Category Archives: History

2018 Ebola Crisis Worsens as US Regime Denies Aid

Here’s a pithy comment by Peter Salama, head of the new Health Emergencies Program at the World Health Organization, about factors leading to Ebola crisis unfolding this year in DRC:

These viruses manage to exploit social vulnerabilities and fault lines. That’s what we’re seeing in this Ebola outbreak starkly.

And even more to the point:

In the last two years since I have been here, 80 percent of our major outbreaks have been in conflict-affected areas. This is the issue of the future.

The issue of urban outbreaks of high-threat pathogens is really an issue of our generation. I don’t think we’ve fully grappled with that. Now with yellow fever, plague, with Ebola, we are starting to see these patterns. All bets are off [in terms of] thinking we know about the transmission of diseases because of what happened in rural outbreaks in the past. It’s completely different now.

Ok, so you have this data showing conflict-affected areas are where the major outbreaks occur, and that is “the issue of the future”. Consider this in terms of infected drones easily deployed over/under/around barriers into urban areas, and then rapid lateral transmission.

I’m not trying to think out of the box here. This is an ancient security worry, for those familiar with the history of siege weaponry.

Who (pun not intended) can guess the current US regime’s response to the outbreak of a high-threat pathogen in the place most expected? Perhaps the title of this post gave away the answer.

Vox reporter Julia Belluz asks Salama the following:

The US pulled its Centers of Disease Control and Prevention workers out of Beni, the outbreak epicenter. They decided it was too dangerous for America’s best Ebola experts to be there — and it sounds like they are not coming back anytime soon. […] But I understand Canada, the UK, even nonprofits with US personnel, are sending people, and you have hundreds of WHO officials deployed. Is the US government an outlier?

This makes the American leadership appear weak and feckless; and Salama replies very diplomatically:

The US government is the main country that has had constraints.

Ronald Reagan’s “Special Unit” Soldier Sentenced to 5,160 Years in Jail for Mass Murder

Ronald Reagan’s arrival to office in 1981 was accompanied by a sentiment that the prior U.S. President’s policies should be rolled back, regardless of what they were.

One of the policies ended was the arms embargo on Guatemala, put in place by Jimmy Carter due to human rights abuses by that regime.

We know today that the CIA in late April 1981 was sending memos that rolled up to the White House describing the massacre of civilians within Mayan Indian territory. CIA memos documented how social support for guerrillas was high enough that soldiers said they were “forced” to fire indiscriminately into non-combatants.

Two months after news of the massacre Reagan un-blocked $3.2 million in military support to Guatemala’s army. The unblocking method used was crafty, as Reagan reclassified trucks and jeeps to transport Guatemalan soldiers to commit massacres. Military vehicles known to be used in the massacres no longer were under the human rights embargo.

One might be tempted here to ask “ok, but they’re just trucks and jeeps, so general use, right?” History helps a little, as it reminds us America has made this mistake before, facilitating genocide for profits:

GM’s president, Alfred P. Sloan, knew what was happening in Germany. Sloan and GM officials knew also that Hitler’s regime was expected to wage war from the outset. Headlines, radio broadcasts and newsreels made that fact apparent. America, it was feared, would once again be pulled in.

Nonetheless, GM and Germany began a strategic business relationship. Opel became an essential element of the German rearmament and modernization Hitler required to subjugate Europe. To accomplish that, Germany needed to rise above the horse-drawn divisions it deployed in World War I. It needed to motorize, to blitz — that is, to attack with lightning speed. Germany would later unleash a blitzkrieg, a lightning war. Opel built the 3-ton truck named Blitz to support the German military. The Blitz truck and its numerous specialized models became the mainstay of the Blitzkrieg.

In 1935, GM agreed to locate a new factory at Brandenburg, where it would be geographically less vulnerable to feared aerial bombardment by allied forces. In 1937, almost 17 percent of Opel’s Blitz trucks were sold directly to the Nazi military.

The Guatemalan government was emboldened by the new U.S. President’s support of their killing plans. Thus by early October 1981 the U.S. State Department was talking about Reagan’s ambassador General Vernon Walters meeting with Guatemalan leaders to discuss repression measures. Guatemalan General Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia “made clear that his government will continue as before that the repression will continue.”

This wasn’t really any kind of secret. Word of violations were published by groups like the Inter-American Human Rights Commission who in October 1981 openly called out the Guatemalan government for “thousands of illegal executions.” The Reagan Administration engaged in whataboutism and deception to avoid addressing why they would sell military aid linked to mass human rights violations; falsely claiming Guatemalan human rights violations were a guerrilla strategy (as I’ve explained elsewhere).

Things escalated quickly after the U.S. government support shifted from embargo to support. The Guatemalan army issued instructions in 1982 that any resistance or incoming fire from a town or village meant everyone in the town is hostile and would be destroyed.

This might sound similar if you heard recently the current U.S. regime call to troops that they treat rocks and bottles as rifles.

In fact, Reagan’s support led to a fundamentalist Christian taking control of Guatemala in a March 1982 coup d’etat. General Efrain Ríos Montt seized power and announced a policy of “rifles and beans” — either eat beans quietly in obedience to dictatorship or be killed by rifles. In response Reagan described him as “a man of great personal integrity”.

…more than 600 Indian villages in the Guatemalan highlands were eradicated or occupied by the military. The slogan “rifles and beans” meant that pacified communities would get “beans,” while all others would be the target of army “rifles.”

In March 1983, Americas Watch condemned the Guatemalan army for human rights atrocities against the Indian population.

New York attorney Stephen L. Kass said there was proof that the Guatemalan government carried out “virtually indiscriminate murder of men, women and children of any farm regarded by the army as possibly supportive of guerrilla insurgents.”

Three months after the coup was applauded by Reagan, government death squads were unleashed on civilians. And Reagan then increased military aid in 1983 to $6 million despite evidence of civilian massacres increasing at the hands of American-trained soldiers riding in American vehicles, again reported in memos to the White House.

Such memos might sound strange to fans of Reagan, so consider the kind of writing found in his official documents

During the height of Montt’s genocidal counterinsurgency campaign, a CONFIDENTIAL cable from Secretary of State George Shultz praised his “impressive progress in human rights”.

(click that document link if you want to help disclose more strange truths from primary source materials)

In effect, the Reagan administration worked to reverse Carter’s human rights policy, centralizing power in U.S. presidency through deception and tricks in order to expedite military support to violent dictators killing democracy.

Within the U.S. government, there was no apparent struggle to reconcile the notion that the Guatemalan government “badly needed” arms with its horrific crimes. There was only a struggle to determine preconditions (which were never met) in order to gain minimal support from Congress so as to circumvent protections against abetting war criminals, which were put into place by the Carter administration.

Ríos Montt wasn’t an isolated case, either. Look into Regan’s support for genocide by Indonesian dictator Suharto, or why Chadian dictator Habre (another recipient of President Reagan’s “product shipments”) was sentenced to life for war crimes.

So there is our backdrop to news today from Guatemala, about prosecution of Reagan’s “special unit” for their attrocities:

A Guatemalan former soldier has been sentenced to more than 5,000 years in prison for his role in a massacre during the country’s civil war.

More than 200 people were killed in the village of Dos Erres in 1982, one of the most violent episodes in Guatemala’s brutal 36-year conflict.

Santos López was found responsible for 171 of the deaths.

He was a member of the Kaibiles, a US-trained counter-insurgency force fighting left-wing guerrillas.

López was sentenced to 30 years for each of the 171 killings committed in the village and to an additional 30 years for his role in the murder of a girl who had originally survived.

[…]

The massacre happened during the brief rule of military strongman Efraín Ríos Montt, who was accused of ordering the killing of more than 1,700 ethnic Mayans during a civil war.

He died in April aged 91 while on trial on charges of genocide.

Montt was the first military dictator in Latin America to be charged with genocide in his own country. Ronald Reagan was never charged for his role.

Some may be tempted to believe propaganda of the Reagan administration that fueling the mass murder of civilians somehow was meant to be about the U.S. fighting Communism. However, recent genocide trials have uncovered facts of Reagan’s “special units” that prove they engaged in genocidal practices, brutally murdering children by hand and terrorizing anyone within earshot of someone speaking about democracy.

The soldiers shot, strangled and bludgeoned the villagers to death with sledgehammers, and one admitted to throwing a baby into the village well.

In 1994, forensic anthropologists found the remains of 162 bodies in the well, including 67 children less than 12 years old.

The above should be serious food for thought when people now talk about news of migrants walking all the way from Guatemala to the U.S seeking aylum from violence. Imagine what they think when finding out they will be greeted with rifles instead.

It appears to this historian that the current U.S. regime has replaced the “beans and rifle” decision tree of Reagan’s Guatemalan death squads with…just rifles.

Nissan Arrests Chairman

Japan has strict anti-authoritarian rules, as a relic of occupation by the US military after WWII. This has just manifested in corporate security, leading to an investigation and incarceration of Nissan’s Chairman

The chief executive revealed that a whistle-blower had passed information to Nissan’s auditors who then began a wider investigation. The evidence was then passed to Japan’s public prosecutor.

The story calls out anti-authoritarianism rules, very specifically

Facing the press alone, the chief executive added that he felt the mistake had come after allowing a concentration of power in one individual. Saikawa said the misconduct went on for “a long period” and it looked like Kelly had been allowed to take control of internal operations, as he had the direct backing of Ghosn.

I’ve written before about recent history and why Japanese resistance to authoritarianism is so interesting to study. A key turning point was the 1931 Mukden Incident, which allowed a small cabal to solidify control and foment war.

While it was clear Japanese militant leaders had used false-pretense to breach the post-WWI agreements on peace, nonaggression and disarmament they also faced little tangible resistance and they flatly refused to stand down.

Occupation of Manchuria by Japan soon expanded in threat; the stage was set for escalation into the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and destabilization/expansion into the region, which eventually led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Japan and Germany have essentially become time-capsules of US theories in anti-authoritarian thinking, due to the occupation and lessons forced upon them post-1945.

Meanwhile the US clearly has drifted away from the lessons it used to teach, letting the CSO of Facebook roam freely instead of going to jail after years of alleged acts of misconduct far worse than the Chairman of Nissan.

Just this week it was revealed on top of all the other breaches during the CSO tenure that Facebook engineers in 2018 were writing passwords to the URL and storing them, which is literally the worst possible management of security.

This is a rather jarring and basic security lapse for Instagram and Facebook, which hasn’t done much at all to prove to users it knows how to handle sensitive data. It certainly raises the question of other security practices…

Facebook’s CSO literally had no real security management experience other than a short attempt at Yahoo (also massively mis-mangaged and breached at record levels). He now arguably is the security industry’s face of executive fraud. How long before wanted posters go up for his arrest?

Google Exposed for Funding Pro-Slavery Candidates Calling for Lynchings

The Seth Meyers show does a pretty good job capturing the unapologetic racism of white supremacist candidates in America

A crucial bit of analysis is missing, however.

You might, like most rational people watching this video, wonder why someone saying “a public hanging, I’d be on the front row” (death penalty) suddenly can pivot to saying anti-abortion platitudes as their preferred defense against criticism. I mean on the one hand they’re saying lynchings are like their favorite spectator sport, while on the other hand they’re saying not a single life can be ended.

Isn’t this an obvious contradiction?

Alas, historic context explains the white supremacist perspective here, such as why they see no contradiction in carelessly taking lives while telling others lives can’t be taken under any circumstances.

Slavery was an industry of owning humans and birth was the means of production and enrichment for the slave owners. They did not give slaves any rights, let alone choices, when they demanded that children be born as quickly as possible without medical care, to the detriment and death of black women.

The historic white supremacist attitude towards maternity rights persists in America even to this day.

The ongoing maternal mortality crisis disproportionately affects black women, who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes are three to four times more likely than white women to die from complications related to pregnancy.

Why is this happening? The medical field is seeking answers, but one of the most obvious solutions is ensuring black women’s access to quality, unbiased medical care.

And then these same owners of humans causing high rates of maternal mortality also claimed to reserve the right to kill humans indiscriminately, murdering whomever they wanted, and brag about their desire for front row seating in any lynchings. See the consistency in the dehumanization?

I’ve written about this before, and in particular how Abraham Lincoln described the situation in 1838 America:

Thus went on this process of hanging, from gamblers to negroes, from negroes to white citizens, and from these to strangers; till, dead men were seen literally dangling from the boughs of trees upon every road side; and in numbers almost sufficient, to rival the native Spanish moss of the country, as a drapery of the forest.

Turn, then, to that horror-striking scene at St. Louis. A single victim was only sacrificed there. His story is very short; and is, perhaps, the most highly tragic, of any thing of its length, that has ever been witnessed in real life. A mulatto man, by the name of McIntosh, was seized in the street, dragged to the suburbs of the city, chained to a tree, and actually burned to death; and all within a single hour from the time he had been a freeman, attending to his own business, and at peace with the world.

Such are the effects of mob law; and such are the scenes, becoming more and more frequent in this land so lately famed for love of law and order; and the stories of which, have even now grown too familiar, to attract any thing more, than an idle remark.

I hope that gives better context and some needed analysis for why the white supremacist candidate Hyde-Smith today is saying “a public hanging, I’d be on the front row”; bringing up lynchings in her campaign to prevent the first black senator to represent the state since the Reconstruction era.

The story gets worse, far worse, however. Several people have pointed out to me that very large silicon valley technology companies are funding these white supremacist platforms.

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) was caught on tape “joking” about her willingness to attend a lynching at a campaign event in November. […] One corporation that apparently was unbothered by Hyde-Smith’s remarks: Google. On Tuesday, Google donated $5000 to Hyde-Smith’s campaign, according to documents filed with the FEC.

This is no joke. Google after a widely-discussed lynching statement threw campaign donations at a white supremacist candidate. One might be tempted to think this is a one-off, a strange coincidence. However, investigators already have pointed out that Google is funding an even more well known white supremacist candidate:

Google previously donated $10,000 to the Making America Prosperous PAC, the leadership PAC of Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX). Making America Prosperous gave Congressman Steve King (R-IA) a cash infusion after other corporate donors abandoned him over his ties to white nationalism.

After other corporate donors had abandoned candidates with a white nationalism (Nazi) platform, and after a candidate made comments in favor of lynchings, Google apparently sent funds to help the white supremacists win.

Recently, as I met with many Chief Security Officers (CSO) to discuss cross-cloud security architectures, I heard several times from different leaders “do not mention Google in this room, they are not an option”. It seemed so harsh. And it came without detail, as If I already should know. I had to learn more, to find out what was driving the hard line eliminating the giant brand.

Turns out it is…ethics.

I had figred it related to the history of lying about privacy controls and failing to monitor staff abusing access to private data. That was bad, for sure, and Google hasn’t done the best job clearing their name. It also isn’t the sort of thing that writes off a brand entirely, as controls evolve and trust returns through operations monitoring.

However, that wasn’t the only issue. People sent me stories about Google choosing to fund campaigns despite widespread (easily searchable) condemnation. I mean Steve King…come on Google, why would you fund him? Even AT&T dumped that unrepentant racist. There seems to be a timing issue for a brand claiming to be the most up-to-date source of knowledge.

And it gets worse again. Google now has been caught in further controversy after an attempt to claim ignorance and make a “we do not condone” explanation for their contribution.

Google claimed it made the donation on Nov. 2—the same day Hyde-Smith made her comments. “This contribution was made on November 2nd before Senator Hyde-Smith’s remarks became public on November 11th,” Google representatives said. “While we support candidates who promote pro-growth policies for business and technology, we do not condone these remarks and would not have made such a contribution had we known about them.” If Google’s claim were true, that would mean the Hyde-Smith campaign filed a false report. It would also mean the campaign failed to report on time. Federal law requires than any donations made within 20 days of an election be reported within 48 hours.

“We do not condone” is not “we condemn”. Historians again are needed here, because context helps explain what’s really going on.

Mississippi had the highest rate of lynchings of African Americans, which of course was linked inexorably to economics.

Once black were given their freedom, many people felt that the freed blacks were getting away with too much freedom and felt they needed to be controlled. Mississippi had the highest lynchings from 1882-1968 with 581.

As you can see in the quoted writings of Lincoln above, citing mob law before the civil war, white supremacist candidates always have and always are positioning lynchings as “pro-growth policies for business and technology”. It is more plainly described here:

March 1892, a white mob lynched three black men — Thomas Moss, Will Stewart and Calvin McDowell — and left their mangled bodies in a field a mile north of downtown Memphis….their crime was their temerity. They dared to challenge white businessmen accustomed to having a monopoly on economic activity.

A Google inability to straightforwardly condemn such a statement about public hangings (see the redemption train video above), while further endorsing white nationalists as being pro-business and technology…should be more in the news. Or how did Lincoln put it?

…have even now grown too familiar, to attract any thing more, than an idle remark

At least I know a wide group of CSOs are monitoring the situation, as a function of deciding how and when to trust a cloud service provider that fails so hard at ethics.


Update Nov 26, 2018:

Google is unmentioned among the companies distancing themselves further from the white supremacist campaign

Jaz Brisack, the first female student at the University of Mississippi to receive the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, called Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) a “white supremacist” in an interview with The Oxford Eagle on Sunday.

[…]

Groups including Major League Baseball, Walmart, AT&T, Leidos, Union Pacific and Boston Scientific have all asked for their donations to Hyde-Smith’s campaign to be returned.

Google does get a mention elsewhere, asking a day before the election that their contribution be returned.

Meanwhile in other news about this candidate:

Scooter Companies Charged With ‘Gross Negligence’

File this lawsuit news under things that anyone with a history degree could have predicted:

The suit alleges that e-scooter companies knew their riders were injuring pedestrians and –– by failing to stop the collisions from occurring –– assisted and encouraged scooter riders as they committed “assaults.”

The suit also states that both companies’ scooters contain defective electronics and mechanical parts, as well inadequate safety instructions for riders and that they have “a wanton disregard for the safety of others.” The risks posed by the devices, the suit states, “were known and/or knowable” based on “professional knowledge” known within the transportation community.

Scooters weren’t going to magically become safe, by increasing their supply and decreasing barriers to abuse (i.e. powered to a quick and high top speed at no cost to rider).

Another way of looking at this is to consider how Vespa was born out of WWII and became wildly successful, was banned, and then returned again.

Conversion of Italian warplane engineering to civilian mobility in war-ravaged Europe birthed the famous aeronautical-looking scooters of the 1950s. They were cheap and convenient for rebuilding markets after war, so the concept boomed.

Fast-forward to the 1970s and the scooters were being banned due to air quality concerns, in a large part related to their success. So many engines had been accumulating massive technical and healthcare debt, dumping toxins into the air without paying for consequences, legislation had to be passed:

Having returned to the US in 2000 after exiting the market in 1985 because of new emissions legislation that targeted two stroke engines, the Vespa was an immediate success all over again

And being a success all over again is a good thing, right? I believe that’s called innovation.

The birthplace of the Vespa has even banned 2-stroke engine versions for the same reason, air quality harms:

…environment assessor Italo Porcile is determined not to give in to the pressure.

‘I love the Vespino, I used to have one myself,’ he said. ‘But the ‘Euro 0′ (a model produced before 1999) pollutes terribly and public health is more important’.

Piaggio, which started off producing locomotives and then fighter planes, came up with the Vespa after the Second World War, when the country’s roads, severely damaged by bombing, were crying out for an alternative to cars for the masses.

With the 2-stroke air negligence version banned, scooter manufacturers are only now investing in superior engineering options:

Elettrica is propelled by an electric motor claiming peak output of 5.3 hp (with a continuous output of 2.7 hp) and more than 147.5 lb-ft. of torque, which Piaggio says is superior performance to a traditional 50cc gasoline-powered scooter

Scooters being dumped on sidewalks and running into pedestrians is literally the opposite of innovation. The lawsuit again negligent scooter manufacturers is an unfortunate start, though clearly what scooter developers really needed sooner was a regulatory wake-up to spur them into more innovative designs.

They Shall Not Grow Old: Color and Dub Revives WWI Footage

When you watch the footage from this new film, based on old footage, you should ponder if adding color and voices give it more impact as an educational tool:

All school children in the UK now are expected to watch it. The title comes from Binyon’s 21 September 1914 poem “For the Fallen

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

His words were meant to capture the tone after an August 1914 outbreak of war, where the German Army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium on the “Western Front”. British commitments to uphold Belgian neutrality (as well as Anglo-French naval agreement of 1912) led it to declare war in response and send forces into France.

Some have pointed out England’s response was very unlike their entry into Napoleonic wars where England delayed until 1803 coming to the aid of other nations. However, this provocative thinking is ignorant of history, as Britain faced a very different geo-political situation with the German invasion. Napoleon initially presented the opposite scenario, as his seizure of power within France came with an offering to stabilize and end hostility, given the “1801 Peace of Amiens“.

The treaty was welcomed with such enthusiasm by the British public that on returning to London with Bonaparte’s ratification of the preliminaries the First Consul’s ADC, Lauriston, was welcomed by a huge crowd that unhitched the horses and pulled his carriage through the streets shouting ‘Vive Bonaparte!’. […] “In less than two and a half years that is from 18 Brumaire (9 November, 1799) to 25 March, 1802, the date of the Peace of Amiens, France passed from the debasement into which the Directory had plunged her, to the foremost rank in Europe.”

That moment of celebration and hope for peaceful trade definitely was not the situation a year later, when Britain suddenly realized in 1803 they faced complete loss of economic control (Napoleon stated England deserved no voice in global affairs). Germany in 1914, like France in 1803, was threatening Britain’s empire. Delay didn’t seem to be a real option in 1914, given early attempts at German defeat (no matter how unlikely) could avoid another protracted decade-long Napoleonic war situation (1803–1815).

The 1914 German attack threatened stability and safety across Europe and beyond as it violently pushed all the way into France reaching the eastern Paris outskirts. From September 6th to the 10th, six French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) counter-attacked along the Marne River and defeated the German Army, forcing retreat northwest.

On 9 September Bülow learned that the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was advancing into the gap between his 2nd Army and Kluck. He ordered a retreat, obliging Kluck to do the same. The counterattack of the French 5th and 6th Armies and the BEF developed into the First Battle of the Marne, a general counter-attack by the French Army. By 11 September the Germans were in full retreat.

This remarkable change in fortunes was caused partially by the exhaustion of many of the German forces: some had marched more than 240km (150 miles), fighting frequently. The German advance was also hampered by demolished bridges and railways, constricting their supply lines, and they had underestimated the resilience of the French.

France suffered approximately 250,000 casualties in this battle as German forces desperately tried to take Paris. Germany refused to acknowledge their losses. And BEF casualties were recorded as 12,733. Perhaps most significantly, BEF losses signaled the significance of an allied front against German aggression. Some still debate had the BEF and French armies gone further, whether they could have ended German campaigns early and entirely.

A battle in September 1914 thus is considered one of the most important in WWI history, as German retreat at Paris destroyed the “Schlieffen Plan”; quick victory in the West was meant to allow focus on attacking Russia. Instead, Germany was forced to dig in for a protracted war on two fronts. Despite being able to regroup after this battle, ultimately German defeat four years later meant nearly 3 million of its own people killed.

“They Shall Not Grow Old”, named after a September 1914 poem, commemorates in new ways how the British decided to act early and decisively in response to German aggression, saving France and Russia from occupation.

An original written copy of “For the Fallen” has been digitized by the British Library.

‘FOR THE FALLEN’: autograph copy of poem by Robert Laurence Binyon, C.H., made for presentation to the Museum; 1938. First published in The Times, 21 Sept. 1914, and in book form in The Winnowing-Fan, 1914, pp. 28, 29.

Now, as you just read it, did you ponder whether adding color would help? Is that ink black or blue? What is the true shade of the paper?

Transit Management Leaders: Copenhagen Bans Cars; Sweden Halves Pedestrian Deaths

Copenhagen is estimating a $1-2 million gain every day — that’s right, EVERY DAY — when people in the city ride bicycles instead of drive cars. Since the biggest friction to cycling is the fact that cars kill those around them either immediately (crash) or slow and painfully (disease), a great deal of money and time is being spent by the Danes to isolate cars and reduce societal harms.

In other words, restricting the violence of cars enables Copenhagen’s population to flourish in multiple ways:

The city’s investment in impressive cycling infrastructure is paying off in multiple ways. For not only are there many health benefits to getting more people to use bikes, there are some serious economic gains too. Cycling is a great, low-impact form of exercise which can build muscle, bone density, and increase cardiovascular fitness. Figures from the finance minister suggests that every time someone rides 1 km on their bike in Copenhagen, the city experiences an economic gain of 4.80 krone, or about 75 US cents. If that ride replaces an equivalent car journey, the gain rises to 10.09 krone per km, or around $1.55. And with 1.4 million km cycled every day, that’s a potential benefit to the city of between $1.05m and $2.17m, daily.

That’s the World Economic Forum reporting these numbers, and perhaps even more impressive is the risk management graph they offer readers. Apparently Copenhagen has invested an average of $10m each year over 13 years in cycling infrastructure, which is now believed to return benefits of $300-600m each year. Here is what the investment return looks like in terms of safety and ridership:

As distance ridden on bicycles goes up, health risks go down significantly across the population. That is just health risk related directly to cycling, as there will be additional health risk reductions in terms of physical and mental fitness. The World Economic Forum turns to UK data on this point:

…a single ‘cycling city’ worth £377 million to the National Health Service in healthcare cost savings

I wrote the other day about a cities around the world that are banning cars altogether in their city center, some on an accelerated 5-year timeline such as Oslo and Madrid.

Given all the data above, it should come as no surprise Copenhagen is considering the same road forward and banning cars entirely from some neighborhoods.

Don’t worry Americans, we also have a few car-free neighborhoods, believe it or not. My favorite part of a study of where to live in America without danger from cars is the disclaimer at the beginning of the list:

New York City is not included in this listing. If it was, neighborhoods from that city would dominate the entire list. In fact, you could place the whole of Manhattan on this list as only 5% of residents use a car for their daily trips

With the most-successful city out of the running, the list then goes on to recommend being in the Tenderloin of SF. The author clearly hasn’t tried riding down the infamous Golden Gate corridor of Tenderloin cars parked or driving in the bike lanes.

Why anyone would eliminate the best option in America and then recommend living in a filthy run-down neighborhood with awful bike and pedestrian access options…is beyond this blog post. But it definitely shows American analysts often don’t understand this transit topic.

First, they don’t factor for overall health improvements as a function of car-less urban spaces. They just draw a circle around transit stations and measure nothing else. That isn’t how this works.

Second, based on the radius of the circle they think like car drivers and assume you are better off living directly above a subway as if it’s a straight substitute for having a car in your garage. Remember at the start of this post how the distance traveled by foot/bike leads to multiple facets of financial and health improvement?

Forget about the model where you roll out of bed and stumble into an elevator that drops you into a car so you can avoid using a muscle. Wrong quality of life model.

Notice that the author admits these errors in analysis, without even realizing it:

…this area of San Francisco is known for drugs and crime, it is surrounded by very desirable places to live. It’s also lies adjacent to the rapid transit line, BART

Yeah, go live in the desirable places surrounding the transit line, not inside the train station. Moreover, let’s be honest here, the author also regurgitates an old American white supremacist trope, probably without even knowing.

All of San Francisco is known for drugs, and crime is widespread. You literally can’t go to a neighborhood in SF and find it free of drugs. This tracks to the rather sad fact that Nixon’s racist “war on drugs” still lives on, giving people the impression urban areas are dangerous because “drugs and crime” (Nixon’s propagandist way of saying blacks and pacifists).

We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities [by turning them into rubble and building highways through]

In fact, the only reason Highway 101 abruptly ends at Octavia and does not cut through the Haight (a formerly black neighborhood) and Golden Gate Park as planned is because civil-rights protests blocked “disruption” for white-flight-suburb road construction. There is no highway to this day running through urban SF because quality of life protests against it meant the successful rejection of white supremacist propaganda, which meant streets and houses instead of overpasses and parking lots.

Tenderloin is not more dangerous than the Mission area, which also lies “adjacent to the rapid transit line”, and it certainly is not more dangerous than the Marina if you are measuring getting raped by white football player who just moved to SF to party and “get some” before getting appointed to Vice President or the Supreme Court.

Nixon was elected because he said things like blacks can’t handle drugs, and he enacted policies to incarcerate blacks and not whites for the same behaviors. And that’s just a modern version of America First, which in the early 1900s under President Wilson argued non-whites (Irish, German, Blacks…) couldn’t handle liquor.

Prohibition was passed to destroy black lives, while whites could continue producing and drinking because notes from wealthy/connected doctors cited “medicinal” reasons.

Anyway, if you want to cite SF, look at the SOMA neighborhood sitting at the head of the CalTrain station, adjacent to the new high-speed rail station, and also on the new north-south local transit line, which will feed into BART, not to mention on the water with easy access to the ferry.

SOMA has far superior pedestrian, cycle and transit options to the Tenderloin or any other neighborhood in the city. This tracks historically to SOMA having amazing trolley grids before the car enthusiasts ripped it all up to drive up air/noise pollution and cause traffic jams as their preferred lifestyle.

Ok, back to the Scandinavian leaders in transit management. Sweden in 1997 set about trying to cut down to zero the number of pedestrians killed by cars. The strategy used has produced impressive results, yet nowhere near the kind of zero-death safety they had targeted:

Since the scheme began, road deaths have almost halved: 270 people died in road accidents in Sweden in 2016. Twenty years earlier the figure was 541.

America lags so far behind on this topic, its numbers are in a completely different ballpark. While Sweden is annoyed that it only has seen a 50% reduction in death from cars, some states in the US are actually tracking increases. Texas, for example, apparently is aborting human life at an alarming rate by repeatedly failing to address cars as a threat to health.

NSC estimates traffic fatalities in Texas have jumped 7 percent from 2015 to 2017

This is not normal, or acceptable, and could easily be going the other direction. NY proves to the rest of America what needs to be done, by deploying solutions similar to those proven in Denmark and Sweden:

NSC estimates traffic fatalities in New York fell 3 percent last year and have dropped 15 percent over the last two years. Safety advocates say the decline may be due to New York City’s push to eliminate traffic deaths by lowering speed limits, adding bike lanes and more pedestrian shelters.

“Changes like those being made in New York can save lives,” said [Deborah Hersman, CEO of the National Safety Council]

When NYC releases the financial and healthcare benefits that derive from fewer cars, maybe it will help steer the discussion forward in Texas. Seems unlikely, though, as Texans do not seem to be pro-life as much as they think their success is measured by ability to collect and carelessly operate things that kill others.

American cities in places like Texas paint a stark contrast to the quality of life stories around the world, and especially Scandinavia, that highlight enabling people with the freedom to live, without being unjustly harmed. The automobile industry is going through a transformation that will be wise to learn from the leaders, gaining trust in urban areas committed to freedom and justice through respect for diverse ideas and modes of movement.

American transit managers of the southern states who watch their neighbors and friends be killed by drivers without feeling any guilt should in the near future be about as common as politicians today who would look the other way when they see slave drivers.

A History of Rubber-Hose Cryptanalysis

Lately I often have been asked about cloud counter-measures to rubber-hose risks, and as I begin to explain I get interrupted with “wait, hold on, but why is it called rubber-hose?”

It is a fair question and, as a historian, I am eager to indulge those willing to ask a “how did we get here from there” security question.

Rubber-hose implies a means a type of physical torture used to extract a secret without leaving evidence of torture.

Physical Torture to Break American Cryptography

To understand why this phrase is so commonly used in America, we have to remember first that slave rebellions in 1830s led to a reign of brutal white-supremacist terror escalating until they started a full Civil War in 1861.

New York abolished slavery in 1827, around the same time many countries around the world were doing the same. Abolition and/or laws prohibiting slavery spread quickly:
1824 – Mexico
1831 – Bolivia
1831 – Brazil
1833 – England
1835 – France
1836 – Portugal

An important footnote here is that the Mexican abolitionist movement greatly angered white immigrants to Mexico. These settlers to the “wild” Texas territory demanded they be allowed to keep slaves.

This came to a head at the Alamo in 1836 when violent secession formed a new nation for slavery. That is right, every time you hear someone say “Remember the Alamo” think of white supremacists expressing pride at preserving slavery while globally it was condemned.

This fits a pattern more widespread, that between 1831 and 1861 many US slaveholders thought a “reign of terror” was their best method of preserving white power.

In case you are wondering, encryption was very present in America during the next 30 years, and needed key management that could withstand physical torture by those who did not want slavery to end.

Had the US not declared independence from the King of England, slavery arguably would have ended in the US by 1834 if not earlier.

Alas, this was not to be the case under a pro-slavery President Jackson who had been elected in 1829. By 1835, around the time of Texas seceding to preserve slavery, Jackson was harshly criminalizing speech in order to prevent even the discussion of abolition (his federal Postmaster General Kendall was ordered to intercept and inspect mail).

As you can imagine, encryption becomes very useful for those working towards freedom under a white supremacist President inspecting all mail.

The punishment for anyone discussing abolition was severe. Abraham Lincoln famously gave a speech in 1838 condemning the surveillance and torture methods used upon Americans who believed in the kind of freedom found in other nations:

Thus went on this process of hanging, from gamblers to negroes, from negroes to white citizens, and from these to strangers; till, dead men were seen literally dangling from the boughs of trees upon every road side; and in numbers almost sufficient, to rival the native Spanish moss of the country, as a drapery of the forest.

Turn, then, to that horror-striking scene at St. Louis. A single victim was only sacrificed there. His story is very short; and is, perhaps, the most highly tragic, of any thing of its length, that has ever been witnessed in real life. A mulatto man, by the name of McIntosh, was seized in the street, dragged to the suburbs of the city, chained to a tree, and actually burned to death; and all within a single hour from the time he had been a freeman, attending to his own business, and at peace with the world.

Such are the effects of mob law; and such are the scenes, becoming more and more frequent in this land so lately famed for love of law and order; and the stories of which, have even now grown too familiar, to attract any thing more, than an idle remark.

Sadly a great many Americans, from large plantation owner to poor white laborers, aspired to dreams of sudden wealth by harming others. America, long after the rest of the world was moving in a better direction, continued to think of an expansion of slavery practices as their get-rich-quick scheme.

Certain American men, as well as their enablers, kept arguing that the Constitution “enriched” whites by giving them the exclusive right to torture and murder without penalty as long as they were preserving their right to leisure time and preference for avoiding work by playing golf instead. There is a simple reason why many golf courses to this day market themselves by highlighting pro-slavery terrorists:

When Southwick G.C. in Graham, North Carolina first opened in 1969, it was known as Confederate Acres G.C. for no apparent reason other than to appeal to golfers who might be [pro-slavery].

Mountaintop G. & Lake C. in Cashiers, North Carolina one of the newest members of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, has in its clubhouse suites named in honor of Confederate generals such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Turner Ashby, all of whom fought [to preserve slavery] alongside early Cashiers resident General Wade Hampton

Yes, golf courses around America are out in the open about being pro-slavery, as if it is comforting to golfers if they can celebrate men who tortured and murdered Americans to enrich themselves. But I digress…

Managing secrets in the 1840s context of Americans surviving torture and murder by violent pro-slavery militants, even Edgar Allen Poe by 1843 entered the fray, publishing instructions in a story set in South Carolina to help increase the use of cryptograms. It was his most popular story during his lifetime.

In 1844 President Adams was elected and overturned the Jackson ban on free speech, but torture and murder by pro-slavery terrorists continued to rise. Although Texas agreed to annexation by the US in 1845 they came with the stated hard requirement that slavery remain legal (foreshadowing their second secession, remembering the Alamo by declaring a war on abolitionists again in 1861).

It was because John Brown witnessed the wholesale torture and murder of abolitionists at this time that he became compelled to answer with force the literally burning question “are we free or are we slaves under Southern mob law?” His forceful attempts ended with his execution in 1859. And his demise was thought by slaveholders in 1860 as a great victory; sort of a proof at the highest federal levels that brutally murdering abolitionists and slaves carried no consequences, while resistance to slavery would continue to be fatal.

And yet the situation worsened further, with abolition demands of course growing. By 1861 the white mobs who had for three decades been torturing and murdering fellow Americans raised their violence even further and declared an all-out war to preserve slavery.

At this point I just want to mention key management in American history continues to be documented. Now it is soldiers in the US Army talking about fighting to preserve the Union, deploying encryption that has to withstand attacks by people who would torture anyone just to continue slavery practices.

Here’s an example from “The Military Telegraph During the Civil War in the United States: an Exposition of Ancient and Modern Means of Communication, and of the Federal and Confederate Cipher System” by code-breaker Captain William R. Plum

Fast Forward to the Rubber Hose Years

With the 1860s encryption in mind, we need to skip 100 years ahead to the 1960s. The American south still had white supremacists infiltrating departments of authority such as the police as a means to perpetuate their unjust power over non-whites, through violent means including torture.

Freedom riders gives a good snapshot of the situation at hand, no pun intended:

Freedom Riders is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws in order to test and challenge a segregated interstate travel system, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.

Those savage beatings were with rubber-hoses, as well as with phone-books and other soft materials that caused maximum pain with minimum evidence.

Cyber-security-historian protip: we won’t ever say phone-book cryptanalysis to refer to physical torture methods because that becomes confused with logical brute force techniques (use of the contents of a phonebook to reveal secrets).

Thus one can read about torture techniques used by white supremacists during the 1950s and find exact reference to the rubber hose method as a subset of “third degree” questioning. For example, in a History of Torture text, you can read about US police methods used to force confessions and reveal secrets:

There you have it. The rubber hose is an American torture method commonly used in attempts to gain access to secrets without being held accountable. Cryptography withstanding a rubber-hose really refers to politics of torture in America from the mid-1800s resurfacing in the mid-1900s as rubber hoses became a common product.

Bringing It Back to Cryptanalysis Today

This is not just about the past, unfortunately, as I implied at the start of this post. People considering cloud computing are asking daily lately about the rubber-hose. There still is a real threat of torture. World Affairs vividly explains this situation in a political analysis of American traditions:

Decent people and decent countries do not engage in [torture] under any circumstances, whatever the consequences, and that’s really all there is to it.

[…]

Ideals are one thing, the reality of American history quite another. There is, in fact, a well-established American tradition of torture. The definitive text on it is Torture and Democracy by Darius Rejali, himself an opponent of torture. He sees “a long, unbroken, though largely forgotten history of torture in democracies at home and abroad.” What the torture techniques of democracies have in common is that they leave no lasting marks on the victims, no proof. Rejali calls this “clean torture.”

Electroshock began in democracies, and it was in the United States that interrogators first used rubber hoses to administer beatings that left no bruises. Sleep deprivation and stress positions (the “third degree”) were once common practices of American police.

It’s not only the police who have tortured or used other harsh methods. The U.S. military has, too. During the war in the Philippines at the beginning of the twentieth century, American troops employed the “water cure,” a forerunner of waterboarding. During the Vietnam War, torture was probably even more extensive. Whatever its professed ideals, the United States has tortured in the past. It has tortured in the near-present. And should needs arise and circumstances dictate, it will probably torture in the future.

My only addition to this analysis is that “water cure” was treated as a war crime by the US and cited in its court cases against the Japanese during WWII. I spoke about this in my RSAC presentation “Security Humanitarianism: Extraordinary Examples of Tech Improving Lives

It is a sad footnote to history that war crime cases before 1945 and prosecuted in 1946 were sealed after WWII and the US then began engaging in the exact practices they earlier had argued were a clear violation of human rights. As the quote above warns: “ideals are one thing, the reality of American history are quite another.”

If you seek a more contemporary example, November 2003 was when the US Army tortured to death an Iraq army general who had served under Saddam Hussein. General Abed Hamed Mowhoush died aged 56, beaten and then suffocated to death by Americans using methods including a rubber hose to forcibly extract secrets. Case details were revealed in 2005 court-martial proceedings for two men, without getting into details of government agencies giving orders.

Conclusion

Rubber-hose cryptanalysis is rooted (pun not intended) in American traditions of torture to disclose secrets and preserve power. Despite white supremacists losing their war of aggression against own country, their history of torture methods still seems nowhere near being abolished. And perhaps most dangerously, despite being proven ineffective, some groups may still see themselves as maintaining or gaining power with old “reign of terror” practices.

Hopefully now you can see how we got here from there. This is why when helping with key management solutions for cloud workloads running in America, I increasingly hear requests from people to discuss models that address threats like rubber-hose cryptanalysis techniques.

This Day in History: Munich Agreement

Ondřej Matějka, the deputy director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (ÚSTR) provides a fascinating interview on the 80th anniversary of the infamous Munich Agreement:

…the problem wasn’t that the Czechoslovak state couldn’t hold the borders. The problem was more within the society living there, where the pressure from the Sudetendeutsche Partei towards our citizens and people who were sympathetic towards other political parties, especially social democrats and communists, was big. I think the Sudetenland is an extraordinary example of the making of a totalitarian society, where one power, through terror and social pressure, is taking over power in the society

The agreement led to annexation of Czechoslovakian border territory by an expansionist Nazi regime, and the designation of this area as “Sudetenland”.

It also setback plans to overthrow the fascist dictator of Nazi Germany.

Opponents of the Nazi regime leader, such as the head of the German Army, perceived the Munich agreement as foreign states having weak appetite for more permanently ending the Nazi terror and social pressure.

Jaywalking is a Fantasy Crime

Brilliant comedy routine by Hannibal Buress

Humor helps underscore a very real problem with Jaywalking laws, which any historian should be able to tell you:

What sets jaywalking apart is that it never should have been against the law in the first place. City streets were meant for foot traffic and horses from ancient times until the early twentieth century. As a result, early automobiles found themselves alongside all sorts of pedestrians. To make way for cars, literally and figuratively, wealthy drivers and the U.S. auto industry set out to stigmatize lower-class pedestrians who crossed streets at will. Those who wouldn’t step aside for vehicles became known as “jay walkers”…

Or more exactly, clowns were repeatedly rammed by cars in public displays paid for by car manufacturers, to shame anyone walking on the street

Auto campaigners lobbied police to publicly shame transgressors by whistling or shouting at them — and even carrying women back to the sidewalk — instead of quietly reprimanding or fining them. They staged safety campaigns in which actors dressed in 19th-century garb, or as clowns, were hired to cross the street illegally, signifying that the practice was outdated and foolish. In a 1924 New York safety campaign, a clown was marched in front of a slow-moving Model T and rammed repeatedly.

I cover some of this history in my presentations on big data security, such as “Security in a World of Intelligent Machines

If you look carefully at that police notice from 1866 London it has two modes of operation for the red and green street lights:

  • CAUTION: all persons in charge of vehicles and horses are warned to pass the crossing with care, and due regard for the safety of foot passengers
  • STOP: vehicles and horses shall be stopped on each side of the crossing to allow passage of persons on foot; notice being given to all persons in charge of vehicles and horses to stop clear of the crossing

British railroad managers took ship right-of-way red/green lanterns and recommended using them to stop vehicles so pedestrians could walk safely.

American car manufacturers then took that street light concept and flipped it around completely, telling pedestrians to stay off roads, inventing a fantasy crime to shame and physically harm certain races of people for not driving.

Yes, you read that right. Racism permeates America’s enforcement of this fantasy crime:

In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of all arrests.

And just to make the point even starker, North Dakota lawmakers in 2017 actively promoted the concept of using vehicles as a weapon to murder pedestrians, awarding zero liability for drivers:

A bill introduced by an oil patch lawmaker would provide an exemption for the driver of a motor vehicle if they unintentionally injured or killed a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road or highway.

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” said Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman

Several months later, Kempenich’s campaign led to a federal civil rights investigation of a white nationalist for murder instead of the zero liability for killing people with cars, which he had promoted to them.

One person was killed and 19 were hurt when a speeding car slammed into a throng of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, where a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalist and other right-wing groups had been scheduled to take place, the city tweeted on its verified account.

A 32-year-old woman was killed while walking across the street, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said. Police were still in the process of notifying her family.

[…]

Federal authorities said a civil rights investigation into the deadly crash was opened hours after it happened.

In related news, dozens of cities today are restoring pedestrian rights and looking at ways to ban cars from streets:

  • Oslo, Norway
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Chengdu, China
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Paris, France
  • London, England
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Bogoto, Colombia
  • San Francisco, USA
  • New York, USA

And while Jaywalking is a fantasy crime that produces little if any positive results, Pontevedra, Spain is being called a paradise after banning cars across most of the city. It is quite clearly the opposite of the city in the Buress comedy routine:

Lores became mayor after 12 years in opposition, and within a month had pedestrianised all 300,000 sq m of the medieval centre, paving the streets with granite flagstones.

“The historical centre was dead,” he says. “There were a lot of drugs, it was full of cars – it was a marginal zone. It was a city in decline, polluted, and there were a lot of traffic accidents. It was stagnant. Most people who had a chance to leave did so. At first we thought of improving traffic conditions but couldn’t come up with a workable plan. Instead we decided to take back the public space for the residents and to do this we decided to get rid of cars.”

The results they have reported are amazing. Can’t wait to hear what Buress has to say about it.