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So You Think the Idea that Trump Colluded with Russia is Crazy...

For those who insist there had to be no collusion between the Trump administration and Russia, who might point out things like Special Counsel Robert Mueller has not found any evidence of collusion (though his investigation has not concluded and the guy doesn’t even say much until he indicts people), or whatever other nonsense they wish to spout…

The thread quoted below from Clint Watts on Twitter (@selectedwisdom) makes it awfully hard for the “no collusion!” camp to be taken seriously. You can be sure if this were about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, any of these things alone would be enough for rabid Republicans to completely lose their shit for months. And imagine if these Democrats had refused to release their tax returns, or had staff, cabinet members, and family who were caught (and in some cases indicted for) lying about contacts with Russians.

While the media is distracted each day by Trump’s inane antics, the deep concern that ties all these bits together is lost: best case, we have a president who is acting for his own benefit, often at the expense of our country, and happens to be helping Russia by doing so, and worst case, he is acting explicitly to advance Russian interests.

Regarding this NYT story from this weekend, imagine you are a FBI Agent working Russian counterintelligence in 2016 and you witness the following:

– you witnessed Russian hackers targeting a wide swath of Americans including the DNC, DCCC, former Secretary of State & a Presidential candidates staff

– someone previously targeted by Russian Intelligence joins the Trump campaign and then appears on a stage in Moscow supporting Russia policy and speaking negatively of US policy

– A Presidential candidate hires a new campaign manager whose not been in the business in the states for years, but has been seen pushing a Russian agenda in Ukraine and has Russian intel contacts

– an Australian official contacts you and says the Russians have stolen emails of a Presidential candidate & may want to give them to the candidate’s competitor

– a Russian lawyer & others tied to Russian government visit a Presidential candidate’s son in the candidate’s building in NYC

– Candidate Trump stands on a stage and calls out Russia and asks about emails from his competitor, says they will be rewarded if they have them and release them

– website that’s released sensitive & classified documents from US for years, helped deliver a US insider to The Kremlin, begins publishing document & emails during Dem convention, content you know was stolen by Russia. Site administrator once hosted a TV show on Russia State TV

– A strange, unexpected policy change occurs at RNC convention, the change is a less supportive position toward Ukraine and is advantageous to Russia

– candidate’s campaign manager goes on CNN and asserts a false terrorist attack in Turkey, one tied to and advanced by Russian propaganda

– during this time, you watch a campaign associate tweet with a Russian account that’s pointing people to stolen documents from the opposing campaign. The campaign associate predicts something will happen to the opposing campaign manager- his emails are later released

– as Election Day approaches, Presidential candidate makes allegation, without evidence, voter Fraud & Election Rigging, Russia propaganda echoes this, social media accounts associated Kremlin do the same, at same time, you watch Russian Hackers hit state election infrastructure

After election, current President issues sanctions against Russia, but the incoming National Security advisor makes calls to Russian officials from 3rd country, when approached for clarification post inauguration, the advisor lies about contents of phone call w/Russian officials

During summer fall leading into the election, you receive raw intelligence from highly reliable source whose proven invaluable on other investigations. source provides intelligence on Russia’s efforts to support a presidential candidate, the info is consistent with other info

Before inauguration your bosses, your leaders from all intelligence agencies brief president elect on classified info showing Russia influenced the election on behalf of President elect. President elect rejects intelligence from all your superiors and suggests Russia innocent

From the summer of 2015 all the way through the election and after inauguration, you watch as the candidate, president elect and now president offers overt effusive support for Vladimir Putin who you know has been helping the President get elected.

Shortly after inauguration, your new commander-in-chief spouts false information about Polish aggression toward Belarus. This is not supported by the Intelligence community you are in, and the only source for this viewpoint is Russian propaganda

After firing of National Security Advisor that lies to you agencies investigators, the President corners your boss 1-1 asks him to go easy on National Security Advisor who lies about his conversation with Russians

During this period, the President inexplicably and repeatedly asks your boss if he’s under investigation with regards to Russia, despite your boss and other intel heads going out of their way to brief the President about Kremlin efforts to potentially compromise & manipulate him

While Congressional committees investigate Russian interference, the President fires your boss for his handling of an email investigation into the President’s opponent, an investigation that helped elevate the President rather than hurt him

You later find out a draft memo from President to your boss regarding his firing cited the Russia investigation

The President then goes on national television and in an interview says he fired your boss because of the Russia investigation

A week after firing your boss, the President invites Russian leaders into the Oval Office, Russian photographers capture the moment, but US media is not allowed to observe. President then brags to Russian leaders about firing your boss

Sometime during the spring, if you’re not already aware, you read a news story alleging the President’s son-in-law may have sought a way to communicate with Russia via a back channel not monitored by you and your colleagues

During summer, you watch the President attend NATO summit and shove Montenegro PM, in an Interview claim Montenegro is aggressive, might start a war. This mirrors Russian propaganda & you know Russia backed covert operation destabilize Montenegrin election

For next year, either you, your colleagues and your organization, FBI, are discredited by President. He mixes true and false information in public disclosures which you are not allowed to respond to. If you do respond, your accused of leaking and could be fired or even jailed

Documents & information from confidential sources you’ve pledged to protect, are selectively leaked into public through those who are supposed to provide government oversight. These inappropriate disclosures make your job as an investigator nearly impossible & hurts your sources

At some point during the summer or before, you learn that the President’s son was receiving & responding to direct messages from website that was releasing emails stolen from the President’s opponent by Russia

1st two years President’s term, you watch him take a negative, adversarial stance toward NATO and particularly Germany. This strains your relationship with your most valuable intel partners, your Counterterrorism agent colleagues depend on them & they help fight war on terror

Over next 2 years, President aggressively seeks meetings with Putin who helped elect him. Need for meetings is not clear. one President meets in private with Putin for 2 hours without witnesses but translator. To this day, you, your bosses don’t really know what was discussed

President emerges from private meeting with Putin and on world stage in Helsinki accepts and validates Russian denials about election interference & rejects years of your teams intel work. This badly damages your reputation and partner trust with your organization

Separately, your President publicly discusses a Russian proposed partnership on cyber security, this insane concept is mind boggling to you as an investigator as you’ve just spent years tracking these same Russians who just attacked your country

Even further, your President publicly mentions a possible exchange where Russian investigators might interview and interrogate you and other Americans about their attack on you and America. A crazy, frightening and bizarre threat to you as a civil servant.

Throughout your investigation into Russian interference, you watch as your President’s attacks on the Special Counsel, Justice Department & FBI are amplified and spread in America by the very Russian troll social media accounts and state sponsored propaganda you are investigating

Throughout the Special Counsel indictments, hearings and trials, you watch the President and his legal team publicly interject, discredit witnesses and discuss pardons, all subverting the rule of law and justice which you’ve dedicated your life to protect and defend

You either know or learn a parallel investigation shows Russians representing a bogus Russian gun rights movement penetrated the political party hosting members who’ve tried to discredit you - you recognize this as a TEXTBOOK espionage/influence op you learned at FBI academy

After two years, the Attorney General over you, who appropriately recused himself from Russia investigation, is fired for seemingly no clear reason after taking public lashings from the President

Your AG is replaced by an acting AG whose unqualified for position, has limited experience justify such high level appointment, you’ve watched him on TV discrediting your agency and your team’s investigation despite seeing none of evidence or knowing anything Russian influence

The same month, the President’s personal lawyer pleads guilty in federal court and says he continued negotiations throughout almost the entire Presidential campaign for a Tower in Moscow. This is in opposition to President’s public denials.

You read public reporting that the best apartment in the Moscow Tower project pursued by the President’s business was offered to Russia’s President Putin, the same Putin your President always sides with over you and your agency, the Putin who helped your President win

You either knew or learned through a redaction error that the President’s campaign manager was alleged to have lied about providing polling data to a Russian whom he owed money, via a former Russian GRU contact

Then he wraps it up:

I’ve seen some criticism FBI should not pursue Nat Sec inquiry into sitting President. Could be two other options. 1) Congressional oversight - which has failed miserably 2) or a Special Counsel investigation - which is what we have and should stay on course and unimpeded

Congressional oversight of President has completely deteriorated over last 2 decades. In aggregate, Congress has failed in their duties, party has overtaken country, personal power has been pursued over the welfare of the people

Attorney General nominee confirmations start this week, Barr wrote memo criticizing Rosenstein appointment Special Counsel, despite having seen NONE of the evidence might justify DAG Rosenstein decision. Senate needs to ensure Mueller investigation protected if they confirm Barr

I think DAG Rosenstein will be proven to have made one of the toughest and best decisions in recent US history when he appointed a special Counsel and chose former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Wrote thread through day from memory without web searches, I’m sure I missed a lot, & this is all on the public, can’t imagine what it must feel like to serve FBI during this investigation,we clearly don’t know everything Mueller team knows, I imagine there is much more to learn

Special Counsel investigation must continue, this is a crisis, this is a national emergency

Think about all of that.

Corporations Are People... or People Are Corporations

The effects of the new tax bill include significant preferences given to pass-through corporations, such as LLCs and S-Corporations:

[F]or the first time since the United States adopted an income tax, a higher rate would be applied to employee wages and salaries than to income earned by proprietors, partnerships and closely held corporations.

Some of the practical effects:

Expect the best-paid dentists to turn into corporations so that they can take advantage of the new 20 percent corporate tax rate, instead of having to pay a top marginal rate of nearly 40 percent on some of their income. Individual income taxes can be deferred on profits left inside a corporation instead of deposited in a personal account. What’s more, corporations can deduct local and state taxes, which individual filers can’t.

So if you are, like most people, a wage-earner who works for someone on an hourly or salary basis, you’re going to watch as small business owners and those who can classify what they do as a business and thus incorporate see their after-tax income magically increase by almost 20 percent.

A middle class benefit? Trump’s concern for the little guy realized? Hardly:

“Wage income will be the highest taxed income,” said John L. Buckley, a chief of staff for Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation in the 1990s. That’s what more than 80 percent of working Americans get.

“I think it’s grossly unfair.” he added. “Somebody working for a wage gets a higher tax rate than somebody doing the same job under a different legal structure.”

For businesses that can take advantage of the rules, though, things have become more complicated, especially for specified service businesses that earn more than certain amounts annually:

Under the conference agreement, you don’t want to be a “specified service business.” Although long and tortuous, the official definition of the term is worth quoting:

“A specified service trade or business means any trade or business involving the performance of services in the fields of health, law, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services, or any trade or business where the principal asset of such trade or business is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees or owners, or which involves the performance of services that consist of investing and investment management trading, or dealing in securities, partnership interests, or commodities.”

The engineering and architecture lobbies were successful in getting their professional activities dropped from that list.

Yes… lobbyists are alive and well. The whole specified service business thing for those types of businesses not in the architecture or engineering fields is a potential clusterfuck if you’re not careful (i.e., if you earn too much):

This disqualification doesn’t apply if you operate a specified service business and your taxable income falls under $157,500 ($315,000 if you’re married).

Furthermore, if your taxable income exceeds these thresholds ($157,500 or $315,000 in taxable income), the Sec 199A deduction doesn’t immediately zero out. The deduction phases out as you move from $157,500 to $207,500 in taxable income if you’re single (or from $315,000 o $415.000 if you’re married).

No matter what they tell you, DC is still the swamp, and Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan are its most notable slimy critters.

Update: An even deeper dive into the tax bill details that’s worth reading.

Corruption, Defined

Why Republicans are rushing to pass an unpopular tax plan:

Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican, on Tuesday cited pressure from donors as an imperative for the GOP to pass its tax bill. “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Collins told reporters.

Senator Lindsay Graham:

Lindsey Graham says “the financial contributions will stop” if tax reform fails.

The same motivation was behind the push to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare” (they are still trying, by the way):

[Senator Corey] Gardner is in charge of his party’s midterm re-election push, and he warned that donors of all stripes were refusing to contribute another penny until the struggling majority produced some concrete results… The backlash from big donors as well as the grass roots panicked Senate Republicans and was part of the motivation behind the sudden zeal to take one last crack at repealing the health care law before the end of the month.

Republicans continue to propose legislation that the public is overwhelmingly against in order to keep getting money from their biggest donors. It’s not the first time and they are certainly not the only party to do that. But unless we’ve all forgotten — it is wrong. The definition of corruption:

[D]ishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)… inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery) the corruption of government officials.

Tufte Sparklines - Micro Visualizations with AtF Spark

Update: Some content blockers prevent web fonts from loading. If you’re seeing things on the page that look like this instead of a bar or dot chart - 123{10,20,30,40,50,60,70,80,90,100}789 - then the fonts are not loading.

After the Flood (AtF) Spark is a collection of web fonts you can use to implement sparklines, an Edward Tufte visualization concept:

Data can be hard to grasp – visualising it can make comprehension faster. Sparklines (tiny charts in text, like this: 123{10,20,30,40,50,60,70,80,90,100}789) are a useful tool but creating them for the web has always required code. Removing the need for code makes it more accessible. If you can use type, you can use Spark.

This is very cool.

Examples of the types of charts supported (just to illustrate what AtF Spark can do – these are not necessarily the most appropriate ways to represent the information selected):

Apple's stock price has fluctuated 65.07{42,47,76,63,79}153.14 over the past five years.
But it has grown strongly 19.34{8,12,8,18,31,42,47,76,63,79}153.14 over the last ten.
Going back just a few more years 2004{1,3,7,8,12,8,18,31,42,47,76,63,79}2017 it's even more dramatic.
Atmospheric CO2 (ppm) over the past ten years 383{94,95,95,96,96,97,98,98,99,100}404 has recently topped 400.
Since 1959 316{78,78,79,79,79,80,80,81,81,81,82,83,85,87,89,91,93,94,95,95,96,96,97,98,98,99,100}404 it has risen over 27%.
Over the last 10,000 years 265{2,2,1,2,3,4,4,4,4,9}404 it has increased by more than half.

To use AtF Spark on your website:

  • Download the fonts from here.
  • Copy them to a folder that your web server can access.
  • Set up your CSS as follows, with the correct path to the font file in the @font-face src attribute:
/* spark-medium-bar */
@font-face {
  font-family: spark-bar-medium;
  src: url('css/spark-bar-medium.woff');
  font-variant-ligatures: contextual;
  -moz-font-feature-settings: "calt";
  -webkit-font-feature-settings: "calt";
  font-feature-settings: "calt";

span.barchart {
  font-family: spark-bar-medium;

/* Add the rest of the chart types you'll need here... */
  • Embed a chart on your website like this:
<span class="barchart orange-red-text">

Not sure I could have gotten this working without help from Paul Bradshaw. See his sample code for more details.

iOS 11 Control Panel Does Not Always Do What You Think

From Vice, “Turning Off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in iOS 11’s Control Center Doesn’t Actually Turn Off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth”:

Motherboard tested this behavior on an iPhone with iOS 11 installed and verified that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi remain on in the settings after turning them off in the Control Center, as some users have started to notice.

I had thought the toggle buttons in control center did what they appear to do and what they had done in previous versions of iOS. This is a non-obvious and misleading change in functionality.

Turning off these radios have legitimate purposes. For example, where I live, my Internet speed can fluctuate wildly. When it’s bad, I use Control Center to turn Wi-Fi off so that my iPhone will automatically switch to LTE for data. This is a pretty common use-case. Now read this:

It’s worth mentioning that both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will become active again when you toggle them off in the Control Center at 5 AM local time, according to Apple’s documentation.

So if my Internet service is flaky and I turn Wi-Fi off to use the phone’s cellular connection for Internet access in the middle of the night to finish a download or have my email updated (things I sometimes do), this may no longer work. iOS will flip these settings back and it may be before all that data is received.

Having Control Center behave differently than expected is frustrating, and it’s worse that the settings are also temporary. To turn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off completely, you now can only do this in the Settings app. Apple must think keeping these radios on when possible is valuable, but I think they should not have changed this. Users should determine when they want these components operating or shut off and be able to do it as easily as before.

John Gruber and Dave Mark have more details about this change and are worth reading.

Advertising Groups Complain About Safari Browser Update

From Adweek, the advertising industry is in a tizzy about Safari’s new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature:

“Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by Adweek this morning. “Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice.”

Advertising companies serve ads that are garish, pop up over content, are hard to navigate around, sometimes impossible to dismiss, are security threats, and yes, drop scripts and cookies on our devices surreptitiously to track everything we do on the web. To see them complain about being treated unfairly is incredible.

Advertisers have been abusing all of us for years. Fuck these people.

In case you didn’t know (this is not news):

“Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to recreate the majority of a person’s web browsing history,” according to an Apple spokesperson. “This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the Internet.”

When Apple opened iOS 9 to allow content blockers, advertisers bitched pretty loudly then as well. I think any time these companies complain, it means something good is happening.

More Words of a Coward

Yesterday, a day after I wrote Words of a Coward, Trump did a nearly complete reversal of his forced and delayed statement on Monday in which he explicitly called out white supremacists for what happened in Charlottesville on Saturday. He undid whatever small bit of good he might have managed on Monday, doubled down on his moral equivalence of both groups of protestors, and re-emphasized his ignorance.

Just read how the following people, all of whom are aligned with Trump politically, responded. The white supremacists are on his side, and the politicians in his own party are not. There is no better illustration of how wrong Trump is right now.

Statements by Those Who Are or Appear to Sympathize With White Supremacists

David Duke, leader of the Ku Klux Klan:

Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa

Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank:

I’m proud of him for speaking the truth.

Tim Gionet, aka Baked Alaska, alt-right Internet troll:

Thank you President Trump for condemning the alt-left antifa thugs who attacked us in Charlottesville.

Ann Coulter:

We were Gideon’s army without Gideon. Today, we got our leader back! @realDonaldTrump press conference:

And recall that on Monday the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer wrote:

Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us… No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, [Trump] just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.

Statements by Republican Politicians and Commentators

Senator Marco Rubio:

Mr. President,you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain 5/6

Senator John McCain:

There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so.

Senator Jerry Moran:

White supremacy, bigotry & racism have absolutely no place in our society & no one - especially POTUS - should ever tolerate it.

Senator James Lankford:

Our words must not create confusion. The supremacy of any race is abhorrent, unAmerican & should be condemned by everyone. Full stop.

Senator Thom Tillis:

When it comes to white supremacists & neo-nazis, there can be no equivocating: they’re propagators of hate and bigotry. Period.

Representative Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House:

We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.

Representative Steve Scalise, House Majority Whip:

I was clear about this bigotry & violence over the weekend and I’ll repeat it today: We must defeat white supremacy and all forms of hatred.

Representative Steve Stiers, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee:

I don’t understand what’s so hard about this. White supremacists and Neo-Nazis are evil and shouldn’t be defended.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:

Blaming “both sides” for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no.

Representative Justin Amash:

“Very fine people” do not participate in rallies with groups chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans and displaying vile symbols of hate.

Eric Cantor, former Virginia congressman:

“It really did demand a statement at the very beginning,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish. He added that efforts by the president to equate the actions of the counter-protesters, however violent they may have been, with the neo-Nazis and the driver of the car that murdered a protester were “unacceptable.”

Charles Krauthammer:

What Trump did today was a moral disgrace.

Are things ever much clearer than all this?

About the Violence “On Many Sides”

If you agree with Trump in thinking there was equal blame on both sides for the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday, maybe you’re overlooking the larger issue:

On one side, you see, you have white nationalists and neo-Nazis carrying assault weapons and advocating for a white, Christian, fascist ethno-state in America. On the other side, you have people who would prefer not to be systematically exterminated. Both are equally bad!

People from both sides assaulted each other, and there is blame to go around for these skirmishes. But the much larger issue, which Trump seems to want to bury, is that our president and the “alt-right” (or whatever you want to call them) have provided cover for this disgusting reaffirmation and public display of bigotry and hate rooted in a long history of white supremacist terrorism in our country.

Watch this Vice documentary, “Charlottesville: Race and Terror” to see what these white supremacist scumbags really think about violence, their objectives in inciting it, and their twisted, historical justifications. Amazingly, if you’re Donald Trump, you are apparently still willing to defend these people even after seeing things like this:

Chris Cantwell, a white supremacist leader, told Vice News that he wanted a president who “does not give his daughter to a Jew.”

Lost in all of this, lest we forget, is that it was a white supremacist who drove a car into the crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, killing a woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring twenty other people. That is terrorism. Had a Muslim done the same thing in the name of ISIS (or anything else), Trump would have tweeted about it and his supporters would have jumped on it, all within a couple of hours. To watch Trump claim yesterday that he was being prudent by waiting for all the facts is laughable. Does he typically hold his fire after a terrorist event? Actually, he does – when a white man is the perpetrator. Remember the white supremacist who stabbed and killed two people in Portland last May? Or the white supremacist who murdered nine people in a Charleston, SC church? Or the white man who shot two Indian men in a Kansas bar in February, believing they were Muslim? In each case, Trump was silent for hours or days before tweeting a tepid response.


Take all the feedback from across the political spectrum, along with Trump’s other actions, the people he’s put in his administration, the policies he is pursuing, what he says, what he ignores, and what actually happened in Charlottesville, and you can only come up with one explanation: Trump is, at a minimum, sympathetic to these white supremacist groups. You don’t have to wonder about it because he is not hiding it.

What will our Republican leaders do now? If making statements this week is all they accomplish, we’ll be talking about all of this again, in response to probably a more violent incident in another city (though I truly hope not), in the very near future. That might be the best-case scenario.

Dreamhost Fighting DOJ Warrant for Info on Anti-Trump Protesters

I want to get back to writing more about technology issues, I really do. But our current political climate is compelling me to respond, and I’m on a roll. Plus, the following is also related to technology…

Dreamhost is fighting a Department of Justice request for user IP addresses:

The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website… That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.
This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.

Dreamhost hosts the targeted website,, which was used to organize protests at Trump’s inauguration.

We don’t know exactly what is in the affidavit filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia or what the DOJ’s objectives are. More information will no doubt come out about this in the coming days.

The preliminary look at this makes one wonder what the DOJ is up to. The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible. But the Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit fishing expeditions like this. Those concerns are especially relevant here, where DOJ is investigating a website that served as a hub for the planning and exercise of First Amendment-protected activities.