We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Using a SWAT team as a weapon against investigative journalism

Brian Krebs, a information and network security journalist, a few days ago had a little visit from a SWAT team:

When I opened the door to peel the rest of the tape off, I heard someone yell, “Don’t move! Put your hands in the air.” Glancing up from my squat, I saw a Fairfax County Police officer leaning over the trunk of a squad car, both arms extended and pointing a handgun at me. As I very slowly turned my head to the left, I observed about a half-dozen other squad cars, lights flashing, and more officers pointing firearms in my direction, including a shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle. I was instructed to face the house, back down my front steps and walk backwards into the adjoining parking area, after which point I was handcuffed and walked up to the top of the street.

I informed the responding officers that this was a hoax, and that I’d even warned them in advance of this possibility. In August 2012, I filed a report with Fairfax County Police after receiving non-specific threats. The threats came directly after I wrote about a service called absoboot.com, which is a service that can be hired to knock Web sites offline.

His blog carries the story context. Krebs further notes:

I have seen many young hackers discussing SWATing attacks as equivalent to calling in a bomb threat to get out of taking exams in high school or college. Unfortunately, calling in a bomb threat is nowhere near as dangerous as sending a SWAT team or some equivalent force to raid someone’s residence. This type of individual prank puts peoples’ lives at risk, wastes huge amounts of taxpayer dollars, and draws otherwise scarce resources away from real emergencies. What’s more, there are a lot of folks who will confront armed force with armed force, all with the intention of self-defense.

Statutory murder is an occasional topic of discussion in the information security community, for instance by planting a small quantity of drugs on someone who is travelling to Singapore.

It’s a risk, and it’s only getting easier to exploit with calls for ever more heavy-handed “security“.

A theory about why Britain has a lot of gun control and America has less

It is to do with urbanisation. Quite simply, the more people who live in cities the greater the amount of gun control.

It’s not just Britain and America. Switzerland, largely rural, has very little gun control, while America’s cities, as I understand it, tend to have plenty. I suspect one of the reasons for this is that in the cities you can have a reasonably effective police force. OK there’s the quip about “When seconds count the cops are only minutes away.” but better minutes than hours.

Also, I suspect politicians themselves are affected by this. In a city a politician finds himself surrounded by potential assassins, all of whom are nearby. “Best to disarm them”, he thinks. In less populated areas this is far less the case. It is perhaps no accident that high-rise New York City had gun control well before anywhere in the UK.

A pistol

A pistol. A 1907 Dreyse to be exact.

David Mamet rants magnificently

I would appear to be the last to know that the playwright David Mamet is, if not a member of my political family, then perhaps a cousin. The rant I link to below, which is exquisitely well written, is not going to persuade a single person who doesn’t already agree with the content, but it is an amazingly well designed firehose of hydrofluoric acid. Critics may (with some reason) say that it is vicious and panders to my affiliation group, but if so, it is literate vicious pandering.

The topic is ostensibly gun control, but in fact, it is mostly about collectivism in general. It begins with…

Karl Marx summed up Communism as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” This is a good, pithy saying, which, in practice, has succeeded in bringing, upon those under its sway, misery, poverty, rape, torture, slavery, and death.

…and builds spectacularly from there.

“Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm” by David Mamet

Samizdata quote of the day

“We respect the Office of the President of the United States of America. But make no mistake, as the duly-elected sheriffs of our respective counties, we will enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution. No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our citizens and take from them what the Bill of rights — in particular Amendment II — has given them. We, like you, swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and we are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”

- The Utah Sheriff’s Association

(H/T, Unforseen Contingencies blog)

Distributed defence

Incoming:

Dear Samizdata,

Defense Distributed, a libertarian student partnership, is announcing a project they’re calling the Wiki Weapon. This project’s goal is to test and prove a design for a completely printable, one-use ABS plastic .22 handgun, and to take that design from CAD and port it to a .STL file that will then be freely shared across all major file-sharing platforms to the world. DefDist is anticipating a world where 3D printing becomes much more economical and ubiquitous, and the Wiki Weapon will be one step in providing political and personal leverage to the peoples of that world. The value of such a file’s existence in the future cannot be overstated.

We ask that you please share the project or its video, located at http://PrintableGun.com and http://Indiegogo.com/wikiwep, with your readers and help spread the word that there are intellectual entrepreneurs dedicated to preserving Liberty in a time of almost unopposed statist planning.

Please find the attached press release for your convenience.

Thank you for your time.

You’re welcome.

71-year-old fights off robbers

I would like to think it means something that this story is in the Metro, a London free paper, but it is probably there only because the video of the robbers running for their lives is so funny. Other than where it appears, there is nothing unusual about the story. Gun use for self defense seems quite common.

Cool gun

News can travel fast these days, but this particular bit of news took its time reaching me. It started in Covent Garden, then went to Oddity Central, then to here, in Canada, and from there to here, which is based somewhere (I think) in a southern state of the USA, where I read it, I being about two pleasant little walks away from Covent Garden. And now it is here:

Icecreamists of Covent Garden, London has created the Vice Lolly, a sacrilegious gun-shaped frozen treat made from holy water from a sacred spring in Lourdes, France, 80% alcohol absinthe and sugar.

According to this, this gun is still perfectly legal here in Britain. Nevertheless, my first thought was (hence that link): isn’t there some kind of law here against replica guns? Call it the chilling effect.

Would you prefer me to be more serious about guns in Britain? Not tonight thank you. The subject is too depressing.

I cannot wait for the Olympics – that is because I am heading abroad

I am off to southwestern France to coincide with the London Olympics. I shall be swimming in the Med, guzzling delicious red wine and food, reading some gloriously downmarket novels, enjoying the tranquil scenery, and also, avoiding shit like this:

“There are now just 80 days to go before the start of the Great Siege of London, when the daily routines of millions of the capital’s citizens are to be subjected to military diktat. Forget the excitement of the sporting performances at the London 2012 Olympics. The Government’s decision to stage the biggest-ever peacetime display of the nation’s military firepower is set to rival anything the world’s leading athletes can offer at the various Olympic venues. In scenes reminiscent of the Blitz, a new generation of heavily armed Typhoon interceptors and anti-aircraft missile batteries will be stationed among the city’s residential districts ready to shoot down any rogue plane at a moment’s notice.”

Anonymous and Wikileaks: friend or foe of liberty and property?

A vast amount of data at US-based intelligence and research organisation, Stratfor, has been stolen by the group styling itself “Anonymous”. As reported today, WikiLeaks has, or is in the process of, publishing millions of emails written by persons at that organisation over a 7-year period.

And Stratfor’s CEO, George Friedman, has resigned. Er, no he hasn’t – it was a fake story, apparently. Curiouser and curiouser.

“I like hearing when companies pay the price for lax security, but in the case of Stratfor, proving that someone’s security is weak by spilling everyone’s details is like peeing your pants to prove your parents aren’t supervising you. It might feel good and warm at first, but you ultimately end up being the loser.”

So writes a person called Michael Lee. His article focuses on Anonymous’ actions. He continues:

“Stratfor is one of the latest companies allegedly targeted by Anonymous. The breach, which began to make headlines on Christmas day in the US, resulted in the loss of 200GB worth of data and ultimately the publication of its customers’ emails, credit card numbers, and corresponding verification numbers and addresses.”

And this:

“The hackers wanted to release the credit card details because they belonged to “rich and powerful oppressors”. But even the author behind the release stated that of the 860,000, just 50,000 email accounts were from military or government domains. How many of those 50,000 were even responsible for oppressing anyone? And even if all 50,000 were, was it really worth ruining the privacy of 810,000 other likely innocent bystanders?”

Publishing the details of housands of credit card details, addresses and other important information has nothing to do with holding the rich and powerful to account. And in any event, being rich is not, in and of itself, a legitimate reason for a bunch of hackers to claim that wholesale theft of data is somehow in the “public interest”.

Now WikiLeaks, run by Julian Assange, is involved. As some regulars might know, unlike some other Samizdata contributors, I consider WikiLeaks, and those who aid and abet its publication of such private data, to be near-criminal in its recklessness. It has put journalists’ sources in jeopardy, or it least is careless about them in some cases, which is hardly grounds for celebration by anyone who takes freedom of expression seriously. This story from Africa is particularly troubling.

This item by the BBC shows how WikiLeaks does not give a damn about the damage it does so long as it can claim to be striking a blow against organisations it dislikes:

“Here we have a private intelligence firm, relying on informants from the US government, foreign intelligence agencies with questionable reputations and journalists,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told Reuters news agency. “What is of grave concern is that the targets of this scrutiny are, among others, activist organisations fighting for a just cause.”

Well it may be that the final sentence has some basis in truth, but as Assange surely knows, a lot of journalists get sources inside large organisations for their stories, be they government civil servants or company types. An investigative journalist looking into corporate or government activities could not operate without such contacts, even in a world where Freedom of Information legislation operates. And there is a real risk that serious sources will be blown and their careers ruined by indiscriminate publication of such vast amounts of information. The key word here is “indiscriminate” – there is no sign of any attempt to filter, let alone consider how some of this data could fall into the wrong hands and cause harm to innocents.

In case anyone brings up the matter, the leak of such a vast number of emails, and hacking of data about hundreds of thousands of credit card details, is hardly the same as say, the discovery of emails at the University of East Anglia that confirmed suspicions that AGW alarmists were playing fast and loose with the evidence. In that case, a Freedom of Information Act request was used to find out about the emails. In other words, a proper process was insisted upon. And I am not aware that global warming skeptics have tried to hack Al Gore’s bank account details.

And now it appears, in an update, that some pranksters are trying to claim that a person has resigned from his job when he hasn’t. This is all getting very juvenile.

Dumpster diving in the name of “security”

This is one of the more ridiculous incidents of security theatre that I have read. I know it is preaching to the converted to post such a link to Samizdata, and the increasingly farcical nature of the United States government surprises no one who reads here, but the post deserves to be spread far and wide. Reading Mike Masnick’s account of how the knuckleheads providing “security” at the US Capitol conduct themselves, one can better visualize the inherent idiocy of the entire operation.

Heartwarming story of the day

Recently widowed Sarah McKinley from Oklahoma shot and killed a man who broke into her house, according to ABC News, via Huffington Post, via Michael Yon’s Facebook page. An accomplice also broke in, but he ran away after hearing the gun shot and gave himself up to the police. Oddly, he has now been charged with murder.

Says Sarah:

It’s not an easy decision to make, but it was either going to be him or my son. And it wasn’t going to be my son. There’s nothing more dangerous than a woman with a child.

For propaganda purposes it helps that she is media friendly: articulate and not weird. An article on examiner.com mentions other women who have “refused victimisation” recently. I wonder if Feminists for Firearms might make a successful counter-meme to Mothers Against Guns.

The ABC video states that the police called the killing “justified”, and goes on to explain that 30 states, including Oklahoma, have the castle doctrine. In the other states you are required to retreat if you can, though the law expert interviewed could not think of anyone in the USA who had ever been imprisoned for killing an intruder. Most such cases get thrown out by the grand jury, as in the case of Joe Horn even though he shot burglars attacking his neighbour’s property.

What a civilised state of affairs.

Praising the defenders of the Ledbury (again)

There was an item on the local London TV news early last night about a bunch of cooks who, when confronted by a bunch of crooks, defended themselves, their restaurant and their diners. Yes, here is the story, from earlier in the month, at the time of those riots. Remember them?

Chefs and waiters leapt to the defence of members of the public enjoying an evening at The Ledbury, an upmarket restaurant in Notting Hill, London.

Thugs and rioters armed with bats and wearing hooded tops forced their way into the two star restaurant before demanding diners hand over their wallets and wedding rings.

But staff and others fought back with kitchen tools before leading customers into the wine cellar for protection.

Later in the evening, the looters returned, and the diners were ushered by the staff to the safety of the downstairs wine cellar. Which seems like a craven retreat, and in a way it was. But the personal cash and valuables of the diners were what the looters were after, and they were again thwarted.

The significance of the TV coverage I saw this evening wasn’t just that all this happened, but that the TV coverage was so sympathetic to the restaurant staff for doing what they did. The Ledbury (which I had never heard of until now) has apparently won some kind of vote of excellence for its food, organised by a restaurant guide, and the general atmosphere radiating from my TV was: hurrah! Good for them, and the perfect excuse to tell the story, again, of those heroic deeds by the heroic Ledbury staff a few weeks ago.

A few further thoughts occur to me. → Continue reading: Praising the defenders of the Ledbury (again)