UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sean Spicer Searches Staff

The Daily Escape:

(Baby Baboon – Kenya)

Trump press secretary Sean Spicer is trying to catch the sources of White House leaks. (Link below sourced by the Wrongologist)

Spicer called his White House staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the continuing leaks of WH information, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, is a violation of the Federal Records Act.

NOW they care about the law? Using a Republican National Committee email server for official business is illegal, but that hasn’t stopped the White House from using it. Does Spicer have any concerns about the unsecured Android smartphone his boss tweets from every day? More:

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

Spicer then specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media.

But someone in the room leaked all of it. They leaked that the leaky White House is trying to stop the leaks, (except for WikiLeaks) which, of course they love. Maybe someone should take a look at The Donald, who is currently taking a leak on the First Amendment.

Perhaps the gang who can’t shoot straight should have realized that people could delete incriminating information, or communicate with reporters in some way that might not be on their phones at all. Wrongo reveres the TV series “The Wire”. Apparently, Mr. Spicer has never watched it, and hasn’t heard of “burner” phones.

And it’s got to be difficult trying to maintain your loyalty to a team when the boss distrusts the team members. Unless there is a national security issue, there can’t be a reason to allow a government official to “inspect” your private mobile phone.

Many fun nicknames have been suggested for Sean Spicer (Cranky Spice, Whiny Spice). Wrongo’s current favorite is “Searchy Spice”, although his nickname in college was “Sean Sphincter” suggesting that he is in the right job: Hanging out with one of the world’s biggest assholes.

Thank you to the brave Americans inside the belly of the beast who put their country first. LEAK ON!

Next week in Spicer’s office: colonoscopies.

Here is a video about office investigations from the ever-popular TV series, “Office” (BBC version):

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

And enjoy (not) watching the Overlord’s address to the joint session of Congress tonight.

After all, you can read both fake news and alternative facts about it everywhere tomorrow.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Amazon’s Echo and Personal Privacy

Wrongo’s daughter gave him an Amazon Echo Dot for his birthday. Bob Lefsetz says that Amazon is becoming the new Apple: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The Echo came with almost no instructions. Simple packaging. Not a work of art, like [Steve] Jobs’ creations, but far from the old Microsoft where there’s so much info you’re inundated.

Simple and slick, particularly when it comes to using Echo to listen to music on Spotify, (assuming that you have Spotify premium) because Alexa eliminates a step. Before the Echo, you navigated your PC or mobile to Spotify’s site, entered the artist or track you wanted to hear in Spotify’s clunky search engine, then waited for the track to pop up, and then clicked on it to play.

With Alexa, you say the name of the track and/or the artist, and tell Alexa you want to hear it on Spotify, and it begins playing. Very nice.

Alexa brought in yuuge sales numbers for Amazon this season. Bloomberg reported:

Sales for Echo speakers based on Alexa’s voice-recognition software were nine times more than the 2015 holiday season…Echo and Echo Dot were the best-selling products across Amazon this year…

Sales were so good that Amazon sold out of its Echo speakers in mid-December. The Echo shortage shows voice-activated assistants have found a strong niche with consumers. But there’s a potential dark side to having an Alexa device: Alexa’s job is to listen to you speak, and then recognize and use those data.

This begs the question of whether you should have any expectations of privacy if Alexa is plugged in. If you think this is an academic question, consider that police in Arkansas want to know what an Amazon Echo device may have heard during a murder:

Authorities in Bentonville issued a warrant for Amazon to hand over any audio or records from an Echo belonging to James Andrew Bates. Bates is set to go to trial for first-degree murder for the death of Victor Collins next year.

Sound Orwellian to you? Your hot new Xmas gift may be the Trojan horse that kills your privacy.

Police say Bates had several other discoverable smart devices, including a smart water meter. The water meter shows that 140 gallons of water were used between 1 AM and 3 AM the night Collins was found dead in Bates’ hot tub. The police think all that water was used to wash away evidence of what happened that night.

The data from the water meter, and the request for stored Echo information raise questions about what constitutes individual privacy in the internet of things (IoT). Due to the “always on” nature of the Echo, authorities want any saved audio the speaker may have picked up that night. The Echo is supposed to be only activated by certain words, but it spoke random answers to Wrongo, when not asked a question, if the room it was in was filled with people over the holidays.

What’s more, Echo captures audio and streams it to the cloud when the device hears a wake word, such as “Alexa.” What the owner says are called “utterances” by Amazon, and they are stored in the cloud until a customer deletes them either individually, or all at once.

Why does Amazon save your words? Probably because you can order items from them via the Echo. A record of the sale could be necessary in a dispute.

In the Bates case, Amazon would not provide the police with any information that Bates’ Echo had logged on its servers. It later released a statement:

Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.

So, Amazon just told the Bentonville police and police everywhere what they have to do to get your stored information: Your privacy is in play if you have an Echo, and you get arrested.

We have an expectation of privacy in our homes, but these devices listen to you, they talk to each other, and to companies like Amazon and Spotify, so the challenge to individual privacy seems very clear. Governments from city to federal, will try to develop any information they can about a criminal case. If those data are gleaned from a smart device in your home, it’s just another data point, and it will become your job to make the case that your Constitutional rights were violated.

The Constitutional question is whether the data you generate in your home through internet-connected devices are data that you own at all. Do you share ownership with corporate America?

Does the state have rights to your private information if they say they need it?

Tip: Alexa has a microphone off button. Use it. Its possible that Amazon can’t hear you then.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – Anthony Weiner Edition

“God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh”Voltaire

Many funny memes have emerged after the FBI’s announcement that, in their investigation of Anthony Weiner’s possible sexting relationship with a 15 year-old girl, they turned up emails that may or may not be related to the Hillary Clinton private server investigation.

The internets are having fun associating Weiner and Clinton:

Dickileaks – NY Post

Weiner Probe – WaPo

The only thing that would make this more insane is if Trump’s tax returns were found in Anthony Weiner’s email – twitter

The Cocktober Surprise – twitter

Apparently, HRC’s 33,000 deleted emails were all just dick pics from Anthony Weiner – twitter

Seriously, the NYT reports that officials at the DOJ urged FBI head James Comey not to violate policies and procedural norms by intervening in the presidential election. The linked article contains this rather remarkable set of facts: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The FBI offered no comment, and Justice Department officials said they had no idea what Mr. Comey saw as his next move. Justice Department officials were particularly puzzled about why Mr. Comey had alerted Congress — and by extension, the public — before agents even began reading the newly discovered emails to determine whether they contained classified information or added new facts to the case.

Law enforcement officials have begun the process to get court authority to read the emails, officials said. How soon they will get that is unclear, but there is no chance that the review will be completed before Election Day, several law enforcement officials said.

So not only to they have no idea what’s in the emails, they don’t have a warrant to read them yet.

This from the Jane Mayer article at the New Yorker: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

According to the Administration official, [Attorney General] Lynch asked Comey to follow Justice Department policies, but he said that he was obliged to break with them because he had promised to inform members of Congress if there were further developments in the case. He also felt that the impending election created a compelling need to inform the public, despite the tradition of acting with added discretion around elections…

In essence, Comey is saying: “Well, I know the rule is designed to make sure that our investigations don’t influence elections, but I think in this case, we should break that rule, because there’s an election, and we should influence it.

There are as yet no further developments in the case. After the FBI obtains a warrant and reads the emails, there might be, but right now, nada.

What we have so far isn’t a “further development” at all. If a police detective walked into a DA’s office and told the DA the equivalent of what Comey said to Congress, say: “we found a box of Clinton files”. He would get a puzzled look and a question: “Yes? Go on? What did you find?” and if the cop responded with: “We haven’t looked in the box yet” the DA would say: “Why are you HERE, then?”

But that’s not how Congress works.

No one knows what the impact will be on the presidential election; we will see next Tuesday. Comey’s act of partisan bad faith is staggering, and there is no denying that his letter to Congress was a bombshell. This undermines democracy at least as much as anything the Pant Load says on the trail about “rigged elections.” Undermining democracy apparently comes with zero consequences these days.

So, it’s time to wake up America! You could lose your democracy without even knowing it is gone.

To help you wake up, here is Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist of the rock band System of a Down, with “Uneducated Democracy”, released in 2012. Serj lives in California and supported Bernie Sanders this year:

The video for “Uneducated Democracy” is made by Tumo, a technology school in Armenia. All of the crew were teenagers.

Sample Lyrics:

In dire need of reason
In a truly deaf nation
In dire need of reason
In a truly deaf nation
Without an education there is no real democracy
Without an education there is only autocracy

Open your eyes
Open your mouths
Close your hands
And make a fist
Down with the system
As we lay helpless against the machine

As sex scandals dictate
The winding road of realpolitik
The bully runs from his corner
Images rule through the media
Hungry hunger further
The hungry hunger further

Facebooklinkedinrss

September 21, 2016

On-the-ground insight from the Chelsea area of Manhattan on Sunday: Long-time reader David P. gives us some, from the day after the bombing:

I just finished reading your Wrongologist entry for today.

OTOH, I find some evidence that fear is not (universally?) out of control. We drove into NYC yesterday [Sunday] after seeing TV accounts of the bombing in Manhattan at 23rd St, near 5th Ave. In a 10-block stroll through the West Village and Chelsea, I noted no businesses, of the sort normally open on Sundays that were shuttered. We had brunch at a restaurant on the corner of 20th St and 7th Ave., in the open air. The sidewalks were bustling and the street traffic seemed to be at the expected level for a Sunday. I exchanged a few social niceties and joking exchanges with waiters and other strangers; none seemed fixated on what had and was transpiring a few blocks away…

On the TV, both on Sunday and thus far on Monday (4 PM), local politicians and police administrators have given calm, factual, professional updates, with the politicians adding that the terrorist enterprise could only prevail if we were to give way to fear and allow our lives to be disrupted any more than necessary…

The ONLY sour note that I heard in the 40 hours since the first explosion was Mr. Trump’s irresponsibly premature pronouncement on a still-emerging event, coupled with his opportunistic attempt to blame it on President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, from my perspective and at least in my corner of the universe, people seem to be vigilant without being terrorized.

I hope that the media will show the rest of the country that, here near the center of the terrorism bulls-eye, most of us are not succumbing to fear. I also hope that the rest of the country will notice that we are not voting for someone who, faced with those who would do us harm, responds with bluster and bullshit, rather than with quiet determination and deference to professionals who know what they are doing.

David

Some media, and of course the Pant Load, are trying to fan the fear. Some are saying “New York Attacked!” They want Americans to be more afraid for their safety than for the likelihood of losing more of our American values. Interestingly, the states that have seen terror attacks, NY, CA, MA, PA and VA are solidly in Hillary’s camp, while Florida is too close to call.

Perhaps when you actually have to face your fear, you think differently.

On a separate issue: There is a growing ACLU and Amnesty-led campaign to secure a pardon for Edward Snowden, timed to the release of the Oliver Stone biopic “Snowden”. There have editorials and op-eds, pro and con appearing all over the country in recent days. Few attempt to lay out the facts. In fact, the Washington Post editorial board is against his pardon. That is the height of hypocrisy, since the WaPo won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting based on the very information that Snowden took from the US government!

Glenn Greenwald, who helped Snowden get his information to the media said:

Three of the four media outlets that received and published large numbers of secret NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden — The Guardian, the New York Times, and The Intercept –– have called for the US government to allow the NSA whistleblower to return to the US with no charges.

The exception is the WaPo.

Back to the pardon, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has recommended against a Snowden pardon. Marcy Wheeler tears their report apart, stating that in a two-year investigation, HPSCI failed to interview any of the direct witnesses, repeated known untruths about Snowden, and used the wrong methodology to conduct the damage assessment caused by the document releases. From Marcy:

One thing is certain: the public is owed an explanation for how HPSCI came to report knowably false information.

Snowden is a saint compared to the Congress jerks who signed off on this recommendation.

It is one thing to believe Snowden’s breach of a duty of confidentiality to the US government is not offset by the good that public knowledge of the NSA’s clandestine spying programs provided.

It is another to create a false report about the individual and the damage done.

There are probably a few dozen or so Dennis Hastert’s in Congress that are more than interested in suppressing any whistle blower’s information. Who knows, it could end a career.

Congress seems to have sworn an oath to complicity, not an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – Rule of Law Edition

While America celebrated the Labor Day weekend, we overlooked an extremely important decision by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Last week, they issued a sweeping decision in the Federal Trade Commission v ATT, that drastically restricts the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) consumer protection authority over companies that offer “common carrier” services (e.g., telephone services, mobile data, and internet services) whether or not these services comprise their core business. Moreover, since no other federal agency has the necessary scope of regulatory authority over this area, if this decision stands, significant activities of such companies would become largely unregulated.

As the WaPo reports:

The ruling could wind up giving Google and Facebook — not to mention other companies across the United States — the ability to escape all consumer-protection actions from the FTC, and possibly from the rest of government, too, critics claim, unless Congress intervenes.

A little history: The FTC had brought an action against ATT over the adequacy of the company’s consumer disclosures regarding its data throttling plan, by which ATT intentionally reduced the data speed of customers to whom it had sold unlimited mobile data plans:

  • In 2007, ATT became Apple’s sole wireless provider for iPhone.
  • In 2011, ATT began reducing the speed at which unlimited data plan users received data on their smartphones.
  • Under ATTs data throttling program, unlimited data plan customers were throttled for the remainder of a billing cycle once their data usage during that cycle exceeded a certain threshold.

So the FTC filed suit against ATT. The FTC’s argument was that ATT was not providing an “unlimited” service, which is what subscribers thought they were buying. After signing up the initial subscribers, ATT changed to tiered plans, under different contracts. And ATT neglected to inform the original customers – the ones who thought they’d purchased an unlimited plan – that they weren’t getting what they paid for.

But the FTC lost. To understand the complicated legal issues and why the FTC lost, you can read all about it here.

The implications are huge. The decision means that any company that creates or purchases either a phone company or an internet service provider (ISP) can escape federal consumer protection regulations entirely. This is particularly important for individual privacy and security matters, since the FTC currently is trying to impose comprehensive privacy and data security regulations on ISPs, and this decision may hamper that effort.

The court decided that the FTC lacks authority to regulate common carriers. So, no matter how egregious the company’s conduct– even for false, deceptive, misleading practices, the FTC would be unable to do anything about it. Nor, at the moment, can any other federal agency.

The ATT case concerned regulation of advertising. But, since the court’s decision rejected outright the FTC’s claim to be able to regulate any activities of companies deemed to be common carriers, it is not limited to deceptive advertising alone. Facebook and Google already gorge themselves on your personal data and the decision prevents the FTC, the agency that has a track record of regulating privacy issues, from exercising any oversight of these activities (provided that Facebook and Google make the appropriate acquisitions or otherwise position themselves to qualify as common carriers).

So it’s time to wake up America! The steady erosion of your privacy and consumer protection rights continues under the flag of “the rule of law”. In the REAL world, the wealthy and powerful are often above the law. The Wall Street banking cartels committed mortgage fraud, foreclosure fraud, and securities fraud. They laundered money for terrorists and drug cartels. They rigged interest rates. Aside from stockholders paying token fines, no human was prosecuted for these massive, organized criminal activities.

Let’s groove to “I Fought the Law”, written in 1958 by Sonny Curtis of the Crickets, and later popularized by the Bobby Fuller Four who had a top-ten hit with it in 1966. It was also recorded by the Clash in 1977, and Green Day in 2004. In 1989, during the US invasion of Panama, the US military blasted loud rock music—including the Clash’s version of “I Fought the Law“, to pressure Manuel Noriega to surrender.

The guitar riff in this Bobby Fuller version sounds positively Hollyesque:

After this decision against the FCC, maybe in 20 years, instead of saying “he got railroaded”, we’ll be saying “he got telecommed”.

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

Facebooklinkedinrss