Unnamed sources? Journalists should teach readers why they were used

On Thursday, four journalists for CNN reported:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

CATEGORY: JournalismInformation. Indicates. Associates. Communicated. Suspected. Operatives. Possibly. Coordinate. Information. US officials.

Huh? Could this lede be any more vague? This lede is all may have — which leaves open the possibility of may not have.

The story, reported by Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Shimon Prokupecz, contains unnamed sources in 10 of the story’s 18 paragraphs. The FBI director is named, but only in reference to stories reported earlier. White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov are named, but only in chiding the findings of the story. Two paragraphs near the end of the story contain no sources and appear to be the conclusions of the reporters.

Continue reading

Donald attacks the media, FBI, and intelligence agencies over Flynn’s “resignation”

A real President would promise to find out just how deeply Russia has influenced his Administration. Then there’s Donald Trump….

Donald and Michael Flynn during the campaign (image credit: Yahoo News)

Donald and Michael Flynn during the campaign (image credit: Yahoo News)

Three days ago, I wrote a post I titled “After Michael Flynn’s resignation, Donald will be out for blood.” In it, I wrote

Donald lost tonight, and every time he’s lost he’s gone on Twitter or stood before an audience to rant against whoever was responsible for his loss. I anticipate that Donald will attack the media again for reporting the facts about Flynn and his Russia contacts. And I expect he’ll instruct his new Attorney General to figure out who in the FBI was investigating Flynn, and who leaked the information that Flynn was being investigated….

Two days ago, we learned that Donald knew about Flynn’s Russia contacts, and that Flynn had lied about them, since January 26. And supposedly, Flynn was asked to resign because of “eroding trust” between him and Donald. Riiiight.

I don’t know about anyone else, but if I found out my National Security Advisor had been lying to me and was susceptible to blackmail by foreign powers as a result of it, I’d have fired him almost immediately, not waited two weeks until the media broke the story and forced my hand. Because, you know, national security. But maybe that’s because I take stuff like this seriously, rather than treating the Presidency like a business investment. Continue reading

After Michael Flynn’s resignation, Donald will be out for blood

Donald doesn’t lose well. I doubt he’ll ignore the role of the media and FBI leaks in Flynn’s resignation

Michael Flynn (image credit: Politico)

Michael Flynn (image credit: Politico)

Michael Flynn, Donald’s now former National Security Advisor, resigned from his position this evening. In a statement, Flynn said he “misled” Vice-President Pence about a phone call Flynn had with the Russian Ambassador to the United States in which the two discussed having Donald lift sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Flynn’s contacts with Russia had been under investigation by the Justice Department since Donald took office, if not before then, and the fact that Flynn was being investigated had been widely reported in the media. In fact, the Washington Post reported just tonight that the FBI considered Flynn a blackmail risk due to his lying to Pence.

Continue reading

The feds and computer upgrades: Incompetence often rules

If another reason is needed to wonder about the effectiveness of the federal government, consider its ability to upgrade computer systems. Or, rather, its inability to do so on time and within budget.

The latest failure may drive citizens to consider vegetarianism: A new $20 million Department of Agriculture computer system, designed to manage inspections at all 6,500 of the nation’s slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants, crapped out for two days earlier this month, “putting at risk millions of pounds of beef, poultry, pork and lamb that had left the plants before workers could collect samples to check for E. coli bacteria and other contaminants.”

Reports Ron Nixon of The New York Times:

The shutdown of the system is only the latest in a series of computer troubles affecting some 3,000 federal meat inspectors who are using the new technology. The inspectors visually and manually inspect every carcass in slaughterhouses throughout the United States and also collect samples of beef, poultry and other meats — selected automatically by the new computer system — which are sent to laboratories to be tested for E. coli and salmonella, among other contaminants.

Over five months, 50 million pounds of ground beef missed scheduled inspections. (Wonder why the processors shipped the meat anyway …) At one plant — just one — “computer failures had caused inspectors to miss sampling another 50 million pounds of beef products,” reported Nixon.

The government and computers just don’t mix well.

Last year, John Nolan of the Dayton Daily News reported “nine computer network upgrade projects across the Defense Department were collectively 30 years behind schedule and more than $7 billion over budget, government auditors have told Congress.”

Last year John Hughes of Bloomberg News reported “a $2.4 billion replacement of U.S. air-traffic control computers that’s been plagued by delays and cost overruns will be completed within its revised budget and 2014 deadline …” The ATC upgrade is part of “the long-term, $40 billion effort to transform the U.S. air-traffic system to one based on satellite technology from one relying on radar.”

But that effort suffered a three-year delay and a price jacked up by $300 million. The Department of Transportation’s inspector general remained skeptical: “Overruns may reach as high as $500 million, or $170 million more than the FAA previously announced, and the completion date may slip to 2016, two years later than the FAA’s estimate …,” reported Hughes.

Last year, the FBI finally managed to finish its Sentinel computer upgrade. The system allows the FBI to manage case files. Sentinel arose from the ashes of a previous 2005 failed upgrade, Virtual Case File. Over the years, the cost to produce a workable system rose:

In 2006 the FBI awarded the new Sentinel contract to Lockheed Martin to deploy the system by 2009, but when cost concerns and other issues arose the FBI took over the final deployment and development of Sentinel. When the Bureau took over the project in 2010, they increased the total cost of the system by $26 million to $451 million.

And no one yet has been able to persuade the U.S. Senate to mandate electronic filing of campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission, which would save an estimated $500,000 a year.

Your tax dollars at work, people.

Is it a felony when companies ask for Facebook passwords? My letter to the FBI…

Network SecurityIt has recently come to my attention that you thought it would be really clever to ask prospective employees for their Facebook passwords so that you could peek under the hood and see all the goodies about them that they don’t care to make public. I’m not entirely sure what it is you hoped to gain by this malicious little bit of snoopery, but I can assure you that, were our roles reversed, I would certainly not hire the likes of someone like you who thinks this is a good idea.

First, let’s visit the patently obvious. You seek to hire individuals that, for whatever reason, are willing to give their private, sensitive information to someone they barely know. Is that seriously the kind of security risk you intend to hire? If so, you’re a moron.

Second, let’s take a look at the slightly less obvious, Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. You might remember this document. It’s the one you blithely ignored when you decided it would be a great fucking idea to compromise the security of people’s accounts for your own nefarious purposes. Here’s a few choice bits you should read more closely, or even at all, for that matter. Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

Nota Bene #120: Crazy Ivan

“If you can make a woman laugh, you’re seeing the most beautiful thing on God’s earth.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #106: [no title due to budget cuts]

“Working for a major studio can be like trying to have sex with a porcupine. It’s one prick against thousands.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #101: Your Pal, Mike S.

“The guys who are shooting films now are technically brilliant, but there’s no content in their films. I marvel at what I see and wish I could have done a shot like that. But shots are secondary for my films, and with some of these films, it’s all about the shots. What’s the point? I’m not sure people know what points to make.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #100: Il Planetario di Figaro

Wow, 100 issues of Nota Bene! Props to Russ for helping me for a while with this nifty little S&R feature. Never mind all that now, let’s get on with this issue. “What splendid buildings our architects would be able to execute if only they could finally be less obedient to gravity!” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #98: A More Glorious Dawn Awaits

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” Who said it? Continue reading

Domestic terrorism: the mainstream media must stop spreading the Lone Wolf Flu

There’s a wicked little meme is going around and it seems to have infected a lot of people we’d have hoped were immune. Unfortunately this mental and linguistic virus is particularly virulent, and left untreated it has the potential to be lethal.

I’m referring, of course, to the “Lone Wolf” Flu. It’s precisely the sort of bug we’d expect to strike conservative talk show hosts across the nation – and it has – but lately it’s turned up in what were once considered to be some of the most objective and sanitary environments in the American media landscape.

I’ll stop torturing the metaphor now, lest it seem like I’m treating the subject too lightly. Instead, let’s examine a couple of news items that do considerable damage to the truth of our domestic terror problem. First, a June 13 AP story bylined by Devlin Barrett and Eileen Sullivan came across the wires with this headline: “Shootings show threat of ‘lone wolf’ terrorists.” And yesterday the Wall St. Journal joined in with “FBI Seeks to Target Lone Extremists,” which explained that “[l]one-wolf offenders continue to be of great concern to law enforcement.” Continue reading

S&R's official statement on today's SoapBlox hack

Early today hackers launched an attack against the SoapBlox network, wreaking havoc with a significant number of progressive blogs (including Pam’s House Blend, My Left Wing and several state-focused sites). At one point it looked as though the whole network may have been trashed, although at this point it seems that some sites (like our friends at Square State) were mercifully unaffected (for the time being, anyway). Some that were initially taken down are now back up and running.

It’s not yet known who was behind the attack.

Paul Preston, who runs the network, was understandably at the point of despair early today, posting a note saying that the operation was dead. Fortunately his latest missive notes that things are stabilized and moving ahead, and for this we’re grateful. Continue reading

Daxis, pt. 2: Bangkok

by Michael Tracey

In the spring of 2006 one email caught my attention. Daxis had been demanding that I provide him with contact details for Patsy, an email address and a phone number. I had of cohushurse refused to do this and, in a highly frustrated tone he wrote that he would be sitting in their living room in Charlevoix before he got the information.

How to interpret this? He claimed that he was out of the country, that there was an arrest warrant for him (which we now also know to be true) and that he could never return. What if all that was nonsense, what if he did intend to go to find Patsy, what might he do? Hindsight, to borrow a cliché, is an exact science but then it was less than clear as to what he was implying or threatening. I chose to err on the side of caution and interpret the message as a threat, that he would indeed turn up in Charlevoix. Continue reading

Daxis, pt. 1: son of the Devil

by Michael Tracey

“O hateful error, melancholy’s child!
Why dost thou show, to the apt thoughts of men,
The things that are not?”

– (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, ib, 67)

Then something strange happened. In 2002, a friend of mine Mike Sandrock, a sports writer for the Boulder Daily Camera, was in Paris and met a young American who it quickly became clear, after Mike had mentioned he was from Boulder, was extremely interested in JonBenet and in me.

After Mike had returned he received an email from this man, who used the email handle “De-cember25 1996,” signed the mail with the letter “D” and wrote that he very much wanted to communicate with me. Continue reading

Project Censored 2009: the stories your corporate news whores are ignoring

If you have a pulse and an IQ of at least 70, you probably realize that our mainstream press sucks. The silly bitches at the networks (and way too many newspapers, as well) fall all over themselves address the pig/lipstick story. They treat the price of John Edwards’ latest haircut like they would news that Lower Fucktardistan just nuked Annandale (although they don’t seem nearly as concerned over John McCain’s $5K celebrity makeover). And their fair and balanced coverage can’t seem to distinguish between the truth and a bald-faced lie.

In short, we know – at an abstract level – that they aren’t telling us the important stories. But … what are those stories that they aren’t telling us? When they send a “reporter” to cover the latest Sarah Palin photo-op, what story have they decided not to cover? Continue reading

Ivins anthrax case another black eye for network news

by Brad Jacobson

While cable news dutifully devotes nonstop coverage to the latest random criminal cases — kidnappings, shootouts, murderous love triangles, car chases — it’s telling when a supposed break in one of the biggest manhunts in FBI history, for a terrorist who murdered and poisoned multiple American citizens with anthrax, takes a backseat to nearly every other story. That is, if it’s mentioned at all.

Even as details, leaks and a burgeoning list of questions bubbled to the surface last week, demanding serious scrutiny, the big three broadcast networks were equally blasé. Some nights skipping mention of the unfolding story altogether, as did last Tuesday’s editions of CBS Evening News and ABC World News (though both that evening reported the eminently newsworthy story of a thrill-seeking English couple who married while being strapped outside separate airplanes). On the same night, Brian Williamsafforded39 precious seconds to the anthrax investigation on NBC Nightly News. Continue reading

Presidential passport breach: Why do contractors have easy access to sensitive data?

By Martin Bosworth

The accessing of private passport-based travel data of all three Presidential candidates by contractors working for the State Department has finally galvanized Capitol Hill to address the issue of privacy–something we’ve been begging them to do for years. Ron Wyden sums it up succinctly:

“The Government Accountability Office has been warning about this problem for a decade. And it seems to me in this administration, there’s been pretty much a culture of disregard for privacy, and that’s part of the problem,” he said.

Wyden may have been referring to a 2006 report from the GAO documenting the lack of oversight in sharing Social Security Numbers with contractors working for various federal agencies, including the IRS and the FBI, as well as within the private sector. It is but one of many reports the investigative agency has issued documenting the serious vulnerabilities our government’s mad drive to outsource its functions to the private sector has wrought–but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading