Category Archives: Security

The Talented and Beautiful “Night Witches” of WWII

See what I did with the title of this blog post?

Yevdokia Bershanskaya (588 NBAP commander) and the crew of Yevdokia Nosal and Nina Ulyanenko 1942. Source: The Dispatch, Feb 2020, Vol 45 No 2, p 17

In the famous Pulitzer-prize winning book “The Guns of August“, the author applies some colorful language to illustrate WWI and Imperial Germany.

Barbara Tuchman framed the German march, for example, like mindless predator ants:

(page 251) The German march through Belgium, like the march of predator ants who periodically emerge from the South American jungle to carve a swatch of death across the land, was cutting its way across field, road, village, and town, like the ants unstopped by rivers or any obstacle.

Germans of 1914 clearly get portrayed by Tuchman as thoughtless insects (instead of bumbling militant strategists and dirty spies with no sense of morality). This doesn’t denigrate being German, but rather shows how people acting in a particular way is toxic (e.g. invading neutral countries to execute civilians, which obviously was a choice).

To be fair, the latest science says South American ants are in fact intelligent and even altruistic (use tools, share information, and at great risk to their own lives will help other ants).

I bring this use of language up because recently I wrote about anti-fascist women aviators of the 1930s and I ran across a strange phrase used by Germans that has been adopted by everyone else afterwards.

While researching mostly untold stories of black women aviators in America (who were barred from flying due to systemic American racism and sexism) I ran into an obscure story out of the Soviet Union that carried a peculiar German innuendo.

Here’s a 2013 obituary in the New York Times about “Night Witches” (Nacht Hexen in German, Nochnyye ved’my in Russian):

The Nazis called them “Night Witches” because the whooshing noise their plywood and canvas airplanes made reminded the Germans of the sound of a witch’s broomstick.

The Soviet women who piloted those planes, onetime crop dusters, took it as a compliment. In 30,000 missions over four years, they dumped 23,000 tons of bombs on the German invaders, ultimately helping to chase them back to Berlin. Any German pilot who downed a “witch” was awarded an Iron Cross.

These young heroines, all volunteers and most in their teens and early 20s, became legends of World War II but are now largely forgotten. Flying only in the dark, they had no parachutes, guns, radios or radar, only maps and compasses. If hit by tracer bullets, their planes would burn like sheets of paper.

Their uniforms were hand-me-downs from male pilots. Their faces froze in the open cockpits. Each night, the 40 or so two-woman crews flew 8 or more missions — sometimes as many as 18.

“Almost every time we had to sail through a wall of enemy fire,” Nadezhda Popova, one of the first volunteers — who herself flew 852 missions — said in an interview for David Stahel’s book “Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941,” published this year.

I don’t buy the explanation that the “whooshing noise” sounded anything like a broomstick, let alone a fictional one (after all, there’s no actual witch’s broomstick).

Nazis, like many people, loved to come up with catchy derogatory names for people they hated.

Black American pilots (men only, as I already mentioned, even though women were training them to fly) were called “Luft Gangster“.

In many ways, retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, USAF (Ret) was fighting a fierce battle before, during and after his days as a Tuskegee fighter pilot (Red Tail) in World War II. Jefferson, 92, was shot down during a mission and spent nine months in Stalag Luft III, a Nazi P.O.W. camp and location of ‘The Great Escape.’ When liberated by Gen. Patton’s 3rd Army, Lt. Col. Jefferson unknowingly became an eye witness to the atrocities at the Nazi Concentration Camp…..Dachau. It’s a fascinating account of bravery, perseverance and character. When he wasn’t fighting for his country, Jefferson was battling racism in his country.

Think about black men pilots being called “Luft Gangster” for a minute. American women were such good pilots they trained the men for combat, yet were not allowed themselves to fly in combat… so it was only Soviet women in the air to get labeled witches.

The NYT brings up another example of how Nazis not only called women pilots witches, but tried to spread rumors such as potions giving women special powers.

At 15, Ms. Popova joined a flying club, of which there were as many as 150 in the Soviet Union. More than one-quarter of the pilots trained in the clubs were women. After graduating from pilot school, she became a flight instructor. […] Ms. Popova became adept at her unit’s tactics. Planes flew in formations of three. Two would go in as decoys to attract searchlights, then separate in opposite directions and twist wildly to avoid the antiaircraft guns. The third would sneak to the target through the darkness. They would then switch places until each of the three had dropped the single bomb carried beneath each wing. The pilots’ skill prompted the Germans to spread rumors that the Russian women were given special injections and pills to “give us a feline’s perfect vision at night,” Ms. Popova told Mr. Axell. “This, of course, was nonsense.”

It was a cynical method to denigrate the women generally, while also denying their skills.

Conversely, a book review from 1982 in Military Review makes the important point that all credit goes to the women, as there were no men to credit.

Source: Military Review, October 1982

And here’s a 1985 article in Soviet Life (an official diplomatic publication of the USSR embassy in America) that hilariously says “Night Witches” became a phrase because their women flew at night, completely ignoring implications of the witch part.

Source: Soviet Life, 1985

These women gave different explanations for the name, when interviewed directly.

Here’s one account:

Nobody knows the exact date when they started calling us night witches. […] We were bombing the German positions nearly every night, and none of us was ever shot down, so the Germans began saying these are night witches, because it seemed impossible to kill us or shoot us down.

That seems a bit of a stretch, given other women talk about watching their colleagues get shot down — even the expression on their face.

Here’s another:

The Germans liked to sleep at night, and they were very angry with the planes. They spread the rumor throughout the army that these were neither women nor men but night witches. When our army advanced again, the civilians said to us that we were very attractive and that the Germans had told them that we were very ugly night witches!

I totally buy that version of events, given again the fact that it comes directly as a 1st person account of being denigrated by Nazis. Their impact was legendary, even though their story rarely has been told.

Also note that an element of surprise ironically came from the Polikarpov Po-2 being so slow it couldn’t fly faster than 94 mph even without bombs. Made of plywood and canvas, with no radios, they flew invisibly through all the German radar, infrared and radio locators.

The “whoosh” of women flying over in simple and silent planes to drop bombs on heads of German men, must have infuriated the infamously drug-addled and technology-obsessed, lazy misogynist Nazis.

Each crew flew as many as eight to 18 missions a night. They flew more than 23,000 sorties during the war, and many pilots had flown over 800 missions by war’s end. It is reported that they released more than 20,000 tons of bombs on Nazi targets. These women undoubtedly contributed significantly to the Red Army and helped to clinch a victory over German forces.

Source: Internet search for “The women who dropped 20,000 tons of bombs on Nazis”

Eighteen missions a night? Talk about pilot combat survival rates. And while 23,000 sorties is high, a rough back-of-napkin estimate of 20,000 tons of bombs dropped suggests that still would have taken nearly 7,000 B-17 flights (a high-visibility plane with a chance of survival at less than 50 percent).

Many pilots having over 800 missions is kind of a big indicator of skill not to mention superiority over German targets. Maybe it was just Nazis stumbling out of bed late and missing their targets that created a “whoosh” sound — all net, no score.

Again, there were no Soviet men to credit with the records; no explanation other than loyalty, skill and talent of women.

See now what I did with the title of this blog post?

Begs the question again of why American women, especially black women, were denied the opportunity to fly at all let alone in war and in combat missions.

It also reminds me very much of tactics used by the Trump family to denigrate and try to obscure women they dislike with name-calling.

‘Horseface, ‘crazy,’ ‘low IQ’: Trump’s history of insulting women… known for giving many of his opponents negative nicknames, men as well as women, but his use of this tactic with women often denigrates their appearance or abilities.

I’m sure the Trump family would ask something like “are you calling us Nazis” if they read this blog. While YES would be an appropriate answer (as I’ve written here before), I also would be tempted to ask them in response “would you prefer I say you march like a South American ant”?


Update May 5th, 2021: Joy Reid explains how one of the two major political parties in America doesn’t show any concern for women being raped and trafficked, but suddenly is up in arms and tries to shut down women who show any signs of talent or skill.

“Pearl Harbor Was a Bolt Out of the Blue” Unlike Cyber Attacks

In this new podcast (around the 11 minute mark), former NSA Director and Cyber Command chief Admiral Mike Rogers says cyber Pearl Harbor is wrong as a framework today because we’ve been watching cyber attacks continuously for 20 years and nothing anymore seems new, whereas…

Pearl Harbor was a bolt out of the blue that totally surprised us…

It only sounds weird to me because we’ve been watching cyber attacks for 40 years. Rogers says 2000 was when he and Navy came into it, yet Air Force history goes back much longer.

Speaking of Air Force history, I’ve written here before about the radar station that detected Pearl Harbor attacks but was ignored.

Rogers also says we are not an authoritarian state and don’t want to become one.

That follows an earlier awkward moment (just before the 4 minute mark) when Jeff Stein says Russia is a police-state and America is not.

These are fine projections of what America should be going forward but it’s a hard position to hold historically given how America has been effectively a white police state suppressing blacks since at least the 1830s if not earlier (Nixon even labeled his white police state platform of mass incarceration his “war on drugs”).

That being said, my favorite part of this is when Rogers points out the ransomware is both proof of failure in security while also that nation-state threats are not necessarily the most pressing issue. Organized crime and non-state gangs (e.g. white nationalists) seem to get a pass from big tech despite causing outsized harms.

And my actual least favorite part is when the second half of the podcast reveals CIA attempts to eradicate chemical weapons in Syria ended instead in widespread use. That’s not exactly how they tell the story (it comes with a lot of positive spin, believe it or not) yet that’s what comes through. On top of that the podcast ends by describing encrypted communications as a crap-shoot of recent technology nobody really trusts.

Edible Wrappers Are Centuries Old. Why Are They Now Disruptive?

In 1846 a chef in Paris created a disruptive edible paper portrait of a visiting Egyptian dignitary, perched on top of a pyramid of pulled sugar steps:

On the top of the [sugar] pyramid was a portrait painted in food dyes on sugar paste, of the Pasha’s venerated father Ibrahim. As the Pasha picked it up to examine it more closely he saw that embedded in the filigree icing frame of the portrait was a tiny, but perfect, portrait of himself.

Pretty innovative, considering edible wafer paper already had been around for hundreds of years before that.

In another disruptive example about 50 years later, a London chef started a “fad” of edible paper, including a dinner menu.

It appears an ingenious chef conceived the idea of making an edible menu card, and, after many experiments, he produced one composed of the sugar tissue paper which is used on the bottom of macaroons, and which is, of course, edible.

Edible wrappers have been so common, so easy to make and use, we might take them for granted and forget they even exist.

Here’s a sentence I found on a site that sells very large boxes of edible wrappers at super low cost, right next to their DIY recipe:

Wafer paper is a single most affordable product in edible printing industry, everyone uses it, from big box bakeries to stay at home moms.

Surely that was supposed to say stay at home parents. Or are they trying to imply stay at home dads can’t afford or use edible wrappers?

Anyway here is some “big disruption” news, in stark contrast to all this ancient history of edible wrappers:

‘A disruptive solution to pollution’: introducing edible packaging.

Indeed. Someone has just introduced something very familiar.

We’re told an inexpensive and common thing, centuries old, is about to start disrupting.

Combining her engineering background with her passion for a ‘cradle to cradle’ lifecycle, Lamp has launched a new company, Traceless, to commercialise the idea.

Lamp? She didn’t want to name her new company something like Illuminated? Also “cradle to cradle” sounds like it’s going exactly nowhere. Like saying from point A to point A. Are we there yet?

And I would be more impressed if she was marketing her idea as a way to deliver one-time written passwords (OTWP), or send ephemeral messages, which obviously you eat after reading.

One can only imagine if she had an history background. Would she still have gone commercial? I suspect no historian would be framing something centuries old as her new idea.

Traditional nougat wrapped in traditional traceless edible packaging anyone?

How Facebook Avoids Consequences for Crimes

Yet ANOTHER bone-head security screw-up at Facebook.

Source: BuzzFeedNews

And in that article you will find this sentence:

‘The authors never intended to publish this as a final document to the whole company, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

NEVER INTENDED.

Intended to publish? Does it matter what they intended to publish?

After this internal report went public (exposing how white nationalist violence was being facilitated) the Facebook decision to deny their internal staff access to the report is giant head-in-sand move.

Imagine the U.S. government responding to Watergate by saying they never intended to have evidence of crimes seen by the whole country.

And it also reminded me of a very old story.

That faulty “never intended” excuse is literally out of the origin story of Facebook when Zuckerberg was rightfully accused of gross privacy violations (exposing how white male abuse of minority women was being facilitated).

Comments on the e-mail lists of both Fuerza Latina and the Association of Harvard Black Women blasted the site.

“I heard from a friend and I was kind of outraged. I thought people should be aware,” said Fuerza Latina President Leyla R. Bravo ’05, who forwarded the link over her group’s list-serve.

Zuckerberg said that he was aware of the shortcomings of his site, and that he had not intended it to be seen by such a large number of students.

HAD NOT INTENDED.

Intended to be seen? Does it matter what he intended to be seen?

Zuckerberg was aware of the problems and did it anyway because… didn’t intend for his crimes to be seen by people who would hold him accountable.

The Stanford athlete didn’t intend to be seen raping a girl, although he was aware of the shortcomings of his actions. The Nazis didn’t intend for their communications to be seen by such a large number of people, although they were aware of the shortcomings of genocide.

It’s like a full admission that he does crimes because he doesn’t expect to get caught, and when he’s caught he just says he didn’t expect to get caught, and then moves on.

With that in mind, the Facebook internal report reveals that “Stop the Steal” was generating speech that was 30% hate and 40% violent insurrection, yet allegedly staff couldn’t decide if that meant they should do something about it. Look at the percentages on the left versus the norms on the right.

The platform graded their own response to imminent danger to democracy as lazy and piecemeal.

…very difficult to know whether what we were seeing was a coordinated effort to delegitimize the election, or whether it was protected free expression by users who were afraid and confused and deserved our empathy…

Coordinated or uncoordinated, afraid and confused or not, violent hate speech doesn’t often get framed as needing… empathy.

I mean 40% violent speech laced with hate for America flows through their system and Facebook is like oh, look dangerous white nationalism, maybe this time the usual “afraid and confused” Nazis will win and Facebook can take credit for “helping” Nazis during their time of need?

Will France be Worse Off Using AI for Anti-Terrorism?

News from France sounds exactly backwards to me:

French intelligence officials to use older intelligence data, including data the government isn’t currently allowed to retain, to train AI systems.

Such an approach should be called out for what it is, repeating the worst mistakes in history at faster speed with less oversight.

Think of it this way, if you predicted any future police action in France from learning their past tragic history of colonialism you would repeat it instead of shifting towards what should happen instead.

I just recorded a new presentation for the 2021 RSA Conference about this exact problem. AI can’t be implemented as a detection system for terrorism without the heavy hand of human philosophy and control over what is defined as future terrorism.

Doghouse: How Not to Build a Club or a House.

Source: Leaked Clubhouse architectural rendering of their designs.

There’s not much to add to a brilliant take-down of the toxic and completely tone-deaf platform just launched called Clubhouse.

…demonstrates a growing chasm between attitudes in the United States and Europe about data governance, as Silicon Valley continues to export its technology and ideals around the world. Scraping is the same technique that controversial start-up Clearview AI, popular with law enforcement, has used to amass its facial recognition database. Although it’s received cease-and-desist letters from Facebook and Google (who themselves would not exist but for scraping and, in the case of Facebook, scraping non-public information), Clearview AI defends its practices on First Amendment grounds. In Europe, where data governance is more concerned with the fundamental rights of individuals than with the rights of corporations, techniques like scraping and the repurposing of publicly accessible data conflict with core principles in the General Data Protection Regulation, such as purpose limitation, notification and consent requirements, the individual’s right to object to certain processing and more. Clubhouse is already under investigation by data protection authorities in both France and Germany for violations of data protection law.

Perhaps it’s a bit unfair to say that the United States across the board has the same attitude, as many people disagree (myself included, hellooo!).

More accurate in my mind is to say there is a chasm between irresponsible bad-actors thriving in an unregulated United States (e.g. Silicon Valley) and Europe.

This perhaps is explained best in the next section of the article, which really struck me as a repeat of the Google Bus story.

While there are bad attitudes in the United States, they in fact have a growing chasm from other people in the United States.

It is that kind of exclusivity and bogus ennoblement expressing false privilege, all done by design, that makes Clubhouse so inherently and willfully evil.

Clubhouse’s gaslighting on privacy and security concerns pales in comparison to its disregard for accessibility. In its quest for exclusivity, Clubhouse has managed to exclude large swaths of the population.

Boom. The author just described the infamous Google Bus.

Contact Tracing Fail: Why is Google So Bad at Basic Security and Privacy?

Years ago I wrote about Google’s calculator absurdly requiring permission for network access.

A calculator requires network?

Looking back now, and based on recent headlines, perhaps the calculator story should have been front page news.

Someone just prompted me to answer why Google’s Authenticator app needs to track location and data, and the calculator immediately came to mind. I guess Google is giving me a reason to write analysis of 2FA privacy options better than theirs.

In related news, lately we’re all talking a lot about contact tracing safety and, surprise surprise, Google has screwed up that security as well.

Researchers say hundreds of preinstalled apps can access a log found on Android devices where sensitive contact tracing information is stored.

A calculator misstep seems comical, yet this kind of privacy failure can be catastrophic.

Let this forever be proof that “too big to fail” is a logical fallacy, not to mention an economic fantasy.

The Markup digs even deeper at Google, pointing out an apparent slow response and lack of concern about user safety.

The Markup has learned that not only does the Android version of the contact tracing tool contain a privacy flaw, but when researchers from the privacy analysis firm AppCensus alerted Google to the problem back in February of this year, Google failed to change it. […] “This fix is a one-line thing where you remove a line that logs sensitive information to the system log. It doesn’t impact the program, it doesn’t change how it works, ” said Joel Reardon, co-founder and forensics lead of AppCensus. “It’s such an obvious fix, and I was flabbergasted that it wasn’t seen as that.”

The big rub seems to be between Google’s trust of Android apps and the security researcher who knows that’s a very broken model to rely upon.

Reardon also reached out to Giles Hogben, Android’s director of privacy engineering, on Feb. 19. In an email, Hogben noted, in response to Reardon’s concerns, that the system logs could only be accessed by certain apps.

“[System logs] have not been readable by unprivileged apps (only with READ_LOGS privileged permission) since way before Android 11 (can check exactly when but I think back as far as 4),” Hogben said in his Feb. 25 reply.

Reardon, however, said hundreds of preinstalled apps can still read those system logs. “They’re actually collecting information that would be devastating to the privacy of people who use contact tracing,” he said.

Reading the logs is reading the logs, as we used to say. Reardon is right that a preinstalled app that can read the logs means the data boundary is pierced and thus privacy expectations breached.

Pedestrian Kill Bills Are Racist

I’ve written for many years about the systemic racism of American transit policies; from disastrous “Urban Renewal” projects using highway construction that “balkanize” cities and destroy black neighborhoods, to the racial disparity in pedestrian deaths and disgusting history of jaywalking laws.

[Car manufacturers] 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.

Perhaps Benjamin Bunn, a former Green Beret who served from 2000 to 2016 and deployed in support of the Global War on Terror to both Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Baltic Region… put it best:

People are most vulnerable during travel.

The modern countermeasures for such domestic security threats should be pretty obvious to anyone engineering human-centric networks, as this before/after view illustrates:

Source: Makati, the Philippines by PGAA Creative Design

A new article tries to bring this all to light again, given the recent spate of “pedestrian kill bills”, yet it makes an awful error:

A few years ago, most people would have seen “politically motivated vehicle attacks” as a terrorist tactic pioneered by ISIS. Now American police regularly carry out these kinds of attacks, and Republican policymakers have officially endorsed the practice.

There was ample evidence by 2016 if not earlier that “run them over you won’t be convicted” was a coordinated hate campaign on social media by white nationalists.

Source: Twitter 2016

If anything, ISIS likely took the ideas from American domestic terrorists (although arguably there were foreign accounts stoking the message).

In January 2016, a police sergeant in St. Paul, Minnesota, was suspended after allegedly posting a comment on an article about a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, instructing drivers: “Run them over. Keep traffic flowing and don’t slow down for any of these idiots who try and block the street.”

This February, Troy Baker, president of the police union in Santa Fe, New Mexico, shared an image from the “Prepare to Take America Back” Facebook page, a right-wing meme factory with links to conspiracy theories. “All lives splatter: Nobody cares about your protest,” it reads over an image of a jeep plowing through a crowd.

Way back in 2013 the problem was described in terms of authorized use and operator error.

Vehicles can do great damage, yet when people drive aggressively or vengefully, the destruction is often dismissed as “an accident.”

Speaking of 2013, a car plowed through protestors a year earlier at the University of California Santa Cruz.

He revved his engine, but the crowd briefly stopped him from entering. The driver then revved his engine again and drove through the crowd of demonstrators at the High Street entrance, striking several people and a bike. […] Samson [who was a passenger in the car] said they intend to press charges against those in the crowd. […] The demonstration had been peaceful until the incident with the motorist.

The driver of the car who revved his engine, paused, revved again and then tried to run over a crowd of protestors intended to press charges against his victims?

A very different tone that same year can be found in Cardiff, Wales after a Taxi driver hit eight pedestrians and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Sentencing Rehman, the judge said: “It was holy unjust behaviour – intolerable behaviour in a civilised society. To use a motor vehicle as a weapon is a an extremely serious crime.”

Back to a completely opposite perspective, here’s a story from a year before that in Brazil, where police said a car that drove over 12 people during a protest was the fault of the protestors because… they didn’t have a protest license.

De acordo com o delegado, o direito à livre expressão dos manifestantes não podia impedir o direito de ir e vir de pedestres e motoristas. “Aqui não é a Líbia. Aqui tem toda a liberdade para fazer manifestação, desde que avisem as autoridades. Faz a tua manifestação, mas não impede o fluxo de automóveis. Se tu impedes, dá confusão, dá baderna, dá acidente. Fica o alerta”, afirmou.

Roughly translated this is “free expression and demonstration can’t be in the way of the right of car mobility since Brazil is not Libya — people are free to demonstrate as long as they warn authorities and do not prevent car flow”.

But let’s not stop there. In 2009 videos were posted to the Internet from Iran, which showed police vehicles plowing into demonstrators.

In the video — shot Sunday, according to the posting on the Web site YouTube — green-and-white police trucks rush into crowds of protesters in the capital, Tehran. Demonstrators scatter, but one truck drives into a crowd trapped in a narrow street with a wall on one side and parked cars on the other.

Speaking of 2009, eight people were killed in the Netherlands when a car was intentionally driven into a parade in a failed attempt to kill the Dutch royal family.

And three years before that a philosophy/psychology graduate of the University of North Carolina drove a car through crowds of students, injuring almost nobody. Allegedly it was his attempt to “avenge deaths or murders of Muslims“… before calling police to turn himself in.

There are so many examples, I’m unfortunately leaving out many important ones. There’s a very, very important reason why:

Manslaughter with a weapon statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, from 1996 to 2016, show the number of offenses with firearms and knives, but everything else falls under a category called “other.” There is no readily available breakdown of the number of times that prosecutors said a car was used as a weapon.

Let’s say that again, when we look at weapon statistics there’s NO BREAKDOWN OF TIMES A CAR WAS USED AS A WEAPON.

This seems particularly odd since, as the grieving mother of a murdered daughter explained, use of cars as weapons to kill pedestrians tends to be pretty obvious:

“He ran over my daughter three times,” she told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “You’re not going to tell me the car’s not a weapon. He used it as a weapon. That’s all there is to it.”

And at least some judges seem to agree with her, making some obvious points of their own:

Just as an automobile’s primary purpose is for transportation, the primary purpose of a steak knife or baseball bat is for use as cutlery or sporting equipment. Yet no one could reasonably dispute that those items are also ‘commonly understood’ as ‘instrument[s] for combat against another person’ when used as such.

And on that note, you would think that the low frequency high impact of cars as weapons also would gather more attention from anyone trying to protect Americans from harm.

Vehicular attacks have caused 45 percent of all injuries and 37 percent of all deaths in Islamism-inspired plots since January 2014

So please allow me instead of trying to capture every incident to just skip back all the way to news from 1977 in Plains, Georgia — a white man drove his Jaguar XKE at 50 mph through a Klan “anti-Carter” rally sending 19 people already wearing white sheets to the hospital.

Source: Eugene Register-Guard, 1977

The NYT reported on motive.

Sheriff Howard said at a news conference that Mr. Cochran apparently stopped at the Klan rally last night out of curiosity but “didn’t like what was being said” by the speakers. […] Mr. Cochran said “he had a lot of black friends and he was going to get even with Wilkinson for what he was saying about the blacks,” the sheriff said.

He had black friends and wanted to get even sounds very…wrong. I expect the driver to say he did it to fight racism, and not to say “some of my friends are black”.

Ok, I know what you’re probably thinking here. Use of cars as weapon go back as far as cars themselves go in history. But the 1977 incident, let alone other countries, seems to show the risk is to everyone, not linked to any one race.

Here’s the problem with that “race blind” argument to risk from cars in America. Given the wild and illogical fears being spread about AntiFa, wouldn’t we then see bills being written to criminalize use of cars as weapons against the KKK?

Kill bills are basically handing AntiFa the keys to drive cars through crowds of Nazis. Seems backwards for fascists to be giving anti-fascists license to a weapon, no?

Or as the Blues Brothers movie illustrated the concept back in 1980 (posted to YouTube in 2011):

A comment on that video follows it with this insight:

I’m all for free speech…but the free speech of a revved-up Dodge former cop car sounds even better.

Despite the movie reference, currently the belief is that no white nationalist crowds will be impacted by threat of cars (similar to how white crowds in America are statistically less subject to any police brutality).

Fundamentally (no pun intended) racist whites believe a blanket authorized use of force won’t put whites at any greater risk because blacks can’t target whites with violence in the same way that whites can target blacks (while at the same time claiming that authorization is required because blacks target whites with violence).

Indeed, we know that while the majority of pedestrian deaths in America are blacks, and that jaywalking laws are historically racist, so too the new pedestrian kill bills target non-whites — these laws essentially criminalize being black.

So here’s the real talk. International pressure has been mounting on American systemic white insecurity groups to stop killing black people with police brutality.

Police killings of Black Americans amount to crimes against humanity, international inquiry finds.

As a result, white insecurity surely realizes their racist strategy of police shootings may be over, and thus laws hastily are being pushed with new ways to oppress and terrorize black people en masse with systemic bias in transit and healthcare instead.

There are more than 60% more Black pedestrian fatalities than White, yet Black residents are more than five times more likely to depend on public transportation to access vital services and opportunities.

Kill Bills in America serve no purpose other than to remove protection against known domestic terror threats.

1990s Warnings About Cyber War That Nobody Heard

A “CyberWar 2.0” book published in 1998 had a chapter called “Information Peacekeeping: The Purest Form of War“.

Here’s the sort of cogent warning you will find, written by Robert D. Steele, which seems like it was written just yesterday.

…perhaps the most important aspect of Information Operations is the defensive aspect. Our highest priority, one we must undertake before attempting to influence others, is that of putting our own information commons in order. We must be able to assist and support our consumers with knowledge management concepts, doctrine, and capabilities, such that they can “make sense” of the information chaos surrounding them.

Also notable from Robert Steele was his keynote presentation called “Hackers as a National Resource” at Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE), New York, 13-14 August 1994.

And perhaps to emphasize again how similar things sound in the 1990s and today, here’s Strassman’s position that a mono-culture of big tech (Microsoft at that time) was a threat to US national security.

Microsoft has projected a vision of a world that is inter-connected with Microsoft centers from where each computer receives not only its operating software but also a continuous stream of data and applications.

Recently I’ve been interviewed for podcasts, etc and people have started asking what it was like being involved in cyber war so “early”… to which I have to admit that to me my timing felt a bit late.

There already was at least a decade if not more of experts and hackers with established reputations, headlines had been alarmist since the early 1980s, and thus I started my professional work in 1994 with a sense of urgency — had a lot of catching up to do. Hope that helps puts 2021 headlines in some perspective.

Is AI as Dangerous as Nuclear Tech?

Saying nuclear power is the safest energy seems inaccurate and misleading, yet often I see people make this claim.

It’s always based on wild assumptions about quality control, which end up forming a logical fallacy (tautology). If absolutely everything is done perfectly by nuclear then nuclear is safest, sure. Except that’s so unrealistic as to be fantasy talk — the many nuclear accidents are the obvious proof and counterpoint.

Whether you go high or low on the nuclear disaster casualty count (high being well over 1000X the low numbers) the point is these counts for nuclear tech are extremely messy and imprecise. Can’t claim to both be safe because absolutely precise methods and then generate wildly varying estimates of harm.

And harms are common because instead of one or fewer core damage events (based on nuclear industry projections) in reality there have been at least eleven. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl both were a function of human error and the risk models have failed spectacularly to account for human error. And that’s not even to speak of massive cleanup costs for nuclear harms that weren’t even accidental.

Perhaps it helps to consider that nearly as many Americans died from radiation and fallout of the Manhattan Project than were killed by the bombs it dropped. That’s not a story often told, but it helps put to rest these odd notions that nuclear is safest just because people aren’t being very scientific about risk, casualties and total harms.

So is AI as dangerous as that?