Defcon 25.

Aug 01, 2017

Well, I'm finally back from Defcon 25 and writing up my notes while in the throes of con drop before too much of the experience fades from memory.  Suffice it to say that I have opinions about last weekend, which I will attempt to write as concisely as I can.  I don't like being negative about things because my experience is my own, and I much prefer that people have their own experiences and make up their own minds about things.  However, I would be lying if I painted a rosy picture of my attendence of the largest hacker convention on the planet this year.  I did not have a good time, I was not the only one, I learned just about nothing new, and it left me with very few fun (or even good) tales to regale people with.  It also felt like the weekend flew by - three days came and went before I knew it, which is both a little disorienting and not actually a bad thing when looking at the thirty thousand foot view.

After a protracted period of getting ready, most of which involved fighting with trying to get my designated burner phone reactivated after sitting for a year in the box I was finally ready to hit the road.  You can, in fact, purchase functional SIM cards for just about any cellular provider from eBay and buy a pre-paid plan.  Upon arriving in Las Vegas and accepting the 106 degree punch in the face, I hailed a shuttle to my hotel and climbed aboard.  This year, Vlad found us lodgings within easy walking distance of Caesar's Palace, where Defcon had moved to this year.  I hauled my kit upstairs, ordered a pizza, and plopped myself down to read and relax for the first time in a couple of days.

I'd love to tell you how much fun I had at Defcon and give you detailed write-ups of all the talks I went to (taken from copious handwritten notes, of course), but I didn't make it to a single talk, and was able to visit only one village (the Biohacking Village) twice.  Mind you, this was after waiting in line for roughly two hours and not getting into the talks I'd originally come to see.  Not that the talks I wound up seeing weren't interesting, they were, but they weren't what I was trying to attend.  In addition, the Biohacking Village (that I know of) and other village rooms (that I only heard about and thus cannot confirm firsthand) have made a practice of flushing the room (throwing everybody out) to prevent camping, so as to keep the lines moving and thus making sure that most everybody in line gets into something.  The lines for just about every talk I saw were around the corner, sometimes two corners, and most of the way down the hallways.  I didn't bother trying to get into the talks in the main tracks.  Unsurprisingly, go ahead and laugh, I kept getting lost in the labyrinthine hallways of Caesar's Palace.  Possibly much to your surprise, many people who actually have a sense of direction kept getting lost there, too.  Some of the maps posted on the corners and at the infobooths gave incorrect directions to various locations.  Many of the Goons I spoke to didn't know where things were, either.  I don't blame them for it at all; a few admitted to me that they had no idea where anything was, either, so I don't feel alone in my frustration.  I can't speak to how well organized Defcon was this year because I'm not in a position to know what was going on.  What I do know is that Caesar's Palace is very difficult to navigate, and if I'd known how hard it would be I would have gone up a couple of days early specifically to sneak around and learn where everything was ahead of time.

Richard Spencer, face punching, and violence.

Jan 21, 2017

I shouldn't have to write this disclaimer, but here we go anyway: I am not one of these people and never will be.  I mirrored the documents in question because data has a way of disappearing from the Net when lawyers get involved, a phenomenon called HTTP Error 451 (Unavailable for legal reasons), and we're already seeing potentially damaging and damning information quietly going away.  So, if you're going to say that because I have a copy of a particular document on my website I support the author when I just said I didn't, please pull your head out of your ass.

What a world in which I have to say this.

If you were fortunate yesterday you got to watch this man, Richard Spencer (Wikipedia page archived at 20170121@0955 hours PDT in case somebody sanitizes it) (local mirror) (mugshot), get punched dead in the face (local mirror in case the video disappears) by what appears to be an antifa protestor on live television.  Spencer is openly and vocally a white supremacist and chairbeing of an uncannily influential white supremacist think tank called the National Policy Institute (google them, I'm not linking to their website), though in the US they're calling themselves white nationalists these days.  He wrote this article (Internet Archive copy because it mysteriously vanished from his website) (local mirror)  At the Inauguration yesterday, he said this: "Let's party like it's 1933." (local mirror) There is some controversy about this guy getting clocked while being interviewed.  Perhaps, some say, they should have given him a chance to make the first move.  Perhaps he should have been taunted into throwing the first punch to have some justification for getting nailed.

I disagree, and this is why: Have you ever gotten stomped?

Seriously - have you ever gotten the living hell beaten out of you because you were not white, or because you were queer or just because somebody wanted an excuse to take you out?  Legit beaten down, wound up in the hospital, perhaps injured for an extended period of time?  Maybe still feeling it years later?

These screwheads do not give you a chance.  They do not taunt you into throwing the first punch.  They do not let you make the first move.  They come at you with everything they've got, usually as a group, and they do not let up until either you're down and out or somebody comes to your rescue (which is rare, if ever).  They have only one thing in mind, and that's turning you into paste on the floor or sidewalk.  They do not let up until they think they're done, for some definition of done.  They care about taking you out, period, full stop.

Does that make what happend to him right?  Well, yes, he's a goddamn Nazi.  His followers, and groups moving along the same lines have done the same thing to people time and time again over the years, often much worse than he got.  People like Spencer have the gift of making up erudite-sounding words to justify it.

I shed no tears and raise a toast to the unknown person who punched him.  That was a very small taste of what some of us got for the crime of merely existing.  It isn't a matter of right or wrong, it's a matter of what goes around comes around.