Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Guest Post: "The NSA Was Hacked", or Only Idiots Need "Security" by Friendly Rich

This guest post is rather timely, seeing as how the new American college semester has begun and a million new laptops and tablets are in circulation.
 
"The NSA Was Hacked", or Only Idiots Need "Security"

by Friendly Rich


Someone I know recently sent these links on various mailing lists, and they deserve some outside comment:

> https://theintercept.com/2016/08/19/the-nsa-was-hacked-snowden-documents-confirm/
> http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/19/snowden_docs_shadow_brokers_nsa_exploits/

Not mentioned in the articles, but visible in the main FOXACID document: this stuff is almost exclusively aimed at Microsoft Windows. The basis is a set of tools to break into Internet Explorer via Javascript/XML malware. Just disabling Javascript on a browser, or using Firefox with NoScript, will probably stop FOXACID exploits. The NSA does have exploits for Linux, Solaris and Free-BSD, and so presumably OSX as well, but other OSes aren't mentioned anywhere in this set of documents. The NSA uses Linux heavily for internal systems, especially Red Hat/Fedora and their own SELinux, so I assume they have break-in methods for various versions of Linux. But I will bet you it is more difficult than cracking a Windows machine.

Evidently most of the NSA's "secret methods" depend on the idiocy of browser users, just like any common hacker malware. The "CNO Course" document talks about handing out infected flash drives to random people and leaving them in internet cafes. Really? That's what the mighty Uncle Sam uses to crack PCs? Obviously it works. Because there are idiots in every organization.

The FOXACID server runs Windows Server 2003. Which is just hilarious. Ten years behind the times. And they get MIT to load the software on the servers before deployment. Why? Do they not trust their own employees and customers? They even have bogus SSL certificates. Hey, isn't that illegal in some places? Not that anyone seems to care.

All of this shit was originally aimed at breaking into PCs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pakistani government's Green Line network was explicitly mentioned as a major target. So where's the diplomatic complaint? And the CNO Course shows a BLINDDATE PC using a wireless packet-injection exploit while driving around....Kabul. Again, it depends on web browser weaknesses to install malware on a PC. Field personnel aren't expected to know how to write malware nor understand how all the tools they use actually work. This is a classic case of idiots hacking other idiots.

It's an old "joke" and rumor: Microsoft has grown to such size and arrogance because Bill Gates cheerfully negotiated "special deals" with the US government back in the late 1980s. And they've gotten closer and closer since then. The NSA, CIA and Microsoft's operating-system division routinely exchange developers and knowledge. This is supposedly why the 1997 attempt to prosecute MS for breaking antitrust laws failed so massively.

Their "Shared Source Initiative" in 2001 was an attempt to calm their big corporate users, and I'm not sure it really helped much. Googling gets plenty of Microsoft press releases and very little honest discussion of the SSI. "Shared source" is Microsoft official jargon; nothing is "shared". Accessing the source code is very costly, there are numerous restrictions, and extremely harsh nondisclosure agreements are demanded of anyone allowed into the SSI.

But bring any of this up in mixed company and IT "professionals" will accuse you of being a conspiracy freak. Even though the signs have been visible for many years online.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/11/microsoft-nsa-collaboration-user-data

http://falkvinge.net/2013/11/17/nsa-asked-linus-torvalds-to-install-backdoors-into-gnulinux/

http://www.eteknix.com/nsa-has-code-running-in-the-linux-kernel-and-android/

This Gates interview from 2014 is notable. He ever-so-delicately tiptoes around the issue of surveillance and security. But does manage to splutter about Ed Snowden being a "criminal". An interview that communicates very little otherwise.

"Even so, do you think it's better now that we know what we know about government surveillance?"
"The government has such ability to do these things. There has to be a debate. But the specific techniques they use become unavailable if they're discussed in detail. So the debate needs to be about the general notion of under what circumstances should they be allowed to do things." LOLWUT?

And here's a 2004 article about Windows vs. Linux security. Despite being 12 years old, I've never seen any indications that the general situation has changed much. PC operating systems became more-or-less "stable" a long time ago and any updates tend to include new hardware support, new multimedia formats, and other improvements outside the kernel.

This is the glorious state of the glorious software world today. It's all badly designed, insecure, and sooner-or-later compromised by our wonderful government. Because there is so little real choice in the way of modern operating systems for PCs today, the NSA spooks have a variety of ways to break into machines. Evidently they don't even need "sneaky back doors" any longer. If you don't want anyone to sort through your hard drive, either don't connect your machine to the internet, or use a VPN exclusively; and don't do stupid things with a browser. Think before clicking on things.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back on the Chain Gang - UC Chancellor Linda Katehi Screws Around with Wikipedia

Just before August vanishes off the calendar, let's talk about Linda Katehi, who resigned as Chancellor of  the University of California at Davis on the second Tuesday of this month. She was involved with Wikipedia as far back as 2009, completely focused on her own Biography of a Living Person (BLP) article. The problem was she possibly had underlings at UC Davis do all the work on that piece.

The Background

Katehi (born Pisti Basile Katehi; Athens, Greece) was a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University who left Indiana for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she taught the same subjects while also getting sucked into the endless white-walled makework machine that is college administration (Prof. Katehi was provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs at UIUC). However that machine gives enough time for politicking and she was able to impress the UC Regents and they made her Chancellor of UC Davis, with her husband (chemistry professor Spyros Tseregounis) brought along as well to teach. (By the way, if two academics are married and one accepts a position somewhere else, the college will often hire the spouse, especially if they have been tenured before. So this move for the Katehi-Tseregounises is common.) Linda Katehi's BLP first appeared on Wikipedia as a stub before she was hired on in California in May 2009. It didn't remain a stub for long.

Two years later Occupy Wall Street brought back the sit-in protest to national news, and Occupy groups appeared everywhere, including UC Davis. On Thursday, November 17, 2011 Occupy UC Davis held a sit-down protest in the Quad over tuition hikes and the violent treatment Occupy Cal protesters got at UC Berkeley earlier that month. The next day the protesters were still in the Quad; they had camped out overnight. Chancellor Katehi called in the UC Davis police and by 3pm the famous images of Lieutenant John Pike pepper spraying students sitting on the ground were being snapped by cameras. Quickly his nonchalant action became an internet meme.

                           The Beatles are somehow involved, as always. (Stolen from the sadly-defunct Gawker.)


There were claims that doused people were vomiting blood and that the UC Davis and UC Berkeley police were shooting pepper spray in students' mouths. There were investigations and Lt. John Pike was later fired, but Davis was still stuck with Linda Katehi. And this is where Wikipedia and PR really come in.

Conflict of Interest Editing, the UC version

We can't find the real names, but we know the Wiki-handles of a number of probable COI editors or sockpuppets of one smart paid editor.


The first COI editor was Mtang6, who started the article on May 7, 2009. That probably was Katehi, because it was only a couple of lines. Possibly it could have been her children, working at her behest.

Next was Eve2500, who added bulk to the BLP in June of 2011.

In early November 2011 before the pepper spray incident, two IP addresses did some "embarrassment cleanup" and made the article larger; they were 65.91.100.51 and 169.237.220.84 - now there is a gap in the record from July 22 to the 18th of November.

After the outright barfight of edits (mostly with IPs, not accounts) following John Pike's claim to fame, Jokestress (Andrea James) took the semi-protected version of the article and began re-editing it, but remained neutral - we are not claiming she is a COI editor, just that a "name" editor showed up to tinker with things for a day and then dropped the article like a hot rock.

Spin the watch hands to October 2013, and there was Linda F UC Davis, who tried to get the editors to include more mentions of Linda Katehi's STEM background in the BLP and stated outright that she worked for UC Davis in the article's talkpage. Linda F UC Davis has not been seen on Wikipedia since.

Move forward another year to November 2014 and the unpronounceable Wvxihjazb acts mostly like an SPA (single purpose account), editing the Katehi article along with the Larry N. Vanderhoef article (chancellor of UC Davis before Linda Katehi), an article on Greek academic John Panaretos (which had a link to the Linda Katehi), "improving" the list of notable alumni in the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science (I give you one guess who got mentioned), and finally the article on the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (adding a list of Commissioners, one of whom was Linda Katehi.) All of Wvxihjazb's edits were done from the 5th of November to the 26th of November skipping every two days. Like H.P. Lovecraft's vowel-less monsters, Wvxihjazb utterly disappeared after wreaking havoc, back to the Void.

Last but not least was KianaHooper. For a paid editor, "she" played the part of the neophyte Wikipedia editor very well: "Hi! I'm Kiana Hooper. I was urged to create an account so here I am! I think Wikipedia is really awesome and I can't wait to improve it. I never knew Wikipedia was run by such an intricate and well though out set of rules. It's really cool!" is what the first line of "her" userpage ran. Nobody noticed as all she did was edit in bursts, first on "Hispanic-serving institutions" redirect page, then UC Davis, then Linda Katehi....and that's all "she" focused on. Notice how the editor came and went until the fateful day of June 5, 2015 when the explosion of text erupted and "she" more than doubled the size of the article. Then KianaHooper vanished, or went back to being Linda Katehi's administrative assistant, or a paid-off grad student, or a hired hack, whatever the truth is.

Paying for a Spotless Reputation

Realizing that the photos from the pepper spraying had been posted to the Internet, UC Davis hired Nevins & Associates at $15,000 a month for six months to massage the internet and make the problem go away. Problem was, they did it in January of 2013. There went  more than 90,000 dollars down the drain. Then they hired Purple Strategies, a public relations firm in Virginia to "Get me off the Google" as chancellor Katehi demanded. (I can only hear that demand in Arianna Huffington's voice.) Purple Strategies were paid 44,600 American dollars total for three months of work; in the end with more cash burned in a pyre for another PR firm, the university urinated away $407,000.

                                Not actual UC Davis money burning, but a realistic approximation.

Did I mention this idiotic vanity site was part of the cash expended? None of it worked, of course, and you would think a person trained in EE and computer science would know how the Internet functions in the early 21st century. Her other "footbullet" element was a predilection for international travel; according to the Sacramento Bee, she cost UC Davis over S174,000 in 26 international trips to drum up business for the college, going to Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Dubai, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus over a five year stretch from 2010 to 2015; very little came of these trips for the college, and Chancellor Katehi flew first class every time. Meanwhile, she was a board member at the corporation behind the for-profit DeVry University, and had previously spent time at textbook publishers John Wiley & Sons, raking in $420,000 for three years work, making the costly textbooks (which the publisher makes obsolete constantly) part of the UC Davis scene if they weren't already. And this is a person that makes $420,000 without the need to part-time it in private industry! In the end Linda Napolitano put her on ice this April, then gave her the axe this month, nearly three weeks before the UC Fall 2016 semester began.

Conclusions?

Wikipedia was useful once for building a reputation, but in a world of "gotcha" journalism, everybody having a camera on a cell phone, and Google caching it has become insanely easy to ruin yourself. Linda Katehi might be out of a job, only because she never took Thomas J. Watson's command to THINK seriously. But then, IBM leased punch card machines to Nazi death camps, so what did he really know?

                               Neither of the two men above are Greek, but dance along anyway.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

MORE IMPORTANT THAN WIKIPEDIA: "ICANN Can't", a Guest Post by E.A. Barbour

Because he's always looking at things under the radar, things that are barely noticed are massive mountains to E.A. Barbour, who shares with us the fiasco of the forthcoming ICANN internet takeover.


ICANN Can't

By E.A. Barbour

What is ICANN? It's the special organization which is being given control of all the domain-name assignments and technical standards which the Internet depends on. It was created in 1998 out of whole cloth, because original ARPANET sysop Jon Postel was "overworked". ICANN is essentially a nonprofit government contractor which exists by fiat order of the Department Of Commerce. The Net was opened to the public in 1994 and domain names were handled by Postel and other ARPANET sysops for the first four years. (Amusingly, right in the middle of setting up ICANN, Postel died of "undetected cardiac problems".) And its first chair was Esther Dyson, venture capitalist and one of the most connected women in Silicon Valley (plus an early cheerleader for Wikipedia). A later chair was Postel's fellow "Original Internet Father" Vint Cerf; whose display case at home is bulging with bowling trophies given to him by the computer industry for his magical awesomeness. His ass tastes like fine wine, judging by the millions of kisses he's gotten since the 1980s.

For two decades the system for Internet domains has more-or-less worked passably well. The US government, its contractors, and other large corporations worked with ICANN to keep the DNS/IANA system running. Although here have been complaints about large registrars like Network Solutions/VeriSign, RegisterFly, and GoDaddy, nothing was deemed "problematic" enough to call for major reform of the "system". It was open enough to make open-source cheerleaders happy and it was stable enough to keep corporations and other major financial interests content (and profitable). New domains and systems were introduced to keep things flowing. The gold-rush of the early Web insured that people were willing to allow laissez-faire--until recently. When the US federal government stated that it wished to get rid of all domain control, and have ICANN handle it exclusively. Although little reported anywhere else in the media, these Register articles give some pause.

This happened right in the middle of the US government handing over the final governance controls to ICANN. Under the government's relatively benign control since the 1980s, the Internet grew with a remarkable level of free speech, openness and freedom from graft. These stories suggest that when ICANN has full control over TLDs and governance, they will start acting like FIFA or the Olympic Committee -- playing favorites, taking bribes, and covering everything up. And the product will decline. (And most "customers" won't care, as long as they get their damned football games/websites.)

Thus:

Last month it was reported that the transition of the IANA to ICANN control is being fought by the Republicans. It was even put in the2016 GOP official platform. Not many people noticed or commented on it. Of course it's being blamed on outgoing president Obama, and of course it's being used as a "political football". Admittedly the GOP is full of shit and this is merely a pretext. But one still has to wonder; once domain-name controls are fully in the hands of ICANN, what will happen to them? No one seems to know---or care.

I suspect we have already seen the best days of the Internet. Its future will likely be a dark, broken Third World chaos with dominance by large corporations. Getting a domain name will probably involve paying large bribes to creepy outfits with no fixed address. Legs will be broken and heads will be chopped. And DNS lookup will get more and more unreliable. Just like getting a Class A broadcast license from the FCC, or a taxi license in New York City. The rot is inevitable when big money and monopoly control is involved, and one small organization has the keys.

BTW, there's a Wikipedia angle here. The ICANN article itself was greatly expanded in the last 3 years, mostly by a succession of random-looking IP addresses and SPAs. And if someone tries to insert information of a negative nature, an anonymous  administrator named "Cenarium" removes it. Cenarium is a vandalism patroller who evidently has some knowledge of advanced mathematics. A very weird combination.

And that's not all. The WMF has very close relations with the Berkman Center at Harvard (Jimbo Wales is a "Fellow" thereof), the EFF, Creative Commons, and the Sunlight Foundation. The number of "common friends" they have in these organizations is truly remarkable: Berkman's Wendy Seltzer was an ICANN delegate, MIT professor Ethan Zuckerman has connections to the EFF and is on the WMF Board of Advisors, Jonathan Zittrain cofounded the "Chilling Effects" group with Wendy Seltzer and is on the EFF Board. Rebecca MacKinnon and Peter Suber are on the WMF Board of Advisors and also Berkman Center fellows. (MacKinnon edits her own Wikipedia bio with apparent impunity.) Tamar Frankel, a lawyer who helped set up ICANN in the first place, is also a Berkman fellow. All of these connected people have Wikipedia biographies, which are carefully watched by Wikipedia insiders.

More? Harald Alvestrand, a former ICANN Board member and current Google employee, is a Wikipedia administrator AND has been allowed to edit his own Wikipedia bio. Former WMF Trustee and current WMF Advisor Matt Halprin (his seat was bought for him by his boss Pierre Omidyar) was also on the Board of the Sunlight Foundation--with Esther Dyson and former WMF Director Sue Gardner. On the Advisory Board at Sunlight: Jimmy Wales. Also on Sunlight's Board, as well as the WMF Board of Advisors: Craig Newmark of Craigslist. And I won't even get into the Google connections. You get the idea.

The WMF is already corrupt in third-world ways. Some of these "free culture" Internet organizations have built-in conflicts of financial interest. Is it really surprising that ICANN is likely to go the same way?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stuff That Has Nothing to do With Wikipedia: Inside Boston University. Plus Board Nonsense!

This was one I wanted to do for a while, and now that it looks like the site owner has walked away from it, the blog needs to be mirrored. The website in question is Inside Boston University, and the author is Raymond "Ray" Carney.

"....A Man of Constant Sorrow"

Ray Carney is a Professor of Film at Boston University; he has written rafts of books on independent filmmaking and is an expert of the films of John Cassavetes, whom he interviewed repeatedly before the director/star died in 1989. The problem with Carney is that he is utterly disenchanted with film school and the cinema mainstream; he was yelled at by fellow BU film professors for telling also-disenchanted film school students to switch to the creative writing program - one prof howled "You are sending students to other departments!!!!???? You are taking food from my baby's mouth!" He is the only professor in America that I know of that has had his professional website taken down because of his opinions and his opinions alone. (Thankfully, most of it has been restored, but there are chunks of it where you have to use the Wayback Machine to recover them.) That he wrote a very critical article in a 1995 issue of The Baffler didn't help matters.

"....Now, fans of films like Schindler’s List will claim that they reveal new truths too. But I can’t see much difference between Spielberg’s so-called serious movie and his boy’s-book movies. Schindler’s List simply rehashes Spielberg’s inflatable, one-size-fits-all myth about how a clever, resourceful character can outsmart a system. Is that what the meaning of the Holocaust boils down to—Indiana Schindler versus the Gestapo of Doom? Schindler is a Hollywood producer’s self-congratulatory fantasy of how giving people a chance to work for you is doing them a big favor. What real courage did it take to make this movie? What new understanding of the Holocaust did it reveal? Spielberg could have made a really courageous film if he had dared to make a movie sympathetic to the SS, a movie that deeply, compassionately entered into the German point of view in order to reveal how regular people with wives and children could be drawn into committing or silently consenting to such horrors. How about a movie that showed that, at least potentially, we are them? A film that didn’t locate the bad guys in an emotional and historical galaxy far away? Of course, Spielberg could never make that film even if he tried to, because it would require too much insight on his part. And if he did make it, it would not get Academy Awards. It would require viewers to think. And thinking, real thinking, is always dangerous. Audiences might be forced to confront truths that they would rather avoid. Instead of affording them another opportunity to revel in their own virtue, they just might be made to squirm a little." - From "Pulp Affliction", The Baffler.

The real killer was an interview with the UCLA Daily Bruin's Devon Dickau where he told the student that film schools should be replaced with auto mechanic's courses ("A modest proposal") because most film school grads never make a film afterwards. That set the stage for the great shift Carney had with his department shortly afterward, but more on that later.

Bizarre battles: Gena Rowlands and Al Ruban, Mark Rappaport

Outside of academia Ray Carney has been embroiled in a series of weird battles with people whom he either respected, or were related to or worked with people he respected. We don't want to go into great detail with all of it, but we will leave links for deeper reading.

Gena Rowlands was married to John Cassavetes, Al Ruban was his producer on a number of films, acted in some, is the business manager of Rowlands' estate. Both of them loathe Carney for destroying chunks of their control over Cassavetes' legacy. Mostly this has to do with the fact that Carney discovered a first version of Shadows (1957, second version 1959), and he holds that uncopyrighted print. This hunt took seventeen years and as a reward Rowlands and Ruban wanted Carney to hand over the print so that Ruban could destroy it or Rowlands could hide it away. The other jab was how Carney also found that the Library of Congress had an unseen earlier version of Faces (1968) in 2001, proving that Cassavetes would come up with multiple versions of films that he would screen for test audiences, and that he did not throw the "lesser" versions away. For the sin of knowing way too much about John Cassavetes, Carney's contributions to a Criterion Collection DVD set in the early 2000s were scrapped at Rowlands' insistence. Al Ruban spent the early 2000s badmouthing Ray Carney at a series of Cassavetes film showings. We can only say that the conflict between the two parties was "ego versus rationality" that desperately needed an arbitrator, but nobody in LA would touch it with a barge pole.

The fight with Mark Rappaport started simply, then spiraled out of control. Like with Cassavetes, Rappaport is a independent filmmaker, and after years of living in New York City, he decided to move to Paris around 2005. Carney claims that Rappaport told him that there was this stuff he didn't want, and that there were no-strings-attached and so Carney had the stuff mailed and he paid for the shipping, film reels in metal pans and disks and other bits and pieces of cinematic detritus. He cleaned the things up, allegedly spent "tens of thousands" setting up a display and storage space for the material, kept Rappaport updated by email....then seven-and-a-half years later Rappaport demanded all the stuff back, after Carney had returned some video masters back in 2010. It got very ugly very quick, because Rappaport and his lawyer went online to the various cinephile websites, and all the indy cinema people that Carney wrote about began demanding that he just turn the "films" over. Independent filmmaker Jon Jost claimed that Ray Carney had perjured himself in his legal descriptions of the Rappaport material, and therefore should stop teaching and undergo therapy for his "psychological demons." This went on for about six months; news pieces and blog posts about it litter the internet from 2012-13. In the end, I still don't know if Carney returned everything; it really doesn't matter because the drama it created burned bridges between the professor and the two directors. It also made Carney's relationship with Boston University worse.

The Blog Itself

Laid out sequentially from March 2013 to April 2015, Inside Boston University is a simple recounting of how Ray Carney's professional life fell to pieces when John J. Schulz was appointed Dean of the College of Communication in 2003. Thanks to the history of Boston University he easily built a collection of yes men who backed everything he did and brooked no compromise. Even when he was replaced in 2008 by Thomas Fiedler (main claim to fame: exposing the Gary Hart-Donna Rice tryst in 1987), nothing changed because of the unspoken system created by one man forty years ago.

Carney is very open about the role John Silber had in creating a system of "Nixonismo sin Nixon" (to modify a 1980s Nicaraguan phrase* about the Contras) at Boston University. Silber (a former University of Texas philosophy professor) was appointed BU president in 1971 and immediately began running the place in ways that would have pleased then-President Nixon or then-Governor Reagan; the Students for a Democratic Society chapter was given the boot, he would not relent when it came to having US Marine Corps recruiting on campus even though there were large demonstrations about it and the students later voted against having USMC recruiters on campus. Silber's response? "I would be much more impressed by a thoughtful document that was brought in by one single student than I would by a mindless referendum of 16,000." And that comment was to The Daily Free Press, the student newspaper! To 60 Minutes, the CBS news-magazine, he said "[a] university should not be a democracy. . . . The more democratic a university is, the lousier it is." Because of his loathing of tenure all the professors joined the AAUP, the professor's union, and Silber had to waste funds hiring lawyers to nullify the move to form a BU AAUP local, all in vain. Beyond the contempt for student protestors (whom he called "primates") and successful attempts at starving the student press, he was in love with nuclear power, banking, defense contractors, and he was able to continually defeat votes to have him removed by sucking up to the trustees. He survived as BU President until 1996 and was Chancellor until 2002, and as he lasted so long, he was able to create a Mafia within the administration and Right-leaning faculty. In 2003, Daniel S. Goldin, the former NASA leader was appointed BU President, but that was immediately scuttled when he said he would "clean house." The college paid him off to the tune of $1.8 million. Silber was willing to break labor law and not give raises to professors who opposed him; Carney claims the same tactic is used against him today, that his pay is stuck at 2004 levels.
Beyond the money, Carney goes into great detail about how badly he's been treated under both deans, the idiotic anti-intellectualism of BU's administration, etc. This blog is a must read for anyone who wants to become an American professor in the era of Massive Open Online Courses, college over-financialization, mindless expansion of the unaccountable administration class, etc. Professor Carney has stopped answering emails; I hope that he is not being pressured by the college to stop updating his blog.

Board Nonsense

Because the Wikipedia Sucks! forum allows guest commenting, we get the occasional oddball. One of the members that continually takes attacks from nowhere by nameless nobodies is wwhp, mainly because of RationalWiki's idiot article about him. That lone bit of online trash has prompted attack page after attack page, and I don't see the nonsense ending soon. As it is wwhp keeps a low profile. We have people on that board who have been so badly burned by Wikipedia and its spawn that they are terrified to admit who they were on Wikipedia and other wiki sites, and that is one of the reasons why the board and this blog exist. If you know the truth about Walesville, you will never want to have an online life there.

______________________

* The Nicaraguan phrase was "Somocizmo sin Samoza", "Samoza-ism without Samoza" - a reference to the overthrown and assasinated former dictator of that country, and the Contra attempt to build a new dictatorship through their civil war.

 


Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Cop and the Spaceman Call it Quits

We had a choice after the last post: either continue detailing awful Wikipedians [a reference to Ekman, this post is that old], or write about Commons pedophiles. It's summer and Strelnikov would rather write about  these gawdawful people than discuss the brotherhood of Marc Dutroux. What is interesting in both of the following cases is that they both quietly quit in the recent past.

The Long Dorky Arm of the Law

Tiptoety is almost too well-known to write about; he has a page on Encyclopaedia Dramatica (though it isn't up to date). Tyler Van Wormer is his true name; during his seven and a half years on Wikipedia he posed as an adult police officer even though he was in high school when he started being a Wikipedian in May 2007. The truth was that after 2008 he was a cadet officer at the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, which meant he was wandering the outskirts of Portland, Oregon as a sub-trainee. All of Tiptoeity's actual additions to Wikipedia were either about Oregon law enforcement or the Sheriff's Office he "worked" out of. What made him useful to the regulars during the post-Essjay collapse/reshuffling of the deck was that he was the ultimate catspaw; he did anything the powerful people asked him to do. Such as this 2008 blocking of four accounts as sockpuppets of Anti-Gorgias, who "turned out" to be Herschelkrustofsky (Daniel Platt). If it was or if it wasn't, Platt was banned before, thanks to the edit war over Lyndon LaRouche (notice that Will Beback was involved in the blocking). Here he is "indefinitely blocking" Jennavecia (now Indubitably) in 2009, which was overturned. He also liked undoing good edits done by banned users, just because he could. He became an unlisted clerk in Sockpuppet Investigations sometime in 2008; there is no record as to why he was allowed to be an unlisted clerk nor why they needed an unlisted clerk. It seems they "let the cop be a cop" even though he wasn't a cop.

[Under construction.]



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Cranks and the Mentally Ill, a Long-Running Wikipedia Problem

If you have been reading this blog for long, the reader should have seen a post like this coming.....people who have mental illness and obsessives on certain topics are a component of Wikipedia and have been since the project picked up steam in the early 2000s. Where the crank starts and the mentally ill person ends is hard to say solely based on editing histories, so we are addressing both here as an overlapping pair of categories. We are not here to mock these people, only pointing out that they do exist on en.Wikipedia, and probably on the foreign-language Wikipedias as well.

What we do know

The utility page Userboxes/Health has hundreds of userboxes describing the health issues of Wikipedians; around 60 percent of the boxes are for mental illnesses or processing issues like dyslexia or dyscalculia. In 2014 the list included 33 sufferers of Tourette's syndrome, 23 self-admitted schizophrenics, and Someone_that_loves_cats, who claimed they were a psychopath. This person was a sockpuppet only used in 2013, but that is an odd thing to admit. At the same time there were 512 autism-spectrum users and over a hundred people claiming to be dyslexic. And those are the people who will admit it; there are many more out there on Wikipedia who have mental health issues and say nothing. Wikipedia's secrecy makes knowing the true number of editors and administrators with former or current issues impossible to discover.

Fragments

The following are things found by Eric Barbour and Peter Damian while researching the topic.

"There are quite a few mentally ill people who edit Wikipedia. I have been stalked and harassed by more than one person here during my tenure, and while almost all of those folks were eventually indef blocked, after awhile, it gets to be too much. It is emotionally and physically draining. While some were mostly annoying time sinks who seemed to be just desperately seeking the attention they must have lacked in their real lives, others have displayed all the signs of full-blown psychosis, particularly in engaging in cyberstalking both on and off Wiki. I foolishly attempted to deal with through a rename, but alas, to my own stupidity I didn't think about the fact that it would be a public process."

- AnmaFinotera, on her userpage, August 2, 2010. She "retired" from Wikipedia after writing that.

Email to Peter Damian about another user, December 2007:

"What i don't understand is your surprise to find such a user; this is Wikipedia, not myspace...i'd say 25% of the big contributers are total psychos, i mean have you seen the detail and time there is in those "child murders" articles? have you taken a look into some of those insanely long discussions? you just have to distance yourself from them, it's simple really." (sic)

Part of a user talk section written by Anthonyhcole, April 12, 2012:

"Like many internet communities, this is a magnet for social outcasts of one colour or another. The bedridden, the housebound, the lonely, the frightened, the hated. This is a good thing. Most outcasts I know are good people, and this provides a place where they can do a lot of unalloyed good in the company of others. But the project needs to face the corollary that there will be an effect on the ethos here. When a bunch of rejects get together and tries to form a society ad hoc, they'll make mistakes that stem from poorly honed social sensitivity. It is highly likely that the social norms regarding each other, our subjects and the world at large (our readership) will be a poor fit for people of normal social sensibility. This matters. It is only just beginning to be addressed, starting with heightened attention to civility, but there's a long way to go, and the more these questions are discussed, the sooner we'll evolve into something that can seamlessly and responsibly engage with the world community."

Jimmy Wales claiming the now-defunct Wikipedia Review was full of mentally ill people, May 2006. An odd way to pass the buck as it were:

"There is actually a strange irony. Some of the people who post to Wikipedia Review are or could be legitimate critics, with thoughtful and perhaps even interesting criticisms of things that we have done wrong, either through honest mistakes, human failings, or bad policy. Such critics might be hard to listen to, but traditionally we have been quite good at doing so, and I am always one of the first to say that we should try to listen to all criticism for nuggets of wisdom. But those who are potentially legitimate critics do themselves a serious disservice by participating in a forum with people who are, quite simply, mental cases, and who discredit the entire operation with what can only be classified as offensive hate speech and stalking." (sic)

Sore bizarre theorizing from the IP address 2.205.71.128 on Super Metroid:

the odd Level and enemy names 

"am I the only one who thinks that Kraid looks like Kermit? A green frog. The inventor of Kermit, Jim Henson, died from AIDS. Note: krAID'S lair, contains AIDS and liar. Kermit contains the letters for "krem", the German word for cream when you use the old spelling. Krebs is the German word for cancer. It starts with "KR", just like Kraid. Maridia lacks only two letters and then you get mare and India. Sea and India. When you think of India, you'll probably associate it with curry. And the German word for sea is "Meer". So you'd come up with "Mercury", just like Freddy Mercury, who had died from AIDS about the time Super Metroid was released. When you rearrange the letters of Norfair, you get "Air Fron", like "air front". When I hear "Mother Brain", I think of brain dura mater. Mater also is the latin word for Matrix. Think about the word "dura" one letter up it's "evsb", which contains "BSE", and another letter up following the alphabet it's fwtc, which contains "WTC". I'm pretty sure that there's something wrong with that and that it aren't just my paranoid delusions. The Nintendo developers picked those names with intention because they knew something special."

It should also be known that 2.205.71.128 was also a 9/11 denier, claiming that the World Trade Center jetliner crashes and building implosions were film tricks.

Some userpage ranting from the ex-US Army soldier Kolakowski:
  
"CURRENT VIEW:" 

"Civilized countries? I do consider only countries such as Japan to be fully civilized because wisely, their oldest people, with only a small portion of their life span remaining to be lived out, volunteered for the near-suicide mission to save others. However, at their worst, they are worse than almost any other nation. Semi—civilized states: Poland, Germany, France etc. They do try to save people even if they heart has not beaten for an hour (not just professional soccer players, but they did the same for my father, extending his life by about 10 years); they seek volunteers for near—suicide missions from general population (of soldiers). Not civilized but close to it: They do save people for at most 15 minutes and seek volunteers from young men. Brutally uncivilized: Countries using 14 and 15 year olds in combat Foolishly brutally uncivilized: Using kids under 14 in combat (kids under 14 are useless for the purpose of armed combat)! Sincerely, Robert Kolakowski son of Stanislaw son of Jozef Elizabeth, NJ, 07202 Bialystok, Poland JMRC Hohenfels, Germany"

"Question/Proposal" 

"The positive "holes" do not transmit power, the elctricity travels backwards in time. Proposed on 18APR2010 Robert Kolakowski son of Stanislaw son of Jozef Elizabeth, NJ, 07202"

"MESSAGE: EVOLUTION OF MY VIEWS: RADICALIZATION:" 

"Because of the Research (pl.) run on me, I am forced to like Caliph ‘Umar a little, since women were frozen with fear when he appeared; and I am also forced to believe in the Hadith that states that Heaven will be full of poor men, and there will be a very few women. I am dead certain that second only to Devil Himself, a woman, is behind what has happened to me! Sincerely, Robert Kolakowski son of Stanislaw son of Jozef Elizabeth, NJ, 07202 PS Women give birth to children! I do not care; I have no children!"

***

Before we leave the world of the Wiki mentally ill we need to mention two other users: Serafin and Ulillillia. Both are male; Ulillillia is Nick Smith the gamer and blogger, who wrote the book The Legend of the 10 Elemental Masters, an outsider novel written by a self-described obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferer. We don't know who Serafin is; all the indications are he's Polish, and thus like Kolakowski part of the Brotherhood of Francis E. Dec (if they were more artistic, it would be the Brotherhood of Stanisław Szukalski); he repeatedly defaced the Nicolas Copernicus article with the sentence "Copernicus was a Polish astronomer!"  which was endlessly reverted by Germanophile crank Helga Jonat and some other editors that were also later banned, as was Serafin for running an army of sockpuppets to keep this war going for five years off and on.

Cranks and Crankery

The list is a lot shorter, but that doesn't mean it's any better.

From a Wikipediocracy forum thread, post written by Tarc:

"A recent example is Hopiakuta, subject of a discussion at AN. Creates bizarre redirects, article additions, etc... responses to concerns are near-unintelligible, so they block him. Others are objecting and asking for the users' disabilities to be taken into consideration. I think it will be quite a downward spiral if problematic users are given this sort of trapdoor to avoid responsibility for their negative contributions to the Wikipedia."

Hopiakuta was around from 2006 to 2012, considered a bizarro, and given the third degree at the Administrators' Noticeboard:

Can someone tell me what exactly is this user doing? I've been looking over his history and he's taking a lot of non-existent pages and making them into redirects. Especially his edit summary is impossible to decipher. All I guess by this is that he's doing some sort of google bomb in association with these terms and his edits goes back years. Judging by his talk history, there hasn't been much notice at all about this habit. ViriiK (talk) 10:18, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
  • What is it you want an admin to do here exactly? You don't appear to have tried simply asking them. Beeblebrox (talk) 10:28, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Look at his edit history. I'm guessing he's manipulating wikipedia to his advantage to implement some sort of Google bomb or something similar. ViriiK (talk) 10:34, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
While his edit summaries are incomprehensible, the redirects themselves look good to me. Have you tried contacting the editor? I've notified him of this discussion. Huon (talk) 10:50, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I agree that this should have been brought up with the user before running to ANI with it, but if garbage like this and this and this is not SEO then I don't know what it is. See User talk:Hopiakuta/ index Samantha Geimer Lot Elizabeth Ann Smart Gilmour Deon Baptiste Ian Baptiste Emmett Louis Till Stanley Ann Dunham Anneke Frank Annele Frank Charles Augustus Lindbergh, which is the user's talk page before it was moved to a hidden sub-page in May. Nearly every edit since the middle of 2007 has been like this.
Is this something like the Sven70 situation? It looks that way, except there was no problem with Sven's articlespace edits, while these ones are indistinguishable from SEO spam to me. Chris Cunningham (user:thumperward) (talk) 11:13, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Treat me like I'm dumb. I've been contributing to Wikipedia for years and I've read people's edit history which this was just the first time I've seen this long list of incomprehensible changes in the edit reasons. I felt like there was some motive behind it like a google bomb or some form of SEO manipulation since the edit reasons do have links to the articles or redirects. ViriiK (talk) 11:21, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Requesting some time, leaving a note with Xeno, who at one point was mentoring said user and might be able to shed light on this. - Penwhale | dance in the air and follow his steps 11:30, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
You make up fantasy crimes that are not supported by evidence, then delete honest questions.
You have even made Uunartoq_Qeqertaq inhabited, which is absolute nonsense.
hopiakuta Please do sign your communiqué .~~Thank You, DonFphrnqTaub Persina. 11:40, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
I never made up any "fantasy crimes". I simply said that your edit history is incomprehensible and it warranted my suspicion that there was some motive behind your edit reasons. As for "Uunartoq Qeqertaq" where did I do that? It never was inhabited in its entire history so it never was deserted in the first place. How can you desert something if no one has lived there permanently? ViriiK (talk) 11:44, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
(ec, responding to Penwhale:) Xeno seems to be inactive; I asked them about this some time ago (User talk:Xeno/Archive 29#Confusing edits by Hopiakuta) and received no response. In view of talk page contributions that are ... inscrutable ... at best, maybe a preventative block is appropriate? If only because Hopiakuta appears unable to meaningfully communicate with others, which isn't good for a collaborative project like ours.  Sandstein  11:46, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
The only reason how I came across you was because of http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stericycle&action=history where you made these modifications http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stericycle&diff=502742089&oldid=502714710 that made no sense whatsoever. The company, Stericycle, has nothing to do with any of these categories. Can you explain how you come to these conclusions? ViriiK (talk) 11:47, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
A desert island is uninhabited island is an island that had yet to be (or is not currently) populated by humans. Uninhabited islands are often used in movies or stories about shipwrecked people, and are also used as stereotypes for the idea of "paradise". Some uninhabited islands are protected as nature reserves and some are privately owned. Devon Island in Canada is claimed to be the largest uninhabited island in the world.
Small coral atolls or islands usually have no source of fresh water, but at times a fresh water lens (Ghyben-Herzberg lens) can be reached with a well.
Collaborative fraud.
I do not need to copy them all; this is from google:




Report: Romney made millions from investing in abortion related firm


article.wn.com/.../Report_Romney_made_millions_from_investing_i...

Jul 3, 2012 – Romney Invested In Abortion Cleanup Company Stericycle ..... $100000 and $250000 in the Bain Capital Asia fund that purchased Uniview.

hopiakuta Please do sign your communiqué .~~Thank You, DonFphrnqTaub Persina. 11:55, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Didn't answer my question on the Stericycle changes. The modifications you made to Stericycle specifically with those categories did not belong there nor was there a valid reason to do so. Also I reverted the changes from that IP address regarding Stericycle because Wikipedia is not a newspaper. WP:NOT#NEWS As for "Desert Island", I'm talking about this change I made specifically because you made this change http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Desert_island&diff=502406239&oldid=492458336 which you happened to include some non-related article's discussion on an already deleted article. I don't care about the whole "desert island" (although you just answered your own question but I can say that this is a case of WP:COMPETENCE). I'm calling into question how do you come to bring unrelated stuff into the talk pages or any article anywhere on wikipedia? Doing investigation of my own, I assume you own a site called altacalifernia.com and altacaliferne.com which thankfully is broken although your name is implicated in the broken links. Chrome actually prevents me from going via to the redirect site but in the link it says var/chroot/home/content/h/o/p/hopiaku/html/htttp://reltime2012.ru/frunleh?9 However had it properly worked Chrome actually let me visited the site, it redirects I would have been sent to a malware website. I'm suspecting that you are doing SEO manipulation on google or some other website to redirect users to malware websites. ViriiK (talk) 12:07, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Your argument is too convoluted & I have not the slightest knowledge how to do most of what you have described, let alone the intent.
that had yet to be (or is not currently) populated by humans.
hopiakuta Please do sign your communiqué .~~Thank You, DonFphrnqTaub Persina. 13:00, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
So you're saying that you don't own these websites despite the fact you linked them in your talk pages (which I've removed) but are now malware redirects? ViriiK (talk) 13:09, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Frankly, a few minutes looking at this user's 'contributions' reveals that regardless of the motivation for making them, they are gibberish. On that basis, a permanent block per WP:COMPETENCE looks a foregone conclusion. Trying to figure out what is behind this is an irrelevance. AndyTheGrump (talk) 13:17, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Egads. Block this nonsensical user now so that the cleanup can begin, i.e. "Condo Rice" redirects to Condoleeza Rice, "Mars Won" to Mars One, etc... Tarc (talk) 13:24, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
He also has the following sockpuppet accounts which are: User:persina & User:Kutahopia ViriiK (talk) 13:33, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Neither account seems to have been used since 2007. I suspect they were never intended for socking - they should likewise be blocked, per WP:COMPETENCE, which is the only relevant issue. AndyTheGrump (talk) 13:38, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
I have blocked Hopiakuta (talk · contribs · logs · edit filter log · block log) and his alternate accounts indefinitely because the above contributions show that they lack the ability to communicate (and, at least to an extent, edit) meaningfully.  Sandstein  13:45, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

.....And so he vanished.

The Devil's Advocate of Wikipedia and Wikipediocracy turned out to be a 9/11 Truther who editwarred over the World Trade 7 building collapse, and was temporarily topic-banned in 2011 for their troubles. Then they were kicked off WO-MB for some other later "transgression", don't know when but it happened. Notice in the WO-MB thread (which goes on for four pages) that not only was The Devil's Advocate later banned, but Dan Murphy later "retired" as did rd232, dogbiscuit, Notvelty,while EricBarbour remains a user in theory because they are terrified to kick him out.

Finally, this list from VentureBeat in 2014 of the most-edited Wikipedia pages

1. Deaths in 2014 (19,324)
2. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (10,166)
3. Japanese dissidence during the Shōwa period (8,101)
4. Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa (7,644)
5. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (7,312)
6. 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict (6,485)
7. Shooting of Michael Brown (5,419)
8. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (5,147)
9. 2014 Pacific typhoon season (4,954)
10. List of works by Eugène Guillaume (4,229)

Notice numbers 3 and 10....the now-vanished Greg723 was the author of the Shōwa dissidents article, while Weglinde hammered out the Guillaume list (the subject was a French sculptor of religious statues on cathedrals in the 19th century.)

An Accounting Never to be Made 

Without the mental cases and the monomaniac cranks, en.Wikipedia would be a much smaller place. The real damage has to be the normal people who have to deal with the obsessed and the addled in an environment like Wikipedia which is already a free-for-all gang fight....the Wikipedia Sucks! messageboard has members who have been harassed by Wikipedia's legions of cranks, trolls, and crazies. As the site loses more and more members, we can already guess that the cranks and the mental cases will become the norm in editors and administrators. The Wikimedia Foundation might be better off locking Wikipedia in October 2017 then letting it devolve any further.
        
 




Monday, July 18, 2016

"Bitcoin....why did it have to be Bitcoin?"

Yes, the title is a paraphrase of a line Harrison Ford said in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it is true: Bitcoin has been like a pit of venomous snakes for the unwary college kids who passed Computer Science III. And with way too many of these things, Wikipedia was tangentially involved.

 We're not explaining Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a horrendously complicated mess and explaining it is akin to writing a detailed description in words only of all the hydraulic systems in a Grumman F-14 Tomcat jet fighter, an aircraft where almost every hinged surface could be moved by a hydraulic jack and the wings could fold back to fly at supersonic speeds. Luckily there is a snarky FAQ that explains it better than I could. What I will say is that Bitcoin has proven to be an endless goldmine of scammery: Butterfly Labs, who made very expensive and very cruddy Bitcoin mining rigs (devices to create new Bitcoins) decided to buy out the website Buttcoin.org in 2013 mainly because of the previous article I linked to, deceived the owner of Buttcoin.org into selling the site to them, then locked the owner out and turned all the articles on Butterfly Labs into puff pieces. They also did that to the owners of WeUseCoins.com. Then they were raided by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 and all of this website nonsense was confirmed by the government's lawyers. Somehow these very untrustworthy people are still in business in 2016. There was also Mt. Gox, the Japanese trading house that began as a Magic the Gathering card trading site (!) in 2007 and then imploded in 2014, taking nearly 500 million dollars, and they blamed the event on "hackers." Never forget that we don't know who actually created Bitcoin; the possibility that "Satoshi Nakamoto" is a front should be forever in everyone's mind. Because of the blockchain method of tracking Bitcoin, owners of 'coins are forced to keep them at one trading house or the other, because to keep them on a home computer means buying more and more portable hard-drives to store all that blockchain info (which is shot through with child porn links, natch.) And then the trading house you have the Bitcoins in goes under.

Literally the only physical things Bitcoin produces are waste heat, obsolete mining equipment, those stupid keychains, and insane timewasters like the St. Petersburg Bitcoin Bowl. That mainland China does more than 50 percent of the Bitcoin mining in the world should give people pause, because the Communist Party could declare the entire thing a scam overnight and shut it down by brute force. Bitcoin is what happens when a world-historical credit bubble collapses (2007-08) and people go off trying to rebuild their money streams by any flimsy means possible. The difference between Bitcoin and some multi-level marketing scheme is that Bitcoin has a built-in system of internet Libertarians, people wanting to buy illegal stuff by an "untraceable online currency", and hard-core investor types backing it, which is why it keeps on coming back like Dracula. It's digital goldbuggery, pure and simple.

Wikipedia a Bitcoin promoter?

Pretty much it was like Scientology all over again, except the pro-Bitcoin people were like the anti-Scientologists; they were given a lot of leeway. One of the big ones was nullc, aka Gmaxwell (Greg Maxwell.) He does very little on Wikipedia now, but back before Mt. Gox imploded he was hip deep in editing the Bitcoin article. Drmies also did occasional editing on the same article, if just to prove he can insert himself anywhere. Look at the article today; little over 180 kilobytes long, nearly 400 references, 28 archives of back and forth arguments - it reads like an article written by smart paid editors. As of this moment, the chief defender of it is Ladislav_Mercir, a Czech programmer/computer scientist-type who was involved with the REBOL computer language in the mid-2000s. He isn't the odd one; that would be Eclipsed, who managed the short article on the failed BitcoinXT fork almost all by himself, before he abandoned the last account to become 1Wiki8Q5G7FviTHBac3dx8HhdNYwDVstR, and they still only really care about Bitcoin.

Is it promotion? I would say it verges on it a lot, but then we have complicated articles about the Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter of World War II and all its many variants. The difference is that you can't buy a working Bf-109 G-10; you can use the information on Bitcoin in Wikipedia to get involved in that currency or Litecoin, Ethereum, or Dogecoin because all these cryptocurrencies have thick articles on Wikipedia. But then, that's the difference between Wikipedia and a real encyclopedia; the former is run by "hobbyists" (addicts, really) who know something about a subject and use that knowledge to make or improve articles, the latter is the product of professionals who have deadlines to meet and are writing to a certain reading level, with a prearranged article size for pieces of different types. The only people who are truly burned by these 'coin articles are the readers who are attracted, get involved, and then are ripped off by some dude in Bratislava.


As it should be painfully obvious (what with no mention of paper wallets), the writer has never owned Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, nor a mining rig. Nor is he a propagandist for the US Treasury Department. Take your paranoia elsewhere.