Waveland and The North Side, Sweet Home Chicago

pj-bh129_sp_wri_g_20120514203124I was raised in a pretty educated house. We travelled too, from Phoenix to El Paso to Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Miami and Detroit. But those were hit and run trips, most by air, some by car, when visiting grandparents and other relatives during the summer. Nevertheless, I thought I knew the country well. I had also already spent portions of summers working in Santa Monica restoring glorious cars and sometimes meeting stars.

I was just turned 18, a man or the world, and god I knew it. But I was really none of that at all. I didn’t know shit.

Then I started college and moved into a dorm. By happenstance, at Arizona State University, I was assigned to an asylum, er floor, chock full of similar kids, on that floor almost all from Chicago and New Jersey. The first few days were an amazing, though not rude in the least, awakening. One group dragged me, literally almost kicking and screaming, to see Bruce Springsteen rock the venerable, and historic, Grady Gammage theater at ASU almost to the ground. That was life changing in a way.

The others were the Chicagoans. They taught me the love and misery of the Cubs and the perpetual Windy City. And Chicago blues and rock. Many of the Chicagoans I met that way in college are still friends to this day. Their parents all came out, then and now as they can, for Spring Training to see their Cubbies. Being from here, I always took spring training for granted growing up as a kid. It was kind of a yawner. But the Cubs fans had a love, purpose and passion that was incredible. Anybody that went to the old Hohokam Park knows how greatly insane, drunken and wonderful it was.

Fast forward to the present day. One of those Chicagoans had parents who, when they retired, moved here permanently. To be close to their son and the winter home of their beloved Cubs. I knew them well. The father wanted to see the Cubs in the World Series before he died. He did, but not by much. He slipped into peaceful sleep right after they won the National League Championship, and never woke up. But, ain’t that a Cubs fan? This is for you Richard, RIP.

That is my own personal story of how and why the Cubs touched me, not just this year, but long ago. The stories are legion. Tell us yours.

The inestimable Wright Thompson has penned a simply beautiful piece that captures so much of the everything goodness that is the Cubs World Series win:

CUBS FANS awoke Wednesday to one last wait, with little to do before Game 7 but think, about themselves and their families, about the people who’ve come and gone during these 108 years of failure. Hundreds found themselves drawn to Wrigley Field, where workers were already breaking down the concessions and cleaning out the freezers. Some people said they didn’t even mean to come. They started off on a trip to the store and ended up standing in front of the stadium’s long brick wall facing Waveland Avenue. Many wrote chalk notes to the dead. Some dedicated messages. This one’s for you, Dad. Others wrote names. Dan Bird. Ben Bird. Eugene Hendershott. A man with a bright smile but melancholy eyes wrote the name of his late wife, Andrea Monhollen. They met four blocks from here, on Racine. She’s been gone six years.

“Cancer,” John Motiejunas said.

He looked around at the names, each one as special to some stranger as his wife’s name is to him. All these chalk ghosts longed to see a day like this one. Each name represented an unfulfilled dream. The big bright murals made the wall seem fun and festive from afar, but a closer look revealed life stripped of romanticism. “A lot of people waited their whole lives,” Motiejunas said. He took a picture of the wall and then left, walking through the light rain that had begun to fall.

There is no way for me to recommend you reading Thompson’s entire piece enough, it is fantastic and a tear jerker. And if you think that quote from the top is good, you REALLY need to see the rest.

Sports are a lazy diversion from reality in America I guess. Or they are a metaphor for everything that is awesome about America. Or it is just a game. Or, just maybe, all of the above.

It has been a long and painful slog through the swamp of an ugly political season. One that started far too early, and promises to never stop even after the election. I could insert links and cites, and yadda, yadda, yadda but what difference does it make anymore? One candidate was born a Cubs fan, and the other literally thinks he was the second coming of Babe Ruth and the world simply was deprived of recognizing his narcissistic awesomeness because he went into the business (of bankruptcy and fraud) world instead.

TWENTY MILES NORTHWEST, cars parked in groups along the winding paths of the All-Saints Cemetery. An hour remained until the 5 p.m. closing time. It’s a Catholic burial ground, out in the middle-class suburbs, and there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of Cubs flags and hats and license plates and signs. It’s one of many places around Chicago this past week where the conflicting ideas of joy and pain leave the realm of the psychological and become attached to action. People come here for many reasons, to say a little prayer, or talk to someone, to themselves, or to believe that their loved one knows what is happening tonight. Last Friday, an old man in a Cubs jacket stood over a grave and left a pennant and a Cubs pumpkin. Yesterday, a middle-aged woman named Maureen stood for the longest time at a grave not far away. A sign said “Believe.” Maureen touched her hand to the Cubs logo on her chest and smiled, looking back at the ground.

“My son,” she said.

Then she pointed across the rolling hill to the most famous grave in the cemetery, which is where she was headed next, to pay respects to Harry Caray before going to watch the game. His stone has green apples on top, an inside joke referencing a quote about the Cubs one day making it to a World Series just as surely as God made green apples.

Wright Thompson has painted the perfect picture of the Cubs fan. It touched me. And made me remember so many things, and so many people. I know them. You know them. They are us, and we they. Wright also made me forget for a bit the intellectually demeaning tornadic hell that is the 2016 election. I hope you will find the same moment of peace.

Right now, football is boring, Formula One sucks and the NBA doesn’t yet matter. So, this is yer Emptywheel Trash Talk for this week. Share your stories and thoughts. Music is Sweet Home Chicago. There were a lot of versions to choose from, but this seemed to be the right one. The original Robert Johnson version. Keep in mind, when Robert Johnson first recorded that song, the Cubs had already not had a World Series victory for 28 years. That string only ended this week. As a bonus, I also include a newer version by Eric, BB, Buddy, Mick and some dude named Obama. Have a great weekend folks.

Friday: When the Beau Breaks and Brakes

In this roundup: Brexit breaks, Turkey’s troubles trebled, shattered guardrails.

I’ve been trying to get a handle on culture in the United Kingdom, to understand why the country is both so divided about its membership in the European Union and the nature of its identity. One of the places I’ve looked has been fashion, which is an outward expression of cultural identity and values.

British GQ and Vogue worked together on a video series looking at four different major movements in UK fashion. I have to admit I’m both enlightened and confused after watching them. I’ve embedded the first one here, and offer the rest as links.

(1) The Lad | (2) Modern Dandy | (3) New Traditionalists | (4) New Romantics

There isn’t a direct correlation with cultural segments in the U.S. so it’s difficult to translate what some of these mean. Lad culture, for example, is somewhat like our blue collar men and yet it’s also like high school and college jock culture. But then neither of these U.S. groups would own up to being a culture with a differentiated sense of style.

I think Americans will understand both the New Traditionalists and New Romantics most easily. They’ll recognize the correlates in their own U.S. culture. They’ll also recognize how segments of these three UK movements — Lad, Traditionalists, Romantics — might cleave with Remain or Brexit.

The one part of this series I found most odd was the Modern Dandy — these British literally did not know the roots of their own dandyism even when pointing to Beau Brummel. Brummel rebelled against the excessively ornate fussiness of pre-Regency fashion and is responsible for the adoption of trousers and white dress shirts as standard men’s’ wear (not to mention daily bathing). Brummel ultimately shaped global expectations of men’s business attire and our standards of hygiene. The contemporary dandies interviewed may grasp the notion of differentiation, but they don’t know their own history.

Not unlike the U.S., the UK has an identity crisis. It’s changed in ways it doesn’t fully understand and it’s out of tune with some of its own history. And while white nationalists like those in Ukip believe the UK should be more homogeneous, the UK hasn’t been for as long as it’s been a center of global business — even the monarchy is not lily white. We’re witnessing a struggle for control of identity, and it’s touch-and-go as to which faction will win.

Brexit breaks and brakes

Turkey troubles treble

  • Internet throttled, social media choked overnight (Turkey Times) — Erdoğan’s standard M.O.: shut down the internet and social media so that no one can report to the outside world what he’s doing to throttle democracy. VPNs are also targeted this time since the government knows they are used to bypass censorship.
  • Turkish police raid homes and arrest opposition party members (Andalou Ajansi) — This is insanity, like a U.S. president ordering the FBI to arrest the leaders of any other political party. The HDP had support of six million Turkish voters. HDP is the third largest political party holding more than 1/3 of the seats in parliament and the representative party of the Kurdish minority.
  • Car bomb detonated after HDP arrests, PKK blamed (USA Today) — Is this a prompt retaliation for political arrests? Whatever it is, instability is increasing in Turkey.
  • EU worried about HDP members (Twitter) — High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EU Commission Federica Mogherini expressed great concern for HDP members arrested; held phone meeting with Turkish officials.
  • ISIS claims responsibility later in the day for car bombing (The Star) — Unfortunately, many pro-Erdoğan supporters were riled up against PKK by the time ISIS piped up. Expect even greater hostility toward the Kurds.

Longread: A conservative’s POV on this election
Yeah, yeah, I know, David Frum, whatev. But his op-ed for The Atlantic is quite good, examining ‘guardrails’ of democracy Trump’s candidacy has broken. Which is all well and good — a conservative recognizes the serious threats to democracy — but what will conservatives do to fix this mess? Will they ever look carefully at their ownership of this dumpster fire they stoked pushing Movement Conservatism to excess, and begin to build a rational escape toward sanity?

A little over four days — mere hours — away from the end of this debacle we call a general election. Rest up.

Threat Level Orange! Election Week Plot!

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-5-01-51-pmThis morning, CBS published a story attributed to senior producer Pat Milton, who has done a lot of FBI-based stories (and co-produced fawning 60 Minutes interviews with John Brennan and Jim Comey), reporting on a possible terrorist attack. The story described the threat with specific detail — scheduled for Monday, in maybe NY, TX, or VA — but even while explicitly stating that “its credibility hasn’t been confirmed.”

Sources told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that U.S. intelligence has alerted joint terrorism task forces that al Qaeda could be planning attacks in three states for Monday.

It is believed New York, Texas and Virginia are all possible targets, though no specific locations are mentioned.

U.S. authorities are taking the threat seriously, though the sources stress the intelligence is still being assessed and its credibility hasn’t been confirmed. Counterterrorism officials were alerted to the threat out of abundance of caution.

The version published at 7:43 AM (and screen captured to the right) clearly attributed the story to a senior FBI official. (I’ve bolded the differences.)

A senior FBI official told CBS News, “The counterterrorism and homeland security communities remain vigilant and well-postured to defend against attacks here in the United States.  The FBI, working with our federal, state and local counterparts, shares and assesses intelligence on a daily basis and will continue to work closely with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to public safety.”

The version published at 12:52 rewrote that paragraph, obscuring that FBI was the source.

While we do not comment on intelligence matters, we will say the counterterrorism and homeland security communities remain vigilant and well-postured to defend against attacks here in the United States,” a U.S. intelligence official told CBS News. “The FBI and DHS, working with our federal, state and local counterparts, share and assess intelligence on a daily basis and will continue to work closely with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to public safety.

This story, leaked by a senior FBI official who “doesn’t comment on intelligence matters” but nevertheless did just that, comes at the end of the crappiest week for the FBI in decades.

At this point, it is fair to argue that the intelligence community — including people leading it today — have capitalized on a terrorist threat, even a dodgy one. As I tweet stormed this morning (and wrote in more detail here), in 2004 the government played up two dodgy election year threats.

In March 2004 (just as torture, spying cut back) fabricator went to CIA in Pakistan and said, “Janat Gul wants to attack US elections.”

Someone in CIA immediately said, “Nah!” Nevertheless, US got PK to detain, turn Gul to US to be tortured.

USG (including Jim Comey) reauthorized torture, to be used with Gul. Including waterboarding & techniques CIA had already used w/o approval.

USG (including Comey & John Brennan) also used election year plot based off fabrication as one reason FISC had to approve Internet dragnet.

There were, of course, leaks to the press about this election year plot.

CIA kept torturing and torturing Janat Gul, because they needed details of an election year plot based off a fabrication.

It wasn’t until October that someone said, “Hey, let’s go check if that guy claiming Gul wanted to attack US election was lying!” He was.

But Gul had served purpose: election year scare, reauthorizing torture, getting FISC approval for dragnet. Not bad for one torture victim!

Comey didn’t know CIA immediately raised concerns abt fabricator’s claims. It’s one thing Cheney/Gonzales prevented him fr learning in 2005

Comey signed off on torture again, including waterboarding w/o knowing that that case was all based off a fabrication.

But Comey has also refused to read torture report, which lays all this out. He’s avoiding learning what he did in 2004, 2005. Brennan too!

I lay all this out bc, w/history like this, IC (still led by Brennan & Comey) should be VERY careful abt leaking election year plots.

Succinctly: They cried wolf in 2004. And have yet to face accountability for that.

Then, in 2006 (at a time when both Comey and Brennan were on hiatus from directly government work, though they were both working with key government contractors), it happened again. Dick Cheney triggered the revelation of a very real terrorist plot in 2006 — fucking over the British officials trying to collect enough information to prosecute the perpetrators — to help Joe Lieberman stay in the Senate.

The point is, these people, including the people in charge of the IC now, have selectively exploited real or imagined terrorist plots before. The leak of this one, which FBI clearly hasn’t even vetted, sure seems exploitative given how badly FBI needs to distract from its own fuck-ups.

“Glitch!” FBI’s Three Leaked Claims about the Delay in Obtaining a Warrant for Huma’s Email

The other day, the WSJ had a story that included this detail about the gap between the time FBI realized there were Huma Abedin emails on a computer seized in the Anthony Weiner investigation and when they got a warrant to read them.

The FBI had searched the computer while looking for child pornography, people familiar with the matter said, but the warrant they used didn’t give them authority to search for matters related to Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement at the State Department. Mr. Weiner has denied sending explicit or indecent messages to the minor.

In their initial review of the laptop, the metadata showed many messages, apparently in the thousands, that were either sent to or from the private email server at Mrs. Clinton’s home that had been the focus of so much investigative effort for the FBI. Senior FBI officials decided to let the Weiner investigators proceed with a closer examination of the metadata on the computer, and report back to them.

At a meeting early last week of senior Justice Department and FBI officials, a member of the department’s senior national-security staff asked for an update on the Weiner laptop, the people familiar with the matter said. At that point, officials realized that no one had acted to obtain a warrant, these people said. [my emphasis]

While I and actual experts on Fourth Amendment law had already started asking about the legality of finding emails implicating Huma while searching a computer seized for an investigation into underage sexting, the revelation that FBI somehow forgot to get a warrant for two to three weeks raised even bigger questions.

In the last day, both the NYT and the WaPo have provided different explanations about it (though they use it to explain the time lapse between discovering the emails and informing Congress, not getting a warrant). The NYT reported that the FBI had to write custom software to be able to read Weiner’s emails without at the same time reading Huma’s.

The F.B.I. has not explained why three weeks passed between the time the bureau obtained the laptop and when Mr. Comey told Congress about it. After an F.B.I. computer analysis response team in New York copied the laptop’s hard drive, bureau employees began examining the information on the computer.

That is when agents realized that Ms. Abedin’s emails were on the laptop, but they did not have the authority to view them without a warrant.

The F.B.I. needed custom software to allow them to read Mr. Weiner’s emails without viewing hers. But building that program took two weeks, causing the delay. The program ultimately showed that there were thousands of Ms. Abedin’s emails on the laptop.

Mr. Comey was not briefed in full on a plan to read the emails until last Thursday, Oct. 27. He informed Congress the next day. F.B.I. lawyers then had to obtain a second warrant to look at Ms. Abedin’s emails, which happened last weekend. [my emphasis]

WaPo reported that “glitches” delayed the FBI in separating Weiner’s emails from Huma’s.

Although investigators had discovered the emails in early October, software glitches prevented them from separating Abedin-related emails from the hundreds of thousands of messages recovered until Oct. 19 or 20, according to people familiar with the case.

While Comey had been quickly alerted by his deputy to the original find, he took no further action, allowing agents in the field to get a better idea of the scope of the material. Agents could use digital clues to decipher where emails had originated and been sent but were legally barred from reading the emails without a search warrant because they had been obtained in a separate investigation.

When agents formally recommended on Oct. 27 that the warrant be sought, Comey agreed and then felt obligated to inform Congress — which he did with his letter the following day. Comey’s only reference in the letter to the timing of his involvement was that he had been briefed the previous day. [my emphasis]

Note NYT says Comey was not briefing on the plan to read the emails until October 27. WaPo says that he was in the loop before then, then consulted again on obtaining a warrant on October 27. Those aren’t necessarily conflicting stories — I guess it depends on what “a plan to read the emails” means — but I find the distinction curious.

The real batshit thing, though, is the claim that the nation’s premiere law enforcement agency didn’t have a way to sift out Weiner’s emails from Huma’s, something even garden variety cops have to do every day. Equally batshit is the claim they created a new piece of software to do so. Glitches? That’s a word national security people use as a cover story.

There is no good explanation for why the FBI didn’t have the technical means to do this. There is even less of an explanation for why, in a case involving such high profile people, the FBI would be struggling with “glitches.”

Which leaves us where we were with WSJ’s story: The FBI was fiddling with these emails for 3 weeks before “officials realized that no one had acted to obtain a warrant.” And yet somehow, the FBI was able to show probable cause that these emails had some tie to a crime.

I do hope this is something Patrick Leahy insists on getting answers on, because the story stinks.

Now Would Be a Good Time to Restore Statutory Authority of DOJ’s Inspector General

Judd Legum reports that the FBI’s Inspection Division is launching an investigation into why its FBI Records Vault Twitter bot launched into action the other day, resulting in the re-release of FOIAed files on Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich.

Candice Will, Assistant Director for the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said she was referring the matter to the FBI’s Inspection Division for an “investigation.” Upon completion of the investigation, the Office of Professional Responsibility will be referred back to the Office of Professional Responsibility for “adjudication.”

Federal law and FBI policy prohibit employees from using the power of the department to attempt to influence elections.

Will was responding to a complaint from Jonathan Hutson, a former investigative reporter who now works in communication in Washington, DC. She did not respond to requests, via phone and email, for further comment.

I’m happy the FBI is conducting this investigation, but this story is the inevitable result of the FBI responding appropriately to a complaint submitted by a media consultant, not any indication anyone at the FBI takes its own misconduct seriously.

Plus, the Inspection Division and the Office of Professional Responsibility don’t have statutory independence from the rest of the FBI, which means their investigation (and particularly OPR’s adjudication) can be influenced by FBI executives.

The entity that should be conducting an investigation into the FBI’s misconduct relating to this election is the Inspector General, which does have the independence to really assess who, if anyone screwed up.

There’s just one problem with that. As I’ve long covered, in 2010, the FBI started balking at the Inspector General’s proper investigative demands. Among other things, the FBI refused to provide information on grand jury investigations unless some top official in FBI said that it would help the FBI if the IG obtained it. In addition, the FBI (and DEA) have responded to requests very selectively, pulling investigations they don’t want to be reviewed. In 2014, the IG asked OLC for a memo on whether it should be able to get the information it needs to do its job. Last year, OLC basically responded, Nope, can’t have the stuff you need to exercise proper oversight of the FBI.

DOJ’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, has been trying for some time to get Congress to affirmatively authorize his office (and IGs generally, because the problem exists at other agencies) to receive the information he needs to do his job. But thus far — probably because Jim Comey used to be known as the world’s biggest Boy Scout — Congress has failed to do so.

I care about how FBI’s misconduct affects the election (thus far, polling suggests it hasn’t done so, though polls are getting closer as Republican Gary Johnson supporters move back to supporting the GOP nominee, as almost always happens with third party candidates). But I care even more about how fucked up the FBI is. Even if Comey is ousted, I can’t think of a likely candidate that could actually fix the problems at FBI. One of the few entities that I think might be able to do something about the stench at FBI is the IG.

Except the FBI has spent 6 years making sure the IG can’t fully review its conduct.

It’s time to fix that.

Signaling: Schumer Has Lost Faith in Comey

Yesterday, Josh Earnest repeated a view — ascribed to the President — he had used the day before.

Q And does the President still stand by Director Comey? Would he advise Secretary Clinton, if she were to be President, that — or Donald Trump, if he were to succeed President Obama — that he could have confidence in that FBI Director?

MR. EARNEST: Well, as I noted yesterday, the President believes that Director Comey is a man of integrity, that he’s a man of principle. There’s a reason that he serves — that he was nominated by President Obama to serve as the Director of the FBI. There’s also a reason that he was appointed to serve in a high-ranking position at the Department of Justice when President Bush was in office. There’s also a reason that a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans in the United States Senate both voted to confirm him to the position of the Director of the FBI. And the President, as I noted yesterday, continues to have confidence in his ability to do that job.

Today, however, President Obama took a decidedly different stance, when asked directly by NowThis.

“There is a norm that when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo and we don’t operate on incomplete information and we don’t operate on leaks,” he said in an interview with NowThis. “We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”

That’s far more critical of Comey’s actions than Earnest’s statements of the last two days.

An even more remarkable stance came from Chuck Schumer, who may soon be Majority Leader and who has been incredibly influential to Comey’s career, in an interview with Bloomberg.

Senate Democratic leader-in-waiting Chuck Schumer said Wednesday he’s lost confidence in FBI Director James Comey over his handling of the most recent disclosure in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation — a tough rebuke to a man Schumer has long admired.
“I do not have confidence in him any longer,” said the New York Democrat, who has criticized as “appalling” Comey’s decision to send a letter to lawmakers 11 days before the election disclosing the bureau’s new review of e-mails potentially pertinent to the investigation of Clinton’s private server.

“To restore my faith, I am going to have to sit down and talk to him and get an explanation for why he did this,” Schumer said in an interview.

Schumer not only made Comey’s career with support for each of his DOJ appointments, but of course set up the 2007 testimony that made Comey’s run up some hospital steps so famous.

Mind you, Schumer seems to leave open the possibility he might change his mind, if Comey explains “why he did this.” So it may just be an effort to start putting as much weight on the scale as the GOP long has.

Still, Schumer’s comments are the first inkling that Comey may not survive this.

My Boob Clinic Is Part of an International Spying Plot … but Hillary’s on It!

By now you’ve likely read or at least heard about this Slate story, which uses a bunch of innuendo arising from some metadata to suggest that Trump has a secret exclusive communication method with Russia’s biggest bank.

A number of people have debunked the technical claims in the article.

Former GCHQ employee Matt Tait did so in a series of tweets here. Consultant Naadir Jaawa laid out how it’s a marketing server here. Consultant Robert Graham not only lays out the same spam email explanation that both Spectrum Health and Mandiant describe in the story, but notes that other malware researchers question the data in the story.

Indeed, one journalist did call one of the public resolvers, and found other people queried this domain than the two listed in the Slate story — debunking it. I’ve heard from other DNS malware researchers (names remain anonymous) who confirm they’ve seen lookups for “mail1.trump-email.com” from all over the world, especially from tools like FireEye that process lots of spam email. One person claimed that lookups started failing for them back in late June — and thus the claim of successful responses until September are false.

Krypt3ia, in a post written in steps weeks ago, couldn’t get answers from the “Tea Leaves” behind the story and judged that the incriminating files — which were just text files — could be recreated.

These are the key files in the new dump but the problem I have is that they are just text files. Anyone with the know how could re-create these to look legit enough but yet still be questioned. I see no actual login to the shell and queries being run here so really coulda just done a find/replace on another query on any server you have access to.

In short, contrary to what Slate suggests, there are innocent explanations for this, and there’s good reason to distrust the provenance of the data behind it.

Update: The Intercept has now explained why they passed on the story; they include spam sent to both Alfa and Spectrum from Trump, which corroborates the theory everyone else technical is settling on.

Boob Clinics usually stay out of international spy plots

Most of these debunkings have focused on the technical aspects. I want to start with this passage from Slate.

A small portion of the logs showed communication with a server belonging to Michigan-based Spectrum Health. (The company said in a statement: “Spectrum Health does not have a relationship with Alfa Bank or any of the Trump organizations. We have concluded a rigorous investigation with both our internal IT security specialists and expert cyber security firms. Our experts have conducted a detailed analysis of the alleged internet traffic and did not find any evidence that it included any actual communications (no emails, chat, text, etc.) between Spectrum Health and Alfa Bank or any of the Trump organizations. While we did find a small number of incoming spam marketing emails, they originated from a digital marketing company, Cendyn, advertising Trump Hotels.”)

Spectrum accounted for a relatively trivial portion of the traffic. Eighty-seven percent of the DNS lookups involved the two Alfa Bank servers.

The story, remember, is that Trump has a super spooky exclusive hotline directly to a corrupt Russian bank. But most people covering this completely ignore that it’s not completely exclusive: over 10% of the traffic reported by the anonymous researchers involves Spectrum Health.

Spectrum Health is the largest employer in Grand Rapids and West Michigan generally. It includes the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and a Betty Ford Breast Care clinic. Spectrum Health is where I go to the doctor and Betty Ford is where I got my still cancer-free boobs squished this year. So for this story to make sense, you’ve got to explain why a children’s hospital and a boob clinic are in cahoots with Trump and a big Russian bank.

The original version of the story tried to make much of the tie to Spectrum, finding in the children’s hospital named after Richard DeVos’s wife a tie to Erik Prince (Helen’s daughter-in-law Betsy’s brother) and the DeVos family’s multinational pyramid scheme, the wealth from which has always — not just this year — been funneled into conservative causes.

The other frequent connection to Trump’s hidden server with the same distinctive human pattern is Spectrum Health, a Michigan hospital with close ties to the DeVos family (http://www.spectrumhealth.org/locations/helen-devos-childrens-hospital). The Devos family founded Amway / Alticor which operates in Russia including transactions with Alfa Bank such as buying insurance for 800 Alticor employees from Alfa Bank’s insurance subsidiary. The Devos family has given millions of dollars in the past few months to conservative super PACs (www.fec.gov). One member of the Devos family was a founder of Blackwater.

None of that makes sense, though, especially since — while some of the DeVoses do seem to be funding Trump now and Prince has bizarrely backed the Donald (though that may stem from being shut out of State business while Hillary was in charge) — the biggest commonality between the DeVoses (who are hard core Republicans) and Trump is their multinational scheming and fondness for sports teams.

They may both be awful conservatives, but they are different kinds of awful conservatives, and there’s little reason to believe they’d be in cahoots outside of belated efforts, post-dating these files, to fund Republican turnout in the state (and even there, Prince’s sister Betsy is withholding direct funding).

More importantly, the DeVoses no more run this hospital than Betty Ford does.

But without the conspiracy theories implicating the DeVoses, then innocent explanations sure look a lot more plausible.

Tellingly, however, most other treatments of this story (this is an exception) have simply ignored this detail. Because once you have to calculate how a children’s hospital and a boob clinic — even one, or perhaps especially one, named after Gerald Ford’s wife — has a tie to this international spy plot, things start falling apart.

The reason why the boob clinic part of the story is important is it’s a detail that should have led even non-technical people to at least think twice before running with the story. Slate, however, simply included Spectrum’s explanation for the files, the one that matched Mandiant’s working hypothesis, and careened ahead.

The FBI has its own doubts

After Slate published, the NYT posted a story that generally reveals the FBI hasn’t been able to substantiate any tie between Trump himself and Russia and has backed off its claims that Russia was trying to decide the election (a judgment I hope to return to).

It also reveals that the FBI largely agreed with what security experts concluded when they saw this claim.

In classified sessions in August and September, intelligence officials also briefed congressional leaders on the possibility of financial ties between Russians and people connected to Mr. Trump. They focused particular attention on what cyberexperts said appeared to be a mysterious computer back channel between the Trump Organization and the Alfa Bank, which is one of Russia’s biggest banks and whose owners have longstanding ties to Mr. Putin.

F.B.I. officials spent weeks examining computer data showing an odd stream of activity to a Trump Organization server and Alfa Bank. Computer logs obtained by The New York Times show that two servers at Alfa Bank sent more than 2,700 “look-up” messages — a first step for one system’s computers to talk to another — to a Trump-connected server beginning in the spring. But the F.B.I. ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.

Note, this means that the FBI was already looking into this story when it got shopped to reporters in early October. So in addition to the four or so other entities that reviewed this story and found it wanting (including me), the FBI had already had a crack at it.

Hillary Clinton and her likely National Security Advisor jump on this story

Now, as with the Kurt Eichenwald story claiming to have found a smoking gun tying Trump to Putin, people on the left didn’t read the story very critically. Sure, this one is technically hard — up until you think about the boob clinic connection alleged in the middle of the spy plot.  But for all its breathlessness, the Slate story simply insinuated. It proved nothing.

Which is why I’m so troubled that Hillary Clinton tweeted it four times in three hours, including a statement her likely National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan put together.

I mean, I get that it’s election season and all. I get that Jim Comey gave Hillary a whopping October surprise on Friday. But one of the reasons we’re supposed to elect Hillary over Trump is that she is more measured and fact-based than Donald is.

Here, she jumped on a story that at least should have given pause and created two campaign messaging pieces around it, asserting as fact that “Donald Trump has a secret server … set up to communicate privately with a Putin-tied Russian bank.”

I’ll repeat again: Jake Sullivan — the guy who wrote the longer statement on this — is widely assumed to be set to take on the job from which Condi Rice started a war by warning about fictional mushroom clouds.

Who are these secret researchers, anyway

Which leads me to a final question a few of the security folks are asking about this story.

In addition to his technical debunking, Robert Graham made an equally important point: researchers shouldn’t be accessing this data for ad-lib investigations into presidential candidates, and it’s not even clear who would have access to it all except the NSA.

The big story isn’t the conspiracy theory about Trump, but that these malware researchers exploited their privileged access for some purpose other than malware research.


In short, of all the sources of “DNS malware information” I’ve heard about, none of it would deliver the information these researchers claim to have (well, except the NSA with their transatlantic undersea taps, of course).

And in a second post this morning, Krypt3ia started wondering who’s behind this story.

This was a non story and this was someone’s troll or an IC operation of some kind. I left it at that… That is until last night when this fallacy laden report came out of Slate.

Anonymous Security Professionals

So here is what I believe happened with Slate and Foer. Tea, not happy with my ignoring their bullshit, went on to pimp at least five venues looking for a way to get this wide and Foer was the gullible one to do so. Now, with a live one on the line Tea spun their tale and added the new twist that they are in fact a group of “security professionals” with insider knowledge and that this story is really real. Of course once again they provided no real proof of Trumps servers being configured for this purpose, no evidence of actual emails, and no real forensically sound information that proves any of what they say can be proven in a court of law. This is a key thing and Slate may not care but others do. Even in the previous dumps on the i2p site that tea set up their diagram said “this is what it would look like” would is not proof, that there is speculation and not evidence.


Meanwhile, the story spun by Tea and now Camp et al on Slate makes me wonder just who Tea is. Obviously Camp knows Tea and the others and this is a small world so let’s work out the connections shall we?

Camp –>Vixie –> ??? let’s just assume that Camp knows these persons well and if one starts to dig you could come up with a few names of people who “would” (there’s that would again) have the kind of access to DNS data that is needed.

Just sayin.

Of course, we have since learned that before Tea Leaves started pushing this story to the press, the FBI had been investigating it for two months.

Which, to my mind, raises even more questions about the anonymous researchers’ identities, because (small world and all) the FBI likely knows them, in which case they may have known that the FBI wasn’t jumping on the story by the time they started pitching it.

Or the FBI doesn’t know them, which raises still more questions about the provenance of these files.

Ah well, if President Hillary starts a war with Russia based off Iraq-War style dodgy documents, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing my boob clinic is right there on the front lines.

Update: I’ve added language to clarify that the DeVoses don’t run Spectrum.

Halloween Monday: Dying for Love

In this roundup: Turkish troubles, good tech bad tech, fickle market reaction, and Halloween tricks-or-treats.

Because it’s Halloween I’m sharing a short film for Movie Monday based on that theme. It’s probably R-rated so don’t launch it in the office without the doors shut and/or the volume down. It parodizes so many cheap horror films of the 1980s-2000s including the Final Girl trope.

I need to watch this short a couple more times. The film is billed as a single take — one long, unbroken camera shot — but I’m not certain it is. I think there may be a hidden few cuts when the location changes from one end of a room to another. Look at this analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s use of dissolve cuts in his 1948 film Rope and you’ll see what I mean by hidden cuts. Keep in mind that with digital technology, even dissolve cuts may be smoother and much less detectable than they were in 1948 with traditional film.

Turkish troubles

Good tech, bad tech, or something in between

  • Delta Airlines implements RFID baggage tracking app (Fortune) — FINALLY. I’ve been wondering ever since the furor over Walmart using RFID on inventory why airlines couldn’t use RFID and let their customers track their own bags. Only took ~16 years or so. And thank goodness this technology isn’t WiFi-enabled. Should save billions of dollars — let’s hope that trickles down to savings on tickets.
  • Toyota developing a keyless access system for carsharing (Detroit Free Press) — Really? Didn’t Toyota have keyless remote fobs that were hacked just last year?
  • SpaceX still investigating launchpad explosion (Business Insider) — To be fair, it’s not clear yet what triggered the explosion two months ago. Can’t say if this is good or bad technology or something else altogether. (Not going to mourn the loss of a satellite which was to provide internet to African continent via Facebook. This part I’d call bad tech. Can’t we come up with some other approach to providing internet besides a walled garden with fake news?)

The market = fickle mistress?[1]

Tricks or treats?

  • Spooky reads: scary seance scenes in fiction (Guardian) — Could be fun to read while waiting for trick-or-treaters to knock on your door.
  • What makes a good horror film? (OpenCulture) — If you’d rather watch than read something scary tonight, bone up first before surfing Netflix or Amazon for a film.
  • Werewolves in classic literature (Sententiae Antiquae) — Classic literature, as in Greek or Roman, has a surprising number of references to lycanthropy. Did they tell each other these stories to scare each other around the campfire?
  • Sluttiest Halloween costumes (McSweeney’s) — Of 1915, that is. In case you need a laugh and not a scare. I sure could right now; only one more week of election terror to go.

Watch out for little ghosts and goblins tonight!
[1] Note: You’re not seeing things — I accidentally hit the Publish button before I’d updated the two market economics bits!

Consent of the Governed

usdecindependence_header_wikipediaThe last time a man touched me inappropriately at work, he tried to massage my shoulders while looking down my blouse. I had only been on my new job a few days at that time; I later found out this same man did this (and worse) with nearly every female co-worker younger than him. He had access to them all as their IT representative. They avoided asking for IT help unless they were desperate.

When I told the division president — our mutual boss at a Fortune 100 company — that every woman had a sexual harassment problem with the IT guy, the president asked me what he was supposed to do about it.

The last time I ever talked with my father about women in the workplace we had been discussing the Anita Hill hearing. “Why didn’t she tell somebody sooner?” my dad asked. “Why report it only after Clarence Thomas’ nomination? It just looks suspicious.” My father had been a supervisor to both men and women for nearly two decades at this point. His naivete and blame-the-victim mentality shocked and disappointed me so badly I couldn’t talk about this topic with him ever again.

I can’t think of any women I know who’ve worked in mixed gender environments who don’t have stories about sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace. Even my daughter, so new to the workforce, now has her own stories to tell. And this is just the workplace — these are not the stories women have to tell about harassment, abuse, assault outside of work. They often have worse stories to tell, though even the ones on the job can be harrowing.

Like my friend who was slapped in an elevator by a male foreign national co-worker who called her all manner of awful things. She was so rattled she called me immediately afterward; she asked if she should report it as sexual harassment. I told her that it was assault and battery. But she was so worried about keeping her job she only reported it to her boss and human resources. The batterer, when confronted by management, said it was perfectly normal to treat women this way where he came from. So they sent him back to work overseas without further repercussions.

When Donald Trump’s victims say he acted inappropriately — touching them sexually without permission, taking advantage of their vulnerability as teenagers in dressing rooms, or worse — I believe them. I feel their deep discomfort. I know why they didn’t come forward sooner.

Because even their own kin may shame them or not believe them. Because the problem and the blame will be put on their shoulders and not on the perpetrators or on the authorities responsible for protection. Because the victimization doesn’t end with the revelation of the harassment or abuse.

Because their agency and power to consent will be violated again by a misogynist culture. The only exercise of autonomy they have is suppression of the facts to prevent re-victimization. They have emerged now because the stakes are incredibly high, just as they were in Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court, and because there is limited safety in numbers.

+ + +

Conservative men denouncing Trump after the “grab pussy” video emerged recently revealed something about them. They weren’t upset by Trump’s overt racism against Mexicans or xenophobic rants against Muslims. They only drew the line when Trump appeared to be a threat to their (white) women — “as a husband, as a father of daughters,” they prefaced their rejections of Trump’s behavior.

It’s no surprise they objectify women as things belonging to them. Women are just chattel to be controlled according to their ideology; female votes are to be corralled by cultural subjugation. Conservatives weren’t worried about their women’s votes.

But touching their property without permission is beyond the pale. It is not to be borne. This is the heart of the matter, why Trump’s support is weakening among conservatives. Trump threatens their exercise of control when he takes without their consent.

And while they can’t articulate this very well, it’s the nebulous threat Trump poses to the concept of consent of the governed which now bothers them. If he’ll grab their (wife’s/daughter’s) pussy without their consent (never mind women’s/girls’ consent), what else might this man grab non-consensually?

+ + +

I’m taking a risk here and making a statement which the rest of the emptywheel contributors may or may not agree with.

Apart from our posts on sports and the arts, this site is about consent. For example, we’ve written about:

— the march toward and conduct of an illegal war, illegal primarily because it was authorized without fully informed consent and the means by which the authorization was obtained was hidden even as it was investigated;
— the collapse of the economy in 2008, after the machinations of investment banks hid the perils of fraudulent subprime mortgages inside unregulated financial vehicles, in a manner to which the public could not fully consent;
— the ramp up to the Affordable Care Act, when single payer as an alternative was never fully considered, thwarting our true, mutual consent; when key representatives were shut out and suppressed, like Planned Parenthood for women’s reproductive health;
— the implementation of pervasive surveillance on U.S. citizens in ways which prevented our representatives from truly understanding the nature and scope of monitoring;
— the rise of technology foisted on consumers without public consent by way of adequate government oversight to ensure its safety and security.

It is this common theme, the consent of the governed and non-consensual acts of bad faith, which moves us to research and write.

Some argue that consent of the governed is rare or untenable. Obtaining unanimous consent is nearly impossible in complex societies. This is a key reason why representative democracy is necessary. We’ve constructed a framework over the last 240 years, though not perfect, operating at the consent of the governed. Government acts without consent — outside of the social contract we’ve built as constitution and law — are illegitimate and deserve vigorous pushback.

The threat to this one concept — our consent to be governed — about which conservatives have finally become concerned with Donald Trump’s candidacy for office. His personal behavior shows gross disregard for both personal and collective consent.

+ + +

It’s puzzling that so many conservative voters ignore the baggage Trump brings with him. It says something about the depth of their desperation to change the status quo that they would support someone with such an egregiously tainted background. Granted, the rest of the field competing for the GOP’s presidential nomination was pretty lackluster when not flawed. None of them possessed adequate charisma to overcome their individual problems.

Trump, in contrast, has more than a decade of constructed persona at his disposal. His name is a brand polished by highly produced television content aimed at both lower and middle-class Americans, from World Wrestling Federation appearances, to NBC’s reality TV show The Apprentice, to Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants. The banality of these appearances during prime time built an expectation among the broadcast TV viewing audience that Trump was benign. Safe, even, afforded repeated access to American homes through their televisions every week.

Their political consent was constructed without their full consciousness.

The public had already become inured to the idea of a broadcast entertainment personality becoming a politician, especially conservatives. Their favorite president, Ronald Reagan, had successfully made the transition from film and TV to the presidency. Many other politicians have since spent a considerable amount of time moving between broadcast entertainment and politics. It’s become normative to expect the thinnest of separations between these roles, to the point that Americans can’t see the production process between the human as a politician and the produced personality as branded content. They haven’t realized they are being sold a product which they buy with attention.

And they bought Donald Trump — hook, line, and sinker.

+ + +

Conservatives shot themselves in the foot, aided and abetted by Bill Clinton’s administration (oh, the irony). The elimination of the Fairness Doctrine prevented exposure to alternative views over broadcast networks, relying wholly on licensees to operate for the greater public welfare under the terms of their Federal Communications Commission license. The increasing consolidation of broadcast networks under a smaller number of media companies — coincidentally owned or controlled by conservatives as major shareholders or as editors — assured a consistency of content across the entire country. Large swaths of rural America had few if any alternatives to networks carrying conservative content.

Over time, internet access improved to rural America offering access to other alternative media, but not before the same regions with limited media had been fully indoctrinated in either conservative perspectives via talk radio or a narrow world view acquired from a small number of TV broadcasters. When they took to the internet, the indoctrinated sought the same perspectives.

In short, conservatives built their version of Radio Rwanda.

Decades of the Overton Window applied to conservatives’ ideology — gradually promoting the unthinkable and unacceptable to popular and policy — both assured conservatives with an authoritarian bent would remain corralled under the Republican Party, to serve the corporate interests of those who funded the party. But assuring these voters were captive and clearly separate from liberal ideology also assured another corporatist wolf was allowed in with their sheep.

Trump was on TV, and nobody on talk radio was bashing him. He must be safe, especially since he looks and sounds like everything conservatives promote as positive: anti-tax millionaire with family. America’s Radio Rwanda propelled Trump-as-construct everywhere.

+ + +

And now we know the rest of the story — or most of it. Conservatives brought a viper to their breast after making a pet of it, and now their political party is dying from its bite.

Like Rep. Jason Chaffetz, now voting for Trump, though only weeks ago he said Trump’s “locker room talk” was offensive; only months ago Chaffetz railed against the poisoning of Flint. Does Chaffetz really believe that Trump as president would do anything to support Flint let alone prevent other similar crises from happening? Does Chaffetz really believe Trump will protect the women of his family, let alone halt his locker room talk about women? What is it that Chaffetz as a conservative is really conserving, along with the rest of his House cohort? What is it his political party really stands for?

Ditto for Senator Mitch McConnell, who can’t be bothered to do anything more than laugh off Trump as his party’s leader.

Conservatives and the GOP manipulated consent, systematically removing opportunities for the public to make fully informed decisions.

And now they find they have been assaulted; their party has been taken from them.

Do they muddle along with and enable the abuser, trying not to make waves until they are rid of him, a la Paul Ryan?

Do they openly reject him and fight back when Trump turns on them, hoping like hell he is not elected and won’t raze them to the ground afterward?

Do they tack back and forth during these last two weeks of the election season, risking the displeasure of Trump’s supporters while trying to retain their position?

They could ask any woman who’s been sexually harassed or assaulted how they lived with their situation. They understand only too well what it’s like to suffer the loss of their agency and autonomy without their active, informed consent. Especially when no one else believes in them.

The rest of us will have to fight like hell to make sure this serial abuser doesn’t grab our country along with our pussies.

The Jetzon’s Self Driving Auto Car Drone Aint Here Yet


History shows again and again
How nature points out the folly of men.

Yeah, truer words never spoken. Even if in relation to Godzilla. And you can apply that to the relentlessly ballyhooed “autonomous driving automobiles”.

Seriously, this stuff is Henny Youngman type of slapsick comedy. It ain’t happening.

Okay, I am cribbing from Atrios, but dammit, what the hell do you think us conspiracy propagators are supposed to do??

I’m just saying these cars won’t ever (in our lifetimes – sure, eventually the singularity might arrive) really work as hyped and certainly don’t deserve all of the press they’re getting. I also don’t think that even if they did work they’d be a big improvement for all (some) of the reasons people think they will be, but those are more debatable issues which I rarely bother to debate because the fact is the things aren’t going to work. Okay, I’ll define “work.” Basically, you have to be able to tune out 100% over 90% of the time. I’ll even allow for a “last mile” kind of “time for you to drive” thing as long as the rest of the time you can kick back and read your book or whatever. Because if you have to pay attention but usually not doing anything, what’s the point? It’s just better cruise control. A neat feature for some, but nothing more than that.

Ya. I am sure that all of you out there driving their Tesla 3’s will squawk [oh, wait, they are not out yet!]. As I am sure all of you on the waiting list for Tesla 3’s [good luck with that!] that is already years behind technical and production capability at Tesla are oh so defensive of the giant Elon Musk dream. Surely the dream will catch up to reality, it must!

Also, the supertrains between Los Angeles and San Francisco (okay, forget the “cheaper” stuff, that was a joke!) and between New York and Washington DC are totally gonna be ready to roll after New Year’s Eve.

When the candidates talk about their totally awesome “infrastructure and jobs” proposals, maybe ask what the hell they are talking about. Because it is probably bullshit. Hold them to it.