Catch 22 – when preserving the evidence is a crime but so is destroying it.

 Black & White Justice

What Do You Do When Preserving Evidence Is Labeled ‘Possession’ And Destroying It Is A Felony?
[Via Techdirt]

Have fun with this hypothetical. A shared computer is found to contain child porn. What do you do?

Houston criminal defense lawyer Mark Bennett considered this hypothetical from a defense lawyer’s standpoint. At this point, there is (possibly) no investigation already in progress (at least none the client or lawyer are aware of) and there’s no way to say definitively who’s responsible for the images. What do you tell your client?

It’s illegal for him to continue possessing the images. So you can’t advise him to do nothing (and keep breaking the law).

The smart thing for him to do would be to destroy the hard drive (if I could, I would recommend swisscheesing it with a drill press).

But tampering with evidence is illegal under both Texas and federal law. Is it a crime to destroy the hard drive? To advise the client to do so?

This isn’t entirely a hypothetical situation. Scott Greenfield’s blog details a 2007 case involving exactly this sort of situation.


For my lawyer friends – a shared computer is found to contain child porn. 

What to do? It is illegal to possess the child porn but also illegal to delete it. Are the authorities likely to believe you when you say the computer is shared and the porn is not yours?

Or will they simply take the easy route and charge you (ie you do possess the porn after you learn of its existence), letting the courts sort it out after your reputation is ruined?

What a hot potato. Man, after reading this, I would be very worried if I had any shared computers. 

The cell tower your phone uses may be run by the FBI, police, etc.

Southern Stingray 

Powerful “stingrays” used to go after 911 hangup, ATM burglary
[Via Ars Technica]

Newly released records show that Florida law enforcement agencies have been using stingrays thousands of times since at least 2007 to investigate crimes as small as a 911 hangup. They also seemingly obliquely refer to stingrays in police reports as “electronic surveillance measures,” or even as a “confidential informant.”

Stingrays, the common name for “cell-site simulators,” can be used to determine a phone’s location, but they can also intercept calls and text messages. During the act of locating a phone, stingrays also sweep up information about nearby phones—not just the target phone. Earlier this month, Ars reported on how the FBI is actively trying to “prevent disclosure” of how these devices are used in local jurisdictions across America.

The trove of documents, which were published earlier this week by the American Civil Liberties Union, show that while police agencies often justify the purchase of such hardware in the name of counter-terrorism—none of the the hundreds of disclosed uses involve terrorism.


Yes, this device mimics a cell tower, acting as a man-in-the-middle attack. While they may collect all the information  from the desired phone, including text and voice, they also recors all the data from every other phone in the area that thinks this is a legitimate cell tower.

That they can then do whatever they wish with. Like collect the phones calls of every single person neaar a protest. Including those from people in surrounding buildings.

And these can be worn by an individual. Walking around. The FBI has even stated that they do not need a warrant. Because you have no reasonable expectation of privacy when you call someone outside the privacy of your home.

So think about that the next time a friend calls you while walking down the street.

How being WEIRD is a good thing

Waves-Clogher Beach 

We Aren’t the World 
[Via – Pacific Standard]

IN THE SUMMER of 1995, a young graduate student in anthropology at UCLA named Joe Henrich traveled to Peru to carry out some fieldwork among the Machiguenga, an indigenous people who live north of Machu Picchu in the Amazon basin. The Machiguenga had traditionally been horticulturalists who lived in single-family, thatch-roofed houses in small hamlets composed of clusters of extended families. For sustenance, they relied on local game and produce from small-scale farming. They shared with their kin but rarely traded with outside groups.

While the setting was fairly typical for an anthropologist, Henrich’s research was not. Rather than practice traditional ethnography, he decided to run a behavioral experiment that had been developed by economists. Henrich used a “game”—along the lines of the famous prisoner’s dilemma—to see whether isolated cultures shared with the West the same basic instinct for fairness. In doing so, Henrich expected to confirm one of the foundational assumptions underlying such experiments, and indeed underpinning the entire fields of economics and psychology: that humans all share the same cognitive machinery—the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring.


Nice article about how the West has actual cognitive differences from tthe East and just about everyone else. We have created and inhabit a different cultural environment and, like Darwin’s Finches, have evolved different social structures to deal with it. These social structures change the way we think.

This is a good thing, as long as we realize that our adaptations to this environment do not necessarily extend to all of humanity. It also fits in well with a recent paper that has gotten some press.

The acronym, WEIRD – Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic – was coined to describe the social groups that have adapted the dominant cultural environment on the planet. Dominant by its outsized effects not only on natural resources but on other cultures as well.

A major hallmark of this:

In their paper the trio pointed out cross-cultural studies that suggest that the “weird” Western mind is the most self-aggrandizing and egotistical on the planet: we are more likely to promote ourselves as individuals versus advancing as a group. WEIRD minds are also more analytic, possessing the tendency to telescope in on an object of interest rather than understanding that object in the context of what is around it.

This fits in quite well with my model on hierarchical authorities and distributed democracies. Humans have two ways to think about the world – Daniel Kahneman calls them System 1 and System 2. System 1 is fast, giving us rapid responses to the world around us. System 2 is slow, taking a more analytical approach to gain greater understanding.

System 1 is instinctual, rules-based and heuristic. It lives in a world  of metaphor and narrative. It is what allows us to respond properly the first time we see a wolf.

System 2 is slower, analytical and energy intensive. It is fact-based, not narrative-based. It is what allows us to see a wolf and produce a thousand breeds of dogs.

System 2 often is used to produce the narratives needed for System 1 to act to fast. A large part of the necessary adaptations to a new cultural environment is for System 2 to synthesize complexity into the simple narratives that System 1 uses.

This why different cultures are so plastic that they seem to think differently. They have differaent metaphors for System 1 based on the results of previous System 2 processes to assess the environment.

Cultures that failed to do this, to understand the cultural environment they inhabited, by transferring System 2 understanding into System 1 rapid responses, collapsed.

Just as the dodo failed to adapt to humans on the island. 

System 2 is useful when something new enters the environment, requiring deeper examination to understand how to deal with it. System 1 is for things we already know how to deal with, because they are a constant in our cultural environment. 

When someone says “You aren’t listening to me” it is often because  people are reacting with System 1 thoughts about something new that requires System 2 approaches. The listener  really is not ‘thinking’ but reacting. Fast, not slow.

Now on top of these ways of thinking,  we have two modes for organizing our social groups – hierarchical authorities and distributed democracies. The former puts the place of the individual into a specific social structure, atomizing while creating specific roles.

The latter subsumes the individual into a network designed for rapid information flow. Both approaches can use either System. For example, authority coupled with System 1 produces people who instinctually know how is above them and below them in the hierarchy, responding without thinking to commands.

But hierarchy coupled with System 2 produces analysis of a problem, breaking it down into pieces that those in a hierarchy can address more easily.

System 2 coupled with democracy can produce the Scientific Revolution. System 1 approaches here can rapidly disseminate the information from that revolution, by synthesis, not analysis.

So,we can see that WEIRD cognitive approaches have produced extremely large and complex hierarchies and democracies, which both use important System 1 and System 2 processes.

That is what has produced Western civilization. I would suggest that a key adaptation of this culture – something that has allowed it to dominate  has been to make System 2 approaches  external. Tacit System 2 creates shamans and alchemists. Explicit System 2 produces scientists.

WEIRD cultures are more analytical and use System 2 to a much larger extent than any other culture. That is because our rapidly changing cultural environment keeps throwing up novel problems we have to analyze deeply to solve.

We do not have time to relax with our System 1 responses to the world we live in. 

This could explain why there is such a difference in cognition today in America between conservatives in general and liberals. The data suggest that, as a group, conservatives are mostly using System 1 approaches (ie gut reactions and simple narratives) and are less WEIRD than average. Liberals  on the other had, are the mostly WEIRD, using analytical, System 2 thinking much more.

Thus why they have such a hard time coming up with the sort of short pithy metaphors to deal with the world, a world that is rapidly shifting from one stage to another, with the metaphors needed for System 1 thinking ins tremendous flux.

I think this is due to the Information Age, Moore’s law and the exponential economy.

We are living in a rapidly changing cultural environment, one where social norms and System 1 rules are changing. We need to develop new rules, new adaptations to this cultural environment. This requires analysis – System 2 – which is currently found more concentrated in the liberal side than the conservative.

It is a fluke of timing that these different approaches mostly align with political parties. In the 1850s, the thinking was the same – one group responding to changes by deeper analysis while the other retreated to old principles – but the parties were reversed  with the Republicans being the radical party adapting to the new cultural environment.

It doe snot matter which group is doing the analytical thinking. What is important is that we use this analysis to come up with better narratives and metaphors for sustain adaptive System 1 thinking.

The data suggest that less than 20% of even WEIRD cultures spend a lot of time in analysis and deep thinking. So a lot of liberals are also acting with System 1 responses, mostly to old rules for the old environment.

If we fail to adapt to the new cultural environment we are creating, then we will fail as a society. 

This model does not show what the adaptations we need to make will be. But it does suggest where those adaptations, those new stories will come from.

It does explain why the professions most aligned with slow, deliberative, analytical thinking – such as scientists – tend to align with liberals.

And why those most charged with creating new narratives – Hollywood – are also seen as liberal.

I expect this will change as we continue to adapt better to the new cultural environment. The current fluke – where analytical thinking falls more under one political group – may only be seen when our culture is undergoing rapid change. Once we gain better adaptations, creating the necessary narratives to support fast responses, we will all fall under mostly System 1.

Because we will understand the new rules of the culture. In fact, a large part of why System 2 evolved in humanity may simply be to gain understanding that can more easily be implemented by System 1. To create better narratives to explain the world.

And one interesting aspect that unfolds from this data deals with whether urban areas are generally more liberal because they attract liberal people or do they make people more liberal.

I’m falling on the cities make people more liberal. The paper showed that people can easily be trained to use either approach. It is a response to the environment they find themselves and what is required more often – rapid response to something you already know or slower responses to novel events.

I would suggest that having to adapt to the much more complex environment of a large city would require everyone to use more System 2 thinking than living in a rural one.

And right now, more System 2 correlates with being liberal.

I am not surprised that the most liberal cities, such as San Francisco, Washington DC and Seattle, are also home to some of the greatest technology/information/poetical changes driving our new cultural environment. 

The adaptations our culture is acquiring will be driven from those places where greater System 2 thinking is happening. Because they are creating the stories needed to sustain System 1 reactions to the new environment.

Thank goodness the GOP approach to ISPs was not used for other utilities

utility pole

Big Cable, Obama spar over government-run broadband networks
[Via Ars Technica]

President Obama today continued his push for municipal broadband networks while cable companies and Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission claimed government-run networks are often taxpayer ripoffs.

Obama spoke at Cedar Falls Utilities in Iowa, one day after calling for an end to laws in 19 states that make it difficult for cities and towns to create their own broadband networks. Cedar Falls, which is not in one of those states, offers 1Gbps fiber Internet service for $135 a month. Comcast’s fastest residential service tops out at 505Mbps and costs $400 a month.

“Your network is as fast as some of the best networks in the world,” Obama told the Cedar Falls crowd. “Here’s the catch, in too many places across America some big companies are doing everything they can to keep out competitors… In some states it is virtually impossible to create networks like the one you have in Cedar Falls. Today I’m saying enough is enough, we’re going to change that.”


Think what things would be like if electricity was provided by private companies, with a duopoly of two providing electricity to America, with most Americans only able to use one.

Now think about a city deciding to provide electricity to its populace in competition to the private company that actually has no competition.

It was done quite a bit 50 years or more ago. The benefits, because they are non-profit:

They have access to tax-exempt financing for their projects, they do not pay federal income tax and they tend to pay their executives salaries that are on par with government levels, rather than higher corporate rates.

 And what happens when the profit motive is removed from utilities?

That financial structure can help municipal utilities supply cheaper electricity. According to data from the federal Energy Information Administration, municipal utilities over all offer cheaper residential electricity than private ones — not including electric cooperatives, federal utilities or power marketers — a difference that holds true in 32 of the 48 states where both exist. In addition, they can plow more of their revenue back into maintenance and prevention, which can result in more reliable service and faster restorations after power failures.

How does this work in reality?

In Massachusetts after Hurricane Irene in 2011, for instance, municipal utilities in some of the hardest-hit areas were able to restore power in one or two days, while investor-owned companies like NStar and National Grid took roughly a week for some customers. According to an advocacy group called Massachusetts Alliance for Municipal Electric Choice, government-owned utilities on average employ more linemen per 10,000 customers than the private companies.

Instead of going into taxes and CEO salaries the money gets plowed back into the system, helping some areas move lines underground.

Could the same benefits be seen if we allowed the public to own access to the Internet? 

We will never find out if the GOP and bankers have their way.


The GOP would be all

Security and degense workers are just like us – they fall into security traps with ease

Visual Simile Symbol Icon Echoes - Apple Mac OS X 10.5.8 Airport WiFi Radio Signal Strength Meter 

Activist pulls off clever Wi-Fi honeypot to protest surveillance state
[Via Ars Technica]

The chairman of the youth wing of the Swedish Pirate Party successfully fooled attendees at a major Swedish security and defense conference into connecting to an open Wi-Fi network that he controlled—as a way to protest mass digital surveillance.

According to The Local, an English-language newspaper in Sweden, Gustav Nipe watched earlier this week as around 100 politicians, military officers and journalists logged into a network called “Open Guest” and proceeded to search for various non-work-related things including “forest hikes” and monitor eBay auctions.

Previously Nipe was involved in the Pirate Party’s efforts to create its own ISP in 2010, and founded the Church of Kopimism, which was formally recognized by Swedish tax authorities in 2011.


Yep, many just signed on to the network they saw, allowing man in the middle attacks as the person running the hotspot collected as much information as they wanted.

This sort of attack is exactly what the NSA, FBI and others attempt all the time to capture even encrypted data. Here, at a conference devoted to security, they did what so many people do: just logged on.

Heck, I won’t even log onto the known hotspots at meetings or hotels if I plan on doing anything important. Who knows whaat sort of hacks have been put in sub rosa by an employee.

At least I can tether to my iPhone and use it. May not be perfect but I trust it more than an open hotspot.

Walk to Lincoln – Obama should modify the West Wing’s approach for his State of the Union


The right’s ‘State of the Union plan’ continues to percolate | 

Last week, shortly before Thanksgiving, the idea that congressional Republicans might block President Obama from delivering a State of the Union address first crossed the political world’s radar. The New York Times published a quote from a prominent figure in conservative media pushing the argument; Breitbart News ran a column endorsing the move; and Politico noted unnamed “GOP aides and lawmakers” who like the idea.   Dan Holler, the communications director for Heritage Action, said last Wednesday that he suspects “we’ll hear a lot” about the move.


My suggestion – walk to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and give the State of the Union there. No reason he has to write it down and deliver it to Congress. Deliver it with Lincoln in the background.

It’s a shorter distance to travel. It might become a new tradition.

Here is how the West Wing showed a President dealing with a recalcitrant and vindictive House:

Looks like some on the market are trying to game the system since no one is looking.

The (Re) Emergence of a Two-Tiered Market? When Dark Pools “Quote” | 
[Via The ‘Book | Bloomberg Tradebook]

There is something inherently unfair about dark pools quoting to only their subscribers. It does not matter what the motivation is. Simply put, such activities (re)create a two-tiered market. The public receives one set of information from the Securities Information Processor (SIP) while those that are able to accept direct feeds get greater price discovery and supply/demand information. This is completely different from the ongoing SIP vs. direct feed latency discussion. This is purely about information availability, dissemination, and access. Indeed, we applaud genuine efforts to increase transparency – such as with Display and Display-linked Reserve. The market structure has mechanisms so that displayed liquidity is publicly available. If you believe in transparency and equal access to information, then dark pools quoting to only their subscribers is a moonwalk – an elegant set of steps that moves the market and its structure backward. We respectfully urge the SEC to reject Form ATS filings that devise such private quoting schemes.


Smelling a lot like market funky business done in terms no layperson could understand. Manipulation by obfuscation?


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