The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The indictment

I've just read the indictment against the XPOTUS and his "body man" Walt Nauta. Wow. As a FBI agent in The West Wing once remarked, "In 13 years with the Bureau I've discovered that there's no amount of money, manpower or knowledge than can equal the person you're looking for being stupid." And wow, was the XPOTUS stupid.

I'm not a practicing lawyer but I can read an indictment. If the US Attorneys can prove any of these facts—and I have no doubt they will—he's going to get convicted of a felony. Oddly, under our Constitution, he can still run for a second term if that happens, though he won't be able to vote for himself in Florida. But as Josh Marshall points out, the larger issues just distract from the utterly banal issues:

I wanted to share one thought.

That is the sheer ordinariness of the whole story. That may seem like a odd thing to say: ex-President facing multiple federal felony indictments for the first time ever, the bizarre details of this antic clown’s Florida Villa-cum-Hotel stuffed with banker’s boxes of classified documents, the bathroom chandelier, the power glitz jammed together with gaudy dime store aesthetic. But we grant Trump too much by lavishing, wearying too much in the purported weightiness of the moment. It’s very normal. Yes, powerful people get away with a lot. But if you commit crimes repeatedly and brazenly you’re very likely to get charged with one or more crimes, particularly if you’re in the public spotlight.

We hear endlessly how everyone not thoroughly in Trump’s thrall wants to ‘move on’ from the man. The first and most important part of that is shaking free of the reality distortion field that surrounds the man, as much for his foes as his followers. He’s hit with charges with evidence of his guilt that is clear and overwhelming and he jumps to the front to declare no one ever thought this could happen or be possible. He didn’t do it … but of course he was perfectly entitled to do it, even though he chose not to. Remember, he could have but chose not to. Got it? He attacks, defames. People get caught up in the frenzy of his seeming invulnerability and transgressive nature, the entertainment and the confusion. They’re wondering what he’ll do next. They’re baffled and suddenly the obvious ceases to be obvious.

Don’t be baffled. You may be thinking somehow there’s no way he’ll actually get convicted of anything. You’re wrong. He probably will. Maybe not. That happens too. That’s normal. It’s all normal.

I lived in New York in the late '80s and late '90s, and we always thought that the XPOTUS would never survive first contact with law enforcement. It took a while, but eventually his narcissism, unaccountability, and yes, his tiny little hands mind would eventually lead us here.

One more thing. John Scalzi called out all the remaining XPOTUS supporters to "get off the train," but hit on the reason they won't: "no one who is still on the Trump train at this point in 2023 is there for logical or rational reasons, you’re probably...stuck too far down in the grift to ever admit you’re the chump." But wow, the national security implications of this indictment alone should have every rational person in the country running from this guy.

Beautiful morning in Chicago

We finally have a real May-appropriate day in Chicago, with a breezy 26°C under clear skies (but 23°C closer to the Lake, where I live). Over to my right, my work computer—a 2017-era Lenovo laptop I desperately want to fling onto the railroad tracks—has had some struggles with the UI redesign I just completed, giving me a dose of frustration but also time to line up some lunchtime reading:

Finally, today marks the 30th anniversary of Aimee Mann releasing one of my favorite albums, her solo debut Whatever. She perfectly summed up the early-'90s ennui that followed the insanity of the '80s as we Gen-Xers came of age. It still sounds as fresh to me today as it did then.

National security reporters need to get some perspective

Good dog, people, the Discord document leak isn't that dire. And between yesterday's Post and the Times just now, I think we can all relax a bit.

Look, I haven't seen the leaked documents, nor have I sought to read them, because I don't believe I'm cleared to do so. But the only classification marking I've seen reported is "NOFORN," which just means that you can't share it with non-US citizens.

It's unlawful to disclose that you currently have or have ever had any security clearance above "Public Trust," which is the clearance you need to see, for example, social security numbers. I have worked on a military software project, and I spent time in the Pentagon and on several military bases. You may make whatever inferences from these statements you wish. I'm only saying I have some context for my analysis here.

People misunderstand classification levels, so let me try to provide some perspective. "Classified" just means a document has some notation about how sensitive it is, anything from "public trust" to "confidential" to "top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information" (TS:SCI). There are additional markings that color the overall sensitivity, like "NOFORN" (keep away from non-US citizens) or "FIVE EYES" (OK to share with the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but not anyone else).

I can't say for certain what kinds of documents exist at each level, but I can speculate. "Confidential" might include an email sent to everyone on a destroyer telling them what time the ship will leave port. The drunk Bosun's Mate 2 might share this information (unlawfully) with a foreign police officer to try to stay out of jail, and might even get an Article 15 for doing so, but...everyone in the port already knew this information.

"Secret" might include, the actual top speed of a warship. Everyone with Wikipedia knows the top speed of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is "in excess 30 knots," but only our allies, adversaries, other governments, merchant marines, Somali pirates, people with access to commercial satellite photos, and the tens of thousands of people who have served aboard one of these ships knows for sure how fast one can go. You know, a limited group of people.

"Top Secret" and above would include information that could actually get people killed, expose our methods, or ruin our day some other way. I won't speculate in this post about what could be in that category. But Duke University published an article in March 2012 revealing five declassified documents formerly marked "Top Secret," so you can draw your own conclusions.

Last night the Post published an interview with a dumbass kid who participated in the Discord community where a different dumbass kid leaked thousands of lightly-classified documents to impress other dumbass kids:

United by their mutual love of guns, military gear and God, the group of roughly two dozenmostly men and boys — formed an invitation-only clubhouse in 2020 on Discord, an online platform popular with gamers. But they paid little attention last year when the man some call “OG” posted a message laden with strange acronyms and jargon. The words were unfamiliar, and few people read the long note, one of the members explained. But he revered OG, the elder leader of their tiny tribe, who claimed to know secrets that the government withheld from ordinary people.

This account of how detailed intelligence documents intended for an exclusive circle of military leaders and government decision-makers found their way into and then out of OG’s closed community is based in part on several lengthy interviews with the Discord group member, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity. He is under 18 and was a young teenager when he met OG. The Post obtained consent from the member’s mother to speak to him and to record his remarks on video.

Bellingcat reports that some of the documents had "Top Secret" markings, but admits, "[a]s the channels were deleted following the controversy generated by the leaked documents, Bellingcat has not been able to confirm" what documents were actually leaked.

All of the other descriptions I've read suggest none the documents had anything in them that Al Jazeera didn't broadcast on its evening news cast later in the week. Embarrassing? Certainly. Anything that our allies and adversaries didn't already know about? Not a chance.

One more thing stood out. Clearly, the leaker was just a dumbass enlisted kid. My best guess: some dumbass Army E4 Specialist assigned to type up briefing papers for some O3 to give to some O5. In any event, I guessed he was no more than 22 years old and likely to get out of jail in his 30s.

It turns out, I wasn't too far from the mark:

The leader of a small online gaming chat group where a trove of classified U.S. intelligence documents leaked over the last few months is a 21-year-old member of the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The national guardsman, whose name is Jack Teixeira, oversaw a private online group named Thug Shaker Central, where about 20 to 30 people, mostly young men and teenagers, came together over a shared love of guns, racist online memes and video games.

The Times has been able to link Airman Teixeira to other members of the Thug Shaker Central group through his online gaming profile and other records. Details of the interior of Airman Teixeira’s childhood home — posted on social media in family photographs — also match details on the margins of some of the photographs of the leaked secret documents.

The Times also has established, through social media posts and military records, that Airman Teixeira is enlisted in the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Posts on the unit’s official Facebook page congratulated Airman Teixeira and colleagues for being promoted to Airman First Class in July 2022.

Airman First Class: a dumbass E3. And yes: his job was preparing briefing papers for officers. We'll see what the court martial says about his jail sentence in a couple of months.

Lunchtime links

Once again, I have too much to read:

Finally, it was 20 years ago tonight that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley had city workers vandalize Meigs Field so that he could sell the land to his pals. The Tribune has a photo history.

Just got a minor office upgrade

At my day job, I go into our downtown office at least once a week, which turns out to be about once a week longer than almost everyone else. I like the change of scene, and Cassie gets to spend those days at day camp, so it's a win for everyone.

The 90%-or-so remote work that people have elected also means we have tons of empty offices while our multi-year leases run their courses. So, after waiting almost a year for the furniture upgrade that never came, the office manager today said "just go take the office next door to yours." Cool. Better furniture, a (very slightly) different view, and...that's about it.

While I move my stuff 4 meters to the west, you can read these:

Finally, in keeping with me schlepping my books and laptop next door, Salesforce and Meta have put 22,000 m² of downtown Chicago office space on the secondary market, terrifying commercial real estate owners everywhere.

Stubborn March weather

After having the 4th-mildest winter in 70 years, the weather hasn't really changed. Abnormally-warm February temperatures have hung around to become abnormally-cool March temperatures. I'm ready for real spring, thank you.

Meanwhile...

  • ProPublica reports on the bafflement inside the New York City Council about how to stop paying multi-million-dollar settlements when the NYPD violates people's civil rights—a problem we have in Chicago, for identical reasons—but haven't figured out that police oversight might help. (One Daily Parker reader suggested taking the money out of the police pension fund.)
  • A bill moving through Florida's legislature would address suburban sprawl by redefining it. (Want to bet a real-estate developer lobbied for this one?)
  • A ransomware attack a few weeks ago has affected up to 130 organizations, according to researchers and online boasts from the attackers.
  • United Airlines wants to start air-taxi service between the Loop and O'Hare by 2025, using electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) airplanes.

Finally, I laughed out loud at the YouGov survey that found 46% of American men who have never flown an airplane think they could land an air transport with only some help from Air Traffic Control. I laughed because I do know how to fly a plane, and I don't think I could land a 787 well enough to use the plane again under any circumstances without a few dozen simulator hours. In fact, I would probably spend several crucial minutes trying to figure out how to change the radio to 121.5 and the transponder to 7700. But hey, the United States put Dunning and Kruger on the map, so this seems about right to me.

OK, Boomer, try a different password

Chicago mayoral candidate and Fraternal Order of Police endorsee Paul Vallas blames "hackers" for his own choices to use a weak password and not to use multi-factor authentication on his Twitter account:

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas on Friday blamed unnamed hackers for his Twitter account liking offensive tweets over the past several years as he faced criticism from rival candidates over the social media posts.

The comments came after a Tribune review this week found that Vallas’ Twitter account, @paulvallas, had liked a series of tweets that used racist language, supported controversial police tactics like “stop-and-frisk” or insulted Mayor Lori Lightfoot in personal terms.

Vallas earlier this week disavowed the tweets as “abhorrent” and said his campaign was investigating. But in an interview with CBS-2 Chicago on Friday, Vallas said it was “obvious we got hacked,” and in a statement a campaign spokesperson late Friday said there was “unusual activity on the account as recently as last night.”

“The campaign is working to identify who is responsible for ‘liking’ these tweets,” the statement said. “Because the account pre-dates and was re-purposed for the current campaign, numerous volunteers have had access to the account in recent years, including some who are not currently associated with Paul or the 2023 campaign. The scope of the challenge was reflected in the fact that we have seen unusual activity on the account as recently as last night even after an initial round of curative steps including changing passwords for security purposes. As a result, the campaign is investigating a possible breach of the account as well.”

I'm so tired of people blaming "hackers" for crap like this. If you can't keep your Twitter account secure, either through choosing appropriate security measures or trusting the right people to manage it, how can anyone trust you with a city of 3 million citizens?

Current mayor Lori Lightfoot thinks the real culprit might not be a "hacker" after all: “Every single time he gets caught … he says, ‘What? Oh not me. This time, it was somebody else. Not my fault,’” Lightfoot said. “Well, at some point, you’ve gotta say, ‘Come on, Paul. Come clean. Tell the truth about who you are.’”

Why doesn't the AP want me to give them money?

I spent way more time than I should have this morning trying to set up an API key for the Associated Press data tools. Their online form to sign up created a general customer-service ticket, which promptly got closed with an instruction to...go to the online sign-up form. They also had a phone number, which turned out to have nothing to do with sales. And I've now sent two emails a week apart to their "digital sales" office, with crickets in response.

The New York Times had an online setup that took about five minutes, and I'm already getting stuff using Postman. Nice.

Meanwhile:

Finally, I've got a note on my calendar to check out the Karen's Diner pop-up in Wrigleyville next month. Because who doesn't want to be abused by servers?

When, in the corset of human events...

Let's start with combat-actor Jill Bearup explaining how the Netflix-ITV-BBC ban on corsets solves entirely the wrong problems:

Meanwhile, in the modern world:

Finally, I missed an anniversary yesterday. On 22 February 2003, Saturday Night Live aired this bit of Tina Fey's genius:

Taking a break from heads-down coding

I spent the morning going over an API for standards and style, which will result in an uncomfortably large commit before I leave the office today. I prefer smaller, more focused commits, but this kind of polishing task makes small code changes all over the place, and touches lots of files.

So while I have my (late) lunch, I'm taking a break to read some news:

Finally, the Securities and Exchange Commission has fined the Mormon Church $5m for failing to disclose its holdings as required by law. As the Church has some $32 billion in holdings worldwide, that $5m fine will sure sting.