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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.

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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!

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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.

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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." Cory 30

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:

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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)