Later On

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Archive for March 10th, 2015

Why Ellen Pao’s Gender Discrimination Suit Matters

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Interesting article at Motherboard by Kaleigh Rogers:

Call it a real life AMA: interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao is taking the stand again today in a San Francisco courtroom in the case against her former employer, which she is suing for gender discrimination. The landmark case is one of the first to bring long-swirling allegations of sexism in Silicon Valley front and center in the public domain.

“It’s extremely notable that this case went to trial,” said Elissa Shevinsky, the CEO of JeKuDo, a cybersecurity startup, and the author of an upcoming book about women in tech. “This is a pivotal moment. This is a moment where we are clearly seeing what sexism in the workplace looks like. It can be subtle and that’s part of what makes it so insidious.”

Over the years there have been endless rumors of a “frat club” culture in Silicon Valley that makes it difficult for women in the business to surge ahead and gain positions of power. There are data that show women are far outnumb​ered by men in top tier tech jobs and are l​ess likely to have their startups funded. While there are lots of factors that might lead to this, many people include a pervasive culture ​of sexism in the tech industry among them.

But each time a new case emerges, the reaction is swift and the excuses are plentiful. Venture capital firms and startups insist these are isolated incidents and that they don’t have a culture problem. Without public records of what’s actually happening in the boardroom, it’s hard to say where the truth really lies.

Which is exactly what makes Pao’s case so monumental. Whether or not she wins—and collects the $16 mi​llion she’s seeking in damages—the case will provide a new stack of evidence on both sides of the fence, with under-oath testimony giving one of the first insider looks at the real dynamics in one of the country’s biggest VC firms.

“Having this go through a public trial is important because not only do all of us get to bear witness, but it also becomes a cultural record. There is permanence and recognition attached to this because it is not transpiring in a murky fashion, behind closed doors, trapped between files and folders of negotiating lawyers,” explained Saadia Muzaffar, the founder of TechGirls Canada, an organization that encourages girls to pursue careers in tech.

“But the fact that in 2015—after so much public outcry from women and people of color about harassment, discrimination, power and abuse—we still look to a court trial as the only yardstick to provide legitimacy to the lived experience of millions is downright shameful,” she said.

Based on the evidence provided so far, it’s not looking so good for those claiming there isn’t a problem.

Pao, who worked at venture capital mammoth Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers from 2005-2012, launched the lawsuit while still employed as a junior partner at the firm. She was fired a few months later. Her lawyer claims the firing was retaliation for the suit, though KPCB denies this.

The trial began two weeks ago and has revealed a complex web of accusations and perspectives on the treatment of female employees at the firm, which is famous for backing early internet giants like AOL, Amazon, and Google.

Testimony has exposed questionable behavior on the part of male executives, according to Re/Code’s Liz Gannes and Nellie Bowles, who have been coveri​ng the trial from day one. According to court testimony, the team excluded femal​e partners from ski trips and important dinners—including one with Al Gore. One partner gave Pao a book of erot​ic poetry. Former partner Tracy “Trae” Vassallo testi​fied a laundry list of inappropriate behavior by one senior partner, Ajit Nazre, including once showing up at her hotel room in nothing but a bathrobe.

The defense has lobbed back, arguing that the firm took allegations of sexual assault seriously enough to hire an outside investigator. . . .

Continue reading.

Misogyny is strong in the tech industry—and also in many other places.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2015 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Business, Law

The CIA is forbidden by law from operations inside the US. They don’t care.

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The CIA seems to have become a rogue operation. First they hack into Senate computers—that is, they target the Senators and staff who are trying to exercise their oversight responsibilities. That in itself is an illegal domestic operation, but that illegality is overshadowed by an Executive branch organization trying to escape oversight.

And now they are found to have targeted domestic companies. The CIA is truly out of control: it is no longer under the control of Congress (which has oversight responsibility) and it doesn’t seem to be under control of the Executive branch.

Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley report for The Intercept:

RESEARCHERS WORKING with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the “Jamboree,” where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple’s devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company’s attempts to provide mobile security to hundreds of millions of Apple customers across the globe. Studying both “physical” and “non-invasive” techniques, U.S. government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple’s encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption.

The CIA declined to comment for this story.

The security researchers also claimed they had created a modified version of Apple’s proprietary software development tool, Xcode, which could sneak surveillance backdoors into any apps or programs created using the tool. Xcode, which is distributed by Apple to hundreds of thousands of developers, is used to create apps that are sold through Apple’s App Store.

The modified version of Xcode, the researchers claimed, could enable spies to steal passwords and grab messages on infected devices. Researchers also claimed the modified Xcode could “force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post.” It remains unclear how intelligence agencies would get developers to use the poisoned version of Xcode.

Researchers also claimed they had successfully modified the OS X updater, a program used to deliver updates to laptop and desktop computers, to install a “keylogger.”

Other presentations at the CIA conference have focused on the products of Apple’s competitors, including Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption system, which is used widely on laptop and desktop computers running premium editions of Windows.

The revelations that the CIA has waged a secret campaign to defeat the security mechanisms built into Apple’s devices come as Apple and other tech giants are loudly resisting pressure from senior U.S. and U.K. government officials to weaken the security of their products. Law enforcement agencies want the companies to maintain the government’s ability to bypass security tools built into wireless devices. Perhaps more than any other corporate leader, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has taken a stand for privacy as a core value, while sharply criticizing the actions of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

“If U.S. products are OK to target, that’s news to me,” says Matthew Green, a cryptography expert at Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute. “Tearing apart the products of U.S. manufacturers and potentially putting backdoors in software distributed by unknowing developers all seems to be going a bit beyond ‘targeting bad guys.’ It may be a means to an end, but it’s a hell of a means.”

Apple declined to comment for this story, instead pointing to previous comments Cook and the company have made defending Apple’s privacy record.

SECURITY RESEARCHERS from Sandia National Laboratories presented their Apple-focused research at a secret annual CIA conference called the Trusted Computing Base Jamboree. The Apple research and the existence of the conference are detailed in documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.The conference was sponsored by the CIA’s Information Operations Center, which conducts covert cyberattacks. The aim of the gathering, according to a 2012 internal NSA wiki, was . . .

Continue reading.

It’s a lengthy article, and it makes clear the degree to which the CIA operates with no oversight or control: the Agency ignores the law and does as it pleases, and neither Congress nor the White House can control what it does. Even when it explicitly acknowledges that it has destroyed evidence of war crimes, nothing happens—no one is prosecuted, punished, or held accountable.

The CIA operates as it pleases, and the government of the US is assuming a new character, one in which agencies like the NSA and CIA and FBI can do whatever they want. We’ll soon find that police can simply shoot dead unarmed citizens, with the shootings always labeled “justified.” It seems as though the security arm of the government is taking off the gloves in how it treats citizens.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2015 at 10:43 am

Are there viable solutions for prosecutorial misconduct?

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A good post on the blog A Public Defender:

Just last week, I wrote a lengthy column in the Law Tribune outlining the many instances of prosecutorial misconduct occurring over the last month and a half or so, all of which seemingly went unpunished. In it, I didn’t propose any ideas to eliminate the problem. Just that same day, however, news broke of yet another instance of egregious misconduct by a prosecutor in California – a man named Robert Murray – who fabricated two sentences and added them to a defendant’s statement to police:

Kern County prosecutor Robert Murray added two lines of transcript to “evidence” that the defendant confessed to an even more egregious offense than that with which he had been charged—the already hideous offense of molesting a child. With the two sentences that state’s attorney Murray perjuriously added, Murray was able to threaten charges that carried a term of life in prison.

Murray called it a “joke”:

The panel found that Murray deliberately altered an interrogation transcript to include a confession that could be used to justify charges that carry a life sentence, and distributed it to defense counsel at a time when Murray knew defense counsel was trying to persuade Palacios to settle the case.

The court cited the changes made by Murray in the transcript as follows:

(Detective): “You’re so guilty you child molester.”

(Defendant): “I know. I’m just glad she’s not pregnant like her mother.”

Murray placed the falsified admission of guilt into the English transcript translation of Palacios’ interrogation that was done in Spanish.  For nine days, Murray kept quiet about his fabrication. It was only after defense attorney Ernest Hinman confronted Murray about the altered version. Murray said he meant it only as a joke to be kept between the two men.

His immediate supervisor, Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green said she was disappointed… in the appellate court ruling [PDF]. California AG Kamala Harris’ office appealed the dismissal and continues to defend it.

Instapundit (and Law Prof) Glenn Reynolds picked up on this and my prior post and wrote a powerful column in USA Today excoriating unethical prosecutors. But he too noted the problem with the current idea of sanctions: that prosecutors are immune from civil liability:

Worse yet, prosecutors are also immune from civil suit, under a Supreme Court-created doctrine called “absolute immunity” that is one of the greatest, though least discussed, examples of judicial activism in history. So prosecutors won’t punish prosecutors, and victims of prosecutors’ wrongdoing can’t even sue them for damages.

That leaves courts without much else to do besides throwing out charges in cases of outrageous misconduct. But if we care about seeing the law enforced fairly and honestly, we need more accountability.

Indeed we do. Misconduct is an area that gets prosecutors angry and swarming, because it is an allegation of dishonesty and ethical failures. It’s an incendiary topic and well it should be. When a prosecutor commits misconduct, individual defendants aren’t the only ones who lose: the ideal of justice does as well. So while it is a delicate subject, it shouldn’t be taboo. While we must be careful not to accuse every prosecutor we dislike of engaging in misconduct, we should not be afraid to stand up against those who do and demand action against them for it.

I’ve pondered many solutions for years and Glenn Reynolds lists them in an easy to digest paragraph: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2015 at 10:03 am

When will criminal prosecutors be punished?

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

Tennessee law professor and Instapundit Glenn Reynolds takes on prosecutor misconduct in a column for USA Today. He begins with a case from California in which Kern County prosecutor Robert Murray appended a confession to a suspect’s statement without the suspect’s knowledge.

Incredibly, the State of California, via Attorney General Kamala Harris, decided to appeal the case. The state’s key argument: That putting a fake confession in the transcript wasn’t “outrageous” because it didn’t involve physical brutality, like chaining someone to a radiator and beating him with a hose.

Well, no. It just involved an officer of the court knowingly producing a fraudulent document in order to secure an illicit advantage. If Harris really thinks that knowingly producing a fraudulent document to secure an illicit advantage isn’t “outrageous,” then perhaps she slept through her legal ethics courses.

The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District didn’t buy Harris’s argument, and upheld the dismissal of charges. That means the defendant went free.

On one level, that’s fair: The prosecution should pay a price when it engages in outrageous misconduct. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that the defendant was actually guilty (sure, Murray was trying to railroad him, but you can railroad a guilty man) and now the charges against him have been dropped. If he’s guilty, taxpayers are at risk for future crimes.

Meanwhile, Murray suffered no actual punishment for his wrongdoing. As a report in the New York Observer notes: “For reasons beyond comprehension, he still works for the District Attorney Lisa Green in Kern County, Calif.” Murray does face the possibility of discipline from the California bar, but even disbarment would be a light punishment for knowingly producing a false document in a criminal proceeding.

Our criminal justice system depends on honesty. It’s also based on the principle that people who do wrong should be punished. Prosecutors, however, often avoid any consequences for their misbehavior, even when it is repeated.

Worse yet, prosecutors are also immune from civil suit, under a Supreme Court-created doctrine called “absolute immunity” that is one of the greatest, though least discussed, examples of judicial activism in history. So prosecutors won’t punish prosecutors, and victims of prosecutors’ wrongdoing can’t even sue them for damages.

That leaves courts without much else to do besides throwing out charges in cases of outrageous misconduct. But if we care about seeing the law enforced fairly and honestly, we need more accountability.

I’d add that disbarment isn’t likely, either. State bars are notoriously lax at disciplining prosecutors, even after egregious misconduct.

Reynolds’s point is amplified by the the fact that this occurred in Kern County, a jurisdiction with a long and unfortunate history of putting the wrong people in prison. This was ground zero for the ritual sex abuse panic of the 1980s and 1990s. At least two dozen people in Kern County alone were exonerated after spending years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. In some cases, these were parents wrongly accused of sexually abusing their own children. The longtime DA who oversaw those cases, Ed Jagels, continued to get reelected. When he retired a few years ago, he was widely praised for his public service. The head of the state’s District Attorneys Association called him “a prosecutor’s prosecutor,” and he was asked to be a criminal justice consultant for various political candidates.

If a couple dozen wrongful convictions aren’t enough to even get a prosecutor criticized, much less removed from office or punished, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised if . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2015 at 10:01 am

An orange-themed shave

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SOTD 10 Mar 2015

An extremely nice shave today. The problems I once had in lathering Mike’s Natural soaps are totally gone. I wet the Mr Pomp brush, shook it out, and began brushing the surface of the Orange, Cedarwood, and Black Pepper soap. The hot water tap was turned on to just a dribble, and in the course of brushing the soap, I captured in the brush a little water and brushed that into what I was doing on the soap.

When the brush seemed fully loaded, I brought it beard and worked the lather up and into the stubble, adding one more driblet of water. A very nice lather and a pleasant fragrance, though for me the orange predominates.

Yesterday I ran an experiment trying the 24C head on various handles. At first it would fit none, but then I got a Maggard stainless handle to start and that seemed to realign the threads. However, I could not get the 24C head to screw into any of my Wolfman handles, and with the iKon and Above the Tie handles, the more the threads engaged as I screwed the handle and cap together, the more resistance I felt, so I backed off.

The Edwin Jagger handle shown works pretty well, but even so there is some resistance to overcome. It is clear that the Parker threads are not held to close tolerances and don’t match the common thread standards in use. If you want the Parker 24C/26C head on another handle, you can try, but it may or may not work.

It worked well enough here, and with a Kai blade I got a very nice three-pass shave: very smooth, no problems.

Continuing the orange them, a good splash of Royall Mandarin to finish the shave.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2015 at 9:49 am

Posted in Shaving

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