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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.

David Simon (creator of The Wire) on PRISM

It’s been happening for a long time.

Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff.

Allow for a comparable example, dating to the early 1980s in a place called Baltimore, Maryland.

There, city detectives once began to suspect that major traffickers were using a combination of public pay phones and digital pagers to communicate their business. And they took their suspicions to a judge and obtained court orders — not to monitor any particular suspect, but to instead cull the dialed numbers from the thousands and thousands of calls made to and from certain city pay phones.

Think about it. There is certainly a public expectation of privacy when you pick up a pay phone on the streets of Baltimore, is there not? And certainly, the detectives knew that many, many Baltimoreans were using those pay phones for legitimate telephonic communication. Yet, a city judge had no problem allowing them to place dialed-number recorders on as many pay phones as they felt the need to monitor, knowing that every single number dialed to or from those phones would be captured. So authorized, detectives gleaned the numbers of digital pagers and they began monitoring the incoming digitized numbers on those pagers — even though they had yet to learn to whom those pagers belonged. The judges were okay with that, too, and signed another order allowing the suspect pagers to be “cloned” by detectives, even though in some cases the suspect in possession of the pager was not yet positively identified.

All of that — even in the less fevered, pre-Patriot Act days of yore — was entirely legal. Why?

Because they aren’t listening to the calls.

Here is what does happen

In Baltimore thirty years ago, after the detectives figured out which pay phones were dialing pagers, and then did all the requisite background checks and surveillance to identify the drug suspects, they finally went to a judge and asked for a wiretap on several pay phones. The judge looked at the police work and said, okay, you can record calls off those public pay phones, but only if you have someone watching the phones to ensure that your suspects are making the calls and not ordinary citizens. And if you make a mistake and record a non-drug-involved call, you will of course “minimize” the call and cease recording.

It was at that point — and not at the earlier stage of gathering thousands and thousands of dialed numbers and times of call — that the greatest balance was sought between investigative need and privacy rights. And in Baltimore, that wiretap case was made and the defendants caught and convicted, the case upheld on appeal. Here, too, the Verizon data corresponds to the sheets and sheets of printouts of calls from the Baltimore pay phones, obtainable with a court order and without any demonstration of probable cause against any specific individual. To get that far as a law-abiding investigator, you didn’t need to know a target, only that the electronic medium is being used for telephonic communication that is both illegal and legal. It’s at the point of actually identifying specific targets and then seeking to listen to the conversations of those targets that the rubber really hits the road.

Corbella: Allowing brothels will make things worse for prostitutes

Lisa Corbella in the Calgary Herald

On Sept. 28, 2010, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel struck down three sections of Canada’s prostitution laws because they exposed sex-trade workers to unreasonable risk.

Himel ruled that communicating for the purposes of prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution and keeping a common bawdy house force sex-trade workers from the safety of their homes and onto the streets, where they are more vulnerable to violence.

The Criminal Code provisions, wrote Himel in her 131-page ruling, “force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their security of the person as protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Himel’s ruling was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is the end of the line in terms of ensuring that these Criminal Code provisions are not discarded — thus legalizing brothels, pimping and potentially even the bold kind of soliciting made so infamous in Amsterdam’s red-light district.

Natasha Falle, who calls herself a sex-trade survivor, says “women like me don’t think the way to protect women is behind legislated doors.”

Speaking at Servants Anonymous’ Cry of the Streets — Evening of Freedom fundraising event May 30 in Calgary, Falle says more women will be enslaved by human traffickers if those laws are deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Looking much younger than her 40 years, Falle is the founder of Sextrade 101 — a public awareness organization and an instructor of police foundations at Humber College in Toronto.

She intends to show up at the Supreme Court next week holding a “pimp stick” — an unravelled coat hanger that her pimp would often heat up on the stove and then use to whip her. Other former sex trade survivors will show up with other torture tools commonly used by pimps, such as curling irons and belts.

The daughter of a former Calgary police officer who, ironically, worked in the vice department, and a mother who worked in a bridal salon, Falle says she turned her first trick in Calgary’s Chinatown when she was 14 with a man with rotten teeth.

Her parents had split up and her family life fell apart. Falle started sleeping on friends’ couches until she wound up on the sofa of four young prostitutes whose pimp was out of town. Pretty soon, Falle followed their lead. At least they had a place to live and food to eat.

“I was trafficked across the country by the man who recruited me and who made false white-picket-fence intimacy promises,” Falle told the crowd.

“I made a lot of money. I bought my pimp a Mercedes. I had a Mustang, we lived in a penthouse, but I was still subjected to all of the violence,” she said. “He broke my arms, my ribs; my nose has been broken three times.”

Her point? This happened indoors. Not on the streets. The former prostitute says the worst beating she ever got was in a common bawdy house she shared with four other teens, so the idea that there’s safety in numbers is a myth.

Falle asks Canadians to consider what will happen to young women and girls should those prostitution laws be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Prostitution will become a licensed business, pimps will be legitimate business people, billboards advertising brothels could start appearing on roadsides and “a brothel could open up in the apartment next to yours or in the house next to yours,” Falle says.

While prostitution is legal in Canada, running a bawdy house, living off of the avails and soliciting for the purposes of prostitution are not.

“If we legalize these three areas, will brothels be allowed to set up a booth at the high school job fair?” she asks.

Just last month, two men were arrested in the Toronto area after recruiting a teenage Windsor girl to work in a strip club. They then took her to Toronto, where they forced her to prostitute herself.

“I think many well-meaning Canadians support Bedford’s challenge against Canada’s prostitution laws because they believe it will help vulnerable women,” Falle says. “But they are mistaken. It will make things much worse. It will legitimize pimping and human trafficking. It will enslave more women and girls.”

Corbella is right.  All of the serious research that is out there shows that brothels are violent, violent places where women suffer and are exploited even in places like Nevada where they are illegal.  This does not help women, it exploits them even more.