PowerLine -> (John Hinderaker) -Facebook Removes “Inauthentic” Left-Wing Accounts + Employee Compensation Rising Sharply

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PowerLine -> (John Hinderaker) -Facebook Removes “Inauthentic” Left-Wing Accounts + Employee Compensation Rising Sharply

Daily Digest

  • Facebook Removes “Inauthentic” Left-Wing Accounts
  • Should Trump meet the mullahs? [UPDATED]
  • Contra the dross of Doss (3)
  • Employee Compensation Rising Sharply
  • An experimental approach to deciding extra inning ball games
Facebook Removes “Inauthentic” Left-Wing Accounts

Posted: 31 Jul 2018 03:17 PM PDT

(John Hinderaker)Facebook announced today that it has removed 32 “bad actors” from its platform:

Today we removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior. This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook because we don’t want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing.

We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts — including who may be behind this. …

It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.

So what are these Facebook and Instagram accounts that engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior”?

* In total, more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages, the earliest of which was created in March 2017. The latest was created in May 2018.

* The most followed Facebook Pages were “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being,” and “Resisters.” The remaining Pages had between zero and 10 followers, and the Instagram accounts had zero followers.

* There were more than 9,500 organic posts created by these accounts on Facebook, and one piece of content on Instagram.

* They ran about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in US and Canadian dollars. The first ad was created in April 2017, and the last was created in June 2018.

* The Pages created about 30 events since May 2017. About half had fewer than 100 accounts interested in attending. The largest had approximately 4,700 accounts interested in attending, and 1,400 users said that they would attend.

What is described here is utterly trivial. $11,000 in ads? That is practically zero, by Facebook standards. Facebook pages with a few thousand followers and Instagram accounts with no followers? This is the kind of thing we apparently are expected to get exercised about, but if “bad actors” can’t do orders of magnitude more than this, they are trivial.

For what it’s worth, these “inauthentic” accounts all seem to be on the left:

Perhaps I am missing something, but there is such a vast quantity of authentic nonsense on Facebook that the presence of a tiny amount of inauthentic nonsense–whatever that means, exactly–does not strike me as very important.

Maybe what Facebook disclosed today is only a molecule in the bucket, and enough will eventually come to light to suggest that “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on Facebook is somehow a problem. But I doubt it.


Should Trump meet the mullahs? [UPDATED]

Posted: 31 Jul 2018 02:00 PM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)Fresh off his meeting with Kim Jong Un, President Trump is talking about getting together with Iran’s leaders “whenever they want” and “without preconditions.” Is this a good idea?

I don’t think so. I favored Trump meeting with Kim, but there are at least two important distinctions between North Korea and Iran.

First, North Korea has nuclear weapons. Iran doesn’t. I think it’s important to establish some sort of dialogue with the dictator of a power that can nuke American territory and possibly American cities. Iran doesn’t have that capability.

Second, there is reason to believe the Iranian regime is reeling. There is no evidence that Kim’s is.

Trump has predicted that the Iranians will seek a new deal from him because the regime seems to be in trouble. But it is precisely for that main reason that Trump shouldn’t meet with the mullahs.

Iran’s purpose at such a meeting would be to obtain economic relief in exchange for nuclear concessions — a better nuclear deal for America, as Trump puts it. But we shouldn’t grant Iran any economic relief.

Regime change should be our goal. Helping Iran’s economy while the mullahs are in charge is inconsistent with that goal.

It might be different if Iran were willing to scrap its nuclear program completely. But Iran isn’t going to do this, anymore, frankly, than North Korea will. If Trump thinks otherwise then (a) he’s fooling himself and (b) he should set some preconditions through which Iran can demonstrate its potential willingness to abandon the nuclear program.

It’s possible that Trump doesn’t really want to meet with Iran’s leaders. Maybe he’s just grandstanding. Maybe he’s confident that Iran will refuse to meet with him, as they very likely will. Maybe he thinks such a refusal will further alienate the Iranians from the mullahs.

It seems more likely, though, that Trump wants to meet the mullahs. If nothing else, the meeting would place him center stage and give him something new to boast about. But I don’t think it would serve America’s interests.

UPDATE: Trump probably wants to talk with Iran about Syria. He’s looking for a way out of Syria but understands that Iran would fill the void. A deal with Iran would give him cover to exit.

However, I doubt it would get Iran and its proxy Hezbollah out of Syria. Bolstering the Iranian economy in exchange for promises that Iran will end its regional adventurism seems like a bad deal.


Contra the dross of Doss (3)

Posted: 31 Jul 2018 01:22 PM PDT

(Scott Johnson)The cover story of the current issue of the Weekly Standard is “The Truth About Carter Page, the FBI, and Devin Nunes’ Conspiracy Theory” by one April Doss. I have contrasted Doss’s disparagement of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes in this story with the profile of Nunes by Standard executive editor Fred Barnes in the same issue. I’m with Fred and against Doss. The two pieces sit uneasily in the same issue without editorial explanation.

If the cover story appeared somewhere other than the Standard, I wouldn’t be interested in commenting on it. The Standard is one of my favorite magazines. I rely on it. I’ve proudly contributed more than 25 columns and articles to it over the years and gotten to know the editors personally and professionally. I like and respect them. Indeed, I have learned from them.

Fred Barnes accurately observes in his profile: “Democrats and their allies have been waging a war of abuse, slander, and name-calling [against Nunes]. They’ve tried with occasional success to make his life miserable.” In the cover story, we find the magazine joining in the Democrats’ war on Nunes. The cover story could serve as Exhibit A in Fred’s indictment. This is wrong.

In the author’s tag to her story, Doss describes herself in part as former “senior minority counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.” In relevant part, this is the same tag she used to describe herself in the Atlantic version of her piece. Without more, we wouldn’t know whether she served as the Democrats’ or Republicans’ counsel. One has to go to her current law firm bio to determine that she served as Democratic counsel, of course, and that her efforts included (my italics) “all facets of the SSCI investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.” Why so shy?

I think it is indicative of her lack of candor in the crux of her cover story. Doss is dishonest by the omission of relevant factual context in the same manner as she is in her own author’s identification.

After paying tribute to FISA and the FISC, Doss props up Democratic Party talking points on the FISA warrants secured by the FBI And the Department of Justice against Carter Page. Applying her expertise to a reading of the FISA warrant applications on Page, she assures us that everything is in order. All the I’s have been dotted and all the t’s have been crossed. There has been no gambling in Casablanca, so to speak, and there never has been. Rumors to the contrary represent “a crazy conspiracy theory.”

Conceding the redactions in the documents, Doss expresses her judgment (my italics): “it is apparent that the FBI would have been derelict in its duty if it didn’t at least investigate whether there was cause for concern. Page had longstanding ties to Russia, including past ties to indicted and convicted Russian spies; the intelligence community had concluded that Russia was undertaking active measures to influence the 2016 U.S. election; and Page made a trip to Russia, possibly meeting with Kremlin officials, while he was an adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign. Taken together, it appears to be probable cause.”

There is a lot to unpack here and it is not worth our time to do so in every particular (as in her labored defense of the applications’ disclosures regarding the Steele Dossier, with respect to which see Byron York’s column on the Nunes memo). Let me confine myself to a few points:

• Under Title I of FISA, it was the burden of the government to establish probable cause that Page was a Russian agent. Doss states: “Although Page had left the campaign, the FBI feared Russia was using him for its own purposes. The application states that the FBI alleged there was probable cause to believe Page was an agent of a foreign power under a specific provision of FISA that involves knowingly aiding, abetting, or knowingly conspiring to assist a foreign power with clandestine intelligence gathering activities, engage in clandestine intelligence gathering at the behest of a foreign power, or participate in sabotage or international terrorism or planning or preparation therefor.”

• Doss to the contrary notwithstanding, the allegations cited by Doss in her article don’t appear to make out probable cause that Page is a Russian agent on any fair reading of the facts once the Steele Dossier is seen for what it is.

• The FBI relied in substantial part on the allegations of the Steele dossier to obtain the FISA warrant on Page. Although the application swears otherwise, these allegations were unverified. Among knowledgeable observers who dispute Doss on the propriety of this reliance, I would cite Andrew McCarthy. Doss simply omits any acknowledgment of the related issues.

• The FBI nevertheless secured the FISA surveillance warrant on Page in October 2016 and renewed it three more times at 90-day intervals. Maybe the cited facts together with the redacted material fairly establish probable cause, but we have yet to see it.

• Whether or not the FBI made out probable cause, it must have monitored Page’s every communication by text, email and cell phone for a year. Yet Page remains a free man. No charge of any kind — not even a process crime such as the one used against Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos — has been brought against Carter Page. The circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Page is not a Russian agent.

• Given the year-long surveillance on him without any resulting charge, Page might not only not be a Russian agent, he might be the cleanest man in Washington.

• Page first came into the view of the FBI in the case brought against Russian agents Evgeny Buryakov et al. in 2015. The criminal complaint is here (see paragraphs 27 et seq, where Page is referred to as Male-1), the indictment here.

• Page himself was first interviewed by the FBI in the case in June 2013 (see paragraph 34 of the criminal complaint). He was trying to make a living in Russia’s energy business: “[Page] stated that he first met VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendant, in January 2013 at an energy symposium in New York City. During this initial meeting, PODOBNYY gave Male-1 PODOBNYY’s business card and two email addresses. Over the following months, Male-1 and PODOBNYY exchanged emails about the energy business and met in person on occasion, with Male-1 providing PODOBNYY with Male-l’s outlook on the current and future of the energy industry. Male-1 also provided documents to PODOBNYY about the energy business.”

• With the two other defendants having fled the jurisdiction of the United States, the 2015 case resulted in the guilty plea of Evgeny Buryakov. We now know that the individual identified as Male-1 in the criminal complaint is Carter Page and that he cooperated with the government in the case. He was not charged and the government alleged no incriminating facts against him in the case.

• Someone involved in dealing with the Russian agents charged in the case helped the FBI plant a productive bug on the bad guys. He appears as UCE-1 in the March 2016 Department of Justice press release announcing Buryakov’s guilty plea: “The FBI obtained the recordings after Sporyshev attempted to recruit an FBI undercover employee (‘UCE-1’), who was posing as an analyst from a New York-based energy company. In response to requests from Sporyshev, UCE-1 provided Sporyshev with binders containing purported industry analysis written by UCE-1 and supporting documentation relating to UCE-1’s reports, as well as covertly placed recording devices. Sporyshev then took the binders to, among other places, the Residentura [the Russian foreign intelligence agency office].” It is speculative to hypothesize that Male-1 or a friend of Male-1 might be UCE-1, but he bears a passing resemblance to someone with Page’s profile.

• Why would the FBI go to the FISC in 2016 to undertake surveillance premised on the assertion that Carter Page is a Russian agent? Doss treats this question as though we have learned nothing of the players orchestrating the investigation inside the FBI and elsewhere. She formulates an answer premised on principals acting in good faith to Doss is like the fox in the henhouse proclaiming to the farmer “ain’t nobody here but us chickens!”

• To take just one example, Doss omits any mention of the role played by Peter Strzok at the FBI in initiating the counterintelligence investigation that swept up Carter Page. She somehow overlooks Strzok’s August 2016 text message to FBI lawyer/mistress Lisa Page that they couldn’t risk Trump’s election. They needed something “like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…” It is unreasonable to think Strzok was referring to anything other than the investigation that swept up Page.

In short, the Doss cover story seems to me a nasty and dishonest piece of work. I am posting the FISA application documents below once again for readers who may want to take another look in light of the Doss article.

CarterPageFISAfile by Scott Johnson on Scribd


Employee Compensation Rising Sharply

Posted: 31 Jul 2018 11:12 AM PDT

(John Hinderaker)What happens when the economy grows and companies need more workers? Wages rise, especially when the flow of legal and illegal immigrants competing for low- and middle-wage jobs declines. Not surprisingly, that is what we are currently seeing:

American workers are finally reaping the benefits of the lowest unemployment rate and best jobs market in decades.

I don’t know about “finally.” President Trump has only been in office for a year and a half.

Wages and benefits are rising at the fastest pace in a decade.

This chart tells the story:

Higher wages, more jobs, lower taxes. Let’s not let the Democrats screw this up!


An experimental approach to deciding extra inning ball games

Posted: 31 Jul 2018 07:41 AM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)I read somewhere that this year non-pitchers are pitching an unprecedented number of innings in major league baseball games. A manager might call on a non-pitcher (a catcher, infielder, or outfielder) to pitch if he has used all of his relief pitchers or if the game is so far out of reach that he doesn’t want to burn his remaining relievers.

It seems odd at first blush that we’re seeing more of this now. Most teams carry at least seven relief pitchers, compared to the five-man bullpens of the past. However, starting pitchers aren’t pitching as deep into games as they used to, and managers don’t like to work relievers more than one inning anymore. Nor do they like to work relievers in back-to-back games.

Last night in a minor league game between Syracuse and Pawtucket (Triple-A baseball) both teams had non-pitchers on the mound at the end of the contest, a 13-inning affair that ended 11-10. Utility infield Benji Gonzalez got the win for Syracuse. Outfielder Cole Sturgeon took the loss for Pawtucket.

In the top of the 13th, Gonzalez set down Pawtucket in order. In the bottom of the inning, Sturgeon gave up a run without retiring a batter but under extenuating circumstances.

This year, you see, the minor leagues are using a novel approach to deciding extra-inning games. Teams start off extra frames with a runner (the last batter from the previous inning) on second base.

The idea is to increase the odds of scoring, and therefore the odds that the game will be decided sooner rather than later. I haven’t seen the data on the extent to which this experiment is cutting down on extra innings, but I assume it is having something like the desired effect.

Not last night, though. Pawtucket and Syracuse both scored a run in the tenth inning and two in the twelfth. In the thirteenth, as I said, Gonzalez, the infielder set the PawSox down in order. The runner who started on second base stayed there.

In the bottom of the inning, on Sturgeon’s first and only pitch, Gonzalez hit a grounder to the shortstop. Irving Falu, the runner who had been placed at second base broke for third. Ivan De Jesus, Jr. tried to throw him out but the toss to third was wild. The error enabled Falu to score the winning run.

I’ve attended two minor league games this year that went to extra innings. How do I feel about the experiment?

I think it’s fine for the minor leagues. These games aren’t televised (though I think die-hard fans can watch them through some sort of subscription) and those who attend them don’t seem to be up for inning after inning of extra baseball. I haven’t heard anyone at the games complain about the new approach. I love minor league baseball, but ten or eleven innings of it are enough. After three and a half hours, I’m ready for the long drive home.

I wouldn’t want to see major league baseball adopt this approach, though. Long extra inning games are one of baseball’s pleasures for hardcore fans, at least for those watching at home. I love to see the way managers navigate their pitching staff through, say, an extra five innings of baseball. With the game on the line, every inning is a high stakes drama. The more of them the better, I say.

It’s true that the length of baseball games is a problem for the sport. But I think the problem centers around the pace of play over nine innings, not the occasional long extra-inning game. Hardcore fans want a faster pace of play but are fine with extended games. Casual fans probably want the outcome decided quickly, but their main problem is with the pace of play. I don’t think baseball is losing popularity because of extra-inning games.

For purists, the experimental approach raises interesting questions as to how runs scored are treated for purposes of the record book. Judging from the box scores I’ve seen, if the runner placed on second scores, his run is treated as “unearned” — it doesn’t count against the pitcher’s ERA. Nor should it.

But what about the guy who scores the run from second? He is credited with a run scored even though he didn’t earn his way on base. That’s no big deal. A player is credited with a run if he reaches first base by striking out (and the ball gets away from the catcher). In any case, no one pays much attention to the number of runs a player scores in this age of advanced stats.

From the record book standpoint, purists have no good reason to object to the experimental approach. The best reason for having extra inning contests decided the way they always have been is the tension and drama the extra innings bring.


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