Model Failure

This may be hard to believe, but I’m not about to talk about Bayesian modeling nor CompSci. Nope, I got dragged into an argument over implicit bias with a science-loving “skeptic,” and a few people mobbed me over the “model minority.”

Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the “social-justice” brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society? How have bigoted white people allowed these minorities to do so well — even to the point of earning more, on average, than whites? Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years. In the late 19th century, as most worked in hard labor, they were subject to lynchings and violence across the American West and laws that prohibited their employment. They were banned from immigrating to the U.S. in 1924. Japanese-American citizens were forced into internment camps during the Second World War, and subjected to hideous, racist propaganda after Pearl Harbor. Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives?

What gives is simple demographics. Take it away, Jeff Guo of the Washington Post: [Read more…]

Fake Hate, Frequentism, and False Balance

This article from Kiara Alfonseca of ProPublica got me thinking.

Fake hate crimes have a huge impact despite their rarity, said Ryan Lenz, senior investigative writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project. “There aren’t many people claiming fake hate crimes, but when they do, they make massive headlines,” he said. It takes just one fake report, Lenz said, “to undermine the legitimacy of other hate crimes.”

My lizard brain could see the logic in this: learning one incident was a hoax opened up the possibility that others were hoaxes too, which was comforting if I thought that world was fundamentally moral. But with a half-second more thought, that view seemed ridiculous: if we go from a 0% hoax rate to 11% in our sample, we’ve still got good reason to think the hoax rate is low.

With a bit more thought, I realized I had enough knowledge of probability to determine who was right.

[Read more…]

This Rings A Bell

Heavyweight tech investor and FDA-critic Peter Thiel is among conservative funders and American researchers backing an offshore herpes vaccine trial that blatantly flouts US safety regulations, according to a Monday report by Kaiser Health News.

The vaccine—a live but weakened herpes virus—was first tested in a 17-person trial on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts without federal oversight or the standard human safety requirement of an institutional review board (IRB) approval. Biomedical researchers and experts have sharply rebuked the lack of safety oversight and slammed the poor quality of the data collected, which has been rejected from scientific publication. However, investors and those running the trial say it is a direct challenge to what they see as innovation-stifling regulations by the Food and Drug Administration.

It was around that point in Beth Mole’s article for Ars Technica that I got a sense of deja-vu. A quick Google search confirmed it was more than a feeling:

Biomedical research, then, promises vast increases in life, health, and flourishing. Just imagine how much happier you would be if a prematurely deceased loved one were alive, or a debilitated one were vigorous — and multiply that good by several billion, in perpetuity. Given this potential bonanza, the primary moral goal for today’s bioethics can be summarized in a single sentence.

Get out of the way.

A truly ethical bioethics should not bog down research in red tape, moratoria, or threats of prosecution based on nebulous but sweeping principles such as “dignity,” “sacredness,” or “social justice.” Nor should it thwart research that has likely benefits now or in the near future by sowing panic about speculative harms in the distant future.

That was an ill-informed opinion of Steven Pinker from two years ago. I took it to task back then, but I wonder if Pinker has changed his mind in the intervening years. I checked his Twitter feed, and came away empty. Stick a pin in that one, it may become interesting.

Activist Self-Protection

The hosts of Feminist Killjoys outdid themselves with their latest episode, when they interviewed a member of “Redneck Revolt,” an AntiFa group. The conversation was pretty one-sided and animated, but you get a great summary of what they do.

00:08:13,760 –> 00:08:50,120
… we were asked by anarchist people of color to go and defend Justice Park. Our mission in Charlottesville was purely defensive. We never moved – and I want to make this really clear, and I hope this message gets out – we never moved beyond a very fixed perimeter. We were highly disciplined, we had a clear mission: keep people safe, keep the state and the Nazis out of the park. [We were] successful, partially because 1) we were asked to be there, so we knew who had our back and who wanted us there and 2) we knew what was to our front, the state and the Nazis.

00:08:50,120 –> 00:09:31,040
We never mixed into the larger protest, and there’s been some discussion, I think, out in the internet world that “yeah, we’re just wandering around with guns.” I mean, we’re not operators – this isn’t SEAL team 6 cosplay. We kept our muzzles down, and we wanted to project the force and power that not only our group possesses, but what we knew was streaming behind us and through us: as AntiFa columns, groups of Quakers marched- BLM folks moved- queer liberation activists… all these people move through our line to go and face down white supremacy.

00:09:31,040 –> 00:09:41,780
White supremacists came to face us, but we were in complete concert with the people that were deploying other tactics, and that again is an enormous power that really can’t be underestimated.

I can’t find flaw in the tactics; when white supremacists are willing to murder and terrorize to get their way, and the police aren’t keeping the peace, this is precisely what you need. The interviewee also dropped an interesting citation.

00:20:05,330 –> 00:20:38,250
People should go read “This Non-Violence Stuff Will Get You Killed.” Great, amazing book about how weapons provided a militant armed self-defense backbone to the civil rights movement. It sweeps away the whitewashed narrative of Martin Luther King, and describes an entire interior world of African American and allied folks willingness – and sometimes actual use – of firearms to preserve the sanctity and lives of the people dedicated to that struggle.

I’m not that surprised to find guns mixed with social justice movements. The police and FBI have not been kind to activists, and in some cases have been infiltrated by white supremacists. Some sort of self-defense against state violence is sensible in those circumstances.

But what did surprise me was how common guns were.

Visiting Martin Luther King Jr. during the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, journalist William Worthy almost sat on a loaded pistol. “Just for self-defense,” King assured him. It was not the only weapon King kept for such a purpose; one of his advisors remembered the reverend’s Montgomery, Alabama, home as “an arsenal.”

MLK Jr? Armed to the teeth? I’ve gotta pick up that book.


[HJH 2017-09-29] Speaking of which, Politically Reactive also interviewed Mark Bray about AntiFa. The more I hear about it, the more I believe that Anonymous isn’t that original.

A Portrait of Cowardice

If you want to bury something, conventional wisdom says to release it on a Friday.

Josh: Any stories we have to give the press that we’re not wild about, we give all in a lump on Friday.
Donna: Why do you do it in a lump?
Josh: Instead of one at a time?
Donna: I’d think you’d want to spread them out.
Josh: They’ve got X column inches to fill, right? They’re going to fill them no matter what.
Donna: Yes.
Josh: So if we give them one story, that story’s X column inches.
Donna: And if we give them five stories …
Josh: They’re a fifth the size.
Donna: Why do you do it on Friday?
Josh: Because no one reads the paper on Saturday.

Dunno if you heard, but there’s also a giant hurricane heading towards Texas.

If it does not lose significant strength, the system will come ashore as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record. Aside from the winds of 130 mph (201 km/h) and storm surges up to 12 feet (4 metres), Harvey was expected to drop prodigious amounts of rain – up to 3 feet. The resulting flooding, one expert said, could be “the depths of which we’ve never seen.” […]

“In terms of economic impact, Harvey will probably be on par with Hurricane Katrina,” said University of Miami senior hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. “The Houston area and Corpus Christi are going to be a mess for a long time.”

On top of all that, this is Texas. A lot of people are blowing off the hurricane’s severity or refusing to leave their places for fear of looting. Border patrol is leaving their checkpoints open, so any immigrants that flee for their lives might be rewarded with a deportation. The situation is so bad, one mayor asked people to write their name and social number on their arms, so their bodies could be identified later.

Anyone dumping major news stories on the Friday evening that Hurricane Harvey hits is a craven coward, exploiting other people’s deaths to distract from their own bad press.

In a resignation letter, published Friday night by The Federalist and confirmed by POLITICO, [Sebastian] Gorka cited “forces” that do not support President Donald Trump’s “MAGA promise” as those that drove him out of the White House.

But a White House official indicated in a statement that Gorka had been forced out: “Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House,” the official said.


President Donald Trump has formally signed a presidential memo directing the Pentagon to ban transgender people from joining the US military, following through on a policy he announced on Twitter back in July.

The presidential memo, issued late Friday evening, directs the secretaries of defense and homeland security (which oversees the US Coast Guard) to put forward a plan to implement the new policy by February 21, 2018.


President Trump on Friday pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio — a move that keeps one of his staunchest political allies out of jail and will likely cheer his conservative base, which supports both men’s hard-line views on illegal immigration. […]

Trump’s pardon came late on a Friday night, at a time when much of the country was focused on a Category 4 hurricane bearing down on Texas. The reaction among advocates and Democrats was swift.

“President Trump is a coward. He waited until a Friday evening, as a hurricane hits, to pardon a racist ex-sheriff,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who represents Phoenix. “Trump should at least have the decency to explain to the American public why he is undermining our justice system.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also accused the president of “using the cover of the storm to pardon a man who violated a court’s order.”

Let’s focus in on that last one. While the US president has wide latitude to pardon anyone he wants, with little or no restriction, there are formal guidelines for how they should go about it. The US Department of Justice needs to investigate the situation, perhaps even dragging in the FBI; the conviction has to be in Federal court; there should be a five year waiting period between the conviction and the pardon; the person requesting the pardon must state their reasons and show remorse; and while it isn’t in the link above, the original ideal behind the pardon was to promote national unity in the face of a crisis.

Only one of those was fulfilled. Trump did not involve the Department of Justice; Arpaio has not even been sentenced yet, nor has he shown remorse; and Arpaio is a horribly racist officer who humiliated convicts and violated basic human rights. Pardoning him sends a signal that other officers are free to flaunt the law so long as they kiss Trump’s ass, making a mockery of the law and dividing the country. By extending it to crimes Arpaio hasn’t been convicted of, Trump may make a powerful tool even more so. By telegraphing his intentions at a political rally, Trump’s turned the pardon into a political tool instead of an act of mercy.

When Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, his popularity took one of the largest hits recorded. By cowardly hiding the pardon amid a dump of other news, while Texans are dying from a natural disaster, Trump must be hoping that he’ll avoid the same fate as Ford.

Alas, the “Friday news dump” doesn’t work. Trump’s popularity won’t tumble as much as Ford’s, mainly because it’s already near the floor and can’t fall as far, but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t take a minor hit at minimum. No, this will instead add to the rising tensions between Trump and Congress, and there’s a small chance it’ll be enough to finally convince Republicans to impeach his ass.

Tracing Trolls

We hear a lot about the Kremlin’s hacking exploits (speaking of which, get acquainted with Rinat Akhmetshin), but less about their social media game. Sensitive documents cannot damage public perception if they don’t wind up getting publicity; the DNCC emails didn’t make much of a splash when they were first posted on “DCLeaks,” but made a tremendous splash when they landed on WikiLeaks.

The Kremlin has “troll factories” to do that dirty work, but how do you spot their handiwork? Salty Current points to a great Twitter thread on just that topic.

A pattern you may have noticed: many bot and troll accounts have usernames that end in 8 random digits.

I searched through two recent datasets (propagators of #FireMcMaster and #UniteTheRight hashtags) and found 824 such accounts.

Searching their followers for similarly named accounts, and subsequently their followers’ followers yielded 63099 accounts.

Here’s the follower network formed by those 63099 accounts. Larger circle = more accounts with the 8-digit numbers among its followers.

All very troll-like, but not evidence of a Kremlin op, right?

Let’s look at the largest node in the network, DavidJo52951945. This account’s been around for a while – since early 2013, 136K tweets.

Here’s an interesting observation – David is posting 8 AM – 8 PM every day, Moscow time. Almost like it’s his job or something.

What’s he tweeting about? This figure illustrates the volume of DavidJo52951945’s tweets mentioning various topics over the years.

A history of what "DavidJo52951945" has been Twetting about over the last four years. UKIP, Brexit, and migrants dominate.The messaging is very interesting. Let’s go back to 2013, check out DavidJo52951945’s tweets about Ukraine: #TrumpRussia

Several Tweets from "DavidJo52951945" about Ukraine. They have a heavy pro-Kremlin bias.So four years ago, this Twitter account tweeted on Moscow time and was heavily biased towards the Kremlin; four years later, it’s pumping out pro-Trump propaganda that also benefits the Kremlin. If this is a false-flag op, it began two years before Trump announced he was running for US president. Highly unlikely.

Also, if you think this is just a problem for US Republicans, I’ve got another Twitter thread for you.

Everyone knows about Putin’s alt-right pro-Trump trolls. He’s using left-wing anti-Trump trolls too. Exhibit A: meet @MarcusC22973194 /2

Marcus grabbed a great handle, NotMyPresident. Looking like the perfect #Resistance liberal, he’s amassed 16,500 followers in 9 months /4

Marcus is getting to be a big deal. With a Klout score of 70, he’s more influential than @SallyQYates (58) @renato_mariotti (63)… /7

Marcus is as influential as @AngrierWHStaff (70) & @DavidPriess (70) & close to & gaining on @CarlBernstein (71) & @TheRickWilson (72). /9

So how can we tell Marcus is a Russian troll? We can tell by his profile, how much he tweets, where he tweets from, when he tweets,… /12

his problems with English, how he can’t keep his cover story straight, how he plagiarizes others, the threats he makes, the bizarre… /13

things he says, how he’s too good to be true & how he pushes Kremlin propaganda. /14

The timing of Marcus’ tweets is consistent with someone working paid shifts at a Russian troll factory. archive.fo/s40DH /20

Marcus claims to be American but constantly uses British spellings revealing he didn’t learn to speak in the US writing things like… /35

behaviour colour glamour honour humour labour neighbour rumour saviour archive.is/vVk6s, and also things like… /36

Instead of calling the USSR premier “Khrushchev” like Americans would, Marcus uses “Chrustjev” like a Russian. archive.is/m3xJD /48

Russian trolls have strict quotas – they need to post 100+ times/day. This hard when you’re English not great. /69

So trolls steal other ppl’s work & pass it off as their own. Marcus does this faster than a cop hands out tickets on the 31st. /70

And so on. It’s excellent detective work, and shows the Kremlin is trying to infiltrate US left-wing politics as well. Compare and contrast this with a typical 4chan op, and you see the handiwork is quite different: the command of English is better; the Twitter handles don’t have eight numeric digits appended; the heavy use of picture memes; and of course, planning the entire thing on a public message board that many people monitor.

It isn’t that hard, once you know what to do. So why not take a boo at what the Kremlin is currently peddling, and roll up your sleeves too?

Mystery Cults and the Alt-Right

The chain of referrers on this is longer than the paragraph I wanted to share: via Salty Current and Josh Marshall, I was alerted to this tidbit of wisdom by John Herrman.

It is worth noting that the platforms most flamboyantly dedicated to a borrowed idea of free speech and assembly are the same ones that have struggled most intensely with groups of users who seek to organize and disrupt their platforms. A community of trolls on an internet platform is, in political terms, not totally unlike a fascist movement in a weak liberal democracy: It engages with and uses the rules and protections of the system it inhabits with the intent of subverting it and eventually remaking it in their image or, if that fails, merely destroying it.

I’m more in the camp of Josh Marshall than Herrman, though.

And yet, I think the Times article by John Herrman basically misses the mark in thinking that racist groups’ reaction to this banning was planned or showed some deeper understanding or even sympathy with the authoritarian nature of these platforms. […]

The mix of provocation, harassment and trolling is a major part and in some ways the totality of what the digital far-right is about. That’s why racist activists are so eager to give speeches at Berkeley. They get a reaction. Fights start. They create polarization. If some racist freak holds that speech is his backyard or basement with ten friends, who cares? No one does. No one even knows … That is truly the unique hell of online racist provocateurs: no one even knowing they’re ranting. A new version of Twitter for racists only will be the digital equivalent of the same thing.

You can’t change culture without engaging in it on some level, and you’re in the culture-changing business if you want to move from being a fringe to an accepted part of culture. Hence the focus on dog whistles and the worship of memesas a way of wedging fringe ideas into popular culture.

Kek, in the Alt-Right’s telling, is the “deity” of the semi-ironic “religion” the white nationalist movement has created for itself online — partly for amusement, as a way to troll liberals and self-righteous conservatives — and to make a political point. He is a god of chaos and darkness, with the head of a frog, the source of their memetic “magic,” to whom the Alt-Right and Donald Trump owe their success, according to their own explanations.

In many ways, Kek is the apotheosis of the bizarre alternative reality of the Alt-Right: at once absurdly juvenile, transgressive and racist, as well as reflecting a deeper, pseudo-intellectual purpose that lends it an appeal to young ideologues who fancy themselves deep thinkers. It dwells in that murky area they often occupy, between satire, irony, mockery, and serious ideology; Kek can be both a big joke to pull on liberals and a reflection of the Alt-Right’s own self-image as serious agents of chaos in modern society.

Most of all, Kek has become a kind of tribal marker of the Alt-Right: Its meaning obscure and unavailable to ordinary people — “normies,” in their lingo — referencing Kek is most often just a way of signaling to fellow conversants online that the writer embraces the principles of chaos and destruction that are central to Alt-Right thinking.

This combination of religious “mystery cults” and secular bigotry is potent and tough to scrub away. Fortunately, it can be diluted.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.…

The problem with going more abstract, as Lee Atwater famously suggested, is that the emotional punch of the original is watered down, and in the natural drift of language you can lose control of where it goes. “States’ Rights” was a code-word for defending bigotry, but since then other interest groups have started using it for their own ends. At the same time, social justice advocates work hard to educate the public on what the dog whistle really means, changing it from covert to overt. Pepe the Frog is a great example of this. The memes that don’t escape into popular culture, such as the rebranding of the OK symbol, aren’t of much concern because “no one even knows” they exist and they fail to “disrupt [public] platforms.”

But if this bigotry has strong religious connotations, I have to ask: where’s the atheist community in all this? Shouldn’t we be leading the charge against this attempt to remake society in a racist image, due to our familiarity with the underlying tactics?

The Total Package

Mano Singham and PZ Myers aren’t that interested in eclipses. I’m sort of the opposite, as a group of us drove 13 hours to reach totality, arriving only an hour and a half before the eclipse started… and departing for the return trip fifteen minutes after totality ended. Why the heck would anyone go to such extreme lengths for a few minutes of darkness?

The Corona

The solar corona is the hottest part of the sun we can see, far hotter than the surface, and we don’t know why that is. Despite being so hot, the corona is also very diffuse and thus the cooler chromosphere blasts out far more light than it does. This means you can’t see it if any part of the sun is visible, and the physics of choronographs means they block off significantly more of the corona than the Moon does during an eclipse.

While that’s all very nice and intellectual, there’s also something satisfying about looking up in the sky and seeing what looks like Albert Einstein being consumed by a black hole.

An image of the corona from "the Camera for Photographing Eclipse Photographic Collection."Mercury

The planet Mercury is likely the last visible-eye planet discovered. Because it clings so tightly to it, you need to blot out the Sun by exploiting sunsets and sunrises, and even then you need a view close to the horizon and the planet in a certain orientation. A solar eclipse accomplishes the same, only during the middle of the day. I’m not convinced I actually saw Mercury yesterday, as it was faint and appeared in the wrong spot too close to the sun, but oh well.

Sunsets on Every Horizon

I can verify this actually happens. The physics is pretty simple: the Moon’s shadow occupies a finite area. If you’re perfectly centred under it, every horizon is in the direction of a patch of earth which has at least some sunlight falling on it. That sunlight bounces back up into or scatters through the atmosphere, producing something that looks like a sunset. It is wicked cool!

Watching The Shadow

The shadow of the Moon is quite fuzzy, so if you’re expecting to see a sharp line you’ll be disappointed. The best view is definitely from space, though an airplane will do in a pinch; on Earth, I could spot the Eastern horizon getting gradually lighter even as we were in totality.

Shadow Bands

As NASA puts it, “Shadow bands are thin wavy lines of alternating light and dark that can be seen moving and undulating in parallel on plain-coloured surfaces immediately before and after a total solar eclipse.” Scientists aren’t entirely sure what they are, but the best guess is atmospheric cells warping light in a similar way to stellar flicker. They aren’t guaranteed to show up, but I insisted on laying out a white blanket to make them more visible. We missed seeing them as totality was approaching, but as the Sun started peeking back I strongly suggested everyone stare at the blanket. And we saw them!

A Chill In The Air

The Sun radiates a lot of heat our way, which is absorbed and scattered by the ground and atmosphere. Take away that source, and you’re just left with the radiation from said ground and atmosphere as it cools down. This is at its strongest during totality, and collectively we could feel the atmosphere was notably chillier just after the eclipse than it was in the lead up. I’m estimating the difference was about 5-10C.

People Losing Their Shit

My photos of the eclipse were pretty lousy, as I didn’t have any money to invest in the proper gear. Derek Muller of Vertasium was much luckier, but his video is more notable for the audio; he, and everyone around him, were losing their minds as they reached totality. You don’t get that from a partial solar eclipse.

Don’t listen to Singham or Myers. Total solar eclipses are the coolest, and if one happens to fall near you I recommend you take full advantage.

This Should Get Interesting

Trump’s Feed is the brainchild of Philip Bump over at the Washington Post. It follows everyone that Trump is following, and retweets their latest tweets; the idea is to simulate what Trump sees when he opens Twitter. Currently, it’s full of tweets like this:

(That one’s true, stocks rose on news of his departure.)

It’s an interesting range of opinions, with some happy to have Bannon out and others thinking this is a dramatic turn leftward. Bannon and Breitbart are signalling they’re ready to fight the White House, though I’m not sure how seriously to take that. Corey Lewandowski (maybe) came back, Trump was still interested in talking to Michael Flynn months after firing him, and Bannon’s friends aren’t entirely reliable. There’s also the slight problem of trying to invoke the alt-Right when you’ve said this:

I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

And yet he was also aggressively courting those clowns not too long ago. Do they still side with him? Would an exodus mean Brietbart will fade out? Are part of his base going to peel away if they think Trump is turning leftwards, or will this bring some calm to the White House water cooler? Firing Bannon was a table-flip; all the pieces are flying around, and no-one is sure how they’ll land. About the only thing we can say is that the results will be interesting.

About that Russian Malware…

Back in the day, one of the strongest clues pointing away from the Kremlin came from a US intelligence agency report.

The PHP malware sample they have provided appears to be P.A.S. version 3.1.0 which is commonly available and the website that claims to have authored it says they are Ukrainian. It is also several versions behind the most current version of P.A.S which is 4.1.1b. One might reasonably expect Russian intelligence operatives to develop their own tools or at least use current malicious tools from outside sources.

WordFence pointed out that this malware was available widely, and the New York Times concurs.

He had made it available to download, free, from a website that asked only for donations, ranging from $3 to $250. The real money was made by selling customized versions and by guiding his hacker clients in its effective use.

But what happened after that report was interesting.

After the Department of Homeland Security identified his creation, he quickly shut down his website and posted on a closed forum for hackers, called Exploit, that “I’m not interested in excessive attention to me personally.”

Soon, a hint of panic appeared, and he posted a note saying that, six days on, he was still alive. […]

Serhiy Demediuk, chief of the Ukrainian Cyber Police, said in an interview that Profexer went to the authorities himself. As the cooperation began, Profexer went dark on hacker forums. He last posted online on Jan. 9. Mr. Demediuk said he had made the witness available to the F.B.I., which has posted a full-time cybersecurity expert in Kiev as one of four bureau agents stationed at the United States Embassy there. The F.B.I. declined to comment.

Profexer was not arrested because his activities fell in a legal gray zone, as an author but not a user of malware, the Ukrainian police say. But he did know the users, at least by their online handles. “He told us he didn’t create it to be used in the way it was,” Mr. Demediuk said.

A member of Ukraine’s Parliament with close ties to the security services, Anton Gerashchenko, said that the interaction was online or by phone and that the Ukrainian programmer had been paid to write customized malware without knowing its purpose, only later learning it was used in Russian hacking.

Huh. It turns out there was a Kremlin connection after all! This is just a side-effect of a rather smart choice made by Putin.

Also emerging from Ukraine is a sharper picture of what the United States believes is a Russian government hacking group known as Advanced Persistent Threat 28 or Fancy Bear. It is this group, which American intelligence agencies believe is operated by Russian military intelligence, that has been blamed, along with a second Russian outfit known as Cozy Bear, for the D.N.C. intrusion.

Rather than training, arming and deploying hackers to carry out a specific mission like just another military unit, Fancy Bear and its twin Cozy Bear have operated more as centers for organization and financing; much of the hard work like coding is outsourced to private and often crime-tainted vendors.

This creates a strong “patriotic Russians” cover story for hacking, but I repeat myself.