Archive for December, 2013
Today is one of those days that ends in a “y”. That must mean the National Security Agency (NSA) is doing something dickish again. The NSA has been intercepting electronic devices during delivery to install malware on them:
Take, for example, when they intercept shipping deliveries. If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called “load stations,” agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer.
These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the “most productive operations” conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks “around the world.”
Even in the Internet Age, some traditional spying methods continue to live on.
There are no words to describe the absolute insanity that is the NSA. What’s even worse is that many people are perfectly fine with the surveillance apparatus it has established. A lot of people have actually fallen for the “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” line. Fortunately the NSA’s actions have garnered more disapproval overseas. But that disapproval is unlikely to accomplish much.
At this point it’s pretty obvious that proprietary platforms are a liability. With a completely open platform one has the ability to verify if any additional hardware has been added to a device or if the software has been modified in any way. That’s not to say open platforms are a magic bullet, but they do offer the ability to more closely scrutinize the hardware and software while adding a way to verify if alternations have been made. Without our reliance on closed platforms we lack this ability entirely.
Michael Bloomberg is one his way out so it’s not surprising to see one last hurrah coming from his administration. In one of its final acts the Bloomberg administration has brought a lawsuit against FexEx because the company supposedly delivered cigarettes to New York City denizens:
New York City has sued FedEx Corp, accusing the package delivery company of illegally delivering millions of contraband cigarettes to people’s homes, violating a 2006 settlement.
Monday’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan and seeks $52 million of civil fines and unpaid taxes from FedEx, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee.
It marks one of the last acts by the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose more than decade-old campaign to ban smoking in various public and private places has been credited with saving thousands of lives and become a blueprint for other cities.
There’s no way of reforming New York City. I think we’ll have to wait for it to go the way of Detroit before the city’s all powerful mayoral administration is toppled.
I love stereotypes. Kevin at The Smallest Minority posted a great quote posted by somebody who doesn’t judge books by their cover:
(A)s soon as I learn that someone owns a gun, and is pro-gun ownership without heavy regulations, I totally judge them to be uneducated and conservative. Responsible or not, having a gun comes with a mentality of thinking it is ok to buy a killing device. I am happy to do that, because I have yet to meet an intelligent, well educated person who is pro-guns in real life.
The problem with stereotypes is that they suck for making accurate assessments of people. For example, I consider myself a dirty leftist liberal because, as an anarchist, I favor radical change. While I don’t consider myself terribly educated my friends and acquaintances have described me as such. For the purpose of this post I will defer to their opinions since the topic at hand is how one individual judges other individuals. As other seem to believe I’m intelligent I effectively smash the stereotype held by the person quoted above.
As a gun owner I know many fellow gun owners. Most of them are very intelligent people. If I had to stereotype gun owners, which I’m only doing here for the sake of discussion, I would say that they tend to be very practical individuals. What I mean is that the gun owners I know tend to be very good with their hands. If need advice on building something or somebody to build me something I check with my gun owning friends first. Likewise, if I’m having trouble with an automobile, plumbing, wiring, and other practical matters I tend to ask my gun owner friends first. In addition to having a great deal of practical knowledge they usually have a great deal of historical and legal knowledge. I spend a great deal of time discussing history and legal matters with my gun owner friends as those are topics that tend to interest us.
The person quoted above claims that he has never met an intelligent pro-gun person. With his preconception of gun owners I can see why. In all likelihood he disassociates with anybody who is pro-gun in order to maintain his confirmation bias. Unless you’re willing to associate with people who oppose your viewpoint you’re probably never going to get to know them well enough to determine their level of education.
Back in the day you could call a person paranoid when they claimed that the government was spying on everybody. Today, thanks to Edward Snowden, such paranoid has proven to be justified:
And while the NSA story alone undoubtedly gives the “paranoid” plenty of reasons to say “I told you so,” a slew of other reports from this year gave them even more reasons to retreat into the wilderness and start subsistence farming.
For instance, the ACLU released a cache of documents showing that police around the country are collecting license plate scanner information that could be used to track physical locations of many Americans without consistent retention policies.
Speaking of being tracked, an enterprising hacker discovered that the E-Z Pass he used to make paying tolls simpler was being read all around New York City. Turns out, the city had been tracking E-Z Passes for years as a way to measure traffic patterns.
Speaking of technology with obviously exploitable surveillance capabilities: Someone might be watching you through your laptop’s webcam – without even activating the warning light.
Oh, and to top it all off: There was suspicious aerial activity going on at Area 51. Although no admissions of alien activity have emerged, much to John Podesta’s dismay, recently released documents reveal that the CIA tested its first drones at the Nevada military base.
2013, above most other years, has demonstrated how widespread surveillance has become. The Orwellian present we find ourselves in has been made possible through advancing technology. This has lead many people to blame technology and seek a Luddite existence that they believe will keep them safe from surveillance. While technology has made widespread surveillance possible it is also the tool that allows us to fight widespread surveillance.
Cryptography allows us to conceal our communications from prying eyes and even to conceal the source and destination of communications. Tor allows you to access the Internet anonymously (so long as you use it correctly). Tails is a Linux distribution that can be booted from a CD or USB drive that attempts to anonymity all of your online activity. GnuPG allows you to encrypt the contents of your e-mail so those bastards at the National Security Agency (NSA) can’t see what you and your correspondent are discussing. Off-the-Record Messaging does the same thing for instant messages. Many other tools exist that allow you to maintain anonymity and privacy.
The only way to stop the widespread surveillance apparatus of the state and corporations is to use technology to counter their technology. Hiding in a hole may sound effective but the surveillance state can watch you even if you don’t carry a cellular phone, use a computer, or drive a car. Cameras are everywhere in our society and you can’t avoid their soulless stare unless you board yourself up in your home and refuse to come out (and even then your home could be bugged). But we can make the cost of surveillance so high that it bankrupts the spies.
I think the headline of this article explains everything:
Oregon Man Allegedly High On Meth Fights Off 15 Cops While Masturbating
And the headline wasn’t just hype:
Andrew Frey, 37, made a series of outbursts and then began masturbating in Iggy Bar & Grill on Saturday.
Police were unable to subdue Frey with a Taser. It took 15 officers to finally take him into custody.
Frey later told authorities that he took methamphetamine and couldn’t remember the obscene incident, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s office.
This week I feel like playing some German symphonic metal so we’re getting a song by Xandria:
One of the big gun control drums being beaten today, often by both gun control and gun rights advocates, is barring people who have suffered a mental illness from ever possessing firearms. But we know that the state is hypocritical so any law prohibiting those who have suffered a mental illness from possessing a firearm will be a double standard that benefits the state. In fact Pennsylvania just demonstrated that fact:
Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael L. Keyes is in an odd situation.
When on duty, he can carry a gun.
Yet while off duty, he is barred by law from possessing any firearms, because seven years ago he suffered from deep depression, repeatedly tried to kill himself by taking drugs and was involuntarily committed for mental health treatment.
Keyes’ latest attempt to be allowed to have a gun all the time was rejected this week by the state Superior Court.
It’s important to point out that the officer suffered from deep depression. Since depression is something you can overcome, and his freedom from a mental institute indicates he has overcome it, there is no reason he should still be prohibited from owning firearms. But the double standard here is what is most interesting.
Based on this situation I am lead to believe that the state believes that anybody who wears one of its issued costumes is instantly cured from any mental ailment… until they remove that costume. Obviously that’s a ludicrous belief so I’m lead to believe something more logical. In all likelihood the state has no issue with the mentally ill possessing firearms so long as they’re using those firearms to hurt people who disobey its decrees. In fact anybody willing to kick in a random door and shoot a dog because the occupants were accused of possessing a plant is probably suffering from some form of mental illness already.
When you demand that the state prohibit the mentally ill from possessing firearms remember that it will only prohibit the mentally ill outside of its employ from possessing firearms. The state exists on hypocrisy. Its only law is that rules are for thee, not for me. It is the reason politics has never solved a social issues in the history of humanity and never will. Whenever it issues a decree to fix a social issue it always exempts itself from that decree.
Do you want to know something I will never do? This:
MIDDLETOWN, CT (WFSB) – There are only five more days until the new gun laws go into effect for our state, that means a dash to register assault weapons or high capacity magazines.
A long line of people stood outside of the Public Safety Building in Middletown all day Thursday to register firearms.
Specifically, anything the state considers an assault weapon or a high capacity magazine must be registered before Jan. 1, 2014.
Remember all of those warnings to never talk to the cops? Those warnings also apply here. Never volunteer information to police officers. Their job is to expropriate wealth from the general population. Their tool is enforcing the state’s decrees. The only reason the state wants to know what you own is so it can tax or take it. Registering a firearm and magazines is volunteering the fact you own those possession to the police. Later those cops will use that information to either tax or take your registered firearms and magazines because that is their job.
I understand why people are willing to register their firearms and magazines. They believe doing so will protect them, at least for a while, from government harassment. But registration always leads to confiscation or taxation. In the long run what these people in line are doing is telling the state where to round up aesthetically imposing semi-automatic rifles and standard capacity magazines. When the law changes again and makes those objects illegal or taxable the state will know where to find them. It will then send its enforcers, the police, to ensure you comply with the new law at the point of a gun. And if you managed to “lose” those registered firearms and magazines when the state comes knocking you can damn well bet that you will be spending some time in a cage. Meanwhile the people who didn’t go for the state’s carrot will be able to maintain that they own no such firearms or magazines.
We’ve witnessed the Fourth Amendment’s inability to protect privacy with the recent National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance fiasco. But sometimes the state likes to create a good deal of legal justifications for its willful violation of our privacy. North Carolina has found a clever way of searing vehicles while ignore people’s Fourth Amendment privileges (because let’s not kid ourselves, the Bill or Right is now a set of privileges), hire private security officers to do the searching:
Security guard Brett Hunter received no training as to estimating speed or handling drunk drivers, but he was tasked with issuing speeding tickets to people driving through the community. When Hunter saw Weaver’s Acura through his rearview mirror, he guessed that the car was traveling at 25 MPH in a 15 MPH zone. He turned on his flashing lights and forced Weaver to pull over.
“I’m Officer Hunter from Metro Public Safety,” Hunter said as he asked Weaver for his driver’s license.
After noticing slurred speech and other signs of intoxication, Hunter ordered Weaver out of the car to sit on the curb while he called the police. Hunter also wrote an HOA speeding ticket. About ten minutes later, a university police officer arrived, only to realize she lacked jurisdiction. Thirty-five minutes into the traffic stop, a Wilmington Police Detective arrived, confirmed the signs of intoxication and took Weaver into custody for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI),
At trial, New Hanover County Superior Court Judge W. Allen Cobb Jr found the security guard was acting under the authority of the state and therefore was bound to the same reasonable suspicion standard that applies to police officers conducting a traffic stop.
“His show of apparent lawful authority (flashing lights, uniform, badge, and gun) intimidated defendant and made him feel compelled to wait outside his car for 45 minutes until WPD arrived,” Judge Cobb found.
The appellate panel rejected this reasoning, arguing that rental cops are not bound by such restrictions.
“A traffic stop conducted entirely by a nonstate actor is not subject to reasonable suspicion because the Fourth Amendment does not apply,” Judge Rick Elmore wrote for the appellate panel.
The first problem with this case is that the “officer” pulled over the individual for speeding even though he had no equipment to determine the driver’s speed. That alone should have rendered the entire encounter unlawful and got the case thrown out. But it appears that rental cops aren’t abound by the same laws as state cops are. This creates an interesting problem. What would happen if an actual cop had a rental cop ride along during patrols? If the actual cop pulled somebody over and sent the rental cop to deal with the actual encounter would the driver’s Fourth Amendment privileges be rendered irrelevant? Could actual cops send rental cops out to violate people’s so-called rights in other cases? How far can rental cops go?
This ruling is worrisome in that it creates another loophole to get around people’s privacy. And if history is any indicator we know that the state will abuse every single loophole it creates for itself.
Reason put together its five favorite drug scares of 2013. These are real gems because they demonstrate that 99 percent of what we’re told about unpatentable drugs is bullshit. Out of the list my two favorites were the e-cigarette:
Last September the CDC noted with alarm that the percentage of teenagers who had tried electronic cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012. “Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes,” CDC Director Tom Frieden worried. In a Medscape interview a few weeks later, Frieden suggested that fear had already materialized, asserting that “many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes.”
The CDC’s data, which came from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), did not support that claim. In fact, nine out of 10 high school students who reported vaping in the previous month were already cigarette smokers, suggesting that the increase in e-cigarette consumption might signal successful harm reduction. Last month the CDC reported additional NYTS data that further undermine Frieden’s claim, showing that smoking among teenagers fell as vaping rose.
Of course none of this matters because the media will latch onto the fear in the hopes of netting some ratings. Speaking of fear mongering let’s discuss krokodil:
Recently various media outlets have been hyping a drug that cuts out the middleman and does the flesh eating all on its own: krokodil, a homemade version of desomorphine that originated in Russia as a heroin substitute. Last September health officials in Arizona reported two cases of krokodil use there, which gave USA Today an excuse to recycle accounts of the drug’s icky side effects under the headline “Flesh-Rotting ‘Krokodil’ Drug Emerges in USA.”
The effects described in these accounts are not caused by desomorphine, which was patented in 1932 and marketedas a painkiller in Switzerland under the brand name Permonid, with nary a report of rotting patients from the inside out. Rather, the abscesses and necrosis are caused by a combination of caustic contaminants and unsanitary injection practices. What drives Russian heroin addicts to take such risks? According to USA Today, “krokodil became popular in Russia because heroin can be difficult to obtain and is expensive.” Meanwhile, codeine, the opiate used to produce krokodil, is relatively cheap and available over the counter there.
Since neither of those conditions holds in the United States, where heroin is plentiful and codeine can be legally purchased only with a prescription, why would krokodil ever gain a following here? It almost certainly hasn’t. One krokodil sighting after another has proven to be spurious.
It’s amazing the type of bullshit the state will drum up in order to eliminate competition to patentable drugs. What’s even more amazing is that media outlets go long with the state’s bullshit because they believe ratings are directly correlated to fear. In actuality more people are turning away from traditional media outlets and it doesn’t matter how much fear they drum up, viewers aren’t coming back.