Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald is Currently Losing His Marbles [updated; again Oct. 20, 2016)]

Oy. This is happening right now, and it's quite convoluted.

Quick intro:

Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald has a story up saying - well, a bunch of crazy shit. Primarily: that he has discovered a Russian news service story that carried a mistake regarding Eichenwald himself (Eichenwald is correct on this!); that the mistake proves that a Hillary Clinton campaign-related email that was recently published by Wikileaks was somehow falsified (wrong!); and that Donald Trump has apparently been fed falsified info related to that email—directly from Russia! (Whacky!)

Let's start slow:

Eichenwald's story is about a story that appeared this morning in the Russian news service Sputnik about an email from Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal to Clinton champaign chief John Podesta (the email actually says it's to "undisclosed recipients," but this if from the Wikileaks Podesta email dump), which was acquired by hackers, and recently published by Wikileaks. Sputnik's story - now deleted - appears to have incorrectly interpreted/understood/transcribed that email, and incorrectly put Eichenwald's words in Blumenthal's mouth.

Then came the money quote: '"Clinton was in charge of the State Department, and it failed to protect U.S. personnel at an American consulate in Libya. If the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate," said Blumenthal, putting to rest the Democratic Party talking point that the investigation into Clinton's management of the State Department at the time of the attack was nothing more than a partisan witch hunt.'
Those words sounded really, really familiar. Really familiar. Like, so familiar they struck me as something I wrote. Because they were something I wrote. 
The Russians were quoting two sentences from a 10,000 word piece I wrote for Newsweek, which Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta. There was no mistaking that Blumenthal was citing Newsweek—the magazine’s name and citations for photographs appeared throughout the attached article.

Remember: this is Eichenwald quoting the Sputnik story about the Wikileaks email, not the email itself. But Eichenwald conflates the two, and has used the apparent Sputnik mistake to strongly imply (bonus tweet) that the email released by Wikileaks was itself fabricated. That's wrong: here's the email. It doesn't put Eichenwald's words in Blumenthal's mouth, as the Sputnik story apparently did.

This was, if Eichenwald is to be trused on what the Sputnik story said (I believe him), Sputnik's mistake. It does not reflect on the email at all. (And please note that if the email published by Wikileaks was falsified, or simply made up, Podesta and Blumenthal could and presumably would deny writing or receiving it. They haven't.)

Eichenwald goes on to make a huge conspiracy of how Donald Trump came to get this story - he mentioned it in a speech just today - implying that he was fed it directly from Russia.

I am Sidney Blumenthal. At least, that is what Vladimir Putin—and, somehow, Donald Trump—seem to believe. And that should raise concerns not only about Moscow’s attempts to manipulate this election, but also how Trump came to push Russian disinformation to American voters.
This false story was only reported by the Russian controlled agency (a reference appeared in a Turkish publication, but it was nothing but a link to the Sputnik article). So how did Donald Trump end up advancing the same falsehood put out by Putin’s mouthpiece?
At a rally in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump spoke while holding a document in his hand. He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal, whom he called “sleazy Sidney.”
“This just came out a little while ago,’’ Trump said. “I have to tell you this.” And then he read the words from my article.
The logical, not hair-on-fire, not nutty conclusion about how Trump got that info: the same way other people got it - on Twitter, where it was spread around by tons of people. (Here's a tweet - on the actual email - from October 8. More here.)

Note: In case it's not clear, Eichenwald uses the fact that Trump "advanc[ed] the same falsehood" in the story as Sputnik as proof that Trump was fed the info from his best friend, Putin. And it's not even clear that Trump did that. (Elaborated more fully by Marcy Wheeler here.)

Update: Oof:

Update II: Eichenwald is now hilariously claiming to have not said what he did in fact say:

Gleen Greenwald on this here.

Note, October 12 (Aus): Eichenwald has drastically edited and added to the article in question. It now acknowledges that the Wikileaks email was in fact not doctored. (It's still dumb and silly in every other way.)

Update, Oct. 20: Holy shit. (You've got to read it to believe it. It's so crazy and convoluted it's hard to make sense of. The gist: the writer of the Sputnik story, an American in D.C, says he got the bad info via a tweet. And: he contacted Eichenwald about that. The response: pure craziness. Plus: the writer lost his job at Sputnik. His personal story here.)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Report: British Spy Agency GCHQ Gave Recordings of Dutch Citizens' Phone Calls to Australian Software Company

This is a crazy story: it came about because a British woman working for the Australian company heard the voice of an ex-boyfriend in one of the recordings:

The private conversations of thousands of Dutch citizens have ended up in the hands of the Australian technology company Appen which develops software for converting speech into text.
A report in the Dutch online site Volkskrant said telecommunications experts had opined that the only way this could have happened was by the British spy agency GCHQ tapping the information and then handing it over to Appen. 
According to Volkskrant, the matter came to light through a Dutch woman who had been employed by Appen in the UK. The company has four main offices: in Sydney, Seattle, San Rafael (California) and Davao City (the Philippines).
This woman was tasked with describing thousands of short audio excerpts in which she heard Dutch people chatting on the phone, with many of them being communications by cabbies in The Hague.
In one excerpt, she recognised the voice of an ex-boyfriend, who was speaking via Vodafone. He had not given the telco permission to share his calls with anyone and confirmed this to Volkskrant.
Much more from the original story at the Dutch site Volkskrant - in English - here.

And a very interesting and related Twitter thread (to to tweet to see full thread):

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wikileaks and the ".goy" Huma Abedin/Hillary Clinton Email

Julian Assange and Wikileaks are getting shit from several quarters today for promoting an email from Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—with a very questionable email address:

Notice that email address for Abedin? It has a copyright symbol instead of an @ symbol - and it ends with ".goy" instead of ".gov."

Obvious fake - right? Proof that Wikileaks is doctoring emails - right? Also proof of anti-Semitism from Assange - right?

Assange defended the email as real, and the typos as the State Department's:

I decided to test it. (As I'm sure others have.)

Here's a PDF of the email—not from Wikileaks, but right from the source: the State Department's FOIA reading room. (Type in "earpiece" in the search box to get to the specific email. There are three results - it's the third one. You can also view it directly at the Wikileaks website.) Abedin's email address reads "AbedinH@state.gov," just as you'd expect.

But highlight Abedin's email address in that PDF, copy it, and paste it - and this happens:

That's me - just copying and pasting that into this blog post, straight from the actual email record at the State Department's FOIA site. It's obviously just a reading error by the copy-and-paste machine (computer coding stuff that is above my computer coding knowledge).

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Medieval Bestiary

The secret to successful blogging is to only post rippingly good stuff that immediately grabs people and makes them want to see more.

And to only post every six months or so. Ahem.

I bring thee the Medieval Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Stunner: Earth Wind Map

Wow. This is something to see on any day, but it's spectacular right now - with Cyclone Pam churning over the South Pacific:

Go here. It's interactive - you can spin the globe. Verge article. And more.

And gah: Cyclone Pam wreaking havoc in Vanuatu right now.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

LifeHack: Stuck Screwtop Trick

I've made a video showing a trick I came up with (although I'm very sure it's been done before) to remove a stubborn screwtop. Now you can share in the fun.

Because I didn't put a single thought into production - I grabbed C. as she was walking by and said, "Hey! Hold this phone and video this!" - let me spell it out:

• If you're having trouble removing a screwtop from some screwtopped thing—a bottle, jar, steam-cleaner canister, or whatever—get yourself a length of strong string. Thin, normal stringy-string will probably not work. A shoelace might do.

• Tie a loop in the string that will fit snugly over the screwtop, put said loop over the top, and wrap the string around the top a couple of times. (You don't have to make a loop, it just makes it a little easier. If you like, just wrap the string around the top several times.)

• Pull on the string - et voila - it should come off with a good strong pull that even a not-so-strong person could manage. (If you're doing this with a jar of pickles or somesuch, you're of course going to have to be careful about pickle juice flying around, so get your jar good and stable before pulling the string.)

Here's the video:

At the end of the video, the lovely and musical voice you hear is that of the lovely and musical C., saying, "This if for my clothes-steamer," meaning the canister. Just so you know.

Empty Field, Chair, Farmer, Trombone: Cows

I have not posted on this outer planetoid of the intertubes for four months. Now, I must post.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Couch Shadow (Home Geography)

Term: Couch Shadow

Definition: A geographical feature of the common home, describing an area of floor behind the slanted back of a couch that does not get foot traffic due to said slanting couch back. The length of a specific couch's couch shadow is generally equal to the length of the specific couch; the depth of a couch's couch shadow can vary, and is determined by the degree of slant of a given couch's back.

Whether or not it is acceptable to leave footwear in a home's couch shadow (or shadows) is a subject of some debate.

See related: rain shadow

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Map: Hardest Places to Live in U.S. - Note on Oregon

The New York Times' The Upshot published a cool map back in June, showing by color code where in the U.S. it's the relatively easiest and hardest to live. They explain the map's making, and the six data points used:
Annie Lowrey writes in the Times Magazine this week about the troubles of Clay County, Ky., which by several measures is the hardest place in America to live. The Upshot came to this conclusion by looking at six data points for each county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. We then averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories to create an overall ranking.
The obvious upshot: the American south, notably the most politically conservative region of the country, is a gigantic shit-pot for people who don't have a gigantic shit-ton of money. But I noticed a less obvious one, and highlight it here, for my old friends in Oregon.

See that roughly rectangular bit of blue well-being in Southern Oregon, right on the California border? (Click on pic to enlarge.) I circled it in white so you could see it:

That's my old home of twenty years, the relatively lefty, liberal island of Jackson County (Hippy.com!), in the otherwise very conservative sea of light orange that is Northern California and a huge chuck of Southern and Eastern Oregon. Us old hippies, we try to see that everybody does okay. We try, anyway.

Here's a video on the map, by Dave Rubin, of the recently launched Rubin Report:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"An Impolite Interview With Joseph Heller" 1962

Came across this November 1962 interview in the now defunct The Realist by Paul Krassner, primarily about Heller's 1961-released Catch-22. Several pages long, fascinating, funny, often over my head, enlightening—including on the origin of the name "Yossarian" (it was meant to be from "an extinct culture, somebody who could nto be identified either geographically, or culturally, or sociologicaly..."). Haven't finished it yet, but I will soon—and I'm counting on it making me smarter, damnit.

Update, March 2015:

The link disappeared. I've replaced it. You have to jump to page 46 (use numbers up top) to get to the second page of the interview, and go on from there.