The Null Device

2008/3/27

Across Mexico, hundreds of kids gather to beat up emo kids in violent riots. The emo-bashers have come from all walks of life, with other youth fashion tribes (goths, metalheads, mohican punks, Elvis-pompadoured rockabillies) and football fans uniting to whale on a common foe in a spectacularly violent fashion (the word "pogrom" has come up repeatedly in reports). And there is more analysis here:

Anger against the emos has come from many quarters: punks and goths who think emos are ripping off their culture, homophobes who don’t find emos masculine enough, and those who simply seem threatened by a group that is so different than the mainstream.
Here are a couple examples of anti-emo anger from a Mexican website: “I HATE EMOS!!! They are not even people, they are so stupid, they cry over meaningless things…My school is infested with them, I want to kill them all!” and “We’ve never seen all the urban tribes unite against one single tribe before…Emos, their way of thinking is for crap, if you are so depressed please do us all a favor and kill yourselves!”
Meanwhile, anti-emo riots have also taken place in Chile, where emo kids are known, for some reason, as "pokEMOnes". They don't seem to have spread outside of Latin America, though; perhaps the explosion of anti-emo violence (rather than mere mocking comments posted on online forums) is a result of emo and "crying over meaningless things" being a particularly unpardonable infraction against the unwritten codes of masculinity in Latin American machismo?

(via Boing Boing, MeFi) chile culture emo machismo mexico 0 Share

Someone is sending pro-Tibet groups documents infected with keylogging malware, configured to send back keystrokes to a server in China. The documents are sent from addresses forged to resemble human rights groups, and purport to be details of Chinese massacres in Tibet and similar information.

The exploit silently drops and runs a file called C:\Program Files\Update\winkey.exe. This is a keylogger that collects and sends everything typed on the affected machine to a server running at xsz.8800.org. And 8800.org is a Chinese DNS-bouncer system that, while not rogue by itself, has been used over and over again in various targeted attacks.
The exploit inside the PDF file was crafted to evade detection by most antivirus products at the time it was sent.
Somebody is trying to use pro-Tibet themed emails to infect computers of the members of pro-Tibet groups to spy on their actions.
Of course, the pro-Tibet groups could avoid being pwn3d by the Chinese by the simple expedient of not using Windows or common software to open documents.

(via Schneier) china cyberwar deception espionage malware security skulduggery tibet 2 Share

An investigation into German discount supermarket chain Lidl has revealed an extensive campaign of surveillance of employees, which has been compared to the Stasi's monitoring of East Germany's population (though perhaps Walt Disney's surveillance of animators and Henry Ford's sociological department are also good comparisons):

The detectives' records include details of precisely where employees had tattoos as well as information about their friends. "Her circle of friends consists mainly of drug addicts," reads one record. The detectives also had the task of identifying which employees appeared to be "incapable" or "introverted and naive".
While most incidents seem to have occurred in Germany, the most shocking one allegedly occurred at a Lidl store in the Czech Republic, where a female worker was forbidden to go to the toilet during working hours. An internal memorandum, which is now the centre of a court case in the republic, allegedly advised staff that "female workers who have their periods may go to the toilet now and again, but to enjoy this privilege they should wear a visible headband".
Recording how a German employee identified as Frau M spent her break, one report read: "Frau M wanted to make a call with her mobile phone at 14.05 ... She received the recorded message that she only had 85 cents left on her prepaid mobile. She managed to reach a friend with whom she would like to cook this evening, but on condition that her wage had been paid into her bank, because she would otherwise not have enough money to go shopping."
A spokesperson for Lidl has said that the surveillance was intended "not to monitor staff, but to establish possible abnormal behaviour".

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The Principality of Hutt River, Australia's best-known novelty nation, has found itself in the news again, when an Iranian man facing fraud charges in Dubai claimed to be an ambassador of the province and demanded diplomatic treatment. The unnamed defendant is facing several fraud charges, some relating to the issuing of false passports:

Asked to explain why he was not on a list of foreign diplomats, he claimed his state was trying to open an embassy in Dubai and had just recently started the registration process.
The Principality of Hutt River's Prince Leonard (known as Leonard Casley to the Australian Tax Office) has admitted to knowing of the man, though denied that he was a Hutt River diplomat.

australia crime dubai fraud hutt river province iran micronations 2 Share

In 2002, Teresa Nielsen-Hayden wrote up a taxonomy of the various forms virtually all fraud falls into, from pyramid schemes to promises of inside information to variants of classics like the "Spanish Prisoner", to the numerous "tax protest" frauds rife among the mad-as-a-rattlesnake class in the US. Anyway, amongst the illuminating commentary, there is the following insight:

A couple of days ago I finally put my finger on something I’ve been sensing but not grasping—you know, one of those itchy back-of-the-brain apprehensions that there’s a pattern here, only you can’t quite see what it is. Somehow it’s felt like literary analysis. The question is, why do these scams—inheritance cons, MLMs, tax dodges, Make Money Fast, hot stock tip swindles, et cetera—take the forms they do?
What did it was looking at my list of basic scams and observing that what they have in common is the promise of lucrative, risk-free investments. Lord knows the things exist, I thought, but nobody ever gives them away. In theory, high rates of return are the investor’s payoff for taking on higher-risk investments. Achieving that happy state of all payoff and no risk is the main reason the wealthy and powerful manipulate the system.
Oh.
These scams take the forms they do because they’re parodies—no, a better way to put it: they’re cargo-cult effigies—of the deals the ruling class cut for themselves. If you’re an insider, if you have the secret, you can have a job where you make heaps of money for very little work. You can avoid paying your taxes. You can inherit a pile of money because an ancestor of yours left a moderate fortune that’s been appreciating ever since. You can be your own boss. You can have other people working for you, who have other people working for them, who all pay you a percentage of the take.
Which, when applied to get-rich-quick schemes, from scams and frauds to perfectly honest (if dumber than a sack of hammers) ideas based on visualisation, prayer, ritual or other forms of magical thinking (such as "the Secret", as found in the self-help sections of bookshops across the US), makes perfect sense. The original cargo cults consisted of Melanesian islanders who, upon witnessing American airmen arrive during World War 2 with food rations, clothing and other useful goods (whose provenance their culture had not equipped them to understand), reasoned that these goods must be boons from the gods and that, if they carried out the same rituals as the Americans (i.e., parading in handmade US Army uniforms, building makeshift runways and control towers), they would reap the same benefits. Could it not be that this magical mode of thinking is not purely the province of "primitive" cultures, but is an idiosyncracy of the human mind's irrational pattern-matching tendencies, the same tendencies that attribute misfortune to elaborate (and unfalsifiable) conspiracies over mere chance? After all, our instincts say, there must be a man behind the curtain.

Elsewhere in the article, there is the following observation about one persistent category of frauds: the ever-thriving business of telling people that they don't really need to pay taxes, and that, for a fee, they can know the secret of how to get away with not paying it (which, unsurprisingly, seldom works):

Somewhat humorously, in several cases where the IRS has gone after promoters of “Don’t File” schemes, it was determined that the promoter—while advocating not filing returns—had been filing their returns all along. This really isn’t surprising, since most of the promoters will secretly confide that they really don’t believe these theories either, but it makes them good money.

cargo cults crime fraud irrationality scams skepticism society 0 Share