Boing Boing 

Surveillance baron busted by FBI for election-finance fraud


Last week, the FBI arrested Jose Susumo Azano Matsura at his home in Coronado, CA. Azano was a rich, successful surveillance technology vendor who came to prominence by touting ubiquitous, intense surveillance as an answer to social problems and got rich through a no-bid contract to supply surveillance tools to the Mexican military, and expanded to supply Internet surveillance tools through his company Security Tracking Devices, with offices in Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.

Azano's company supplied bulk-surveillance tools for spying on entire populations, as well as targeted malware intended for secret implantation on victims' laptops and phones to turn them into spy tools. They also sold access to a database, maintained by IBM, of 1.3 million names of people whom governments should be spying on.

Azano was arrested for corruption -- illegal election financing in San Diego. His scandal is just the latest in a string involving con artists, crooks and grafters who go into the spying business. For example, the founder of one major censorware company, doing business with numerous American school districts (as well as autocratic Middle Eastern leaders) was placed on the California sex-offender registry for "sexually interfering with a 14 year old girl."

One of the arguments for surveillance is that only the good guys will be able to peer into the data gathered by the bugs. But the evidence is that the kind of person who decides to get rich by spying on other people is generally not a very good guy, and these people are the people who ultimately have control over the tools that spy on kids, on citizens, on visitors, on Internet users and on members of our governments.

Designing a surveillance regime whose first line of defense is "Come on, we're all good people, what could go wrong?" is either naive or cynical on its face. But to continue to do so when we know that so many surveillance barons are monumentally unfit to serve as honorable guardians of our privacy is just plain evil.

Read the rest

Live in a San Francisco Ikea bunk-bed in a mass hacker dormitory for a mere $1k/mo


Here's a Craigslist ad for a "hub for entrepreneurs" where you can be barracked in one of dozens of bunk-beds ranked in rows for a mere $999/month. But you also get access to plenty of whiteboards and brainstorm areas, and will no longer have to endure the misery of "hop[ping] from coffee shop to coffee shop" as you seek to launch your tech business.

When I moved to San Francisco in the late nineties, I lived in half an illegal sublet for about $2K/month, and that was a deal by the standards of the day. But I had it better than the guy paying $800/month for the Sears shed in the back-yard -- I got a toilet!

Read the rest

Oakland PD's surveillance center's primary purpose is fighting protesters, not crime


An excellent investigative piece in the East Bay Express reviews internal communications and other public records from city staffers and Oakland PD bureaucrats discussing the Domain Awareness Center, a citywide surveillance hub that's currently under construction. Oakland is a city with a decades-long problem with gang violence and street violence, and the DAC -- which will consolidate video feeds blanketing the city and use software to ascribe the probability of guilt to people in the feeds -- is being sold as a solution to this serious problem.

But the internal documents tell another story. Though the City of Oakland's public-facing DAC message is all about crimefighting and anti-terror surveillance, the internal message is very different. City bureaucrats and law enforcement are excited about DAC because it will help them fight protests.

Analysis of the internal documents found almost no mentions of "crime," "rape," "killings" -- but city officials frequently and at length discussed the way the DAC could be used to thwart street protests, future Occupy movements, and trade union activity including strikes.

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Lessons learned from a flat-rate service-charge, no-tip restaurant

Jay Porter owned a San Diego restaurant called The Linkery where tipping was not allowed; instead, a flat 18 percent service-charge is added to each bill, and that charge is divided among the servers, bus-people, and kitchen-staff. In a six-part series, Porter sets out the case for his experiment and reports on the result, covering the bad gender dynamics, motivation and microeconomics, and a comparison with a tip-friendly restaurant he also owns. It's a compelling tale about economic fairness versus locked-in dysfunctional conventions. He summarized his findings in an easily digested article for Slate.

Read the rest

Big Content and Big Telcos make copyright propaganda for California public schools

The MPAA, RIAA, and America's major ISPs have teamed up to produce a stilted, propagandistic copyright curriculum for California's public schools. The material does not mention fair use at all (it's not "age appropriate," apparently) and suggests that you may not build on others' ideas without explicit permission, something that is both legally and morally nonsensical. Here's the sixth grade curriculum [PDF], here's grade five [PDF], and here's grade two [PDF], and grade one [PDF]. The plan is to roll this out across America.

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Cory in San Francisco next week for SFPL's One City/One Book events


As I've mentioned before, my novel Little Brother is the San Francisco Public Library's pick for its first One City/One Book citywide book-club. They're already in the middle of the three months' worth of events, from debates to robotics and crypto workshops to movie screenings (and much more), and I'm gearing up to head to San Francisco for several days' worth of school visits and other presentations.

If you'd like to catch me while I'm there, your best bet is my evening presentation with Nico Sell at the SFPL main branch (100 Larkin Street) at 6PM on Oct 2. I'm also doing a presentation at Borderlands Books (866 Valencia St) on Oct 3 from 12:30-1330h. I hope to see you there!

Atherton, CA's police blotter: 175 out of 182 reported police stops had drivers with Hispanic surnames

Kent Brewster made some careful notes and analysis of the Atherton, CA police-blotter, which tells the story of the arrests in one of America's three most expensive places to live. He found that when it came to traffic stops, 175 out of 182 drivers had Hispanic surnames.

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San Diego jury acquits on anti-bank chalk-art, thumbs nose at City Atty's 13 year jail threat

When Jeff Olson used chalk to draw an octopus whose tentacles were full of money, and to write "No thanks, big banks," and "Shame on Bank of America," on a San Diego sidewalk, Bank of America complained to the Republican City Atty. Jan Goldsmith. Goldsmith threw the book at him, charging him with misdemeanor vandalism and threatening him with 13 years in prison for writing in water-soluble chalk. Goldsmith was not swayed by the mayor's disapproval of this course of action -- Mayor Bob Filner said it was "stupid" and a "waste of money" -- and pressed on.

Yesterday, a jury acquitted Olson on all charges. The #chalkgate tag is full of congratulatory messages and photos of supportive chalking.

San Diego jury finds protester not guilty in chalk-vandalism case

Hawthorne, CA police arrest man for videoing them, shoot his dog

Spocko sez, "What are the current rules for filming police in the state of California? This man seems to believes that he should be arrested for filming the police and offers himself up for arrest after clearly holding his phone up to film them. He places his dog in his car and is arrested. While handcuffed and being led away, the dog jumps out of the car to go to the man. The police see the dog as attacking them and when it doesn't stop, shoot the dog several times. Would this had happened if the man (and the police) knew the law about filming police in public in California?" Warning: Video contains violence and language

Hawthorne, Ca Police Kill Dog(1) (Thanks, Spocko!)

Help name California's pot legalization bill

Peacelove sez, "The good folks at SaveCannabis.org need your help naming the 2014 Cannabis Legalization Act. The Act itself has been open source written (the full text can be seen and modified) and is aiming to be the most tightly-crafted, airtight act possible. Finding the right name is crucial, too. I like 'Cannabis & Hemp Freedom Act of 2014," since it contains the correct and underused names for the plant and combines them with 'Freedom,' something for which I think a lot of Americans would like the chance to vote YES."

App shows you the way to the illegally hidden public beaches of Malibu


Back in May, Mark wrote about a Kickstarter project to fund a mobile app that will help you locate the hidden entrances to Malibu's public beaches, which the local rich and famous people have done everything they can to obscure (including putting up illegal fake signs that falsely declare passage to be trespassing).

The Kickstarter was fully funded and the app is out, and the public is finding its way to Malibu's public beaches, which is great news -- unless you're one of those people who's spent decades treating a public beach as your own private patch. Local residents are pissed:

“I don’t think it’s a snobby thing. It’s like letting someone into your backyard. You’re paying for the beach house and the property you own is technically the beach in front of your house,” said Emma Ravdin.

Oh, diddums.

Battle Over Access To Malibu Beaches Goes High-Tech With New App [CBS]

(via MeFi)

Photodocumentary: the electrification of Los Angeles


Form and Landscape is a stupendous collection of photos documenting the electrification of Los Angeles, culled from ConEd's archives (Edison International underwrote the exhibition). The pictures are presented with fascinating articles in Spanish and English, and are curated by William Deverell and Greg Hise.

The documentary record tells a story of better living, improvement, and uplift all made possible through the power of electricity or “white gold,” the company’s term of art for its product. Boosters spoke fervently about the opportunity a regular supply of electricity created and the benefit it would provide a mass of people for whom ready access to white gold meant extended hours of productive labor, enhanced quality of their leisure hours, and greater safety while traveling in and about the company’s service area by foot, by mass transit, or by automobile. It is a story of private enterprise elevating individual and collective wellbeing and in doing so contributing toward the public good by taking the smoke out of manufacturing; by making the labor of workers, both wage-earners and domestic, more efficient; by increasing safety and deterring crime; by improving health.

About the Project — FORM and LANDSCAPE (via The Guardian Art and Design)

(Image, above: "Commercial Lighting Doug White (No date)")

I've included some of my favorites below:

Read the rest

Ronald McJoker


This terrifying Ronald McDonald/Joker mashup cosplayer was snapped at San Jose's FanimeCon 2013 by David Ngo.

Ronald McDonald (via Neatorama)

Arthur C Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego

Mark writes,

The University of California, San Diego and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation are launching a major center to better understand, enhance and enact the gift of human imagination. Sir Arthur C. Clarke created extraordinary visions of the future that continue to provide insight into the human condition. He transformed our lives by developing the ideas of GPS and satellite communication. We are inspired by this legacy and want to continue it by focusing on Sir Arthur's greatest gift: imagination.

We will bring together thinkers and doers in the arts and information technology, in neuroscience, cognitive science and the physical sciences to help us understand the nature of imagination and to build tools and develop methods that will extend imagination. We have developed our initial approach with a cross-disciplinary team of some of UCSD's world famous scientists, artists and scholars, linking them with a group of award-winning science fiction authors birthed at UCSD.

Uh, birthed? As in, born in the university hospital? I honestly have no idea what they mean here. Maybe "berthed" (sleeping on campus)? Or maybe metaphorically "birthed" by graduating from UCSD?

Center for Human Imagination

Woman smacks cop so she can go to jail and quit smoking

Sacramento's Etta Lopez apparently waited outside the Sacramento County Jail for a cop to emerge and then slapped him, so that she could be thrown into jail. She wanted to go to jail because she believed it would help her give up smoking.

According to deputies, Lopez knew she'd immediately be arrested, and slapped a cop to kick a habit. Lopez allegedly admitted she sat in front of the county jail for hours intent on assaulting an officer to get arrested and be put in jail, where she would be forced to stop smoking cigarettes.

"There's easier ways to stop smoking besides hitting a cop," Roger Spearman, a neighbour, said. The neighbour Lopez says she does smoke a lot, and they used to smoke together. "I have not heard of something like that before," Kimberly Bankston-Lee with the anti-smoking group Breathe California said. "If it led somebody to doing something like that to quit, that lets us know in the community that we have a real problem."

Woman accused of slapping police officer so she could be jailed and forced to stop smoking [Arbroath]

(via Dan Hon)

Schwarzenegger v Predator tee (in the style of Edward Gorey)


Ape Lad sez, "I've got a shirt for sale on woot tonight. It depicts a former governor of California being stalked by a nine-foot-tall, fishnet clad, metal faced hunter with dreadlocks, in a style I hope comes somewhere near the cross hatched wonderfulness of Edward Gorey."

P is for Prey (Thanks, Ape Lad!)

California bill to release the state's building codes online for free

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes,

Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California has introduced Assembly Bill 292, which would open source the California Code of Regulations (including the Building Codes). The summary reads:

"This bill would provide that the full text of the California Code of Regulations shall bear an open access creative commons attribution license, allowing any individual, at no cost, to use, distribute, and create derivative works based on the material for either commercial or noncommercial purposes."

Public.Resource.Org has bulk data for the CCR and the public safety codes (known as Title 24) online, but this would all be way easier if we didn't have to double-key the building codes every 3 years and jump on the West CD-ROM every 2 months to extract the data. This move would lead to tremendous innovation, just like we've seen when the Federal Register went open source in bulk.

The bill sponsor, Assemblyman Nestande, has a long background in public policy and IP. He was campaign manager for Sonny Bono's successful 1994 congressional campaign.

An act to amend Section 11344 of the Government Code, relating to the California Code of Regulations. (Thanks, Carl!)

Clarion application time is running out

I'm teaching the Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop this summer at UCSD La Jolla -- it's an amazing writing program (I'm also a graduate), and the early application deadline is coming up:

Applications for the 2013 Clarion Workshop are now open and will remain open until March 1, 2013. If you've been thinking about applying, now's the time. On February 15th, the application fee will increase from $50 to $65. Just our way of encouraging applicants to finish sooner rather than later. We've got a wonderful faculty anxious to share the secrets of great writing with a new class of wonderful students, one of whom might be you! Let Andy Duncan, Nalo Hopkinson, Cory Doctorow, Robert Crais, Karen Joy Fowler, and Kelly Link give you the rocket fuel to power your career. If you're accepted, we'll do our best to make it possible for you to attend. Thanks to Clarion's friends and supporters, there is scholarship money for those who need it. In addition to general scholarships, there are special grants for students of color, students age 40 and older, students who are affiliated with Michigan State University, and students who are affiliated with UCSD. Apply now!

Clarion Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego

Exhibit of LA buildings that never were


Wired reports on a nearly complete Kickstarter to mount an exhibit of grand and glorious LA buildings that were never built, including the design for LAX shown above:

Wired: What is it with Los Angeles and mega scale architecture?

Goldin: Los Angeles had room to grow, with few geographical limitations, except the Pacific Ocean. All that open space engendered a spirit of wide imagination, and the two fed off each other. Los Angeles has also always been a place to jettison the past and begin anew, and from the beginning the city developed a reputation for embracing originality and reinvention. The happenstance of early aviation and aerospace and the creative, sometimes over-the-top spirit of Hollywood, only further fueled the imagination. Everything seemed possible.

Documenting the Never-Built Dreams of the City of Angels [Wired/Tim Maly]

Caviar vending machines in LA malls


Caviar vending machines have been installed in three upscale malls in LA. In addition to $500/oz caviar, they also dispense blinis, mother of pearl spoons, and other caviar essentials. The vending machines (they're billed as "ATMs for caviar") can be found at Westfield Century City, Westfield Topanga, and the Burbank Towne Center. Apparently, these are old news in Russia, where they are favorites of oligarchs and their entourages.

Finally! Caviar by ATM (via Super Punch)

Wells Fargo mistakenly forecloses on the wrong house, destroys elderly couple's entire lifetime's worth of possessions

Wells Fargo mistakenly foreclosed on a home that had no mortgage, sending in a crew to steal all and throw out all the elderly homeowners' belongings. Alvin Tjosaas helped his father build the family home in Twentynine Palms, CA when he was a teenager, and the couple raised their own children there. The Wells Fargo crew destroyed their entire lives' accumulation of personal possessions. Wells Fargo says it is "deeply sorry" and that it is "moving quickly to reach out to the family to resolve this unfortunate situation in an attempt to right this wrong."

More from CBSLA:

Alvin, a retired mason, built the home with his father when he was a teenager.

“I know every inch, every rock…my mom mixed all the cement by hand,” he said...

“My little kids (would) come out here and their dresses were the same color as the wildflowers,” said Alvin...

“When you put your heart into something…it makes me real sad. I’m just glad I have my sweetheart. We’ve been together a long time,” said Alvin.

Owners Lose Possessions After Home Near Twentynine Palms Is Mistakenly Foreclosed (via Reddit)

Animation teacher faces the sack for refusing to push "unnecessary, expensive" textbooks at hedge-fund invested Art Institute of California

Mike Tracy teaches at the Art Institute of California—Orange County, but not for long. In a note on his Facebook page, Tracy explains that AIC-OC (whose parent company, EDMC, is 41 percent owned by Goldman Sachs) has told him he'll be fired if he doesn't agree to sell a quota of expensive and, in his opinion, unnecessary e-textbooks.

Here's the note Tracy posted:

As many of you know, I have been in a dispute with our school, the Art Institutes, for some months now, over their policy of mandatory e-textbooks in classes where their inclusion seems arbitrary, inappropriate and completely motivated by profit. In July I asked the US Department of Education, the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education and WASC (our accrediting agency) to look into my concerns. Since that time, the school and its parent company EDMC have escalated the pressure on me to select a book for a class I teach that I don’t think requires one.

Today, the President of the school, Greg Marick, presented me with an ultimatum; either choose a book by Tuesday, Aug 14th or the company will terminate my employment for insubordination. My response, of course, is that I will not change my mind on this issue and that I’m determined to resist the policy however I can. I think this means that, as of this week, I will no longer be teaching at AI.

I want you, my students and colleagues to know that it has been my great honor and privilege to have worked with you over the last 11 years, and that I will miss the opportunity to work for you and with you. I have enjoyed my time as a teacher very much, but it appears as though it is now time to move on. Furthermore, you can count on me to continue the struggle that I have instigated on this issue, if only from the outside. Although it aint over till it’s over, it looks like a 99.5% deal, barring an 11th hour change of heart by the corporation, which would surprise me.

Here's a petition from Tracy's colleagues and present and past students, asking the administration to reconsider its position.

Animation Teacher Faces Termination For Refusing To Sell His Students Unnecessary Books (via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Robot, Mike Tracy)

Nine months and $76,000 later, UC Davis's Pepper-Spray Pike is fired

As Rob noted, Lt John Pike, the UC Davis campus cop who attained infamy by casually walking a line of student protesters, pepper-spraying them at point-blank range, has been fired. He has been on administrative leave since the incident since the incident last November, and the university has paid him over $76,000 of his $110,243.12 salary during that period.

Notes from the bankruptcy of Stockton, CA

The LA Times's Diana Marcum tells the story of the bankruptcy of Stockton, California, a city of about 300,000 people, which has just filed for bankruptcy. The city -- and its developers -- borrowed heavily in the past decade to build a series of follies: a luxury hotel, a marina, a promenade, in a bid to lure people down from the Bay Area. Stockton is a boom-and-bust poster-child, and has just gone through the new AB 506 arbitration procedures set out for municipal defaults in California law, a drawn-out "death of a thousand meetings," and is still headed into bankruptcy.

Although a city of almost 300,000, Stockton is a place where many families have known one another for generations. The most impassioned speakers argued on behalf of others, with the main rallying cry a plea to keep health insurance for retirees with illnesses. A high school student spoke of his aunt, a retired city worker with cancer, and a retired fire chief spoke of his former secretary who cares for her ill husband.

"People look at me and say, 'Well he can afford his own insurance,' and I can," said Gary Gillis, the retired chief. "But how about the ones who mowed the lawns, went in the sewers, typed my letters? We have to protect the most vulnerable among us."

Experts say there are no clear answers to what comes next for Stockton or how its fall will affect the rest of the state. Other cities hit hard by the housing bust and state budget crisis are negotiating with employee unions for concessions and are watching to see if municipal bankruptcy proves medicine or poison.

Stockton bankruptcy will make history; residents reeling (via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Stockton, California, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from inman_news's photostream)