Super Weird

Bannon's fav "chilling novel about the end of the white world"; oh, *now* Pence cares about privacy; and more.


  • President Trump wants a congressional inquiry into whether President Obama ordered the tapping of his phones during the election campaign, while FBI director James Comey has asked Trump’s Justice Department to publicly reject that assertion, Michael Schmidt and Michael Shear report for The New York Times.

  • Maybe he’s not actually President? As Jon Schwarz points out for The Intercept, Trump could order the declassification of any wiretapping of Trump Tower right now, using his power to declassify anything.

  • Ben Wittes of the Lawfare Blog asks whether Trump intended to declassify any court-mandated surveillance of his campaign, and also suggests that if it turns out that the claim is completely bogus (it’s only sourced from the alt-right’s fever swamp) former President Obama could sue Trump for libel for making his charge with actual malice.

  • Here’s how a photo posted on Reddit, of New York Senator Chuck Schumer enjoying a coffee and donut with Russian President Vladimir Putin back in 2003, made it onto the President’s Twitter feed in less than 24 hours Friday, courtesy of Charlie Warzel of BuzzFeed.

  • Trump’s tweets during the Jewish Sabbath, when his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are off-line observing the weekly religious ritual, are objectively more frequent than other days of the week, more likely to use exclamation points, reports Andrew Kahn for Slate. A panel of 39 of his colleagues also rated them “crazier.” Your mileage may vary.

  • Vice President Mike Pence is upset that the AP published his wife’s personal email address as part of its reporting on the release of a trove of official government emails from his time as governor of Indiana. Pence had no such expressed concern when WikiLeaks published the personal email addresses of hundreds of Democratic staffers and campaigners.

  • What’s behind White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s frequent references to the “Camp of the Saints”? Paul Blumenthal and JM Rieger reveal that it’s the name of a highly racist obscure 1973 French novel that pictured Europe deluged by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague. The cover of the novel’s English version refers to it as “a chilling novel about the end of the white world.”

  • A silver lining to dark times: “We are witnessing an extraordinary moment of Muslim-Jewish solidarity,” reports WNYC’s Matt Katz.

  • Crypto-wars, continued: At least a dozen progressive groups in the U.S. have been hit since the election by Russian hackers trying to extort them, Michael Wiley reports for Bloomberg. Among the groups and people named in his report: Arabella Advisors and documentarian (and Civicist contributor!) Kate Albright-Hanna. “I have no idea why I would be targeted,” she commented. “It’s super weird.”

  • With the FCC’s new chairman moving to block a rule that requires internet service providers to take stronger steps to protect consumer’s data, privacy advocates are kicking up a storm, Harper Neidig reports for The Hill. “A rule would have gone into effect today that would have made sure consumers’ personal data would be protected,” said Gigi Sohn, a former counsel to the commission. “It wasn’t exactly a very burdensome requirement either, they just had to take ‘reasonable’ measures. But now [consumers] are completely and totally unprotected.”

  • The FBI is investigating a data breach at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems, where Georgia’s state voter data is kept, Aaron Diamont reports for WSB-TV.

  • What sharing economy? Uber, the ride-hailing service already well-known for ignoring local laws and bullying local elected officials, has “for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its…service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned,” Mike Isaac reports for The New York Times. The program, called Greyball, involved surreptitiously monitoring users who might be law enforcement, including “looking at a user’s credit card information and determining whether the card was tied directly to an institution like a police credit union,” he reports.

  • Media matters: A team of researchers from Harvard and MIT, Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, and Ethan Zuckerman, have analyzed more than 1.25 million stories published online during the 2015-16 election cycle and found that “a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world.” They add:

    While concerns about political and media polarization online are longstanding, our study suggests that polarization was asymmetric. Pro-Clinton audiences were highly attentive to traditional media outlets, which continued to be the most prominent outlets across the public sphere, alongside more left-oriented online sites. But pro-Trump audiences paid the majority of their attention to polarized outlets that have developed recently, many of them only since the 2008 election season.”

    And in a clear swipe at people spreading the myth of Cambridge Analytica’s supposed powers of persuasion, they add, “human choices and political campaigning, not one company’s algorithm, were responsible for the patterns we observe.”

  • Speaking of Cambridge Analytica, the company referred to above, The New York Times Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakin talked to a dozen Republican consultants, former Trump campaign aides, along with current and former CA employees and they report: “Cambridge executives now concede that the company never used psychographics in the Trump campaign. The technology — prominently featured in the firm’s sales materials and in media reports that cast Cambridge as a master of the dark campaign arts — remains unproved, according to former employees and Republicans familiar with the firm’s work.” They also point out that Ted Cruz’s campaign, which hired the firm before Trump, stopped using it entirely after the South Carolina primary because its methods were flawed. After some of its “targeted” TV ads appeared on cable channels in Washington DC, not exactly a Republican pick-up state, the Trump campaign stopped the firm’s involvement in TV.

  • Reminder: Civicist contributing editor Dave Karpf has been way ahead on this story, predicting the “campaign tech bullshit season” as early as last October and debunking the claims for Cambridge Analytica in several post-election posts. Read his new book Analytic Activism if you want to be as smart as him.

  • The U.K.’s privacy watchdog is looking into how voters’ personal information is being used in political campaigns, with Cambridge Analytica being one of the companies it is investigation, Jamie Doward, Carole Cadwalladr and Alice Gibbs report for The Guardian.

  • CrossCheck, Firstdraftnews’s new effort to combat fake news in France, is now live.

  • Amanda Hess reports for The New York Times on a wave of new apps that aim to help you get out of your political filter bubble.

  • This is civic tech: A new academic study by Tiago Peixoto, Jon Mellon and Fredrik Sjoberg studying “the effect of bureaucratic responsiveness on citizen participation” looked at nearly 400,000 interactions on the mySociety platform FixMyStreet and found that “a successful first experience using Fix My Street is associated with a 57 percent increase in the probability of an individual submitting a second report, and the experience of bureaucratic responsiveness to the first report submitted has predictive power over all future report submissions.” That is, when government does its job, citizens are more likely to continue to interact positively with government.

  • MPower Change is looking to hire an organizing director and a campaign manager.

  • Your moment of zen: One year’s worth of global air travel, visualized.

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