September 2017: Link or Swim

Your scary survey for this month shows that Americans haven’t got any goddamn idea what’s in their own constitution.

“Disgust can still be a matter of life and death but it doesn’t seem to be working for us any more.”

By now this is ancient history but Mattis’s viral address to a small group of soldiers somewhere in MENA was disturbing.  It doesn’t do to have the military thinking of itself as the last bastion of civic virtues against a citizenry that’s lost its national mind.

The assumption that ethnic minorities will remain consistently left-of-center as they integrate further into American society was a bad assumption.

“… the implicit social contract between educated elites and laypeople—in which professionals were rewarded for their expertise and, in turn, were expected to spread the benefits of their knowledge—is fraying. Americans live increasingly separate lives based on education and wealth, part of a decades-long Big Sort. What is qualitatively different today is that ordinary citizens seem increasingly confident in their views, but no more competent than they were 30 or 40 years ago. A significant number of laypeople now believe, for no reason but self-affirmation, that they know better than experts in almost every field.”  Now go read Ortega y Gasset too.

A short history of FOIA terrorism.

Marcy Wheeler’s got some theories about the Hutchins indictment.

Damon Linker expects a major offensive on the Culture War’s college campus front.  Unfortunately I think he’s probably right.

The democratization of intelligence capabilities formerly reserved for state-level actors and the impending destruction of old categories of conflict is my perpetual hobby horse and here’s a good account from Vice of where we stand at the moment.

Rafia Zakaria in the Baffler on the jihadi personal essay.

From January, grassroots social media disinformation in South Sudan takes advantage of an information-poor environment to incite ethnic hatred.  It’s not clear how lessons learned in Sudan can be extrapolated to more sophisticated contexts.

Maciej Cegłowski tells a stupid tale of a stupid person at Channel 4, who noticed that Amazon suggests sulfur and charcoal if you buy saltpeter and inferred from this that mad bombers are buying mad bombing supplies in numbers sufficient to influence the algorithm, and extrapolates this into a broader stupid tale about journalism and incentives.

We all heard about the Cajun Navy, but behind them was an army of dispatchers on cell phones and laptops all over the country.

“… across much of the Catholic world, young traditionalists are competing against old progressives.”  I’m not Catholic so I have little to say about the particularly Catholic features of this phenomenon, but it seems to fit into the larger trend of traditionalist movements driven by milennials.

The OPSEC Fail of the Month Award is shared by Daesh and Experian.  And to think people want terrorist content removed from the internet.

Donors trying to steer the output of think tanks is nothing new but Google’s attack on New America is uniquely sinister when taken together with their stranglehold on information access.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote the only good thing about the kneeling football players.

[‘When I’m Gone’ plays loudly]


August 2017: The Puns of August

So it’s not a URL joke.  Sue me, if you can find me.

Scary Survey Of The Month: strong self-identification as ‘white’ was the largest predictor of support for the Donald.

John Sipher at Just Security on the strange interactions between criminal and CI investigations and the uncertain end of the Russia probe.

That bananas story about Sputnik DC was bananas and worthwhile, but I just don’t buy the line that Feinberg went in there all unsuspecting.

Imagine what Fox and the Daily Caller would have to say if, for instance, Al Jazeera English posted videos like this.

“You don’t have to build any unity among the groups along lines of ‘race’ or class’, they don’t even need to know about each other – their interests can even be fratricidal, just so long as they collectively imagine there is one answer to their discreet problems. This means one no longer needs to take ‘the centre’, one just needed to define the ‘non-people’, the enemy, as that which is at the root of voters’ (actually very different) problems. The sad thing is that this approach doesn’t work without casting your opponents not merely as being wrong, but as actively nefarious.”

The Opsec Fail of the Month Award goes to the White House, and it’s a doozy.

The Seth Rich Story Story has a Kremlin angle because of course it has a Kremlin angle.  Πως γαρ ου, Σωκρατες?

David Frum (this continues to feel very weird) on the threat paramilitaries and open carry pose to civil society, even when nobody is actually shooting anybody else.  Even Virginia has plenty of laws that could be used to hammer these thugs, if anyone felt inclined to try to arrest them.

Why are so many fascists former libertarians?

“Mr. Putin’s Russia, by contrast, frightens Americans because they know that the United States and Russia should be very different, but many of the pathologies present in Russia can also be found in the United States. What disturbs liberal America is not that Russia will run the world — far from it. Rather, the fear, whether liberals fully recognize it or not, is that the United States has started to resemble Russia.”

On the folly of identifying with large unselective groups.  Argue amongst yourselves, class.

The ongoing politicization of nearly everything.

Nathan Heller on Zeynep Tufekci’s research into decentralized protest. Internet-era direct action may suffer from absence of leaders for authority to negotiate with and from a lack of the quasi-institutional structure seen in the Civil Rights movement (with a sidenote on my biggest peeve: the ongoing efforts of Marxists to apply 19th century industrial paradigms to a totally different world).

… und verspürt ihr auch in euerm Bauch
den Hitler-Dolch, tief, bis zum Heft –:
Küßt die Faschisten, küßt die Faschisten,
küßt die Faschisten, wo ihr sie trefft –!

The time for hypotheticals is at an end.

July 2017: Linkoln Memorial

I think I’m going to start opening all my link roundups with yet another scary survey.

“The most crucial variable predicting the success of a democratic transition is the self-confidence of the incumbent elites. If they feel able to compete under democratic conditions, they will accept democracy. If they do not, they will not.  And the single thing that most accurately predicts elite self-confidence, as Ziblatt marshals powerful statistical and electoral evidence to argue, is the ability to build an effective, competitive conservative political party before the transition to democracy occurs.”

Maybe this is what all the bots will eventually be for.

Rondon of Caracas Chronicles in Politico from April, on the narrative coherence of post-truth politics vs. the messiness of reality.

“Here is a secret that is not a secret. Here is a curse that is not a curse. Revolutions are not redemption. They will not save you, just as ours did not save us back in 1896, or 1986, or 2001.”

On the Twitter mob and the poverty of left-wing discourse.

Long before Junior’s emails upended all our theories, Julian Sanchez suggested that collusion may be the wrong question.  His central question— why in hell would the Russians tell the campaign?— is even more interesting now.

History tells us that we should head for the bunkers when the White House gets obsessed with Thucydides.  Everything can be found in The History of the Peloponnesian War, and that’s exactly the problem (Pericles’ funeral oration isn’t about democracy, though: it’s about Athenian exceptionalism).

A technologist explains his choice to leave government service.

Who was Moonlight Maze?

In Kazakhstan, a switch from Cyrillic to Latin script is a lot of hassle and expense to no obvious purpose.

Twitter is definitely bad but I will never forgive Bret Stephens for making me read the phrase “naked, grunting brain” with my own two eyes.

In honor of Independence Day, David Frum plays Variations On “American Exceptionalism.”

I’m on one of my occasional Raymond Chandler binges right now, and while I was out running the other day I was thinking about how the discontinuous narratives in noir fiction match real life much better than the elaborate constructs one gets in the more traditional mystery novel.  I was going to write something, but I found this essay on Farewell My Lovely at the LARB instead.

From all the way back in 2003, Slate’s compilation of the ‘poetry’ of Donald Rumsfeld is… well, anyway, read it.

Your captcha is part of a coming epistemological crisis. Magritte ain’t seen nothing.

Through requirements that social media companies to combat extremism on their platforms, governments are slowly but surely forcing the privatization of online counterterrorism.  The new arbiters of extremism are the low-paid, undertrained, and mostly unaccountable contractors on the moderation staff.  What could possibly go wrong?

“…after more than 70 years of great-power peace and a quarter-century of unrivaled global supremacy, Americans have lost their sense of tragedy. The U.S.-led international order has been so successful, for so long, that Americans have come to take it for granted. They have forgotten what that order is meant to prevent in the first place: the sort of utter breakdown of the international system, the descent into violence and great-power war, that has been all too common throughout human history.”

Foa and Mounk rebut the haters.

The Opsec Fail of the Month Award goes to [drumroll] Leonid Brezhnev.

June 2017: The Library of Alinksandria

Yet another troubling survey, this time on Americans’ views on the proper role of the media.

Tor Ekeland on oversentencing of hackers.

“Cyber operations coerce by imposing costs and destabilizing an opponent’s leadership. As costs grow and destabilization spreads, backing down eventually becomes less painful than standing tall, causing the adversary to comply with the coercer’s demands.”

In our latest installment of Don’t Piss Off The Nerds, the Turkish thugs who attacked protesters outside the DC embassy got the shit OSINTed out of them.

In hindsight suppressing that 2009 DHS report on violent rightist extremism was probably not the greatest idea.

Shadi Hamid on how Egypt could have gone differently and how to get democracy to stick more broadly.  He doesn’t address whether or not democracy can survive absent liberalism, and in the last paragraph there’s a very interesting potential rabbit hole about the consent of the governed.

No, Alan, the president does not have unilateral authority over the people investigating him and his top aides.

Much of the discussion surrounding the not-actually-very-illuminating leak on compromised voter systems revolves around whether or not the KGB achieved lateral motion and was able to compromise provisioning infrastructure.  Even if they didn’t, they succeeded, because we’re worrying about it.

There’s an unlikely alliance between anarchists in Exarchia and the Donbass separatists.  Idiot leftists continue to confuse Putin’s territorial revanchism for anti-imperialism, just because the US isn’t a fan of it.  Don’t be that guy.

Go listen to a very old Greek Marian hymn (but stay out of the comments if you value your sanity).

“… realist liberalism is the kind of liberalism that, perhaps surprisingly, most closely reflects the ethos of the modern novel: its astonishment at the extent of our incommunicable subjectivity, its conviction that each psyche contains (to quote the character from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead) “a little civilization.” Diverse by nature, we come to be ever more diverse as a result of social and political development. The further we are from violent anarchy, the less we resemble one another in our zeal for mere survival. My aspirations will not excite you; my vision for society will not motivate you; the justifications for government policy that convince me will not convince you.  Liberal institutions do not deny or seek to alter this state of normative fragmentation but, on the contrary, work with it and tend to celebrate it.”

Jack Goldsmith’s piece from February on il Douche’s tweets and the immigration EO bears re-reading now that the case is inching closer to SCOTUS.  In practice I think his predictions will hold, but I don’t believe it’s been thought through beforehand like he speculates.

A case study in watchman-watching: wardriving for IMSI catchers.

Bret Stephens should have written this last summer.

A growing number of Android apps have a charming habit of listening for ultrasonic beacons in sound produced by other devices.  Identifying the Big Brotherish potential in this kind of thing is left as an exercise to the reader.

This story in the New York Times about a Russian assassin in Kiev posing as a journalist is pretty wild.  I’m inclined to wonder what his exit strategy was going to be.

The Doubleswitch phishing attack has been used extensively against journalists and activists in Venezuela and elsewhere, both to cut off comms and to run info ops against the opposition off already-trusted accounts.  It’s probably coming here sooner or later.  Keep an eye on that story about all those DoD-linked Twitter accounts that got owned by bears.

Krauthammer on Article V.  Not all deterrence is MAD.

The Opsec Fail of the Month award goes to everyone involved in the Reality Winner leak.  This fills the blogger with acute second-hand embarrassment.  Honorable mention to Mike Flynn.

Batman’s the worst.

May 2017: URL of the Chaldees

Stop blaming Trump on the poor, she repeated incessantly.

David Frum of all people has written the only good article about The Generals I’ve seen.  This feels weird, but I’ll take it.

No, “robot privilege” is not the latest Social Justice™ talking point, but give it time.

APT28 continues to be at it, with some quality compartmentalization failage yet again.  By the time this is published, we might hear whether they’ve gotten any results.

Max Boot (I know, I know) on the inevitability of normalization.

Ha ha ha ha wow Laura Poitras really doesn’t want to talk about Wikileaks and the Panama Papers for some reason.

Back in his Noo Yawk days, our glorious leader liked to use mafioso intimidation tactics on business rivals and city officials.

The latest round of the Gorkening finds that his doctorate isn’t real and he was denied a security clearance in Hungary.  And then somehow I missed this when I read his ridiculous book, but this dumb fascist bastard thinks that the answer to terrorism is fusing the police, military, and IC into a single unified security service.  What could possibly go wrong?

Go listen to this version of Psalm 104 by the Yamma Ensemble.  In general, go listen to the Yamma Ensemble.

Mexico can make us sorry.

Like fighting Putin? There’s an app for that.  Identifying potential problems with this idea is left as an exercise to the reader.

Romans got lead poisoning from a grape must preserve called defrutum, not from lead pipes.  I learned this in Latin class, but I had forgotten it.

I burst out laughing in a crowded coffee shop at this video from Reason about the TSA.

Digital Forensics Lab on the origins and propagation of a Russian fake news story.  Don’t piss off the OSINT nerds.  It’s not worth it.

“If Russia did it, why is there evidence?”  Someone else wrote the screed about Greenwald and the Whataboutists that I keep starting and getting too mad to finish properly.

“Internet blockages, even when targeted at specific websites, are not necessarily rational decisions based on strategic thought. They are very often knee-jerk reactions by autocratic governments, or military juntas, to the loss of control over the society they rule.”

Facebook says they’re cracking down on information operations.

It’s as good a time as any to dig HST’s Nixon obit out of the archive.

Shadow Brokers didn’t just dump a bunch of code: they also may have doxxed NSA personnel, which is a new one.

Maciej Cegłowski on the inhumanity of algorithms and Silicon Valley’s refusal to acknowledge that they’ve created a “toolkit for authoritarians.”

Still more damn Straussians and also Yarvin (they’re called Claremonsters, Andrew).

Germany’s plague of hipster Nazis adds an interesting if regrettable layer of complication to haircut politics.

The culprits in the MU scandal were much more organized than one might think.  And apparently there’s even a Russian intel angle, because everybody and their maiden aunt has a Russian intel angle these days (can I still say “maiden aunt”?).  Minus one to Slytherin for two Bellingcat links in the same roundup.

The complete scumbag of the month award goes to Robert Fisher.  He shares the opsec fail of the month award with the NRO.  Security is hard.

Listen to the refugees. Start with Mujanović himself, Kasparov, Gessen.

You know what to do (although strictly speaking it should be CVNNVS NOBIS GRABENDVS EST).

April 2017: The URLy Bird Gets The Worm

Watch the video by Alexei Navalny, patron saint of OSINT nerds everywhere, that set off the protests on the 26th.

I’m a lifelong British monarch detractor and yet when I got done reading this I had to sneak off to cry in the bathroom.

The lesson from Egypt is that overthrowing the tyrant is only step one.  Make sure that, once he’s gone, you know what you’re going to try to replace him with.

Legislation has been introduced in the Duma that would allow police (and no longer just the FSB) to fire into crowds to “prevent terrorism” (link is in Russian).  Classy, Vlad.  Real classy.

Speaking of that bastard al-Sisi, Breitbart is alleged to be in with the Egyptians.

“Behind all the desktop screens and plate-glass of his office, the buzz of data and the hum of metrics, Nate Silver retreats to a quiet, dark, and holy room. He takes the knife and slits in one stroke the throat of a pure-white bull; its blood arcs and drizzles in all directions. He examines its patterns. And he knows.”

Aaaaaand Putin’s bringing back the use of psychiatric hospitals to confine dissidents.

If you happen to be a Spotify user, you can listen to the Operation Nifty Package playlist (there’s an argument to be made that the Army carried out the original rickroll, eighteen years before 4chan).

The Exxon payments weren’t real.

Stingrays?  In my city?  It’s more likely than you think (and these are just the ones we know about).

A new one for the Constitutional Violation Vault: an argument that Bannon and company’s habit of bossing department heads without having been congressionally approved might be in violation of the Appointments Clause.  I’m not sure how persuasive I find this, but it’s interesting.

Eduard Basurin gets OSINTed.

And the Opsec Fail Award of the Month goes to [drumroll] Jim Comey, who really really should be better at this.

Journalists and oppo researchers looking into the Russia thing are being harrassed.

The Straussians continue to be at it.

Interesting elaboration of Shadi Hamid’s point about secularization becoming a trap if what replaces religion is ethnonationalism.

“Large proportions of people from marginalized groups simply decline to be intersectional and this is a problem for an ideology which claims to listen to them and represent them,” or, as Terry Pratchett says in Night Watch, “People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.”

The latest installment in the Gorkening (I am waaaaay fewer degrees of Beltway from this man than I am comfortable with).

Heineken is apparently a Communist plot.

Populism vs. parliamentary democracy.  Also, Geert Wilders looks like a Batman villain.

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη, nerds.  Go eat some lamb.

March 2017: Duke of URL

Daesh burned the libraries, and Mosul needs books.

Repeat after James Mickens: “The CIA Is Not In My Threat Model.”

The Evola chatter continues with this piece at the Atlantic about how old Jules’s faintly Nietzschean Roman-revivalist ideas should be incompatible with Bannon’s Christianist traditionalism (which manages to be neither particularly Christian nor particularly traditional).  They should be, of course, but the alt-right’s ideological reasoning processes resemble those of Umberto Eco’s Diabolicals more than they do normal political movements.  I remain annoyed that Evola is in the zeitgeist at all.

The Dictator Style guy has analyzed our glorious leader’s felony interior decorating.

I find the Grugq’s theory that Russian lightswitch shenanigans in Ukraine are more about the US-Russia-China cyber arms race than they are about Ukraine persuasive.

“Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon arranged the timing in the expectation that opponents, freed from work on the weekend, would stage huge protests.”

Scott Alexander’s review of Eichmann in Jerusalem is great.

“Facebook’s business is to simulate you and to own and control your simulation, thereby owning and controlling you.”  Really, why are you still on Facebook?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Viktator’s got a man in the White House.  The anti-Semitic Populist-Nationalist International aside, I’ve read this guy’s book about terrorism and it’s crazy enough that it probably deserves a post sooner or later.

“Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth.”

Go practice your vehicular surveillance.

From September, Corey Pein at the Baffler on conspiracy theorists.

I’ve always found it weird that people manage to be for the death penalty while also being squeamish about the appearance of whatever method the state uses to kill people.  FiveThirtyEight has weighed in on that lethal injection vs. firing squad debate: the conclusion is tentatively in favor of the firing squad but there’s still insufficient data compounded with puzzling squeamishness. Obvious warning for discussion of execution methods is obvious.  I overthought this and now you can too (out of the methods listed, I’d definitely prefer a firing squad, in case anyone is keeping track, and hold the blindfold).

Rafia Zakaria at the Baffler on flying while Muslim.

“I am a white, English-speaking law professor, affluent, privileged, articulate, and a native-born citizen. Such hair as I have is white and I can hardly seem like a threat to anyone. I have researched the matter, and feel reasonably confident that an agent would have to let me pass if I refused the demand for my papers. If not, I can afford counsel and my family knows excellent lawyers to call. I am vowing here and now not to show papers in this situation.”

I found this article on US-Russia relations from Foreign Policy in my own Hindsight File archives.  Mainly it’s interesting because neither candidate would have followed its advice.

Steve Bannon is a big fan of a weird racist French novel that’s more or less the European equivalent of The Turner Diaries.

“The alternative to facts on the ground is to act, regardless of the facts on the ground. When you act you make new facts. You clear new ground. And when you roll over or roll back the people who have a duty to report the situation as it is—people in the press, the military, the bureaucracy, your own cabinet, or right down the hall—then right there you have demonstrated your might.”

Poland’s governing party is the latest in a string of far-right madpersons taking potshots at the EU, using a bizarre conspiracy theory about the plane crash that killed Lech Kaczynski as cover (Anne Appelbaum sees this as an omen).  By the time this post is published, we’ll know what happened at the summit.  I’m taking odds on the EU surviving until 2020.

You’re not crazy: American media does seem to give disproportionate attention to Salafi-jihadist terrorism.

In which the goddamn Straussians continue to be at it.

FiveThirtyEight finds that, contra the Monkey Cage, geographic polarization is real.  No comment on whether or not it’s caused by foot-voting.  I have a headache, and minus five to Slytherin for two FiveThirtyEight links in the same roundup.

This article from WSJ is for everyone for whom opera has been permanently ruined by Looney Tunes (as always one of the great mysteries of the 20th century is why in hell Elmer Fudd is persistently attracted to a male rabbit in drag.)

Try telling people in this dog-forsaken city that the USSR dissolved for complicated internal reasons and not because of anything in particular the West did, and you’ll get run out of town on a rail.  It’s still true.

A plurality of respondents in Russian polling believe that the Bolshevik revolution was a Western plot.  What.

Randall Munroe tried to warn us.