People often split surveillance into public and private. Public surveillance is perform directly by the State and is headed by agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Private surveillance is performed by corporations such as Harris Corporation, Facebook, and AT&T. Some libertarians and neoconservatives like to express a great deal of concern over the former because it’s being performed by the State but are mostly accepting of the latter because they believe private entities should be free to do as they please. However, the divide between public and private surveillance isn’t so clean cut. Private surveillance can become public surveillance with a simple court order. Even worse though is that private surveillance often voluntarily becomes public surveillance for a price:
Investigators long suspected Charles Merritt in the family’s disappearance, interviewing him days after they went missing. Merritt was McStay’s business partner and the last person known to see him alive. Merritt had also borrowed $30,000 from McStay to cover a gambling debt, a mutual business partner told police. None of it was enough to make an arrest.
Even after the gravesite was discovered and McStay’s DNA was found inside Merritt’s vehicle, police were far from pinning the quadruple homicide on him.
Until they turned to Project Hemisphere.
Hemisphere is a secretive program run by AT&T that searches trillions of call records and analyzes cellular data to determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.
n 2013, Hemisphere was revealed by The New York Times and described only within a Powerpoint presentation made by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Times described it as a “partnership” between AT&T and the U.S. government; the Justice Department said it was an essential, and prudently deployed, counter-narcotics tool.
Before you decide to switch from AT&T to Verizon it’s important to note that every major cellular provider likely has a similar program but they haven’t been caught yet. We know, for example, that Sprint has a web portal to make law enforcement access to customer data quick and easy and Verizon has a dedicated team for providing customer information to law enforcers. Those are likely just the tips of the icebergs though because providing surveillance services to the State is lucrative and most large companies are likely unwilling to leave that kind of money on the table.
At one time I made a distinction between public in private surveillance insofar as to note that private surveillance doesn’t lead to men with guns kicking down my door at oh dark thirty. It was an admittedly naive attitude because it didn’t figure how private surveillance becomes public surveillance into the equation. Now I make no distinction because realistically there isn’t a distinction and other libertarians should stop making the distinction as well (neoconservatives should also stop making the distinction but most of them are beyond my ability to help).
Hoping everybody will forgive it for the R51 fiasco, Remington has unveiled two newly designed handguns, the RP9 and RP45.
The RP9 and RP45 are Remington’s entry into the striker fired polymer framed handgun market. Here are two renders borrowed from the linked Firearm Blog post. Tell me if you notice anything.
Remington appears to be worried that users of its RP9 and RP45 pistols will forget who made it because the company’s branding appears to cover every single available surface. Big Remington logo on both sides of the grip? Check. A big Remington logo on the right side of the slide? Check. The word Remington on the left side of the slide? Check. Even the magazine floor plats have the Remington logo imprinted into them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they engraved the word Remington on the inside of the slide as well.
Compare the RP9 and RP45 to either a Glock or Smith and Wesson M&P pistol. Glock engraves its logo on the front lefthand of the slide and imprints a small logo on the lefthand side of the grip. Smith and Wesson is slightly more pretentious in that it imprints a small company logo on both sides of the grip and also engraves the company’s name on the righthand side of the slide. Still, the logos aren’t huge and gaudy. Remington, on the other hand, seemed to have some mandate that every available surface must be as covered as possible by either the company name or logo. I’m almost shocked that they didn’t just forego slide serration so more logos could be engraved on the slide.
Gaudy branding is a particular pet peeve of mine. When I was building my AR-15 I actually had a somewhat difficult time finding parts that weren’t covered in the manufacturer’s branding. BCM and Fail Zero (and others whose names escape me at the moment), for example, have their logos printed on the front of their bolt carrier groups (so everybody is sure of what brand of bolt carrier group you’re using when its locked forward).
I get it, companies need to advertise. But if you expect me to be a walking billboard for your company then I want something in return. For example, if a gun manufacturer did something similar to Amazon with its Kindle line where it charges you slightly more to not display ads (which is what company branding is) plastered everywhere on the gun I’d consider paying (or, more likely, going with a less pretentious manufacturer). Or the company could pay me a minute monthly or yearly fee to use the gun I purchased as a billboard.
I greatly appreciate companies that keep their branding on their products to a tasteful minimum.
Do you trust the United States government? Believe it or not, there are fools out there that still do. Unfortunately, many of these fools get suckered into military enslavement (I call it enslavement as opposed to service or employment because an individual who enters the military voluntarily cannot later leave voluntarily and the contract they sign is entirely one sided). Why? For some it’s because they believe the military allows them to serve their country (and that serving a country is noble). For others it’s because they’re out of employment options and need the cash, which is why the State often offers enlistment bonuses. But there is no honor amongst thieves. As the ultimate thief in the territory the United States government is more than happy to demand those enlistment bonuses back:
Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.
Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.
Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.
I guess this is what the United States government means when it speaks of treating soldiers with respect and dignity.
There are two important details worth noting here. First, the obvious. The California National Guard misrepresented the deal to the soldiers signing up yet it is not the entity being punished. Instead of the California National Guard being forced to repay the money it wasn’t authorized to distribute the soldiers who signed up with the understanding that they would receive the enlistment bonus are being required to give it back with interest. This solution seems to be acceptable to the United States government. As always, when the State screws up it’s the people who pay.
Second, and this is where my label of enslavement comes in, the contract the soldiers signed when they joined the California National Guard are apparently very one sided. There are very few ways for a member of the military to change the contract they sign, which includes submitting themselves to an alternative justice system, but the State seems to be able to change the contract for any reason whatsoever. If a member of the military wants more pay they’re shit out of luck. If the State later wants the enlistment bonus it paid a member when they joined it can do so without issue and even charge interest.
The State submits us to continuous propaganda about how solider are heroes and how us mere civilians should treat them as such. But the State prefers us to do as it says, not as it does because it has no issue treating soldiers like shit. Of course, in the long run, this will be detrimental to the State because it will have a more difficult time finding people for its meat grinder and those already getting ground up may turn out to view their employer less favorably. An unhappy military is a less efficient expropriator of foreign wealth than a happy military.
Depending on the circles you hang out in this may be a common scene for you. Last night I witnessed a not uncommon sight in libertarian circles. A group of libertarians were arguing (surprising, I know) about whether income, property, or sales taxes were more moral. The income tax seemed to fall fairly quickly as it was almost universally perceived as a punishment for doing well but the sales and property taxes held on for quite some time.
As I watched this circus unfold I started to think that they were basically arguing about which weapon was more moral for an armed robber to use. Is an armed robbery more moral when the mugger is armed with a gun rather than a knife? Are they more moral if they merely make you think they have a gun by sticking their hand in their pocket in an attempt to make it appear as a gun?
Personally, I can’t think of a weapon that would make an armed robber more moral nor can I think of a tax that would make government expropriation more moral.
Do you want to hear some Bulgarian folk metal? No? Too bad. My blog, my rules.
I spent last night loading ammunition and prepping for an early morning range drip (seriously, nobody is at the range at 8:00 in the morning, try it) instead of writing posts.
I didn’t watch last night’s debate. I’ve already seen enough videos of monkeys flinging feces at each other for a lifetime. But I did find an excellent video that summarizes both candidates’ position on a very important issue:
During his first presidential run, Obama spent a lot of time talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He claimed that he was going to make ending those wars a priority. While he was lying through his teeth it was refreshing to have at least one major candidate opposing war. This year? Both major candidates are war hawks and want to turn Syria into rubble (not because of anything Syria has really done but because it’s a proxy for Russia and old Cold War attitudes die hard). But neither one of them wants to address the fact that the United States is involved in five fucking wars:
In an election flush with conspiracy theories, here’s one that’s real: Both major party nominees, as well as the journalists who cover the election and moderate the debates, are actively conspiring to avoid talking about the fact that the United States is waging war in at least five countries simultaneously: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.
In the first two presidential debates, our involvement in the Syrian civil war was briefly discussed, as was ISIS in vague terms, and the Iran nuclear deal, and Russia’s mischief-making in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and Libya, though mostly in the past tense, focused on our 2011 intervention to depose Moammar Gadhafi and the subsequent attack on American government facilities in Benghazi a year later.
But our role in “advising” the Iraqi army “a few miles behind the front lines” as it works to take back territory from ISIS? Our “secret war” against Shabab militants in Somalia? Our support for Saudi Arabia’s bloody assault on Houthi rebels in Yemen? Our air strikes pounding positions in and around the city of Sirte on the Libyan coast?
Nada. Zip. Nothing.
While Keynesians have wet dreams over all of the economic “stimulus” wars create the only people who benefit are those within the military-industrial complex. Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Blackwater (or whatever the hell they call themselves now), etc. make big dollars on war. People (if you can really call Keynesians people) will also mistakenly point out that construction companies and other rebuilders make big dollars as well. But their ignorance of Bastiat’s broken window fallacy causes them to ignore the fact that those builders would be building newer, better buildings instead of replacing older buildings in an economically prosperous (i.e. not blown to Hell and back by war) region. Furthermore, an economically prosperous region would have goods and services to trade with other regions, which would increase the wealth of both sides. When wars are waged everybody outside of the military-industrial complex gets screwed.
In times of peace wealth is invested in developing new more technologically advanced goods and services. During times of war wealth is diverted to onetime use munitions and rebuilding everything that was blown up. Both sides are diverting wealth that was stolen from their populace into first building bombs, tanks, ships, bunkers, supply lines, surveillance technologies, etc. and then replacing them all when they’re destroyed. It’s an unending cycle of wasted potential.
The United States is already involved in five wars. Getting involved in more wars or throwing more resources into existing wars is only going to increase the amount of wealth wasted on death and destruction. No matter which president wins in November it’s clear that the current wars will not only march on but increase in intensity. This will only worsen the already tedious economic situation the country, and really most of the world, is in. And nobody wants to talk about that. Nobody wants to talk about what is probably the single biggest issue facing the world right now. What is the point of political debates if the important issues aren’t being broached (don’t answer that, it was a rhetorical question)? Where is the choice in an election if both candidates hold the exact same destructive positions on truly important issues (again, this is a rhetorical question)?
Before I end this post I want to address something. I’m sure some very decent human beings are asking themselves why I’m framing this discussion within economics instead of human lives? I’m trying to reach the statists here and as we know statists tend not to value human lives very highly (if they did they wouldn’t be statists). But they never shut up about the economy. I guess a part of me hopes that framing this discussion within economics I might be able to reach one or two of them and convince them to ask why nobody is addressing the issue of war in this election.
George Carlin once said, “And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your fuckin’ retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later ’cause they own this fuckin’ place. It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.”
Social Security is often referred to as a Ponzi scheme and that is a fairly accurate assessment. Ponzi schemes tend to enrich the early participants of the scheme at the expense of the newer participants and the State, which passed the legislation mandating we all participate in this scheme, was certainly enriched while newer participants continue to get screwed harder than the last set of participants. What makes matters worse is that we all realize it. How many people in their 20s and 30s have you heard say “I don’t expect to get anything from Social Security?” Hell, I say it quite frequently. But you know who is benefitting from Social Security? The State.
Since its inception the Social Security Trust Fund has been “invested” in Treasury securities. In other words, the State pulls money from peoples’ supposed retirement accounts and lends it to itself. But its cronies have been wanting to get a piece of the action and, as George Carlin predicted, they’re going to get it.
The State has been unwilling to directly cut its cronies in on the Social Security scheme but it did throw them a bone. The bone was a tax rule that allowed money invested into a sanctioned scheme to be withdrawn from employee paychecks before taxes. This scheme, referred to as 401(k), has two major flaws from the point of view of the State’s cronies. First, it’s decentralized. There is no single mandatory 401(k) account that all employees have to invest in. Second, it is voluntary so many employees didn’t hand their money over to the State’s cronies. A lot of that is likely to change in the near future under President Clinton:
While Hillary Clinton has spent the presidential campaign saying as little as possible about her ties to Wall Street, the executive who some observers say could be her Treasury Secretary has been openly promoting a plan to give financial firms control of hundreds of billions of dollars in retirement savings. The executive is Tony James, president of the Blackstone Group.
It is a plan that proponents say could help millions of Americans — but could also enrich another constituency: the hedge fund and private equity industries that Blackstone dominates and that have donated millions to support Clinton’s presidential bid.
The proposal would require workers and employers to put a percentage of payroll into individual retirement accounts “to be invested well in pooled plans run by professional investment managers,” as James put it. In other words, individual voluntary 401(k)s would be replaced by a single national system, and much of the mandated savings would flow to Wall Street, where companies like Blackstone could earn big fees off the assets. And because of a gap in federal anti-corruption rules, there would be little to prevent the biggest investment contracts from being awarded to the biggest presidential campaign donors.
The “millions of Americans” that proponents are claiming will be helped by this change are the State’s cronies on Wall Street. Me and you? We’ll get fucked on the deal just as we’ve been getting fucked on Social Security. Instead of voluntarily opting to enter into 401(k) we’ll be forced to give money to yet another national retirement scheme. It’ll basically be Social Security II but the money will go to the State’s cronies instead of itself.
Every decree by the State exists to expropriate wealth from the populace. It’s a nice system if you’re either the king or are connected enough to the king to hold a royal title. But it really sucks for us lowly serfs.
Presented at the 2016 International San Francisco Smart Gun Symposium (ironic, considering the city shuttered its last gun shop in 2015), then 18-year-old Kai Kloepfer presented a new handgun design that incorporates a fingerprint reader. Young Mr. Kloepfer is sponsored by angel investor Ron Conway, who’s Smart Tech Challenges Foundation is spending $1.5 million for the development of “firearms safety technology.” Kloepfer is one of about 15 start-ups that Conway is sponsoring.
The design has been in skunk-works for over four years. Kloepfer’s start-up, Biofire, is “just a few months from a live-firing prototype, which assuming it works, will be the first gun to unlock like an iPhone.” This is untrue, as multiple finger-print reader base firearms have existed before, specifically Kodiak Industries with their Intelligun
Needless to say, the Internet gun community is flipping its shit again (in the comments sections of gun sites). A lot of valid criticisms have been made against Kloepfer’s technology. Some of those criticisms are the fact that his prototype isn’t lefthand friendly, people don’t always grip guns in the same way, fingerprint readers aren’t 100 percent reliable, batteries die, etc. I won’t go into detail on those. What I will go into detail on is the fact fingerprint sensors suck for access control.
As far back as 2013 the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) was bypassing Apple’s TouchID by obtaining a photograph of an authorized user’s fingerprint from a glass surface. No big deal, right? After all, somebody would have to find something you touched to lift your fingerprint from to bypass Kloepfer’s authentication system. That would require either breaking into your home or following you around in the hopes that you will touch something that your fingerprint can be reliably lifted from. Of course you also have the fact that in 2014 a member of the CCC was able to replicate a politician’s fingerprint from a photograph. You don’t need to follow somebody around to lift their fingerprint. You can just take a high resolution photograph of their hand when they’re out and about. And unlike Touch ID, which allows you to use any finger for authentication, the position of Kloepfer’s sensor means you know exactly what fingerprint you need to bypass the mechanism.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, fingerprints suck as authentication mechanisms. There are two reasons for this. First, you leave your fingerprints everywhere. Second, if your fingerprints are obtained by somebody you can’t change them.
With that said, I think criticisms against Kloepfer have been unnecessarily harsh. While his product is defective he should receive credit for trying to create something new. I know many gun owners like to scream “Never!” whenever somebody mentions firearm authentication systems but I believe there is a market for such products. Households with small children or mentally disturbed individuals, for example, could benefit from firearms with authentication systems (I know, people should lock up their firearms, but shit happens and having another barrier between a child or mentally disturbed individual and a functional firearm isn’t a bad thing). Kloepfer shouldn’t receive a bunch of hatred for exploring a market. And I say this as somebody who isn’t even in that market (I have no interest in complicating my firearms with access control technology but different strokes for different folks).
This is where some gun owner usually brings up New Jersey’s law that will mandate all firearms sold in the state be equipped with access control mechanisms once the technology is available. In response I will point out that the anger should be directed at the government of New Jersey, not Kloepfer and other people trying to bring access control technology to firearms. They’re building a product that may be useful to people even in the absence of such a law, they didn’t pass the law and aren’t sending goons out to enforce it.
In summary Kloepfer’s technology sucks but he shouldn’t feel bad for developing it. Also, governments suck but that’s more of a summary of this entire blog than this specific post.
Spain is enjoying a window of economic prosperity. This prosperity coincides with the fact the nation hasn’t had a functioning federal government for 300 days now:
MADRID — Spain is about to pass 300 days without a government. But guess what? Few Spaniards seem bothered by that as the country’s economy roars ahead.
Spanish cities are boasting of packed cafes and restaurants, thriving fashion shops and art galleries, plenty of tourists. The overall impression is of a bustling, vibrant country.
So who needs a government?
“I’m not especially worried about it,” said retiree Goyito de Camacho. “I see it on the TV and in the papers but (politicians) are all the same. They’re all scum who don’t care about the people.”
Two inconclusive elections on Dec. 20 and June 26 have left the conservative Popular Party running a caretaker government for the past nine months _ Saturday will be its 300th day. The party won both elections but lacked a majority and now has until Oct. 31 to muster support to form a minority government or Spain will face a third election.
I’m not saying that the economic prosperity is being caused by almost a year without a federal government but I am saying that not having a federal government is an experiment worth trying, especially in this time of economic turmoil. I believe it would be prudent to cancel this year’s election and put the federal government into caretaker mode for a few years so we could see how its absence impacts the economy.
If Spain’s economic boost is being caused by the lack of a federal government there’s no reason the United States shouldn’t enjoy the same. And even if the United States doesn’t enjoy a similar economic boost, canceling the election would really reduce a lot of people’s stress levels. Since stress is detrimental to health we could consider canceling the election a healthcare initiative as well as an economic one.