What Good Can Come Out Of The Ashley Madison Hack?


Hey, did you read that Josh Duggar was on the Ashley Madison list? And it wasn’t a fake email address either! He confirmed it!

I know that some people get a feeling of joy or pleasure seeing Duggar suffer more misfortune. That’s nice for them. But with all the genuine suffering that this exposure will be causing innocents, can we at least get something good out of it?

The media are already using it for their headlines, therapists and divorce lawyers will be using it to get new clients. But can we get more out of this hack than media hits and billable hours?

What’s the opposite of Disaster Capitalism? Disaster Socialism? 

We know that some people use disasters to profit, others to push an agenda. “We are going to turn Iraq into a free market paradise using these Heritage Foundation interns!”

I propose we have a couple of items to push on our agenda.

First, increase the importance of privacy in both private governments and corporations. Second, use this data to show the problem with passing judgement on the private lives of ordinary people.

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his piece, The Puritanical Glee Over the Ashley Madison Hack,

[None of us should cheer when the private lives of ordinary people are indiscriminately invaded, no matter how much voyeuristic arousal or feelings of moral superiority it provides. We love to think of ourselves as so progressive and advanced, yet so often leap at the opportunity to intervene and wallow around in, and sternly pass judgment on, the private sexual choices of other adults.

But, what are the concrete things we can change beyond trying to change attitudes? How about a focus on data security at the corporate and government level.

Let’s start demanding the organizations that hold our private data have greater accountability to protect it and more liability when it is taken.The massive class action suit against the parent company of Ashley Madison is a start, but not enough.

We also need to demand nationwide reporting of breaches. It’s ridiculous that if you don’t live in a state with mandated reporting the company or organization  never has to tell you about it.

Next we need an agency who actually wants to help us protect our data. But, since the fear is no entity can be trusted, we need to push for the tools to maintain some control over our privacy.

Right now our privacy tools are hard to use and not as strong as they should be.  Our privacy policy rules for corporations are weak. This is bad for everyone except the hackers.

I want easier to use privacy tools on desktops and phones. I want tools that my in-laws can use daily when banking or shopping. I also want better tools my nephew can use when coding. You shouldn’t have to know how to encrypt your own email, but you should understand why you should be doing it.

BTW, it’s important for activists and journalists who want to use this data to understand both the tech and the issues. It’s been reported the illegally obtained data files found on the dark web are filled with Remote Access Trojans (RATs) which provide cybercriminals with unlimited access to infected endpoints. Here’s a link to a story explaining.


Follow the money” Deep Throat
      — All the President’s Men

When someone says this to current journalists I want to snark back.  “1976 called, they want their tagline back.”

 The print media only “follow the money” for stories about once a year, usually for Pulitzer submissions.  But now, post Citizens United, they won’t be doing that on a political story.

But there is some good news.  Someone is using the Ashley Madison data to track down dark money in politics.

My friends at the Center for Media and Democracy saw that since Josh Dugger has already admitted his use of the service, they took the opportunity to go further.

Last week they put out a story about how Koch Brothers Freedom Partners Operation shoveled millions to a conservative Christian group. They laid out the shell corporations, who got it and for what supposed purposes. I can practically hear your eyes glazing over.

But luckily for the news scanning public, the Conservative Christian Group getting the money was led by Josh Duggar! As I predicted, he used the Christian “I’m a sinner, forgive me.” card.

The MSM was able to use the hypocrisy card to run the story. He was a public figure who was also a moralizing hypocrite, so they didn’t have to worry about discussing someone’s private sex lives.  He was all wrapped up in one easy to consume baby-faced moralizing package.

But that is as far at they will take it. They aren’t going to use it to look into the sex and political money connections like the CMD did.

Let me repeat. The media do NOT WANT to stop political money flowing into their coffers. They will only talk about it in the abstract as if there is nothing they can do with it beyond sexy headlines and moralized shaming.

If we can’t stop the data from getting out and want to use this data for good, we have to help the people doing the kind of work that the media will not do

Nobody is going to do this but us.

How will campaigns use Ashley Madison data? How will media?

Here is some interesting information compiled by @dadaviz taken from the illegally obtained Ashley Madison data dump. Link

34% of Ashley Madison Accounts are Fake

Yesterday I could have downloaded the 10 gigs of illegally obtained Ashley Madison customer data. The idea was kind of thrilling.  I could see which associates of politicians, lobbyists or corporate executives are on the list, prepare it for oppo research, political leverage and/or public shaming.

I didn’t do it but lots of people can and will.  Prepare for the onslaught. I’m trying to get ahead of the curve a bit. Partly to help people see who and how this might be handled. Partly to wonder how it might be used, abused or leverage by others. And finally, I’d like to reinforce the importance of figuring out how to maintain privacy in our current surveillance state.

I keep thinking about two comments I’ve heard in the past around privacy, sex and cheating on a spouse.

“If you haven’t done anything wrong you don’t have anything to worry about.” 

“It’s not about the sex, it’s about the lying.”

I wrote about privacy and this breach back in July, Why I care when people with ‘something to hide’ . . . → Read More: How will campaigns use Ashley Madison data? How will media?

Let’s help GOP billionaires attack each other 

“When your opponent is drowning, them ’em an anchor.”

–old phrase from some famous person you admire

I’m angry today. Maybe it’s because of watching the GOP “debate” or the BLM protests or maybe it’s because of the Planned Parenthood attack. But as I thought of all this I started getting angry. You’ll like me when I’m angry. Because when I get angry I get strategic. Then tactical. Then I take a shower.Then I write a blog post.

You know what? Screw the Kochs and their billionaire buddies. Screw Fox News and their staged “debate.” Screw sitting back and laughing at the mockery they are making of our representative democracy.

Lots of people are happy to sit back and let the billionaires on the right fight it out. I get that, but in the the process we let the right wing institutions and methods continue.

When we let them set the rules puppets fight puppets, not puppet masters fighting each other. (Presidential politics is a game with low stakes for them, since 95 percent of the players give them what they want.)

I say it’s time to help the billionaire backers destroy each other–while they target their opponent’s chosen candidate. . . . → Read More: Let’s help GOP billionaires attack each other 

Who helps shooting survivors deal with the media?

The day before the GOP presidential candidates were on TV ignoring the issue of gun violence, there was another attack in a theater in Tennessee. We saw the now standard scenario unfold:  ID of assailant unknown. First reports –assailant is white male and 51. Killed by police. Theatergoers injured, but alive.

Then as details came out we found out the assailant was a 29 year-old white male who had been committed four times for mental illness. He used pepper spray in the theater and had an Airsoft gun, not a real one.  Details from The Tennessean here 

What struck me about his story was the response of one of the survivors. He asked the media to leave him alone. It got me thinking about how people cope with the media blitz following a shooting.  I wrote a post on the issue (below) and then asked some experts.

.@everytown Do you have people who help shooting survivors deal with the media? Need show: http://t.co/999NRudHAn

— Spocko (@spockosbrain) August 7, 2015

Following big shootings the media swarm to get comments from survivors, witnesses and officials.

When there is a high body count the official NRA spokespeople lay low. In . . . → Read More: Who helps shooting survivors deal with the media?

Tenn theater attack survivor: Grateful to police. Asks media to leave him alone.


Following big shootings where people die the official NRA spokespeople lay low. In comments sections or on twitter we are told, “It’s too soon to push any agenda, the bodies aren’t even cold!”

However the one group of people that it’s deemed appropriate to hear from following an attack are the survivors.

But what is the media to do when the survivor isn’t ready to make a statement? In general most people don’t know how to handle a media onslaught, but following a traumatic event it’s even harder.

Yet they are expected to answer questions, first to the authorities, to understand what happened, and then to the media.

In this case one of the attack survivors knows enough about how shootings play out to ask the media not hound him and his family. Above is the video from the Tennessean.

Since Steven doesn’t want to talk anymore, who will fill in the void? NRA gun loving types. But will the papers reach out to people who survived Aurora?

I know the NRA hides after shootings and we are told, “It’s too soon after deaths” but I think now is the perfect time to jump into this with a “political . . . → Read More: Tenn theater attack survivor: Grateful to police. Asks media to leave him alone.

Rubio: It’s the media’s fault we have to take billionaire’s money 


#SignsYoureRightWing No matter how powerful or rich you are, you are the real victim.

— Spocko (@spockosbrain) August 4, 2015

All Things Considered did a story yesterday about a Koch event attended by GOP presidential candidates. It’s really stunning to listen to some of their quotes.

Here is the link. Here are two audio bits I highlighted in the transcript below: From the story:

“The biggest contributor so far is hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer. He sent $11 million to a super PAC backing Ted Cruz. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told the Koch network the candidates really have no choice about raising money.”


MARCO RUBIO: As long as newspapers and television stations keep charging people to speak out on politics, we’re going to have to keep raising money to pay for it.

Great narrative flip Marco! You are the real victim here. You had no choice but to accept the trucks of cash dumped on your doors! And besides, why should you have to pay for your “free speech?”  (Hey, does this mean he wants the fairness doctrine back? )

“And Carly Fiorina, a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said the media isn’t nearly . . . → Read More: Rubio: It’s the media’s fault we have to take billionaire’s money 

Roddy Piper Dies. Rewatch his SF film “They Live.” Almost a documentary

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, WWE legend, dead at 61

    – CBCNews Saskatchewan 

In honor of Roddy Piper’s life rewatch They Live. It showed greedy, ugly aliens taking over the media.Turns out it was a documentary. #Murdoch #Fox

— Spocko (@spockosbrain) July 31, 2015

One of my favorite films in the 80’s was “They Live.” Not just because of the science fiction aspect of it, but because of the biting satire.

On the surface it’s a standard “Aliens take over Earth” story, but underneath that it showed how some in the media and government really see Americans and what they want us to do.

When our heroes put on special glasses they could see the messages that were embedded in our media, all in black and white. (Video link)

Frank: What do these things want?

Gilbert: They’re free-enterprisers. The earth is just another developing planet. Their third world.

The main character, Piper, comes to town looking for work. He is directed to a camp of other men and women looking for work. His interview:

Female Interviewer: Last place of employment? Nada: Denver, Colorado. I worked there for ten years and things just seemed to dry up. They lost fourteen banks in . . . → Read More: Roddy Piper Dies. Rewatch his SF film “They Live.” Almost a documentary

Why I care when people with ‘something to hide’ are hacked

“Privacy” by Melanie Feuerer used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 United States License

It’s all about the Privacy. 

Do some people deserve it less than others?  Who decides?

Online Cheating Site AshleyMadison Hacked — Brian Krebs, @briankrebs Krebs on Security July 19, 2015

When people who are supposed to protect someone’s privacy fail, what should their responsibility be following the failure?  How do you make “someone whole,”  as they say in the insurance biz, following a privacy breach?

Hacks of OPM databases compromised 22.1 million people, federal authorities say     — Ellen Nakashima, @nakashimae, The Washington Post, July 9, 2015

 What are the valid reasons someone’s privacy is violated? National Security? Public safety? Potential violence? Donating to the wrong cause?  Who gets permission? Who oversees this?

“I don’t care if the government listens to me, I don’t have anything to hide. If you don’t have anything to hide, what are you worried about?”

— US citizen comment I read in response to Snowden revelations

Are there standards and regulations that organizations should meet? Who enforces them? What are the penalties if they don’t?

If they don’t follow the standards should there be additional sanctions? Who decides?

“JPMorgan Chase Hacking . . . → Read More: Why I care when people with ‘something to hide’ are hacked

Fighting Evil Corp. There’s an App For That!

I’m a crappy chess player. This became clear to me when my 8 year-old nephew beat me while explaining, “The horsey piece can only move in an “L” way Uncle Spocko!”

One of the things they say you learn from chess is thinking several moves ahead, anticipating your opponent’s responses and acting accordingly. I learned this skill from life experience.

Right now I’m watching Mr. Robot. They are looking at the personal reasons people fight big institutions, as well as the human cost of those fights. That’s the part people don’t see, and it can be exhausting.

When I went about the process of defunding RW talk radio, I knew I needed to anticipate how they would respond to my actions.  Then, how they would respond to my responses.

When I started alerting advertisers to the violent rhetoric, sexism and bigotry coming from the RW radio hosts I knew the radio station would use multiple excuses to keep the advertisers. First they discredited me, and then the information. Next, threats of arrest from law enforcement agencies, then hints of exposure of my identity. Finally legal threats, which they carried out. They threw around phrases like libel, tortuous interference with contract . . . → Read More: Fighting Evil Corp. There’s an App For That!

Trump’s Clownish Run For President vs. Pat Paulsen’s

I was in downtown Chicago this week by the river. A woman next to me was taking a photo, of Trump Tower. I asked her, “So are you voting for him?” She burst out laughing, “No!”

Donald Trump running for President is a massive gift to the media, almost as big as his ego. He also is a Trump Tower shaped gift to certain members to the Republican Party running for President.

Sam Seder predicted this months ago on the Majority Report and it’s coming true. Trump is great fun for the press. Look at it from their point of view. Would you rather cover Trump or Ted Cruz? (Cruz makes me feel like his Brylcreem  is oozing out of my speakers when he talks)

Watching Rubio makes them thirsty and listening to Jeb Bush makes them sad. But Trump can be treated as both ridiculous AND serious which meets both tabloids and “Very Serious People” needs in the media.

Come for the Guns Stay for the Racism

I watched the GOP candidates speak at the NRA convention. Trump was energetic, funny and pivoted from “I love the 2nd Amendment” to CURRENCY manipulation in his speech!

It actually wasn’t . . . → Read More: Trump’s Clownish Run For President vs. Pat Paulsen’s