DOJ internal watchdog to investigate FBI’s Clinton inquiry

Justice Dept. internal watchdog to investigate FBI’s Clinton inquiry

The inquiry by the Justice Department’s inspector general, likely to keep open the wounds of the bitter 2016 presidential race, will focus on whether “policies or procedures were not followed” by the FBI and Justice Department.

Of particular focus will be the letter sent by Comey to Congress just 11 days before the Nov. 8 election that disclosed that his agents were reviewing newly discovered emails possibly pertinent to the then-closed investigation on Clinton’s handling of classified material while serving as secretary of State.

At first I was heartened by this news, but if the review is limited only to whether “policies and procedures were not followed” there will be no investigation into the Hatch Act1 implications of Comey’s election-week disclosure.

  1. “The Hatch Act of 1939, officially An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, is a United States federal law whose main provision prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice-president, and certain designated high-level officials of that branch, from engaging in some forms of political activity. The law was named for Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico. It was most recently amended in 2012.” — via Wikipedia 

On bookstores

I’m in a bookstore, Joseph Fox in Philadelphia, and there are people here in the cramped sometimes hallway-narrow store with me. Many of them. People I mean. Some smell like rain. That’s how close they are. It’s raining outside and they’re coming into the store and I can smell the rain on them.

You have to look behind you and on both sides before kneeling or unkneeling or turning one way or another. And me personally I get the sense literally everyone else in the store is there to find a specific book and they’re all searching the stacks carefully, assiduously even. And here I am awkward and targetless and perusing aimlessly the myriad paper- and hardbacks.

That sweaty I-don’t-belong-here feeling creeps in slowly at first and then a major decision crashes into my field of vision: get it the hell together and be hunted by these books with a little goddamn dignity or get out go home leave now. As many who experience similar moments can no doubt relate to, my outward demeanor doesn’t change while this storm is raging behind my eyes. The capital v Visible me is cool as a cucumber as they say. The capital i Invisible me processes this all in a few blinks and when I open my eyes again I’ve decided to stay.

These days books are most easily purchased online. However, visiting a bookstore is a special and enviable thing. When I step into a bookstore I am aware only that there is a book looking for me. I almost never have one in mind but am dogged from the moment I cross the threshold with a sense that there is one, somewhere in there, which has me in mind.

It wasn’t Rilke, it never has been. I have read him, and I love him, but none of his books have ever shopped for me in a bookstore. I have often thought it was David Foster Wallace, and once even gave up early and bought The Broom of the System, lying to myself that it was the book I had been in the store to purchase. But it wasn’t, I had just grown a bit impatient and lazy and bought it and left.

The covers are part of it, the titles more so, but the randomly turned-to page most of all. No other indicator is as accurate in determining which tome hunts me. If the writing doesn’t stick in your heart like a grappling hook breaching the top of a prison wall, the book isn’t looking for you.

Today it may be George Musser’s Spooky Action at a Distance, about nonlocality in quantum mechanics. The title, the cover, and every passage I randomly turned and read all suggested a strong attraction between book and reader. Like a word on the tip of the tongue I was almost certain. But no, it isn’t the one. I want to read it, sure, but it’s not the one hunting me today.

In fact, today nothing was looking for me at all and so I leave with nothing new. Don’t for a moment think I wasted my time though. It’s nothing to be upset about. This visit was eventful and quietly explosive. There are sections and authors and books I must absolutely return to, whether here, physically, or online, digitally. Today was like an expedition into an unexplored region: though I return with no artifacts or specimens I have mapped whole tracts unknown to me until today.

Electronic books are convenient as hell, but I’ve never ended an Amazon or iBooks shopping session feeling like I’ve had a capital E Experience. It’s more efficient, simpler, faster and less anxious to look for books on a computer. But it just isn’t much fun.

NBC stupidly shutting down Breaking News app, service

From the USA Today article on the shutdown:

The decision, as it often does in the media business, came down to revenue. “Unfortunately, despite its consumer appeal, Breaking News has not been able to generate enough revenue to sustain itself,” Ascheim said in the letter supplied by NBC News. “We have therefore made the hard decision to close its operations so that we can re-invest that funding into NBC News’ core digital products to help us achieve our ambitious goals for those businesses.”

This is short-sighted. Web-based news isn’t generating revenue? No shit. Breaking News has been a standard-bearer of confirm-before-publishing and still manages to be ahead of every other news outlet’s attempt at a breaking news product.

I’d spend $2.99/month on this thing to keep it alive. Let’s say 1/4 of its Twitter followers would do the same. That’s $84.6 million in revenue right there.

Would that be sustainable?

Wells Fargo claims customers agreed to arbitration… for accounts they never asked for

Wells Fargo Killing Sham Account Suits by Using Arbitration

[Jennifer] Zeleny, a lawyer who lives outside Salt Lake City and opened a Wells Fargo account when she started a new law practice, said it would be impossible for her to agree to arbitrate her dispute over an account that she had never signed up for in the first place.

The bank’s counterargument: The arbitration clauses included in the legitimate contracts customers signed to open bank accounts also cover disputes related to the false ones set up in their names.

Arbitration is reasonable on a case-by-case basis but it’s a hard concept to defend:

  1. Ideologically, when a corporation is responsible for the deliberate mass-deception of its customers
  2. Contractually, when the affected customers never agreed to anything at all with regard to the accounts at issue

If Wells Fargo has any intellect in the board room or in the C-suites they’re taking this tough stance in public but working quietly on negotiating a mass settlement fund.

Of course, any intellect in the board room or the C-suites would likely prevent the type of sales environment which catalyzed this large-scale fraud and identity theft operation.

Poultry Fraud

‘Dark Meat’ by Gabriel Thompson

Failing to record injuries is one strategy to create the illusion of a safe workplace. Another is to fail to refer workers to doctors for proper tests and diagnoses. Each time an injury causes an employee to miss a day of work or to receive medical treatment beyond first aid, the company is required to record it in an OSHA log book. This data is reported each year to the Department of Labor and is used to identify industries with high injury rates—whose facilities will then face increased inspections. An industry that reports low injury rates is less likely to receive scrutiny from OSHA’s overstretched investigators.

If employers can self-report why can’t employees?

The argument against employee reports would be:

Well, employees will inflate injury rates!

Let’s think about this: employers are already fraudulently minimizing the rates. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for employees to do it, too. It isn’t okay for anyone to massage the numbers in their own favor. But they do, and they will, because self-interest is a helluva drug.

So my thought is that having an inflated employee-reported rate to compare with minimized employer-reported rates may help regulators find the truth, somewhere between the two numbers.

Dropbox employee’s password reuse led to theft of 60M+ user credentials

Dropbox employee’s password reuse led to theft of 60M+ user credentials

Kate Conger, reporting at TechCrunch:

Dropbox disclosed in 2012 that an employee’s password was acquired and used to access a document with email addresses, but did not disclose that passwords were also acquired in the theft. Because Dropbox stores its user passwords hashed and salted, that’s technically accurate — it seems that hackers were only able to obtain hashed files of Dropbox user passwords and were unable to crack them. But it does appear that more information was taken from Dropbox than was previously let on, and it’s strange that it’s taken this long for the breach to surface.

Don’t reuse passwords folks. Find a password manager and learn to love it. There’s 1Password, LastPass, Dashlane and many others. That means there’s no excuse for you to keep using your dog’s name combined with your college graduation year or whatever terrible password you’re using for everything.

Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above

Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above

Pritchett had no idea that as he spoke, a small Cessna airplane equipped with a sophisticated array of cameras was circling Baltimore at roughly the same altitude as the massing clouds. The plane’s wide-angle cameras captured an area of roughly 30 square miles and continuously transmitted real-time images to analysts on the ground. The footage from the plane was instantly archived and stored on massive hard drives, allowing analysts to review it weeks later if necessary.

It must be the NSA or the CIA or the FBI, right? They must have a warrant, right? They must be deleting the video after a certain period of time, right?


It’s the Baltimore Police Department. The article and accompanying video clarify the motivation of the company providing the technology and the service to BPD. Founder Ross McNutt says he hopes technology like his will have a deterrent effect on crime in cities where its deployment is disclosed. That’s a good goal but it’s not the BPD or the company’s founder I’m worried about.

Anything on a hard drive that isn’t air gapped is vulnerable to exfiltration by hackers. That includes a massive digital video recorder covering an entire city for an indeterminate amount of time.

Scary stuff.

I fact-checked that old anti-Muslim mass email, and you’ll totally believe what happened next

A beloved relative recently included me on an email forward that I could not simply ignore. I’m not the first person to write a rebuttal to this email. It has been making the rounds since at least 2009, as the screenshot below illustrates.

Earliest Google result for "An Eye Opener" email:

Earliest Google result for “An Eye Opener” email:

My response took about an hour to research and draft but there is so much factual evidence available to refute the absurd claims made in the “An Eye Opener” email that you could do a thesis on it. In other words, the little bit of work I did here is just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s the full text of the email, followed by my reply.

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