The Smoke Eater For Jan. 16, 2020

Stupid Watergate, Warren v. Bernie, and Captain America hates alphabet soup.

Good morning, this is The Smoke Eater, for January 16, 2020, and I say we let them fight.


Quick Hit

* Stupid Watergate is stupid * Hong Kong's head threatens protesters * Congress holds some important tech hearings * Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are fighting * Captain America's doesn’t like alphabet soup *

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Stupid Watergate

Rachel Maddow had a ridiculous interview with Rudy Giuliani's lackey, Lev Parnas, last night. Parnas essentially threw the entire Trump administration under the bus for withholding military aid to Ukraine and implicated Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and a number of Trump's TV lawyers. Parnas then went on CNN this morning and said every time Trump says he doesn't know him, he'll release a new photo of the two together. In a related story, Ukraine has announced it is asking the FBI for help in criminal investigations regarding the hacking of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and a surveillance operation of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch that’s been alleged by Parnas.

Late this morning the Government Accountability Office announced the Trump administration violated the law when it froze military aid to Ukraine, saying “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law."

I Can't Quit You

The U.S. military has announced it's resuming joint counter-terrorism operations in Iraq. In its continuing effort to treat Iraq like a battered spouse, The Trump administration has largely ignored calls to leave from some hard-lined Iraqi politicos and a war-weary public at home and abroad.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner sent a strongly worded letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing his "deep concern" about the State Department's ability to defend itself from Iranian cyber fuckery. Warner's letter notes Trump's State Department has a history embarrassingly public vulnerabilities in multiple theaters, and asks if Pompeo has undertaken any of the most basic security practices to shore up those problems (like updating Windows).

Two Systems Enter, One Country Leaves"

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says the city can continue to keep the "one country, two systems" structure after 2047 provided young, pro-democracy protesters don't ruin it with, "temporary misunderstandings." Lam rejected widespread and well documented instances of police violence and blamed said violence on the protesters who've marched -- sometimes by the hundreds of thousands -- for months, cautioning, "The scenario they worry about today may be triggered by their own hand."

Elsewhere in Washington...

What the hell is going on over at the U.S. Supreme Court? First Justice Brett Kavanaugh makes the Supreme Court cafeteria start serving awful looking pizza, and now Chief Justice John Roberts is asking whether or not "OK, Boomer" is a derogatory slur?

Yesterday the House Oversight and Reform Committee held another hearing on the use of facial recognition tech. Both Republicans and Democrats agreed facial recognition is something that needs to be scrutinized before being widely implemented. In December a study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found racial biases in these systems. The hearing is about three hours, there's no transcript (yet). And be warned, the Youtube version of the committee proceedings (posted by the House) has at least one bile-spewing troll in the chat logs. [C-SPAN]

The Senate Commerce committee had a hearing on "Industries of the Future," but it too is three hours long and has no transcript (yet). If you can stay awake, some of the things talked about were increasing 5G deployment and infrastructure with U.S. and European vendors, and the risks and investments in artificial intelligence.

The Space Force is still floating along, and yesterday Defense Secretary Mark Esper is said to have gone to the White House to present ideas for logos, uniforms, and rank structures for the Air Force subsidiary. Regardless of the aesthetics, Space News reports the Pentagon is adamant about not slowing down its acquisition of space systems as the bureaucracy stands up U.S. star warriors. In a related story, religious liberty groups are pissed there's an official Bible for the U.S. Space Force. I guess some Bible thumpers in the Trump administration were butthurt when they learned about Yuri Gagarin

Let'em Fight

That spat between senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders at the end of Tuesday's presidential debate was caught on CNN's mics, and they released the audio because journalism. Warren can be heard confronting Sanders, saying, "I think you called me a liar on national TV." Dave Weigel has a good run down on how the candidates' non-aggression pact fizzled, while Samantha Bee went off on CNN for instigating the fight. Supporters of both camps are now quietly bickering across a vast chasm of social media's echo chamber like that whisper fight in Step Brothers.

Charlie Warzel has an addendum to the New York Times editorial board's endorsement process interview with Warren. It's rather frank: Warren goes into a little more detail about her ideas on breaking up tech monopolies, the responsibilities a company has in a data breach, and how she worries about people spying on Snapchat messages she sends her grandkids. Also, Warren says she's not an Amazon Prime member, but admits she's, "married to one."

Mick Baccio, the head of cybersecurity head for former South Bend, IN mayor Pete Buttigieg's Democratic presidential campaign, has left. Baccio tells Mother Jones he had, "fundamental philosophical differences with campaign management regarding the architecture and scope of the information security program." In a related story, Pete Buttigieg opines in his own NYTimes editorial endorsement interview that he worries about failing on social media.

Nerds and neo-Nazis

The NSA found a flaw in Windows 10 and Server 2016 that was so serious it actually warned Microsoft instead of keeping it tucked away in its cyber weapons tool belt. Saleem Rashid, a security researcher, demonstrated the vulnerability could be used to force the NSA.gov website to play Rick Asltey's "Never Gonna Give You Up." Microsoft and the NSA are recommending you not skip that latest Windows update. [Patch]

A man linked to a white supremacist group has been arrested for his involvement in "swatting" attacks. The defendant is said to be connected to hundreds of fake bomb threats targeting journalists, federal judges, corporate executives, small businesses, black churches and synagogues. He was caught after phoning in a threat to his own school, according to court documents. Upon arrest, the defendant's phone was found to have photos of him in tacticool gear with an assault rifle, and various neo-Nazi recruitment material and publications.

One More Thing...

Casey Newton has an absolutely SAVAGE tear down of actor Chris Evan's new fact-checking project that's profiled (at length) in Wired this month. Newton argues that people are often so dug into their beliefs that any evidence to the contrary tends to have the opposite effect. It takes some balls (and/or naivety)  to assume people will, as Newton writes, "listen to a congressman filibuster ... until the camera shuts off," about something they know nothing about until a staffer tells them. Personally, I think the C-SPAN problem — that politics is boring — isn’t half as bad as the fact that politicians lie and people are blissfully ignorant.

OK, now here's a warm and fuzzy critter video! THE CREAMHEROES!

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