A Geek With Guns

Discount security adviser to the proles.

Archive for the ‘Superdickery’ tag

The Problem With Statutory Laws

without comments

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

Don’t Make Vague Threatening Statements When You Carry A Gun

without comments

Sometimes I become complacent in my assumption that gun owners as a whole are a pretty cool group. This is probably because most of my friends who own guns are really awesome people. But then a social issue hits the headlines and I’m reminded that a lot of gun owners are just as big of assholes as a lot of anti-gunners. This post is about one of those gun owners.

Target reiterated its bathroom policy, which is a sensible policy that allows transgender individuals to use the facilities of their gender, and now a bunch of social conservatives are announcing their plan to boycott the store. I have no issues as far as that goes since everybody should be free to associate or disassociate with anybody they choose for whatever reason they choose. But a handful of these social conservatives seem to be having a competition over who can be the biggest asshole about it.

The current winner of this competition may be Anita Staver. Staver felt the need to make a special announcement to alert the world that she will be carrying her firearm into a very specific place:

After Target announced its transgender customers and employees can use store bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver said she would be taking her Glock .45 into Target’s restrooms, saying the gun “identifies as my bodyguard.”

Most of us who carry a firearm don’t feel the need to specifically announce every single place we’re going to carry it. In fact when one go out of their way to make a special announcement that they’re going to carry a gun into a place that is currently being featured in heated debates — especially when that announcement contains language that belittles one side of the debate — it might come off as a bit threatening. Just maybe.

If you want to carry a gun, just carry the damn thing. Don’t be an asshole about it. And especially don’t make statements about the fact you carry that could very easily be perceived as threatening to a group of people you openly hold distain for. In other words, don’t be this asshole.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 28th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Berning The Middle East Down

without comments

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

without comments

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

The FBI Heroically Saves Us Yet Again From A Criminal It Created

with one comment

Just one week after heroically saving us from a terrorist it created, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has saved us from yet another criminal it created:

US authorities depict Franey as an unstable anti-government militant who deserved a closer look to see how far he might go. One of his neighbors told FBI agents that Franey said he hated the US military for not allowing him “to leave the Army” after he enlisted, and that he railed at the system for “taking away his kids.” As US Attorney Hayes put it, the Justice Department was obligated to “pursue all available leads to ensure the public was protected from any possible harm.”

But while it seems Franey talked often and enthusiastically about plotting a terrorist attack, there’s little indication he ever had any intention of following through with his threats until the FBI’s undercover agent came along. After befriending Franey, the agent took him on an eight-month ride — sometimes literally, including a road trip along the West Coast — while recording their conversations, doling out cash, furnishing him with guns, and then busting him for illegal possession of the weapons.

I once heard that the FBI used to arrest criminals it didn’t create. Does it still do that once in a while? Is that still a thing?

What happened here is the same thing that always happens. The FBI identified somebody, likely of lukewarm intelligence, who it thought was capable of being radicalized into a threat. It then assigned an agent to befriend the individual and slowly radicalize him. After radicalizing him the agent then provided him a means to perpetuate an attack. The operation then closed with the agent arresting the guy for basically being a radicalized individual in possession of a means to commit an attack.

In this case the FBI’s prey was arrested for illegally possessing weapons. Weapons which were given to him by the FBI.

These operations rely on taking a hypothetical scenario and making it a reality. The individuals they target are those the agency deems capable of being radicalized. If left to their own devices the individuals would almost certainly remain harmless. Most of these individuals are socially isolated, aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box, and are seldom go-getters. Since they’re socially isolated they’re usually desperate for friendship, which makes them vulnerable to FBI agents. Their lukewarm intelligence also makes them more susceptible to being influenced. When you combine social isolation with lukewarm intelligence you have a recipe for an individual who can be easily manipulated to do bad things. But even if they’re manipulated into doing something bad they seldom have the motivation or means. So the FBI prods these individuals into performing an attack and provides them a means with which to pull it off. Finally, with all the pieces in place the FBI arrests its creation.

What the FBI is doing is preying on vulnerable individuals, convincing them to do something bad, and then providing the means to do that bad thing. If the FBI didn’t involve itself these people would normally just fade into the annals of history. The FBI isn’t protecting us from anything with these operations. It’s creating a bad situation and then claiming to save everybody from it.

If You Don’t Own It, It’s Not Yours

without comments

If you don’t own it, it’s not yours. A lot of people are learning that lesson today after Google announced that it would be disabling customers’ Revolv smart-home hub in spite of the promised lifetime subscription:

As we reported on Tuesday, shutting down the Revolv smart-home hubs does not mean Nest is ceasing to support its products, leaving them vulnerable to bugs and other unpatched issues. It means that the $300 (£211) devices and accompanying apps will stop working completely.

[…]

And the decision to deliberately disable the smart-home hubs comes despite the fact they were previously advertised as having a “lifetime subscription.”

Do you own the devices you purchase? If you read most license agreements, which you usually can’t read until you’ve purchased and opened the product, you’re not buying the product but a license to use the product. This is especially true with products that include software, which are regulated under easily abused copyright laws. John Deere, for example, claims you don’t own your tractor, you’re merely licensing it. Because of that John Deere argues that you’re not allowed to fix the tractor as that is a violation of the license you agreed to.

The problem with licenses is that they can be revoked. In this case Google is not only ceasing online services for the Revolv but is entirely bricking the devices themselves, which is likely allowed under the device’s license agreement (those agreements basically read, “We can do whatever we want and you agree to like it.”) regardless of any marketing promises of a “lifetime subscription.”

Had the Revolv been a device that ran open source software with a permissive license its fate wouldn’t be so bleak. At least the option would exist for developers to continue updating the software and creating an alternate online service. That’s the type of freedom ownership allows but licensing usually doesn’t.

As more devices are needlessly tied to “the cloud” we’re going to see more bullshit like this. In my eyes it’s the “in-app purchases” economy brought into the physical world. Many applications used to sell for a one-time fee only for the developers to change their mind and start relying on in-app purchases. An example of this is Cyclemeter. When I first purchased the app it included everything. Now you need to pay a yearly subscription fee via the in-app purchase feature to unlock most of the features. The same bait and switch is coming to our physical world via the Internet of Things. Manufacturers will brick older devices to persuade customers to buy the latest model. Since these devices are almost exclusively licensed instead of owned there will be little recourse for customers. It’s going to be a large scale demonstration of if you don’t own it, it’s not yours.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 6th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Another Hero Becomes A Political Prisoner Of Uncle Sam

with one comment

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

without comments

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.

FBI Heroically Saves Us From Yet Another Person It Radicalized

with one comment

Without the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who would protect us from the people radicalized by the FBI? Without the heroics of the agency a lot of people might be dead today — killed by a terrorist radicalized by the FBI:

KHALIL ABU RAYYAN was a lonely young man in Detroit, eager to find a wife. Jannah Bride claimed she was a 19-year-old Sunni Muslim whose husband was killed in an airstrike in Syria. The two struck up a romantic connection through online communications.

Now, Rayyan, a 21-year-old Michigan man, is accused by federal prosecutors of supporting the Islamic State.

Documents released Tuesday show, however, that Rayyan was motivated not by religious radicalism but by the desire to impress Bride, who said she wanted to be a martyr.

Jannah Bride, not a real name, was in fact an FBI informant hired to communicate with Rayyan, who first came to the FBI’s attention when he retweeted a video from the Islamic State of people being thrown from buildings. He wrote later on Twitter: “Thanks, brother, that made my day.”

According to the FBI, the agency discovered a radicalized supporter of the Islamic State that was going to perpetrate a terrorist attack. But the attack never happened because the FBI was able to discover the individual ahead of time and intervene.

Put into normal people lingo, the FBI found somebody with neither the motivation or means to perform a terrorist attack. The agency then provided the motivation and eventually the means. If the FBI hadn’t inserted itself into this individual’s life they still wouldn’t have perpetrated a terrorist attack.

I like to say, if it weren’t for the people radicalized by FBI agents there wouldn’t be any terrorists for the FBI to capture. When I first started saying that it was done with a modicum of sarcasm because I assumed the agency did manage to fight some actual crime once in a while. But so many of these FBI created cases exist that they literally fill a book. It’s getting to the point where seems the agency’s only job is dealing with the “terrorists” it creates.

FIREClean Sues Andrew Tuohy And Everett Baker

with 2 comments

Gun owners had a spot of fun at FIREClean’s expense. FIREClean, a product sold for cleaning and lubricating firearms, turned out to appear very similar to Crisco when analyzed with infrared spectroscopy. Many of us laughed and a lot of FIREClean customers weren’t amused by the thought that they were charged a premium price for what appeared to be essentially Crisco.

Now that FIREClean’s profits have fallen they’re looking for a scapegoat. That scapegoat took the form of the two individuals who kicked off this entire fiasco by having the audacity to analyze FIREClean’s product:

FIREClean did respond, insisting that “allegations do not focus on actual performance or relevant tests, and draw a misleading picture”. The response did not deny that their product was similar to the oils tested alongside it in the spectroscopy.

Now it seems that on March 17th, FireClean LLC has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Tuohy and Everett Baker, a man who performed his own tests to verify Tuohy’s findings. In their complaint, FireClean LLC claims that “Tuohy initiated a public smear campaign against FireClean” and holds that Mr. Baker “contacted Tuohy for the express purpose of conspiring with him to further defame and damage FireClean”. FireClean LLC also states that since the publishing of the test, their revenues have fallen by over $25,000 per month.

Before this lawsuit I simply found FIREClean’s situation amusing. But now I think the creators of FIREClean are assholes.

Performing independent analysis and publicly releasing the findings isn’t a smear campaign. Neither person, as far as I can find, every said FIREClean is Crisco. In fact Andrew went to some lengths to clearly state that he didn’t think FIREClean was Crisco. What they said was that FIREClean and Crisco appear very similar when analyzed by infrared spectroscopy. That isn’t a false statement because the data showed exactly that.

The lawsuit itself [PDF] even admits that the defendants didn’t claim FIREClean was Crisco:

47. The statement, “FireClean is probably a modem unsaturated vegetable oil virtually the same as many oils used for cooking,” and its implications, are false.

Notice the word “probably” in that sentence? That makes it speculative and a speculation based on evidence isn’t false. Had the statement been, “FireClean is a modem unsaturated vegetable oil virtually the same as many oils used for cooking,” then there would be grounds that the defendants made a false statement.

One point in the lawsuit note that, “infrared spectroscopy is not scientifically suitable for comparing oils from the same class of compounds, such as triacylglycerides or hydrocarbons.” Another point notes that the tests weren’t performed with any controls. Refuting findings because of insufficient or incorrect testing methods is a perfectly valid rebuttal. Such a rebuttal can be posted publicly without a lawsuit. The fact that FIREClean only brought up these points now and not in its initial rebuttal just makes the company look like a gigantic asshole.

The lawsuit also makes a big stink about the personal opinion expressed by Andrew:

50. Defendant Tuohy also quoted the anonymous professor as saying: “I don’t see any sign ofother additives such as antioxidants or corrosion inhibitors. Since the unsaturation in these oils, especially linoleate residues, can lead to their oligomerization with exposure to oxygen and light, use on weapons could lead toformation o fsolid residues (gum) with time. The more UV and oxygen, the more the oil will degrade.” (Ex. C at 3-4, emphasis in original.)

51. Based on these purported facts, Tuohy wrote that “[g]iven that people in the military are often exposed to both UV and oxygen (such as when they go outdoors) and also need corrosion protection for their firearms, I would not recommend FireClean be used by members ofthe military.” {Id. at 4.)

52. In fact, FTIR spectroscopy is not an appropriate tool to test for corrosion resistance.

53. The suggestion that FIREClean is not suitable for military use is false. The assertion that FIREClean® is not suitable for use in settings with UV, light, moisture and oxygen is false.

Again, the defendant didn’t say, “FIREClean can’t protect against corrosion and breakdown when exposed to ultraviolet radiation and oxygen.” All he did was express an opinion that was based on analysis of the product. That’s not a smear campaign.

This lawsuit, as far as I’m concerned, is entirely frivolous in nature. A lawsuit is also an improper response to diminishing profits. If FIREClean wanted to address the potential damage done by the analysis it should have publicly posted a detailed rebuttal explaining why the testing procedures were insufficient or incorrect. Under such a rebuttal the company could then explain why it found the speculative statements and opinions of Andrew and Everett to be in error.

I’ve never purchased FIREClean so I can’t make a big deal about never doing business with that company again. But I will say that I will never do business with FIREClean in the future. I also threw a few bucks towards the defendants’ GoFundMe legal defense campaign. While I can’t withhold money from a company I’ve never done business with I can give money to help people being legally targeted by it.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 1st, 2016 at 10:00 am