Later On

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

Archive for January 28th, 2015

Reasons Not to Give Your Cell Phone to a Cop: This Guy

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Note police impunity: wrong-doing without punishment. And note the Blue Code Of Coverup: none of his colleagues could possibly report his misconduct without causing severe repercussions for themselves. If police want to break laws, they will be protected by other police officers.

Joshua Kopstein reports at Motherboard:

Here’s another item to add to the list of things cops won’t go to jail for: stealing nudes off your phone.

On Tuesday, former California Highway Patrolman Sean Harrington was released on probation after pleading guilty to copying and distributing nude photos taken from the cellphones of two women in two separate incidents last year.

Both women, referred to as Jane Doe #1 and #2 in court documents, had been pulled over and arrested on DUI suspicions in Contra Costa County last August. During the first incident, Harrington copied photos from the phone of 19-year-old Jane Doe #1 and sent them to coworkers while the woman was being treated in a local hospital.

“Taken from the phone of my 10-15x while she’s in X-rays. Enjoy buddy!!!” Harrington boasted in a text message to one of his colleagues, using the radio code for “female prisoner in custody.”

The second incident unfolded similarly, after Harrington stopped a woman for suspected DUI in Livermore, California in early August. But he was discovered five days later when his victim noticed several photos depicting her in “various states of undress” had been sent to an unrecognized 707 number, which she traced back to the CHP officer. Harrington also admitted to snatching photos from the phones of female arrestees at least half a dozen times before, part of a “game” he says he first learned about while working at CHP’s Los Angeles office. . .

Continue reading.

They caught him, but I imagine those from whom he learned the “game” still continue it. I would bet they even flag down attractive motorists on flimsy grounds just to see if they can get some nude photos. Since the investigation of the CHP is being done by the CHP, we will see nothing come from this. God knows they’ll do everything possible to forestall an investigation by an independent investigator. What CHP does stays within CHP.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Dramatic explosion: Hot slag plus wet ground

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Amazing 41-second video of a railroad car dumping some hot slag in Kazakhstan. Obviously the guy with the camera-phone expected some fireworks; equally obviously, he got more than he bargained for.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Police impunity leads to increasingly violent police tactics, even when not needed

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The police are escalating their violence against citizens—because they can act with impunity, they are testing the envelope. Read this Radley Balko column on the topic of poker raids:

Nine years ago this month, a Fairfax County SWAT team shot and killed 37-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi during a raid on his home. Culosi was suspected of wagering on football games, in violation of Virginia law. (I guess he should have played the lottery instead.) Culosi was unarmed. The police maintained that the shooting was an accident — that officer Deval Bullock mistakenly fired his weapon when the door to the SUV he’d just exited recoiled and bumped his arm, resulting in a direct hit to Culosi’s heart. Culosi’s family hired their own investigators, who more sensibly concluded that Bullock probably mistook the cellphone Culosi was holding for a gun, and shot him intentionally.

Four years ago this month, the Culosi family settled with Fairfax County for $2 million. But the county maintained that there was nothing excessive about sending a SWAT team to apprehend a guy with no criminal history, no indications of violent tendencies, and who was suspected of a nonviolent, consensual crime. It looks like they’ve held that line. From my Post colleague Tom Jackman:

On a quiet weeknight among the stately manors of Great Falls, ten men sat around a table in the basement of a private home last November playing high stakes poker. Suddenly, masked and heavily armed SWAT team officers from the Fairfax County Police Department burst through the door, pointed their assault rifles at the players and ordered them to put their hands on the table. The players complied. Their cash was seized, including a reported $150,000 from the game’s host, and eight of the ten players were charged with the Class 3 misdemeanor of illegal gambling, punishable by a maximum fine of $500. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the column:

I address these poker raids (it happens all over the country) and such justifications for them in my book:

Police have justified this sort of heavy-handedness by claiming that people who run illegal gambling operations tend to be armed, a blanket characterization that absurdly lumps neighborhood Hold ’Em tournaments with Uncle Junior Soprano’s weekly poker game. And in any case, if police know that people inside an establishment are likely to be armed, it makes even less sense to come in with guns blazing. Police have also defended the paramilitary tactics by noting that poker games are usually flush with cash and thus tend to get robbed. That too is an absurd argument, unless the police are afraid they’re going to raid a game at precisely the same moment it’s getting robbed. Under either scenario, the police are acknowledging that the people playing poker when these raids go down have good reason to think that the men storming the place with guns may be criminals, not cops.

If you’re wondering, yes, that has happened.

Indeed, that’s exactly what happened to seventy-two-year-old Aaron Awtry in 2010. Awtry was hosting a poker tournament in his Greenville, South Carolina, home when police began breaking down the door with a battering ram. Awtry had begun carrying a gun after being robbed. Thinking he was about to be robbed again, he fired through the door, wounding Deputy Matthew May in both arms. The other officers opened fire into the building. Miraculously, only Awtry was hit. As he fell back into a hallway, other players reporting him asking, “Why didn’t you tell me it was the cops?” The raid team claimed they knocked and announced several times before putting ram to door, but other players said they heard no knock or announcement. When Awtry recovered, he was charged with attempted murder. As part of an agreement, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. Police had broken up Awtry’s games in the past. But on those occasions, they had knocked and waited, he had let them in peacefully, and he’d been given a $100 fine.

It’s absurd to think a bunch of poker players are going to open up on a couple of uniformed cops who come to a game, politely knock on the door and then hand out light fines. It isn’t at all absurd to think that a few poker players in a state with friendly gun laws might mistake a group of raiding, mask-wearing cops for armed robbers and fire at them out of fear. And that’s just the practical argument here. There’s also the more fundamental question of whether this sort of force and violence is justified against a bunch of people who are doing nothing worse than playing cards for money.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Drop in homicides in LA—and a look at the lead connection

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Kevin Drum has a good post, with chart. Dramatic changes once the neurotoxin was removed from the environment, as one might expect.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Environment, Law, Science

Exceptionally intelligent movie about the CIA: Body of Lies

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I was struck by the realistic tone of the plot and depictions of Middle East machinations involving the CIA in the movie Body of Lies, with Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. Then I saw that the movie was based on a novel by David Ignatius, a political reporter for the Washington Post. Aha—that explained it.

Worth seeing, IMO.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 1:19 pm

How to expose government wrong-doing and incompetence without going to jail

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Under Obama, the Federal government has strongly cracked down on whistleblowers. When one whistleblower (Thomas Drake) exposed the MASSIVE waste of money at NSA, the Obama administration launched a vicious campaign of persecution, even though no national secrets were exposed, only bureaucratic bungling.

And yet the public is well-served by those inside the bureaucracy—whether civil service, the military, or other organizations (cf. The Insider, with Russell Crowe)—who contact media to tell the public what’s going on.

So if someone is going to blow the whistle, it’s wise to take precautions, and The Intercept lays out a very clear set of guidelines:

People often tell reporters things their employers, or their government, want to keep suppressed. But leaking can serve the public interest, fueling revelatory and important journalism.

This publication was created in part as a platform for journalism arising from unauthorized disclosures by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Our founders and editors are strongly committed to publishing stories based on leaked material when that material is newsworthy and serves the public interest. So ever since The Intercept launched, our staff has tried to put the best technology in place to protect our sources. Our website has been protected with HTTPS encryption from the beginning. All of our journalists publish their PGP keys on their staff profiles so that readers can send them encrypted email. And we’ve been running a SecureDrop server, an open source whistleblower submission system, to make it simpler and more secure for anonymous sources to get in touch with us.

But caution is still advised to those who want to communicate with us without exposing their real-world identities.

What Not To Do

If you are a whistleblower trying to figure out the best way to contact us, here are some things you should not do:

Don’t contact us from work. Most corporate and government networks log traffic. Even if you’re using Tor, being the only Tor user at work could make you stand out. If you want to leak us documents that exist in your work environment, first remove them from work and submit them using a personal computer on a different network instead.

Don’t email us, call us, or contact us on social media. Most of the ways that people communicate over the Internet or phone networks are incredibly insecure. Even if you take the time to learn how to encrypt your communications with us, your metadata will remain in the clear. From the standpoint of someone investigating a leak, who you communicate with and when is all it takes to make you a prime suspect, even if the investigators don’t know what you said.

Don’t tell anyone that you’re a source. Don’t risk your freedom by talking to anyone about leaking documents. Even if you plan on coming out as the leaker at some point in the future, you have a much better chance of controlling the narrative about you if you are deliberate.

As journalists we will grant anonymity to sources if the circumstances warrant it — for example, when a source risks recrimination by disclosing something newsworthy. If we make such an agreement with you, we will do everything in our power to prevent ourselves from being compelled to hand over your identity.

That said, in extreme cases, the best way to protect your anonymity may be not to disclose your identity even to us.

What To Worry About

And here are some things you should be aware of: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 11:03 am

Microwaveable Bowls With Handles

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These bowls with handles (and lids) look very handy for those who, like The Wife, use a microwave oven.

Update: Link fixed. Apologies.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Technology

When the bubble is burst: Journalists respond poorly to criticism

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Glenn Greenwald makes an excellent point: in the past journalists mainly heard from their editors and other journalists. The lack of broader feedback led to a phenomenon once familiar (pre-internet) to small-town chess-players: if you can beat the (few) players you can find, you tend to think you’re stronger than you are. (Speaking from experience here.) Once you go to a large-city chess club, the picture changes, generally in an ego-deflating way.

So it is with journalists. Greenwald writes:

As intended, Jonathan Chait’s denunciation of the “PC language police” – a trite note of self-victimization he’s been sounding for decades – provoked intense reaction: much criticism from liberals and praise from conservatives (with plenty of exceptions both ways). I have all sorts of points I could make about his argument – beginning with how he tellingly focuses on the pseudo-oppression of still-influential people like himself and his journalist-friends while steadfastly ignoring the much more serious ways that people with views Chait dislikes are penalized and repressed – but I’ll instead point to commentary from Alex Pareene, Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valenti as worthwhile responses. In sum, I fundamentally agree with Jill Filipovic’s reaction: “There is a good and thoughtful piece to be written about language policing & ‘PC’ culture online and in academia. That was not it.” I instead want to focus on one specific point about the depressingly abundant genre of journalists writing grievances about how they’re victimized by online hordes, of which Chait’s article is a very representative sample:

When political blogs first emerged as a force in the early post-9/11 era, one of their primary targets was celebrity journalists. A whole slew of famous, multi-millionaire, prize-decorated TV hosts and newspaper reporters and columnists – Tom Friedman, Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd, John Burns, Chris Matthews – were frequently the subject of vocal and vituperative criticisms, read by tens of thousands of people.

It is hard to overstate what a major (and desperately needed) change this was for how journalists like them functioned. Prior to the advent of blogs, establishment journalists were largely immunized even from hearing criticisms. If a life-tenured New York Times columnist wrote something stupid or vapid, or a Sunday TV news host conducted a sycophantic interview with a government official, there was no real mechanism for the average non-journalist citizen to voice critiques. At best, aggrieved readers could write a Letter to the Editor, which few journalists cared about. Establishment journalists spoke only to one another, and careerist concerns combined with an incestuous chumminess ensured that the most influential among them heard little beyond flowery praise.

Blogs, and online political activism generally, changed all of that. Though they tried – hard – these journalists simply could not ignore the endless stream of criticisms directed at them. Everywhere they turned – their email inboxes, the comment sections to their columns, Q-and-A sessions at their public appearances, Google searches of their names, email campaigns to their editors – they were confronted for the first time with aggressive critiques, with evidence that not everyone adored them and some even held them in contempt (Chait’s bizarre belief that “PC” culture thrived in the early 1990s and then disappeared until recently is, like his whole grievance, explained by his personal experience: he heard these critiques while a student at the University of Michigan, then was shielded from all of it during most of the years he wrote at The New Republic, and now hears it again due to blogs and social media).

What made the indignity so much worse was that the attacks came from people these journalists regard as nobodies: just average people, non-journalists, sometimes even anonymous ones. What right did they have even to form an opinion, let alone express one? As NBC News star Brian Williams revealingly put it in 2007:

You’re going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe. All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I’m up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn’t left the efficiency apartment in two years.

That sort of sneering from establishment journalists was commonplace once they realized that they had critics and that ignoring them was no longer an option. Seemingly every week, a new column appeared in the NYT, Washington Post, or Time lamenting the threat to journalism and democracy and All Things Decent posed by the hordes of unhinged, uncredentialed losers who now had undeserved platforms to say mean things about honored journalists.

It was pure petulance and entitlement: they elevated a trivial feeling of personal offense (some unknown, uncredentialed person online said something mean to me) into something of great societal significance (this is a huge threat to all things Good). This grievance became so pervasive that pejorative journalistic caricatures of bloggers as nameless, angry losers became a cliché (and it continues now even when many of them have been forced by commercial realities to become bloggers themselves). . .

Continue reading. Some very good points.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 10:23 am

Posted in Media

Superb shave with Wolfman razor

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SOTD 28 Jan 2015

The Omega R&B boar brush did an excellent job today, with a generous and creamy lather from Mickey Lee’s The Drunken Goat.

I just received this Wolfman Razor, the WR1-SB – Standard/Safety Bar. (It strikes me that we are seeing quite a few new razors and new razor manufactures. That has to be due to increasing demand.) Shawnsel should note that I rate this razor as very comfortable and very efficient (which is my highest performance rating).

I loaded the razor with a Voskhod blade, and the shave was really excellent: not just the final result (BBS), but also the experience during the shave. I like the handle, too: a break from the ubiquitous diamond chequering that everyone uses, and with grippy and comfortable.

I’m tempted to try the asymmetric model, but I think I’ll take it as read that Wolfman razors are top drawer.

The aftershave is Arko Gel, and while it is very pleasant, it’s nothing to seek out. Of course, with fragrances there’s quite a bit of YMMV.

TL;DR: Great razor. Glad I got it.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2015 at 9:10 am

Posted in Shaving

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