Links for 3-19-2018

  • An article in the Guardian portrays data and media consulting company Cambridge Analytica as the devil that used Facebook data to elect Donald Trump. Michael Brendan Dougherty writes that what was considered brilliant strategy by the Obama campaign is now considered a data breach:

    Cambridge Analytica has been accused of misrepresenting the purpose of some of its data mining, which yielded something like 30 million Facebook profiles it could comb for data. It is alleged not to have deleted data on Facebook’s request. It was promptly kicked off Facebook after the Guardian and New York Times stories.

    Mashable ran an editorial arguing that it was time to protect yourself and your friends, who were made vulnerable to manipulation. In a think piece for The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal writes, “If Cambridge Analytica’s targeted advertising works, people worry they could be manipulated with information — or even thoughts — that they did not consent to giving anyone.”

    Where were these worries four years ago for the much larger and arguably more manipulative effort by the Obama campaign?

    If you have a Facebook account, you’re being manipulated by Facebook and the companies that pay for access to its data. If that bothers you, delete your Facebook account.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the implementation of Pennsylvania’s new congressional map, which was drawn by the state Supreme Court for the benefit of the Democratic Party.

  • Donald Trump instructed federal agencies to cut regulations, but the State Department found a backdoor way to make international adoptions more difficult and expensive without writing new regulations:

    Under the Hague Convention, U.S. law makes the State Department the central authority over international adoption, but it requires another public or nonprofit entity to act as the “accrediting entity” (AE), holding adoption agencies to certain fiscal and ethical standards. Since 2013, COA [Council on Accreditation] has been the only AE for international adoption.

    In the letter, COA president Richard Klarberg notified agencies it would soon step down as an AE. “The Department of State … is requiring COA to make significant changes in the nature and scope of our work in ways which will fundamentally change our responsibilities … and which are inconsistent with COA’s philosophy and mission,” Klarberg wrote.

    In an interview, Klarberg tells me the State Department was requiring new procedures that bore a striking resemblance to the regulations it had withdrawn: “They are doing by indirection that which they could not do directly. It is a back-door effort.” Klarberg predicts that as a result of DOS-enforced changes, “the number of children who will be eligible for immigration via adoption will definitely shrink. The number of agencies involved with intercountry adoption will also shrink.”


    Instead, the State Department has created a climate of fear and mistrust. In every interview I conducted, a single name emerged as the primary source of this adversarial relationship: Trish Maskew, chief of the Adoption Division in the Office of Children’s Issues.

    Later still:

    On the other side, we have what I would call “adoption critics” like Maskew. They focus heavily on the potential for abuse in the adoption process, and on preserving the possibility for children to be reunited with birth relatives. In a 2009 paper aimed directly at refuting Bartholet’s human rights argument, Maskew called international adoption “a profoundly problematic institution.” She also cited an author who frames international adoption in terms of racism and Western colonialism. “A conception of poor, third-world countries as subordinate nations fits very comfortably with the practice of international adoption,” this author wrote.

  • An Uber self-driving car hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he’ll continue his military offensive against the YPG along the entire border between Turkey and Syria, and, if necessary, into northern Iraq. Turkish troops and their militia allies are reportedly looting Afrin, and people are still fleeing the city: “A Syrian Kurdish official told Reuters that more than 200,000 people who had fled the Afrin offensive were without shelter, food or water in nearby areas.”

  • South Korea’s military is building a new surface-to-surface missile unit that will use thermobaric weapons to take out North Korean artillery.

  • Norway’s governing coalition may collapse over a controversy involving Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug:

    On Tuesday parliament will debate a no-confidence motion against Sylvi Listhaug, who has triggered uproar by accusing the opposition Labour Party – in 2011 the target of the country’s worst peacetime massacre – of putting terrorists’ rights before national security.


    On Sunday, daily Verdens Gang and broadcasters NRK and TV2 quoted sources close to [Prime Minister Erna] Solberg as saying her cabinet would stand by Listhaug and resign if the no-confidence vote succeeded.

  • A Ukrainian army recruiting video:

Links for 3-18-2018

Links for 3-17-2018

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe about a day before he was scheduled to retire. The reason given for McCabe’s firing was this: “McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor [FBI-speak for lying] − including under oath − on multiple occasions.” McCabe kept notes documenting his “interactions” with Donald Trump and turned them over to Robert Mueller. Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) offered to hire McCabe so he could collect his government pension.

  • Sarah Hoyt writes that the Russian government doesn’t understand Americans well enough to hack our elections:

    Sure, the Soviets had an amazing propaganda machine. By dividing the rest of the world into victims and oppressors, they managed to inject their poison into otherwise functional societies, even in the U.S., making academia and the arts and several other societal structures pits of oikophobic vipers.

    But that type of subversion which relies on Marxism being a sort of intellectually self-sufficient system that appeals to those who consider themselves smart (but might not be); on an heretical twist of Christianity which makes charity a governmental function; and on the perfect being the enemy of the good (a human failing) is markedly different from what the Russians are accused of doing in this election.

    What they’re accused of doing – and probably tried to do, though not necessarily in Trump’s favor – is changing the result of the election by, so to put it, changing the national mind.

    To do that, Russians would need to have an exquisite understanding of the U.S., to the point that their spending — which was about a tenth of what the Democrats spent to fail to elect Hillary — would be enough to turn the election.

    This can only be said irrisorily. [That means “derisively,” but I’m damned if I’m going to change it, it’s too good a word. — Ed.]

    Of all the societies that the Russians can’t fully understand, ours is probably the one they understand the least.

  • The U.S. Navy commissioned the USS Colorado, the fifteenth Virginia-class attack submarine.

  • Russia expelled 23 British diplomats and ordered the U.K. to shut down its consulate in St. Petersburg.

  • China’s parliament re-elected Xi Jingping as president, and elected Xi’s “graft buster” ally Wang Qishan as vice-president; Wang replaces Li Yuanchao.

  • The YPG claims Turkey’s military bombed the main hospital in Afrin, Syria, a charge the Turkish government denies.

Links for 3-16-2018

Links for 3-15-2018

Links for 3-14-2018

  • A U.S. Navy F/A–18 Super Hornet crashed off Key West. The two crew members ejected, but there’s no word on their condition.

  • Donald Trump hired Larry Kudlow as his new chief economic advisor. Kudlow doesn’t like tariffs, just like the guy he’s replacing, Gary Cohn.

  • Susan Glasser writes that the foreign capital Rex Tillerson didn’t understand was Donald Trump’s Washington:

    Defying the laws of political gravity at every turn, Tillerson feuded with fellow Cabinet members, clashed with White House staff, and alienated many of the thousands of career officials at the State Department who initially welcomed him as a voice of establishment calm in an unsettling new administration only to watch as he slashed their budgets and devalued their work. He was barely on speaking terms with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, engaged in a bitter turf war with presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, was disdained by key members of Congress who had once cheered for him, and was almost comically out of the loop on key policy decisions. When senior officials from key allies came to town, they often didn’t even bother to schedule meetings at Tillerson’s marginalized State Department anymore, and several of his own ambassadors were outright insubordinate by the end, realizing that power lay in the White House, not in the secretary’s wood-paneled office on the State Department’s seventh floor.

  • The FBI office that handles employee discipline recommended that Jeff Sessions fire Andrew McCabe before his official retirement kicks in on Sunday. McCabe would lose at least some of his retirement benefits if he’s fired.

  • The U.S. is still conducting air strikes in Yemen — it’s just not publicizing them.

  • Donald Trump is preparing to meet North Korean President Kim Jong Un while the U.S. has limited human and signals intelligence information from North Korea, which puts Trump at a disadvantage.

  • The U.S. is investigating reports that North Korea is operating a large underground military base in Syria:

    “We are aware of reports regarding possible DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] assistance to Syria to rebuild its chemical weapons capabilities,” a State Department official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon. “We take these allegations very seriously and we are working assiduously to prevent the Assad regime from obtaining material and equipment to support its chemical weapons program.”


    The underground North Korean military base could be hiding more than just chemical weapons, according to regional reports indicating that the sheer size of the base, which is mostly situated within a mountain, raises concerns of nuclear work.

  • The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of Texas’ anti-sanctuary cities law, a reversal of a district court decision. The one provision the appeals court barred relates to civil penalties against local officials who “endorse a policy under which the entity or department prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws” — because that might infringe the officials’ First Amendment rights.

  • There’s a new terrorist group called “White Flag” operating in northwestern and central Iraq, “a union of Kurdish terrorists and former ISIS fighters.”

    The military official said intelligence on the group is sketchy but preliminary indications are it poses a threat to the areas of Iraq where it has operated. White Flag, however, does not currently have capabilities for conducting terror attacks outside the country.

    Estimates of numbers for White Flag members vary widely from as few as 100 terrorists to as many as 1,000.

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats/spies in retaliation for Russia’s alleged poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

Links for 3-13-2018