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October 17, 2008

the quiet war against cybercrime

Nice to read a law enforcement story that doesn't make you hate the pigs -- Wired reports of a huge coup for the feds on the identity-theft front.

The backstory: black hats patronize peer-moderated websites of foreign origin (hello, Eastern Europe) as bazaars at which ill-gained personal/financial information is bought and sold.  Victim of identity theft?  In all likelihood, your info passed one of these websites.

The turn:  FBI cybercrime unit suborns one of these sites, called DarkMarket, and runs it off their own servers for two years:

Documents uncovered by a German radio network on Monday first revealed that DarkMarket had been secretly run by an FBI cybercrime agent for the last two years, until its voluntary shutdown earlier this month. The leader of the site, know online as Master Splynter, was in fact FBI cybercrime agent J. Keith Mularski, part of an elite seven-agent cybercrime unit based at the National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance in Pittsburgh.

Resulting in investigations/arrests of a number of fellows, who thought they were visiting a legitimate criminal black market!  Well, of all of the....

On one hand, this story totally tracks with the plotline of the Dom Deluise/Jerry Reed classic "Hot Stuff".  On the other, good guys kicked some ass, so let's tip the hats.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:09 PM

the alfred e. smith memorial dinner thing

I watched the candidates roast themselves/each other at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner (on TV, that is), and I too found it a pretty successful evening of comedy that the candidates' career paths as President of the United States/irascible-but-lovable senator who ran for president too many times, respectively.

McCain certainly had the better delivery.  Obama's deadpan is not bad, but he was clinging to his written notes like a man pretty sure he's about to find out what they mean when they say, "He bombed."  But he didn't bomb, he just wasn't as slick as McCain with the funny.  To be fair, McCain also looked like he was relieved to not be campaigning for one night.  Which I guess would be the salient point that one takes away from this.

Also, Obama's collar didn't fit, which for skinny guys is a problem, because you start to look like a Warner Bros. cartoon version of Jimmy Stewart.

The best jokes -- McCain:

I'm the underdog in these final weeks....  Even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats, I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me.  I'm delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary!  Where's Bill by the way?  Can't he take one night off from his tireless quest to make the man who defeated his wife the next President?


Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger.  I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the planet Earth

See?  Are good!

So hopefully if there's such a thing as the President of the Friar's Club, Sen. McCain will run for that.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

October 16, 2008

sadly, if mccain doesn't blink, he looks all shifty

After a long day of reading everybody everywhere's reactions to last night's debate, I've come to the conclusion that everyone is very right: Sen. John McCain, if elected, will be the blinkiest president ever.  I mean it's not so fair to make fun of Blinky McBlinker's constant blinking, because it's probably caused by some horrible medical condition that he doesn't want to admit because he HAS NOT YET COME TO GRIPS WITH HIS OWN MORTALITY!

So let's cut him a break for a day and talk instead about how someone (NYT's John M. Broder) actually did watch the debate with the sound off, as I mentioned last night, and came to the same conclusion that I proposed -- Sen. McCain is not well served by the split screen.  In fact, he would like to propose that all further debates be pre-scripted, and that the part of McCain will be played by a forty-five year old Clint Eastwood.

Wait, that's not cutting him a break at all.  Hey look!  Gov. Palin's children are vulgar!!  And darn cute.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:28 PM

joe the plumber: walkin talkin stereotype!

As much fun as it will be to live a day filled with Joe the Plumber jokes, it's disappointing to find out that Joe the Plumber is the kind of guy who describes Sen. Obama as performing a "tap dance... almost as good and Sammy Davis Jr."

This characterization is not racist per se -- Sammy Davis Jr. was an excellent tap dancer -- but definitely a thing one would avoid saying so as not to appear racist.

Actually, considering that Joe the Plumber was the only vote that McCain was gunning for, maybe not disappointing -- maybe par for the course.  And McCain might have won JtP, but he did not win the vote.  Joe the Plumber is not registered.

The more we learn about Joe the Plumber, the less I'd like to have him over for dinner, or tap-dancing.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:27 AM

October 15, 2008

tomorrow the world is filled with joe the plumber jokes

OK, my takeaway: the press will try to focus on the "I'm not President Bush" line.  It's not their fault.  They've been trained by forty years of debates to look for something like that.  But, then line actually had no zing to it, nor did it have a tether to reality, so, actually: fail.  Sorry, old people.  McCain's actual line?  "Joe the Plumber."  Yeah, that worked.

You wanna know how it went?  Watch it with the sound off.  Watch the body language, watch the facial gestures, watch the blinking.  You know who won.

Also: "won on points"?  Kiss my ass.

Now, live notes, after the fact!

McCain is blinky.  That either means he's lying, or tweaking.

Dude, we're three minutes in, and I already feel like this is Kennedy/Nixon, charisma/appearance-wise.

Question?  McCain: NO.  And then Joe the plumber.

And then Obama counters with the big word, entrepreneur.

McCain is being hung by his own Joe the Plumber.  And the smugness!

McCain: "back during the depression" -- what kind of onion did you wear on your belt back then?

If McCain keeps not answering questions, Bob's gonna cut him.

First back and forth, and Obama comes off smooooth, and McCain comes off as twitchy.

Holy fuck Obama just said, "Kill him."  So in your face.  And then followed up with "tit for tat".

Wait, veterans with hats?  Are they friends with Joe the Plumber?

I swear I can hear McCain snorting when Obama is speaking.

Too busy jumping up and down with joy while Obama discusses ACORN/Ayers to comment.  But FUCK he was slamming it back.

AND he has not broken a sweat, and his pulse is still a healthy 65.

Well JESUS if he don't have a veep that understands special needs kids, then how can we continue as a nation?

And now McCain is campaigning against Biden, which is, who told him to do that?  Is he not diminished enough?  WAIT!  Talking points about spending: GO.

On the MSNBC feed, you can hear every McCain snort and sigh.  Five o'clock shadow?

And now Obama is tying him down with health care.  He's working the clock.

Joe the Plumber equals "my friends".

Joe's rich!  Drinks are on Joe!

The longer that Obama ties the discussion down into details, the more befuddled McCain looks.

Hey, culture wars are back!  Let's all.. wait, what's the NLCS score?

Abortion: McCain keeps trying the DUH-duh-DUH moments, and Obama then calmly explains policy.

Wait, Obama's against cavalier sexuality?

Warshington.  That's my takeaway.  Warshington.

McCain is now running against Denis Leary re: autism.

OK -- and we're done.  I didn't have enough beer, but fortunately, my drink line was not "Joe the Plumber."

Over, out.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:04 PM

debate 08 4.0

OK, settling in to watch the debate.  This could go good, or go really good, or then it could go bad.

Or maybe it won't go like that at all.  Maybe it goes slow and boring?  And then nothing changes?

Obama: no smirking!  McCain: no tears of frustration!

There's a reason why I don't get paid to do this.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:58 PM

byron york: you sure showed them, huh?

Aw jeez, I've been thinking about the election so much that I forgot that we're in the middle of a financial crisis, and now the Dow is wandering lower, apparently having forgot what 8,800 felt like.

As long as we're briefly remembering, have a snack.  This is a little IMed conversation/debate between Matt Taibbi and some guy that Matt Taibbi makes look like a guy that should not be having discussion/debates.  They discuss the origins of the financial crisis (which has not been properly monikered yet, BTW), and Taibbi disabuses the other guy of the notion that it was caused by poor people buying homes they could not afford:

OTHER GUY:  When you refer to "Phil Gramm's Commodities Future Modernization Act," are you referring to S.3283, co-sponsored by Gramm, along with Senators Tom Harkin and Tim Johnson?

TAIBBI:  In point of fact I'm talking about the 262-page amendment Gramm tacked on to that bill that deregulated the trade of credit default swaps.

Tick tick tick.  Hilarious sitting here while you frantically search the Internet to learn about the cause of the financial crisis — in the middle of a live chat interview.

Needless to say, the other fellow -- Byron York, they call him, and may he enjoy his moment of glory -- comes off looking less than intellectually serious, and a little bit cowardly.

Which equals fun fun fun.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:12 PM

nytimes: race and the election

Finally, someone Went There.

Today's New York Times ran a very nice suite of stories that all addressed the issue of race in the campaign in pretty plain terms.  In the dead tree version that I carry around with me, the stories all ran on the same two-page spread -- very convenient!  And on their website, they all... oh.  Well, they're all there, at least: pieces on actual white people in Colorado, college campuses along the Ohio River, the perils of door-to-dooring in Nevada and Nagourney's overall analysis.

The one that hit closest to home to me was this one, which is Southerners starkly discussing the issue of Sen. Obama's heritage.  Basically, it's been so carefully danced around in the media that to read people's actual thoughts is a little bit of a shock.

On the whole, "nice one" to the NYT for running these.  And I do not find this laudable for the fascination of Actual Racists being interviewed.  No, actually, I find it laudable because holy shit that thing in the middle of the room is a freakin' elephant!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:37 AM

love my truck or get the hell out of my truck

Man I wish I was the type to carry a camera around, because if I did, you'd be getting a bright shiny photo instead of the following description, made entirely of words:

Walking the little dog this morning, we come across a box truck parked on a side street -- not a usual occurrence.  It's previously-enjoyed, and the old commercial markets on the side of it are painted over white.  And on the back of it, looking newly stenciled on, is a big old stars and stripes, and underneath, the slogan:


Ordinarily, that's be worth a laugh and a sneer and a shrug of the shoulders:  "Ahhhhh, people."  But I would kinda like to meet the owner of this box truck, because the slogan painted on the back is not only knuckle-dragging, it's also almost perfectly vague.  Love the nation?  The flag?  The stencil?  And then get the hell out of what?  Brooklyn?  The truck?  And if I'm not in whatever I have to get out of, do I need to first get in it so I can get out of it, or is just remaining out of hell a close enough equivalent?

Also, if I like the nation/flag/stencil an awful lot but falling just short of love, do I then have to get out of whatever I have to get out of?

Hoo, this could go on all morning.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:29 AM

October 14, 2008

ACORN: shut up

By now you've probably heard/read about something nefariously named "ACORN", which is how we underhanded Democrats are trying to steal the election with fake votes from people dressed in Mickey Mouse costumes.  In fact, you'll probably hear more about it tomorrow night during the final debate, because it meets the criteria of implausibility and speciousness that the McCain campaign favors in their smears.

Wait, implausible?  Specious?  But then why are Fox News and the WSJ all hepped up about it?  Well, you'd have to ask them about it, but the drive to implausible and specious is a very short drive indeed.

As usual, Josh Marshall has a rather deft explanation of the issue:

ACORN registers lots of lower income and/or minority voters.  They operate all across the country and do a lot of things beside voter registration.  What's key to understand is their method.  By and large they do not rely on volunteers.  They hire people -- often people with low incomes or even the unemployed.  This has the dual effect of not only registering people but also providing some work and income for people who are out of work.  But because a lot of these people are doing it for the money, inevitably, a few of them cut corners or even cheat.  So, inevitably someone will end up filling out cards for nonexistent names and some of those slip through ACORN's own efforts to catch errors.

So basically there is a scandal, but it's ACORN that's the victim, as employees cheat-register fakes names so that ACORN will pay them more cash.  It is not a vote fraud, it is vote registration fraud.  And the intent of it is not to rig an election, but rather to make mooooney.

It's pretty straightforward, but tough to distill into the five word sentence that you can repeat while Bill O'Reilly is screaming at you.

And keep in mind, as, again, Josh Marshall lays out, that the reason that the GOP is wasting so much breath on this is because if they can convince the average citizen that vote fraud not only exists but is systemic, then they will have the cover to make it harder for the types of people who do not vote Republican -- the disenfranchised, let's call them.

Which may be a fine thing if you are the Ayn-Randian sort whose ends trample all over the means, but it is not okay in my book.  In fact I think it sort of practice a democracy would frown on.

So yes, if you get "ACORN!"ed by a fool and, "Shut up," does not suffice, try explaining the above.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:51 PM

mccain: my ever-changing mood

In case you were too busy rediscovering the New World to notice, yesterday the McCain Campaign decided to downplay the candidate's tendency to lurch wildly from one campaign stunt to the next by, well, lurching to a new campaign stunt -- much more mister nice guy.  He rolled out the new model in a speech, wherein he didn't hardly attack Sen. Obama at all:
The speech appeared to be intended as an antidote [to criticism of his negative campaiging], and aides suggested that Mr. McCain would stick with this new message through the final three weeks of the campaign. He is also likely to adopt the tone in the critical final debate with Mr. Obama on Wednesday night.

And then, the NYTimes flexes its considerable sense of humor by printing this as the immediately subsequent sentence:

Still, aides held out the possibility that Mr. McCain would change tactics yet again if warranted by events.

So, basically, for the next three weeks, each day Sen. McCain will campaign as a different character -- a pirate!  a competent politician!  a candy-striper! -- and the fun, for us, will be to guess what he's gonna be tomorrow!

It may not gain him the Oval Office, but it just might push him over the top to become the Most Beloved Man We'd Never Vote For As President (sorry, Bob Dole).

Posted by mrbrent at 9:09 AM

food chain

Compare and contrast:

High food prices causing restaurants to hike prices!  Er, I mean, commodity prices tumble!  Lead by wheat and corn!  Which are, as you know, food staples that affect the price of all the other tasty things we like to put in our stomachs.

I'm not saying that one's right and one's wrong.  I'm just saying, "What's for breakfast?"

Posted by mrbrent at 8:52 AM

October 13, 2008

solomund writes smart things

Another old friend has decided to join the world of amateur opinionism.  His (pseudo) name is Solomund, or at least I think it is, because that is what he calls his blog.

I've known Solomund for far too long, and the blog post is far too flimsy and insubstantial to fully and accurately describe this fellow.  Blazingly intelligent, singularly tenacious, Solomund is responsible for both the most art and the most chaos of anyone I know.  And now that we are old, he is of course a lawyer, and now writes concise and ferocious posts on topics that Solomund understands so we don't have to -- Constitutional law!  Credit default swaps!  And also sentences like this:

This type of rabble rousing with calls for killing your political opponent have a long history of turning into violent bloodshed.


Posted by mrbrent at 8:05 AM

October 12, 2008

i guess palin won't be dropping the puck at the dean dome anytime soon

The Obama campaign would like to welcome all you Tarheels fans who have not yet decided to support the Sens. Obama and Biden.  I know that it's presumptuous to assume that your vote will be swayed by a retired basketball coach, but Dean Smith just told you to do something why aren't you doing it already??

Also, Duke sucks.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:29 PM

for once, philly doesn't suck

Earlier this week I emailed my hockey friend, who shares many of my political inclinations, about how Gov. Sarah Palin was dropping the puck for the home opener of the Philadelphia Flyers, and how that would constitute further reason to dislike the Flyers.  (Which, as the hockey fan reminded me, was unnecessary -- each hockey fan hates every franchise other than their own, no matter what.)

Come to find out I might need to eat a little crow on the concept, because Palin certainly did drop the puck last night, but Philly fans (notorious for their courtesy and patience) booed her know-nothing ass off the ice.

Wife reminds me that the idea that the city of Philadelphia, being a metropolitan center, would have any support for Palin was ridiculous on the face of it.  But still, Philly fans deserve beers for their service to our country.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:53 AM