A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Your Government Doesn’t Love You’ tag

You Don’t Have Any Rights

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If you read the Bill of Rights; which really is a bill of temporary privileges, all of which appear to have expired; you might get the impression that you have some kind of right against self-incrimination. At least that’s what a plain reading of the Fifth Amendment would lead one to believe. But self-incrimination means whatever the man in the muumuu says it means. In Minnesota one of those muumuu clad men decided that being compelled to provide the cryptographic key that unlocks your phone isn’t protected under the Fifth Amendment:

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a judge’s order requiring a man to provide a fingerprint to unlock his cellphone was constitutional, a finding that is in line with similar rulings across the U.S.

What does this mean for us Minnesotans? It means that the first thing you should do in a police encounter is deauthorize your fingerprint reader. How do you do that? I’m not familiar enough with the various Android devices to know how they handle fingerprint readers. On the iPhone rebooting the phone will deauthorize the fingerprint reader until the password is entered. So iPhone users should hold down their home and lock buttons (or volume down and lock buttons if you’re using an iPhone 7) for a few seconds. That will cause the phone to reboot. If the phone is confiscated the fingerprint reader won’t unlock the phone so even if you’re compelled to press your finger against the sensor it won’t be an act of self-incrimination.

Why do I say deauthorize your fingerprint reader during a police encounter instead of disabled it entirely? Because disabling the fingerprint reader encourages most people to reduce their security by using a simple password or PIN to unlock their phone. And I understand that mentality. Phones are devices that get unlocked numerous times per day. Having to enter a complex password on a crappy touchscreen keyboard dozens of times per day isn’t appealing. Fingerprint readers offer a compromise. You can have a complex password but you only have to enter it after rebooting the phone or after not unlocking the phone for 48 hours. Otherwise you just press your finger to the reader to unlock your phone. So enabling the fingerprint reader is a feasible way to encourage people to use a strong password, which offers far better overall security (PINs can be brute forced with relative ease and Android’s unlock patterns aren’t all that much better).

Written by Christopher Burg

January 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Truth Hurts

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Donald Trump has promised to bring in a new wave of protectionism for American businesses. This news has been met with cheers from the small government advocates in the Republican Party. The democrats haven’t been cheering but only because Donald Trump is promising it. If Hillary Clinton had promised it they would be cheering but at least the cheering wouldn’t come immediately after claiming they’re for a small government.

Protectionism is almost always promised by people who blame foreign countries from a bad domestic economy and this case is no different. Trump and the republicans are claiming that China has been stealing American jobs. But Jack Ma, Chinese billionaire, sees things slightly differently:

Ma says blaming China for any economic issues in the U.S. is misguided. If America is looking to blame anyone, Ma said, it should blame itself.

“It’s not that other countries steal jobs from you guys,” Ma said. “It’s your strategy. Distribute the money and things in a proper way.”

He said the U.S. has wasted over $14 trillion in fighting wars over the past 30 years rather than investing in infrastructure at home.

While I disagree with his claim that the money was merely misappropriated, he’s entirely correct in saying that the $14 trillion spent in fighting wars was wasted.

Any economist who isn’t a complete moron, of which there are very few, knows that wars don’t produce wealth. Sure, it often looks like wars are good for the economy because jobs are created to feed the war machine but none of those jobs are productive. They exist to destroy wealth. Every piece of military machinery is build to be destroyed. Ammunition is expended. Tanks are either destroyed in combat or destroyed after they’ve been made obsolete by a new tank. Aircraft carriers that aren’t sunk by the enemy are sunk by the owners when they’re decommissioned to make way for the new fleet. Every building, road, and telephone pole destroyed in a war must be rebuilt afterwards. No actual wealth is created by war. Wealth is merely dumped into building expendable equipment or redoing work that was previously done. This is also why fourth generation warfare is so effective. One side spends pennies while the other spends trillions.

Instead of waging an endless war, the people of the United States could have been doing productive things. But the government chose warfare, the people rolled over and accepted warfare, and a huge amount of wealth has been diverted to unproductive endeavors, which has done nothing good for the economy. China isn’t taking American jobs, the United States government is destroying those jobs.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

In Order to Save the Children We Must Damn the Children

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People love to bitch about the government indoctrination centers public education system. And with good cause. If you believe that the purpose of public schools is to educate children then you can’t help but admit that they’re doing an abysmal job. When I see people bitching about public schools I sometimes like to amuse myself by asking them what the solution is. Unless the person I’m asking is a libertarian the solutions proposed are almost always some variant of “We need to provide more funding to public schools!” While I find the idea of throwing even more money into the pit to fix a fundamental failure absurd, I at least understand why somebody might come to that conclusion. However, I came across a proposed solution that is so absurd that I can’t fathom how the proposer came up with it:

For Hannah-Jones, sending Najya to the neighborhood school was a moral issue. “It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it’s also upheld by individual choices,” she says. “As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children … we’re not going to see a change.”

The only way to fix public schools is to damn every child to them!

This proposal is nothing less than collective punishment. Collective punishment is a statist belief that I find especially heinous. But in this case it’s more heinous than usual because the people being punished, children, had no involvement in creating the problem whatsoever. Why should every child be condemned to a poor education when it was adults that created the horrible public education system in the first place? If you’re going to punish somebody, why not punish those adults instead?

I consider myself an open minded person. But collective punishment and collective suicide, which is what dumbing down every child in the nation is, are two beliefs I cannot bring myself to even entertain.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Just a Few Bad Apples

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Chicago is an interesting case study. In addition to being proof that gun control laws don’t reduce gun violence, the city also manages to having increasing levels of violent crime at a time when violent crime as a whole is going down. But wait, there’s more! Not only is violence performed by nongovernmental entities up in Chicago, but violence performed by government entities is also up:

CHICAGO ― The Chicago Police Department regularly violates citizens’ civil rights, routinely fails to hold officers accountable for misconduct and poorly trained officers at all levels, according to a sweeping Justice Department probe of the nation’s second-largest police department.

The findings echo those of an April 2016 report released by Chicago’s then-new Police Accountability Task Force, which emphasized that the police department must face a “painful but necessary reckoning” that includes acknowledging its racist history and its consequent legacy of corruption and mistrust ― particularly between the department and the minority communities it polices.

What else could we expect from a police department that operates its own black sites?

Chicago may have the honors of being the first city with a police department that is so corrupt that even the Department of Justice can cover it up anymore. There’s also a good chance that it will enjoy the honors of being the second city to join Detroit in complete collapse.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Public Private Data Cycle

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Just as the Austrian school of economics has a business cycle I have a data cycle. The Public Private Data Cycle (catchier web 3.0 buzzword compliant name coming later) states that all privately held data becomes government data with a subpoena and all government data becomes privately held data with a leak.

The Public Private Data Cycle is important to note whenever somebody discusses keeping data on individuals. For example, many libertarians don’t worry much about the data Facebook collects because Facebook is a private company. The very same people will flip out whenever the government wants to collect more data though. Likewise, many statists don’t worry much about the data the government collects because the government is a public entity. The very same people will flip out whenever Facebook wants to collect more data though. Both of these groups have a major misunderstanding about how data access works.

I’ve presented several cases on this blog illustrating how privately held data became government data with a subpoena. But what about government data becoming privately held data? The State of California recently provided us with such an example:

Our reader Tom emailed me after he had been notified by the state of California that his personal information had been compromised as a result of a California Public Records Act. Based on the limited information that we have at this time, it appears that names, the instructor’s date of birth, the instructor California driver’s license number and/or their California ID card number.

When Tom reached out to the CA DOJ he was informed that the entire list of firearms trainers in California had been released in the public records act request. The state of California is sending letters to those affected with the promise of 12 months or identity protection, but if you are a CA firearms instructor and haven’t seen a letter, might bee a good idea to call the DOJ to see if you were affected.

This wasn’t a case of a malicious hacker gaining access to California’s database. The state accidentally handed out this data in response to a public records request. Now that government held data about firearm instructors is privately held by an unknown party. Sure, the State of California said it ordered the recipient to destroy the data but as we all know once data has be accessed by an unauthorized party there’s no way to control it.

If data exists then the chances of it being accessed by an unauthorized party increases from zero. That’s why everybody should be wary of any attempt by anybody to collect more data on individuals.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Liability Shield

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I’ve discussed the redundant layers that the State has put into place to protect itself from meaningful change. One such layer is police unions. Last year we saw how police unions managed to get violent officers reinstated in both November and December.

Cities sign contracts with police unions that often shield officers from liability. Reuters looked at 82 police union contracts and found some interesting clauses:

• A majority of the contracts call for departments to erase disciplinary records, some after just six months, making it difficult to fire officers with a history of abuses. In 18 cities, suspensions are erased in three years or less. In Anchorage, Alaska, suspensions, demotions and disciplinary transfers are removed after two years.

• Nearly half of the contracts allow officers accused of misconduct to access the entire investigative file – including witness statements, GPS readouts, photos, videos and notes from the internal investigation – before being interrogated.

• Twenty cities, including San Antonio, allow officers accused of misconduct to forfeit sick leave or holiday and vacation time rather than serve suspensions.

• Eighteen cities require an officer’s written consent before the department publicly releases documents involving prior discipline or internal investigations.

• Contracts in 17 cities set time limits for citizens to file complaints about police officers – some as short as 30 days. Nine cities restrict anonymous complaints from being investigated.

Law enforcement is the idea that a handful of trusted individuals can be given power over everybody else. Theoretically this idea could work if the trusted individuals are held to a higher standard that everybody else. In practice those individuals are almost always held to a lower standard. Handing out authority without accountability is a recipe for disaster.

Consider the first point in the above excerpt. If an officer has a history of violent behavior it might not show up because records of previous incidents were purged. This seems rather odd when you consider how permanent criminal records are for you and me. A criminal record for an average individual can haunt them for the rest of their life. And we’re told that such records are necessary because recidivism is a very real threat. I guess badges guard against liability and recidivism.

The second point is also an interest double standard. If you’re arrested you will be interrogated before you’re allowed to see any of the evidence collected against you. In fact, you generally only get to see the evidence against you after you’ve been charged and your lawyer demands it from the prosecutor. But in many cities officers accused of wrongdoing are allowed to view all of the evidence against them before they are interrogated.

Police union contracts are giant double standards that give law enforcers a significant advantage when it comes to accusations of wrongdoing. This makes it difficult to holding bad cops accountable. The fact that holding bad cops accountable is difficult encourages unsavory sorts to pursue a career in law enforcement. I think you can see where this road ends.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The No Win Situation of Politics

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More and more people seem to be realizing that all available political options are no win situations:

Establishment political parties have been playing a dangerous game — contriving situations in which the only acceptable choice happens to be one favored by elites, and hoping that voters will choose it under duress.

Voters have been revolting against no-choice politics by choosing the unthinkable: Brexit, fringe political parties, rejecting the Italian reform referendum, Trump.

You should be mad at voters for the alarming choices they are making. I certainly am. But you should also be mad at the establishment leaders and political parties who put voters in the position of choosing between the unpalatable and the absurd.

I often compare candidate choices to the choice of either colon cancer or lung cancer. While arguments can be made in favor of one over the other the end result of both if left untreated is death.

What amuses me is that the absurdity of our “choices” is becoming so obvious that even mainstream media outlets are having a difficult time ignoring it. Just look at the last presidential election. The choice was between a male fascist or a female fascist. The media pushed for the female fascist but the difference between the two was so insignificant that it had a difficult time finding a characteristic to sell her on. In the end the male fascist won because votes basically flipped a coin.

If you’re a student of history you’ve read about how this plays out. Things will continue to deteriorate. The “choices” will become worse. At some point the system will collapse in on itself like a massive star at the end of its life.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Thanks, Obama

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I’m sure that’s what Trump’s administration said as Obama’s administration expanded its power:

WASHINGTON — In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

[…]

Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.

Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.

I’m sure the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are going to have a field day with it.

Initially the National Security Agency (NSA) was tasked with surveilling foreign entities but not domestic entities. That mandate changed over time. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know that the NSA is now surveilling people domestically. However, the agency itself has no enforcement powers. But the FBI and DEA do! And that’s why this rule change should be concerning.

There’s a world of difference between having access to filtered data and raw data. Presumably, the NSA’s goons were feeding other intelligence agencies data that it thought was pertinent to its mission. Even if the NSA was feeding other intelligence agencies more than that it still had access to limited manpower, which meant the amount of data it was handing over was necessarily limited. With access to the raw data agencies like the FBI and DEA can now comb through it for their purposes. There will be more eyes looking at the data and those eyes won’t be restricted to what the NSA considers important.

We know that the NSA surveils domestic Internet and phone communications. Since so many illegal transactions (not criminal, since a vast majority of these transactions don’t involve victims) take place over the Internet or through phone calls the FBI and DEA now have access to data that gives them a potentially rich target environment. Even if agencies like the FBI and DEA are legally restricted from using data acquired by the NSA to prosecute domestic individuals the law enforcement community has already created a workaround to such limitations.

When Obama took office his administration was given control of the vast surveillance apparatus that Bush’s administration had expanded. Under his tenure as president those apparatuses expanded further. Now Trump’s administration is receiving control of that expanded surveillance apparatus. To all of the people who didn’t give a shit about those expanding powers under Obama but are now flipping out about Trump having those powers, this is why us libertarians are against expanding the State’s powers. You never know who will be given those powers after your guy leaves office.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

A Real American Hero

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Instead of “”In God We Trust” the motto of the United States of America should be “Give Me Your Goddamn Money”. Judging by my Catholic upbringing, there isn’t a lot of godliness in the United States but every level of government demands that you pay a tithe. Unlike most religions though, the State will punish you severely for failing to pay your tithe. But just because the State has a gun to your head doesn’t mean you can’t be a little creative:

A US businessman in dispute with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has paid his $3,000 tax bill using five wheelbarrows containing 300,000 coins.

Nick Stafford from Cedar Buff, Virginia, delivered so many coins that the DMV’s automated counting machines could not cope with the volume.

His delivery stunt follows a legal row he had with the DMV over contacting its staff to make tax inquiries.

It took staff at least seven hours to count the coins, working until late.

Nick Stafford is a real American hero. He managed to make his $3,000 tithe a bigger pain in the ass to the State than it was probably worth. At the bare minimum he tied up several of the Department of Motor Vehicle’s (DMV) goons while they hand to manually count the 300,000 coins. And the pain wouldn’t have stopped there. The money had to be stored until it could be transferred to the State’s coffers. Transferring the coins, which weighed 1,600 pounds according to the article, would require more gas than paper bills or a check. Some poor sucker at the State’s bank might even been required to recount the money.

I’m sure this stunt will cause whatever level of government Mr. Stafford was dealing with to change the rules so that tithe payments can’t be made with coins. But he managed to throw a wrench in the State’s machinery and cause a bit of havoc, which is what matters. If everybody did the same the State would end up choking on its own bureaucracy.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 13th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Disloyalty to the Fatherland Will Not be Tolerated

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The religion of statism loves its rituals. Stand and remove your hat when you sing the national anthem, Rockets and Bombs. Stand, remove your hat, and put your hand over your heart when you pledge your allegiance to the skycloth. Don’t burn the skycloth that you have no issue wiping your mouth with on July 4th. The list of rules go on and on.

But for some it’s not enough just to have these religious rituals. They want these rituals to be mandatory:

A Mississippi legislator has sponsored a bill that levies a $1,500 fine on any school that doesn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag within the first hour of class each school day.

Rep. William Shirley, a Republican whose District 84 covers Clark, Jasper and Newton counties, wants to amend Section 37-13-6 of the Mississippi Code of 1972. The code provides stipulations on the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and when, where and how to present the flag on school grounds.

All schools will lead the children in pledging their allegiance to the Fatherland!

When I was in elementary school we recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. Do you know what school children use that time for? Coming up with funnier words, usually involving fart jokes, to say loudly enough for nearby students to hear yet quietly enough so the teacher doesn’t hear. All the Pledge of Allegiance is to school children is a bunch of meaningless words they’re made to recite. As it turns out, concepts like patriotism are a bit beyond the mental capacity of most children (more accurately, school children aren’t yet dumb enough to be brainwashed by patriotism).

Written by Christopher Burg

January 13th, 2017 at 10:00 am