Thursday, February 19, 2015

giuliani crying the hon.bro.preznit don't love right-wing extremists..,

politico |  Rudy Giuliani went straight for the jugular Wednesday night during a private group dinner here featuring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by openly questioning whether President Barack Obama “loves America.”

The former New York mayor, speaking in front of the 2016 Republican presidential contender and about 60 right-leaning business executives and conservative media types, directly challenged Obama’s patriotism, discussing what he called weak foreign policy decisions and questionable public remarks when confronting terrorists.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

With Walker sitting just a few seats away, Giuliani continued by saying that “with all our flaws we’re the most exceptional country in the world. I’m looking for a presidential candidate who can express that, do that and carry it out.”

goo-gol crying about the FBI's push for more intelligent law enforcement...,

nationaljournal |   Google is warning that the government's quiet plan to expand the FBI's authority to remotely access computer files amounts to a "monumental" constitutional concern. The search giant submitted public comments earlier this week opposing a Justice Department proposal that would grant judges more leeway in how they can approve search warrants for electronic data.

The push to change an arcane federal rule "raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal, and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide," wrote Richard Salgado, Google's director for law enforcement and information security.

The provision, known as Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, generally permits judges to grant search warrants only within the bounds of their judicial district. Last year, the Justice Department petitioned a judicial advisory committee to amend the rule to allow judges to approve warrants outside their jurisdictions in cases where authorities are unsure where a computer is located.

Google, in its comments, blasted the desired rule change as overly vague, saying the proposal could authorize remote searches on the data of millions of Americans simultaneously—particularly those who share a network or router—and cautioned it rested on shaky legal footing.
"The serious and complex constitutional concerns implicated by the proposed amendment are numerous and, because of the nature of Fourth Amendment case law development, are unlikely to be addressed by courts in a timely fashion," Salgado wrote.

The Justice Department has countered that the rule change amounts to a small-scale tweak of protocol, one that is necessary to align search-warrant procedures with the realities of modern technology. In its own comments, the Justice Department accused some opponents of the rule change of "misreading the text of the proposal or misunderstanding current law."

"The proposal would not authorize the government to undertake any search or seizure or use any remote search technique not already permitted under current law," Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Bitkower said in a memorandum written late last year and made public Tuesday. He added that investigators are "careful to avoid collateral damage when executing remote searches, just as [they are] careful to avoid injury to persons or damage to property in the far more common scenario of executing physical warrants."

the epitome of incompetent governance and illegitimate social control...,

telegraph |  Hong Kong’s unpopular chief executive has infuriated pro-democracy campaigners by using a Chinese New Year message to urge the former colony's citizens to act more "like sheep". 

In a brief video address commemorating the start of Year of the Sheep, CY Leung said sheep-like behavior was required in the wake of the turbulence caused by last year’s street protests.
“Last year was no easy ride for Hong Kong. Our society was rife with differences and conflicts,” the chief executive of the former British colony said.
“In the coming year, I hope that all people in Hong Kong will take inspiration from the sheep's character and pull together in an accommodating manner to work for Hong Kong's future.”
In case his message had been missed, Mr Leung noted that the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac had 12 individual "character types". "Sheep are widely seen to be mild and gentle animals living peacefully in groups," he said.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

procedural fairness the cornerstone of legitimate social control

proceduralfairness |  The theory behind procedural fairness, or procedural justice as it is sometimes called, has developed over a period of more than 25 years. Tom Tyler, one of the key figures in the field of procedural fairness, provides a concise overview for members of the court community in his article "Procedural Justice and the Courts."

In a recent lecture, Professor Tyler further explores and highlights the implications of procedural fairness on several aspects of the justice system.

Judges Kevin Burke and Steve Leben authored an extensive white paper on procedural fairness entitled, "Procedural Fairness: A Key Ingredient in Public Satisfaction." The paper examines core research in the area and recommends various changes to "improve" the daily work of the courts and their judges. Click here to access the spanish version of the paper. 

In a December 2011 presentation to the Conference of State Court Administrators, Judge Kevin Burke presented an overview of procedural fairness and its practical applications. A copy of the powerpoint from his presentation can be found here.

Other scholars have explored the connection between procedural fairness and other areas of research. The article Fair Procedures, Yes. But We Dare Not Lose Sight of Fair Outcomes by Brian Bornstein and Hannah Dietrich discusses procedural justice and its interrelation with distributive justice. Similarly, Jonathan Jackson discusses procedural justice as an important aspect of criminology's definition of legitimate authority in his chapter, On the Dual Motivational Force of Legitimate Authority.

An Argument for Procedural Fairness
 Professor Tom Tyler's presentation to a 2007 Harvard Law School Conference focuses on how legitimacy, which is rooted in procedural justice, is important in decisions to adhere to social rules. The presentation is broken into three parts below:

why pookie holding his breath for a whiteright-wing epiphany?

WaPo |  Over the holiday weekend, I waited for something that never came. Given FBI Director James Comey’s powerful and direct speech on law enforcement and race at Georgetown University on Thursday, I thought for sure hellfire would rain down upon him from the right. After all, in tone and word, he echoed the sentiments expressed by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder on the same topic. Yet instead of being accused of having blood on his hands or labeled a race-baiter, Comey and his “hard truths” have been met with silence.

The four “hard truths” articulated by Comey were tough on police. “Much of our history is not pretty,” he said as he acknowledged law enforcement’s role in maintaining the status quo against “disfavored groups.” He talked about the unconscious bias that grips many in law enforcement. He discussed the “different flavors of cynicism” that cops “work hard to resist.” And he talked about the staggering problems facing many young men and boys of color that become part of officers’ “life experience.” In addition, Comey called on police to “better understand the people we serve and protect — by trying to know, deep in our gut, what it feels like to be a law-abiding young black man walking on the street and encountering law enforcement.”

That’s strong stuff. And yet, those easily irritated folks on the right who slammed Obama and Holder for saying similar things over the past six months have been rendered mute. No doubt it is because the new messenger is a white, 54-year-old Republican son of Irish immigrants and grandson of a police chief. What’s disturbing is that they willingly ignore Comey’s entreaties while trivializing the same from the president and the attorney general.

trying to counter extremism at home

WaPo |  Abdisalam Adam is a public school teacher and imam from St. Paul, Minn., and a model for how the White House and U.S. law enforcement hope to avoid an American version of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. By working within local communities and with civic leaders, they aim to prevent the radicalization and recruitment of young people into extremist organizations.

But even Adam — whose work in this area will be highlighted during this week’s White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) — has to fight deep suspicions among his fellow Somalis that the government efforts are just a guise for intelligence gathering.

“Is the government sincere about this?” Adam said. “That’s a big question. The trust is not completely there.” But he added that communities such as his have little choice. “Personally, I think if it’s done right and the government’s sincere, it’s the right thing to do.” 

The three-day gathering, which has been in the works since the fall but has attracted significant attention in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, will launch a new U.S. framework aimed at preventing potential extremists from launching strikes in the United States or joining the fight overseas. Expanding beyond the work already underway, the White House’s approach aims to enlist the help of social-service providers and religious leaders to avert future conversions to radicalism.

Senior administration officials, speaking to reporters Monday, said that while the initiative would not end terrorist acts like those undertaken in Copenhagen and Libya in the past few days, they are part of the broader answer to such threats.

“I think we need to be realistic that this is a long-term investment,” said one official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the event in advance. “And so, ultimately, we hope to get to a place where we just have much greater resilience and greater action across communities. But that is not something we’re going to see tomorrow.”
One of the senior administration officials said Monday that “there’s no profile that we can point to to say this person is from this community, is going to be radicalized to violence,” adding, “I think that we make a mistake as a government if we focus on stereotypes.” 

Nicholas J. Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified this month before the House Homeland Security Committee that these initiatives should not be “perceived as intimidating” and that several communities have responded positively to the government’s overtures.

what is the islamic state?

theatlantic |  Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohammad Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

military-backed criminal superhacking, or, three stacks for uncle sugar, one stack for me?

NYTimes |  In a report to be published on Monday, and provided in advance to The New York Times, Kaspersky Lab says that the scope of this attack on more than 100 banks and other financial institutions in 30 nations could make it one of the largest bank thefts ever — and one conducted without the usual signs of robbery.

The Moscow-based firm says that because of nondisclosure agreements with the banks that were hit, it cannot name them. Officials at the White House and the F.B.I. have been briefed on the findings, but say that it will take time to confirm them and assess the losses.

Kaspersky Lab says it has seen evidence of $300 million in theft through clients, and believes the total could be triple that. But that projection is impossible to verify because the thefts were limited to $10 million a transaction, though some banks were hit several times. In many cases the hauls were more modest, presumably to avoid setting off alarms.

The majority of the targets were in Russia, but many were in Japan, the United States and Europe.
No bank has come forward acknowledging the theft, a common problem that President Obama alluded to on Friday when he attended the first White House summit meeting on cybersecurity and consumer protection at Stanford University. He urged passage of a law that would require public disclosure of any breach that compromised personal or financial information.

But the industry consortium that alerts banks to malicious activity, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, said in a statement that “our members are aware of this activity. We have disseminated intelligence on this attack to the members,” and that “some briefings were also provided by law enforcement entities.”

i've used kaspersky endpoint security for years and so should you...,

arstechnica |  A long list of almost superhuman technical feats illustrate Equation Group's extraordinary skill, painstaking work, and unlimited resources. They include:
  • The use of virtual file systems, a feature also found in the highly sophisticated Regin malware. Recently published documents provided by Ed Snowden indicate that the NSA used Regin to infect the partly state-owned Belgian firm Belgacom.
  • The stashing of malicious files in multiple branches of an infected computer's registry. By encrypting all malicious files and storing them in multiple branches of a computer's Windows registry, the infection was impossible to detect using antivirus software.
  • Redirects that sent iPhone users to unique exploit Web pages. In addition, infected machines reporting to Equation Group command servers identified themselves as Macs, an indication that the group successfully compromised both iOS and OS X devices.
  • The use of more than 300 Internet domains and 100 servers to host a sprawling command and control infrastructure.
  • USB stick-based reconnaissance malware to map air-gapped networks, which are so sensitive that they aren't connected to the Internet. Both Stuxnet and the related Flame malware platform also had the ability to bridge airgaps.
  • An unusual if not truly novel way of bypassing code-signing restrictions in modern versions of Windows, which require that all third-party software interfacing with the operating system kernel be digitally signed by a recognized certificate authority. To circumvent this restriction, Equation Group malware exploited a known vulnerability in an already signed driver for CloneCD to achieve kernel-level code execution.
Taken together, the accomplishments led Kaspersky researchers to conclude that Equation Group is probably the most sophisticated computer attack group in the world, with technical skill and resources that rival the groups that developed Stuxnet and the Flame espionage malware.

"It seems to me Equation Group are the ones with the coolest toys," Costin Raiu, director of Kaspersky Lab's global research and analysis team, told Ars. "Every now and then they share them with the Stuxnet group and the Flame group, but they are originally available only to the Equation Group people. Equation Group are definitely the masters, and they are giving the others, maybe, bread crumbs. From time to time they are giving them some goodies to integrate into Stuxnet and Flame."

In an exhaustive report published Monday at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit here, researchers stopped short of saying Equation Group was the handiwork of the NSA—but they provided detailed evidence that strongly implicates the US spy agency.

say it ain't so, joe...

Background and Introduction 
While the extent of use of alcohol by drivers and the risks posed by alcohol use have been well known for many decades, relatively little has been known about the use of other drugs by drivers and the associated risks. However, drug-impaired driving has recently become an issue of increasing public and governmental concern in the United States and in many other countries (Compton et al., 2009; Asbridge et al., 2012; ICADTS, 2007). While it is readily apparent that driving-related skills can be impaired by a wide variety of illegal substances and medications, the nature and scope of the drug-impaired driving problem has been difficult to define (Jones et al., 2003; DuPont et al., 2012; Houwing, 2013). In the United States, recent State actions to legalize the use of marijuana for medical and recreational use have further exacerbated concern over potential risks of driving impaired by marijuana.

Marijuana is the most frequently detected drug (other than alcohol) in crash-involved drivers as well as the general driving population (Terhune, 1982; Terhune et al., 1992; Lacey et al., 2009; Walsh et al., 2005). There is evidence that marijuana use impairs psychomotor skills, divided attention, lane tracking, and cognitive functions (Robbe et al., 1993; Moskowitz, 1995; Hartman and Huestis, 2013). However, its role in contributing to the occurrence of crashes remains less clear. Many studies, using a variety of methods have attempted to estimate the risk of driving after use of marijuana (Li et al., 2012; Asbridge et al., 2012). The methods have included experimental studies, observational studies, and epidemiological studies. While useful in identifying how marijuana affects the performance of driving tasks, experimental and observational studies do not lend themselves to predicting real world crash risk.

Epidemiological Studies
Epidemiological studies differ in how they estimate risk. Culpability studies compare the rate at which crash-involved, drug-positive drivers and drug-negative drivers are deemed to be at fault for their crashes. Case-control studies compare drug use by crash-involved drivers to drug use by non-crash involved drivers. In general, the case-control method is preferable since it can eliminate more sources of potential bias in estimating crash risk resulting from drug use (e.g., alcohol use is much higher at night and on weekends than during the day or on weekdays). The existing epidemiological research (both culpability and case-control studies) have produced contradictory estimates of risk for marijuana use. Some of these studies have suggested that marijuana use has minimal or no effect on the likelihood of crash involvement, while others have estimated a small increase in the risk of crash involvement.

Two recent population-based case control studies have estimated the crash risk of drug use by drivers by using NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2007 data for the crash-involved driver population and the 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers for the control drivers (Lia, Bradya, & Chen, 2013; Romano, Torres-Saavedra, Voas, & Lacey, 2014). The Li study estimated the increased risk of crash involvement for drivers using marijuana at 1.83 times that of drug-free drivers, while the Romano study found no increased risk of crash involvement for those drivers testing positive for THC (the main psychoactive substance in marijuana). However, current limitations in the FARS dataset do not allow calculation of unbiased, reliable and valid estimates of the risk of crash involvement that results from drug use.

Monday, February 16, 2015

rule of law and academic political correctness are fin d'siecle american orthodoxy

thefourthway |  Q. Does school stand for self-initiation?
A. What does self-initiation mean? It is all words. What would it mean?

Q. If schools are so important, why do they not have more influence in the world?
A. Schools can only act through people who are interested in them. They can do nothing if they are surrounded by people who are indifferent. The possibility of schools influencing life is conditioned by the general attitude to schools. In order to have influence, schools must have people who are interested and who would obey. But this must come from below, it cannot be produced by schools. Schools can throw B influences into the world, but if people are not interested in them, they can do nothing. They cannot use violence.

Q. Can a school lose by giving away its knowledge?
A. A school can lose in many different ways. We shall come to this question later on. It depends whom it gives to. If it gives just in general and does not receive anything, certainly it will lose. If one has money and begins to give it to everybody, whether they deserve it or not, certainly one will lose one's money.

Q. You said that if we want a school we must take part in building it. How can we do that?
A. You must remember that the level of a school depends on the level of being of the people who constitute it. If there are not enough people with magnetic centre, there can be no school. But it is not simply coming to lectures and accepting what one hears that shows the presence of a
magnetic centre.

Q. Would the spreading of school ideas and school language among other people be of any help from the point of view of the school?
A. Ideas cannot be spread in the right form—it is important to understand that. It would be very good if it could be done, but it cannot. Words would remain, but the ideas themselves would be different. If it were enough to spread them, why are schools necessary? The language will spread itself, maybe even in our lifetime, but the ideas will enter into the general currency in a wrong form. For instance, there would be no distinction between 'doing' and 'happening'.

Q. We talk of schools and different levels. Is it not rather confusing? What do higher levels mean?
A. Why do you find the idea of higher levels confusing? For instance, we can take this idea of levels quite simply in relation to ourselves: using all our mental capacities we can think only up to a certain level, but if we could use higher centres, for instance higher emotional centre which already needs more or less complete self-remembering, then certainly on the same subject we could think quite differently and find many more connections in things which we do not notice now. That shows different levels of thinking, and sometimes we actually have glimpses of a higher level of thinking, so we may have some material for observation, because even now we can think differently on the same subject.

And as regards different levels of people, we meet with results of work of people obviously belonging to higher planes; we cannot say that our experience of ordinary life is limited to results of work of people like ourselves. Take the New Testament, and there are also works of art, esoteric writings, Christian literature and so on which obviously cannot belong to ordinary people. The existence of people of higher development is not imagination, not a hypothesis, but an actual fact. So I do not understand in what way it is confusing; I do not see how one can think without recognizing this fact. It is a definite fact that people live not only on the level on which we are but can exist on different levels.

From this point of view humanity can be regarded as divided into four concentric circles. The three inner circles are called Esoteric, Mesoteric and Exoteric. The fourth is the outer circle where men 1, 2 and 3 live. Schools act as gates through which man No. 4, who is between the outer and the Exoteric circle, can pass. Man No. 5 belongs to the Exoteric circle, man No. 6 to the Mesoteric and man No. 7 to the Esoteric or the innermost circle. The outer circle is also called the circle of the confusion of tongues, for in this circle people cannot understand one another. Understanding is possible only in the inner circles.

All this means there are degrees.

A man who lives in the outer circle is under the law of accident, or, if he has a strongly expressed essence, his life is more governed by the laws of his type or the laws of fate. But when a man begins to work towards consciousness, he already has direction. This means a change, perhaps not perceptible, but nevertheless cosmically a change. Only individual effort can help man to pass from the outer circle into the Exoteric circle. What refers to a man in the outer circle does not refer to a man who begins to work. He is under different laws, or rather, different laws begin to touch a man who begins to work. Each circle is under different laws.

"treat it like a virus of the mind"...,

speaking of singing and dancing about killing...,

RT |  A German rapper who joined the Islamic State in Syria is overseeing the extremist group’s effort to recruit Britons. Denis Cuspert, from Berlin, has become the jihadist group’s main propagandist, managing its sophisticated media operation.

Cuspert is reportedly responsible for recruiting Britons by using English-speaking jihadists as poster children, the Daily Mail reports.
He is said to be the mastermind of a campaign to attract foreigners, including German Salafists and other impressionable, radicalized youths. 

Cuspert is now fighting under the name Abu Talha al-Almani. The former rapper is also reportedly the leader of a combat unit of German-speaking Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) jihadists called the German Brigade of Millatu Ibrahim. 

The 39-year-old was born in Berlin to a German mother and a Ghanaian father. He became a rapper under the artist name Deso Dogg. 

The would-be propagandist converted to Islam in 2007 following nine years imprisonment for manslaughter. 

He is thought to have travelled to Syria in early 2013, swearing his allegiance to the self-proclaimed IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

Last week, Cuspert appeared in a video alongside other fighters, in which at least three opponents were executed. 

“That's why they've received the death sentence,” Cuspert says in German in the video, while another fighter explains in Arabic that the victims belonged to the Syrian Al Sheitaat tribe. 

Although Cuspert is not shown killing any of the men, the German jihadist poses with the severed head of one of the victims. The video contradicts earlier reports that Cuspert was killed in Syria.
According to the German security agency Verfassungsschutz, Cuspert is part of a “terrorist establishment” and is said to have become a member of the IS inner circle. The jihadist was reportedly seen beating a corpse with a stone in a video from July, filmed near Homs in Syria.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

welcome to the world inside

aeon |  I stare out the window from my tiny flat on the 300th floor, hermetically sealed in a soaring, climate-controlled high-rise, honeycombed with hundreds of dwellings just like mine, and survey the breathtaking vistas from my lofty perch more than half a mile above ground: the craftsman cottages with their well-tended lawns, the emerald green golf courses, the sun-washed aquamarine swimming pools and the multimillion-dollar mansions that hug the sweeping sands from Malibu to Palos Verdes. These images evoke feelings of deep nostalgia for a Los Angeles that doesn’t exist anymore, back in the halcyon days before my great-grandparents were born, when procreation wasn’t strictly regulated and billions of people roamed freely on Earth.

There are only about 500 million of us left, after the convulsive transformations caused by climate change severely diminished the planet’s carrying capacity, which is the maximum population size that the environment can sustain. Most of us now live in what the British scientist James Lovelock has called ‘lifeboats’ at the far reaches of the northern hemisphere, in places that were once Canada, China, Russia and the Scandinavian countries, shoehorned into cities created virtually overnight to accommodate the millions of desperate refugees where the climate remains marginally tolerable.

Despite all this, history offers a game plan for our species to survive. In analysing his copious research, Parker came to a startling conclusion: the deprivations of the 17th century laid the basis for the welfare state that became the ‘hallmark of all economically advanced states’ by the 19th century. ‘In the 21st century, as in the 17th, coping with catastrophes on this scale requires resources that only central governments command,’ he notes in his book. ‘Despite the many differences between the 17th and the 21st centuries, governments during the Little Ice Age faced the same dilemma. . . [they ultimately realised] that, in the long run, it was economically cheaper and more efficient (as well as more humane) to support those who became old, widowed, ill, disabled or unemployed, thus creating the first “welfare state” in the world.’

Likewise, we are too technologically advanced – and, one hopes, too socially sophisticated – for the doomsday scenarios some foresee. Instead of fighting it out in barbaric, Mad Max-style, dystopian colonies reminiscent of the American West, humanity’s 500 million remaining souls, fed by artificially concocted edibles or even a 23rd century version of Soylent Green, will no doubt be crammed into towering high rises in dense urban areas creating their culture anew atop the world.

folks stay missing what the hon.bro.preznit is really about...,

salon |  Had religion not existed, had it waned by our time, all this violence would just not have happened. If some of these people would have found other reasons to fight, the religious aspect of the conflicts renders them intractable, even insoluble.

Conservatives were vexed by what Obama said next: “lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. . . . So this is not unique to one group or one religion.”

Straightaway, remember that both the Old Testament and the New sanction and even sanctify slavery, as well as proffer helpful advice to slave masters. The Catholic Church embarked on the Holy Inquisition not to do inexplicable violence “in the name of Christ,” but to rid its “flock” of unclean “sheep” – most notably “secret Muslims” and Jews, heretics and witches. Skull crushers and the auto-da-fé, breast rippers and thumbscrews (and much, much more, including Spanish Donkeys and Judas Cradles) all formed part of the godly torturers’ ghastly repertoire, which aimed to prompt innocents to “confess” their “crimes.” Which without religion would not have been crimes at all.
Obama went on to blame all this on “a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.” But slaughter and mutilation occur as natural, almost inevitable phenomena among those believers – and they have been no trifling minority – who take literally their canon’s commands to conduct themselves savagely. After all, if, as a wannabe martyr, you think you’re carrying out the demands of “the Almighty,” with everlasting hellfire or the threescore and twelve virgins of paradise as the stakes, what will you not do?

We should not ascribe vile behavior to misreadings of the canon. It does not help us to suppose that its all-too-human authors penned words like “behead” and “enslave” expecting that they would be metaphorically interpreted. (You can perhaps imagine the absurdity of one of the benighted scribes, resurrected before a Religion 101 class, declaring, “By ‘smite off the infidels’ heads’ I really meant ‘give the unbelievers a stiff talking-to.’”)  After all, they were writing in barbarous ages. The inevitable conclusion: Most folk of the faiths in question behave decently only to the extent that they “pervert and distort” – that is, ignore – the more macabre dictates of their sacred credos.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

the plan is to use social network analysis and focused deterrence to stem potential extremism protect public safety..,

fbi  |  Over the past year, I have confirmed what I long believed—that the FBI is filled with amazing people, doing an amazing array of things around the world, and doing them well. I have also confirmed what I have long known: that a commitment to the rule of law and civil liberties is at the core of the FBI. It is the organization’s spine. 

But we confront serious threats—threats that are changing every day. So I want to make sure I have every lawful tool available to keep you safe from those threats.

An Opportunity to Begin a National Conversation
I wanted to meet with you to talk in a serious way about the impact of emerging technology on public safety. And within that context, I think it’s important to talk about the work we do in the FBI, and what we need to do the job you have entrusted us to do.

There are a lot of misconceptions in the public eye about what we in the government collect and the capabilities we have for collecting information.

My job is to explain and clarify where I can with regard to the work of the FBI. But at the same time, I want to get a better handle on your thoughts, because those of us in law enforcement can’t do what we need to do without your trust and your support. We have no monopoly on wisdom.
My goal today isn’t to tell people what to do. My goal is to urge our fellow citizens to participate in a conversation as a country about where we are, and where we want to be, with respect to the authority of law enforcement.

The Challenge of Going Dark
Technology has forever changed the world we live in. We’re online, in one way or another, all day long. Our phones and computers have become reflections of our personalities, our interests, and our identities. They hold much that is important to us.

And with that comes a desire to protect our privacy and our data—you want to share your lives with the people you choose. I sure do. But the FBI has a sworn duty to keep every American safe from crime and terrorism, and technology has become the tool of choice for some very dangerous people.

Unfortunately, the law hasn’t kept pace with technology, and this disconnect has created a significant public safety problem. We call it “Going Dark,” and what it means is this: Those charged with protecting our people aren’t always able to access the evidence we need to prosecute crime and prevent terrorism even with lawful authority. We have the legal authority to intercept and access communications and information pursuant to court order, but we often lack the technical ability to do so.

We face two overlapping challenges. The first concerns real-time court-ordered interception of what we call “data in motion,” such as phone calls, e-mail, and live chat sessions. The second challenge concerns court-ordered access to data stored on our devices, such as e-mail, text messages, photos, and videos—or what we call “data at rest.” And both real-time communication and stored data are increasingly encrypted.

Let’s talk about court-ordered interception first, and then we’ll talk about challenges posed by different means of encryption.

In the past, conducting electronic surveillance was more straightforward. We identified a target phone being used by a bad guy, with a single carrier. We obtained a court order for a wiretap, and, under the supervision of a judge, we collected the evidence we needed for prosecution.

Today, there are countless providers, countless networks, and countless means of communicating. We have laptops, smartphones, and tablets. We take them to work and to school, from the soccer field to Starbucks, over many networks, using any number of apps. And so do those conspiring to harm us. They use the same devices, the same networks, and the same apps to make plans, to target victims, and to cover up what they’re doing. And that makes it tough for us to keep up.

If a suspected criminal is in his car, and he switches from cellular coverage to Wi-Fi, we may be out of luck. If he switches from one app to another, or from cellular voice service to a voice or messaging app, we may lose him. We may not have the capability to quickly switch lawful surveillance between devices, methods, and networks. The bad guys know this; they’re taking advantage of it every day.

In the wake of the Snowden disclosures, the prevailing view is that the government is sweeping up all of our communications. That is not true. And unfortunately, the idea that the government has access to all communications at all times has extended—unfairly—to the investigations of law enforcement agencies that obtain individual warrants, approved by judges, to intercept the communications of suspected criminals.

Friday, February 13, 2015

thrasher much less impressed, nails the flaws, and also misses the point

guardian |  Though I was as gleeful as the next homosexual to see a raunchy Broadway musical quoted by the head of the FBI, Comey was actually equivocating on racism’s power to harm by using it: “We all – white and black – carry various biases around with us”, he said. And while that may be true, no level of civilian bias against police, not even cars blaring NWA’s Fuck the Police (as I heard often while in Ferguson myself) justifies the police violence against which protesters are fighting. The structural racism people of color experience isn’t harming police – unless they’re people of color, off duty, and subjected to stop and frisk by their fellow officers.

He did address the cynicism and “mental shortcuts” which exacerbate racial profiling. But then he alleged it doesn’t mean an officer is racist when “mental shortcut becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights”, nor did he even name systematic racism as at work there.
Comey also talked about how “data shows that the percentage of young men not working or not enrolled in school is nearly twice as high for blacks as it is for whites”, adding that he understands “the hard work to develop violence-resistant and drug-resistant kids, especially in communities of color.” But kids in communities of color don’t need to “Just Say No” – they need, and we need, to demand an end to economic segregation and a lack of educational opportunity.

The FBI director hinted at the existence of racism when he talked of changing a legacy “so enormous and so complicated that it is, unfortunately, easier to talk only about the cops”. He is right that it’s not fair to pin everything on police; but, it’s unhelpful misdirection to point at (unarmed) citizens failing to “really see the men and women of law enforcement” (who are always armed) as the problem with policing.

It’s also unhelpful to act like being a cop is more dangerous than it actually is. Existing data has shown that it’s not a particularly dangerous job; it’s not even among the 10 most dangerous jobs in America. Far more people are killed by cops in any given year than cops are killed by civilians – and, cops who do die “in the line of duty” are about as likely to do so in a vehicle related injury than by being shot.

Still, no amount of pandering to the homosexual agenda with Avenue Q quotes can soften the blow of hearing the nation’s top cop ignoring the very basis of our legal system by claiming – right after a year with a record number of legal exonerations – that “criminal suspects routinely lie about their guilt, and the people we charge are overwhelmingly guilty.” Actually, criminal suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law; exonerations indicate that even those decisions aren’t permanent.
This week, there have been a number of positive developments in the fight against police violence; Comey’s speech is among them, to be sure, along with the lawsuit against Ferguson debtors’ prisons and the MacArthur Foundation ponying up $75mn to fight overincarceration. But Comey’s speech isn’t the big sign of progress; the real progress is that, six months after Mike Brown was killed, the movement that his death triggered is still so powerful that the head of the FBI finally feels the need to address the injustice that so many Americans now find apparent.

lil'pookie excited by the respectability politics and completely misses the point..,

WaPo |  Comey delivered the fourth “hard truth,” which is also the toughest to confront.
The truth is that what really needs fixing is something only a few, like President Obama, are willing to speak about, perhaps because it is so daunting a task. Through the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, the President is addressing the disproportionate challenges faced by young men of color. For instance, data shows that the percentage of young men not working or not enrolled in school is nearly twice as high for blacks as it is for whites. This initiative, and others like it, is about doing the hard work to grow drug-resistant and violence-resistant kids, especially in communities of color, so they never become part of that officer’s life experience.
So many young men of color become part of that officer’s life experience because so many minority families and communities are struggling, so many boys and young men grow up in environments lacking role models, adequate education, and decent employment—they lack all sorts of opportunities that most of us take for granted. A tragedy of American life—one that most citizens are able to drive around because it doesn’t touch them—is that young people in “those neighborhoods” too often inherit a legacy of crime and prison. And with that inheritance, they become part of a police officer’s life, and shape the way that officer—whether white or black—sees the world. Changing that legacy is a challenge so enormous and so complicated that it is, unfortunately, easier to talk only about the cops. And that’s not fair.
Comey said something else as part of that first “hard truth” that was music to my ears. “We must better understand the people we serve and protect—by trying to know, deep in our gut, what it feels like to be a law-abiding young black man walking on the street and encountering law enforcement,” he said. “We must understand how that young man may see us. We must resist the lazy shortcuts of cynicism and approach him with respect and decency.” My hope is that Comey’s attitude and the words that buttress it trickles down to every police department in the country.

I urge you to watch or read Comey’s oration on law enforcement and race. The excerpts you’ve just read do not begin to convey their power. His address is as important as Obama’s and Holder’s speeches on race. And all three, in addition to the president’s comments following the not-guilty verdict in 2013 for George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin, challenge all of us to face our and our nation’s flawed racial past as a way of healing and moving forward. When will we finally accept that challenge?

oil prices - a complicated explanation

ourfiniteworld |  (This is Part 3 of my series – A New Theory of Energy and the Economy. These are links to Part 1 and Part 2.)

Many readers have asked me to explain debt. They also wonder, “Why can’t we just cancel debt and start over?” if we are reaching oil limits, and these limits threaten to destabilize the system. To answer these questions, I need to talk about the subject of promises in general, not just what we would call debt.

In some sense, debt and other promises are what hold together our networked economy. Debt and other promises allow division of labor, because each person can “pay” the others in the group for their labor with a promise of some sort, rather than with an immediate payment in goods. The existence of debt allows us to have many convenient forms of payment, such as dollar bills, credit cards, and checks. Indirectly, the many convenient forms of payment allow trade and even international trade.

Each debt, and in fact each promise of any sort, involves two parties. From the point of view of one party, the commitment is to pay a certain amount (or certain amount plus interest). From the point of view of the other party, it is a future benefit–an amount available in a bank account, or a paycheck, or a commitment from a government to pay unemployment benefits. The two parties are in a sense bound together by these commitments, in a way similar to the way atoms are bound together into molecules. We can’t get rid of debt without getting rid of the benefits that debt provides–something that is a huge problem.

There has been much written about past debt bubbles and collapses. The situation we are facing today is different. In the past, the world economy was growing, even if a particular area was reaching limits, such as too much population relative to agricultural land. Even if a local area collapsed, the rest of the world could go on without them. Now, the world economy is much more networked, so a collapse in one area affects other areas as well. There is much more danger of a widespread collapse.
Our economy is built on economic growth. If the amount of goods and services produced each year starts falling, then we have a huge problem. Repaying loans becomes much more difficult.

In fact, in an economic contraction, promises that aren’t debt, such as promises to pay pensions and medical costs of the elderly as part of our taxes, become harder to pay as well. The amount we have left over for discretionary expenditures becomes much less. These pressures tend to push an economy further toward contraction, and make new promises even harder to repay.

oil prices - a simple explanation

Exactly one month later, on February 7, the Bank for International Settlements (the bank for the world’s central banks) said that it had looked at the numbers– really looked at the numbers — and had compared the most recent conflagration with oil-price declines that occurred in 1996 and 2006. Unlike the previous two, the bank said, the current collapse of oil prices cannot be explained as an effect of supply and demand because supply was only slightly elevated and demand only slightly depressed.

What we are seeing instead, said the Bank for International Settlements, are the effects of hedging, speculating and high debt. Not, in other words, the law of supply and demand, but the law of gambling: only the house wins.

Hedging is to oil drillers what crop insurance is to farmers; you pay a premium for a guarantee that a specific buyer will give you a specific price for your product when you get it to market. Most drillers bought those hedges, which is why they are still pumping oil — they’re not going to get the current market price, but their hedged price. But the hedges will be running out soon. Or, the sellers of the hedges will be running out of cash. Either way, production hits the wall. (Fracking billionaire Harold Hamm has become famous among his peers for cashing in all his hedges to save money just before the price of oil began its precipitous drop. He won’t be a billionaire much longer.)

Speculating is what sets the prices of the things we need to buy. The price of every commodity, every share of stock, every bond and derivative is set by a bunch of whiz-kid traders (there don’t seem to be any old ones ) who spend their days betting on what the rest of their kind are going to do that day. Are they going to love Ali Baba because it’s huge and kind of like an Asian Amazon? If so we all go long on its stock and we all make a lot of money. Are they going to hate it because it’s huge and like Amazon never makes any money? Then we all short the stock and we all make a lot of money. As to what Ali Baba is actually doing — who cares? These speculators — especially oil speculators — usually buy and sell not the product, or even the stock of the companies, but futures: contracts to sell in the future at a high price if you think the price will be lower, or to buy in the future at a low price if you think it’s going up. (Lately, however, Masters of the Universe have actually been buying and taking possession of crude oil, and renting huge tanks to store it in until it goes back up to $100 a barrel. Greed springs eternal.)

Borrowing is what really runs the engines of our world. There is no housing industry without mortgages, no auto industry without “zero down, zero interest” loans, no consumer industry without credit cards and no fracking industry without junk bonds and leveraged loans.  When it costs $10 million to put up a well that’s only going to produce for three of four years, your business model has better include access to unlimited cheap credit. And so it did: last year before prices started their freefall in October, frackers issued $50 billion worth of junk bonds, no problem. Since 2010 they put out more than half a trillion dollars worth. Their debt now is double the amount of debt that was involved in subprime mortgages in 2008. Bonds mature, loans run out, and lines of credit have to be reviewed — in April as a matter of fact, watch that month. Defaults will start coming in clusters by midyear, and since much of the money that was lent was, itself, borrowed money, the dominoes are going to fall for a long time.