A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘You’re Doing it Wrong’ tag

Preventing Death with Death

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It’s no secret that certain drugs can kill you if you use too high of a dose. This problem has been made worse with drugs that the State has declared illegal because their prohibition has motivated manufacturers to increase the potency so more can be smuggled in smaller packages. Opiates have increased in potency significantly and therefore have lead to greater deaths related to overdoses. Even I know somebody who died of an opiate overdose not too long ago. However, I fail to see the logic in how killing more people is going to improve the situation:

This unfortunate reality raises a very uncomfortable question: Do we need to go to war with Mexico to ultimately win the war against opioids and other death drugs? By “go to war,” I mean a formal declaration of war by Congress against Mexico in which we use the full force of our military might to destroy the cartels, the poppy fields and all elements of the drug trade. Ideally, as our fight is not with the Mexican government, its military or its people, which try to weaken the cartels, we would try to partner with those entities against the cartels, much as we partnered with the South Vietnamese government and military against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army.

It sounds crazy, I know – unless you acknowledge we are already fighting a war with Mexico.

This guy’s logic is batshit insane. Yes, people are dying from opium overdoses. But the reason they’re dying from opium overdoses is because of prohibition, not because of anything the Mexican government or people have done. Moreover, the Mexican government is fighting the drug cartels so shouldn’t it be considered an ally in this fight? At the end of the day though, the real insanity is believing that the solution to people dying from their own actions is killing a bunch more. Opium users are dying because of their own actions, they’re not being killed by other people (although the actions of the United States government have certainly increased their risks of dying), so the usual justification for war, national self-defense (which is absurd as well since a “nation” is an abstraction and therefore cannot be aggressed against), doesn’t even apply here. The author’s entire argument is stupid and he should feel bad for writing it.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Adult Daycare

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Colleges have always been epicenters of political discourse. At one time they were considered bastions of free speech where young adults had the opportunity, sometimes for the first time in their lives, to speak their minds without fear of reprimand. Slowly though colleges, like almost every other institution for learning, became adult daycares. Instead of treating students as adults they were more and more treated as older high school students. This treatment of students has become worse over time and now even prestigious colleges like Harvard are trying to control who students can and cannot associate with:

A faculty committee has recommended that the College forbid students from joining all “fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations”—including co-ed groups—with the goal of phasing out the organizations entirely by May 2022.

In a 22-page report released Wednesday morning, the committee proposed that the policy—which would replace existing penalties for members of the social groups that are set to go into place in the fall—apply to students entering in the fall of 2018.

“All currently enrolled students including those who will matriculate this fall will be exempt from the new policy for the entirety of their time at Harvard,” according to the report. “This will lead to a transition period, whereby USGSOs would be phased out by May 2022.”

The committee suggested that Harvard model its new social group policy very closely on those enforced by Williams College and Bowdoin College, both of which forbid students form participating in social clubs during their time as undergraduates.

I will start this rant off by first pointing out that Harvard is a private institution and therefore can set whatever policies it damn well pleases. After all, this post isn’t aimed so much at criticizing the colleges themselves but the students who attend them.

The fact that students continue shackling themselves with debt for the “privilege” of having their lives micromanaged into adulthood baffles me. Sure, having a degree from Harvard looks damn good on a resume but there are other options out there. You can, for example, still get very good jobs from attending much cheaper universities. Hell, you can get a job that pays well by attending a technical school. Better yet, you can flex your entrepreneurial muscle and become your own boss without ever having to give a dime to an adult daycare.

Harvard is proposing to control who students can and cannot associate with. The proper response to such strong-arming is for students to practice their right of voluntary association to disassociate with Harvard. Harvard is a private institution and therefore governed heavily by market forces. If enough students decided to go elsewhere, it would cut into Harvard’s profits. That would eventually force it to decide to either start treating its adult students like adults or to slowly decay into a penniless institution whose staff is left having to reminisce about the good old days when they could afford to pay high-quality teachers instead of cut-rate rejects who were fired from every other institution.

Colleges don’t have to be daycares. It’s within the students’ power to change it.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 14th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The NRA’s Fetish for Men in Uniform

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Pop quiz. Who said, “I love a man in uniform?” The answer is… the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA makes no secret about having a fetish for cops. However, its worship of law enforcers puts it at odds with guns rights:

This is about par for the course for the NRA. This is the group that claims to be the only thing preventing the government from obliterating the Second Amendment, yet they’re noticeably quiet about the people doing the most violence to the Second Amendment — the armed, badge-wearing government employees we call law enforcement officers. For all the NRA’s dire warnings about government gun confiscation, the real, tangible threat to gun-owning Americans today comes not from gun-grabbing bureaucrats but from door-bashing law enforcement officers who think they’re at war — who are too often trained to view the people they serve not as citizens with rights but as potential threats. Here, the NRA just doesn’t want to get involved.

[…]

In short, the NRA seems to think we’re at risk of creeping tyranny and abuse of power from all sectors of government except from the men and women armed, badged and entrusted with the power to kill. That’s a problem, because if armed agents who enforce the laws on the ground aren’t required to respect our rights, our rights don’t really exist.

Gun rights activists often forget that politicians are only a minor part of the problem. Politicians write words on paper and declare those words law but law enforcers are the ones who actually enforce those words. If law enforcers refused to enforce laws then it wouldn’t matter what the politicians declared to be law because there would be no consequences for ignoring their declarations. Any gun rights organization should be just as critical of law enforcers who enforce bad laws as they are of politicians who write and pass bad laws.

No organization that claims to fight for individual rights of any sort that is also worshipful of law enforcers can be effective. Law enforcers, at the end of the day, are the ones who are directly violating the rights of individuals.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 12th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Colorado Initiative to Hinder Education

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Christopher Burg

July 6th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The TSA Continues Its 95 Precent Failure Rate

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Two years ago we learned that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) failed 95 percent of red team exercises. With such an abysmal record the agency must have been spending the last two years furiously improving its security screening processes, right? If the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is any indication, the TSA hasn’t improved its processes at all:

Last Thursday, what’s referred to as the “Red Team” in town from Washington D.C., posed as passengers and attempted to sneak items through security that should easily be caught.

In most cases, they succeeded in getting the banned items though. 17 out of 18 tries by the undercover federal agents saw explosive materials, fake weapons or drugs pass through TSA screening undetected.

Two sources said that the tests carried out Thursday were eventually stopped after the failure rate reached 95 percent.

It’s pretty sad when the exercise has to be stopped because the failure rate was only a hair’s breadth away from 100 percent.

I’m sure a spokesperson for the MSP TSA will have a list of excuses to try to explain away the 95 percent failure rating. But there’s no arguing that a 95 percent failure rating is touch to distinguish from having no security at all. If the TSA were abolished today and replaced with nothing the only real difference would be that air travelers wouldn’t have to show up at the airport two hours early just to get through the security line and the taxpayers would save a lot of money. Of course the TSA wouldn’t be replaced with nothing, it would be replaced with private security, which would be a significant improvement. Unlike the TSA, which has faced no repercussions for its ongoing 95 percent failure rating, private security firms can be held accountable and are therefore motivated to improve.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 6th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

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Many people like to divide science into hard and soft. Hard sciences are the ones where you can directly apply the scientific method whereas soft sciences don’t lend themselves well to the scientific method. For example, physics is generally considered a hard science since you can replicate the results of previous experiments with new experiments. Sociology, on the other hand, doesn’t lend itself well to the scientific method because the results of previous experiments often can’t be replicated by new experiments. As if to acknowledge that fact sociologists tend to rely heavily on statistics.

In our modern world where science is the new god you can’t make an argument without somebody demanding to see your scientific evidence. While such demands make perfect sense in debates about, say, physics, they don’t make much sense when it comes to social issues because you can create statistics that prove whatever you want. Case in point, a research project found that one in every 24 kids in the United States has witnessed a shooting. However, the statistic was created through a survey with a question worded in such a way to guarantee a predetermined result:

It all started in 2015, when University of New Hampshire sociology professor David Finkelhor and two colleagues published a study called “Prevalence of Childhood Exposure to Violence, Crime, and Abuse.” They gathered data by conducting phone interviews with parents and kids around the country.

The Finkelhor study included a table showing the percentage of kids “witnessing or having indirect exposure” to different kinds of violence in the past year. The figure under “exposure to shooting” was 4 percent.

[…]

According to Finkelhor, the actual question the researchers asked was, “At any time in (your child’s/your) life, (was your child/were you) in any place in real life where (he/she/you) could see or hear people being shot, bombs going off, or street riots?”

So the question was about much more than just shootings. But you never would have known from looking at the table.

That survey was then picked up by the Center for Disease Control (CDC( and the University of Texas (UT) who further twisted the research:

Earlier this month, researchers from the CDC and the University of Texas published a nationwide study of gun violence in the journal Pediatrics. They reported that, on average, 7,100 children under 18 were shot each year from 2012 to 2014, and that about 1,300 a year died. No one has questioned those stats.

This is how statistics is often used to create a predetermined result. First a statistic is created, oftentimes via a survey. The first problem with this methodology is that surveys rely on answers given from individuals and there is no way to know whether or not the people being surveyed are being truthful. The second problem is that survey questions can be worded in such a way as to all but guarantee a desired result. Once the results from the survey have been published then other researchers often take them and use them inappropriately to make whatever point they want, which is what happened in the case of the CDC and UT. Finally, you have a bunch of people making arguments based on those questionable statistics used erroneously by organizations that share their agenda.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 5th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Dangers of Insecure Internal Networks

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It’s fairly well known that internally telephone networks operate on an insecure protocol called Signaling System 7 (SS7). How insecure is SS7? It has no mechanism for authentication so anybody able to access a network using SS7 can manipulate it. As you can imagine, gaining access to a global network that has no real authentication mechanism isn’t terribly difficult.

Security researchers have been warning about the dangers of SS7 for ages now but the telecom industry has shown little motivation to transition away from the insecure protocol. Now there is a Tor hidden service that claims to sell the ability to track individual phones using the SS7 protocol:

For years, experts have warned of vulnerabilities in the network that routes phone calls and cellular service — but those attacks may be more widespread than anyone realized. For more than a year, a Tor Hidden Service has been offering ongoing access to telecom’s private SS7 network for as little as $500 a month. Combined with known vulnerabilities, that access could be used to intercept texts, track the location of an individual phone, or cut off cellular service entirely.

Accessible on Tor at zkkc7e5rwvs4bpxm.onion, the “Interconnector” service offers a variety of services charged as monthly fees, including $250 to intercept calls or texts, $500 for full access, or $150 for cellphone reports (including location data and IMSI numbers). Well-heeled users can even pay $5,500 for direct access to the SS7 port, billed as “everything you need to start your own service.”

I checked the hidden service address and it appears that the site either went darker or never had much in the way of public information. Now it only lists an XMPP address to contact. However, while the service may or may not actually provide what it claims, the fact that it technically could offer such services should give people cause for concern.

SS7 is another example of the insecure legacy protocol that operates critical infrastructure. Considering the number of these legacy protocols being used to operate critical infrastructure, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more stores like this one.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 14th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Evils of the Drug War

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The war on unapproved drugs may be one of the most evil acts being carried out here in the United States. It took an entirely voluntary activity, introducing chemicals into one’s own body, and turn it into an excuse for unprecedented levels of expropriation and criminal activity by agents of the State.

Using the drug war as justification, police have stolen cars, cash, and other property as well as sexually assaulted a practically uncountable number of victims. Their victims include the elderly, disabled, and even children:

But now, a lawsuit filed on behalf of several students and seeking class-action status for all of them makes some far more disturbing allegations:

a) Deputies ordered students to stand facing the wall with their hands and legs spread wide apart;

b) Deputies touched and manipulated students’ breasts and genitals;

c) Deputies inserted fingers inside girls’ bras, and pulled up girls’ bras, touching and partially exposing their bare breasts;

d) Deputies touched girls’ underwear by placing hands inside the waistbands of their pants or reaching up their dresses;

e) Deputies touched girls’ vaginal areas through their underwear;

f) Deputies cupped or groped boys’ genitals and touched their buttocks through their pants.

[…]

According to the lawsuit, the deputies had a list of 13 suspected students. Three of them were in school that day. For that, they searched 900 students. (And, let’s just point out again, found nothing. In a school of 900.)

If several adults went into a school and sexually assaulted 900 children most people wouldn’t even wait for a trial, they would grab the pitchforks and torches. But when the adults are wearing badges the behavior is suddenly seen as excusable in many people’s eyes. Oftentimes when officers commit such heinous crimes they receive no punishment, which encourages more wicked people to seek a job in law enforcement.

I’m hoping this lawsuit results in the involved officers being jailed. Even if the accusations of sexual assault are unfounded (which, considering the actions performed by officers in the pursuit of unapproved drugs, seems unlikely) the officers violated the privacy of 887 students (they only had a list of 13 suspected students) by searching them without any reason whatsoever.

You are Responsible for Your Own Anonymity

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Reality Leigh Winner (who, despite her name, was not a winner in reality) is currently sitting in a cage for the crime of leaking classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents. Unlike Edward Snowden, Reality didn’t purposely go public. But she made a series of major mistakes that allowed the NSA to identify her after she leaked the documents. Her first mistake was using a work computer to communicate with The Intercept:

Investigators then determined that Ms Winner was one of only six people to have printed the document. Examination of her email on her desk computer further revealed that she had exchanged emails with the news outlet, the indictment said.

By using a work computer to communicate with The Intercept, she made hard evidence against her easily available to her employer.

Her second mistake was physically printing the documents:

When reporters at The Intercept approached the National Security Agency on June 1 to confirm a document that had been anonymously leaked to the publication in May, they handed over a copy of the document to the NSA to verify its authenticity. When they did so, the Intercept team inadvertently exposed its source because the copy showed fold marks that indicated it had been printed—and it included encoded watermarking that revealed exactly when it had been printed and on what printer.

Most major printer manufacturers watermark any pages printed by their printers. The watermarks identify which printer printed the document. In addition to the physical printer, the watermark on the document posted by The Intercept also included a timestamp of when the document was printed.

Reality’s third mistake was trusting a third-party to guard her anonymity. Because of The Intercept’s history of working with leakers it’s easy to assume that the organization takes precautions to guard the identities of its sources. However, a single mistake, posting the printed document without editing out the watermark, gave the NSA enough evidence to narrow down who the leaker could be.

The lesson to be learned from this is that you alone are responsible for maintaining your anonymity. If you’re leaking classified materials you need to do so in a way that even the individual or organization you’re leaking them to is unable to identify you.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 7th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Choosing the Easy Battles

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As an outside observer, when both the alt-right and antifa tout their magnificent triumphs on the battlefield of Berkeley you realize something. Both groups have pursued easy fights instead of hard fights. In this article an individual who considers themselves a leftist performs a bit of introspection and notes that his team has a tendency of choosing battles that can be easily won over the hard battles that need to be won:

Incidents like the black bloc protests at Berkeley or the punching of Richard Spencer grant people license to overestimate the current potential of violent resistance. Hey, Spencer got punched; never mind that the Trump administration reinstituted the global gag rule on abortion the next day. Hey, Milo’s talk got canceled; never mind that the relentless effort to deport thousands, a bipartisan effort for which the Obama administration deserves considerable blame, went on without a hitch. Better to make yet another meme out of Spencer getting hit than to attempt to confront the full horror of our current predicament.

[…]

But consider the claim that he was going to out an undocumented student during his visit to campus. Who really threatened that student? Yiannopoulos, or the uniformed authorities who would have actually carried out the actual violent application of state force? (It is entirely unclear to me why Yiannopoulos would not have simply shared that information with ICE after his appearance was shut down anyway. Does Milo not own a cellphone?) Again, the same dynamic: Yiannopoulos’s followers seem punchable, subject to the application of a level of force that we imagine we can bring to bear. ICE doesn’t. The forces of state violence, I assure you, are perfectly capable of rolling right over the most passionate antifas. It turns out you can’t punch an MRAP or a Predator drone.

[…]

It’s become a cliché, at this point, but it’s still a powerful image: the man who searches for his keys at night not where he lost them but next to a lamp post, because that’s where he has light to look. That’s what I think about when I see the left fixating on these things, a political movement that is so desperate for good news that it’s willing to lie to itself to find it.

The author’s criticism is equally applicable to libertarians as it is to his fellow leftists. Wars have been fought over lesser tyrannies than we suffer today but most libertarians can’t even bring themselves to perform a little unlawful commerce to withhold their resources from the parasite known as government. And I understand why. Talking to people about ending the Federal Reserve is easy. There are few consequences for doing so. Likewise, voting for politicians who promise to audit the federal reserve has few consequences. Performing a little unlawful commerce for the express purpose of avoiding taxes? That can have real consequences. And when those consequences befall a libertarian they’re unlikely to win their court case. Talking about evil is an easy battle, taking action against evil is a difficult battle.

Much like the leftists though, if libertarians continue favoring the easy fights over the hard fights they will have an abundance of pats on the back but nothing real to show for their efforts.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 2nd, 2017 at 10:30 am