Friday, February 29, 2008

Be afraid, be very afraid of "swatters"

This phone swatting business is a dangerous trend. Someone is going to get killed someday.
At 4 in the morning of May 1, 2005, deputies from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office converged on the suburban Colorado Springs home of Richard Gasper, a TSA screener at the local Colorado Springs Municipal Airport. They were expecting to find a desperate, suicidal gunman holding Gasper and his daughter hostage.

"I will shoot," the gravely voice had warned, in a phone call to police minutes earlier. "I'm not afraid. I will shoot, and then I will kill myself, because I don't care."

"I will shoot." Listen to the Colorado Springs hostage hoax.

But instead of a gunman, it was Gasper himself who stepped into the glare of police floodlights. Deputies ordered Gasper's hands up and held him for 90 minutes while searching the house. They found no armed intruder, no hostages bound in duct tape. Just Gasper's 18-year-old daughter and his baffled parents.

A federal Joint Terrorism Task Force would later conclude that Gasper had been the victim of a new type of nasty hoax, called "swatting," that was spreading across the United States. Pranksters were phoning police with fake murders and hostage crises, spoofing their caller IDs so the calls appear to be coming from inside the target's home. The result: police SWAT teams rolling to the scene, sometimes bursting into homes, guns drawn.

Now the FBI thinks it has identified the culprit in the Colorado swatting as a 17-year-old East Boston phone phreak known as "Li'l Hacker." Because he's underage, is not reporting Li'l Hacker's last name. His first name is Matthew, and he poses a unique challenge to the federal justice system, because he is blind from birth.

If he's guilty, the attack is at once the least sophisticated and most malicious of a string of capers linked to Matt, who stumbled into the lingering remains of the decades-old subculture of phone phreaking when he was 14, and quickly rose to become one of the most skilled active phreakers alive.

"Who's the best out there?" says Jeff Daniels, a veteran phone hacker and an admitted mentor to Matt. "The little blind kid is one of the best. And that's a fact."

Innocent at first, Matt's worst instincts surfaced after he fell in with a gang of telephone ruffians -- men as old as 40 -- who eventually fingered the teenager when they were swept up in an FBI crackdown on swatters late last year. The government says the gang launched swatting attacks in over 60 cities, leaving hundreds of victims and chalking up over $250,000 in losses.

Interviews by with Matt and his associates, and a review of court documents, FBI reports and audio recordings, paints a picture of a young man with an uncanny talent for quick telephone con jobs. Able to commit vast amounts of information to memory instantly, Matt has mastered the intricacies of telephone switching systems, while developing an innate understanding of human psychology and organization culture -- knowledge that he uses to manipulate his patsies and torment his foes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

One of the great put downs -- putting Arthur Schlesinger back in his kennel

JFK knew how to put the flattering man with the note cards in his place. And now Joseph Epstein does it a lot better. An expose of the historian as sycophant is long overdue. This is priceless. Unfortunately it's gated. It's worth a trip to the library.
The recent publication of Schlesinger’s diaries* is a useful reality check on such claims. The book also provides an account of a career in American liberalism that is, in microcosm, a partial account of the career of the liberal temperament itself over the past half-century.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One of Emerson's best pieces of work

"Take a pebble" withstands the test of time. This is a great live version.

Revisting Patti Smith

A nice ringing acoustic guitar to a great Springsteen song.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

An introduction to the mellotron

I imagine all of those nifty mellotron tapes are now on a tiny computer chip!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Blah! Another six weeks

He saw his shadow.
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP-Feb 2, 2008) — If you believe in folklore, bundle up for six more weeks of wintry weather.

This is Groundhog Day, and the furry little critter known as Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. That, according to tradition, means six more weeks of winter.

The apathetic-looking rodent was pulled from his stump by members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle. They are the local businessmen in the Western Pennsylvania town who carry out the February 2nd ritual while garbed in top hats and tuxedos.

The ceremony was preceded by a boisterous celebration attended by thousands of cold, but happy people, including a few couples who used the occasion to get engaged.

The town of Punxsutawney leads the modern observance of what is essentially a German superstition. The belief is that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2nd, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter would last another six weeks. If no shadow were seen, legend said spring would come early.