So, I thought I’d try downloading the recent dump of the Ashley Madison database just for kicks. I’m not really a hacking-the-dark-web kind of guy, so there’s a bit of a learning curve.

I started by Googling around for news about it, and eventually I found out the files were available via Torrent. So step one was to install a Torrent client.

The next step was to find the torrent for the Ashley Madison data dump. I found a torrent magnet link that seemed legit. I started the download and waited as my internet security software announced one “Malicious Website Blocked” message after another… Just a reminder that this data was coming from a devious part of the internet.

Eventually I had all the files, so the next step was to suck them into a database so I could poke around. Fortunately, they come as a MySQL database dump, which is easy to load. Unfortunately, I don’t have MySQL installed on my home system, so installing it was the next step.

Once I got that done, I imported the membership list, and then did a few SQL queries. Nobody with my last name, so my family is behaving. I tried a couple of other interesting names and also got no results.

Hmm…that’s not very satisfying. Let’s try a common name…yup, lots of Smiths! What about people in Chicago? Yup, got a bunch of those. Anyone I might know? I try my zip code…yup there are a few of those. No one I know. But wait…

What the heck? My zip code is firmly in Chicago, yet these zip codes are coming up all over the nation. Maybe people are putting in fake addresses. Or maybe it’s all fake.

I decide to try a few names a little more unusual than Smith… Nothing. No Changs, no Lees, no Patels, and there are a crapton of people with those names in the world. That’s not good. One more test, just to be sure…I query for how many times every last name appears in the database and find a smoking gun: There are a lot of last names, but all of them appear with equal frequency. That’s a sure sign. Real data is never that random.

Crap. I got fake data. I’d heard there was a lot of that going around.

And I guess when it comes to Ashley Madison, fake data shouldn’t surprise me.

I get a lot of spammy email about political issues and politics, but this one caught my attention:

Subject: A New Political Party- The Better Government Party Created by Mike Mann

Dear Mark,

I hope this e-mail finds you well!

I wanted to introduce my client, Mike Mann, to you in regards to your upcoming political features and interviews. A Washington D.C. native and Domain guru, Mann has decided to take on the task of establishing a new political party in the United States that he has dubbed the Better Government Party. We would love for you to highlight him in a business and/or political spotlight feature.

Mike Mann is the founder of non-profit and for-profit corporations including:



Oh. That’s pretty much where I could have stopped reading. Because nobody in their right mind wants one of those search-engine-optimizing domain hoarding sleezebags to have political power.

But I didn’t stop reading. It was just too weird:

His vision for the Better Government Party is to eventually displace Republicans and Democrats, whose parties he says are useless, corrupt and fraudulent. His party will be built on transparency, trust and accountability. Better Government Party is willing to move past the political differences that divide our great nation along superficial lines.

**Mann is known as the man who bought up 14,962 domain names in 24 hours and had the three fastest-growing companies on the Inc. 500 in 2012. A lifelong philanthropist and lobbyist, Mann has the knowledge, experience and background that has readied him to create a party built on transparency, trust and accountability.

“Americans are so used to Congressmen lying, cheating and stealing that they have been conditioned to think it’s acceptable,” says the 46-year-old Washington, D.C., native, whose mother worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and father defended cases before the Supreme Court. “I’m trained and studied. I’m from Washington. I know this stuff.”

Yeah, okay. That doesn’t sound at all nutty.

Also, “better government for everybody” (or whatever) is not exactly an informative party platform. Before I’d support someone, I’d want to know what his vision of better government looks like.

So at this point I just had to visit the website to take a look at his — er, I mean the Better Government Party’s — positions on the issues. At first it all seemed like a lot of populist pablum. For example, this is from the vision statement:

Fiercely anti government corruption

Believes in healthcare for all US citizens

Believes in the best education for all US citizens

Believes in very strong environmental protection

Believes in an extremely simplistic tax structure like a flat tax or value added tax

Believes in free market economics

That’s a little vague, not to mention that the healthcare, education, and environmental positions are in conflict with the free market position. And frankly, it’s hart to tell from this short sample, but the whole site has a kind of “assembled from scraps” feel to it.

My first clue was at the bottom of the vision statement page, where I found this note:

Thanks for reading

Disrupt the Status Quo! — go Third Party!

Please also see:

He’s actually linking to some of his other websites, including his “get rich quick” book.

Then I noticed that every page on the party site has an ad for, another one of his properties. There’s also a domains page on the Better Government Party website which has the message, “Do you have what it takes to turn one of these domains into a powerful next generation corporation or charity?”

Given that it’s on the Party site, you might think these are domains being offered to like-minded individuals or organizations as part of an effort to build a grassroots movement, but that turns out not to be the case. This is just a list of domains for sale at Mann’s site: lists for $15,000, lists for $25,000, and lists for a whopping $45,000.

Holy Crap! Do you see what’s really going on here? I’m about 95% convinced that Mike Mann must have realized that the upcoming elections in 2014 and 2016 will cause a surge of online discussion of politics and decided to start a political party — or at least the web presence necessary for a half-assed pretense of a political party — in order to attract links that will boost the search engine page rank for his business sites.

That would mean the entire Better Government Party is one big SEO strategy for his other sites.

I thought this was a joke, but it looks like they’re serious. This just might be the dumbest idea on the internet.

Stephen Baldwin of the famous “Baldwin Brothers” Hollywood clan is a veteran actor who has starred in over 60 films and TV shows. He is no stranger to the Hollywood life of glitz, glamour and the public eye.

In 2002, he had an experience that changed his life forever. He became a Born Again Christian, giving his life to Jesus Christ. Over the next few years, he became very vocal about his faith, using his spotlight to boldly preach the gospel. However, because of his convictions it has caused him the loss of many jobs and the most recently, a highly publicized bankruptcy.

He has been publicly ridiculed and insulted by people who think that he has been abandoned by God. A simple search through the internet will reveal that people not only mock Stephen, but mock God.

In response to this (with the permission of Stephen’s ministry President Daniel Southern) we have established A privately funded and managed website. Our vision is to see Stephen Baldwin publicly restored in front of millions. Stephen’s platform will increase allowing him to reach even more people with the Gospel and God will get all of the glory. Publicly.

Everyone knows that God restored Job, but do they understand the mechanism of his restoration? Job was restored by the people. By “All Who Knew Him”. This website was created to see a rebirth of that mechanism. If the people of God come together and each give a small “Token Gift” we can see a massive restoration of a Christian public figure and all the glory will go to God. Its simple, will you take part in the second ever All Who Know Him event?

Uh. No.

If you feel inspired to give money for a good purpose, but propping up a B-list celebrity has-been isn’t your idea of charity, the Pacific Garden Mission could probably put your money to better use.

Update: Oh wow. As of May 9th, they took the site down. Possibly because of this video. Pussies. 

I don’t usually cover the abortion issue here, but I’ve been loosely following the Illinois Review‘s coverage of the Planned Parenthood fight in Aurora, and it’s taken a really weird direction.

As I understand it, a front company called Gemini Office Development built a medical building in Aurora, putting it through the whole city approval process without ever revealing that Planned Parenthood would be coming in as the sole tenant and opening a clinic that performs abortions.

Opponents of the clinic have been fighting it using, of all things, the zoning rules. Jill Stanek says,

Based on the 3 issues, the ZBA will either decide to close down Planned Parenthood for multiple ordinance and zoning violations, or not.

If so great, the rule of law has prevailed.

That’s absurd. Zoning boards are the opposite of the rule of law. Although there are some legitimate aspects, zoning is often little more than a way for local politicians and busybodies to try to control what other people do with their own property. That sort of thing used to bother conservatives.

To see what’s being called the rule of law these days, consider this statement from attorney Peter Breen:

Aurora zoning ordinances…state [that] certificates of occupancy can’t be issued when there are zoning irregularities. … Not only have city officials acknowledged zoning screw-ups, zoning violations are now clearly visible, including parking, set-backs, and wrong approvals from the City.

(As quoted by Jill Stanek. Ellisions and insertions are mine.)

An entire business should be shut down and all those people kept unemployed because of parking and set-backs? What ever happened to the conservative demand that government should stay off the backs of business?

In an earlier article about this issue, commenter Larry Hau writes:

The most telling part of this whole situation was an interview with a Planned Parenthood spokesman on Hannity and Colmes. The spokesman said, “We followed the letter of the law.” What I heard was, “we did everything we could to avoid following the spirit of the law.” It seems that every day, new facts emerge to prove that I heard right.

The “spirit of the law”? Zoning ordinances don’t have any spirit. They’re just rules, and not terribly important ones.

How weird is it that one of the most contentious issues of our day would come down to zoning?

A few nights ago I was getting ready to go to bed when I heard my cellphone buzzing away in the pocket of my jacket. It does that periodically when I’ve missed a call, so I pulled it out to see I had missed anything important.

It wasn’t a missed call. It was an instant message. Who the heck would send me a message at 2 am? Curious, I opened the message and got a picture. It was really tiny on the screen on my phone, but I could make out most of it. It was a picture of somebody’s bathroom, and there in the middle of the bathroom was a naked lady.

She’s holding something up in front of her face so I can’t see it…Oh, I get it: She’s holding her cell phone out in front of her to take a naked picture of herself in the bathroom mirror.

Just to be clear, unlike some of the cool kids, I don’t have a lot of women sending me naked pictures of themselves. In fact, that’s never happened.

(Ladies wishing to change all that are encouraged to submit photos to my email address in the sidebar.)

The area code for her phone number is one digit off from my area code, so I imagine she was sending the message to someone in her area code and misdialed.

Probably the smart thing to do would be to ignore the message. The nice naked lady would simply discover that her friend didn’t get the message and she’d figure her cellular carrier lost it. She’d never know she sent it to a stranger, so she’d never worry about it.

But at 2 am, the smart thing simply didn’t occur to me. Instead, I thought it made sense to let her know what had happened:

Got your picture. I don’t believe we’ve met, but it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance! Seriously, don’t worry, but check that number.

She hasn’t responded.


If you were a clothing designer, and you were making T-shirts for sale at WalMart, and somebody said “How about a shirt with a skull? Maybe something kind of crude and retro-looking?” You might google around for royalty-free skull images and come up with the one I have here, and a few months later the shirt you made with it would be sold in all of WalMart’s stores. Pretty cool, eh?

As it turns out, no.

As blogger Bent Corner explains, that’s the emblem for the Totenkopf Division of Hitler’s Waffen-SS, just like the guards at Aushwitz used to wear.

Of course, WalMart immediately removed the shirts from all stores.

Or so you’d think, yet they’re still turning up in WalMart stores three months later:

“Everyone agreed that these shirts have to go, including Wal-Mart; it’s just that they didn’t do anything about it,” [Rep. Jan] Schakowsky [from Illinois] said. “Either at the time they really weren’t serious, or their capacity to do that is limited, which makes one wonder about recalls of potentially dangerous products.”

Blogger Rick Rottman of was first to recognize the T-shirt’s skull-and-crossbones design as the infamous Nazi emblem, and posted his discovery online in November. At the time, Wal-Mart responded quickly to the public outcry, promising to ban the sale of the shirts and remove them from stores.

Despite the corporate order, it appears the shirts were never removed from at least three dozen of Wal-Mart’s 3,300 U.S. stores, according to, which has been tracking discoveries of the shirts.

I could understand it taking three days to make sure everyone gets the memo, and I could even understand it taking three weeks to be sure that every single store has removed the shirts from the sale racks (memos get lost, employees quit and leave things undone), but three months?

This is a breaking story, but apparently Turner Broadcasting wanted to promote their surreal Cartoon Network show Aqua Teen Hunger Force in an unusual way, so they hired New York’s Interference Inc., which describes itself as “A nationwide guerilla and alternative marketing agency,” to drum up some street-level publicity.

I guess you could say it worked:

Electronic light boards featuring an adult-cartoon character triggered bomb scares around Boston on Wednesday, spurring authorities to close two bridges and a stretch of the Charles River before determining the devices were harmless.

Turner Broadcasting Co., the parent company of CNN, said the devices contained harmless magnetic lights aimed at promoting the Adult Swim network’s late-night cartoon “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” Law enforcement sources said the devices displayed one of the Mooninites, outer-space delinquents who appear frequently on the show, greeting visitors with a raised middle finger.

Sound’s like somebody’s in trouble.

The discovery of nine of the devices around metro Boston led state, local and federal authorities to close the Boston University and Longfellow Bridges, and block boat traffic from the Charles River to Boston Harbor.

In addition, the Pentagon said U.S. Northern Command was monitoring the situation from its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but said none of its units were sent to assist.

Davis said police “are going to fully investigate this and get to the bottom of it.”

Big trouble.