Tuesday: One String

There aren’t enough words to describe this genius who can do so much with a lone string. Brushy One String is the stagename of Andrew Chin, son of Jamaican musician Freddie McKay. McKay died in 1986 in his late 30s, leaving behind a body of work representative of the rocksteady (ex: Rock-a-Bye Woman) and reggae genres. While Brushy inherited his father’s musical talent, he’s parlayed into an interesting Rhythm-and-Blues-meets-Roots-Reggae crossover. Check out his website when you have a chance.


  • Volkswagen and USDOJ talking about criminal investigation (Deutsche Welle) — Up in the air yet whether DOJ goes with deferred prosecution or asks for a guilty plea from the lawmaker for criminal activity related to the promotion and sale of its so-called “Clean Diesel” passenger vehicles during the last decade. Criminal fines are estimated at $1.2 billion. VW claims to be cooperating, but the company’s failure to disclose the additional cheat software in the 3.0L engines suggests some problems understanding what “good faith” means.
  • Volkswagen’s Australian manager believes diesel fix “imminent” (CarsGuide) — And “Under Australian law, we don’t believe there’s anything on our car which is illegal.” Uh-huh. Hence the fix for 80,000 1.6L and 2.0L passenger diesels. It’s true that Australia is not as strict about NOX as the U.S., but VW’s passenger diesels didn’t meet EU or AUS limits on other pollutants.
  • Ford expects to offer self-driving car without steering wheel within five years (Detroit News) — Well, then. Better hope regulations don’t require a steering wheel, huh? Ford has also invested $75M in LiDAR-maker Velodyne; Chinese search engine company Baidu has likewise made a $75M investment. LiDAR is expected to provide navigational assistance for these self-driving vehicles.

Way Up There


  • Univision’s bid wins Gawker Media (Recode) — Of the two known bidders — Ziff-Davis and Univision — the latter’s $135M bid won bankrupt Gawker Media and its brands. Gawker’s lineup joins The Onion and The Root, purchased by Univision, and Fusion which Univision originally created jointly with Disney and now owns outright. Founder Nick Denton seems pleased with this outcome as his brands and workers continue without disruption; billionaire Pete Thiel gets partial revenge on Denton for outing him by forcing the bankruptcy and sale. Univision’s editorial policy will be less personal in its coverage — probably a good thing. Let’s check back in a year.
  • ‘Not a good fit’ says Barnes & Noble as CEO shown the door (GalleyCat) — Whoa. You don’t see such blunt statements about CEOs, especially one with less than a year under their belt. The company’s stock has been up though retail sales continued to struggle in competition against Amazon. Feels like there’s more to this story. In the mean time, Ron Boire is out the door and executive chairman Leonard Riggio will delay his retirement until a new CEO is found. Hope the next one can salvage NOOK tablet platform because I can’t stand Amazon’s Kindle.
  • Turkish court closes pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem (Business Standard) — Claiming the paper was a propaganda outlet for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), labeled a terrorist organist organization by Turkey, EU, and the US. The court said the closure was not related to the government’s post-coup purge of media believed to be sympathetic to Gülen movement. An appeal is possible.

I-Spy: Cyber Edition
You’ve probably heard about the alleged hacking of a NSA server and the subsequent attempt to auction contents from that server. Edward Snowden offered his perspective on the situation — I’ve Storify’d the tweet thread for your reading ease.

The disclosure and attempted auction were likely done by Russia for political reasons given the timing. Hacking and accessing the contents of the server should be expected — it’s ordinary spying, same as the U.S. does. But the revelation is a new tack; Snowden suggests it’s a warning to the U.S. about potential future disclosures. Read the thread for yourself.

I don’t think this hacking and disclosure happened in a vacuum. There’s a much bigger game to puzzle out — add the meeting between Russia and Saudi Arabia to “achieve oil market stability” as well as Russia’s express interest in Saudi Arabia’s plans to build as many as 16 nuclear reactors. Factor in a change in relationship between Iran and Russia now that Russia has deployed long-range bombers from Iran for the first time against ISIS. Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran have some of the largest proven oil reserves in the world, all three in the top 10 and in Saudi’s case, influence over OPEC. Is Russia preparing for asymmetric economic pressure?

Late adder: #BlueCutFire in San Bernadino County, CA is very bad, now 82,000 ordered to evacuate.

That’s it for now, still Tuesday in the next time zone. Let’s see if I can make it over the hump earlier tomorrow.

23 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    My reader is a Kobo – I don’t know if it would suit you, but it’s working pretty well for me.

  2. prostratedragon says:

    Heh, “Chicken in the Corn!!”

    Nations of 6-string guitar players will lament their wasted time.

  3. blueba says:

    Well, I’m just so pleased to see emptywheel (the blog) getting right in line with the New York Times and the corporate Neoliberal press, piling on Russia immediately even using the same weasel words “likely” “circumstances indicate” or whatever the word or phrase is best to make unfounded accusations sound acceptable.

    Are you sure is wasn’t China? It certainly couldn’t have been anyone else, after all China and Russia have surrounded the US with nuclear weapons and multiple air craft carriers – oh, wait that’s the peace loving US which has them surrounded.

    Given the belligerence and threats even the threat of the use of nuclear weapons the US is making on a regular basis against China and Russia – even if it is actually them doing this which is nothing but speculation and fear mongering on the part of the Western media and various blogs – they would certainly have justifiable reasons to protect their security.

    Of course here and in the rest of the sycophant press any defensive or counter measures to the expansion of US hegemony and progress toward its stated goal of “Global full spectrum domination” is evil.

    Snowden did a great thing, but he only touched the surface and didn’t even scratch it. Now he just takes pot shots at Russia like everyone else. Of course I guess he needs to take advantage of every opportunity to show he is not a Russian dupe.

    • bevin says:

      You are right.
      The consolation, however, is that it is all part of a losing strategy: the media that engage in this sort of low grade propaganda, attempting to deflect attention from the scandals, uncovered at the DNC, by promoting the ludicrous meme that Putin was responsible for hacking the files, are not just shedding credibility in handfuls but exacerbating the poisonous social effects of electoral corruption by fixing it in the system.

      This internal weakening is the surest form of subversion that there is, rather as Jim Crow has always been. Millions of frustrated, cheated voters, young people, with unaddressed problems of their own, such as tuition debt, precarious futures, inability to set up their own homes, left with the sense that the system is not just corrupt but that the corruption is OK with the media and even the legal Establishment.

      The first rule of aggressive foreign policies is: secure your base, get the people on your side, assert that there is a difference between you and a corrupt, unjust enemy.
      But those suffering from terminal hubris, those who really believe that theirs is an exceptional position, untrammeled by the laws of gravity and the rules that apply to lesser races, are always ready to ignore the basics.
      “We come, We see, They die..” makes a sharp, if ghoulish, sound bite but it doesn’t begin to work against big boys, like China and Russia.

      A true American patriot, not to mention a friend of humanity, would be arguing against adventurism, boasts, unfounded accusations and threats of military reprisal. In any future war it is unlikely that anyone will win, what is certain is that the USA won’t.
      We could “all get along” if it wasn’t so much fun for the shallow and the weak to turn the world into a playground and strut around it, portentously, to attract attention, and the admiration of fools.

    • wayoutwest says:

      I read Snowden’s comment on Russia being involved in this hack as a compliment and muted cheering for his gracious host in sharp contrast to the ‘blame’ everyone else seems to constantly project at Putin. Nothing that Snowden says will change the fact that the only way he will return to the US is either in a pine box or in chains.

      • rugger9 says:

        Do you think there is any possibility that Snowden aided the Russian hackers as his price to be allowed to stay? He certainly would be aware of some of the back doors. And, yes I would agree that would cross the line into treason if that is what happened.
        My first law of dirtballs whilst in the USN was this: they always give you another chance to discipline them (if they’re really dirtballs). Both Putin and the PRC have been pushing their limits to see where the bubble is for their neighbors, one of the latest is Indonesia scuttling illegal PRC fishing vessels getting a protest from the PRC, but the examples of cheating and (shall we say) creative parsing of agreements has been a hallmark of the PRC government for a long time. Also, they could shut down Kim Jong Un today but chooses not to, because KJU is also busy testing the limits of tolerance on the PRC’s behalf.
        As far as Putin goes, I saw a report today of Russian long range bombers hitting ISIS out of bases in Iran, which if true is a serious problem. DO not think for a minute that Putin will not leverage that relationship to undermine the sanctions and get access to a year-round warm water port (something the earlier version of the Soviets wanted for a very long time).

        • wayoutwest says:

          Any whistleblower who informs the public about how our government actually performs its criminal activities should be honored and treasured because their are so few people willing to take the punishment this public service costs them. WB’s such as Manning and Snowden bring out the worst in some people who can’t tolerate the idea of resisting the Statists and they produce or parrot simple minded scenarios such as yours to brand them as traitors. The Russians don’t need help with their intelligence gathering.

          • rugger9 says:

            I’ll agree that sunshine is the best disinfectant as noted by a wise SCOTUS justice. I will also stipulate that the Russian intelligence apparatus is a well-oiled and maintained machine, as is the PRC’s, because of the Cold War and the need to blunt the NATO technical advantages from canceling out the (at that time) Warsaw Pact conventional stockpile. So, while the Russian spooks don’t necessarily need the help, Snowden is an asset that can save them some time and I would expect he will be used in that way.
            I haven’t seen this pointed out in a while, but remember that the Warsaw Pact was the USSR’s empire in Europe. Those of you who want to go on the warpath regarding American imperialism need to be quite clear that the Soviets aren’t angels either in this regard. The former satellite states have clearly voted with their feet (h/t Trotsky) to join NATO so I think the relative values are clear. No one voted to stay when the Berlin Wall came down.
            The US Constitution is very clear about how treason is defined, to limit its use as a political weapon. It also does not have intent as part of the definition, so if Snowden performed a specific act in front of witnesses (a least 2) or admits it in open court, the nobility of the reasons for doing so (which would be dubious in this case, depending upon how much is hacked) would not apply one way or the other.
            The problem with the hacks is that not only are things found out, there are also ways to plant malware, false information, backdoors, etc., that can be deadly to the troops trying to protect us so we have the ability in the future to argue about this freely. Depending on the systems and the hacks, it could be something that can lead to a collapse of the cyber network and that would make the defense job a lot harder.

  4. Peterr says:

    The DW piece on VW is based on <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-said-to-uncover-evidence-of-criminal-acts-in-vw-probe-1471290998"a longer Wall Street Journal article with the title “U.S. Said to Uncover Evidence of Criminal Acts in VW Probe
    Justice Department hasn’t decided on specific charges; settlement talks under way with car maker”.
    The three elements of that title are rather mutually exclusive:
    1) DOJ uncovers criminal acts
    2) DOJ can’t figure out charges
    3) DOJ is engaged in settlement discussions
    *beats head against desk*
    IANAL, but it seems to me that if #1 is true, then you kind of have to have figured out what laws were broken (i.e., #2).
    Re #3, how can you have meaningful settlement talks if you can’t figure out the charges VW is facing? Why wait until you’ve figured out the starting point (#1 and 2) before moving right to #3?
    The WSJ also includes this:

    It remains unclear whether U.S. prosecutors plan to criminally charge Volkswagen employees, many of whom reside in Germany and would need to be extradited to face prosecution, some of the people said. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in June said the U.S. criminal probe involved “multiple individuals.”

    You remember Sally Yates, don’t you? She’s the DAG who said this in Sept 2015:

    In the most basic ways, though, corporate misconduct isn’t all that different from everything else DOJ investigates and prosecutes. Crime is crime. And it is our obligation at the Justice Department to ensure that we are holding lawbreakers accountable regardless of whether they commit their crimes on the street corner or in the boardroom. In the white-collar context, that means pursuing not just corporate entities, but also the individuals through which these corporations act. . . .
    The rules have just changed. Effective today, if a company wants any consideration for its cooperation, it must give up the individuals, no matter where they sit within the company. And we’re not going to let corporations plead ignorance. If they don’t know who is responsible, they will need to find out. If they want any cooperation credit, they will need to investigate and identify the responsible parties, then provide all non-privileged evidence implicating those individuals.

    There’s nothing “unclear” about Yates’ remarks from last September. What’s unclear is whether she was blowing smoke. I can’t help but notice there is nothing even close to this in either the DW piece or WSJ.
    How’s that whole “implicating those individuals” working out for you, Sally?
    Yeah, that’s what I thought too.
    Deceptions were woven.
    Cars were modified.
    Tests were rigged.
    Claims were falsified.
    Lies were told.
    Crimes were committed.
    Fines were assessed.
    Claps were clapped.
    And everyone went home happy.
    I have never seen such active passivity in my life as I’ve seen at the DOJ in the last 15 years.

  5. lefty665 says:

    Interesting music, and he gets a lot out of one bass string, but “genius” is a little overblown. He’s hitting a simple and pretty straight up bass line. When he gets to the 5th fret and above it’s exactly what is usually played on the next string(s) of a bass with more than one string.
    Here’s another one string bass, a gut bucket. Don’t think I’d call him a genius.
    You can add Turkey to the pot Putin is stirring in the middle east. Erdogan’s recent gushing over Putin was surprising. Together Turkey and Iran have more people than the rest of the area combined.

  6. Rayne says:

    P J Evans (12:49) — Thanks for the rec. I’m good for the moment switching off between my older Nooks and a Nexus, haven’t given the Kobo as much consideration as it is more focused on reading than on general tablet with reading emphasis and I really need a general purpose tablet. Very happy with MoonReader software on all three of my tablets as it offers an enormous range of features and a uniform reading experience across Android versions.

    prostratedragon and harpie — Nice to see you two!

    blueba (8:04) — Hey, wait a minute! You’re batting for Russia now? What happened to Team China? Did you defect from 五毛党 (Fifty Cent Party) for Пятьдесят центов армии (Fifty Cent Army)? Is the pay any better?

    Interesting that you think Snowden is compromised on just this one point; he’s suddenly not technically gifted enough to assess the perp. Note, though, how the NSA, Russia and China are saying nothing at all to rebut or claim responsibility — the silence speaks volumes.

    Peterr (8:32) — I don’t have a WSJ subscription (won’t buy anything from Murdoch+NewsCorp anyhow). I have a nasty suspicion the reason why DOJ is suddenly stupid about this collection of rather simple fraud and obstruction charges is geopolitical: the charges clearly set the tone and pace for other countries, and if every country hammered VW to the true extent of their guilt, Germany would have a crisis (they already do, but they are masking it — fortunate those refugees can be their sin eaters).

    lefty665 (8:56) — Dude. There’s two instruments in that video: the one-string guitar, and the artist. He plays both the string and his vocals in a manner which maximizes effect — it’s simple, raw, authentic. Genius is in making the most out of the least.

    • blueba says:

      I said nothing supportive of Russia or China. I criticized the vilification of them by innuendo and unproven assertions. If they are always to evil in deed and intent it should be easy to provide actual real evidence.

      Snowden, as I said, did a brave and fantastic thing. My point is that what he exposed was only a small part of the NSA et al activities. He provided no code or evidence of spying on money flow around the world or any number of activities one might suspect (as far as we know, sense we have no idea what the documents in the possession of Glenn Greenwald might contain), the point being much more is needed. I have no doubt Snowden would have done more if he could have. That not withstanding the fact that the Intercept has used its own brand of censorship to keep untold numbers of Snowden documents secret is indisputable.

    • Peterr says:

      Type the WSJ headline into Google, and you can click through to the article without a subscription.
      Re charges v VW, there’s also the question of cooperation with the German authorities. If they decide they want to put Winterkorn on trial and in prison, they will want the first crack at him, and the US making an extradition request before they are ready to move forward (assuming they will want to) could make for some complications everyone would rather avoid.
      But I think it is much more likely that, the famous Yates memo notwithstanding, the DOJ is simply not interested in holding individuals within major corporations accountable for criminal action when the companies offer substantial financial compensation to make it all go away.

    • lefty665 says:

      @4:21 Cosmic, will you share some of what you’re smoking? I didn’t say he wasn’t making good music, just that it was pretty simple stuff and not a genius bass line. How not genius you might ask? Well. I can, and did play right along with the video, and if I can play it, it’s pretty simple. I appreciated that you posted the video, I liked it and the one that followed. He’s a good musician, making good music, but genius performance is pretty far over the top.
      Thanks so much for womansplaining music to me, I’d never have guessed simple could be effective. What an epiphany. FWIW, I’ve been getting paid to play the guitar for more than 40 years. By process of elimination, listening, and practice, my ears and chops have gotten a little better over time. There are some musical geniuses around, and when I run into one I’m in awe.

  7. blueba says:

    I would urge emptywheel to reflect a little on this article and ask itself if it is not – through its use of innuendo and unproven assertions – participating unwittingly in a process of making a case for war.


    Always treating China and Russia as bad actors without a single positive aspect, people and governments who spend day and night hacking, attacking and devoting all their research and energy to the subjugation of the US which has them surrounded with hundreds of nuclear weapons and a first use policy is in fact propaganda supporting extreme aggression.

    During the years just before and in the years after the financial crisis created by actors in the United States which created vast economic misery across the US and Europe, even resulting in the stripping of democracy from Greece, China lifted 600 million – 600 million people what a staggering accomplishment – people out of poverty. Yet, here and throughout the Western press they are just evil commies with nothing to redeem them from their oppressive ways.

    Is the reduction of human suffering ever even mentioned in the Western press? – if so not much. Who at emptywheel wants to even acknowledge the 4+ billion people without access to clean water or toilets? Better for the upper 2 billion to talk among themselves.

  8. rugger9 says:

    While cruising in the “Arabian” Gulf (Persian was not allowed to be officially used then for political reasons, naturally there was a less-PC version of the name), we would be routinely tested by the various nations (especially Iran) to see how close we would allow aircraft or ships to come, in order to find the limit of the “bubble”. We made sure no such limit could be defined.

  9. Rayne says:

    Peterr (1:23) — I dunno. WRT holding individuals responsible, I’ll agree DOJ is chickenshit (not wanting to piss off Germany by stepping on their toes). As for the financial payout, I think this is the sticking point. Even VW’s investors are getting panicky about the damage, and a real payout appropriate to VW’s malfeasance would do serious damage to jobs in Germany. I wish I knew why the stock hasn’t adequately reflected the threat, but I suspect it’s the flash boys’ games propping up the stock price.

    blueba (1:47) — The most powerful nation-states spy. A lot. On each other and on everybody else. All the time. From NSA listening in on Angela Merkel’s phone calls and nosing around into Brazil’s oil busins — and I’m certain we’ve discussed this stuff here — to China’s Operation Aurora and Chinese nationals poking around U.S. farm fields, to Russian spies camped out here as covert agents and peeking into other spies’ servers.

    See the tag cloud feature in the right hand column of this website? Look at the names of the entities this site has covered most intensely. You’re full of shit if you think we’re being too hard on either China or Russia comparatively speaking.

    Catch the cluestick.

    rugger9 (4:21) — I mentioned Russia’s deployment of long-range bombers from Iran in my post. o.0

    • Peterr says:

      April 10, 2015: VW preferred shares sold at 253.20.
      August 17, 2016: VW closed at 121.75, or better than 50% off their 5 year high.
      As for why it hasn’t taken more of a hit, I think folks are holding their breath a lot right now, with people hoping VW can weather the storm and move forward. Yes, they cut the dividend way back, and there is still talk of clawing back something from Winterkorn et al., which is what some investors are hanging their hats on.
      Looking ahead in the medium to long term, the company governance is a huge question mark at best if not a negative, but VW is apparently seen as well (perhaps best) positioned technologically to give Tesla a run for its money in the luxury electric car segment going forward.
      There is also a disconnect between voting shares and ordinary ownership, with the Piech and Porsche families controlling 51% of the voting stock, and the government of Lower Saxony holding another 20%. Talk about a conflict of interest: if Lower Saxony pushes hard in court, the value of their stock goes down.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The DoJ and its patrons clearly do not want to hold masters of the universe accountable for their criminal conduct, or even require them to adjust their business models and/or staffing in order to find non-criminal ways to commit fraud and abuse. There also seems to be a committed effort to avoid setting an example, one the DoJ might have to repeat or that other governments might cite in disciplining abusive practices by an American MOU. Heavens! Accountability might become popular again, which the MOU would appreciate like a mosquito bit in the tropics.

  10. Rayne says:

    lefty665 (7:35) — Hey. Let us know when you get a gig on NPR Tiny Concerts, huh? As for the womansplaining: the term in psychology is ‘projection’. You haz it with your previous explanation about the artist and my opinion.

  11. lefty665 says:

    The one string guitar is a prop, a hook to attract attention. It can also be an interesting exercise like a painter working with a very limited palette. On the guitar it gets old very quickly, Depending on your reach, basically how long your fingers are, range is two, max three full tones. That’s so limited you pretty quickly exhaust the harmonically attractive combinations. There is a reason musical instruments have more than one string. I liked the two tunes I listened to and he clearly worked to vary them rhythmically and to find some tonal variation. But a half hour of it would be more than enough. He’s a good musician with good skills. Genius? Can’t tell from what he’s doing here.
    My opinion is informed by experience and my comments have been in response to your penchant for overstatement. It would be hyperbole except you clearly feel the need to be taken seriously. I’m quite happy gigging locally and hanging out with good musicians. I’ve achieved my musical aspirations and am happy to be retired. Music is an avocation.

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