Aztec Shaman, Day of the Dead Ritual by amircheff on Flickr
Viking ship carving of tail end of the dragon from Pinterest.com
Futuristic Spider-shaped Clock ca. 2015. L’Epée in-house designed and manufactured movement, 11 jewels • black central dome with Arabic numerals and minute division, stylized and curved painted hands • 18k yellow gold-plated brass body and limbs in the shape of spider, with the regulator and oscillating balance wheel posing as head, and the other end housing the mainspring barrel, eight articulated legs • Eight day power reserve.
Interesting acoustic attack against the MEMS accelerometers in devices like FitBits.
Millions of accelerometers reside inside smartphones, automobiles, medical devices, anti-theft devices, drones, IoT devices, and many other industrial and consumer applications. Our work investigates how analog acoustic injection attacks can damage the digital integrity of the capacitive MEMS accelerometer. Spoofing such sensors with intentional acoustic interference enables an out-of-spec pathway for attackers to deliver chosen digital values to microprocessors and embedded systems that blindly trust the unvalidated integrity of sensor outputs. Our contributions include (1) modeling the physics of malicious acoustic interference on MEMS accelerometers, (2) discovering the circuit-level security flaws that cause the vulnerabilities by measuring acoustic injection attacks on MEMS accelerometers as well as systems that employ on these sensors, and (3) two software-only defenses that mitigate many of the risks to the integrity of MEMS accelerometer outputs.
This is not that a big deal with things like FitBits, but as IoT devices get more autonomous -- and start making decisions and then putting them into effect automatically -- these vulnerabilities will become critical.
The Independent (Ireland) (Cathal McMahon) reports:
Gardaí have decided not to proceed with a blasphemy investigation against Stephen Fry after they failed to find a large group of people outraged by comments he made on an RTÉ show….
A well-placed source said: “This man [who filed the complaint] was simply a witness and not an injured party [presumably because he said that he himself was not offended by Fry’s comments — EV]. Gardaí were unable to find a substantial number of outraged people.
“For this reason the investigation has been concluded.” …
Today Health Minister Simon Harris said a referendum should be held to change the [Irish] constitution’s stance of blasphemy.
“It’s silly. It’s a bit embarrassing. It needs to be changed. I’m very pleased that the Government wishes to see a referendum in relation to this issue. It obviously does require constitutional change,” he said.
For more on the investigation, on Fry’s remarks and on Irish blasphemy law, see this post.
President Trump speaks during a news conference on Thursday in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)
Sometimes, commentary is hardly necessary — the words speak for themselves. Verbum ipsa loquitur. Here, unedited — posted, appallingly enough, at the official White House website — are the remarks by the leader of the free world on the occasion of the House’s passage of the the Trumpcare bill:
And I will say this, that as far as I’m concerned, your premiums, they’re going to start to come down. We’re going to get this passed through the Senate. I feel so confident. Your deductibles, when it comes to deductibles, they were so ridiculous that nobody got to use their current plan — this nonexistent plan that I heard so many wonderful things about over the last three or four days. After that, I mean, it’s — I don’t think you’re going to hear so much. Right now, the insurance companies are fleeing. It’s been a catastrophe. And this is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better. And this is, make no mistake, this is a repeal and replace of Obamacare. Make no mistake about it. Make no mistake. (Applause.)
And I think, most importantly, yes, premiums will be coming down. Yes, deductibles will be coming down. But very importantly, it’s a great plan. And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.
We knew that wasn’t going to work. I predicted it a long time ago. I said, it’s failing. And now, it’s obvious that it’s failing. It’s dead. It’s essentially dead. If we don’t pay lots of ransom money over to the insurance companies it would die immediately.
So what we have is something very, very incredibly well-crafted. Tell you what, there is a lot of talent standing behind me. An unbelievable amount of talent, that I can tell you. I mean it. (Applause.) And coming from a different world and only being a politician for a short period of time — how am I doing? Am I doing okay? I’m President. Hey, I’m President. Can you believe it? Right? (Applause.) I don’t know, it’s — I thought you needed a little bit more time. They always told me, more time. But we didn’t.
But we have an amazing group of people standing behind me. They worked so hard and they worked so long. And when I said, let’s do this, let’s go out, just short little shots for each one of us and let’s say how good this plan is — we don’t have to talk about this unbelievable victory — wasn’t it unbelievable? So we don’t have to say it again. But it’s going to be an unbelievable victory, actually, when we get it through the Senate.
And there’s so much spirit there. But I said, let’s go out — we have a little list of some of the people — and I think after that list goes, if they don’t talk too long, our first list, we’re going to let some of the other folks just come up and say whatever you want.
But we want to brag about the plan, because this plan really — uh oh. (Laughter.) Well, we may. (Laughter.) But we’re just going to talk a little bit about the plan, how good it is, some of the great features.
[He then continued for a bit, though he never did get to talking about all of those “great features.” Italics added.]
I’m sorry, but I cannot get used to the fact that our president cannot speak in coherent sentences. It is inexcusable — unacceptable in a 14-year-old. “Premiums will come down, and deductibles will come down”; good deal! Is there anyone — anyone — who thinks that President Trump understands health-care markets, and the impacts of this bill on those markets, remotely well enough to say that? Does anybody care anymore about little things like that? I guess that when you have a president whose campaign officials are under FBI investigation on the basis of evidence that they may have collaborated with a foreign power to disrupt the U.S. presidential election, all this is just a small blip on the radar. But it appalls just the same.
It is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.
It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, and the slovenliness of our language then makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
George Orwell, Politics and the English Language (1946).
“The point,” Orwell continued, “is that the process is reversible.” I hope he was correct.
Edit 4/5/17. The colour scale chosen for this map emphasises the differences between countries. While that’s most important for working out what drives IAT scores, the main take-away from the map is that all of Europe is considerably not neutral. That conclusion is supported by a continuous colour scale, as used in this version of the map here
I want to see the aurora so very badly!
Keggie Carew grew up with her father's stories of parachuting into the jungle and working as a spy in Burma. She wasn't sure how much to believe until she started researching her new book, Dadland.
(Image credit: Courtesy of Grove Atlantic)
Crown of Margaret of York, an extremely rare example of English medieval metalwork is the silver gilt crown, dating from c1461. She wore this crown at her wedding to Charles the Bold in Bruges 1468, & later presented it to the altar of Our Lady in Aachen on her visit in 1475, thus sparing it from destruction in either the Reformation or English Civil War. The original leather case also survives & is displayed alongside.
Fingal’s Cave, located on the uninhabited island of Staffa, Scotland, is formed from basalt columns within a paleocene lava flow, similar to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Due to the large size and arched roof, the cave gives off an extremely creepy sound caused by the echoes of the waves.
The Post’s Tom Jackman has an interesting story about a criminal case pending in Los Angeles before U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney:
At a giant Best Buy repair shop in Brooks, Ky., Geek Squad technicians work on computers owned by people across the country, delving into them to retrieve lost data. Over several years, a handful of those workers have notified the FBI when they see signs of child pornography, earning payments from the agency.
The existence of the small cadre of informants within one of the country’s most popular computer repair services was revealed in the case of a California doctor who is facing federal charges after his hard drive was flagged by a technician. The doctor’s lawyers found that the FBI had cultivated eight “confidential human sources” in the Geek Squad over a four-year period, according to a judge’s order in the case, with all of them receiving some payment.
The case raises issues about privacy and the government use of informants. If a customer turns over their computer for repair, do they forfeit their expectation of privacy, and their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches? And if an informant is paid, does it compromise their credibility or effectively convert them into an agent of the government?
Best Buy searching a computer is legal — the customer authorized it, and the law does not prohibit private searches. But if Best Buy serves as an arm of the government, then a warrant or specific consent is needed.
This isn’t a new issue. There have been cases on computer repairmen turning over computers with child pornography going back at least as far as the 1990s. See, e.g., United States v. Hall, 142 F.3d 988, 993 (7th Cir. 1998). Among those early cases is United States v. Barth, 26 F. Supp.2d 929 (W.D. Tex. 1998), in which the computer repair technician was also a confidential informant for the FBI.
Here’s the basics of how the law applies. First, if the computer repairman is not deemed a government agent, then the repairman is permitted to turn over the computer to the government. The government can then reconstruct the search of the private-party repairman and use that to get a warrant. There’s currently a 2-2 circuit split on what it means to “reconstruct” the search without a warrant, as I explained in detail here. Two circuits (the 5th and 7th) say that the government can search the entire computer without a warrant based on the repairman’s private search. On the other hand, two circuits (the 6th and 11th) say that the government can look only at the files that the private party observed. The new case is in the 9th Circuit, which hasn’t yet taken a side on the split.
I know of one opinion arguing that a private computer repairman also has independent authority to consent to a government search of a computer, which would mean that the repairman can authorize any government search he likes. See United States v. Anderson, 2007 WL 1121319 (N.D.Ind. 2007). The reasoning of that opinion strikes me as quite weak, though, for reasons I won’t bore you with here.
There is less precedent on how the law applies if the computer repairman is considered a government agent, either at the outset or over the course of handing over that particular computer to the government. I think the issue becomes the scope of the computer owner’s consent under Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248 (1991). Under Jimeno, the question is: How would a typical reasonable person familiar with the exchange between the agent and the computer owner understand the scope of consent? Jimeno ordinarily applies when the suspect knows he is consenting to a government search, but at least off the top of my head I would think it also applies to a search when the agent is effectively undercover.
According to the Post story, the government is arguing that the computer owner waived his Fourth Amendment rights because he signed a written form stating that “I am on notice that any product containing child pornography will be turned over to the authorities.” I’m skeptical about that argument. I don’t know the full context, but that language in isolation strikes me as most naturally read as notice that any discovered images would be turned over, not as an understanding that the computer repair technicians would search everywhere on the hard drive to discover such images. Scope of consent issues are always fact-bound, however, so it’s hard to say much more on that.
Finally, you might be wondering, what’s the line between a private-party search and a government agent search? There are no bright lines. And each circuit has its own formulation. In the 9th Circuit, where this case is being litigated, the case I know of best is United States v. Miller, 688 F.2d 652, 657 (9th Cir. 1982), Miller focused the agency inquiry on “(1) whether the government knew of and acquiesced in the intrusive conduct, and (2) whether the party performing the search intended to assist law enforcement efforts or to further his own ends.”
The fact-intensive nature of the Miller test may help explain why the judge is planning a factual hearing on the details of the relationship between the government and the repair technicians. In computer cases in particular, the line between a private-party search and a government agent search can be really hard to draw and can depend on pretty fine factual distinctions. See, e.g., United States v. Jarrett, 338 F.3d 339 (4th Cir. 2003) (exploring the specifics of the relationship between an unidentified hacker and the government in deciding whether the hacker had become a government agent). As always, stay tuned.
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a summary opinion in the White v. Pauly case. A police officer was sued for killing a man during an armed standoff during which the officers allegedly never identified themselves as police. The Supreme Court, however, concluded that the officer had “qualified immunity.” That is, he was immune from a suit for damages, because his conduct — while possibly unconstitutional — was not obviously unconstitutional.
As the court put it (with citation and quotations omitted):
Qualified immunity attaches when an official’s conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. While this Court’s case law does not require a case directly on point for a right to be clearly established, existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate. …
This is not a case where it is obvious that there was a violation of clearly established law under Garner and Graham. Of note, the [lower court] majority did not conclude that [Officer] White’s conduct—such as his failure to shout a warning—constituted a run-of-the-mill Fourth Amendment violation. Indeed, it recognized that “this case presents a unique set of facts and circumstances” in light of White’s late arrival on the scene. This alone should have been an important indication to the majority that White’s conduct did not violate a clearly established right. . . .
(There is a little more in the short opinion, including the possibility that the other two officers, who were on the scene earlier, might still be liable. An interesting debate about the case takes place in this PrawfsBlawg thread.)
The court’s decision is a completely unsurprising turn in a long line of qualified immunity cases like this one. But I thought it was time to post a paper I have been working on for a long time on the legitimacy of this immunity doctrine. The title: “Is Qualified Immunity Unlawful?”
Here’s the abstract:
The doctrine of qualified immunity operates as an unwritten defense to civil rights lawsuits brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It prevents plaintiffs from recovering damages for violations of their constitutional rights unless the government official violated “clearly established law,” usually requiring a specific precedent on point. This article argues that the doctrine is unlawful and inconsistent with conventional principles of statutory interpretation.
Members of the Supreme Court have offered three different justifications for imposing such an unwritten defense on the text of Section 1983. One is that it derives from a common law “good faith” defense; another is that it compensates for an earlier putative mistake in broadening the statute; the third is that it provides “fair warning” to government officials, akin to the rule of lenity.
But on closer examination, each of these justifications falls apart, for a mix of historical, conceptual, and doctrinal reasons. There was no such defense; there was no such mistake; lenity ought not apply. And even if these things were otherwise, the doctrine of qualified immunity would not be the best response.
The unlawfulness of qualified immunity is of particular importance now. Despite the shoddy foundations, the Supreme Court has been reinforcing the doctrine of immunity in both formal and informal ways. In particular, the Court has given qualified immunity a privileged place on its agenda reserved for few other legal doctrines besides habeas deference. Rather than doubling down, the Court ought to be beating a retreat.
You can read the whole thing here.
Over 1200 of my fellow law professors recently signed a petition urging the Senate to reject President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions to become attorney general. Critics correctly point out that the vast majority of the signatories are liberal Democrats, and (less correctly) therefore dismiss the statement as mere partisan politics. I am not a liberal Democrat, I did not sign the statement, and I don’t agree with all of its points. But the signers are right about the bottom line: the Senate should indeed reject this nomination. It should borrow a slogan from Sessions’ beloved War on Drugs and “just say no.”
Liberals are not the only ones with good reason to oppose Sessions. His record should also trouble libertarians, conservatives, and others who care about protecting liberty, constitutional federalism, and property rights.
I. The Threat to Property Rights.
Sessions is one of the leading advocates of asset forfeiture, the law enforcement practice of seizing the property of suspects who have often not even been charged with any crime, much less convicted. In recent years, there has been growing recognition across the political spectrum that asset forfeiture poses a serious threat to the property rights of innocent people, particularly the poor and minorities. All too often, it results in a kind of legalized plunder, as law enforcement agencies get to keep the property they seize. The property is also often seized with little or no due process protections, in violation of the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Yet Sessions opposes bipartisan efforts to rein in such abuses, and is “very unhappy” that asset forfeiture has been called into question. He opposes efforts to end the “equitable sharing” program under which the federal government incentivizes asset forfeitures by state and local law enforcement – even in states that otherwise forbid police from profiting from this practice. The program was suspended in 2015, but later reinstated.
In 2015, libertarian-leaning Republican Senator Rand Paul voted against President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general, in part because of her support for asset forfeiture. He was right about Lynch. Paul and other supporters of property rights should oppose Sessions for the same reason.
II. The Threat to Liberty and Federalism.
Sessions’ longtime role as an extreme drug warrior is also troubling. There is now increasing bipartisan recognition that the War on Drugs is a terrible failure that has undermined civil liberties and inflicted great harm on society. Unfortunately, Sessions is an uncompromising advocate of the most aggressive forms of federal drug prohibition. Although a large majority of Americans favor marijuana legalization (including even a narrow plurality of Republicans). Many more Republicans (some 70 percent) favor leaving the issue up to the states. But Sessions opposes even the Obama administration’s relatively modest steps to reduce federal enforcement in those states that have chosen to legalize.
In his view, “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and federal enforcement must be ramped up. If you are among the nearly 50 percent of Americans who have tried marijuana, you may want to take note of what the likely next attorney general thinks of you. Sessions’ support for ending the crack-cocaine sentencing disparity is a rare exception to his otherwise consistent record as a “drug war dinosaur.”
Sessions’ drug war agenda is not just dubious policy and a threat to civil liberties, it also undermines constitutional federalism. If, as Sessions’ preferred policies require, the federal government has the power to enforce marijuana prohibition anywhere in the United States regardless of the laws of the states, it also has the power to ban the possession or distribution of pretty much anything else. That makes a mockery of the constitutional limits on federal power that many conservatives claim to prize.
Admittedly, the Supreme Court ruled that such sweeping congressional power was permissible in its badly flawed decision in Gonzales v. Raich, which held that Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce allowed it to ban the possession of medical marijuana that had never been sold in any market or crossed state lines. But serious constitutional federalists should be opposing Raich, in line with the powerful dissenting opinions by Justice Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor, not exploiting it to impose federal prohibition on unwilling states.
In a diverse nation beset with deep partisan conflict, both liberals and conservatives have an interest in restoring constitutional federalism. Sessions’ drug war agenda would undermine it.
In addition to being one of the Senate’s most extreme drug warriors, Sessions is also perhaps its leading supporter of mass deportations and immigration restrictionism, going well beyond many other Republicans. Such measures pose a serious threat to the liberty of native-born Americans as well as immigrants.
Like his marijuana policies, Sessions’ proposals for coercing “sanctuary cities” are also likely to undermine constitutional federalism, unless invalidated by courts. Conservatives who might welcome federal coercion in this area should remember that the same power could be used by liberal presidents to coerce more conservative states in the future.
On immigration, as on marijuana legalization, Sessions is out of step with public opinion. Exit polls show that some 70% of Americans oppose deporting undocumented immigrants working in the United States.
The attorney general does not have as much power over immigration enforcement as over the War on Drugs and asset forfeitures. But Sessions could still do great harm in this field.
III. How We Can Get a Better Nominee by Overcoming Partisan Bias.
I don’t expect any president – Democrat or Republican – to appoint an attorney general as libertarian as I would ideally prefer. Far from it. But libertarians and others who care about federalism and limiting government power can reasonably expect someone with a less terrible record than Sessions. His divergence from mainstream views on so many issues does not by by itself prove that he is wrong. But it does make him potentially vulnerable.
I am not the only right of center commentator with grave concerns about Sessions. George Will, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Rep. Justin Amash, and Michael Tanner (writing in the National Review) have done so as well, among others. As Tanner puts it, Sessions “has a record that ought to worry believers in small government and individual liberty.”
The flaws in Sessions’ record are serious regardless of whether we credit claims that Sessions is a racist, that cost him a nomination to a federal judgeship back in the 1980s. Even if Sessions is completely free of racial prejudice, his agenda is still a threat to liberty, property rights, and constitutional federalism.
Sessions’ record cannot be sidestepped on the grounds that the attorney general’s job is just to “enforce the law.” Given the vast scope of federal law, a large majority of Americans have violated it at one time or another, and the AG has enormous discretion in choosing which putative lawbreakers to pursue. Being attorney general is not just a matter of technical competence. It is also about values and priorities. And many of Sessions’ priorities are deeply inimical to liberty and the Constitution. Republican senators recognized that the job is about more than professional qualifications when 43 of them voted against Loretta Lynch’s confirmation because of objections to her positions on policy and legal issues. Sessions should not be immune from such opposition either.
If, as seems likely, GOP senators rally around Sessions out of partisan loyalty, he will be confirmed. He may even be a “lock” for confirmation. Partisanship is a powerful drug that leads many people on both left and right to abandon their supposed principles. As Republican Rep. Justin Amash recently put it, “[p]artisanship remains a stronger force than ideology. Things won’t get better in politics until people care more about principles than teams.”
In this case, liberals, libertarians, and conservative advocates of property rights and federalism should join together in opposing Sessions. Despite their many other differences, these groups have a common interest in stopping his nomination. All three be better off if Trump is forced to choose a more conventional Republican, even if they still end up opposing some of that person’s decisions. Given the close 52-48 balance in the Senate, only a handful of GOP senators need to turn against Sessions in order to defeat his nomination. Now would be a good time to set aside some of the partisan bias that is helping to poison our political system.
La Conciergerie is a former royal palace and prison located by the seine on the west of the Île de la Cité. It is part of the larger complex known as the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial purposes.
I think this could apply to me too
This is cool!
Klaus Pinter - “Rebonds”, Panthéon Paris, pneumatic structure 20 x 26 x 15 m