Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 16th, 2014

Police culture of violence

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Andrew O’Hehir in Salon:

What we have witnessed over the past week in Ferguson, Missouri, represents the collision of two sinister forces in American society: the widespread militarization of police forces from coast to coast, and the long and sordid history of police violence against African-Americans in particular, and any and all threats to the dominant social and economic order in general. These things are connected, to be sure. Both can be described as reflecting a paranoid and profoundly racist worldview that has long been endemic within American nationalism, the worldview that connects the Know-Nothings and slavery defenders of the 19th century to J. Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy, Strom Thurmond and the Tea Party.

But these two phenomena have separate histories and distinctive points of origin. If one side of the equation is “Red Dawn” paranoia, in which we imagine small-town cops prepared to do battle with heavily armed alien invaders at any moment, the other side is “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” paranoia, in which the enemy is right here at home, cleverly concealed as our neighbors and fellow citizens. As Glenn Greenwald, Heather Digby Parton and other commentators have explained this week (their pieces in particular are must-reads), the provision of military-style gear to local and state police at outlandish taxpayer expense began in earnest with the Reagan administration’s “war on drugs,” a disastrous policy failure whose consequences are just as far-reaching as the equally inept “war on terror” or the doomed invasion of Iraq.

But I’m sorry, liberals – you don’t get to blame the Republicans exclusively, or even primarily, for this one. It’s been a truly bipartisan effort. Militarizing the cops goes along with the larger package of “security” issues that Democrats in Congress have largely embraced for fear of appearing soft on crime and terrorism, from NSA surveillance to the drone wars to the prison-building boom. There are some noteworthy exceptions, including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who have spoken out forcefully on this complex of issues. But the loudest objections to the national-security state, and to the specific combination of ingredients we saw on the streets of Ferguson, have come from Rand Paul, which is exactly why Hillary Clinton fears him so much. She represents the Democratic Party’s fundamental confusion about the nature and limits of state power, along with its innate tendency to abandon principle in search of perceived political advantage, which have led it to drink deeply from the cup of evil.

Reagan and his neocon brain trust – including a two-time secretary of defense and future Sith Lord named Dick Cheney – began the process that turned every small-town, donut-engorged police department and Podunk County band of sheriff’s deputies into a heavily armed but poorly trained military unit. But succeeding . . .

Continue reading. And read it all. Later, for example:

. . . It’s almost misleading to bring up a cartoon villain and arch-segregationist like Connor, who was entirely forthright about what he stood for. It’s not as if the history of police violence against citizens of color was limited to the Deep South in the Jim Crow era. Discrimination and segregation were always questions of entrenched custom rather than law in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, for example – and the nation’s three largest cities all have long and painful records of egregious police misconduct and racial animosity. Have conditions in those cities improved since the police murder of Fred Hampton in 1969, the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and the more recent killings ofAmadou Diallo, Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury and Sean Bell, all of them unarmed black men shot dead by police as a result of “misunderstandings”? Maybe so, but I’m really not the right person to ask. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

16 August 2014 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

U.S. firm helped the spyware industry build a potent digital weapon for sale overseas

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A weapon that will make it much easier for malefactors to break into your own computer. Barton Gellman reports for the Washington Post:

CloudShield Technologies, a California defense contractor, dispatched a senior engineer to Munich in the early fall of 2009. His instructions were unusually opaque.

As he boarded the flight, the engineer told confidants later, he knew only that he should visit a German national who awaited him with an off-the-books assignment. There would be no written contract, and on no account was the engineer to send reports back to CloudShield headquarters.

His contact, Martin J. Muench, turned out to be a former developer of computer security tools who had long since turned to the darkest side of their profession. Gamma Group, the British conglomerate for which Muench was a managing director, built and sold systems to break into computers, seize control clandestinely, and then copy files, listen to Skype calls, record every keystroke and switch on Web cameras and microphones at will.

[Read: How to implant a Trojan Horse: a user manual]

According to accounts the engineer gave later and contemporary records obtained by The Washington Post, he soon fell into a shadowy world of lucrative spyware tools for sale to foreign security services, some of them with records of human rights abuse.

Over several months, the engineer adapted Gamma’s digital weapons to run on his company’s specialized, high-speed network hardware. Until then CloudShield had sold its CS-2000 device, a multipurpose network and content processing product, primarily to the Air Force and other Pentagon customers, who used it to manage and defend their networks, not to attack others.

CloudShield’s central role in Gamma’s controversial work — fraught with legal risk under U.S. export restrictions — was first uncovered by Morgan Marquis-Boire, author of a new report released Friday by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. He shared advance drafts with The Post, which conducted its own month-long investigation.

The prototype that CloudShield built was never brought to market, and the company parted ways with Gamma in 2010. But Marquis-Boire said CloudShield’s work helped pioneer a new generation of “network injection appliances” sold by Gamma and its Italian rival, Hacking Team. Those devices harness malicious software to specialized equipment attached directly to the central switching points of a foreign government’s national Internet grid.

The result: Merely by playing a YouTube video or visiting a Microsoft Live service page, for instance, an unknown number of computers around the world have been implanted with Trojan horses by government security services that siphon their communications and files. Google, which owns YouTube, and Microsoft are racing to close the vulnerability.

Citizen Lab’s report, based on leaked technical documents, is the first to document that commercial spyware companies are making active use of this technology. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 August 2014 at 12:35 pm

3 Teenagers Created An App To Hold Police Accountable

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This seems like an excellent idea—Yelp for police departments, as it were. Carimah Townes reports at ThinkProgress:

Three high school students have developed a mobile app to hold police accountable in communities nationwide. The app, Five-O, is a timely development, since the shooting of Michael Brown last weekend sparked a national conversation about police brutality andlaw enforcement in the U.S.

Caleb, Ima, and Asha Christian, three siblings from Decatur, Georgia, created Five-O for individuals to document and rate their encounters with police officers. With the app, citizens can discuss the reason behind their police encounters, and what occurred during their interactions. Moreover, individuals can transfer the recorded information to law enforcement, which can be used in cases where legal action is necessary. Five-O allows citizens to input relevant demographic information, including age and race, and rank officers’ level of professionalism.

“We’d like to know which regions in the US provide horrible law enforcement services as well as highlight the agencies that are highly rated by their citizens. In addition to putting more power into the hands of citizens when interacting with law enforcement, we believe that highly rated police departments should be used as models for those that fail at providing quality law enforcement services,” explained Ima, the eldest of the three siblings.

The mobile app will be available for download on August 18. The Georgia trio hopes that citizens will find its way to communities across the U.S.

Police accountability is a grave concern for criminal justice advocates, particularly in regards to seeking justice for victims of police violence. On one hand, there is a lack of national data on police shootings, as individual police departments tend to be protectiveof complaints against officers. On the other hand, quantifying excessive force is difficult, and there are varying standards of what constitutes “reasonable” force.

Apps and social media are promising tools to help fix the lack of data out there, enabling witnesses and victims of police violence to share their accounts when they cannot find justice through official channels. The NYCLU developed another mobile app, Stop-and-Frisk Watch, in 2012. Created in response to the New York Police Department’s contentious stop-and-frisk policy, known for disproportionately targeting African American men, the app lets onlookers to record video of police misconduct and send them to NYCLU servers.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 August 2014 at 11:35 am

Celebration weekend

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This weekend is the Concours d’Elegance, so we’re seeing a lot of elegant vintage cars around town. There’s an auction—one car sold on Wednesday for $38 million. (I did not bid.) And tomorrow is our wedding anniversary so we’re going out for a steak dinner. I seldom eat steak these days. I don’t have a charcoal grill, for one thing, and finishing a steak requires a higher temperature than one can get in a domestic range—something like a restaurant’s salamander is needed.

So it will be a relaxing and fun weekend. Hope you are having the same.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 August 2014 at 8:57 am

Posted in Daily life

The Pils and a great shave

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SOTD 16 Aug 2014

The Wee Scot, turned so you can see Alexander Simpson’s signature, made a fine lather from the Klar Seifen shaving soap. Then the Pils—it’s stainless, but I had it gold plated some years back by Razor Emporium—did a very fine job with an Astra Superior Platinum blade. A splash of Klar Seifen’s aftershave, and the weekend is underway.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 August 2014 at 8:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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