Category Archives: History

JFK Assassinated Weeks After Shifting to Cuba “Accommodation”

There long has been speculation that foreign policy hawks in the US had JFK assassinated for taking a diplomatic approach to Cuba instead of a more militant one. We finally are starting to see official history beginning to emerge from government archives:

…National Security Archive today posted an audio tape of the President and his national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, discussing the possibility of a secret meeting in Havana with Castro. The tape, dated only seventeen days before Kennedy was shot in Dallas, records a briefing from Bundy on Castro’s invitation to a U.S. official at the United Nations, William Attwood, to come to Havana for secret talks on improving relations with Washington. The tape captures President Kennedy’s approval if official U.S. involvement could be plausibly denied. The possibility of a meeting in Havana evolved from a shift in the President’s thinking on the possibility of what declassified White House records called “an accommodation with Castro” in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Proposals from Bundy’s office in the spring of 1963 called for pursuing “the sweet approach…enticing Castro over to us,” as a potentially more successful policy than CIA covert efforts to overthrow his regime. Top Secret White House memos record Kennedy’s position that “we should start thinking along more flexible lines” and that “the president, himself, is very interested in [the prospect for negotiations].” Castro, too, appeared interested.

Food for thought when looking at the US faith-based revenge assassination doctrine of state actors, as pushed into the news in recent weeks.

Update 19 Jan 2020: Lawfare describes US doctrine in light of leadership who…

…openly targeted a senior official of a sovereign nation-state, carrying out a satisfying act of short-term revenge but undermining its long-term strategic interests…in a destabilizing era of open assassination…a favorite tactic of weak states seeking leverage against strong powers. […] Banning assassination was not just the right thing to do; it was how modern nation-states consolidated their power. […] Democratized digital technologies have enabled weaker states and nonstate actors to more effectively target the United States and its personnel and facilities abroad in ways that were once exclusive to Washington’s arsenal. U.S. policymakers must resist the temptation to use their technological and military prowess to target senior government officials, remembering who is watching and learning from what they do.

Religious Pompeo Rejects Science: New Faith-Based US Assassination Doctrine?

Standard disclaimer: I am not a national security lawyer, always seek professional advice***

Please consider the huge significance to the future of science and scientific inquiry in America when you read the latest headlines:

Pompeo says ‘we don’t know when, we don’t know where’ Soleimani had planned ‘imminent attacks’

This is what radical “end is neigh” evangelical thinking looks like when shoe-horned into modern concepts of self-defense that usually require leaders to accept scientific realities like clock and compass.

I mean any garden-variety dictionary would tell you “imminent” means “happening soon…menacingly near”.

Normally that means we would be talking about soon and near events as detailed and measurable concepts (given centuries if not millennium of technology)…yet the White House claims they “don’t know” how to predict either.

Let me now philosophically break such a faith-based statement from the White House into the three logical parts:

1) “We don’t know when”

The science of measuring time is called horology, which refers to timekeeping and advances in related technology (e.g. clocks and watches).

Saying we know something is “imminent” and yet don’t know when it will happen is a dog-whistle (dare I say a god-whistle) rejection of science; a wide rejection of scientific disciplines from history to physics that predict imminence.

More specifically, physicists are prone to argue things like “time is an arrow” and say deep things like this about looking forward:

We remember the past but we don’t remember the future. There are irreversible processes. There are things that happen, like you turn an egg into an omelet, but you can’t turn an omelet into an egg.

A natural scientist of course would laugh at the example and simply say if a snake or lizard eats an omelet it can lay an egg, thus easily proving how and when an omelet turns into an egg. They probably could even tell you when a new egg is considered imminent after eating an omelet.

It begs the obvious question if science can tell us with great precision and detail when something is going to happen, why is Pompeo declaring he has rejected science with “we don’t know” yet still claim he knows something “imminent”?

2) “We don’t know where”

Speaking of arrows…

The science of measuring space is called cartography, which refers to spacial scale making and advances in related technology (e.g. maps and geographic information systems).

Saying something is “imminent” and yet don’t know where it will happen is a dog-whistle (dare I say a god-whistle) rejection of science; a wide rejection of scientific disciplines from history to physics that predict imminence.

More specifically, I think you can see where I’m going with this…

It begs the obvious question if science can tell us with great precision and detail where something is going to happen, why is Pompeo declaring he has rejected science with “we don’t know” yet still claim he knows something “imminent”?

3) “Imminent attacks”

Pompeo allegedly welcomes “end-times” Evangelical faith as a strategy. When is the end of end-times? It is famously considered by faith-based groups to be “imminent” while also very importantly…unknown when and where.

Conlusion: White House is Waging a War Against Science

I’m reminded of Pompeo’s HR 4432 bill in 2014 (defeated in 2016) dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” or DARK Act.

More than 30 states introduced legislation to require GE labeling in 2013 and 2014, with laws recently passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine…

Imagine that, Americans were using science in governance to make it a requirement they know when and where something harmful might come their way.

In response, Pompeo said he wanted people to not use science or know when or where harms would come and instead have faith in the word from on high. To be fair, DARK literally said this:

Preempts any state or local requirement respecting a bioengineered organism intended for a food use or application, or food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organism. Sets forth standards for any food label that contains claims that bioengineering was or was not used in the production of the food. Preempts any state and local labeling requirements with respect to bioengineered food. Requires the Secretary to issue regulations setting standards for a natural claim on food labels. Preempts any state or local regulations that are not identical to the requirements of this Act.

Pompeo sponsored America going DARK to make science difficult for harm predictions. You can see he required state and local thought to be identical to what the federal secretary opaquely thought about harms, regardless of science.

People may joke about Communism being dead. Yet it is Pompeo’s brand of un-American top-down centrally-planned dictation of knowledge that reminds me most of a 1980s meme “In Soviet Russia…”.

Today the ad would be more like “in Pompeo America, party imminently knows when and where you are”!

I deserve no credit for pointing this out

In honor of scientific method having citations I am far from being the first to notice a war against science going on with the White House, let alone wider political party attempts.

There are many who deserve credit. Here are only a few examples:

I’m just applying this kind of ongoing reporting to an important area of security like the ethics of self-defense and targeted assassination of foreign state leaders.

The US could have shown deference to scientific thought or methods and gone with a Robert Baer (CIA Middle East field officer) “we assassinate*** because…these reasons” document in the open. Then it would have worked with other states to lay out logical/moral justification claims within inherited (internationally accepted) systems of ethics, and submitted for peer-review.

That could even open up the archives and dialog on the controversial death of the 1961 UN Secretary General, or the controversial death of the 1969 FRELIMO leader (a professor of Syracuse University, New York).

Instead it has Pompeo standing alone and naked in the streets making a god-whistle while wrapped only in the isolationist trope of destroying science because “national security” is declared a higher order than a public’s right to know. As Foreign Policy wrote, probably without meaning any irony, it is the voices of locals that need to be heard on these issues if bad leadership is meant to be ended:

Mistaken support for a terrible political leader is hardly unique to the Middle East.

Terrible political leadership? The concept of “imminence” is before our very eyes being diluted into a religious war cry by a faith-based group in a so called “ok to prey if you pay” system. It is the Evangelical state of being both always and never in danger.

It is the knowledge that His coming is soon that puts a little bit of immediacy into our step and determination into our service.

Or as the New Yorker famously put it…

Bob Mankoff was the cartoon editor of The New Yorker from 1997 to 2017

This tragically diminishes global respect for America as it shockingly improves perception and appeal of faith-based rule by an Ayatollah.

Why would any American willingly do that (again)? The anti-science tactics fundamentally (pun not intended) encourage corrupt over-centralized belief-based systems, which used to be considered the exact opposite of successful public American foreign policy let alone domestic.

The answer to my question may surprise you.

My assessment of science denialists has changed a lot since I started writing my dissertation on anti-science propaganda 5 years ago. I used to think they were stupid and culpable. My position has changed 180 degrees. I now believe these people are victims of sophisticated and well-funded manipulation campaigns that prey on social trust and our necessary reliance on others for knowledge.

And since we’re now obviously talking here about denialists running a war-machine after an assassination of foreign state leader, I’m also reminded of WWI. The current administration has many same hallmarks of “the Kaiser in 1914…who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered” due to German leadership faith-based mystical belief in “Der Tag”


*** Per my disclaimer at the top, lawyers have recommended listening to Episode 106 of the ABA National Security Today Podcast from yesterday:

Iran and the Law of Armed Conflict with Bill Banks and John Bellinger“.

The first speaker, Bellinger, makes the point that use of terms like assassination and reprisals are to describe illegal acts. Pompeo (if he cares to abide by law) thus has to frame his doctrine as “targeted killing” of a leader of a state that was to prevent some imminent terrorist act (because there is no declaration of war).

Bellinger also brings up a lot of interesting detail on the lack of legal authorization for targeted killing and lack of necessary communication with Congress. At one point he says the American people should be told the exact reason for immediacy. References:

  • Executive Order 13382 and Executive Order 13224
  • War Powers Resolution of 1973

Even against such legal podcast terminology, my point hopefully remains clear. Pompeo is engaging in a particular type of contradictory rhetoric, consistent with other attempts to destroy science, by saying he both does not know and does know something to be true.

To put it simply, the term where means a place has been targeted for a terrorist act and the term when means soon enough to require immediate action. If Pompeo says he didn’t know where or when then in what possible way will an imminent terror attack be proven to be real instead of being faith-based?

This Day in History: American “Free Men of Color” Defeat British in 1815 Battle of New Orleans

There are many, many versions of the January 8, 1815 Battle of New Orleans. None of them, so far, seem to tell the history in a manner that would be most fair to the participants.

Most ignore completely the most important detail:

American forces were made of “free men of color”. Specifically, of the 1,000 Louisiana militia and volunteers in the battle, it was nearly 50% non-white. The U.S. Army even has a print set called “The American Soldier” with a depiction of a the free men of color battalion in action to celebrate this fact.

Battle of New Orleans. Night attack of December 23. The painting shows the Choctaws and a mixed group of Major Daquin’s Battalion of Free Men of Colour. The latter were mostly attired in civilian clothes because they had been organized only for a few weeks. They are led by an officer distinguishable by his sword and red sash. Facing them are members of the British 85th Regiment in red coats with yellow facings and white lace, and members of the British 95th Regiment in green uniforms with black facings and white lace. Source: “The American Soldier.” U.S. Army Center of Military History.

An example of a site that does mention the “men of color” soldiers is the Tennessee Historical Society.

[Jackson] included a large number of both free men of color and enslaved black men in and around the city. To recruit the former, Jackson promised them the same wages and, equally important, the same respect as their white compatriots — a unique opportunity for black and Creole residents living in a Southern city committed to white racial superiority. For those enslaved, he appealed to their desire for freedom.

Take a moment to question the statement New Orleans was “committed to white racial superiority”. Lacking any citation at all, it sounds suspicious to me for a city known to be highly diverse in the 1800s.

Although it is true that New Orleans brutally put down a huge slave revolt in 1811, the free men before and afterwards still were present and exercising their rights up until America started shutting them down.

A good resource on this is the Louisiana Digital Library: Free People of Color collections, which is full of first-person materials as well as insights such as “white soldiers were thought cheaper than Negro slaves” as well as statements like “all the difference between a free man of color and a slave, that there is between a white man and a slave”.

During both Spanish and French rule of the colony of Louisiana the “free men of color” regularly served in militias. So when the U.S. took over New Orleans, it started with an integrated military.

At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, about 16% of the roughly 8000 people living in New Orleans were free people of color. The first official U.S. census of the Orleans Territory in 1810 counted 7,585 free persons of color, or about 10% of the total population.

Remember how above I mentioned 50% of Jackson’s force from Louisiana was non-white? That’s a huge jump up from being just 10% of the population.

The above quote from the Tennessee History site is followed-up soon after on the same page by another odd statement:

Jackson not only ordered all black troops out of New Orleans at the behest of white residents who were fearful of armed black city-dwellers; he also reneged on his offer to free his enslaved troops and instead, ordered them to return to their slave-owners.

Let me try to untangle this.

First, Jackson saw all men of color as a potential enemy. When Governor Claiborne offered the free men of color as a veteran militia, Jackson responded that arming them and putting them into harms way was a good way to prevent them siding with the British.

The free men of colour…will not remain quiet spectators of the interesting contest. They must be for, or against us — distrust them, and you make them your enemies, place confidence in them, and you engage them by every dear and honorable tie to the interest of the country who extends to them equal rights and privileges with white men.

This probably explains the exceptionally high percentage of free men of color serving, relative to population numbers. It is incredibly tempting to read that letter and think Jackson had in mind at least some advance to equal rights and privileges, however there’s a fundamental problem with such a line of thinking.

When Jackson arrived in New Orleans he declared military (martial) law for the first successful time in United States history. He proclaimed it necessary because “those who are not for us are against us, and will be dealt with accordingly” and then “refused to lift his order instituting martial law for months…”.

A Louisiana State senator expressed unease about the ongoing state of martial law in a March 3 newspaper article; Jackson promptly had the senator arrested. When a U.S. District Court Judge demanded that the senator be charged or released, Jackson not only refused, he ordered the judge jailed before banishing him from the city. (When Jackson eventually lifted martial law, the returned judge proceeded to charge him with contempt and levied a thousand-dollar fine, which the “Hero of New Orleans” paid.)

It is worth considering how martial law was Jackson’s preferred method of rule, completely inverted from his letters he sent that said to “place confidence” in the public would gain their loyalty.

He seemed very keen to convince people he had their best interests in mind while he also demanded they pick a side. Martial law stemmed from his complete lack of trust in allowing freedoms. The key to unlocking Jackson’s true feelings seems to be that his concerns over spies and dissent was related to what he saw as a “largely foreign city” (French and Spanish). Jackson fundamentally distrusted New Orleans residents because they were not white like himself.

In other words, what if martial law was Jackson’s manner of dealing with discomfort and protest from a militia of non-whites he planned to defraud?

Don’t forget the Peninsular War kicking off in 1807 between France and Spain meant that by 1809 Cuba expelled Franco-Haitian and French residents. They became refugees escaping to New Orleans, which doubled the population of the city, and tripled the size of its free people of color population two years before the 1811 slave revolt. Martial law may really have been Jackson’s way of dealing with how to maintain white supremacy.

Dozens of “citizens without charges” were put in jail for weeks, not to mention Americans put in jail on spurious basis such as just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jackson even tried (unsuccessfully) to enforce blatant military censorship on local newspapers.

Another line of reasoning is that martial law helped obscure a true casualty rate of the American militias, as well as lack of true threat from the British. Most accounts of American deaths seem low, even though hundreds of the “professional” British soldiers had laid down and played dead rather than fight.

Second, Jackson did not have honest intentions. Of course the freemen were promised equal pay, equal treatment, freedoms and so forth but Jackson appeared to have every interest in bringing non-whites to his side, with no plan of honoring his word to them when he no longer needed them.

In other words, a large U.S. military force of veteran free men of color and slaves was used by Jackson to deliver victory yet his response was to deny those men freedom (as he had promised) at the time of victory and then, as he became U.S. President allegedly in part from the tales of this battle, to strip non-whites in America of their voting rights and perpetuate/expand slavery.

To be fair…while Spanish/French colonial-era slave codes had granted complete rights and equality to a “free man of color” (allowed to be educated, serve in military, own land, business, and even slaves) it was only the March 4, 1812 Louisiana Constitution that removed the right to vote from 2/3 of the people living there. That was long before Jackson would fight a vicious political campaign at the federal level to do them even more harm.

When you think of a battle for “freedom” from British rule, consider the new state’s constitution was so undemocratic and exclusionary, property worth at least $5,000 had to be owned by a white man for him to be a candidate for governor and then he would be chosen by the legislature not voters. So it wasn’t just Jackson trying to build a new aristocratic empire, denying democratic rights to Americans.

However, Jackson was a major influence on the undemocratic and racist direction of America in the mid-1800s. While the British abolished slavery in 1833, not to mention New York in 1827 and Mexico in 1824, America instead was about to be dragged down by Jackson’s seemingly endless thirst to use his authority for enslaving and massacring non-white Americans.

Extensive administrative and diplomatic experience since Washington was a norm for anyone serving as President of America. Jackson found this unnecessary and dismissed critics who pointed to his lack of time in any Cabinet post or even travel abroad. Jackson had poor writing skills in English alone, so studies in advanced topics such as foreign travel and languages seemed out of the question.

The thing Jackson really leveraged was brutality of his plantations and militancy against non-whites. It was in this context the stories told about the Battle of New Orleans under his martial law and strict control of the press worked to his political advantage.

Although stories of valiant brutality (despite the truth being British soldiers laid down and pretended to be dead) stoked his persona as a war hero by 1824, Jackson failed to navigate the process required to become President. Described as a simple “military chieftain” by his opponents, he proved the title accurate as he initiated a vicious campaign against the newly elected President Adams.

A truly barbaric personality, Jackson spent the next years in bitter opposition to everything and anything American government was doing, framing himself as a benevolent dictator. President Adams, who had been duly voted into office in 1824 under the 12th Amendment, was being challenged to lead the country given vicious and underhanded tactics coming from Jackson’s desire to shut the entire government down if he wasn’t the one put in charge.

When Jackson ran again for President in 1828, he framed himself a victim of free press and set about trying to take control of political discourse through disinformation tactics. For example, a famous “coffin handbill” depicted American militia men who had been unjustly ordered executed as six black coffins, suggesting that they had been murdered by Jackson. These basically were accurate criticisms of Jackson’s background.

Jackson was alleged to have “illegally and wantonly shed the blood of his countrymen and fellow soldiers” ordering six militiamen executed on 1815 Feb 21 after a military trial in which they were convicted after leaving camp to return home during their tours of duty. The handbill stresses that the men realized their error and returned to camp voluntarily to resume service but instead were detained and slowly shot dead one-by-one.

While the press fairly pointed out a record of unjust brutality and lawlessness within Jackson’s only claim to fame, his campaign responded by cooking up a series of total falsehoods to target and destroy his opponent’s character. Jackson basically and openly lied in response to the press pointing out how awful Jackson was, all the while calling himself the real victim.

Jackson delighted in this process, even personally contacting papers with guidelines in what was basically an information warfare campaign by a military chieftain to undermine democracy. Once President, Jackson expanded his war on the press, as I’ve written before:

In 1844 former-President Adams won an eight-year long campaign in the House of Representatives and overturned the Jacksonian bans on free speech, but torture and murder by pro-slavery terrorists continued to rise.

Anyway, PBS has posted an excellent explanation of how free men under Jackson suffered greatly, as he pivoted from credit for this battle to lay the foundation for white-nationalist sentiments and stoke racial divisions in America that remain a challenge today.

Before 1800, free African American men had nominal rights of citizenship. In some places they could vote, serve on juries, and work in skilled trades. But as the need to justify slavery grew stronger, and racism started solidifying, free blacks gradually lost the rights that they did have. Through intimidation, changing laws and mob violence, whites claimed racial supremacy, and increasingly denied blacks their citizenship. And in 1857 the Dred Scott decision formally declared that blacks were not citizens of the United States. […] The concepts of ‘black’ and “white” did not arrive with the first Europeans and Africans, but grew on American soil. During Andrew Jackson’s administration, racist ideas took on new meaning. Jackson brought in the “Age of the Common Man.” Under his administration, working class people gained rights they had not before possessed, particularly the right to vote. But the only people who benefited were white men. Blacks, Indians, and women were not included.

Without taking credit away from the free men of color for their role in the Battle of New Orleans, and stoking up its significance for his own political campaigns, Jackson may never have succeeded in his information war to become President, gag abolitionists and perpetuate slavery, precipitating Civil War.

Jackson’s sentiments greatly foreshadowed not only the Trail of Tears and Civil War but also treatment of American blacks who served in much later wars. Most notable perhaps was the 1921 massacre of WWI veterans in Tulsa by the KKK restarted by President Wilson under the America First campaign.

The Tragedies of AI May Precipitate an Age of Non-Conformity

Source: MSW@USC Diversity Toolkit: Guide to Discussing Identity, Power and Privilege

We should worry “boundaries” increasingly set by algorithms will mean people may lose authorization to operate outside the “authenticity” boxes they’re placed in by others; denial of identity freedom may require generating more sophisticated forms of non-conformity.

In a couple recent blog posts I point out how an American expansion westward was driven by slavery economics and marked by concentration camps and genocidal campaigns.

Victims of humanitarian disasters in America were in theory offered an “exit” from total annihilation, if they chose to conform entirely by abandoning any freedoms of identity. Expression in speech wasn’t harshly limited, you see, just an “authenticity” of identity.

The Native American people were cruelly forced to operate on soon-to-be industrialized U.S. platforms, which meant sacrifice of self-determination. They were told at gunpoint to dress differently, speak a different language, sing/play/dance to different music, eat different foods, cook different meals, do different work…they were forcibly transformed from private owners to public “users” and every aspect of their identity had to change to conform to the encroaching immoral platform owners.

This has aptly been described as “being spoon-fed out of a bucket of whiteness every day.”

The “longhair” revolution of the 1960s often attributed to white “freak flag” communities, for perspective, was in fact adopted from a Native American movement to reclaim their identity rights.

…the physical cutting of hair is a manifestation of the loss of a loved one, a loss of a relationship, and a loss of a part of self…

You perhaps can see why identity self-determination was so important. Native Americans suffered greatly under U.S. tactics that forced them to conform to “Christian” identity requirements or face starvation (a 1902 Bureau of Indian Affairs “haircut order” required short hair to receive rations).

We unfortunately, despite lessons from the past, see a similar conformance campaign ethic driven by Facebook today. While being implicated in genocide, Facebook has taken a tactic to harshly prosecute people for freedoms of identity instead of clamping down on the speech that actually foments genocide.

Anyone attempting anything less than what platform owners consider “real” or “authentic” is eliminated from the platform. Facebook mistakenly calls this culling of identity freedoms a security measure, which to me reads like someone studied only the imitation game (Turing test) in computer science and skipped history classes.

Meanwhile Facebook does very little or nothing at all to address the real harms caused by the people they judge as authentic.

…we will not send organic content or ads from politicians to our third-party fact-checking partners for review.

It’s like Facebook saying the white supremacist diatribes of user Stanford couldn’t be blocked from facilitating genocide on their platform because he did so from an authentic identity. Only if he had done things like put on a strange coat of feathers and wore long hair, or grew a beard and put on a hat to look like the user Lincoln could he have been de-platformed.

From both a security and history perspective, Facebook has been wrong to blindly repeat the worst mistakes in history and force a dangerous conformity on their self-serving expansionist terms.

Edge cases of true impersonation (an integrity risk, such as stolen valor and authorization fraud) exist and should be stopped. “Deep fakes”, to that end, has been generating a lot of excitement. Yet it mostly begs old questions about whether new low-cost generation of content still should be regulated as art or expression.

People need to consider seriously whether a much greater threat to freedom is the opposite effect, Facebook operating a Kafkaesque identity conformance program of “deep realism” (e.g. already for several years I have met with government regulators concerned about harms to society including national security and the economy).

The risks from identity abuse edge cases of fraud/authorization are far less compared to dangers of militant removal of freedom and creativity of identity on global platforms. One could even argue, for example, the entire concept of the modern cosmopolitan lifestyle made famous in markets like NYC, Paris, London…is the high art of regionally managed platform identity freedom.

An appropriate reaction to centralization power for platform conformity pressures from a genocide-facilitating for-profit company like Facebook perhaps will be a non-conformity revolution.

The best intelligence analysts already know this tactic. Adversaries love conformity because they can predict moves so easily and camouflage isn’t even necessary. A “weird” analyst by comparison becomes a nightmare of any adversary, because prediction of how they will react becomes impossible.

Another appropriate reaction is rotating focus back to harm, which means pushing a standard for filtering by actual risks while letting people express themselves from whatever identity they choose to develop and the communities to which they belong.

Take for just one example the concept of gendered color coding.

Pink is considered by some even to this day a shade of the “warlike” red, as in the British Red Coats. It stems (pun not intended) from Oliver Cromwell’s “New Model Army” adopting distinctive “Tudor Rose” dye as their uniform for war.

This of course was reconsidered around WWI when machine guns and snipers were killing anything identifiable, and military uniforms shifted to more muted tones to impersonate surroundings.

Meanwhile others, particularly in America, somehow came to see pink as their tool for encoding female identity:

“…a kind of early gender coding that worked especially on young girls. The decade of the Fifties was characterized by an ideological emphasis on conformity, and by fashion images that were sharply age- and gender-specific.”

In that sense pink in America really represents strangely planned attempts to make science more anti-social and eliminate women who scored high on social-good measures:

…programming’s shift from a women-friendly occupation to one that is hostile to women. In the 1950s and ‘60s, employers began relying on aptitude tests and personality profiles that weeded out women by prioritizing stereotypically masculine traits and, increasingly, antisocialness.

Even with this history of encoding and sexism it should never be wrong for any gender to associate pink with their identity. There generally is no harm of the color (with rare exceptions, such as war). Compare that to someone wearing an offensive hate speech patch or logo designed to do harm and expand suffering, on the other hand, and you see more logical security control areas.

Facebook’s genocide-facilitating platform is likely coming for your community with its AI, trying to get a lock on all the identities using things like “coding that worked especially on young girls”.

Thus more non-conforming behaviors should develop as fundamental survival tactics. Where can your data live that it will have freedom for identity?

I have long advocated for, and concur with latest research, that we need to assess code as potentially malicious (whether human or machine) and emphasize filters as a useful control for individuals to operate.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have proposed a software program that treats online “hate speech” like a computer virus.

Scientific anti-pollutant concepts of continuous collection for known harms are a far more sensible approach than those of Facebook (repeating mistakes of American history) pushing to oppress identities through opaquely self-serving and centrally-planned concepts of what they call authenticity.

Stanford = Genocide

A search on the Internet for “Stanford genocide” brings up a long list of references. Some initial hits are these, all very promising:

However, as you scroll down the list, perhaps the most interesting hit of all is this one:

Naming America’s Own Genocide

“Genocide” is a powerful word, but one whose impact has been diminished through overuse. Madley doesn’t use the word carelessly, even though he’s writing about US policy toward American Indians, a subject that often leads people to toss the term around quite loosely. His book does not contend, as more polemical works do, that all Indian policy was genocidal. He concentrates instead on a particular place and time: California from 1846 to 1873. […] Madley argues—and this is the core of his book—that California’s elected officials were in fact “the primary architects of annihilation,” and that they were funded and enabled by the federal government. Together, state and federal officials created what Madley describes as a “killing machine” composed of US soldiers, California militia and volunteers, and slavers and mercenaries (so-called “Indian hunters”) in it for the money.

The San Francisco Chronicle calls this “The moral case for renaming Hastings [and Stanford].

Leland Stanford solicited volunteers for his Civil War-era army campaigns against California Indians and, as governor, signed into law appropriations bills to fund those killing expeditions. He later founded Stanford University in the name of his son, Leland Stanford Jr. Both Hastings and Stanford had made fortunes in real estate. Their ability to acquire land titles was facilitated by the massacre of the rightful claimants, a near-extinction they promoted and funded. As UCLA professor Benjamin Madley wrote in his sobering “An American Genocide,” published in 2016 by none other than Yale University Press, both Stanford and Hastings had “helped to facilitate genocide.”

While all these references may seem to be only in history, don’t forget to also consider how Stanford recently hired someone a year after he allegedly helped to facilitate genocide.

Is renaming possible? It appears to me that the University moving to a better name is not out of the question.

We already know Stanford agreed to remove cartoonish and degrading “Indian” imagery as its mascot. If you read the fine print on the following example it says offensive memorabilia was declared eliminated by making it secret, meaning easily available from the bookstore on request.

Source: The Stanford Daily Archives

In other words Stanford moves quickly when it wants to and uses creative solutions to deal with those uncomfortable with change/progress. The school offers an official timeline explaining how in just two years time they switched to being the Cardinals in 1972.

On November 22, 1970, Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO) members petition for removal of Stanford’s Indian mascot—both the logo (as a “false image of the American Indian”) and the man, Timm Williams (whose live performances at sporting events were a “mockery of Indian religious practices.”) Native American students position themselves outside the Stanford Stadium at the Big Game against the University of California with banners saying “Indians are people, not mascots.”

SAIO members retell the story a little more broadly. They point out Governor Ronald Reagan’s “Indian staff person” is who voluntarily dressed and danced as a human mascot, and was breaking a promise he made to cease derogatory and demeaning acts:

The big issue with Timm Williams was his mockery of Indian religions. He would dance around in a faux Indian dance at the games. Even though he was a Yurok Indian, he wore the recognizable Plains Indian headdress and clothes to every game. He would make the “woo woo” sound with his hand slapping his mouth. We met with him a month after we got there, and he promised not to do it anymore. Shortly afterward he became the Indian staff person to Gov. Ronald Reagan, who infamously did nothing to understand Indians, most of whom had lost their Indian status when their treaties were terminated in the 1950s. But Timm did it again the next week. That was it for us. The Indian symbol, the caricatured Indians with the big noses, the religious denigration—all of it had to go. It took two years, but we finally got it done.

Governor Reagan fired Williams just months after Stanford changed its mascot.

Outside pressure clearly has worked on Stanford. Also, inside pressure has shown to be effective, as explained by members of the Stanford marching band who transformed it into a protest against a history of exterminating native cultures.

Part of assimilating Indigenous children in boarding schools into American society was handing them European music instruments to play European music. The government thought it would assist with wiping away their traditional musical practices. Marching bands came into play. […] “When it comes to discipline, the Stanford band is zero discipline,” said the Miwok citizen with a laugh and an emphasis on zero. The university’s marching band is “pretty nontraditional. Technically, we’re a scatter band,” Brown said. So they don’t actually march. They run from one formation to the other. What else makes the band nontraditional? No experience is required. It’s zero commitment meaning they welcome beginners to advanced musicians. This can also be current students, alumni or community members. Members hardly wear bucket hats and military-style uniforms. If they do, they can customize it with buttons and pins. Other university bands, like the University of Southern California, hate them. People yell at them and get upset because they’re not traditional.

I write this all in response to those who have asked me what to do after they read history of America and its episodes of genocide, a history that quite frankly historians tend to point out Nazi Germany studied for inspiration.

Let me put it this way. If Germans asked what to do about a university named for someone who committed genocide, what would any American probably tell them to do? Renaming should be an obvious answer here, though Americans seem not to welcome the very step that they enforced on Germany during occupation.

Binding Up the Wounds: An American Soldier in Occupied Germany, 1945-1946, by Leon C. Standifer, p 131

Other states already have figured out how to turn the corner. Take for example Minnesota’s Governor who very clearly came forward and condemned a past Minnesota Governor known for saying the U.S. should exterminate Native Americans.

“I am appalled by Governor Ramsey’s words and by his encouragement of vigilante violence against innocent people; and I repudiate them,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement released Thursday. “The viciousness and violence, which were commonplace 150 years ago in Minnesota, are not accepted or allowed now.” Dayton called for flags to fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Friday, declaring it a day of remembrance and reconciliation on the 150th anniversary of the start of the six-week U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He asked Minnesotans “to remember that dark past; to recognize its continuing harm in the present; and to resolve that we will not let it poison the future.”

We have yet to see California take even basic steps to call out Governor Stanford for who he was and what the Stanford name means to this day — resolve to stop letting it continue poison the future.

In case that reference to Stanford isn’t clear, his gubernatorial candidate acceptance speech of 1859 allegedly was “I prefer free white citizens to any other race”. Then, after becoming Governor of California, in his first speech he wrote clearly white supremacist life goals straight into the official record books:

There can be no doubt but that the presence of numbers among us of a degraded and distinct people must exercise a deleterious influence upon the superior race, and, to a certain extent, repel desirable immigration.

Of course some warn it won’t be easy erasing this genocidal xenophobic white supremacist’s name, while they also ironically point out how Stanford already has been renaming things (again thanks to outside pressures).

California has a racist past. But removing monuments sparks debate about how to reflect an ugly history…Stanford University last month decided to rename three campus references to Father Junipero Serra, who founded the California mission system in the 1700s and whose legacy came under fire for the missions’ treatment of Native Americans.

I’m not saying by any means that Stanford was the only bad guy here, and agree with removing Serra (they replaced his name with…Stanford’s). I’m saying that even Stanford admits the important point of renaming anything that reflects “ugly” treatment of Native Americans.

Stafford Poole, the renowned historian on colonial Latin America, explains at a macro level how Stanford really was a cog in the wider context of U.S. creating California to exterminate Native Americans.

The true villain is James K. Polk, the [1845 to 1849] president who maneuvered the country into an immoral war for which he was opposed by a congressman named Abraham Lincoln.

Poole is of course not only right, his point should be taken to mean the U.S. President who in 1846 invaded Mexi-Cali to eradicate people living there and replace with white settlers…also probably shouldn’t have his name on anything today.

Source: Professor Grace Chee, Los Angeles Community Colleges

Stanford remains however as the more significant targets for renaming due to its heavy use as an honorific badge among scholars not to mention its aspirations to prevent further genocide (see initial links at the top of this blog).

When it renames it likely will have influence on others to follow. After Stanford in 1972 dropped their “Indian” mascot Dartmouth did the same. I imagine someone in future after Stanford gets a better name will petition for places like San Francisco’s rather obscure yet busy Polk Street to be renamed (note “Polk Gulch” bloggers chastise other place names while ignoring their own).

As the SAIO proved to the world in 1970, Stanford University is capable of rapidly evolving away from its ugly past. We’re long past time to reverse the current “Stanford asshole” trend and a renaming would be more than a symbolic way to help. Ask anyone brandishing the Stanford name to explain why they promote genocide if it isn’t in their present or future plans.

This Day in History: 1862 Largest Mass Execution in American History

Minnesota’s concentration camp of 1862 was setup to abuse and kill the Native American elderly, women and children. Source: Minnesota Historical Society
For some in America the “Holiday” weeks of December are an extremely painful time of American history.

The state of Minnesota, for example, was founded on deception and violence to steal land from Native Americans that culminated in this month.

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) explains how the encroaching U.S. sparked an intense war with Native Americans that ended in December 1862 with an unjust trial and very large number of executions:

The trials of the Dakota were conducted unfairly in a variety of ways. The evidence was sparse, the tribunal was biased, the defendants were unrepresented in unfamiliar proceedings conducted in a foreign language, and authority for convening the tribunal was lacking. More fundamentally, neither the Military Commission nor the reviewing authorities recognized that they were dealing with the aftermath of a war fought with a sovereign nation and that the men who surrendered were entitled to treatment in accordance with that status.

MNHS also relates how Dakota leaders have been recorded as clearly humane and civilized in their rationalizations of self-defense, yet received barbaric treatment by the white nationalist militants they fought against:

You have deceived me. You told me that if we followed the advice of General Sibley, and gave ourselves up to the whites, all would be well; no innocent man would be injured. I have not killed, wounded or injured a white man, or any white persons. I have not participated in the plunder of their property; and yet to-day I am set apart for execution, and must die in a few days, while men who are guilty will remain in prison. My wife is your daughter, my children are your grandchildren. I leave them all in your care and under your protection. Do not let them suffer; and when my children are grown up, let them know that their father died because he followed the advice of his chief, and without having the blood of a white man to answer for to the Great Spirit.

Those of the Dakota who had fought in the war retreated for winter, were killed or captured. The U.S. military decided it wasn’t staffed to pursue them. Thus the only Dakota people who were brought into custody by the U.S. were elderly, women, and children; nearly 2,000 people who had nothing to do with the war were seduced by the U.S. military and then death-marched for days into a concentration camp to be abused and die.

They lost everything. They lost their lands. They lost all their annuities that were owed them from the treaties. These are people who were guilty of nothing.

Just as many of the Dakota were very obviously peaceful and kind people at the time, some whites did try to take a moral stand to account for settler crimes against humanity:

Henry Whipple, traveled to Washington to meet with Lincoln; he explained to the president that Dakota grievances stemmed in large part from the greed, corruption, and deceit of government agents, traders, and other whites. Lincoln took what he called “the rascality of this Indian business” into consideration and granted clemency to most of those sentenced to die.

This was far from sufficient to curtail what the Minnesota Governor proclaimed with great fanfare as “The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated…“.

Minnesota History Magazine further relates that a prominent leader of the Dakota people a year later was murdered by white settlers who simply noticed him eating wild raspberries and decided to hunt, kill, decapitate and scalp him for that alone:

Even if a state of war had existed in 1863, the Lamsons’ action could not be defended as legal. They were mere civilians, who under international law have no right to take up arms against the enemy and who will be
hanged summarily if they do. The ordinary law of murder would apply to them. […] If killing in reliance upon the adjutant general’s orders would be murder under the law in force in 1863, obviously killing before any orders were issued would be an even stronger case of murder. Thus Little Crow was tendered a posthumous apology. One must reach the conclusion that in strict law the Lamsons were provocateurs and murderers.

Shot on sight without any questions, Little Crow was a nationally recognized and celebrated man who had negotiated Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota in 1851. It was he who had moved a band of Dakota from their massive 25 million acre territory into a tiny (20 mile by 70 mile) reservation.

There were many tens of thousands of Native Americans said to be in the region at the time.

In 1850, the white population of what would soon be the state of Minnesota stood at about 6,000 people. The Indian population was eight times that, with nearly 50,000 Dakota, Ojibwe, Winnebago and Menominee living in the territory. But within two decades, as immigrant settlers poured in, the white population would mushroom to more than 450,000.

Ten years later by the war of 1862 (and after he was coerced into an even worse treaty in 1858) Little Crow became known as the Dakota leader who took a principled and fair stand against his former trading partner U.S. General Sibley.

The U.S. government allegedly had offered the Dakota only a few cents per acre for their entire ceded territory space in treaties, and gave promises of annuity payments and food supplies. Yet while their land was taken away the agreed upon payments and food didn’t come. It was in this context that white settlers flooded the area historically inhabited by Dakota.

Congress passes the Homestead Act, a law signed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862, offering millions of acres of free land to settlers who stay on the land for five years. The act brings 75,000 people to Minnesota over three years. To qualify for 160 free acres, settlers have to live on it for five years, farm and build a permanent dwelling. Those able to spend the money can buy the 160 acres at $1.25 an acre after living on it for six months.

The federal government was effectively buying land for cheap and then selling 160 acre parcels of it at either $200 (20X the cost) or for five years of farming and construction.

Since the tiny reservation space wasn’t producing food as sold to them, and the U.S. government was intentionally withholding payments and supplies to survive on, huge numbers of Dakota faced a starvation-level situation and demanded quick restitution.

On top of that white settlers illegally had been encroaching into even the tiny Dakota reservation area. The Dakota faced no choice but to reassert rights to their money, food and land they already had negotiated.

Tension grew from the U.S. refusing to help, withholding food and money from the now trapped Dakota population in an attempt to “force conformance to white ideals” of a “Christian” lifestyle.

While Dakota parents watched their children starve to death, pork and grain filled the Lower Sioux Agency’s new stone warehouse, a large square building of flat, irregularly shaped stones harvested from the river bottoms. […] “So far as I’m concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass or their own dung,” [warehouse owner] Myrick said.

The U.S. strategically reneged on agreements and intentionally starved Dakota populations into desperation, before ultimately using attempts at self-defense as justification for mass unjust executions and murder. This was followed by Minnesota settlers banishing the native population entirely from their own historic territory under penalty of death into concentration camps, offering rewards to anyone who could trap and kill the Native Americans (Minnesota’s government offered a reward up to $200 — roughly $4000 in 2019 terms — for non-white human scalps).

At a higher level the race in 1862 to settle territory inhabited and owned by Native Americans had been complicated the year before by militant southern states starting a Civil War to violently force expansion of slavery into any new states. Thus, just as John Brown’s attempt to incite abolition got him executed in 1859 as a “traitor” to America, the Dakota people fighting for freedom from tyranny three years after in 1862 were unjustly tried by Minnesota settlers and executed on December 26.

    Old John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave,
    While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
    But tho he lost his life while struggling for the slave,
    His soul is marching on.

    John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave,
    And Kansas knows his valor when he fought her rights to save;
    Now, tho the grass grows green above his grave,
    His soul is marching on.

    He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his nineteen men so few,
    And frightened “Old Virginny” till she trembled thru and thru;
    They hung him for a traitor, they themselves the traitor crew,
    But his soul is marching on.

John Brown witnessed far too many Americans being murdered under the tyranny of expansionist slavery when he said there was no choice but fighting back, calling for wider armed defense and predicting war. Curry’s impressive mural called “Tragic Prelude” that depicts Brown’s conviction against tyranny can be seen in the Kansas State Capitol.

Could NASCAR Be America’s Blueprint for Driverless Ethics?

New Yorker, April 17, 1995, Leo Cullum

Years ago I wrote about the cheating of NASCAR car drivers. And recently at the last BSidesLV conference I pointed out in my talk how human athletes in America get banned for cheating, while human car drivers get respect.

Anyway I was reading far too much on this topic when I starting thinking how NASCAR studies of ten years ago to end cheating could be a compelling area of research for ethics in driverless cars:

Proposed solutions include changing the culture within the NASCAR community, as well as developing ethical role models, both of which require major action by NASCAR’s top managers to signal the importance of ethical behavior. Other key stakeholders such as sponsors and fans must create incentives and rewards for ethical behavior, and consider reducing or ending support for drivers and teams that engage in unethical conduct.

That’s some high-minded analysis given the inaugural race at Talladega (Alabama International Motor Speedway) had a 1969 Ford with its engine set back nearly a foot from stock (heavier weight distribution to the rear — violating the rules).

This relocation of the engine was easily seen by any casual observer yet the car was allowed to race and finished 9th. Bill France owned the car. Yes, that Bill France. The same guy who owned the track and NASCAR itself…entered an illegal car.

An illegal car actually is icing on the cake, though. Bill France built this new track with unsafe parameters and when drivers tried to boycott the conditions, he solicited drivers to break the safety boycott and issued free tickets to create an audience.

NASCAR retells a story full of cheating as the success that comes from ignoring ethics:

“I really admired that he told everybody to kiss his ass, that that race was going to run,” Foyt said.

The sentiment of getting everyone together to agree to an ethical framework sounds great, until you realize NASCAR stands for the exact opposite. It seems to have a history where cheating without getting punished is their very definition of winning.

1953 Machina Speculatrix: The First Swarm Drone?

A talk I was watching recently suggested researchers finally in 2019 had cracked how robots could efficiently act like a swarm. Their solution? Movement based entirely on a light sensor.

That sounded familiar to me so I went back to one of my old presentations on IoT/AI security and found a slide showing the same discovery claim from 1953. Way back then people used fancier terms than just swarm.

W. Grey Walter built jelly-fish-like robots that were reactive to their surroundings: light sensor, touch sensor, propulsion motor, steering motor, and a two vacuum tube analog computer. He called their exploration behavior Machina Speculatrix and the individual robots were named Elmer or Elsie (ELectro MEchanical Robots, Light Sensitive)

The rules for swarm robots back then were as simple as they will be today, as one should expect from swarms:

If light moderate (safe)
Then move toward
If light bright (unsafe)
Then move away
If battery low (hungry)
Then return for charge

Facebook Failed to Encrypt Data, Failed to Notice Breach, Didn’t Notify Victims for a Month

Facebook management has recklessly steered into obvious privacy icebergs causing hundreds of millions of users to suffer during its brief history, and yet the company never seems to hit bottom
A series of timeline delays in another Facebook breach story seem rather strange for 2019.

This breach started with a physical break-in November 17th and those affected didn’t hear about it for nearly a month, until December 13th.

The break-in happened on Nov. 17, and Facebook realized the hard drives were missing on Nov. 20, according to the internal email. On Nov. 29, a “forensic investigation” confirmed that those hard drives included employee payroll information. Facebook started alerting affected employees on Friday Dec. 13.

The company didn’t notice hard drives with unencrypted data missing for half a week, which itself is unusual. The robbery was on a Sunday, and they reported it only three days later on a Wednesday.

Then it was another long two weeks after the breach, on a Friday, when someone finally came forward to say that these missing drives stored unencrypted sensitive personal identity information.

This is like reading news from ten years ago, when large organizations still didn’t quite understand or practice the importance of encryption, removable media safety and quick response. Did it really happen in 2019?

It sounds like someone working at Facebook either had no idea unencrypted data on portable hard drives is a terrible idea, or they were selling the data.

The employee who was robbed is a member of Facebook’s payroll department, and wasn’t supposed to have taken the hard drives outside the office.

“Wasn’t supposed to have taken…” is some of the weakest security language I’ve heard from a breached company in a long time. What protection and detection controls were in place? None?

Years ago there was a story about a quiet investigation at Facebook that allegedly discovered staff were pulling hard-drives out of datacenters, flying them to far away airports and exchanging them for bags of money.

It was similar to the very recent story of journalists uncovering that Facebook staff were taking $3K/month in bribes to help external attackers bypass internal security.

Of course many other breaches have proven how internal staff who observe weak security leadership may attempt to monetize data they can access, whether users or staff.

The man accused of stealing customer data from home mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. was probably able to download and save the data to an external drive because of an oversight by the company’s IT department.

The insider threat is real and happens far too often.

I also think we shouldn’t wave this Facebook story off as just involving 30,000 staff data instead of the more usual customer data.

First, staff often are customers too. Second, when you’re talking tens of thousands of people impacted, that’s a significant breach and designating them as staff versus user is shady. Breach of personal data is a breach.

And there’s plenty of evidence that stolen data when found on unencrypted drives, regardless of whose data it is, can be sold on an illegal market.

This new incident however reads less like that kind of sophisticated insider threat and more like the generic sloppy security that used to be in the news ten years ago.

Kaiser Permanente officials said the theft occurred in early December after an employee left the drive inside the car at her home in Sacramento. A week after the break-in, the unidentified employee notified hospital officials of the potential data breach.

Regardless of whether a insider threat, a targeted physical attack, or just disappointing sloppy management practices and thoughtless staff…Facebook’s December 13 notice of a November 17 breach seems incredibly slow for 2019 given GDPR, and the simple fact everyone should know that notifications are meant to be within three days.

I’m reminded of the Titanic reacting slowly and mostly ignoring four days of ice notifications.

1:45 P.M. “Amerika” passed two large icebergs in 41.27 N., 50.8 W.

9:40 P.M. From “Mesaba” to “Titanic” and all east-bound ships: Ice report in latitude 42º N. to 41º 25’ N., longitude 49º W to longitude 50º 30’ W. Saw much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs. Also field ice. Weather good, clear.

11:00 P.M. Titanic begins to receive a sixth message about ice in the area, and radio operator Jack Phillips cuts it off, telling the operator from the other ship to “shut up.”

When Jesters Were Messengers of War


The “official website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine” presents some graphic details for Medieval messaging protocols:

…jesters were often required to go to the battlefield with their masters to carry messages between the leaders of warring armies, demanding that a city surrender to a besieging army or delivering terms for the release of hostages. Unfortunately for the jesters, the enemy did sometimes ‘kill the messenger’ as an act of defiance (especially if they regarded the terms being offered as an insult) and some used a catapult or trebuchet to hurl the unfortunate messenger (or his severed head) back into his own camp as a graphic illustration of what they thought of the message.

The story ends with this “grave warning” from a certain jester’s final resting place:

If chance has brought thee here, or curious eyes
To see the spot where this poor jester lies
A thoughtless jester even in his death
Uttering his jibes beyond his latest breath.