SWAT teams claim to be private mercenaries, immune to open records laws

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The ACLU reports [PDF] that when it made Freedom of Information requests for Massachusetts SWAT team records, the SWATs claimed that because they were organized as “law enforcement councils” (jointly owned by many police departments, with additional federal funding) that they were not government agencies at all, but rather private corporations, and not subject to open records laws.

SWATs are the white-hot center of the increasingly brutal and militarized response of US police forces, which have outfitted themselves with ex-Afghanistan/Iraq military materiel and have deployed it in an escalating violent series of attacks, largely as part of the war on drugs. As Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post, the SWATs’ claim to be private companies doesn’t pass the giggle test: they are funded by the government, pay government employees, and do the government’s business.

The argument boils down to this: we are not the police, we are private mercenaries armed with automatic weapons and military-grade vehicles and equipment, and when we attack and kill in the streets of American cities, we do so as private soldiers who happen to be funded by the police departments’ budgets.

The ACLU is suing the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council to challenge this ruse, but even if they win, this should be setting off alarm bells for anyone who believes in good government and responsible policing. The cornerstone of democratic legitimacy is a duty to the public, with all the transparency and respect that implies. When police forces up and down the state structure themselves to create and exploit a loophole that lets them obscure the details of their most violent, most spectacular screw-ups — which generally result in gruesome injuries and deaths to innocent members of the public — there is no way they can claim to be acting in the public interest.

The fact that the city governments that oversee these departments and the federal agencies that fund the LECs have been complicit in this suggests that this isn’t a matter of police overreach, but rather is a policy that goes literally all the way to the top of the policing regulatory structure in America.

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Blogging History: RIAA lies about Pandora’s royalties; Banksters wiped out all tech’s productivity gains; Iraq torture memo primer

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One year ago today
RIAA lies about Pandora’s royalty rates: For example, the comparison to satellite streaming rates is pure spin — it compares the rate of sending a song to every person turned into that satellite station to a single person listening to a Pandora stream.

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Write An Excellent Programming Blog

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I want you to write. Not just code. Also words.

If you’re a member of the open source community, you can help us by writing about programming, just as much as by actually programming. And writing helps you, too: you can become better known and promote your ideas.

Even more importantly, writing is thinking. There is no more thorough way to understand than to explain in writing.

Java incubator to explore technologies for Java 10 and beyond

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Java proponents want to set up an incubator project that would explore advanced virtual machine and language features for the software development platform.

Project Valhalla, which is being floated as an idea on an openjdk mailing list, would incubate such features as value types, generic specialization, enhanced volatiles, and reified generics. Features under consideration are considered long-term, and it is unlikely any would be targeted for inclusion in Java 9, which has been set for a 2016 arrival. Java 8 was released in March.

Major items in Valhalla, including value types and specialization, are intended to deal with the issue of boxing, according to background material on the Valhalla project. A boxed integer takes more memory and requires a de-reference to get payload, which generally causes a cache miss. The idea is that small aggregates — custom numeric types like complex or uint128, small tuples, and algebraic data types — can get the abstraction benefits of objects while maintaining the performance characteristics of primitives.

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Mozilla brings Web app dev inside the browser with WebIDE

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Mozilla is offering in-browser application development features for its Firefox browser with its WebIDE project. The technology helps developers build, edit, and test Web applications from within a browser.

Now featured in Firefox Nightly Builds, which are builds for testing purposes, WebIDE is intended to assist developers who are not sure how to start application development on the Web. “We’re solving that problem with WebIDE, built directly into Firefox. Instead of starting from zero, we provide you with a functioning blueprint app with the click of a button,” said Dave Camp and Robert Nyman of the Mozilla.hacks.org blog in a post this week. “You then have all the tools you need to start creating your own app based on a solid foundation.”

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Linus Torvalds to developers: To succeed, make it personal

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“It’s not that Linux was new from a technical standpoint. It was new because it was done differently,” says Linus Torvalds in his interview with the IEEE Computer Society. “Linux made it clear how well open source works, not just from a technical standpoint, but also from a business, commercial, and community standpoint.”

Torvalds, winner of the Society’s 2014 Computer Pioneer Award, discusses his past and his future in a video interview, and he expounds on the philosophy that got him where he is today. He says the most important goal for programmers is “finding something you’re really interested in so that you continue to tinker with it and get really good.” And he eschews the notion of a long-term road map not just for personal growth — better to follow what you truly enjoy than to be dogmatic about a career plan — but for technology as well. “The five-year plan doesn’t work in technology,” he notes, “because nobody has a great view of what’s coming up.”

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