Hillary Rodham Clinton tells “What Happened”

I can remember when reading the little stories in “Fun with Dick and Jane” in grade school, we waited to read “What Happened”.  So I chuckled just a little that Hillary Clinton named her autobiographical analysis of the 2016 election that.

The book does pay heed to women in politics, but the elements of the 2016 election leading to her defeat do lead themselves to functional decomposition, the way a systems analyst would see things. These components include Trump’s own behavior during the campaign and debates (including the second debate where she wanted to yell “You creep”), Russian hacking and disinformation with fake news, and most of all “those damn emails” leading to the notorious Oct. 28 Comey Letter, as well as the painful Election Night with the slow motion acceptance of electoral college defeat.

Clinton’s perceptions should indeed alarm us.  The idea of blatant racism and “whitelash” played a much bigger role in the behavior of the electorate than many of us could have expected (although Michael Moore had been warning about it). Clinton often mentions the “zero sum game” thinking of the alt right, where the economic losses of less educated working class heterosexual whites are seen as the result of gains by “others” (blacks, gays, and especially immigrants).

Russian meddling, leading to the fake news manipulation of social media (and the ultimate “Comet Pinc Pong” incident) shows a serious social problem among the nation’s professional “elite” class (including black and gay professionals).  I saw relatively little of the “fake news” in my own social media feeds because my online behavior normally connects me with people in a more intellectual mainstream.  I have contact with Hollywood, with the book world, academics, and with some pundits on both right and left, and including some doomsday preppers (normally on the right).  So I see some material at the margins (Breitbart on the right, and Truthout on the Left), I see very little material that is patently outrageous.  But it seems like a lot of people did.  It is rather scary that Putin saw the insularity of America’s privileged intellectual class and realized that a campaign of disinformation leveraging resentment and fear could really work.

I’m a bit perturbed to see her name Sinclair Broadcasting in Baltimore as one of the participants in his whole mess (p. 361).  Sinclair owns WJLA7 in Washington, and tried to bring to light the threats to the power grid in some reports in the summer of 2016 that got suppressed.

Clinton talks about Putin’s macho values (I think its ironic that he likes to bare a completely hairless chest when riding horseback) and the way they put individuals in their “rightful” place in a system where fascism is returning to replace communism.

The Russian hacking also connected to various schemes to make it harder for certain minorities to vote.  Black and Latino turnout in key states was considerably less than had been expected.

On the email scandal, Clinton pleads that she did not starting using computers at work herself until the middle 2000’s, and that she started in a world where it was still normal to use one’s own personal computers and servers even for sensitive work.

Indeed, in the 1990s in the mainframe computer world in which I worked, it was normal and acceptable to use personal laptops in fixing production problems, which could lead to exposure of consumer PII, but at the time (pre Y2K and just as the Internet was heating up) it was seen as much less of a risk than it would be now.  It was also acceptable to take listings home that had production consumer data printed.

Clinton does think that the Comey letter did provide Trump with his ninth inning rally, and maybe a couple of unearned runs, by baseball analogy.  Remember, the whole incident could not have happened if Anthony Weiner had not committed a sex offense, an observation that provides an ironic comparison to a bizarre incident that happened in 2005 when I was substitute teaching that I have discussed here before – apparently I had not seen the end of it, but I never thought this sort of thing could throw and election. Also ironic were Trump’s self-incriminating comments overheard on Access Hollywood.

On p. 465, the last chapter “Onward Together”, one of her supporters, a history teacher, offers some partisan moralizing.  “Privilege” alone makes that teacher’s students responsible for others.  It doesn’t wait for marriage and having babies.

Author: Hillary Clinton
Title, Subtitle: What Happened
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-7556-5
Publication: New York, Simon and Schuster, 18 chapters unnumbered. 494 pages, hardcover, e-book
Link: publisher

(Posted: Friday, September 15, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

Audrie and Daisy: the outcomes of two cyberbullying cases

Audrie and Daisy”, directed by Benni Cohen and Jon Shenk, hits the subject of cyberbullying hard, especially for female victims of sexual assault, and especially underage, largely by presenting two tragic biographical narratives.

The story of Audry Pott, in Saratoga CA (a San Jose suburb) is wrapped around the narrative of Daisy Coleman in Maryville MO, which provides a long middle section for the movie.

In all cases the assailants are aggressive white teenage boys, some of them football players, all carrying out what seem like primal biological instincts that I don’t personally feel.

Audrie, apparently when drunk, endures body desecration at a party, the details of which need not be repeated here.  Cyberbullying in chat rooms will follow her for being a victim.  Later she will commit suicide at home, hanging herself behind a closed bedroom door when her mother is in the house.  At the end of the film, the juvenile offenders are processed by the criminal justice system but given light sentences.

One of her friends, Delaney Henderson, a surfing enthusiast, will talk on the beach about a similar experience, and say her family had decided to switch coasts and move to Florida to get away from the meanness.

Daisy’s family had moved to Maryville (north of KCMO, a city I know too well) after dad was killed in an auto accident in Albany, MO.  One night, some boys got her, at 14, and another 13 year old girl drunk, and then had sex with the girls (legally way underage).  She may have been on the verge of alcohol poisoning.  Detectives detained and questioned the boys, but eventually were charged only with misdemeanor offences.  The prosecutor said that the sex was consensual, which does not make sense if she was underage (does Missouri have a Romeo and Juliet law?)

Some interesting sidebars come across.  In Missouri, police say that Apple had deleted all footage of the incident, and that it was not recoverable..  Apple president Tim Cook is very serious about privacy;  delete means delete.  Not so, the police said, with Android.  Later Anonymous gets involved, blasting police allowing the “blaming the victim” result.  Daisy’s brother comes to her defense, and is shown working out in his bedroom at home with a sign “Endure” on the wall.

Finally, after the dust settles, a baseball coach, providing Army-style character guidance, counsels his team on how they should behave around young women and especially with victims of sexual assault. Could MLB use the footage?

Countering cyberbullying was supposed to be one of Melania Trump’s initiatives. It’s disturbing that the permissive atmosphere of ungated user generated content may depend so much on this kind of activity for “support”.  Bad karma.

Name:  “Audrie & Daisy
Director, writer:  Benni Cohen and Jon Shenk
Released: 2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play 2017/7/30
Length: 98
Rating: NA
Companies: Netflix
Link:  subscription

(Posted: Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 12 N EDT)

“Jason Bourne”: a recap of Ludlum’s novels, but also hits the cybersecurity issue hard

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Name: Jason Bourne
Director, writer:  Paul Greengrass (Robert Ludlum)
Released:  2016/7
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  2016/8/14, Regal Ballston Common, small auditorium, sold out, Sunday night
Length 123
Rating PG-13
Companies: Universal, Kennedy-Marshall
Link: official site

Jason Bourne”, now simply the title of the latest movie of the franchise, directed by Paul Greengrass and produced in part by Matt Damon (so can he produce my “Epiphany”), is indeed a concoction of all the clichés from Robert Ludlum’s spy novels.

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But it covers the issue territory well.  We learn that CIA director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, of course) can shut down any power grid in any country he chooses with Stuxtnet-like malware any time it suits the government’s purposes.  That already gives a nod to Ted Koppel’s book “Lights Out” (se Aug. 12).  And this time we learn the entire story of how Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, now all of 45 but still “thmooth” when it fulfills enough fantasies to so be) got into Black Ops (particularly “Treadstone”, which was supposed to stop the civilization-ending terror attacks like EMP), and how the government manipulated nis selective amnesia.

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The movie has enough exotic settings – the most realistic looking is Greece, and the film gives a nod to the debt problems and austerity imposed by the EU (the film was shot well before Brexit).   It touches Rome, and especially Berlin, Germany, the central station areas I roamed in 1999.  Finally, the film winds up with the greatest car chase of all time on the strip of Las Vegas, with enough one-way driving crashes to surely build up a huge fatality count. It missed a chance to over poker tournaments or the technique of card-counting (the movie “21”).

Then there is the Silicon Valley startup, “Deep Dream” founded by Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), although before the final car chase scene and mass shooting at a hotel event, there’s a welcoming that calls for a Jesse Eisenberg by “Now You See Me”.  The speech also pays a nod to Edward Snowden’s concern about privacy and surveillance.

Nicky (Julia Stiles) is the bad girl who does a lot of the hacking, and Heather (Alicia Vikaander) discovers the hack, probably not in time to save the world’s power grids forever.

Much of the film’s incidentals were shot in Tenerife.

(Published: Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016 at 11:30 PM EDT)

“Zero Days”: the history of the Stuxnet worm, and how the blowback just could destroy America

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Name: “Zero Days”
Director, writer:  Alex Gibney
Released:  2016
Format:  digital video
When and how viewed:  Landmark E St, 2016/7/8, fair audience 7 PM, had played at AFI Docs
Length 114
Rating PG-13
Companies: Participant Media, Magnolia
Link: Site

Zero Days” (or “World War 3.0”) is Alex Gibney’s latest political documentary, and this one comes with a serious warning.

If the U.S. and allies (especially Israel and the UK or “Little England” now) can hack into hostile countries industrial control systems (even for the laudable process of stopping the development of nuclear weapons) they can do it to us.

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The documentary, with lots of interviews, particularly with a translucent female avatar (Joanne Tucker) playing a combined NSA analyst, establishes the case that the U.S. drove the development of the Stuxnet worm during the Bush administration, in order to compromise nuclear-related centrifuges in Iran.  The worm was so well written that it could completely cover its tracks, and it made many “zero day” exploits that could fire off according to parameters (but the same idea is common in ordinary maware  and even mainframe crime, where elevation integrity has been compromised).

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The code was developed at the NSA, and at corresponding facilities in England and especially Israel. The Pentagon put in a “cyber command” in place at the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade (south of Baltimore) with the authority to deploy the cyber weapon.  The CIA was also involved, especially in bridging the “air gap” and getting the malware delivered (possibly on a thumb drive) by an operative when the system (normally offline of the Internet) was being maintained.

In time, some security companies, especially Symantec and then Kaspersky in Moscow, began to see evidence of the worm, which first showed up in Belarus (a former Soviet republic).

Obama continued the process, but the U.S. “got caught”, and Iran retaliated at least twice, once against Saudi Arabian oil companies and once against several US banks in early 2013. But in the meantime, the US has embarked on an even bigger program against Iran’s infrastructure called “Zeus”.

The film warns that a state-sponsored hack could compromise many US industrial systems.  It showed the May 2015 Amtrak crash in Philadelphia, as a false example (because positive train control wasn’t in place there).  It suggested that if the power grids were overloaded or the Internet went down, the world might be like “humpty dumpty”.

An ordinary hacker serving malware, even ransomware, through phishing or drive-by websites could not accomplish this kind of a hack because of the “air gap” to the internet, but an internal operative could probably install the malware.  (Router hacks might become more destructive in the future, especially given the “smart home.”) The main states capable of such hacks would be Iran, North Korea (as we know from the Sony hack) and Russia, and probably China.   Some of this material was covered in Ted Koppel’s book “Light’s Out” (2015).

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The film had been shown at AFIDocs.  It’s possible that it’s release helped prompt the warning from Sinclair Media  (near Baltimore) about cyber attacks and possibly EMP on the power grid.

Wikipedia attribution link for Natanz nuclear facility in Iran, by Hamed Saber, under CCSA 2.0.

(Published, Friday, July 8, 2016 at 11:15 PM EDT)