A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for November, 2017

Monday Metal: Noche de Halloween by Saurom

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This week we’re going to listen to some Spanish folk metal:

Written by Christopher Burg

November 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Posted in Media

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Learning Lessons the Hard Way

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I’d imagine that most of you were taught to keep your hands to yourself at a pretty young age. I certainly was. However, some people can only learn this lesson the hard way:

A woman jogging Friday morning in Salt Lake City fought back against a man who came up behind her and groped her.

She was attacked about 6 a.m. in a neighborhood near 1700 South and 500 East, Salt Lake City police spokesman Greg Wilking said.

The woman was carrying a small knife in her hand and stabbed the man multiple times when he grabbed her.

And a valuable lesson was taught.

With sexual assault so prevalent in the news, it’s nice to read a story about how high the cost of sexual assault can be. The biggest enable of sexual assault is likely the extremely low cost of perpetuating it. Sexual assaults often face no physical or legal consequences. If sexual assaulters were commonly beaten, stabbed, or shot, the cost of perpetuating sexual assault might be high enough where would-be sexual assaulters would reconsider their actions.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

They’re Just Teasing Us

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Nobody likes a tease:

This week, the 78-year-old Koskinen began his third retirement. And he says the IRS is still a distressed organization. “When Eisenhower left office, his message was: Beware the military-industrial complex,” Koskinen said. “My message is: Beware the collapse of the IRS.”

The collapse of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)? Why is he trying to get our hopes up so high? I think most of us know that there’s no way in hell that the federal government would allow its revenue generating arm to collapse. If anything, the IRS would be the last department that would be allowed to fall.

But can you imagine a world where the federal government didn’t take a huge chunk of our income? Not only would you have more money in you pocket to do with as you please but it would severely hamper the federal government’s law enforcement and military capabilities. Perhaps the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives wouldn’t be able to run guns to Mexican drug cartels; the Federal Bureau of Investigations wouldn’t be able to radicalize random isolated individuals, give them a fake bomb, arrest them, and claim credit for thwarting a terrorist attack; the National Security Agency wouldn’t be able to continue its massive surveillance program against us; and the Drug Enforcement Agency wouldn’t be able to continue waging its lethal war on drugs. A world without the IRS could be a beautiful one indeed. Let’s all hope that Koskinen’s warning has some kernel of truth behind it and that someday the IRS could collapse.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Creating the Super Bowl Experience

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The toll of the Super Bowl continues to rise. Between the “security” turning the entire city into a prison, shutdown streets, and light rail use reserved exclusively for Super Bowl attendees, things have already become quite miserable for the denizens of Minneapolis. But the Super Bowl experience wouldn’t be complete if some wealthy attendees had their vision offended by a poor person so the homeless shelter near the stadium is being evacuated for the duration of the game:

Dozens of people who use a homeless shelter near U.S. Bank Stadium will be moved to a new, temporary facility during Super Bowl week because of security concerns.

In a deal struck with churches and social service agencies, up to 60 people who normally would spend the night at First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis will be relocated six blocks away to a makeshift shelter at St. Olaf Catholic Church. The transition will occur the Thursday before the 2018 game and last through Super Bowl Sunday.

It is, of course, being done in the name of security. However, the 60 people occupying that shelter are no more a security risk than the hundreds living in the condominiums near the stadium so it’s pretty obvious this decision has nothing to do with actual security. But most “security” decisions being made have nothing to do with security and everything to do with security theater being a convenient excuse to ensure the Super Bowl attendees don’t have to deal with the riffraff or Minneapolis.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 17th, 2017 at 10:00 am

An Interesting Psychological Phenomenon

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Whenever there’s a story about an instance of abuse where the victim failed to fight back I see at least one comment asking why the victim didn’t fight back.

It’s an interesting question. I’ve often asked the same thing about inmates on death row. There is a population of individuals who have nothing to lose. If they follow the rules and act submissive, they’re going to die anyways. Why don’t they fight back? Certainly the minute chance of escape is better than the guarantee of death, right? Yet we seldom read stories about inmates on death row making a last ditch effort to escape before they’re executed.

It’s an interesting psychological phenomenon. I wish I had a better understanding of it.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Side Notes

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There’s Hope for the Internet of Things

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Granted, it’s not a lot of hope but it seems like some consumers are actually holding off on buying Internet of Things (IoT) products due to security concerns:

Consumers are uneasy about being watched, listened to, or tracked by devices they place in their homes, consulting firm Deloitte found in a new survey it released Wednesday. Thanks to such discomfort, consumer interest in connected home home technology lags behind their interest in other types of IoT devices, Deloitte found.

“Consumers are more open to, and interested in, the connected world,” the firm said in its report. Noting the concerns about smart home devices, it added: “But not all IoT is created equal.”

Nearly 40% of those who participated in the survey said they were concerned about connected-home devices tracking their usage. More than 40% said they were worried that such gadgets would expose too much about their daily lives.

IoT companies have been extremely lazy when it comes to implementing security, which is a huge problem when their devices provide surveillance capabilities. If enough consumers avoid purchasing insecure IoT devices, IoT companies will be forced to either improve the security of their devices or go into bankruptcy.

Apple has done a good job at easing consumer’s security concerns with its biometric authentication technology. When Touch ID was first introduced, a lot of people were concerned about their fingerprints being uploaded to the Internet. However, Apple was able to east these concerns by explaining how its Secure Enclave chip works and how users’ fingerprints never leave that secure chip. The same technology was used for Face ID. IoT companies can do the same thing by properly securing their products. If, for example, an Internet accessible home surveillance device encrypted all of the data it recorded with a key that only the users possessed, it could provide Internet accessible home surveillance capabilities without putting user data at risk of being accessed by unwanted personnel.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Professionalism

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Once in a while the War on Drugs brings us humor instead of tragedy:

Sources say it started when two special ops officers from the 12th Precinct were operating a “push off” on Andover near Seven Mile. That is when two undercover officers pretend to be dope dealers, waiting for eager customers to approach, and then arrest potential buyers and seize their vehicles.

But this time, instead of customers, special ops officers from the 11th Precinct showed up. Not realizing they were fellow officers, they ordered the other undercover officers to the ground.

FOX 2 is told the rest of the special ops team from the 12th Precinct showed up, and officers began raiding a house in the 19300 block of Andover. But instead of fighting crime, officers from both precincts began fighting with each other.

Sources say guns were drawn and punches were thrown while the homeowner stood and watched.

I’m glad to see the officers were fighting with the actual criminals for once.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Importance of Out-of-Band Verification

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Yesterday I received an e-mail that appeared to be from a friend. It was a short e-mail asking what I thought about the contents of a link. The first red flag was that this friend seldom e-mails me. We have other forms of communication that we use. The second red flag was the e-mail address, which was his name at a domain I wasn’t familiar with. The third red flag was the link, it went to a domain I wasn’t familiar with.

Friends asking me about content on unfamiliar domains isn’t unusual. Moreover, friends e-mailing me from unfamiliar domains isn’t without precedence since new “privacy focused” e-mail domains pop up everyday and I have friends who are interested in e-mail providers who respect their users’ privacy. I smelled a scam but wanted to make sure so I contacted my friend through another messaging service and he confirmed that he didn’t send the e-mail.

The combination of social media with people’s general lack of security has made a lot of social information available to malicious individuals. If you want to specifically target somebody, the social information is often available to do it convincingly. Even if you’re not interested in specifically targeting somebody, the social information that is available is often complete enough that it can be fed to an automated tool that sends targeted e-mails to anybody it has information about. These types of scams can be difficult to defend against.

One method for defending against them is establishing multiple channels for communicating with your friends. Between e-mail, Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, text messaging, Skype, XMPP, and a slew of other freely available communication tools, it’s easy to ensure that you have at least two separate means of communicating with your friends. If you receive a suspicious message that appears to be from a friend, you can use another form of communications to verify whether or not they sent it. Admittedly, such a tactic isn’t bulletproof. It’s possible for an attacker to compromise multiple communication methods. However, it’s more difficult to compromise two communication methods than to compromise one.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

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The older I get the more cynical I become towards statistics. Statistics can be a valuable tool for identifying trends. However, the trends revealed by statistics often have multiple possible explanations. Case in point, a lot of media outlets have been making a big deal about the supposed rise in hate crimes, especially against Muslims. They have been quick to blame the election of Trump. However, another cause of this trend could be methodology:

There were 271 more incidents deemed hate crimes in 2016 than the previous year, according to the latest Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data. There were also 257 more law enforcement agencies reporting last year, so that increase could largely or even entirely be a matter of getting more complete statistics. The higher numbers mostly represent small increases in incidents classified as anti-Hispanic, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, or anti-white.

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Some will surely blame the beginning of Donald Trump’s political ascendancy, and that can’t be ruled out. But another explanation is as likely, if not more likely: The FBI changed how it classified certain hate-crime incidents in 2015.

Before this period, crimes based on someone’s ethnicity or national origin were simply sorted into Hispanic or non-Hispanic bias incidents, leaving us with a cache of uncountable incidents that could’ve been based on someone’s perceived Middle Eastern or Arabic status. But in 2015, ethnicity was lumped in with the racial-bias category. This means that some of the incidents previously attributed to a general sort of anti–Middle Eastern bias could either be categorized as anti-Arab racial/ethnic bias or anti-Muslim religious bias, possibly spiking the anti-Islamic incident stats.

More law enforcement agencies providing data may be influencing the results. Moreover, the category being mentioned most frequently by the media, hate crimes against Muslims, is a recent addition. Going from zero incidents before 2014 to incidents in 2015 will necessarily show an increase in incidents.

None of this is to say that Trump’s election hasn’t played a contributing factor. But there are also alternative explanations for the increase in hate crimes that cannot be ignored. Perhaps the increase in hate crimes is a combination of Trump’s election and changes to methodology. Statistics can reveal a trend of the methodology is solid. But even if a trend is revealed, statistics can seldom point to a specific cause or provide an effective solution.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2017 at 10:30 am

No Government Choo Choo for You

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While the Super Bowl itself won’t provide me any entertainment, the National Football League’s (NFL) decision to bring it to Minneapolis has provided me a significant amount of entertainment. Between turning the city into a prison and the possibility of mass transit being unavailable during the big game I’ve already been giving a great deal of entertainment. But the real icing on the cake is that even if the Amalgamated Transit Union doesn’t strike, the government choo choo will only be available to people who have purchased a Super Bowl ticket [PDF]:

Gameday Pass: $30
Only those holding one of these tickets and an official Super Bowl ticket will be able to ride the METRO Light-Rail on game day. This pass is also valid on all bus, Light-Rail and Northstar service on game day and Monday, February 5. Available only from the Metro Transit app.

There are a lot of people who mistakenly believe that “public” transport is owned by the people. “Public” transport is actually owned by the government. If the government decides that it wants to make its transportation system exclusively available to a certain segment of people, there’s not a damn thing “the public” can do about it.

If you rely on the government choo choo, don’t despair. More buses will be made available. They’ll just be slower so plan to leave much earlier than you otherwise would, you fucking pleb:

Buses: For non-ticket holders, buses will replace light-rail trains on the entirety of the Blue Line throughout the day on February 4, 2018. Replacement buses will operate between Target Field Station and Stadium Village Station on the Green Line. Buses run on similar schedules to trains but can take longer; please plan accordingly.

With all of the streets that will be shutdown in Minneapolis during the big game as well as all the additional traffic that will be flooding the remaining streets, the buses are going to end up taking a lot longer. But sacrifices must be made. Just because you paid tax dollars to build and maintain the choo choo doesn’t mean you have the highest priority. The highest priority goes to those who have enriched the NFL, which contributed absolutely nothing to the construction and maintenance of the choo choo. Isn’t it fun being a lowly pleb?

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2017 at 10:00 am