A Geek With Guns

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Archive for the ‘Shut Up Slave’ tag

FBI Director Concerned That Videos Of Police Beating People May Dissuade Police From Beating People

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James Comey, the current director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), has a lot of concerns on his plate. One of his biggest concerns is the propagation of effective cryptography, which is making it harder for his agents to snoop through any random schmuck’s data. Another concern of his is the propagation of high quality cameras:

WASHINGTON — The director of the F.B.I. reignited the factious debate over a so-called “Ferguson effect” on Wednesday, saying that he believed less aggressive policing was driving an alarming spike in murders in many cities.

James Comey, the director, said that while he could offer no statistical proof, he believed after speaking with a number of police officials that a “viral video effect” — with officers wary of confronting suspects for fear of ending up on a video — “could well be at the heart” of a spike in violent crime in some cities.

“There’s a perception that police are less likely to do the marginal additional policing that suppresses crime — the getting out of your car at 2 in the morning and saying to a group of guys, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’” he told reporters.

“Marginal additional policing” is a fancy way of saying harassment. Consider the example he gave. Why should a police officer pull over a car at two in the morning just to ask what the occupants are doing? If the officer didn’t catch them actually doing something illegal he shouldn’t have pulled them over. Period.

But the viral videos that Comey is referring to are videos of police using force. I’m an advocate of recording all police interactions. If you are a party to a police interaction you should record it, even if it’s something as minor as getting pulled over for speeding. You should also record any police interactions you come across. Police are almost never held accountable for wrongdoing in this country but the few times they are usually only happen because there was a video of the misconduct.

If the threat of being recorded on video dissuades police officers from harassing innocent people I would consider that an added bonus. Apparently Comey feels differently.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Being Able To Lookup Your Neighbor’s Income Online Is A Terrible Idea

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Statists come up with the dumbest ideas. One of latest stupid statist ideas is the idea that Norway’s practice of posting everybody’s tax returns online is a good idea:

But maybe the demand that Trump post his returns doesn’t go far enough. Maybe everyone’s tax returns should be a matter of public record. It sounds nuts, but in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, it’s the law, and it works. Norway’s been putting out records since 1814; in Sweden, they’ve been public since 1903.

Public tax returns help reduce gender and racial pay disparities, make labor markets more efficient, encourage workers to bargain for higher pay, prevent tax evasion, and create a rich font of data for economists and other researchers. The US ought to give the idea a try.

Why should anybody have any right to privacy at all? We might as well just put our medical records, voting records, and any other type of records online for everybody to see! And fuck those people who want to have control over their personal information. They’re obviously hiding something.

If you read the article you will discover that the author is a jealous individual trying to disguise that jealousy as pragmatism. He starts off by arguing that making tax return information publicly available would improve the job market. This claim is backed up by a great deal of statist nonsense such as imply that markets require perfect information (they don’t) and claiming that it’s impossible for employees to find out what their fellows at other companies are making if tax return records or private (apparently it never occurred to the author that you can just ask). But he eventually get’s to his real point:

Another thing about pay transparency: It makes it harder to evade your taxes. Adding scrutiny from not only the tax collection agency but your neighbors and competitors makes it tougher to fudge your reported income.

Making tax returns publicly available makes it easier for the State to steal wealth to fund its law enforcers, war machine, economic protectionism, and other atrocities. This is ultimately what every statist’s opposition to privacy boils down to. As believers in the One True State, they want to make it as difficult as possible for anybody who opposes their political god. Are private tax returns making it harder for their political god to steal? Make the records public! Is end-to-end cryptography making it harder for their political god to keep the citizenry in line? Restrict effective cryptography! Are anonymizing services allowing people to peacefully cell illicit goods? Ban anonymizing services!

This is why privacy is so important. The State and its worshippers want to know as much about you as possible. That way they can better know what you have so they can steal it and identify dissidents so they can crush them. Know that when somebody advocates that privacy must be curtailed they’re necessarily arguing that the State must be further empowered. Also know that the empowerment of the State always comes at the expense of individual freedom.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 20th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Why Does The TSA Suck? It’s Your Fault You Stupid Slave!

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been receiving a lot of well deserved flak in recent months. Security theater lines have been growing and now the TSA recommends air travelers show up two hours early to ensure they get through. It reminds me of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). When wait times increase the agency doesn’t hire more staff or make its processes more efficient, it demands people take more time out of their day. This shouldn’t surprise anybody though. Nobody has the option of using a competitor to the TSA, DMV, or any other government agency so the agencies have no motivation to improve their service.

But the public is pissed, which means boring congressional hearings could be in the TSA’s future. Probably hoping to avoid going to yet another meeting where they have to pretend to pay attention while congress members pretend to provide oversight, the heads of the TSA are trying to find some reason for its failure that will satiate the public. I doubt the reason it’s giving will work though since it’s resorted to blaming everybody besides itself:

The comments reflect a statement released earlier this week after long lines were reported at Newark, JFK and LaGuardia airport security checkpoints. When asked about those long lines, the TSA essentially blamed you in a press release, specifically passengers who bring too many carry-on items:

There are several factors that have caused checkpoint lines to take longer to screen passengers… including more people traveling with carry-on bags, in many cases bringing more than the airline industry standard of one carry-on bag and one personal item per traveler;

Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide…Individuals who come to the TSA checkpoint unprepared for a trip can have a negative impact on the time it takes to complete the screening process.”

Not surprisingly, it’s also blaming air passengers for not paying the agency its desired extortion fee:

In the past three years, the TSA and Congress cut the number of front-line screeners by 4,622 — or about 10 percent — on expectations that an expedited screening program called PreCheck would speed up the lines. However, not enough people enrolled for TSA to realize the anticipated efficiencies.

Perhaps the TSA should look inward. One of the biggest contributing factors to the length of security theater lines is likely the agency’s inconsistency. If you know what you have to do when you reach the checkpoint you can prepare ahead of time. For example, you might untie or entirely remove your shoes and take off your belt. You might also remove your liquids and laptop from your bags. When you arrive at the actual checkpoint you can efficiently put everything through the x-ray machine, opt out of the slave scanner, and be through as quickly as possible. But you can’t prepare yourself ahead of the checkpoint because you have no idea what you’ll be expected to do until some idiot with a badge is barking order at you.

If PreCheck is supposed to help reduce wait times and the TSA is actually committed to reducing wait times the agency should make the program free. That would encourage more people to sign up for it. You can tell that the program is more about extorting the public than making wait times shorter but the simple fact that PreCheck isn’t free (and since the TSA is a government agency it doesn’t have to concern itself with making a profit so making the program free isn’t a big deal).

Businesses know that the customer is usually right. A private security provider knows that absurdly long wait times in line will reflect negatively on the venue that hired them, which may hinder their chances of getting another contract in the future. Because of that they are more motivated to make the screening process as efficient as possible. They don’t tell an angry venue owner that the wait times are due to the incompetence of the customers because that excuse isn’t going to fly. But the government doesn’t have customers, it citizens (which is a fancy term for people being preyed on by the State). That being the case, it has no problem blaming its own failures on its citizens.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2016 at 11:00 am

The Ignorant Stupidity That Is America

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They say ignorance makes people fearful. If that’s the case the United States must be one of the most ignorant countries on Earth. People here in the United States like to talk a big game but it seems like most of them are scared of their own shadows. This is made most obvious when people fight against any attempt to defang the State. If you mention cutting military or law enforcement budgets you’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded by people saying, “But then the child molesting hacker terrorists will get us!”

This fear has becoming especially ridiculous amongst airline passengers. 15 years after 9/11 and airline passengers are still seeing terrorists in every seat. Does the person next to you speak a language that sounds Middle Easter? They’re a terrorist! Is the person next to you writing Arabic numerals? They’re also a terrorist:

Menzio said he was flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday night and was solving a differential equation related to a speech he was set to give at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. He said the woman sitting next to him passed a note to a flight attendant and the plane headed back to the gate. Menzio, who is Italian and has curly, dark hair, said the pilot then asked for a word and he was questioned by an official.

“I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness,” he told The Associated Press in an email. “Instead, they tell me that the woman was concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strage things on a pad of paper.”

I guess the should have used Roman numerals. In all seriousness though, the fact that the woman sitting next to him saw a terrorist when she couldn’t make sense of what he was writing shows just how fearful this society has become. It’s even more absurd that the flight attendant who she passed the note to didn’t ignore the concern outright. Without any evidence the flight attendant called the badged men with guns to the plane to harass a passenger. Further adding to the absurdity was the security guards not dismissing the call for lack of evidence. But they were likely afraid of losing their jobs if the reporting passenger or flight attendant told the press that they reported a suspected terrorist and the security team failed to respond. And the media would certainly take the angle of lazy security guards putting passengers at risk of a terrorist attack over the angle of the security team acting in a reasonable manner when no evidence of wrongdoing is presented.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Fear Is The Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel

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Stingray is a product name for an IMSI-catcher popular amongst law enforcers. Despite the devices being trivial enough that anybody can build one for $1,500, law enforcers have been desperate to keep the devices a secret. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), for example, would rather throw out cases than disclose its Stingray usage.

Here in Minnesota law enforcers are also busy keeping tight wraps on Stingray usage:

A Fox 9 Investigation has revealed that tracking warrants for a surveillance device called StingRay have routinely been kept sealed, despite a law requiring them to become public with 90 days.

The StingRay device is used by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension about 60 times a year, said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. Hennepin County Sheriff also had a StingRay, but a spokesperson said they discontinued it after using it only four times.

Why the secrecy? If you were expecting a detailed legal defense you’re going to be left wanting. The only defense law enforcers can muster is fear. Whenever a law enforcement department is pressed about the secrecy of Stingray devices they respond with the scariest case they can think of that involved the device

“This technology has been absolutely critical in locating some of Minnesota’s most violent criminals, more quickly than we ever were before,” Evans said.

Photo State of surveillance: StingRay warrants sealed despite changes in Minnesota law
Law enforcement used the technology last month when a disgruntled client allegedly gunned down a clerk at a St. Paul law firm and then went on the run. Police had the suspect’s cell phone and tracked him down.

[…]

“Just this week we were able to locate a level 3 sexual offender that was non-compliant, a suspect in a series of serial rapes, and a homicide suspect, this week alone,” he explained.

This usually satisfies journalists and the general public but shouldn’t. Whenever a law enforcer brings up a scary case where they used a Stingray device the immediate response should be, “So what?”

So what if the devices were used in secrecy to find a suspected murderer or a level three sex offender? Will these devices suddenly cease working if they’re subjected to the same oversight as any other law enforcement technology? Will they power off forever the minute a warrant is unsealed? No.

Law enforcers have no legal justification for keeping these devices secret, which is why they’re resorting to fear tactics. The question everybody should be asking is why they’re so desperate to keep these devices in the shadows. I theorize that there is a known weakness in the technology that would make them potentially inadmissible in court. What other reason could there be to go so far as to throw out individual cases rather than unseal warrants and release technical details about the devices? It’s not like the devices are a novel technology that nobody knows how to make or defend against.

Traditional Cigarette Industry Finally Receives The Protection It Paid For

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E-cigs have become a tremendous problem for traditional cigarette manufacturers. Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigs deliver the nicotine people want. Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigs don’t include the massive list of harmful additional materials. Not only is vaping healthier, it’s cheaper to boot. There is also a taboo around smoking these days whereas vaping is seen as the new cool thing to do. These benefits are allowing the e-cig industry to eat the traditional cigarette industry’s lunch.

What’s the last refuge of a dying industry? The State, of course. Fortunately, for the traditional tobacco industry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is stepping in to stomp down the blossoming e-cig industry:

As the debate over the health risks of e-cigarettes rages on, the FDA is stepping in to “improve public health and protect future generations.” To do that, the US government will regulate e-cigs and vaping gear like it does any other tobacco product. Until now, these products haven’t been subject to government oversight. With the FDA’s changes, the federal law that already forbids tobacco sales to people under 18 will now apply to vaping as well. Sure, this age limit was already being enforced in some places, but this more formal announcement makes it a nation-wide law.

What’s more, vaping products will be subject to the same regulations in terms of packaging and production. Manufacturers will have to register with the FDA and provide a list of products to the agency. Companies will also be required to disclose ingredients, including any harmful or potentially harmful substances, and they’ll have to get approval before putting new tobacco products on the market. In terms of packaging and advertising, e-cigarette and vaping products must also feature a health warning label — just like the brands selling regular cigarettes.

There’s nothing as fun as good old protectionism. The e-cig market has thrived because the lack of government regulations allows new entrepreneurs to enter the market with little startup capital. Since the e-cig industry is fairly new and the products are highly customizable there is a lot of room for new, innovative entrepreneurs. By putting e-cigs in regulatory parity with traditional cigarettes the FDA has ensured that innovation within the industry will drop and that the entire industry will slowly be monopolized into a handful of large companies.

The slowdown in innovation, restrictions from advertising, and other regulatory burdens will allow traditional cigarette companies to stand a good chance of competing successfully again.

“But Chris,” I hear somebody say, “what about the longterm health effects of e-cigs?” To that I say, what about them? All of the concerns about health effects are unrealized at this point so they can’t even been addressed. Entirely hypothetical threats are not a good foundation for policies. Besides, what a person puts into their body is their own business regardless of health side effects. To quote Ludwig von Mises, “If a man drinks wine and not water I cannot say he is acting irrationally. At most I can say that in his place I would not do so. But his pursuit of happiness is his own business, not mine.” If you want to inject some krokodil into your eyeball, inject some heroine between your toes, and vape all at the same time that should be your right.

There is no sound reason for the FDA’s declaration here except to provide the traditional cigarette companies the protections they paid, err, lobbied for.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10th, 2016 at 10:30 am

The War Against Privacy

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If you read the erroneously named Bill of Rights (which is really a list of privileges, most of which have been revoked) you might be left with the mistaken impression that you have a right to privacy against the State. From the National Security Administration’s (NSA) dragnet surveillance to local police departments using cell phone interceptors, the State has been very busy proving this wrong. Not to be outdone by the law enforcement branches, the courts have been working hard to erode your privacy as well. The most recent instance of this is a proposed procedural change:

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure set the ground rules for federal criminal prosecutions. The rules cover everything from correcting clerical errors in a judgment to which holidays a court will be closed on—all the day-to-day procedural details that come with running a judicial system.

The key word here is “procedural.” By law, the rules and proposals are supposed to be procedural and must not change substantive rights.

[…]

But the amendment to Rule 41 isn’t procedural at all. It creates new avenues for government hacking that were never approved by Congress.

The proposal would grant a judge the ability to issue a warrant to remotely access, search, seize, or copy data when “the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means” or when the media are on protected computers that have been “damaged without authorization and are located in five or more districts.” It would grant this authority to any judge in any district where activities related to the crime may have occurred.

In layman’s terms the change will grant judges the ability to authorize law enforcers to hack into any computer using Tor, I2P, a virtual private network (VPN), or any other method of protecting one’s privacy (the wording is quite vague and a good lawyer could probably stretch it to include individuals using a public Wi-Fi access point in a restaurant). The point being made with this rule proposal is clear, the State doesn’t believe you have any right to protect your privacy.

This should come as no surprise to anybody though. The State has long held that your right to privacy stops where its nosiness begins. You’re not allowed to legally possess funds the State isn’t aware of (financial reporting laws exist to enforce this), manufacture and sell firearms the State isn’t aware of, or be a human being the State isn’t aware of (registering newborn children for Social Security and requiring anybody entering or leaving the country to provide notice and receive approval from the State).

Perpetual Prison

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A man is sent to prison. He stays his time. After being released he’s required to fulfill additional stipulations. Due to financial restrictions, which isn’t an uncommon restrictions for people getting out of a cage, he is unable to fulfill those stipulations. As a result he’s sentenced again and returns to prison.

What I’ve described is effectively a way for the State to imprison somebody for life for any crime. Jonathan Earl Brown probably isn’t most people’s idea of an upstanding person. He, at 26 years-old, was caught in bed with a 15 year-old girl. He was then sentenced to prison. It would be easy to toss him aside but justice is supposed to be blind so the situation he finds himself in should be analyzed separately from his person. And his situation is what I described in the opening paragraph:

After serving nearly two years for criminal sexual contact with a minor, Brown, 26, enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and began searching for a stable job and a place to live.

But just four months into his probation, Brown was sent back to prison. His offense: failing to enter sex offender treatment that he could not afford.

Attorneys and therapists say his case has exposed a major gap in Minnesota’s system of treatment for the nearly 1,600 convicted sex offenders who live under supervision in the community after leaving prison.

In Minnesota, sex offenders are often ordered by local judges to pay for their own treatment as a condition of probation. Yet many walk out of prison too broke to afford the co-payments. Brown was homeless, jobless and so destitute that his probation officer suggested he sell his blood to cover his $42 co-payment, court records show.

Last month a state appeals court panel upheld the revocation of Brown’s probation, triggering denunciations by prisoner advocates and public defenders.

People often like to bring up the recidivism rate amongst sentenced criminals as evidence that criminal behavior is something inherent in certain individuals. What is often ignored is the almost insurmountable odds many criminals face when they get out of prison. Prison sentences are supposed to be a means in which criminals can repay their debt to society (it’s a nonsense collectivist ideal since one cannot owe anything to an abstract idea such as society, but bear with me). Once that debt is repaid they’re supposedly free to return to their life. But most people who have served a prison sentence come out penniless and have few, if any, prospects for a job.

When you have nothing to survive on and you’re effectively blacklisted from legitimate work what are you supposed to do? Is it not feasible that many people who have been sentenced for a crime end up reverting to their previous criminal activity, such as drug dealing, because they have no other prospects?

Now imagine somebody like Brown who not only has nothing to survive on but must meet financial obligations just to remain outside of the State’s cages. He’s being required to fulfill criteria that he cannot fulfill and is being punished for it. Is this justice? If so, what’s to stop a judge from perpetually returning somebody to prison by knowingly placing an unmeetable probational burden on them?

Written by Christopher Burg

May 6th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Government Incompetence Saves Us All

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Conservatives always tell me that they want a competent government. The worst thing that could happen to a government is if it became competent. Today people around the world enjoy incompetent governments, which means their random decrees are not nearly as consequential as they could be:

A Brazilian judge has ordered (Google Translate) that all mobile phone providers in the country block WhatsApp traffic for 72 hours, beginning yesterday.

However, Brazilians are discovering that the ban only covers mobile carriers—so Brazilians still can use WhatsApp over Wi-Fi or a VPN connection over their mobile data plan.

Imagine if Brazil’s government was competent. The entire country could have been cutoff from a very popular means of communicating securely.

I’m a fan of incompetent government. So long as a government cannot effectively enforce the decrees it issues the amount of damage it can cause is limited (when compared to what the damage could be, I’m not claiming the damage is usually minor).

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am

On Edward Snowden

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With the Edward Snowden movie coming out the conversation regarding his motives has been rekindled. I see a lot of people referring to him as a traitor because he didn’t go through proper channels to stop the National Security Agency’s (NSA) indiscriminate violation of our privacy.

What may people seem to have forgotten is that we already know what happens when whistleblowers go through proper channels. William Binney did exactly that. He went to his superiors and eventually went so far as to try to get the Senate involved.

What did he get for his efforts? A lot of stonewalling with a great big side of nothing. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. He did get to experience seeing armed federal agents threaten his family at gunpoint and then being kidnapped by them.

Repeating the same thing over and expecting different results is often referred to as a sign of insanity. Knowing what happened to Binney what other recourse did Snowden have? Should he have just shut his mouth? If so, what recourse do the people have against an overreaching government?

The history of the NSA and its whistleblowers needs more consideration when considering Snowden’s actions.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 3rd, 2016 at 11:00 am