July 20, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


League Of The South Reaches Out To 'Russian Friends' (Peter Montgomery | July 19, 2018, RightWing Watch)

Amid the controversy over President Trump's recent summit with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, the neo-Confederate League of the South announced this week that it will soon be introducing a Russian language section to its website."To our Russian friends," a missive on the League's website, is signed by Michael Hill, the group's president. An excerpt:

We understand that the Russian people and Southerners are natural allies in blood, culture, and religion. As fellow Whites of northern European extraction, we come from the same general gene pool. As inheritors of the European cultural tradition, we share similar values, customs, and ways of life. And as Christians, we worship the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and our common faith binds us as brothers and sisters.

We Southerners believe in societies based on real, organic factors such as shared blood, culture, and religion, and all that stems naturally from these salient factors in the human experience. As fellow White Christians who are grounded in the sublime traditions of our common European cultural heritage, we believe that the Russian people and the Southern people are natural allies against the destructive and impersonal impulses of globalism.

Hill, who teaches that the defeat of Nazi Germany was "an unmitigated disaster for Western Christian civilization," warned in this week's post that there are "forces that would like to pit us against one another."

In case you wondered why Trumpbots keep defending Donald/Vlad: it's just race.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


White House official grumbles that DNI Dan Coats is 'going rogue' (The Week, July 19, 2018)

Coats was onstage with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, when she broke the news to him that the White House had announced the Trump administration invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this fall. He chuckled, and revealed he knew nothing about this, adding, "That's going to be special." He also told Mitchell he would have advised President Trump not to meet with Putin in Helsinki on Monday, especially with only two interpreters in the room with them.

Trump advisers were "in an uproar," staffers told The Washington Post, with one senior official saying, "Coats has gone rogue."

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Now in Living Color: Ted Williams's Last Game (Bill Pennington, July 19, 2018, NY Times)

Bill Murphy, a 19-year-old student at an art college in Boston, skipped class on Sept. 28, 1960, and bought a $2 ticket to Fenway Park. Ted Williams was playing his last game in the major leagues.

Even more auspiciously, Murphy brought his 8-millimeter color film camera with him.

"I wasn't a rabid fan, but something told me to go," Murphy said last month. "I took my camera to the front row and shot scenes as I roamed freely around the park all afternoon."

A few days after the game, Murphy developed the film. There was Williams, one of the best hitters to ever play the game, clouting the last of his 521 home runs for the Red Sox in his fabled final at-bat. Murphy showed the film to his father and a few friends then tossed it into a desk drawer where it has remained since, all but hidden.

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu (John Updike, 10/22/60, The New Yorker)

Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs--hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn't tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted "We want Ted" for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.

July 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Beauty and Modern Art: As modern art has drifted away from traditional Beauty, it has also abandoned Truth and Goodness, rejecting God, religion, and nature in one fell swoop (Sarah Kaderbek, 7/17/18, Imaginative Conservative)

St. Thomas Aquinas defines Beauty as possessing three characteristics: wholeness, proportion, and radiance, and this definition captures a certain type of beauty succinctly.[1] On its most objective, physical level, Beauty relies on these three characteristics. It is not hard to accept that a fresh rose is more Beautiful than a blighted one; it simply is.

However, simple Beauty does not encompass the totality of Beauty. The healthy, lush green tree is Beautiful, but there is also a certain Beauty in a twisted, gnarled trunk. There is something more about it, not just its physical appearance, which appeals to us and is Beautiful though its physicality lacks simple Beauty.

A similar phenomenon is often seen in humanity. There are some people who simply are more Beautiful; their physical forms possess wholeness, proportion, and radiance to a higher degree than others. However, to reduce the Beauty of humanity to this almost purely physical sense of the word is to ignore that oftentimes, the most Beautiful people are not the most whole, proportioned, and radiant. All of us have met someone who, while not physically Beautiful in this simple sense, is breathtakingly Beautiful, and this fact cannot be reduced to a subjective opinion. There is something Beautiful about these people, just as there is something Beautiful in the withered tree, in the crumbling wall, in suffering and pain.

Harder to define (as the term suggests) is complex Beauty. While simple Beauty resides in the physical form of the thing itself and appeals to our intellect and heart, complex Beauty resides in the intellect and appeals to the senses. This is where the line between objective Beauty and subjective opinion often begins to blur, since it is extremely hard to give any concrete reason for the Beauty of these things beyond "I feel that it is Beautiful."

However, I believe that complex Beauty is Beautiful because it is True or Good. This troika of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness is often talked about in conservative, creative, and artistic circles... and for good reason. The transcendentals (Beauty, Truth, and Goodness) succinctly capture the desires of the human heart, and these values are the mirrors by which we see the light of the God reflected in this world. The transcendentals, however, cannot merely be taken individually; they interact on a fundamental level. There is Goodness in Truth and Truth in Goodness, etc. Thus, complex Beauty can be said to exist in the True and/or Good.

Applying this definition to the above examples, the withered tree and the crumbling wall are Beautiful because they point to the Truth and Goodness of suffering which is in itself Beautiful because of the Truth and Goodness of suffering's redemptive quality, etc. A person can be objectively, simply Beautiful in a physical sense, but he can also be objectively, complexly Beautiful, when the Truth about who they are and the Goodness of their soul radiate from their body, when the soul is manifest in the form of the body. Thus, when we discuss art, we must take into account these two "types" of Beauty.

In regard to the subject of the work of art, simple and complex Beauty apply as described above.

However, they also come into play regarding the style of the work. Man acts as a sub-creator when making art, and he therefore naturally seeks to capture Beauty in imitation of the style of the true Creator. Thus, simple Beauty exists in the style of a work when it clearly reflects nature. God, Beauty Himself, reflects His Own Beauty in Creation; therefore, man reflects Beauty most clearly and simply when he mirrors nature in his art.

Thus, any stylistic decision which purposely deviates from nature must do so for the sake of more effectively communicating Truth and Goodness (complex Beauty) in order to retain Beauty itself. There must be a correspondingly high communication of complex Beauty to make up for the loss of simple Beauty. For example, Byzantine iconography does not seek to mirror nature but to convey theological Truths through its stylistic deviations; it remains Beautiful in a way that is often hard to express.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Freed by Robots? : a review of The End of Work: Why Your Passion Can Become Your Job, by John Tamny (Michael S. Bernick, July 13, 2018, City Journal)

 Tamny, director of the Center for Economic Freedom at Freedom Works and editor of Real Clear Markets, sees the replacement of jobs by automation as a positive development that will free individuals to create economic roles reflecting their interests. The proper role of government, says Tamny, is to let it happen, restrain its impulse to intervene, and essentially let a thousand flowers bloom.

The new economy has created more room for specialized services and niche products. In the past, people with passions for, say, animal-training, or physical fitness, or fine wines, might have halfheartedly worked in routine jobs just to pay the bills; in an era of greater economic prosperity and larger discretionary incomes, people can make their living as animal-care specialists, personal trainers, and sommeliers. The range of outlets for creative content has expanded, too. Technology has made it possible to look beyond a handful of television networks, music producers, or legacy book publishers. Today, we can record and post our own songs, publish our writing, and broadcast video productions with accessible and affordable equipment once available only to major media companies. [...]

Tamny sees a bright future ahead if policymakers recognize the role of economic freedom. "Just as the division of labor among humans leads to much better work outcomes, so will the rise of automation benefit the worker. Only the outcome will be many multiples greater than that which springs from human divisions of labor." He welcomes the rise of robot workers. "Imagine the future if robots achieve their potential to erase all manner of work forms," he writes. "How very exciting."

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


GOP Senator Defects, Sinks Trump Judicial Nominee With History of Racist Writing (MARK JOSEPH STERN, JULY 19, 2018, Slate)

Ryan Bounds' nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was derailed on Thursday when South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott announced he could not support the nominee because of his history of racist writing.

Donald Trump nominated Bounds, who currently serves as an assistant U.S. attorney, to the 9th Circuit in September. A staunch conservative, immigration hardliner, and member of the Federalist Society, Bounds appeared to be coasting to an easy confirmation until the liberal group Alliance for Justice uncovered bigoted statements he made as a Stanford student in the 1990s. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


Warren: 'I Believe in Markets Right Down to My Toes' (Andrew Kugle, July 19, 2018, Free Beacon)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said on Thursday that she believes in financial markets all the way down to her toes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:03 PM


A 4-Day Workweek? A Test Run Shows a Surprising Result (Charlotte Graham-McLay, July 19, 2018, NY Times)

A New Zealand firm that let its employees work four days a week while being paid for five says the experiment was so successful that it hoped to make the change permanent.

The firm, Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills and estates, found the change actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees, who said they spent more time with their families, exercising, cooking, and working in their gardens.

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 PM


How to crack consciousness : It's what makes us human - but despite the best efforts of philosophy and science, the nature of our experience of reality remains elusive. (WILL SELF, 7/128/18, New Statesman)

 Just as sequencing the human genome failed to result in our physical nature becoming fully legible, so the vast amount of data provided by these scans has proved incommensurate with my - or anyone else's - experience of the redness of a particular apple.

Tim Parks, in his book on consciousness, clamps this conundrum to the laboratory bench where it originates. First, he quotes from the summary of a 2016 paper in the journal Nature, entitled "Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Progress and Problems": "When the content-specific NCC neurons in this example [face recognition] are activated artificially... the participant should see a face even if none is present, whereas if their activity is blocked, the participant should not be able to see a face even if one is present." Then Parks drily observes: "In general, the logic here is that scientists should be able to recreate, or recall, more or less every experience by stimulating our brains in certain ways. However, there are not many accounts of this actually occurring."

Not many? In fact, none at all - unless you count the sort of commonplace reactions that mice exhibit when you place their skulls in clamps and make them smell stuff. Reading Parks's account of his lengthy interview with Professor Hannah Monyer, the Heidelberg-based neuroscientist responsible for the mouse-clamping, I was reminded of conversations I had with physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. In both instances, such is the near-infinite complexity of the subjects being investigated, that if more advanced equipment were to be built, I suspect yet more infinitesimal occurrences of the phenomena will indeed be detected.

Which is not to say that this data will solve the basic conundrum: how is it that the roughly 1,400 grams of grey mush inside our skulls can produce our hopes, fears and dreams - as well as allowing us to revisit the very specific redness of a particular apple, one perhaps seen many years since?

I found the physicists at CERN, despite their preoccupation with the ultimate nature of matter, to be distinctly spiritual in their outlook: convinced that Humanity (with a capital "H"), had some sort of Destiny, to discover the Truth. Of course, when I put it to them that their anchorite existence on the outskirts of Geneva, together with their ritualised attention to the sublime, psychically allied them most obviously to an order of monks or nuns, they demurred furiously: physics is emphatically not metaphysics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:43 PM


'Hamilton' director Thomas Kail on sparking interest in American history  (Joe Heim, July 17, 2018, Washington Post)

This generation of school kids will know more about Alexander Hamilton than any previous generation, including his own. That's an amazing influence you've had.

What we've been finding is that this has been part of a movement that has sparked an interest in early American history far beyond "Hamilton." We have students presenting their own material, and you'll see a poem about Phillis Wheatley by a 17-year-old student, and you'll see a song from Abigail Adams's perspective. Neither of them are characters in our story, but for some reason they spark for those students. And that's my hope, that this is just an ignition for something much larger. As a mediocre history major and the brother of a sixth-grade teacher, nothing would make me happier.

Posted by orrinj at 12:39 PM


Democrats Chant 'USA' on House Floor After Hoyer Speech Blasting 'the Russian Bear' (David Rutz, July 19, 2018, Free Beacon)

House Democrats chanted "USA!" on the floor on Thursday in response to a speech by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) about protecting the integrity of American elections against foreign meddling.

Rep. Mike Quigley (D., Ill.) introduced the Democratic Motion to Recommit on election security funding, saying the American people were watching at a pivotal moment and slamming President Donald Trump for not challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin to his face over 2016 election meddling.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Human-driven cars to disappear, says SoftBank's Son (MITSURU OBE, July 19, 2018, Nikkei Asian Review)

"In less than 50 years, people will no longer be allowed to drive by themselves in the city or on expressways unless they have a special license," Son predicted, as such motorists could cause traffic congestion and accidents. When human drivers are all replaced by self-driving cars, the streets will no longer need traffic lights, he said.

Son was laying down a challenge to the prevailing mindset of the Japanese auto industry, which has been slow to embrace emerging technologies such as autonomous driving and ride sharing, citing safety concerns.

"Japan is stupid for not allowing ride-sharing," Son openly slammed the Japanese government. 

He warned that the country is now "falling far behind the global front runners -- the U.S. and China." Son himself is investing heavily in innovative overseas companies through his SoftBank Vision Fund, the world's biggest technology investment vehicle with committed capital of almost $100 billion. This is helping place him at the forefront of emerging trends.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Why did Trump choose to parrot Putin on Montenegro? (John R. Schindler, 18 July 2018, The Spectator)

Let's omit the oft-encountered, vaguely homoerotic Trumpian obsession with strength. Neither shall we dwell on Trump's glancing reference to NATO's Article V, the collective defense provision, the alliance's cornerstone, which the president did not mention because he presumably has never heard of it. Trump implied that Montenegro - NATO's newest member, which joined last year - is an aggressive place which may drag America into World War III.

In fact, Montenegro is a tiny country of scarcely more than 600,000 people. It's known mostly for its sunny Adriatic beaches, and in recent centuries it hasn't attacked anyone except rampaging Ottomans. Its military has fewer than 2,000 troops, its army is a single light infantry battalion lacking armor or modern artillery, and its "air force" is a squadron of aging helicopters. Who exactly is Montenegro going to attack?

Neighbouring Serbia was far from pleased with Montenegro's NATO accession - the two countries, having been joined (not always happily) in Yugoslavia from 1918, divorced in 2006 - since it cut off their former Adriatic coastline, leaving Serbia landlocked. However, Serbia's mostly ramshackle military only looks impressive compared to Montenegro's, even with Moscow's recent gift of six MiG-29 fighters (aging aircraft to bolster Serbia's handful of truly ancient MiG-29s that Moscow sold to Yugoslavia in the 1980s), Not to mention that nobody in Serbia wants to invade Montenegro, which Serbs view as errant kin rather than a real foe. That NATO could destroy Serbia's military without breaking a sweat is also a mitigating factor.

Where, then, does Trump's bizarre belief that little Montenegro is a big problem for America come from? It may not be irrelevant that Moscow was very upset about that tiny Balkan country joining the Atlantic Alliance.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Guns, God And Trump: How An Accused Russian Agent Wooed US Conservatives (Vera Bergengruen, 7/19/18, BuzzFeed News)

People who spoke to BuzzFeed News about their interactions with her, as well as a review of her interviews, writings and extensive social media posts, paint a picture of someone who knew how to push all the right conservative buttons.

Hers was a startlingly effective performance.

By the time she appeared on the popular radio show of evangelical author Eric Metaxas, who later endorsed Trump and served on his evangelical advisory council, her life story -- or at least what she said was her life story -- rolled off her tongue with practiced ease.

"My story is simple -- my father is a hunter, I was born in Siberia," she explained in the July 2015 interview, echoing previous talking points in which she often drew parallels to parts of the US, like South Dakota, where guns are "necessary for survival" to defend lives and property.

"That seems appropriate, somehow," Metaxas interrupted, sounding delighted, when she described founding her gun rights organization in a "Moscow version of a McDonalds," telling her friends "we need to fight for our gun rights."

"Wow, I just love the idea of this," he said. "To think...because you know, those of us in in America can be very parochial, we forget that the fight for liberty goes on for all around the globe in different guises."

Metaxas did not respond to a request for comment.

Butina also seemed to know exactly what a conservative evangelical audience would want to hear, earnestly speaking about the growing number of churches in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the "great history of Christian religion" that she had in common with US evangelicals, her audience.

"When we talk about Russian and American relationships, the main point is Christianity, in both countries," she told Metaxas.

According to the story she has told in Russian and English-language interviews, Butina was born in Barnaul, Siberia, in 1988. After graduating from Altai University in her hometown with a degree in political science and education, she started a small business selling furniture but "then moved to Moscow, where power and money is better," she wrote in an outline for a presentation she gave at the University of South Dakota in April 2015.

In Moscow, she began working for Alexander Torshin, a powerful Russian banking official and close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was sanctioned by the US in April, and founded her pro-gun "Right to Bear Arms" group in 2011.

Some experts say that the very existence of such an organization in Russia, which has stringent gun laws and little public support for loosening them, should have tipped off US authorities from the start.

"It just doesn't exist," Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and an expert on Russia's economic policy, said about what Butina and Torshin touted as a grassroots Russian gun rights group. "It's a ridiculous front organization with the purpose of infiltrating American groups and forging cooperation with the NRA."

That's the case made by US authorities. Over the course of five years, with the help of Torshin and and an as yet officially unidentified American ally, Butina relentlessly forged connections with NRA officials and others deemed to be influential in US policy. Long before she moved to Washington, DC on a student visa in August 2016 to study at American University, she had logged thousands of miles in trips from Moscow to Tennessee, Kentucky, South Dakota, Florida, Nevada, and Wisconsin to build relationships with pro-gun advocates and conservative groups.

As part of her efforts, she gave out honorary memberships to her Russian gun rights organization in the form of an ornamental blue and silver framed plaque, to people ranging from then-NRA president Jim Porter to Oleg Volk, a Tennessee-based photographer who makes pro-gun posters and graphics.

It went both ways - the connections she and Torshin made also visited them in Russia. David Keene, who served as NRA president from 2011 to 2013 as well as chairman of the American Conservative Union, attended her organization's event in Moscow in 2013. The next year, Keene invited Butina to the annual NRA convention, where she attended the group's annual Women's Leadership Luncheon as a guest of former NRA President Sandy Froman. A larger group of NRA and Republican officials was hosted by Butina's group in Moscow in December 2015.

Ideologues exist to be played.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Russian state TV: Trump 'smells like an agent of the Kremlin' (Caroline Orr, July 18, 20181, ShareBlue)

[E]ven the most seasoned Kremlin propagandist couldn't have written a better script than the one Trump delivered when he sided with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community and then blamed the poor state of U.S.-Russia relations on America's "foolishness and stupidity."

Speaking about Trump's remarks after the summit, Russian state TV hosts Olga Skabeeva and Evgeny Popov could barely contain their laughter as they ridiculed Trump for attacking the country he supposedly leads.

"It is very bizarre, you can't bash your own country like that -- especially when you're the President," said Popov, according to the translation provided by Russian media analyst Julia Davis, who first pointed out the exchange Tuesday night.

"When Trump says our relations are bad because of American foolishness and stupidity, he really smells like an agent of the Kremlin," Skabeeva added.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Britain has identified Russians suspected of Skripal nerve attack: PA (Guy Faulconbridge, 7/19/18, Reuters) 

British police have identified several Russians who they believe were behind the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the Press Association reported on Thursday, citing a source close to the investigation.

Russian ex-spy says he was on Kremlin 'hit list' along with poisoned Skripal (Richard Engel and Kennett Werner / Mar.29.2018, NBC News)

The former Russian double agent got a terrifying message on his birthday: He was on a Kremlin hit list along with Sergei Skripal, another ex-spy who weeks later was poisoned with a nerve agent in a case Britain blames on Vladimir Putin's government.

"Be careful, look around, something is probably going to happen,'" the former agent, Boris Karpichkov, says an old friend told him on the telephone in mid-February. "It's very serious, and you are not alone."

Among the names on the list was that of Skripal, whom Karpichkov didn't know at the time but whose poisoning alongside his daughter, Yulia, on March 4 on British soil inflamed tensions between the Kremlin and the West and triggered international condemnation. The two are in a hospital in Britain, where Skripal is in critical condition. Yulia is "improving rapidly" and is no longer in critical condition, the hospital treating the pair said Thursday.

Also on the Kremlin's list, he says, were several other ex-KGB agents, as well as Christopher Steele, author of a 35-page dossier alleging collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Bill Browder, the driving force behind a set of U.S. sanctions against Russian individuals known as the Magnitsky Act, was there as well, he adds.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


The Tyrant and His Enablers (Stephen Greenblatt | Excerpt adapted from Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, Longreads)

From the early 1590s, at the beginning of his career, all the way through to its end, Shakespeare grappled again and again with a deeply unsettling question: how is it possible for a whole country to fall into the hands of a tyrant?

"A king rules over willing subjects," wrote the influential sixteenth-century Scottish scholar George Buchanan, "a tyrant over unwilling." The institutions of a free society are designed to ward off those who would govern, as Buchanan put it, "not for their country but for themselves, who take account not of the public interest but of their own pleasure." Under what circumstances, Shakespeare asked himself, do such cherished institutions, seemingly deep-rooted and impregnable, suddenly prove fragile? Why do large numbers of people knowingly accept being lied to? How does a figure like Richard III ascend to the throne?

Such a disaster, Shakespeare suggested, could not happen without widespread complicity. His plays probe the psychological mechanisms that lead a nation to abandon its ideals and even its self-interest. Why would anyone, he asked himself, be drawn to a leader manifestly unsuited to govern, someone dangerously impulsive or viciously conniving or indifferent to the truth? Why, in some circumstances, does evidence of mendacity, crudeness, or cruelty serve not as a fatal disadvantage but as an allure, attracting ardent followers? Why do otherwise proud and self-respecting people submit to the sheer effrontery of the tyrant, his sense that he can get away with saying and doing anything he likes, his spectacular indecency?

Why do large numbers of people knowingly accept being lied to?

Shakespeare repeatedly depicted the tragic cost of this submission -- the moral corruption, the massive waste of treasure, the loss of life -- and the desperate, painful, heroic measures required to return a damaged nation to some modicum of health. Is there, the plays ask, any way to stop the slide toward lawless and arbitrary rule before it is too late, any effective means to prevent the civil catastrophe that tyranny invariably provokes?

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


In pre-dawn move, police grill Conservative rabbi about weddings he conducts (MARISSA NEWMAN, 7/19/18, Times of Israel)

A Conservative rabbi was hauled in by police before dawn on Thursday for questioning over wedding ceremonies he conducts outside the state-run Chief Rabbinate, in a radical departure from the state's longstanding non-enforcement of the issue.

Police knocked on Rabbi Dov "Dubi" Haiyun's door in the northern city of Haifa around 5 a.m. to bring him in for interrogation, following a complaint by a local rabbinical court, according to a spokesperson for the Masorti Movement in Israel, which is analogous to the US Conservative Movement.

The rabbinical court spokesperson, in a statement, accused Haiyun of performing a wedding of a Jew born of an extramarital affair, known as a mamzer.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM



Russian Hackers May Have Leased Infrastructure From U.S. Providers Who Talked to Investigators

To take over first the DCCC network and then the DNC network, GRU hackers, according to the indictment, used a spear-phishing email, which tricked the recipient into entering their password on a malicious site. They then used the victim's credentials to access DCCC's internal network and installed custom malware called X-Agent on "at least ten DCCC computers," according to the indictment. Soon thereafter, the indictment states, the hackers pivoted to DNC's network. From one of the DCCC computers, the Russian hackers allegedly "activated X-Agent's keylog and screenshot functions to steal credentials of a DCCC employee who was authorized to access the DNC network." Armed with DNC login credentials, they were able to access "approximately thirty-three DNC computers." Once on the DNC network, they compromised DNC's Microsoft Exchange Server, gaining access to thousands of emails.

After someone hacks a computer and installs spyware, the attacker then sends commands to the spyware to send data back to them. This is typically done by connecting to a computer known as a command and control, or C2, server.

According to the indictment, the computer that the Russians leased to act as X-Agent's C2 server was located in Arizona. After they had allegedly infected computers in the DCCC network with X-Agent, they logged into this C2 server in order to issue commands to specific hacked computers to log keystrokes and take screenshots.

The indictment goes so far as to specify exactly what data was collected on this C2 server, and at what times. For example, it says that on April 14, the Russians surveilled a DCCC employee's computer for eight hours, during which time they captured "communications with co-workers and the passwords she entered while working on fundraising and voter outreach projects."

In the midst of the hack, the DNC discovered what was going on and hired security firm CrowdStrike to investigate it for them. On June 15, CrowdStrike published a blog post, scarce on details, announcing the compromise of the DNC network and attributing the hack to Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, code names for the GRU hacking units.

Five days after CrowdStrike's blog post, according to the indictment, the Russians allegedly deleted all of the logs from their C2 server that "documented their activities," including their login history.

The fact that the U.S. government had access to the keystrokes and screenshots collected by the C2 server, and even knew at what point in time the GRU agents deleted the activity logs and login history from the server, leads me to believe that the hosting provider likely started to cooperate with the investigation, including possibly sharing snapshots of the hard drive connected to the C2 server. This would allow the investigators to have access to this information.

It also appears that the hackers were unaware that the DNC was on to them until after CrowdStrike published their findings. They appeared to have deleted logs from their C2 server after U.S. investigators already had access to it.

In addition to leasing a server in Arizona, the Russians also allegedly leased a separate server in Illinois that they used for a separate piece of malware called X-Tunnel, which was responsible for compressing and then uploading gigabytes of stolen documents from the DCCC and DNC networks to the server in Illinois "through encrypted channels." It is possible that government investigators obtained information from the hosting provider they leased this server from, as well.

Several Other Companies Must Also Have Talked to Investigators
The quantity of technical details related to GRU's 2016 cyberattacks show that the U.S. government has some impressive capabilities. But the primary capability they appear to have used wasn't technical, it was legal: the subpoena. The U.S. government can compel companies to hand over data.

Based on reading the indictment, I think that the U.S. government almost certainly received data from Bitly, Twitter, Facebook, Google, WordPress, and probably from several other companies, including BitPay or other cryptocurrency payment processors, VPN providers, VPS hosting providers, and domain name registrars, among others. (Twitter and WordPress declined to comment. BitPay said, "BitPay has received subpoenas from U.S. government agencies but how the information is to be used or why it is requested is not shared with us." Facebook and Google did not respond to a request for comment.)

With access to all of the information that companies have related to specific accounts, like IP addresses the attackers used to login to services from, time stamps of when they were active, copies of emails and direct messages sent, and potentially images of the hard drives attached to servers used in the attack, it's possible to paint a very detailed picture.

The U.S. Likely Compromised At Least Two GRU Officers' Computers

One thing that stood out while reading the indictment is how many times the document mentioned exactly what one of the defendants, GRU cyber operations officer Ivan Yermakov, was researching on the internet, and when:

"On or about March 28, 2016, YERMAKOV researched the names of Victims 1 and 2 and their association with Clinton on various social media sites."

"For example, beginning on or about March 15, 2016, YERMAKOV ran a technical query for the DNC's internet protocol configurations to identify connected devices.", "On or about the same day, YERMAKOV searched for open-source information about the DNC network, the Democratic Party, and Hillary Clinton.", "On or about April 7, 2016, YERMAKOV ran a technical query for the DCCC's internet protocol configurations to identify connected devices."

"During that time, YERMAKOV researched PowerShell commands related to accessing and managing the Microsoft Exchange Server."

"On or about May 31, 2016, YERMAKOV searched for open-source information about Company 1 [CrowdStrike] and its reporting on X-Agent and X-Tunnel."

How could the U.S. investigators have access to this information? Two explanations come to mind. The most likely is that the National Security Agency compromised Yermakov's computer and regularly logged his keystrokes or accessed his browser history. Another explanation would be that Yermakov used Google while logged into an account to do these searches, and the investigators learned his search history from Google. I find the latter to be less convincing because the search engine Yandex is much more popular in Russia, and are GRU officers really stupid enough to use California-based Google?

Another defendant, Anatoly Kovalev, an officer assigned to a different GRU cyber unit, was mentioned only in connection to attacks on the U.S. election infrastructure, not on the Democrats specifically. But one mention stood out:

"In or around August 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an alert about the hacking of SBOE 1 [State Board of Election 1, probably the state of Illinois] and identified some of the infrastructure that was used to conduct the hacking. In response, KOVALEV deleted his search history. KOVALEV and his co-conspirators also deleted records from accounts used in their operations targeting state boards of elections and similar election-related entities."

How could U.S. investigators know that Kovalev deleted his search history, as well as records belonging to multiple online accounts? Again, I believe the most likely scenario is that the NSA compromised his computer, accessed his browser history, and perhaps logged his keystrokes and took screenshots from his computer using a C2 server of their own.

My guess is that after GRU's fatal mistake, logging into the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account from their Moscow-based IP address, U.S. investigators learned who worked in that office, what their roles were in the hack, and ultimately, infected some of their workstations with malware to gather further evidence.

July 18, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


State Department Silent on MH17 Anniversary Following Trump-Putin Firestorm (ROBBIE GRAMER, AMY MACKINNON | JULY 18, 2018, Foreign Policy)

Every year since a Russian missile downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew, the U.S. State Department has issued a statement to mark the anniversary.

But on the anniversary this year--a day after U.S. President Donald Trump met in Helsinki with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin--the State Department was conspicuously silent about it.

Officials there prepared a draft statement that was sharply critical of Russia for its alleged role in the attack. But for reasons the State Department has not explained, it was never issued.

Based on a cached version of the U.S. embassy's website in Moscow, it appeared on the homepage briefly on Tuesday but then was quickly taken down. One U.S. official confirmed this account to Foreign Policy.

"Four years after the downing of MH17, the world still awaits Russia's acknowledgement of its role," read the draft, a copy of which was obtained by Foreign Policy.

"It is time for Russia to cease its callous disinformation campaign and fully support the next investigative phase ... and the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the downing of flight MH17."

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 PM


Israel adopts divisive Jewish nation-state law (Maayan Lubell, 7/18/18, Reuters)

Israel passed a law on Thursday to declare that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, something members of the Arab minority called racist and verging on apartheid.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM



While National Security Adviser John Bolton, according to a source, thought Trump's remarks were ill-advised, he believed that walking them back would only add fuel to the outrage pyre and make the president look weak. But Chief of Staff John Kelly was irate. According to a source, he told Trump it would make things worse for him with Robert Mueller. He also exerted pressure to try to get the president to walk back his remarks. According to three sources familiar with the situation, Kelly called around to Republicans on Capitol Hill and gave them the go-ahead to speak out against Trump. 

Too bad he has no honor of his own anymore.
Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


'Shame!' Opposition MKs cry foul as Hungarian PM set to visit (Times of Israel, 7/18/18)

Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday protested the upcoming visit of Hungary's Prime Minister Victor Orban, censuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his embrace of the controversial European statesman who once praised a former Nazi ally.

Under Netanyahu's leadership, ties with Orban have warmed, prompting criticism from the local Jewish community over the Hungarian prime minister's attacks on Jewish billionaire George Soros, which critics say toy with anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Asked if Russia still targeting U.S., Trump says 'no'  (Reuters, 7/18/18)

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not believe Russia is still targeting the United States, contradicting U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow was continuing to meddle in American elections.

Hardly seems fair that the price you pay for defending racial hygiene includes becoming little Walter Duranty clones.

Russia urges U.N. to mull easing North Korea sanctions as U.S. seeks action (Reuters, 7/18/18)

"The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious," said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea's energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


It's time to impeach the president (Jason Villalba,  July 18, 2018, Texas Tribune)

I am a Republican today because of Ronald Reagan. He instilled in me the principles that have guided my life, personally and politically. I believe in fiscal conservatism, American exceptionalism, a moral rubric based on Judeo-Christian values, and on a basic fealty to the essential standards set by our forefathers: truth, liberty, self-sacrifice and basic goodness.

And yet, today, our own president of the United States mocks these basic tenets. Since Donald J. Trump has been president, he alone has increased the national debt by over $1 trillion. Yes. One trillion dollars. The fastest any president in U.S. history has accrued that level of debt.

Our president has mocked and belittled our immigration laws, our intelligence agencies, our foreign policy strategy and even the American people. We have been called "stupid," "weak," "a joke" and "pathetic," all by our own president.

Our president has reveled in sexually engaging with those actively trafficking in the pornography industry and he has ridiculed those religious leaders who would deign to question him for doing so. He mocks and laughs at those Christians who would question him.

I was one of the only Republican elected officials in the country to plead with the American voters to abandon this charlatan prior to his election. For my transgressions, I was summarily unelected from the Texas Legislature. I have no regrets. I always do what I believe is right. That is not politically expedient, but it helps me sleep at night.

But verily I say unto you today, if we do not stop this man now, today, over 500 days into his presidency, we will be equally culpable in what he has planned for our great nation. President Trump thinks you are a fool. He believes you will never abandon him. And he believes that there is almost nothing that he can do that would cause you to abandon supporting him.

But what he doesn't know is that you are not a fool. You, like me, are an American. And no man will own your heart and mind like this president thinks he owns you.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM



WHEN WE MET in early March, Jonathan Albright was still shrugging off a sleepless weekend. It was a few weeks after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had killed 17 people, most of them teenagers, and promptly turned the internet into a cesspool of finger pointing and conspiracy slinging. Within days, ultraconservative YouTube stars like Alex Jones had rallied their supporters behind the bogus claim that the students who survived and took to the press to call for gun control were merely actors. Within a week, one of these videos had topped YouTube's Trending section.

Albright, the research director for Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, probes the way information moves through the web. He was amazed by the speed with which the conspiracies had advanced from tiny corners of the web to YouTube's front page. How could this happen so quickly? he wondered.

So that weekend, sitting alone in his studio apartment at the northern tip of Manhattan, Albright pulled an all-nighter, following YouTube recommendations down a dark vortex that led from one conspiracy theory video to another until he'd collected data on roughly 9,000 videos. On Sunday, he wrote about his findings on Medium. By Monday, his investigation was the subject of a top story on Buzzfeed News. And by Thursday, when I met Albright at his office, he was chugging a bottle of Super Coffee (equal parts caffeine boost and protein shake) to stay awake.

At that point, I knew Albright mainly through his work, which had already been featured on the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. That, and his habit of sending me rapid-fire Signal and Twitter messages that cryptically indicated he'd discovered something new that the world needed to know. They came five at a time, loaded with screenshots, links to cached websites, and excerpts from congressional testimony, all of which he had archived as evidence in his one-man quest to uncover how information gets manipulated as it makes its way through the public bloodstream. This is how Albright has helped break some of the biggest stories in tech over the past year: by sending journalists a direct message late in the night that sounds half-crazy, but is actually an epic scoop--that is, if you can jump on it before he impatiently tweets it out.

So when I finally asked to meet Albright, the man who's been conducting some of the most consequential and prolific research on the tech industry's multitudinous screwups, I expected to find a scene straight out of Carrie Mathison's apartment: yards of red string connecting thumbtacked photos of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Bannon, and Vladimir Putin. At the very least, rows of post-docs tapping away on their Macbooks, populating Excel spreadsheets with tips to feed Albright their latest.

Instead, his office--if you can call it that--sits inside a stuffy, lightless storage space in the basement of Columbia University's journalism school. The day we met, Albright, who looks at least a decade younger than his 40 years, was dressed in a red, white, and blue button-down, khakis, and a pair of hiking boots that haven't seen much use since he moved from North Carolina to New York a little more than a year ago.

From a hole in the ceiling, two plastic tubes snaked into a blue recycling bin, a temporary solution to prevent a leaky pipe from destroying Albright's computer. His colleague has brightened her half of the room with photos and a desk full of books. Albright's side is almost empty, aside from a space heater and three suitcases he keeps at the ready as go-bags for his next international lecture. A faux window in the wall opens on yet another wall inside the basement, or as Albright calls it, "basically hell."

And yet, out of this humble place, equipped with little more than a laptop, Albright has become a sort of detective of digital misdeeds. He's the one who tipped off The Washington Post last October to the fact that Russian trolls at the Internet Research Agency reached millions more people on Facebook than the social media giant initially let on. It's Albright's research that helped build a bruising story in The New York Times on how the Russians used fake identities to stoke American rage. He discovered a trove of exposed Cambridge Analytica tools in the online code repository Github, long before most people knew the shady, defunct data firm's name.

Working at all hours of the night digging through data, Albright has become an invaluable and inexhaustible resource for reporters trying to make sense of tech titans' tremendous and unchecked power.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


For the Love of Mars : Why settling the Red Planet can lift us from our antihuman malaise (James Poulos, New Atlantis)

Since at least Dante, the poetic vision of destiny in the West has bound up together love and the heavens. In this sense our highest poetry worked to reconcile and harmonize the personal at its most intimate and the natural at its most cosmic -- in Dante's case, through the Divine. That sort of poetry could be described as a practice of the art of humanism, properly understood. Yet strangely, despite remarkable leaps forward in spacefaring technology that promise to unite the personal and the cosmic in an epochal way, today's Western vision of destiny has become fractured and contested. It is no longer accepted belief that poetry, divinity, destiny, and the personal love of being human are all constituent parts of a harmonious experience of being.

This problem -- and it is a problem -- is encapsulated in the uncertain place of Mars in the human conversation today. That conversation is dominated by matters of politics, science, and economics. Though it is obvious that these things should play a role in how people wrestle anew with the age-old question of our relation to Mars, something is badly and historically amiss in the absence of love, humanism, and poetry from these conversations. It is no excuse that ours is a time of fantastically powerful governments and technologists, one in which money, moreover, threatens to become the measure of all things. If the public imagination regarding Mars has been dimmed in the West, it is on account of our failing memory of the ancient role of the cosmic in practicing the art of humanism, and the failure of our poets to access and rehearse that role anew, amid conditions that ought to be recognized as hugely favorable.

The difficulty is not just one of disenchantment, although a disenchanted and unpoetic view of Mars will pose great difficulties. The disenchantment of Mars signals a deeper and broader disconnect with, and alienation from, the humanist wellspring of poetry: the love of being human. The antihumanism welling up in today's utopian and dystopian visions of technological destiny not only pulls our view down from Mars, the cosmos, and the heavens; it turns our view against ourselves. Our technological destiny shifts from one in which human life radiates outward from Earth to one wherein humanity is so rotten that our future must cease to be human at all, whether by becoming subhuman or superhuman.

Western poets have drawn upon love to teach by example the art of humanism. They have used love to help us make sense of our place in the world -- longing for home yet eager to wander -- and in that way, of the whole physical reality that surrounds us and situates our life, on Earth and beyond. Since Mars is part of that landscape, restoring a truly humanist vision to the question of our Martian destiny means regarding Mars in terms of love. Rather than limiting ourselves to the political, scientific, and economic questions about the use and advantage of Mars, we must also ask the poetic question about the presence of love in our relationship to Mars. Is not Mars so special and so ripe with specific possibility, waiting for us and the fast approaching moment when we might settle it permanently, that we are obliged to speak of Mars with love, in love? Would we not speak wrongly, even falsely, if we spoke any other way of the only place available to us to make our first home away from our home planet?

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