poor blacks and the police state, a sociologist’s first-hand experience

Prominent sociologist (Alice Goffman) spent time documenting police tactics and targeting of poor black neighborhoods. A petite white woman, she lived among the subjects of her study and has herself been interrogated by police and threatened with incarceration. She describes impact of policing and racial targeting. A few choice quotes below.

The number of people in American jails and prisons has risen fivefold over the past 40 years. There are now roughly six million people under criminal-justice supervision. “In modern history,” Goffman writes, “only the forced labor camps of the former U.S.S.R. under Stalin approached these levels of penal confinement.”…

The threat of incarceration has created “a new social fabric,” Goffman writes, “one woven in suspicion, distrust, and the paranoiac practices of secrecy, evasion, and unpredictability.” It has turned ghettos into “communities of suspects and fugitives.”…

More black men are ensnared in the criminal-justice system today than were enslaved before the Civil War. Goffman and others view the situation as a setback to the advances that African-Americans made in the civil-rights movement. One recent book calls mass incarceration “The New Jim Crow.”…

On her first day at Princeton, she writes, she cased the sociology department’s classrooms, identifying TVs and computers she could steal in the event that she needed some quick cash. She feared white men, the younger male professors especially. Even though she knew they weren’t cops, her chest pounded when they came close.

Intriguing throughout, and worth reading.

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various tech companies bolster security in light of NSA/Snowden revelations

The problem of government snooping on its citizenry doesn’t go away with technical solutions alone, but this is a good step regardless. The idea is that a transient encryption key is used only for a given web session and then discarded. This technique removes the single point of failure that occurs when there is a master key that is used to encrypt/decrypt traffic that can be obtained by the government, perhaps surreptitiously, and then used to decrypt all previously recorded traffic.

Bravo to Google for contributing to the security ecosystem: “…Google, an early pioneer in the technology, had worked out many of the kinks in Perfect Forward Secrecy and shared its knowledge with the security community.”

And we need this kind of push-back. The NSA hacks into computers and into networks. Things would be easier for them if they could force companies like Microsoft, Cisco, et al, to include backdoors in their code (assuming they can’t). What is clear is that politically, we should not give the NSA powers that ultimately would lead them to having backdoor access into nearly all consumer and business products.

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how to not get arrested

Good article on how to avoid getting arrested.

Interesting points in the intro:

“Law enforcement officers now are part of the revenue gathering system,” Carson tells me in a phone interview…. Policing isn’t about keeping streets safe, it’s about statistical success [arresting the most people].

Ways to avoid arrest? Basically, be invisible to police. Don’t stand out, move too quickly, appear very different in a crowd, wear ostentatious clothing. If questioned by police, take the verbal beatings; be respectful; if necessary, look pitiful.

There’s more, and the above are the obvious ones.

Dale Carson evidently wrote the book on avoiding getting arrested and has worked in law enforcement himself. I haven’t read the book, though I might. It’s interesting that he describes police as predatory. Not surprising, just interesting, as I’m not used to such candor from a former officer.

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zimmerman – what to make of him

I’m not sure what to make of George Zimmerman. He’s had brushes with the law following his acquittal in the Trayvon Martin slaying, but it seems he had brushes before that incident as well (take with grain of salt though, as details are scarce).

I strongly question my previous belief that Zimmerman acted due to strong protective instincts. I.e., the idea was that he genuinely wished to protect others and that caused him to identify, or perhaps mis-identify, Trayvon Martin as a threat.

But pointing a gun at an unarmed girlfriend, if that is really what happened, suggests that his instincts aren’t about protecting others.

Or maybe his ordeal with law enforcement and the media and/or a desire (perhaps sub-conscious desire) to get back into the national spotlight is causing maladapted behavior on his part, to put it generously.

This is speculation. I don’t know and don’t have strong opinions about it either way. It’s certainly conceivable though that the stress of possible conviction led to a kind of exaggeration of certain behavioral impulses coupled with a decrease in pro-social behavior and related social inhibitory mechanisms.

I suspect prison time is in his future, if nothing else because prosecutors, judges, and police don’t want the political liability associated with inaction concerning this particular individual, so they’ll likely find something to use against him.

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FBI directing cyber attacks against foreign targets

Hacker Jeremy Hammond of the distributed group “Anonymous” speaks in court, names entities that FBI informant had him target. Implication: if true, suggests that a US government agency specifically targeted foreign targets of interest.

In court, Hammond said that “these intrusions, all of which were suggested by Sabu while cooperating with the FBI, affected thousands of domain names and consisted largely of foreign government websites, including those of Turkey, Iran—” before the judge cut him off and said that the list of targets was to be redacted.

A more specific list of ostensible targets is as follows:

…the official website of the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Internal Affairs Division of the Military Police of Brazil, the official website of the Crown Prince of Kuwait, the Tax Department of Turkey, the Iranian Academic Center for Education and Cultural Research, the Polish Embassy in the UK, and the Ministry of Electricity of Iraq.

All should be taken with grain of salt. Maybe the FBI informant wasn’t really acting on the FBI’s behalf; maybe Hammond is exaggerating or lying; or maybe the FBI really did have Hammond infiltrate servers of interest, feeding the security credentials back to the informant and ultimately back to the FBI.

If the implications here are true, I have to also wonder why the FBI would do this (as a domestic investigative and law enforcement agency).

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yahoo to expand encryption

Yahoo CEO (Mayer) announces expanded use of encryption to secure internal servers’ communications to each other. She is also quoted as saying:

Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency. Ever.

Security is now good for business.

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silicon valley not happy with NSA

Google’s executive chairman coached Obama’s campaign team; executives from Craigslist, Napster, and Linkedin helped him fundraise….

That was then. This is now:

…some members of Silicon Valley are taking a new perspective: “F— these guys.”

Maybe they should have seen this coming, but I don’t blame them. I certainly would have assumed some of the recent revelations were conspiracy theory nonsense. The idea that the NSA is spying on millions of Americans, purposefully weakening encryption and hashing algorithms, exploiting and likely planting backdoors in commercial software… these aren’t so much conspiracy theories as they are fact at this point.

What are companies doing in response?

Microsoft, for instance, signed on with Apple, Google, and other companies to voice support for full-fledged NSA reform. “Companies are beginning to realize that…the NSA is actively hacking and targeting [them], putting all of us at risk,”…

A sensible response, since many billions of dollars and potentially the long term reputation of all US tech companies hangs in the balance.

Fallout by NSA on US networking equipment maker Cisco.

Some companies are under gag order, can’t publish more details in their transparency reports.

A very detailed essay on Bruce Schneier’s blog on the fallout of US tech by the NSA.

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