freedom

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When a problem, perceived or real, arises there is only one response for statists: attacking individual freedom. As I noted last week, the knowledge that the Paris attackers used burner phones instead of encrypted communications would likely inspire useless legislation aimed at prohibiting burner phones. Jackie Speier seems hellbent on proving me right because she has introduced legislation to do exactly that:

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat representing California’s 14th district, has introduced a the “Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016,” or HR 4886, which will require people who purchase a prepaid device to provide proper identification.

“This bill would close one of the most significant gaps in our ability to track and prevent acts of terror, drug trafficking, and modern-day slavery,” Speier said in a blog post. “The ‘burner phone’ loophole is an egregious gap in our legal framework that allows actors like the 9/11 hijackers and the Times Square bomber to evade law enforcement while they plot to take innocent lives. The Paris attackers also used ‘burner phones.’ As we’ve seen so vividly over the past few days, we cannot afford to take these kinds of risks. It’s time to close this ‘burner phone’ loophole for good.”

Regardless of Speier’s claims, burner phones are not a significant gap in the State’s ability to prevent acts of terror, drug trafficking, or modern-day slavery. Setting aside the fact that most acts of terror, negative aspects of drug trafficking, and modern-day slavery are created by the State, we’re still left having to accept the fact that pervasive communication technology has rendered any ability to control communications practically impossible.

Burner phones are just one method of communicating in a way that’s difficult to surveil. The same effect can be achieved with cloned subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. Furthermore, registrations are easy to bypass. The firearm community is well aware of the term straw purchase. It’s a term that describes having somebody who isn’t prohibited from purchasing firearms to purchase one for somebody who is prohibited. By having somebody else purchase a phone for you you can avoid having that phone tied to your person. Getting somebody to purchase a cell phone for you would be even easier than a firearm since few people see a cell phone as a destructive device. There is also the fact that burner phones from overseas can be smuggled into the country and sold for cash.

Legislation aimed at prohibiting something only accomplish one thing: creating a black market. Not a single piece of legislation aimed at prohibiting something has been successful. This bill will be no different.

Checkpoints All The Way Down

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The investigation into the Brussels attack hasn’t concluded yet but politicians are already calling for actions to be taken to prevent such an attack from happening here:

Security experts, politicians and travelers alike say the Brussels bombings exposed a weak spot in airport security, between the terminal entrance and the screening checkpoint.

“If you think about the way things were done in Brussels — and have been done in other places — literally people only have to only walk in, and they can attack at will,” said Daniel Wagner, CEO of security consulting firm Country Risk Solutions.

These idiots will be putting security checkpoints before the security checkpoints if we let them:

Wagner suggests U.S. airports establish pre-terminal screening before travelers enter the facility.

“That is a common approach in many countries around the world — you cannot even get in the terminal until your bags and your person have been pre-screened,” he said. “That is, through an X-ray machine both for the bags and for the individual.”

It’ll be checkpoints all the way down. What none of these stooges have stopped to consider is that the checkpoints themselves are attractive targets. Checkpoints are chokepoints. They forces large numbers of people to gather in a single place so they can slowly (very slowly in the case of Minneapolis’ airport) be filtered through by security. If a suicide bomber wants to kill a lot of people they need only step in the checkpoint line.

Adding an additional chokepoint or moving the current one doesn’t fix the problem. Reducing the amount of damage a terrorist can cause in an airport requires dispersing people, which means making major changes to current airport security practices. The long security lines have to go. This can be done by simplifying the screening process, making it consistent (anybody who travels frequently knows that the orders barked by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) goons can change drastically from day to day), and increasing the number of checkpoints. None of those measures will be taken though because the idiots who make the policies know nothing about security.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 25th, 2016 at 10:30 am

How The State Makes Us Less Secure Part MLVI

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Statists often claim that the State is necessary for the common defense. If this were the case I would expect it to do what it can to make everybody safer. Instead it does the opposite. In its pursuit of power the State continues to take actions that make everybody under its rule less safe.

The latest chapter in this ongoing saga revolves around the iPhone of Syed Farook. After trying to get a court to force Apple to write a custom firmware for Farook’s iPhone that would allow the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to brute force the passcode, the agency postponed the hearing because it claimed to have found another method to get the data it wants. That method appears to be an exploit of some sort but the Justice Department has classified the matter so we may never know:

A new method to crack open locked iPhones is so promising that US government officials have classified it, the Guardian has learned.

The Justice Department made headlines on Monday when it postponed a federal court hearing in California. It had been due to confront Apple over an order that would have forced it to write software that would make it easier for investigators to guess the passcode for an iPhone used by San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook.

The government now says it may have figured out a way to get into the phone without Apple’s help. But it wants that discovery to remain secret, in an effort to prevent criminals, security researchers and even Apple itself from reengineering smartphones so that the tactic would no longer work.

By classifying this method the Justice Department is putting, at minimum, every iPhone 5C user running the same firmware as Farook’s phone at risk. But the exploit likely reaches further and may even put every user of every iOS device at risk.

Since Farook’s iPhone is in the State’s possession there is no risk of its firmware being upgraded. That being the case, there’s no reason for the Justice Department not to disclose the vulnerability its exploiting. Even if the exploit is disclosed the agency will still be able to use it to gain access to the data on Farook’s phone (assuming the exploit works as implied). But disclosing it would allow Apple to patch it so it couldn’t be used against the millions of innocent people using iOS devices.

There is a conflict of interest inherent in statism. The State is supposed to provide for the common defense of those within its territory. At the same time it’s charged with investigating crimes and dispensing justice. In order to fulfill the latter goal it must be able to gain access to whatever information it deems pertinent to an investigation. Ensuring that access is available conflicts with providing for a common defense since an effective defense against foreign aggressors, especially as it relates to protecting data, is also an effective defense against the State.