A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for November, 2011

Apparently if Ron Paul Wins the Republican Nomination It’ll be Blamed on Evil Hackers

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I’ve always through Thom Hartman was an idiot and a shill but he really putting his dickery into overdrive this time:

Today we learned that our democracy could be hacked by an eighth grader with 26 bucks.

That’s what a security assessment team with the US Department of Energy discovered when they successfully hacked into a Diebold electronic voting machine – and were able to change voting results without leaving a trace behind.

[…]

And today – with the rise of hack-activist groups like Anonymous – this gaping hole in the security of our elections – could be exploited for absurd purposes.

We’ve already seen what Anonymous is capable of – from taking down government websites in Tunisia – Egypt – Libya – Syria – and Bahrain – to hacking into emails belong to the security firm HB Gary Federal – to taking on Bank of America – to organizing mass protests against San Francisco’s transportation system – to most recently uncovering the identity of a New York City cop who maced women on Wall Street and posting his name, address, and family members on the web – and the list really goes on and on and on.

So imagine – if they and other hackers coordinated together to hack into voting machines nationwide – and skew the voting results of, say, the Republican Party Primaries coming up in a couple of months.

Suddenly – Libertarian hero Ron Paul might be the guy to take on President Obama.

Emphasis mine. Apparently Thom believes the only way Ron Paul can get the nomination is if evil hackers circumvent our democracy and use security holes in electronic voting machines to rig the results. Is Thom trying to start a meme to throw out election results if Ron Paul wins because it could only happen if hackers rigged the vote?

I guess Dr. Paul couldn’t get the nomination simply by being the only candidate with a brain. With that said everybody is well aware of the fact that these voting machines are vulnerable to attack and that is why many of us had opposed their adoption.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 23rd, 2011 at 11:30 am

The Five Stages of Political Grief

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I’m rather glad many of my friends are finally waking up to the fact that politicians lie. It’s somewhat sad to watch the vicious and painful transition one has to make when they go from believing their “representatives” have the best intentions of their constituents in mind to knowing said “representatives” have only their own self-interset in mind. This fact has become apparent with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which Al Franken (former hero of my friends for his support of net neutrality) and Amy Klobuchar (I have no idea what anybody every liked her) are cosponsors of.

At this point I would say many of my friends are experiencing one of the five stages of grief. Some are still in denial, trying to convince themselves that this is a mistake and that both senators will revoke their cosponsorship one they receive an e-mail or letter explaining what SOPA really is. Other friends are in the stage of anger, they demand to know what justification either senator has to supporting this bill. A few are at the stage of bargaining, hoping they can offer the senators something in exchange for revocation of their sponsorship of the bill. Just a couple of my friends have progressed for the fourth stage of depression, they are finally realized that their elected “representatives” care not at all for their constituency. I would put myself at the stage of acceptance as I know our “representatives” don’t care about anybody but themselves and honestly I don’t really care anymore. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) I never had to transcend the five stages of grief in regards to my political views because I never really believed politicians existed for any reason other than fucking us all over to get what they want. Due to this fact I can’t offer my friends any help of advice to make their transcendence through the stages of grief any easier.

I can offer some small advice to those currently in the bargaining stage. You may believe Franken and Klobuchar care about your vote but ultimately they do not. This is because one vote has never turned an election and they have legions of loyal suckers willing to reelect them next year. Both senators also enjoy the state of being incumbents and we all know incumbents enjoy a very high chance of reelection unless they’ve done something incredibly despicable (think personally scandalous, not fucking over their constituency by voting for bad legislation since few voters keep track of such things). While you offer your vote your competition, those supporting SOPA, are offering massive campaign contributions and the promise of plush, well-paying lobbyist jobs when the senators exit politics. In a very real sense one side is offering nothing at all while the other is offering untold riches and power.

I’m sorry many of you have to wakeup to this fact the hard way. Having your entire world view smashed is never easy but I can say for certainty, as somebody who has accepted the situation for what it is, that things get better. Once you realize you’re being fucked over and learn how you’re being fucked over your attitude improves greatly. There is something uplifting about simply having this knowledge.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 23rd, 2011 at 11:00 am

Oracle Submits One of the Dumbest Court Filings Ever Conceived

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Oracle is a company I hold no love for. Their products never impressed me (probably because I have no need for a proprietary high-end database system) and I hate what they ended up doing with the products and services they obtained from the Sun Microsystems acquisition. Yet Oracles latest court filing really takes the cake:

Hewlett-Packard has secretly contracted with Intel to keep making Itanium processors so that HP can maintain the appearance that “a dead microprocessor is still alive”, and make money from its locked-in Itanium customer base and take business away from Oracle’s Sun servers, Oracle said in a court filing on Friday.

That’s right, Oracle is throwing a hissy fit because they believe Hewlett-Packard (HP) are secretly floating money to Intel in order to keep the Itanium processo alive. My questions is this: who fucking cares? When one company gives another money in trade for a good or service that is called a transaction. As these transactions are agreements made between two entities neither is obligated to reveal the details to anybody else.

Why is Oracle wasting taxpayer money by bring up the fact HP and Intel do business in court? This isn’t a secret, anybody with an HP computer knows this as it’s advertised by a sticker on the computer that says, “Intel Inside.” If HP is paying Intel money to continue production of the Itanium processor what does it matter? What justification is there for bringing up this fact in court?

Tactics to destroy competition like this is one of the many things wrong with the United States economic system. Were the state controlled courts willing to simply toss this type of stupidity out the door money would be saved but businesses throughout the country and that money could be put to productive use. Instead our economy is so intermingled with government that you can’t make a single move without filling out the correct form in triplicate and getting the expensive rubber stamp of approval. Our court system needs to stop being a mechanism for companies to destroy competition through monetary attrition.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 23rd, 2011 at 10:30 am

They Said I Could Be Anything

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Written by Christopher Burg

November 23rd, 2011 at 10:00 am

One Major Kindle Headache

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While I absolutely love the Kindle there is one improvement I would like to see, a way of copy and pasting a WPA key. I’m a little over the top when it comes to computer security so you know I’m one of those weirdos who uses a 63-character gibberish string for my WPA key. Needless to say this is a huge pain in the ass to enter when I want to attach my Kindle to my wireless network. With my iPhone and iPad I can simply e-mail the key to myself (as I run my own e-mail server the e-mail goes from my system to my system and thus never leaves my control), copy the key from the e-mail, and paste it in the wireless configuration screen on the device.

I wish Amazon would put in an easy workaround such as letting the user drop a plain text file containing their key in the root directory of the device. Anything would be better than having to enter in 63-characters of gibberish. With all of that said it is much easier to type in the key with the new touch screen Kindle than it was with the old Kindles.

Besides that the Kindle Touch is pretty awesome. I’ll eventually get a full review of the device up that better expresses my thoughts.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 22nd, 2011 at 11:30 am

Cell Phones are the Greatest Spy Devices Ever Invented

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Cell phones are one of the greatest double edged swords human being have ever invented. They’re incredibly convenient communication devices that not only allow the possessor to make and receive phone calls but also send and receive e-mails, text messages, instant messages from various services, and almost any other data communication you can think of. Due to the amount of personal information we put into these devices they also make the greatest spy gadgets ever invented as they have a microphone, list of contacts, your recent e-mail messages, your current and previous locations, and other similar types of data. Because of the latter rootkits installed on phones are far more dangerous than those installed on personal computers, which is why this is unnerving news to say the least:

You may recall from a few articles back that we started talking about something called CIQ or Carrier iQ. This is, essentially, a piece of software that is embedded into most mobile devices, not just Android but Nokia, Blackberry, and likely many more. According to TrevE, the software is installed as a rootkit software in the RAM of devices where it resides. This software basically is completely hidden from view and in it virtually invisible, and worst of all, rather complicated to kill (some devices more so than others and you will see why in a few minutes). This is given root like rights over the device, which means that it can do everything it pleases and you will have nothing to say about it.

Why do we go into this? Well, a while back I was having some conversations back and forth with TrevE regarding all the HTC’s PoCs that he has been working on, and he started wondering about CIQ, as according to him, was one of the worst things that he had found in HTC’s code. So, he decided to start digging a little into this and found out that there is much more to be said regarding this software than even manufacturers will dare say. It turns out that CIQ is not exactly what many people don’t see (as it is hidden), but it is rather a very useful tool for system and network administrators. The tools is used to provide feedback and relevant data on several metrics that can help one of the aforementioned admins to troubleshoot and improve system and network performance. Point and case, the app seems to run in such a way that it allows the user to provide the input needed via surveys and other things. To put things in a more visual way, this is what CIQ should look like

Carrier iQ is likely one of the most dangerous pieces of software in common use today. I do understand the great amount of benefit it gives to cellular providers but we all know anything accessible by said providers can also be access by the government, often without so much as a court order.

There is a second article that brings up some of the implications of this software being installed on many cell phones. To call such software a violation of privacy being too nice, it literally allows third parties to spy on your every move and potentially listen in to your conversations. Smart criminals would have abandoned cellular phones while performing their ill-deeds long ago but intelligent people never follow the mantra of, “if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear” in regards to potential surveillance.

It doesn’t look as though there is much that can be done about Carrier iQ without giving up the convenience of smart phones. Still it is smart to be aware of this technology so you can make the decision of what is more important; have the ability to communicate almost anywhere or a stronger guarantee of privacy.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 22nd, 2011 at 11:00 am

The Need for Decriminalization

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I’m sure most people who read the headline assume this post will be about decriminalizing marijuana. That’s not the case specifically, this post is actually about decriminalizing the average American. Wendy McElroy, one of my favorite regular contributors to Mises Daily, wrote a great piece describing the injustice of our so-called justice system. The primary failure of what we call a justice system is the fact that everything today is treated as a criminal offense deserving of jail time:

Between 2.3m and 2.4m Americans are behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults. If those on parole or probation are included, one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As a proportion of its total population, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan.

By contrast, in 1970, less than one in 400 Americans was incarcerated. Why has the prison population more than quadrupled over a few decades? Why are you, as an average person and daily felon, more vulnerable to arrest than at any other time?

Between 1970 and 2010 our country somehow leaped from having one in 400 Americans incarcerated to having one in 31 Americans incarcerated. Between those time periods a similar increase in violent crime isn’t noted so what is the cause? The cause is obvious, the government has continued making mundane behavior criminal:

In some cases, the violated laws are so obscure, vague, or complicated in language that even the police are ignorant of them. In other cases, outright innocence is not sufficient to escape the brutality of detention.

Under English Common Law, which our system was at one time based off of, it was fairly easy for a person to know whether or not they were committing a criminal act. Today you are likely committing three felony level crimes every day and don’t even realize it. Such facts should be disgusting to anybody but the most authoritarian individuals. What kinds of behavior can incite armed government agents kidnapping you and throwing you in a cage? The article gives a couple of downright scary examples:

In 2005, while a passenger in his family car, Anthony W. Florence was mistakenly arrested for a bench warrant on traffic tickets he had already satisfied; the proof of payment he carried was to no avail. During seven days in jail, Florence was strip-searched twice, even though the guards admitted they had no reasonable suspicion of contraband. He was otherwise deprived of rights; for example, guards watched him shower and forced him to undergo a routine delousing.[1]

Eventually released, the attempt to get justice has taken Florence years. On October 12, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Florence v. Burlington, et al., in which the question is “whether the Fourth Amendment permits a jail to conduct a suspicionless strip search of every individual arrested for any minor offense no matter what the circumstances.”[2]

Even though Florence had paid his traffic ticket and had proof of the payment he was arrested, detained, and forced to submit to acts supposedly reserved for criminals. In this case the whole idea of being innocent until proven guilty was tossed aside, which is becoming the default instead of the exception (when it should never be the case). Another example is given:

Norris was detained for four hours while they ransacked his home and confiscated 37 boxes of possessions without offering a warrant or an explanation. In March 2004, Norris was indicted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species for “smuggling” the orchids he had ordered and paid for to run a side business. Norris was thrown into the same cell as a suspected murder and two suspected drug dealers.[3]

Violations of trade conventions should, at most, be considered civil cases. That is to say the violator should be fined and nothing more. Why? Because somebody guilty of smuggling, unless what they’re smuggling are human beings, is a victimless crime. While I find the act of incarceration an improper response to any crime as it doesn’t help return to the victim what was taken, at the very least it should be reserved for offenses where a victim has been inflicted with some form of violence.

Smuggling a plant does not bring harm to another person so why should it inflict violence on the offender? A third example is given to further express the severity of the situation:

In 2000, a poor kid from foster care named T.J. Hill thought he had found a path to success when he received a wrestling scholarship to Cal State Fullerton. School did not work out, and he was arrested in 2006 for possession of psilocybin (mushrooms).

The kid was put on probation but his troubles were not over:

In November 2008, he left the state and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Although the original charge was minor and no further illegal activity occurred, T.J. was jailed on $100,000 bail to prevent flight risk. His family has spent thousands on legal fees. Now well known for his volunteer work with children, even police officers are hoping T.J. escapes more jail time. As one of them said, “He’s a good guy. He’s changed lives.” Whether he will be allowed to continue doing so or will become dehumanized through a senseless, brutal imprisonment waits to be seen.

Even though his offense was victimless he spent time in jail. Why was his right to travel restricted for the mere act of possessing a verboten substance? Why did his parents have to pay thousands in legal fees to defend their child against a crime where no victim existed? Once again the possession of a verboten substance should, at most, be treated as a civil offense punishable by fine (although I firmly believe what you put into your body is your business and possession and/or consumption of a verboten substance shouldn’t be punishable in any regard).

These are only three examples in a sea of such cases. What is needed to a reform of our erroneously labeled justice system. We need to go from a system designed to exact punishment on the average person to a system where victims are properly compensated by their aggressor and crimes without victims no longer be considered crimes:

Libertarianism has evolved sophisticated theories of what constitutes a proper justice system and how to implement it. One of the most popular theories is based on restitution, rather than retribution or punishment. Restitution is the legal system in which a person “makes good” on a harm or wrong done to another individual and does so directly; if you steal $100, then you pay back $100 and reasonable damages directly to the victim of your theft. You do not pay a debt to society or to the state by going to prison. You do not undergo “punishment” other than the damages assessed. You make your victim “whole” — and, perhaps, a bit more for his trouble.

The article describes several steps in the correct direction, one of which I believe needs emphasis:

A sunset provision attached to all new or amended laws. This is a clause that provides an expiration date for a law unless action is taken to renew it. Today most laws are in effect indefinitely.

One of, if not the, biggest problem with our current justice system is the insurmountable number of laws and regulations on the books. Lawmakers have no quarrel with passing new laws or regulations as they never have to deal with the consequences nor concern themselves with the aftermath. If each law had to be revisited periodically (I would say put the span of time at one year or less) and have its continued existence justified by debate after the consequences had been noted I believe the number of laws on the books would be greatly reduced. If for no other reason than the fact lawmakers would have no time to create new laws if they were constantly debating renewal of existing laws.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 22nd, 2011 at 10:30 am

Abraham Lincoln was a Prick

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Somebody is probably going to call me a racist for saying President Lincoln was an asshole but anybody with even a small amount of knowledge regarding the events that lead to the Civil War knows Lincoln didn’t give two shits about freeing the slaves. The only thing Lincoln cared about was making the states respect his authoritah which is noted by his rather sick way of telling Maryland to get with the program or face annihilation:

Lieutenant-General Scott

MY DEAR SIR: The Maryland legislature assembles to-morrow at Annapolis, and not improbably will take action to arm the people of that State against the United States. The question has been submitted to and considered by me whether it would not be justifiable, upon the ground of necessary defense, for you, as General in Chief of the United States Army, to arrest or disperse the members of that body. I think it would not be justifiable nor efficient for the desired object.

First. They have a clearly legal right to assemble, and we can not know in advance that their action will not be lawful and peaceful, and if we wait until they shall have acted their arrest or dispersion will not lessen the effect of their action.

Secondly. We can not permanently prevent their action. If we arrest them, we can not long hold them as prisoners, and when liberated they will immediately reassemble and take their action; and precisely the same if we simply disperse them–they will immediately reassemble in some other place.

I therefore conclude that it is only left to the Commanding General to watch and await their action, which, if it shall be to arm their people against the United States, he is to adopt the most prompt and efficient means to counteract, even, if necessary, to the bombardment of their cities and, in the extremest necessity, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Your obedient servant,

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

Emphasis mine. It’s pretty ballsy, even today, for a president to openly say, “Do as I say or face bombardment of your cities. Also fuck habeas corpus, I’m not dealing with pesky little things like the rule of law.” Remember that Maryland hadn’t seceded from the Union at this point (and ultimately never did) yet the President threatened to bombard their cities anyways. It’s usually considered bad taste to threaten violence against those who haven’t actually initiated violence against you yet (and in the case of secession no violence was ever initiated until the North decided to declare bloody war agains the South).

This executive order clearly displays that Lincoln was on a power trip while he was in office and cared more about authority than anything else, including the lives of American people. His threat didn’t imply the capture or assassination of Maryland government officials but indiscriminate bombarding of Maryland cities.

I also find it disturbing that Lincoln signed a letter threatening to kill people of Maryland with, “Your obedient servant.” A property ending to the letter would have been, “Your lord and master.” If you’re going to be a tyrannical asshole you should at least be honest about it.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 22nd, 2011 at 10:00 am

A Disgusting Use of Force

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I’m sure most of you have seen the video of the police officer pepper spraying a group of peaceful protesters at the University of California Davis:

As is usual when an officer is caught doing something naughty this officer has been put on leave and will likely resume his duties after this entire mess has blown over.

The divide between those who support and oppose the occupy movement is great and I’ve seen many of those in opposition saying the protesters got what was coming to them. To that I say bullshit. Whether you agree, disagree, or simply don’t care about the occupy movement it should be appalling to you that police officers would use force on non-violent protesters. These protesters were literally sitting with arms linked while the police decided it would be justified to first induce pain and then remove the offending individuals. Such gross displays of power make me sick.

The Constitution of the United States specifically declares the right of the people to peaceably assemble. Much of the time I spent writing has been directed at the Second Amendment but I believe all rights ascribed in the Bill of Rights must be equally defended. The University of California Davis is public property and the students were exercising their right to peaceably assemble. There is no excuse for the use of pepper spray in this instance yet here it is, and what makes me even more sick is that people are laughing about it. Somebody made an picture that perfectly described this scene:

That picture perfectly demonstrates the fact that pepper spraying non-violent individuals violates everything this country was founded on. It shouldn’t matter if you disagree with the occupiers, I disagree with a huge number of them myself, the actions taken by the officer should be appalling to any decent human being. Had the police simply arrested the protesters that would have been one thing but to actively enact pain upon them while the protesters themselves were enacting no pain on others is an escalation of force. Were I to do something similar to protesters on my property I’d likely be prosecuted.

When members of the occupy movement say something you disagree with then by all means speak out and explain why their statement is wrong. Many members of the occupy movement have advocating violence with such statements as expressing a desire to bring back the guillotine and those people should certainly be shouted down. Yet we must also realize that the First Amendment was put into place to protect unpopular speech as popular speech is in no need of protection.

Those who express a desire to protect the rights supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution should put aside their philosophical difference in this regard and contest the actions of police officers using force against those exercising their rights. Large number of occupiers are misguided but they still deserve equal rights under the law.

Research Like This Frightens Me

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Bruce Schneier posted a worrisome piece about new research claiming psychopaths can be detected based on their speech:

The researchers interviewed 52 convicted murderers, 14 of them ranked as psychopaths according to the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, a 20-item assessment, and asked them to describe their crimes in detail. Using computer programs to analyze what the men said, the researchers found that those with psychopathic scores showed a lack of emotion, spoke in terms of cause-and-effect when describing their crimes, and focused their attention on basic needs, such as food, drink and money.

[…]

To examine the emotional content of the murderers’ speech, Hancock and his colleagues looked at a number of factors, including how frequently they described their crimes using the past tense. The use of the past tense can be an indicator of psychological detachment, and the researchers found that the psychopaths used it more than the present tense when compared with the nonpsychopaths. They also found more dysfluencies — the “uhs” and “ums” that interrupt speech — among psychopaths. Nearly universal in speech, dysfluencies indicate that the speaker needs some time to think about what they are saying.

So psychopaths have a tendency to be accurate in their speech? I don’t know about you but I almost exclusively talk bout past events using the past tense. When I say I traveled to Las Vegas for Defcon I dont state it as, “I’m going to Las Vegas for Defcon.” or, “I’m at Las Vegas for Defcon.” To me talking about past events in the present or future tense is a little more concerning than using the correct past tense.

On top of that I know a great number of people who constantly use dysfluencies in their speech and they certainly do not fit the description of being psychopaths. Using criteria like this would label a huge number of people and myself as psychopaths.

I’m not sure what the goal of this research is but if it’s detecting psychopaths then I guarantee a great number of false positives are going to be generated. I would also like to point out the fact that this research was performed on a very small sample size (52) and nothing stated in the article leads me to believe any real control group was used for comparison. This has all the red flags of a research projects done to acquire government grants by delivering results the state desires.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 21st, 2011 at 11:30 am