Later On

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

Archive for October 11th, 2014

The NYPD has a truly broken culture

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Yet another out-of-control NYPD cop. If there does turn out to be brain damage, the taxpayers will again end up paying millions in settlement or damages. Can’t the city understand that the NYPD is costing money?

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Similarities between narco-cops and football-cops

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Narco cops are police under the control of a drug cartel, sometimes indeed a police department might be staffed by cartel enforcers. It’s a problem in some countries. More info here.

In the US we see football-cops: exactly the same thing, but the cartel in this case is the football enterprise and the money it wields. But the result is the same: the public’s interest becomes the lowest priority. The focus of “protect and serve” shifts from the public to the organization. Money changes hands—and people, for that matter. Read about one example.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 12:50 pm

Losing friends and alienating peoples: US foreign policy

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Elias Isquit has a very good column in Salon:

A few weeks back, Yahoo!’s Michael Isikoff broke a story that inspired feelings of bitter vindication among U.S. foreign policy critics, but went mostly unnoticed by the population at large. In a statement to Isikoff, the White House acknowledged for the first time that the civilian-protecting restrictions on drone strikes President Obama announced to great fanfare last year were not being applied to its new anti-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria. Translated from the purposefully anodyne language of a statement to the press, the White House’s message to civilians near ISIS targets was simple and clear: You’re on your own.

To critics of U.S. policy in the greater Middle East, Yahoo!’s report was an unwelcome confirmation of a nagging suspicion and fear. Namely, that Obama’s 2013 drone speech — during which the president outlined a long list of reforms his administration would implement to the drone program — was little more than presidential lip service, and that the U.S. was still running its counterterrorism like a game of Calvinball, the imaginary sport from “Calvin and Hobbes” whose only real law is that player/creator Calvin gets to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to do it.

It’s no longer a surprise, of course, to find Obama upholding Bush’s legacy on national security policies. What’s troubling, though — and what the new war on ISIS has made even more clear — is that despite being nearly six years through the Obama era, our famously cautious, rational and legalistic president has done little to clean up and clarify the legal and political counterterrorism framework left to him by his predecessor. The war on terror is bigger and more entrenched than ever, and it’s still being waged according to secret rules.

For experts in the field of human rights, the Yahoo! report was both disappointing and unsurprising, with some seeing it as just the latest manifestation of a dynamic that’s been present throughout Obama’s years in the White House. In conversations with Salon, members of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch shared concerns over the White House’s statement to Yahoo!, but emphasized that they were unable to weigh in more authoritatively due to the administration’s insistence on keeping secret much of the law supporting targeted killings and other uses of force against terrorist organizations.

“The fact that we’re even having this conversation stems from the decision by the administration to not be clear about what law governs,” said Human Rights Watch Deputy Washington Director Andrea Prasow after noting Obama’s 2013 drone speech “was clearly policy, not law” and therefore non-binding. ”The Obama administration has used targeted killing in circumstances that may not be an armed conflict,” Prasow said, “and in those cases, human rights law is the law that governs. If the [ISIS] decision was to apply … to those situations,” she continued, “the policy is illegal.”

If all that sounds quite hypothetical, it’s because it is. “We don’t know if particular strikes are part of the armed conflict which Iraq requested the U.S. join, or if they’re strikes against al Qaeda as part of the administration’s claim that it’s in an armed conflict with al Qaeda and its ‘associated forces’ around the world,” Prasow said. “It’s difficult to know how to analyze [drone strikes] and how to figure out which law governs. We don’t know what’s actually happening.” The president’s 2013 address was supposed to answer many of these questions and provide greater. It hasn’t. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 12:45 pm

Voluntary compliance quickly becomes voluntary noncompliance—since it’s basically okay (“voluntary,” remember)

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It never changes. Industry will always push for voluntary guidelines, with a fallback to monitored voluntary guidelines, so long as they do the monitoring.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 12:42 pm

A new meme enters the arena

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And I hope it catches on.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 11:57 am

Posted in Memes

Interesting article on NSA saboteurs working in China and Germany

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I think the NSA’s overreach and Obama’s lack of control of the agency has had harmful effects on US relationships with other countries. Certainly many of the reported actions of NSA are antithetical to the values we support (e.g., personal privacy as a right). Peter Maas and Laura Poitras report at The Intercept:

Core secrets

The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use “physical subversion” to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also indicate that the agency has used “under cover” operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with American firms. The documents describe a range of clandestine field activities that are among the agency’s “core secrets” when it comes to computer network attacks, details of which are apparently shared with only a small number of officials outside the NSA.

“It’s something that many people have been wondering about for a long time,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, after reviewing the documents. “I’ve had conversations with executives at tech companies about this precise thing. How do you know the NSA is not sending people into your data centers?”

Previous disclosures about the NSA’s corporate partnerships have focused largely on U.S. companies providing the agency with vast amounts of customer data, including phone records and email traffic. But documents published today by The Intercept suggest that even as the agency uses secret operatives to penetrate them, companies have also cooperated more broadly to undermine the physical infrastructure of the internet than has been previously confirmed.

In addition to so-called “close access” operations, the NSA’s “core secrets” include the fact that the agency works with U.S. and foreign companies to weaken their encryption systems; the fact that the NSA spends “hundreds of millions of dollars” on technology to defeat commercial encryption; and the fact that the agency works with U.S. and foreign companies to penetrate computer networks, possibly without the knowledge of the host countries. Many of the NSA’s core secrets concern its relationships to domestic and foreign corporations.

Some of the documents in this article appear in a new documentary,CITIZENFOUR, which tells the story of the Snowden disclosures and is directed by Intercept co-founder Laura Poitras. The documents describe a panoply of programs classified with the rare designation of “Exceptionally Compartmented Information,” or ECI, which are only disclosed to a “very select” number of government officials.

Sentry Eagle

The agency’s core secrets are outlined in a 13-page “brief sheet” about Sentry Eagle, an umbrella term that the NSA used to encompass its most sensitive programs “to protect America’s cyberspace.”

Continue reading.

And you also might find this column by Tom Englehardt of interest:

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT.

You listen in on foreign leaders and politicians across the planet.  You bring on boardhundreds of thousands of crony corporate employees, creating the sinews of an intelligence-corporate complex of the first order.  You break into the “backdoors” of the data centers of major Internet outfits to collect user accounts.  You create new outfits within outfits, including an ever-expanding secret military and intelligence crew embedded inside the military itself (and not counted among those 17 agencies).  Your leaders lie to Congress and the American people without, as far as we can tell, a flicker of self-doubt.  Your acts are subject to secret courts, which only hear your versions of events and regularly rubberstampthem — and whose judgments and substantial body of lawmaking are far too secret for Americans to know about.

You have put extraordinary effort into ensuring that information about your world and the millions of documents you produce doesn’t make it into our world.  You even have the legal ability to gag American organizations and citizens who might speak out on subjects that would displease you (and they can’t say that their mouths have been shut).  You undoubtedlyspy on Congress.  You hack into congressional computer systems.  And if whistleblowers inside your world try to tell the American public anything unauthorized about what you’re doing, you prosecute them under the Espionage Act, as if they were spies for a foreign power (which, in a sense, they are, since you treat the American people as if they were a foreign population).  You do everything to wreck their lives and — should one escape your grasp — you hunt him implacably to the ends of the Earth.

As for your top officials, when their moment is past, the revolving door is theirs to spin through into a lucrative mirror life in the intelligence-corporate complex.

What They Didn’t Know

Think of the world of the “U.S. Intelligence Community,” or IC, as a near-perfect closed system and rare success story in twenty-first-century Washington.  In a capital riven by fierce political disagreements, just about everyone agrees on the absolute, total, and ultimate importance of that “community” and whatever its top officials might decide in order to keep this country safe and secure.

Yes, everything you’ve done has been in the name of national security and the safety of Americans.  And as we’ve discovered, there is never enough security, not at least when it comes to one thing: the fiendish ability of “terrorists” to threaten this country.  Admittedly, terrorist attacks would rank above shark attacks, but not much else on a list of post-9/11 American dangers.  And for this, you take profuse credit — for, that is, the fact that there has never been a “second 9/11.”  In addition, you take credit for breaking up all sorts of terror plans and plots aimed at this country, including an amazing 54 of them reportedly foiled using the phone and email “metadata” of Americans gathered by the NSA.  As it happens, a distinguished panel appointed by President Obama, with security clearances that allowed them to examine these spectacular claims in detail, found that not a single one had merit.

Whatever the case, while taxpayer dollars flowed into your coffers, no one considered it a problem that the country lacked 17 overlapping outfits bent on preventing approximately 400,000 deaths by firearms in the same years; nor 17 interlocked agencies dedicated to safety on our roads, where more than 450,000 Americans have died since 9/11.  (An American, it has been calculated, is 1,904 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack.)  Almost all the money and effort have instead been focused on the microscopic number of terrorist plots — some spurred on by FBI plants — that have occurred on American soil in that period.  On the conviction that Americans must be shielded from them above all else and on the fear that 9/11 bred in this country, you’ve built an intelligence structure unlike any other on the planet when it comes to size, reach, and labyrinthine complexity.

It’s quite an achievement, especially when you consider its one downside: it has a terrible record of getting anything right in a timely way.  Never have so many had access to so much information about our world and yet been so unprepared for whatever happens in it.

When it comes to getting ahead of the latest developments on the planet, the ones that might really mean something to the government it theoretically serves, the IC is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 11:09 am

How feathers evolved

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A nice little animation:

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 11:00 am

Posted in Evolution, Science, Video

Why is Wal-Mart working so hard to prevent rooftop solar?

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 10:56 am

Posted in Books

More 3-cushion billiards: A run of 42 points in just 3 innings

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Innings of 20, 9, and 13. Pretty impressive.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 10:41 am

Posted in Games, Video

Some good remarks about Nobelist Malala Yousafzai

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Juan Cole has a good post on Malala Yousafzai at Informed Comment, along with a BBC video. From that post:

. . . Lila Abu-Lughod has warned against the use of Ms. Yousafzai by powerful white men as a symbol whereby they can pose as champions of Muslim women against Muslim men– an argument first made powerfully in a another context by Gayatri Spivak The real Malala Yousafzai is harder to deploy for those purposes than is Malala the symbol.

Islamophobes who use her story as an indictment of the religion of Islam have another think coming. She credits her religion with inspiring her values, the values that made here a nobelist: “What the terrorists are doing is against Islam because Islam is a religion of peace. It tells us about equality, it tells us about brotherhood, it tells us about love and friendship and peace, that we should – we should be nice and kind to each other.”

It should be remembered that Ms. Yousafzai told Barack Obama off about his drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of northwest Pakistan. She said of her meeting with the US president, “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism… Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

She appears to oppose military action against the Taliban: ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ . . .

UPDATE: And note this McClatchy article by Anita Kumar:

The teenager who became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize Friday told President Barack Obama at a White House meeting last year that she worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, as well as Kailash Satyarthi of India, for pushing for young people’s rights, including the right to education.

Malala, now 17, made international headlines after being shot in the head by the Taliban on a school bus two years ago for promoting education for girls in Pakistan. After recovering, she took her campaign for children’s education across the world, writing a book and even speaking at the United Nations last year.

After she found out she won, Malala delivered a statement after classes ended Friday at her school in Birmingham, England. She thanked her parents, especially her father, for “not clipping my wings.”

“A girl is not supposed to be the slave…A girl has the power to go forward in her life,” she said on CNN. “She’s not only a mother, she’s not only a sister, she’s not only a wife…She should have an identity. She should be recognized and she has equal rights as a boy.”

She said she found out she won from a teacher while she was in chemistry class Friday morning at about 10:15 a.m.

“I felt very honored. I felt more powerful and more courageous,” she said. “This is really an encouragement me to go forward.”

In October 2013, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with her in the Oval Office “to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan.”

But in a statement released after the meeting, Malala said she was honored to have met with Obama, but that she told him she’s worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes. (The White House statement didn’t mention that part.)

“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,” she said in the statement. “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life

New developments in the search for the assassin who killed Tom Wales, Federal prosecutor

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Read James Fallows’s update on the effort to solve the murder of Tom Wales. He links to this excellent New Yorker article by Jeffrey Toobin, himself a former Federal prosecutor.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 10:16 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

BBS from an HTGAM razor

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SOTD 11 Oct 2014

Quite a good shave today. The Vetiver Queen Charlotte shaving soap came to mind during a discussion of good Vetiver soaps. This one was light on the fragrance, at least for me. I much prefer the intensity of Cyril R. Salter’s French Vetiver shaving cream (though of course shaving creams seem to have an advantage over shaving soaps so far as fragrance intensity is concerned).

My Omega brush did a fine job with the soap, though the lather was sparse at the end of the third pass. That may be due to the brush still needing some break-in, or to insufficient loading, or to the soap’s formulation, or a combination. To unravel it will require multiple shaves, probably first a shave with a different brush.

I bought the razor to test it as a possible beginner razor, but now it no longer seems to be available—none of the razors listed on the site match this model, which has an EJ-like head and a handle with the removable base cap. Using a SuperMax Platinum, I had no trouble getting a BBS result.

A good splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Very V aftershave—sorry about reversing the bottle, but very pleased with the aftershave.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 9:49 am

Posted in Shaving

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