The Republic of T.

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Weinergate Wags the World

Surreal is such an overused word, but I’m hard pressed to find one that adequately espresses the effect of “Weinergate.” There are so few synonyms for it, that perhaps it’s not the right word.

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A lewd photograph of a crotch sent from the Twitter account of U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner is just “a distraction” perpetrated by a hacker, his spokesman said Sunday.

Dave Arnold told The Associated Press in an email that the tweet, directed at a woman, was “a distraction” from the married New York Democrat’s “important work representing his constituents.”

“Anthony’s accounts were obviously hacked,” Arnold said. “He doesn’t know the person named by the hacker, and we will be consulting on what steps to take next.”

The photo showed a man’s bulging underpants.

It first was reported Saturday by BigGovernment.com, a website run by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart. The site said the photo was tweeted to a Seattle woman.

The photo was quickly deleted.

Given past speculation about Rush Limbaugh’s penis, the only thing more surprising than him jumping into the mix is actually that Rush Limbaugh finds the controversy over Anthony Weiner’ weaner “hard to swallow.”

Rush Limbaugh dismissed the controversy surrounding Anthony Weiner and a tweet that was sent from his account.

Over the weekend, a shot of a man’s bulging underwear was sent to a woman in Seattle from Weiner’s Twitter account. Weiner quickly said that his account had been hacked into. On his Tuesday show, Limbaugh wondered what all the fuss was about.

“It escapes me why this is such a big deal,” he said. “The picture’s not that big a deal … this guy’s already a weird little guy anyway.” He also asked, “who has time to be writing about this?”

Of course, Limbaugh also took the time to work in several Weiner-related puns. Among them:

“Is Weinergate big enough to investigate?”

“The Weinergate story to me seems like it’s hard to swallow.”

“If this does not go to the FBI … will he be giving his constituents and his opponents the shaft?”

I don’t know if Rush writes his own puns, but even I’ve got to give him props for few of those. I wish I’d written them.

There’s even a poll on Weiner’s “pole.” I kid you not.

Is the lewd image that appeared on the congressmans Twitter account of the man himself? Or is it someone else entirely?

Take a look at the originally tweeted image below (Exhibit A) and a picture of Rep. Weiner marching along in a June 29, 2009 gay pride parade in New York City (Exhibit B), and vote in the poll (and leave your comments) below!

The picture from the Gay Pride parade is a particularly nice touch. Having not seen the real thing — in other words, like pretty much everybody else — I find it impossible to draw a conclusion from the images provided concerning the owner of the member in question. For starters, it’s impossible to tell if both images portray it in its tumescent state. Then, of course, there’s the absence of the guy’s face, or even an accompanying face shot.

Actually, I’m inclined to agree with Limbaugh on this one. (At least until he changes his mind and calls for a full-scale congressional investigation, and Republicans use the lack of one to hold hostage some important legislation or appointment.) In part, that’s because I’m inclined to believe Anthony Weiner based on the facts of the case thus far.

Here are the facts of the incident inevitably dubbed “Weinergate.” Late Friday night, a lewd photo was posted on the Twitter account of Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens. It was included in a message sent to a Washington State college student. The tweet — as well as all photos connected to the account — was swiftly scrubbed, but a screen grab found its way to conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart’s “Big Government” website. Weiner has repeatedly denied sending the photo; the Congressman says his Twitter and Facebook accounts were hacked. An aide said the Democrat has hired a lawyer. “We’ve retained counsel to explore the proper next steps and to advise us on what civil or criminal actions should be taken,” said spokesman Dave Arnold. “This was a prank. We are loath to treat it as more, but we are relying on professional advice.”

The young woman to whom the message was sent has said that she’s been harassed before by the person who sent the images to her, ever since Rep. Weiner followed her on Twitter. She also stated that she’s never met Rep. Weiner, never been to New York or D.C., nor had any “inappropriate exchanges” with Rep. Weiner.

I’m also inclined to believe Rep. Weiner, based on my own personal experience. Twitter has been hacked before. My own account was among those hacked about a year ago. I didn’t know about it until a couple of people saw “my” Tweets and, suspecting they were highly unlikely to have been mind, alerted me to them. I scrambled to delete the tweets, because that’s the first thing anyone does when they discover their account has been hacked. First, you delete the hacker’s messages that were fraudulently posted and misrepresented as your own. You try not to think about how long those messages have been sitting there. Then you change your password to something so complex you’re not even sure you’ll remember it. Finally, you take solace in knowing that you’re not along. And, if you’re not a public figure, you’re relieved that the damage won’t spread any further.

According to Fox News, Twitter was hacked at least three times during the first half of 2009, because weak passwords and the trend towards “cloud computing” made hacking Twitter so easy that even Twitter’s founders weren’t immune to having their accounts hacked.

Twitter was hacked again in September 2010. That time, it was a worm invented by a Norweigan hacker, that exploited a programming flaw to “play pranks, distribute porn and spread worms to unsuspecting users,” including some prominent people.

Among the pranks was one that apparently ensnared Sarah Brown, wife of the previous British prime minister, Gordon Brown. A link on her Twitter page redirected visitors to a hard-core Japanese porn site, according to a blog by Graham Cluley, an expert at the security software maker Sophos. Mr. Cluley said there were tens of thousands of dodgy links circulating on Twitter.

The first worm of this kind appears to have been launched Tuesday morning by Magnus Holm, a Norwegian Ruby programmer who uses the Twitter handle @judofyr. His post contained only a link, which had the embedded command “onmouseover,” a JavaScript command that caused the link to be automatically Tweeted by anyone whose mouse cursor touched it. In an e-mail, Mr. Holm said he created the worm “because I wanted to experiment with the flaw,” which he says was already being exploited by others. “The purpose was simply to see if it was possible to create a worm.”

His worm turned the text in the post into black blocks to hide the dangerous text. Mr. Holm said his worm spread to at least 200,000 users. That, he wrote, “really surprised me! Because it was very easy to delete the Tweet that contained the worm, I expected that everyone would just delete it the moment they realized that they’ve been ‘infected.’ ”

Mr. Holm described his worm as “harmless,” but it appears to have inspired more malicious attacks by others. One such worm, which entirely took over victims’ computer screens, appears to have been started by a Twitter user called @matsta. Matsta’s Web site contained the 1980s singer Rick Astley’s music video for “Never Gonna Give You Up” with an added message: “Rick is dancing because he just lost the game.” Other attacks, including the first worm to strike the iPhone, launched in November 2009, also paid tribute to Mr. Astley. In rebel-Web parlance, clicking to see Mr. Astley is known as being “rickrolled.” Twitter has since disabled @matsta’s account.

A more malicious worm “downloaded some nasty code from a Russian server,” Mr. Holm said, a fact that suggests cybercrime organizations might have joined the action.

Also, having been a political blogger for almost eight years now, like the young woman to whom the images were sent, I’ve had my share of what I call political cyberstalkers; people who don’t care for my political views, or don’t like something I’ve written, and go out of their way to let me know it online — over and over again. I’ve filtered them out of my email inbox, deleted their comments, and in some cases blocked them from commenting on my blog. In fact, a few years ago, my blog was hacked into and my administrative password changed so that I couldn’t login.

It was easy to fix, but I beefed up my password to guard against it happening again. After all, the interwebs are crawling with people who apparently have nothing but time on their hands, the overwhelming desire to make someone’s life miserable, and some of them have the knowledge to pull it off.

That’s another reason I’m inclined to believe Rep. Weiner, or at least inclined to question the authenticity of the images and whether Weiner actually sent them. First, there’s the lack of any “distinguishing characteristics.” This isn’t like Chris Lee, the Republican congressman who resigned after news broke that he sent shirtless pictures of himself to a woman on Craig’s List — while attending a GOP retreat, no less.

Whoever the guy in the photo really, he’s smarter than Chris Lee. Not only does he not show his face, but save for a small patch of skin above the knee, everything’s covered up. Even a hand would be something to go on, if there were a unique ring or a scar that could at least be compared to Weiner. We can’t tell where this guy’s hands are, though we know at least one of them is holding a camera that’s most likely a smartphone. (But it may not be Rep. Weiner’s phone.) And these days, it only takes one hand to post pictures of your pecker onlne. About all we can tell is that he can’t decide whether it’s “boxers or briefs” for him, so he splits the difference with boxer briefs.

There’s the dubious origin of the whole story about image and the tweets.

BigGovernment.com broke the story, but according to Gawker the man credited with first reporting the picture was Dan Wolfe, a man who describes himself on his twitter feed as a “Conservative Reagan Republican” and whose avatar is of Reagan himself. Wolfe denies that he hacked or invented the scandal, saying on twitter that “I do not work for Breitbart. I did not set up Weiner. I did not lie or hack anything it was real.” But going down his feed Wolfe becomes increasingly annoyed at the accusations. “Yeah, at this point. I don’t care. Either arrest me, press charges, etc. or shut up. If there is a crime why no charges?”

It’s still not clear how or why Cordova was targeted. Congressman Weiner for his part is trying to keep things light on Twitter, amidst his tweets about hockey, TiVo and digs at his fellow representatives, he writes that this scandal will add fodder to an easy target — his name. “More Weiner Jokes for all my guests! #Hacked!”

Then there’s the appearance that the right is hoping so hard that it really is Weiner’s and that he really did send it, “premature exultations” are exploding all over the right wing blogosphere.

It was late Friday night when a Twitter user named “Patriotusa76″ retweeted a message from Weiner’s official account that seemed to link to a picture of a man’s underwear with an erection. The tweet from Weiner’s account was directed to the student. Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government site quickly jumped in, with Breitbart himself taking to Twitter to demand that Weiner either confirm or deny that he’d sent the photo himself. “We have much more,” Breitbart wrote.

Weiner, who has since retained a lawyer, says his account was hacked. He tweeted on Saturday that his Facebook page had been hacked too. The student to whom the image was supposedly sent issued a detailed statement to the New York Daily News, denying that she’s ever met or had any involvement with Weiner. “There have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself,” she wrote, “including the tweet/picture in question, which had apparently been deleted before it reached me.”

As suspicious and murky as all of this seems, more than a few online voices were happy to jump in with some rather sweeping pronouncements…

I’m not sure why some alleged right wing hacker would target Rep. Weiner, except that he’s given conservatives plenty of reasons not to like him much.

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And, really, who can blame conservatives for wanting this to be real. After all:

If nothing else, if you’re the GOP, it’s better if Americans are distracted by weaner that may or may not belong to Rep. Antony Weiner, than think about what some real Republican dicks have been up to — or how thoroughly conservative policies have fucked our economy.

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