5TtRT: Election hacking, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Robert Mueller & more

Whew. Busy news day yesterday, eh? Let’s get into it.

Whew. Busy news day yesterday, eh? Let’s get into it.

First thing’s first: the Paul Manafort verdicts. Paul Manafort was facing 18 charges, all financial stuff like tax fraud and such. The jury came back with a “guilty” verdict on 8 of the charges and hung up on 10 of them. The eight guilty charges carry a penalty of 80+ years in prison, plus a metric crap-ton worth of fines. The 10 hung charges get called a “mistrial,” and Mueller has until next week to decide if he wants to retry those charges or not.

Manafort’s already facing a second trial, starting in September, for a whole ‘nother pile of financial crimes. Also, the judge he’s facing there isn’t near so friendly to Manafort as the judge in this first case. So pretty much anyway you cut it, Manafort’s screwed.

Second, and possibly the bigger news: Cohen’s plea agreement and court statements directly implicating Trump in felony crimes. You guys. If we didn’t live in the Mirror Universe, Trump’s presidency would probably be over today.

Cohen arranged a plea deal and had to make a statement under oath in court, in which he said that he paid off the porn stars Trump had affairs with, on Trump’s orders, to influence the outcome of the 2016 elections. That’s a big deal, folks. In fact, it’s a federal-sized big deal, which means in theory we’re into an area where Trump could pardon Cohen. For what it’s worth, Cohen says he won’t take a pardon from Trump.

Meanwhile, Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, was all over the news last night and this morning, telling anyone who would listen that Cohen’s ready to talk. Cohen wants to talk to Mueller, Cohen wants to talk to Congress, Cohen wants to tell everything he knows to anyone who’ll listen, apparently.

And not to give anyone ideas, but what do you think the over-under is on Cohen staying alive long enough to tell anyone anything? I mean, I don’t know as anyone in the Trump gang would do something, but Putin loves killing dudes who run their mouths, and Trump used to be in with the mafia back in the day, too. All I’m saying is that if I were Michael Cohen, I’d be hiring a bunch of security.

Next up: Democrats are getting ready to break glass in case of emergency. IE, if Trump tries to fire Robert Mueller. Since the Trump administration is reeling from yesterday’s revelations and verdicts, and Trump is a volatile crank, the Democrats are brushing off their “Mueller just got fired” disaster plans. Which is reassuring. If you’d asked me yesterday, I’d have doubted the Dems had plans for that.

In other news: Someone’s trying to hack the DNC again, and Facebook just rounded up a bunch of “election influencer” accounts. The security company that the DNC uses warned them that they’d discovered a webpage that had been set up to use for phishing for passwords and usernames for the DNC’s voter database. That page has been shut down. Meanwhile, Facebook found and closed 652 Iranian and Russian accounts that had been set up to run election influencing ops.

Stay on your toes, people. The election is right around the corner, and things are getting wild out there.

And finally, just to wrap things up: Google, Apple and IBM are ditching their college degree hiring requirements. Which means you won’t necessarily need a degree to get hired by those companies anymore. I approve. When it comes to tech-related fields, I’m not sure how useful a college degree is, other to have it to list on your resume. Odds are pretty good that in a lot of those fields the information you’re learning in college is obsolete almost before you finish a class, so the college degree may not prove that you know anything useful.

All right, that’s what I’ve got for today. Buckle up, kids. You know Trump’s gotta be sweating bullets right now, so things might get fun as the day progresses.

Featured photo: Michael Cohen. (Source and licensing.)

On Vaping & Moral Panics

The recent spurt of anti-vaping articles are part of a moral panic. Vaping is an excellent harm-reduction option for current smokers. If you smoke, switch to vaping. If you vape, don’t go back to smoking. If you don’t do either, don’t start. This isn’t rocket science, people.

The recent spurt of anti-vaping articles are part of a moral panic. Vaping is an excellent harm reduction option for current smokers. If you smoke, switch to vaping. If you vape, don’t go back to smoking. If you don’t do either, don’t start. This isn’t rocket science, people.

🚬 NPR: He Started Vaping As A Teen And Now Says Habit Is ‘Impossible To Let Go’

In one of the most restrictive measures nationwide, San Francisco voters this week upheld by what looks to be a large majority — nearly 70 percent in a preliminary tally — a ban on the sale of flavored vaping products, as well as conventional menthol cigarettes.

This is a moral panic, like D&D and Satanism back in the 70s and 80s, particularly in relation to flavored ejuice. Cake-flavored vodka is a thing, y’all. I don’t want to hear your BS about vaping flavors until after you get rid of all the candy-flavored alcohols out there.

The head of Colorado’s health department, Dr. Larry Wolk, finds it hard to believe industry claims that it isn’t marketing to kids.

“I have to call BS on that,” he says, “because the flavors are cotton candy, Frutti Tutti and they have cartoon characters on their labels and you can mix flavors and strengths. It’s really appealing to kids, whether or not they are intentionally marketing to kids.”

Cake. Flavored. Vodka. Smirnoff also has several fruit flavors, a bunch of “confection” flavors like whipped cream, caramel, and root beer float, along with ice cream flavors and tropical flavors. And that’s not even mentioning things like Apple Pucker and other fruit and baking flavored alcohols. You wanna talk about marketing to kids?

“Believe it,” says 21-year-old Julien Lavandier. “It’s a habit for me, you know — all the time when I set down my schoolwork to do homework, take a rip of the Juul. When I get in my car, take a rip of the Juul.”

[…]

“It’s impossible to let go once you started using,” Lavandier says. “I’ll tell you — after even an hour and a half or two, I am chomping at the bit to find my Juul.”

“Vaping” is (mostly) using nicotine, just like smoking is using nicotine. Nicotine is very addictive, and it’s brutally difficult to quit. So if you’re vaping, you’re becoming addicted to nicotine, just like if you were smoking. So yeah, it’s frickin’ hard to quit doing and you’re going to want to do it all the time. It works that way with cigarettes, too.

One of the benefits of e-cigarettes, according to the industry, is that the devices can help people quit their use of tobacco products. When it comes to that habit, the advice from Ray Story, the founder and CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association is “don’t start at all.”

“But if you’re going to smoke or do e-cigarettes, then certainly take an e-cigarette because it’s vastly less harmful,” Story says,”if you consider both of them contain nicotine, and both of them are addictive. It’s vastly less harmful than conventional tobacco.”

The thing is, vaping is safer than smoking. Vaping nicotine juice from an ecigarette is much less harmful than smoking cigarettes. So if you’re gonna do one, definitely vape. (I have no idea about those Juul things – they use nicotine salts, not ejuice. That might be different.)

Look, this is simple. If you aren’t already addicted to nicotine, IE, a smoker or vaper, don’t become one. Smoking is definitely terrible for you. Vaping probably ain’t great (although it’s most likely better than smoking a cigarette).

If you are already addicted to nicotine, and you can’t quit, definitely switch to vaping if you’re using tobacco. Smoking, chewing, all that stuff, is 100% scientifically terrible and going to kill you. Science is pretty sure vaping is safer.

“So my biggest concern,” he says, “is, you know, right now I’m puffing, puffing, happy, worry-free, and then in 20 years I’ll have to explain to my kids why I’ve developed popcorn lung — or some new form of lung cancer,” Lavandier says. “Because I didn’t know what the risks were of e-cigarettes. It terrifies me.”

Emphasis mine.

One last thing: Vaping does not cause popcorn lung. There’s a BS scare about that going around and it’s been repeatedly debunked. Also, US companies don’t use diacetyl in their juices anymore. Buy good juice from good companies.

5TtRT: Facebook, Donald Trump, Cambridge Analytica, Trade Wars, & the VA Mission Act, + Spider-Man

Today’s articles cover Facebook giving our info away again, Donald Trump’s BS with trade wars and the VA Mission Act, Cambridge Analytica and Wikileaks, and, for a palate cleanser, the new “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” trailer.

The trailer for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” dropped this morning and it looks amaaaaaazing. Looks like you’ll be able to see the movie Dec. 14, 2018, and this is gonna be in theaters, not a home release.

5 Things to Read Today

📱 New York Times: Facebook Gave Data Access to Chinese Firm Flagged by U.S. Intelligence
Facebook has been giving personal data to Chinese phone manufacturers, including Huawei, which the intelligence community has on their threat list. Note: Back in 2010 when this deal was forged, this sort of thing wasn’t particularly unusual. However, you’d think when a foreign company becomes a national security threat, a US company might bother to re-evaluate their relationship with them.

🏛️ CNN: Exclusive: Trump considers dozens of new pardons
Trump’s apparently figured out that he has almost unlimited power to pardon people and that gets him off, so he expects to do a lot of it.

🗳️ The Guardian: Cambridge Analytica director ‘met Assange to discuss US election’
Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser visited Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and sent him bitcoin payments. Cambridge Analytica has said that they tried to get in on those stolen Clinton emails with Wikileaks and Assange has said he turned CA down, but it’s kind of looking like that wasn’t the case. Shocking, I know.

🇲🇽 New York Times: Mexico Hits U.S. With Tariffs, Escalating Global Trade Tensions
I know very little about trade, so I really don’t have anything particularly intelligent or knowledgeable to offer about this, but it sure doesn’t look good.

🏛️ Washington Post: Trump to sign veterans health bill as White House works against bipartisan plan to fund it
Trump’s about to sign a bill that’ll help veterans gain access to private health care. It’s a big bill and (apparently) a pretty good deal for vets, but the law (the VA Mission Act) doesn’t fund itself. Senators plan to add an amendment to handle that. The White House has been fighting the amendment tooth and nail behind the scenes.

Net Neutrality Update

Pop the champagne, folks, we did it!

UPDATE: Pop the champagne, folks, we did it!

‘The Senate today voted 52-47 to disapprove the FCC’s recent order replacing 2015’s net neutrality rules, a pleasant surprise for internet advocates and consumers throughout the country.’ – TechCrunch.

Now we’ve got to get this thing through the House of Representatives, and then, somehow, get it signed by Trump. And we have to do it before this Congressional session ends in December, or we start all over again.

Celebrate today. This is a win. But get ready to make some noise tomorrow. We aren’t done yet.


Today is the vote to save net neutrality. If it passes in the Senate, it’ll go to the House.

@fightfortheftr: “BREAKING: Republican Senators @lisamurkowski and @SenJohnKennedy have bravely stood up to special interests to side with the vast majority of voters from across the political spectrum and have voted YES on motion to proceed to a vote to restore #NetNeutrality. Final vote soon!”

@SenMarkey: “The motion to proceed on my resolution to save #NetNeutrality just passed. The final vote will be around 3 PM ET. Keep making your voices heard on the phones and online! Be a part of history.”

That’s about noon PST, folks. Stay tuned.

Articles

Vaping, incels, climate change, health care pricing, & free speech & white supremacists

Today’s articles cover vaping, incels, climate change, health care pricing, and free speech and white supremacists, so it’s a pretty heavy reading list.

Did you catch last night’s episode of Riverdale? Because it was amaaaazing. And why was it amaaaazing? Because Cheryl, y’all. That girl is my hero. I want to be Cheryl when I grow up.

Anyway, today’s articles cover vaping, incels, climate change, health care pricing, and free speech and white supremacists, so it’s a pretty heavy reading list. Also, you might want to check out the post I did about the Michael Avenatti/Michael Cohen/slush fund story, because I’m still updating it with new articles.

Southern Poverty Law Center: Weekend Read: For incels, it’s not about sex. It’s about women.
“Incel” is shorthand for “involuntarily celibate,” and the term is used by a community of mostly male, mostly straight, mostly white men who congregate in the seedier crapholes of the internet to hate women together. They can’t get laid and they’re mad about it. “Mad” as in “angry,” and “mad” as in “insane.” Those who aren’t actively killing women already are cheering on the ones who do.

Vox: What genuine, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like
All current “save us from climate change” scenarios rely on heavy use of an industry that doesn’t actually exist yet: BECCS, or bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration. That is, burning plants to create energy while capturing the carbon that would create and hiding it somewhere it can’t hurt anything, like burying it underground. We’re well past the point of no return, and achieving any future where we’re not roasting-then-freezing to death while being relentlessly battered by catastrophic storm after catastrophic storm involves radical changes in lifestyle and policy that aren’t actually likely to happen. So, um. Yeah. Get ready to get your Mad Max on, folks.

The New Yorker: The Promise of Vaping and the Rise of Juul
This is a great read about vaping (and more specifically, vaping with the Juul, a new personal vaporizer product). It underlines the “moral panic” components of the anti-vaping sector, talks reasonably about the (sadly minimal) science, possibly undersells the dangers of nicotine a smidge, and paints a portrait of young people vaping like it’s made of orgasms. Kids, if you’re vaping this much I think you might be doing it wrong. Maybe take it down a notch. Or, considering that climate change article, maybe don’t.

Vox: The absurdity of American health care pricing, in one chart
This one’s a short read, but let me sum it up: health care pricing is bullshit, folks. We’re getting screwed and someone should regulate this crap.

GQ: How Free Speech Warriors Mainstreamed White Supremacists
“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” – H. L. Mencken.

I’m not going to pretend to know an answer here, but I will say that I’m pretty sure hate speech laws like the EU uses isn’t it. I think fixing America’s nazi/white supremacist problem probably begins with education.

Red Alert for Net Neutrality

The FCC voted to kill net neutrality and let ISPs like Comcast and Verizon ruin the Internet with throttling, censorship, and new fees. But the Senate is about to vote on a resolution to overrule them and save the Internet using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

Via BattleForTheNet.com, “The FCC voted to kill net neutrality and let ISPs like Comcast and Verizon ruin the Internet with throttling, censorship, and new fees. But the Senate is about to vote on a resolution to overrule them and save the Internet using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). We only need one more vote to win. Write your lawmakers now!”

Use CallYourRep.co to make a phone call to your senator. Be polite, be brief, tell them you’re a constituent, and ask how they’re voting on net neutrality. If they’re voting to save it, thank them. If they aren’t, tell them you support net neutrality and a free and open internet and ask them to change their vote.

Phone calls work best. Everything else, except for an actual, through-the-mail letter, is more likely to be ignored or discounted. If at all possible, make the phone call. If you can’t, visit BattleForTheNet.com to write an email and join the protest in other ways.

SSL certificates are the actual Devil

A couple of years ago Google started downranking websites that weren’t using https protocol. So, if you wanted your website to show up well in Google Search, you needed to buy an SSL certificate and install it on your website.

A couple of years ago Google started downranking websites that weren’t using https protocol. So, if you wanted your website to show up well in Google Search, you needed to buy an SSL certificate and install it on your website.

This is, in my opinion, when building websites stopped being fun.

I have never not had this process be a giant BS hassle. I’m currently fighting with one right now and honestly. It’s enough to make me Amish.

5 Things to Read Today