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It is often said that one cannot "paint the whole" of the police forces with the brush of a few bad cops -- like, perhaps, the one who allegedly murdered a teen in Chicago.

That may be true, right up until one of two things happens:

1. Others willfully and intentionally cover up, tamper with evidence, or otherwise obstruct an investigation.  Then it is entirely fair to lump them in with the person who committed the offense and even charge them with felonies.  Indeed, it is expected that you would do so.

2. Others, including voluntary associations and trade unions, back the accused in what he or she did.  In that event every member of the association or union that does not immediately resign is properly painted with the same brush.


On its website, the Chicago lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), has posted a bail fund appeal for the officer, Jason Van Dyke, who is accused of shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times just six seconds after emerging from his patrol car on a street in Chicago on Oct. 20, 2014. An earlier link on the FOP's front page to a GoFundMe campaign was removed after the fundraising site said it violated a policy against its use by criminal defendants.

The FOP also is paying the lawyer representing Van Dyke, Daniel Herbert, himself a former FOP member the union pays to represent Chicago cops in misconduct cases. Funding such a defense is a common practice among U.S. police unions. 

'Nuff said.

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Obama has once again tried to turn a nutjob shooting people at a Planned Parenthood clinic into a call for "more gun control", as if somehow passing more laws against murder will make murder less prevalent.

May I remind you that you may only prosecute someone for the first murder, no matter how many they commit or how many other crimes they commit before, during or after, because you can only serve one life sentence or give someone the death penalty once.

It is therefore idiotic to pretend that passing more laws on guns (the 50,000+ already on the books aren't enough?) will stop murders.  A person willing to commit murder has already decided that the law is no object to their evil intentions, irrespective of whether you like it or not.

But then there's this case -- a 9 year old boy shot by a gang because the gang didn't like his Dad.

Where's Obama on that calling for these criminal gangs to be dismantled and every single one of the people involved being tossed in the hoosegow for life?

And why isn't that shooting his poster child for gun control?

You know the answer, right?

It has a lot to do with the race of the shooter in the two incidents..... and the utterly common incidence of the second sort of thing in Chicago -- where a nutjob shooting up a Planned Parenthood clinic is -- fortunately -- very rare.

Obama's sons are always ignored when they do things like this, aren't they?

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It just never ends, does it?

Microsoft MSFT +0.00% has been on a roll lately. Its massive Windows 10 update ‘Threshold 2’ has far more good features than bad ones, the ‘free upgrade’ rules have been improved and even Microsoft’s Black Friday 2015 deals are surprisingly great. But a new discovery has been made which isn’t good news – at all… 

What Microsoft did was rename the "telematics" service from DiagTrack to "Connected User Experiences."

Uh huh.  They didn't get rid of it, which is what they wanted you to think.  Instead they renamed it.

So Forbes caught it; I've not yet been "offered" Threshold 2, so it's not on my machines yet.  But this is a reminder that free never exists and the price is usually something you think is no big deal but in fact is a very big deal indeed.

I will keep reminding you that not is free never actually free but what's worse is that the data collected, once collected, is never deleted and that while there are plenty of "benign" or even helpful things that someone can do with data they collect on you, there are also very malignant things that can be done too.

There is something that everyone needs to understand about companies like Facebook and similar that claim large "revenue per user" figures: Someone is paying them that money.

You've probably never paid for advertising and such, unless you have either run a company that bought it or were involved in a larger marketing organization for a large firm.  I have, because I did when I ran MCSNet.

Here's the calculus that intelligent businesses put into such advertising buys: They must return at least 10x what is spent on them in revenue.

This is is because nobody has a 100% profit margin; even if you sell a service with no direct hard costs (like an ISP does) there are a lot of costs!  I had to buy hardware to run the ISP, I had to buy telecom services and most importantly I had to pay people -- that is, paychecks and benefits to employees -- which is almost always your largest expense as a business.

All of that comes off the top before anyone sees anything called "profit."

So look at what Facebook, for example, claims.  Their claim is that a US/Canada user provides $10.49 in revenue per quarter, or about $42/year.

Think about that.  You don't pay Facebook anything.  So exactly how does Facebook make $42 a year off your being on their site?  They sell your eyeballs to people for that $42.

What does that have to return to the buyer to be worth it?

About $400 -- and that's just one company in the Internet space.

Facebook is not free for you.  It costs you about $400 a year to use it on average, but you don't see the price directly.  You do pay it though -- you must, or they couldn't operate as they wouldn't have that revenue.

Now contemplate how that happens, then multiply by the number of applications and other things on your phone, your tablet and your computer that collect data about you -- such as exactly where you are 24x7 and what you do while online -- and send it off to mother.

If you think this doesn't go into various pricing decisions that are individualized to you -- such as your car and other forms of insurance -- you're dead wrong.  Whether you'll pay more than someone depends highly on how your "individual risk" is assessed; these firms do not make money by being wrong about how risky you are.

Why is Microsoft doing this?  Because Facebook and others have gotten away with it without you revolting; if you'll put up with Facebook doing it why not Microsoft?

But this of course leads to the obvious question: Exactly how many $420 extractions per year, all by stealth, can you absorb?

If you're wondering how you get bled to almost-literally nothing in this world today, that's one way it happens.  You're tricked into believing that something like Facebook is "free", while the company discloses that you are "worth" $42 a year to them in direct revenue that someone else forks up and then must multiply by a factor of 10 or more in order for their investment to be worth it.  That money all comes out of your pocket whether you recognize it or not, and it happens simply because you use Facebook and thus give those firms the ability to buy the data that they then use against you to extract that $420!

Start thinking of your "relationship" with these businesses in this way and you might wake up a bit.

You might also decide that this isn't such a good deal, especially if that $420 means something to you.

Or, perhaps, you might decide that having $420 taken from you every year by stealth while it is claimed that your use of said resource is "Free and always will be" is perfectly fine.

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Last night I decided I wanted a beer, and went to one of the local watering holes to get it.

Heh, why not -- it was a cheat day.

The local mall was "open" so-to-speak -- well, maybe half the stores were open.  Maybe.  And while there were people there there were not very many people there.  I had zero trouble with parking and no crowds to speak of.

If this is any indication of what Christmas is going to look like for retailers...... 


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No, not on the shoppers.

Or even on Daesh.

No, declare war on Apps.  Specifically, apps that siphon off your location (and often other) data on an unchecked, constant basis once loaded. with many of them making a diligent effort to keep you from stopping them.

Reality is this: "Free" apps aren't free.  The price is that they want to advertise to you.  Location-based advertising is more-accurate in terms of value to the advertiser in that it's more likely to result in a sale.  Fine -- as long as you're actively using a given app -- that is, as long as it has focus, or is on the display.  It's also fine if it's something like a fitness tracking app while you are actually performing some activity you're trying to track (like a run, hike, etc.)

But it's not ok for an app to keep doing this sort of thing when it doesn't have focus and is not in some activity you've asked for.  There are many reasons for this, which I will outline here:

First, the most-mundane.  Every time an application on your phone does this it consumes battery power.  If you're wondering why your phone dies so fast, that's a big part of the reason.  If you have 20 apps on your device that all do this that's 20x every five minutes or so (which is the average interval!) that these apps all pull your location and send it to "momma".  Every one of those instances consumes both battery power and network bandwidth, which I remind you is something you're paying for.

Do not believe for a second that this sort of misbehavior is isolated or uncommon.  All of the social messaging apps do it, including Facebook and others.  But the offenders aren't limited to apps like Facebook; they're also things like Walmart's app, which continually pulls location data once started.  Even worse are games, which almost-universally do this sort of thing.

Some of these apps are extremely persistent, such as Charity Miles that I documented earlier; these will hammer on location requests, including trying to use the GPS repeatedly, if you're in a location without a clear view of the sky.  This is extremely bad for your power consumption because the GPS chip is one of the most-hungry in your phone when it comes to power budget.

Second, there is the less-mundane.  This data can be trivially used to identify you with specificity along with your daily habits.  It requires no linkage to your device ID or a login to do so either; all it requires is a bit of time.  Within a few days or weeks it is trivially easy to know exactly who you are and since there is a unique device ID associated with each of these data points it's not even slightly difficult to link it to your characteristics.  While this might not link it to a name that doesn't matter.

And this brings me to the real risk: You have absolutely no idea nor control over who has this data, who's keeping it, for how long (the presumption has to be "forever") and who it's being given or sold to.

The latter is an extremely serious issue.  Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Daesh wanted to murder a bunch of law enforcement officers and military members in this country.  Let's further assume that they managed to get a few thousand of their jackasses into the country and they obtained illicit arms (both solid assumptions, by the way; even though an illegal invader cannot legally buy a gun he can sure steal one or get it from a gang-banger.)

Now they buy one of these databases.  They don't get names this way, but they don't need to.  What they analyze and obtain is a number of people who on a daily basis go from a residence to a police station or military base, both of which are endpoints that are trivially associated with a place of work and residence by the times spent there.

It is an utterly trivial matter to determine this from an every 5 minute location ping.

Now the jackasses have a list of homes to target their assaults; that not every one of them is correct doesn't matter.  What does matter is that this constitutes a high-value target list and there is not a damn thing you can do about it once the data has been collected and is owned by these companies as they do, can and will sell that data.  There is no way to determine with certainty that the person buying it wants it only for a so-called "legitimate" purpose, never mind the risk of the database being stolen once sold or resold by the buyer.  Worse, all of this analysis can be completed from thousands of miles away beyond the reach of American law enforcement or anyone else for that matter and once the analysis is complete exactly zero exposure to arrest occurs until the jackass attempts his hideous act.

THIS is why the practice of allowing that sort of data "mining" from your personal devices must be stopped and those firms doing so severely sanctioned.  It is probably already too late in terms of whether this kind of abuse will eventually happen (it will) but the longer we let this go on the worse, and more irrevocable, the damage will be.

There is utterly nothing that can be done to filter or mitigate this risk other than prohibiting app publishers along with phone and OS vendors from doing this in the first place, defaulting any such tracking to off when other than in a legitimate activity and allowing it to be disabled entirely for a given app or globally.  Here's looking at you, Google and Apple, but those are not the worst of the offenders -- no, the worst are the app publishers over which there is zero oversight or accountability.

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