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ethics

And in this version of reality

Saskatoon lawyer Morris Bodnar says that the Hells Angels are not a criminal organization

Morris Bodnar, who has represented Hells Angels in Saskatchewan, said the idea of such a blanket declaration is just “posturing” by the provincial government.

“This has nothing to do with justice; it has to do with politics,” Bodnar said in an interview Friday.

“They don’t have to protect the public from Hells Angels. Hells Angels are very seldom in trouble.”

Bodnar has repeatedly disputed that the Hells Angels are a criminal organization. He said a small number of members may be involved in drug dealing or violence, but they are acting as individuals and are often expelled from the organization if they are caught up in the law.

Manitoba sees it differently

Why the gang fits the bill as a criminal organization:

  • Evidence from numerous Canadian trials shows the Hells Angels are structured to ensure conformity to their rules, prevent infiltration by rivals and police and to maintain an effective criminal network. Courts have found that chapters are not independent entities but instead conform to rules and work collectively to meet the broader objectives.
  • Membership in the Hells Angels consists of full patch members, prospective members, hang-arounds, official friends, and associates.
  • Full-patch members seek to insulate themselves from police and rivals by using subordinate members and associate gangs to commit crimes and protect gang assets. Membership is an incremental process over years to test a recruit’s loyalty and prevent infiltration by police or rival gang members. Internal Hells Angels records show that photos and information about potential new members are distributed across the country to try to identify unwanted members.
  • The colours of the Hells Angels are formed by the term “Hells Angels,” the club’s death head logo and red and white lettering. These items have been trademarked in numerous countries. Only a full-patch member can wear the Hells Angels logo and vote on club issues and strategies. Courts have noted the “power of the patch” worn by the Hells Angels, since it has been used to intimidate and create fear from the public and gang rivals. As a result, some courts have declared items displaying these identifying colours to be forfeited as offence-related property.
  • Clubhouses are the base for each Hells Angels chapter. Courts have found they are generally fortified and equipped with security measures. Courts have ordered Hells Angels clubhouses forfeited as instruments or proceeds of crime in Ontario (Toronto, Thunder Bay and Oshawa), Halifax and Quebec. Several other clubhouses, including one in Winnipeg, have been seized pending criminal property forfeiture applications. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also used provincial laws to order the removal of fortifications from Hells Angels clubhouses as they are a public safety threat.
  • Hells Angels and their associate groups have been found with counter-surveillance equipment designed to detect police listening devices, sensitive justice documents on gang rivals and information about police investigators.
  • The Hells Angels use subordinate “puppet” criminal organizations to commit crimes and advance their interests. This also helps to identify potential new members of the Hells Angels. For example, several members of one of the Manitoba Hells Angels’ support clubs, the Zig Zag Crew, have moved up to become full members. Gang wars in Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario have highlighted the roles played by these associate groups. Manitoba’s Zig Zag Crew and Redlined gangs have been convicted for drug and other crimes in support of the Hells Angels.
  • Courts in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba have found the Hells Angels to be a criminal organization in dozens of individual criminal prosecutions. Hells Angels have a long record of violence in Canada including the murder of two justice officials in Quebec in 1997, a gang war with the Rock Machine in Quebec that resulted in an estimated 150 murders over the course of a decade, and extensive drug trafficking and related crimes in Manitoba.

Lord Conrad Black is stripped of his Order of Canada

Conrad Black is stripped of his Order of Canada

Conrad Black, who was convicted in the U.S. and served a prison sentence there, has been removed from the Order of Canada effective immediately, says the Governor General.

Black has also been stripped of his honorary position in the Privy Council of Canada, at the recommendation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The announcement came in a terse release by Gov. Gen. David Johnston late Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Governor General, Marie-Pierre Belanger, says an advisory council met Friday afternoon to make its recommendation to Johnston.

The council’s members include the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, and Wayne Wouters, the clerk of the Privy Council, Canada’s top public servant.

Friday’s announcement means Black can no longer attach the initials O.C., and P.C., to his name. Belanger also said Black must return the insignia of the order.

“The insignia of the Order of Canada remain the property of the Order at all times,” she said.

“They are presented in trust to members of the Order, as a visible sign of their appointment and a mark of esteem. When an appointment ends, whether through death or through an ordinance made by the Governor General, the insignia reverts to the Order.”

You know what upsets me.  After he lost his business empire, spent millions on lawyers, and was sued for whatever is left, Black still has a much higher net worth then yours truly.

10,912 gun deaths since Newtown

From Slate.  It’s a horrific info graphic.

In Kennedy’s Death, a Turning Point for a Nation Already Torn

From the New York Times

The New York Times

The best-selling nonfiction book when he was killed was Victor Lasky’s “J.F.K: The Man and the Myth,” a dubiously researched jumble of smears and innuendo, including the stale rumor that Kennedy, an observant Catholic, had suppressed a previous marriage to a Palm Beach socialite. The book was briefly removed from circulation by its publisher, Macmillan, after Kennedy’s death.

Kennedy hatred was deepest, perhaps, in the South, where civil rights battles had grown increasingly tense. “White violence was sort of considered the status quo,” Diane McWhorter, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and is the author of “Carry Me Home,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the racial unrest of 1963, said recently.

“There had been so many bombings that people had accepted it,” Ms. McWhorter said. But in May, the city’s blacks struck back, attacking the police and firefighters and setting several businesses on fire. In September, only two months before Dallas, white supremacists in Birmingham planted a bomb in a black church, killing four young girls.

Kennedy himself was a reluctant supporter of civil rights legislation, but when at last he called for it, many Southern whites were enraged.

“I was in my gym class at the Brooke Hill School for girls,” Ms. McWhorter recalled. “Someone came in and said the president had been shot, and people cheered.”

What it is like to buy heroin in Chicago

The ritual of buying is just as exciting as the shooting up.

The fact is, and I don’t care who tries to dispute this, that a majority of the people who make the daily migration to the West Side to cop blows are as addicted to the ritual of copping dope as they are to the dope itself. It is an adrenaline rush no different than those achieved by people who jump out of airplanes. And dope fiends get to experience it every day.

A neurologist named Marc Lewis recently wrote an excellent book about how the addicted brain functions, “Memoirs of an Addicted Brain.” Written by a former junkie, the book offers cutting-edge explanations of how drugs, and a subsequent lack of drugs, work on the brain. Dr. Lewis goes chapter by chapter telling stories such as how he used to have unrestricted access to huge jars of pure morphine as a young medical student in the days before modern controls on these chemicals. And just as he is getting to a really funny or interesting part about the time his girlfriend took so much LSD that she thought she was a kitten, he digresses into a fascinating explanation of how the external chemicals are causing the brain to release, or block the reuptake of, certain neurotransmitters. It makes for really good reading, especially if you’re a junkie.

I came to realize that every time I exited the West Side with drugs in hand and my body and freedom intact, a highly gratifying rush of dopamine flooded my brain. Now imagine this everyday occurrence: you are on West Monroe, a block you know to be highly volatile. You are there to buy, say, fifty bucks worth of dope. You turn the corner onto Monroe from Pulaski. A Crown Victoria—the classic police car—slowly glides up the street, turns and disappears. The block seems empty, although you know of one or two abandoned buildings that the shorties sometimes use. You also see a few of them standing at the corner of Monroe and Karlov. This is relevant for a white person like me, because the goal is to stay as close to Pulaski as possible, so you can cop your dope, and then melt back into the foot traffic on Pulaski, a main thoroughfare. But today you see that you’re going to have to walk all the way down to Karlov. You sigh and start walking. The same Crown Victoria suddenly glides from behind you again, and then slowly disappears again. This has you on edge. Shit, it has you downright petrified. And as you get closer to the shorties standing at Karlov, you can just sense that they are on edge too.

Research shows CEOs who live frugally make better leaders

The flashier they are, the more open they are to fraud.

But according to research to be published in the Journal of Financial Economics, bosses who enjoy the finer things in life can be bad for their companies. The researchers hired private investigators to uncover the personal assets of a sample of American chief executives. They then compared those who own trinkets such as a yacht, a $75,000 car or a super-expensive house against a list of companies cited for fraudulent accounting by the Securities and Exchanges Commission. After controlling for things such as its size, the probability that a firm with a flashy CEO will commit fraud, they found, increases by 6% a year for every year that he is at the helm. At firms run by more frugal heads, on the other hand, the likelihood of fraud decreases by 61% every year.

Interestingly, this is not because ostentatious bosses feel pressure to maintain their lifestyles. Indeed, such CEOs are no more likely to be fraudulent than their parsimonious peers. Rather it is underlings who cook the books. This might be because such CEOs tend to hire executives with a similar mindset to their own. The study found, for example, that a chief financial officer is more likely to own a yacht if his boss does. They also tend to socialise more with directors at the firm—at country clubs and the like. Being part of such a pally clique means they are less likely to monitor what the others are up to, thinks Aiyesha Dey of the University of Minnesota, one of the authors.

Bosses with expensive lifestyles are also more likely to introduce equity-based incentive schemes, the report finds. Closely linking remuneration to the share price may encourage staff to caress the figures. Furthermore, says Ms Dey, such CEOs tend to run businesses the way they do their personal lives, prone to showy acquisitions and less regard for the long-term consequences.

The Best Bike Lock

Eric Hanson of Outside Magazine took a look at the best bike lock that money can buy.

Kryptolock bundle

The consensus among those in the know was that a u-lock is best for virtually everyone, offering the highest ratio of security to portability. Unconventional devices like folding locks are intriguing, but so far none offer the security of a good u-lock. Chains sometimes offer a slight bump in security, but they often weigh twice as much and still relent to power tools. Let masochists wear belts of hardened steel; all our experts said a good u-lock is the sensible solution.

But before we talked specific lock models, they also insisted we slow down. Most people don’t know how to use their locks, they said. Most people buy big, heavy expensive u-locks and then don’t secure their bike’s frame, or don’t lock to an immobile object, or worse. Videos like this and this and this drive the point home.

Both the professional and petty thieves we talked to suggested that if a cyclist couldn’t take his bike inside, he should lock his bike in a different spot each day, making it harder to case out. And they encouraged people to ride cheaper bikes. After all, the resale value of a bike—and its expensive components—is what makes the thing worth stealing.

Locking smart will allow you to stand out from the thief-tempting masses, and thankfully the proper lock method is straightforward. Known by many as the “Sheldon technique,” it involves placing a u-lock through the frame and rear wheel. When a bike is going to be left unattended for a long time or in a crime-ridden area, a cable lock can be added to grab the front wheel and seat, further discouraging a thief. If a person really wants to thumb his nose at the criminal set and doesn’t mind searching for smaller objects to lock to, then he can use the Sheldon technique with a small u-lock instead of the standard size. Small locks leave little room for thieves to insert crowbars or bottle jacks or any number of tools that can bust open a lock.

Hal Ruzal, the dreadlocked cofounder of the NYC bike shop Bicycle Habitat, uses the Sheldon technique to lock an $800 bike with a $100 lock. Using a lock that expensive on a bike that cheap is overkill, but his results are impressive. After putting some 350,000 miles under his tires, predominantly in New York City over the last 30 years, he has had only one bike stolen, when he used an un-hardened chain lock instead of a u-lock.

Indeed, just the sight of a properly used u-lock is usually enough to deter thieves, sending them down the street where they’ll find an equally-nice bike locked with nothing but a chintzy cable, or a bike with a wheel that’s not secured, or a bike locked to a piece of scaffolding that can be unbolted, etc. In the words of Brad Quartuccio, editor of Urban Velo magazine: “Locking technique is more important than how much you spend on a lock.”

If you are a cyclist, the entire article is worth reading.

Using Hitler to prove a point

From Joe Posnanski

Rule 1: It is never a good idea to invoke the name of Hitler to make an unrelated sports-related point — or any unrelated point.
Rule 2: However, if you plan going to bring up Hitler in historical context, see Rule 1.
Rule 3: In certain rare cases, when you are interested in using Hitler to prove a larger truth, see Rule 1.
Rule 4: The one exception to this is … See Rule 1.
Rule 5: Yeah. Rule 1. Always.

How a Convicted Murderer Prepares for a Job Interview

The challenges those that have been incarcerated having in finding a job

In prison Angel thought that it wouldn’t be too hard to find a job once he got out. He believed he had come a long way. At eighteen he hadn’t been able to read or write. He wet his bed and suffered from uncontrollable outbursts of anger. At forty-seven he had studied at the college level. He told me he had read several thousand books. He earned numerous certificates while incarcerated—aVocational Appliance Repair Certificate, a Certificate of Proficiency of Computer Operator, a Certificate in Library Training, an IPA (Inmate Program Assistant) II Training Certificate, and several welding certifications—but in the outside world these credentials counted for little.

“Irrelevant,” Angel said. “They might as well be toilet paper.”

Saskatoon Afternoon’s 5:15 p.m. Roundtable

Broadcasting from 650 CKOM with David Kirton and Ian Goodwillie on the Saskatoon Afternoon show.  We talk Nigel Wright and a teen arrested for a ill-worded Facebook post.

Listen Live

The next great crime wave to hit North America; Koi theft

It all started so innocently

The criminals’ ruse was so well orchestrated that no one realized 400 koi had been carefully packed in large coolers and stolen until after the men were gone and security mentioned the crew to the property-management company. An even greater shock: The fish might be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

“We thought, ‘Wait a minute. No one was hired to look at the fish,’ ” said an employee at the office park who was not authorized to speak to the media. “We were stunned. We were shocked. Who steals these kind of fish?”

Fairfax County police are still trying to solve the mystery, but the strange case has opened a window on the little-known and arcane world of koi collectors, who will pay as much as $25,000 for a championship fish and passionately pit their prized specimens against each other at competitions.

I demand to know what the police and politicians are doing to keep our koi safe!

“We’ve never heard of a theft like this before,” said Lucy Caldwell, a Fairfax police spokeswoman.

But there have been others across the nation. In May, eight koi worth about $1,600 were stolen from a pond at the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. In January, nine koi were stolen from a Florida woman, and in 2010, 24 koi were swiped from a family’s Scarsdale, N.Y., pond.

But the scale of the heist in Fairfax surprised koi aficionados — all said they had never heard of a larger one. Most said they did not believe that there was a black market for the fish but that a thief could easily resell them to a dealer.

No Tresspassing

No Tresspassing

I think we all know I ignored this sign.

Canada joins a rare club of repressive states

The list of oppressive countries legislating the wearing of masks keeps growing: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and now … Canada.

Rioters in Vancouver

Last month, we reported on Saudi Arabia banning the Guy Fawkes masks popularized by the movie V for Vendetta, which have been a staple of populist protests from Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring, and now the Taksim Square protests in Turkey. The Canadian ban is a bit different — but just as strange.

The new law, which takes effect immediately, makes it illegal to wear a mask in Canada “during a riot or unlawful assembly.” (Because apparently Canadian laws against rioting aren’t dissuasive enough?) Those caught wearing masks during riots could spend up to six months in jail, not including additional charges for rioting; masked miscreants caught “inciting” a riot face a potential 10-year sentence. CBC reports that “exceptions can be made if someone can prove they have a ‘lawful excuse’ for covering their face such as religious or medical reasons.”

Does that include dust masks to prevent getting sick at crowded, dirty protests? Balaclavas so protesters don’t freeze on cold Canadian nights? Handkerchiefs to stave off the inhalation of tear gas? Do fake beards, like the one worn by the Canadian student above, count as masks? That’s unclear, and will be left up to law enforcement officers’ judgment. “In policing that’s always the challenge — we’re required to use our discretion and judgment in every situation,” Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association and Vancouver Police Union, told CBC.

Not only are the terms of the new law loosely defined, but the legislation may be redundant. Critics of the bill point out that there is already a Canadian law on the books prohibiting wearing a disguise “with intent to commit an indictable offense.” But Canadian law enforcement officials counter that the law’s original purpose — it was aimed at incidences of armed robbery — have made it difficult to apply to rioters.

“We can all rest easier tonight knowing our communities have been safer with [the bill's] passage,” the law’s sponsor, Member of Parliament Blake Richards, told reporters.

So, if you’re planning on rioting in Canada, remember the old “only break one law at a time” rule and don’t wear a mask. Or hope that the law goes unenforced — like that mask ban in Saudi Arabia.

Even Foreign Policy is making fun of us now.

5 Fun Facts about the NSA’s latest leak

It keeps getting worse

If the NSA intercepts data between an attorney and client, it will still be retained, but will be marked for special handling, such that the portion of the communication related to national security is segregated from the rest of the communication. The procedures apply, however, only when the client is known to be under criminal indictment. The rules do not mention what the NSA does if the clients are communicating with their attorneys on civil cases and other legal matters.

Evil in a Haystack

How do you find a terrorist hidden in millions of gigabytes of metadata?

The information collected includes records of every call placed on the Verizon communications network (and, it appears, every other U.S. phone carrier) including times, dates, lengths of calls, and the phone numbers of the participants, but not the names associated with the accounts.

For some, the collection of these data represent a grave violation of the privacy of American citizens. For others, the privacy issue is negligible, as long as it helps keep us safe from terrorism.

There are indeed privacy issues at play here, but they aren’t necessarily the obvious ones. In order to put the most important questions into context, consider the following illustration of a metadata analysis using sample data derived from a real social network. The sample data isn’t derived from telephone records, but it’s close enough to give a sense of the analysis challenges and privacy issues in play.

While this example is relevant to what happens behind the NSA’s closed doors, it is not in any way intended to be a literal or accurate portrayal. While every effort was made to keep this example close to reality, a wide number of hypotheticals and classified procedures ensure the reality is somewhat different.

We start with a classic scenario. U.S. intelligence officials have captured an al Qaeda operative and obtained the phone number of an al Qaeda fundraiser in Yemen.

You are an analyst for a fictionalized version of the NSA, and you have been authorized to search through metadata in order to expose the fundraiser’s network, armed with only a single phone number as a starting point.

The first step is refreshingly simple: You type the fundraiser’s phone number into the metadata analysis software and click OK.

In our example data, the result is a list of 79 phone numbers that were involved in an incoming or outgoing call with the fundraiser’s phone within the last 30 days. The fundraiser is a covert operator and this phone is dedicated to covert activities, so almost anyone who calls the number is a high-value target right out of the gate.

Using the metadata, we can weight each phone number according to the number of calls it was involved in, the lengths of the calls, the location of the other participant, and the time of day the call was placed. Your NSA training manual claims these qualities help indicate the threat level of each participant. Your workstation renders these data as a graph. Each dot represents a phone number, and the size of the dot is bigger when the number scores higher on the “threat” calculus.

This is already a significant intelligence windfall, and you’ve barely been at this for five minutes. But you can go back to the metadata and query which of these 79 people have been talking to each other in addition to talking to the fundraiser.

Foreign Policy asks some hard questions about we use that data.

1. How much contact can an analyst have with a U.S. person’s data before it becomes a troublesome violation of privacy? Is it a violation to load a phone record into a graph if the analyst never looks at it individually? Is it a violation to look at the number individually if you don’t associate a name? Is it a violation to associate a name if you never take any additional investigative steps?

2. Metadata analysis is more accurate when the data is more complete. Should minimization practices filter metadata on American citizens out of the analysis altogether? What if that means targeting might be less accurate and, ironically, more likely to designate innocent people for more intrusive scrutiny?

3. What percentage of phone traffic to targeted numbers travels only on foreign carriers? Does the absence of those data skew analysis and possibly overemphasize the scoring of phone numbers used by American citizens?

4. On a fundamental level, are we willing to trust mathematical formulas and behavioral models to decide who should receive intrusive scrutiny?

5. Metadata analysis rarely deals in certainties; it almost always produces probabilities. What probability of evil intent should these models demonstrate before the government uses them to help justify a phone tap, or a house search, or a drone strike? 90 percent? 60 percent? Should we allow incremental collection of slightly more intrusive data if they can clarify a marginal case?

6. Have we tested our analytical math to see how accurate its predictions are relative to the actual content of calls? If so, how were these tests done? If not, are we willing to trust these models based on their success in other fields, or do they need to be tested specifically for counterterrorism?

7. If we believe the models do need to be tested for accuracy, are we willing to endure the privacy violations such tests would almost certainly entail? Will more accurate models lead to better privacy in the long run by reducing the number of innocent people subjected to more intrusive scrutiny?

8. Are we willing to trust the government to hold this data? Although the government says this data is currently focused on foreign counterterrorism, do we believe the president might not order the NSA to access metadata in the wake of a terrorist attack of domestic origin?

9. On a related note, what happens if the origin of an attack isn’t immediately clear, as in the Boston Marathon bombing? Should the NSA immediately begin a broad analysis of metadata and continue until it’s clear where the responsibility lies?

10. If we were to allow the use of this technology in domestic terrorism investigations, during a crisis or otherwise, how do we avoid collecting information on legal political dissent? For instance, targeting anarchists might inadvertently produce a list of influential leaders in the Occupy movement. Targeting militia groups might create a database of gun sellers. When you plunge into a huge dataset, you sometimes get insights you didn’t expect.

Ugh.