Trump, circling the wagons, forces out McMaster, and brings in John Bolton, a man who has called for the bombing of North Korea, and suggested that Obama was behind the Russian hacking of our election… The end is near

Six days ago, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured us that Donald Trump had no intention of firing national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Today, however, Trump did exactly that, announcing that the decorated 3-star general had been replaced by the mustachioed, draft-dodging, conspiracy theory-espousing, war monger John Bolton, a man who, in recent years, has both called for the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton and referred to President Obama as our “biggest threat to national security”. This, I think it’s safe to say, is not something that we… especially of those of us who don’t want to perish in war… should be thrilled about. [Bolton not only championed the disastrous Iraq War, but, in recent years, has called for bombing both Iran and North Korea.]

From Trump’s perspective, though, it makes perfect sense. Not only is Bolton on good terms with Putin, whom he’s credited with bringing “a new era of freedom” to Russia, but he’s said publicly that he disagrees with our intelligence community that Russia interfered in our 2016 election in order to both help Trump, and hurt Clinton. “The safest conclusion based on currently available public information is that Russia did not intend to advantage or disadvantage any particular candidate,” Bolton is quoted as having said just last month. But that’s not the worst of it. He’s also speculated in the past that what the Russian election hacks were “false flag” operations run out of the Obama White House, although he’s since been forced to walk that back a bit.

Oh, and I don’t think we’ve discussed it here yet, but this wasn’t the only staff change at the White House this week. Trump also brought on attorney Joe diGenova, who’s also known to spout conspiracy theories about deep state plots orchestrated against our beloved President by the likes of Clinton, Obama and former FBI Director James Comey… Here’s Congressman Adam Schiff with more.

None of this surprises me. We all knew, as the Mueller investigation entered its final stages, Trump would circle the wagons in an attempt to save himself. And both the far right and the Russians have been trying to get McMaster out since he first got the job. One just wonders what else might be in store, now that the likes of McMaster and Hicks have left, leaving the increasingly isolated “stable genius” in the company of fellow conspiracy theorists. The question is, can we survive this next chapter, especially if Trump decides to take us to war in an effort to delay the inevitable.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

David Carroll, an academic who studies online privacy, files suit against Cambridge Analytica in hopes of acquiring a copy of his psychographic targeting profile

Last week, when it became public knowledge that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal information of over 50 million unsuspecting Facebook users, allowing the Robert Mercer-owned political consulting firm to build a “psychological warfare weapon” that, according to one of the men involved, existed to exploit the “inner demons” of Americans for political gain, David Carroll, an associate professor at Parsons School of Design, took the opportunity to file suit against the political analytics company in UK court, demanding that they disclose both the data they had collected on him via his social media presence and the psychographic targeting profile they’d produced with said data. [While Carroll’s UK filing is new, he’s been attempting to acquire this information for some time in the United States.] The following comes by way of the Guardian.

…In his statement to the high court, Carroll says he brought the action as part of “a general desire to ensure that my personal data was not used for purposes I consider unsettling or unlawful. This was particularly true with respect to my political opinions.”

He told the Guardian his “great concern” was that if voters received through social media messages tailored to their beliefs and personality, ideas about shared reality and shared sense of civic discourse would be eroded.

“Can this democracy survive this micro-targeting machine,” he asked, “and is it going to erode the idea of the public sphere for advertising purposes?”

In his statement to the court, Carroll said he was “concerned that I may have been targeted with messages that criticized [Democratic 2016 presidential candidate] Hillary Clinton with falsified or exaggerated information that negatively affected my sentiment about her candidacy and consequently discouraged me from engaging with the Clinton campaign as a formal or informal volunteer.”

But Carroll says he is not motivated by political partisanship.

“The escalation and weaponization of data is really concerning,” he told the Guardian, “and we have to make sure we understand the effects before we allow this to just run its course.”

Cambridge Analytica has described his claims as “unfounded” and said: “Unfortunately, he is wasting other people’s money with this spurious legal action.”

A special House of Commons committee headed by Collins visited Washington DC last month, questioning media and tech executives about fake news and misinformation in the political sphere, including the 2016 referendum on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

The direction of the questions posed by the UK politicians to Facebook and Twitter executives, Carroll believes, hinted that committee members already knew about third-party developer access, data retention and verification. “It looked like parliament had known about this for a while,” he said…

For those of you who are unaware of Carroll’s work, here’s video of a keynote he gave recently at the NYC Media Lab summit about data, design, privacy and democracy. [I’d intended to watch an episode of Columbo tonight, but instead got sucked into this. It’s that damn good. It’s “better than Columbo” good.]

And, here, for those of you who still want more, is a clip from an interview with Carroll that the Columbia Journalism Review just put out today.

I know, right now, we’re fighting about guns, and rightfully so, but, this is the battleground of the future. In and age weaponized data and targeting algorithms that grow more sophisticated by the day, where our online personas have virtually no protection, where were expected to forgo privacy in return for being able to exist in the modern world, what chance do we really have to maintain a healthy democracy? We can debate how successful Cambridge Alalytica was in their 2016 psychographic campaign, and whether or not it really had an effect on the outcome of the election. I don’t think, however, that we can debate the threat all of this poses going forward. Now that we’ve seen a glimpse of what’s on the horizon, we have to act.

One last thing… I’d like to leave you with this 2010 quote from American cryptographer and privacy activist Bruce Schneier: “Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re Facebook’s customer, you’re not – you’re the product. Its customers are the advertisers.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

DeVos called before Congress to discuss her secret plans to dismantle public education

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s completely unqualified Secretary of Education, was called to testify before a House Appropriations subcommittee today. It would appear as though members of said subcommittee wanted to ask DeVos about next year’s Department of Education budget, which, according to recent reports from whistleblowers within the department, would eliminate regional civil rights offices, terminate dozens of programs, and significantly shrink the overall department budget, while, at the same time, instituting a $1 billion “school choice” program intended to funnel public funds away from public schools and into for-profit charters and religious schools. The following comes by way of the New York Times.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will go before a House panel on Tuesday to defend her agency’s budget, including a sweeping overhaul of the Education Department that has strained relations within her agency and with Congress — and defies the White House’s budget office.

In recent weeks, Ms. DeVos has clashed fiercely with department staff members over the plan, which they say she tried to withhold from Congress as she imposed on the department what they call an illegal collective bargaining agreement.

Ms. DeVos will testify before the House Appropriations Committee, whose staff was told a week ago that her office had withheld vital information from it regarding the department’s budget for the fiscal year that begins in October. The budget request calls for a 5 percent spending cut, eliminates dozens of programs and pitches a $1 billion school choice proposal. It also includes a shake-up of several divisions that is already underway.

A career department official unveiled details of Ms. DeVos’s “Education Reform Plan” in an email to staff members on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The email, obtained by The Times, said information driving budget decisions was omitted from budget justifications submitted to Congress.

“Our concern is about a breakdown in communication, a culture of secrecy and a fear of retaliatory action that has prevented Budget Service from providing House and Senate appropriators and staff, and for that matter, the public, with key information about the department’s plans for fiscal year 2019,” the email said. “Given the potential for some of these proposals to radically impact the way the department carries out its mission, Congress should probably see this.”…

I try to reserve use of the term “anti-American” for special occasions, but, if true, this deserves it. Killing civil rights initiatives, and working in secret to undermine the integrity of public education in the United States, should not only be just cause to fire a Secretary of Education, but to banish a person from civil society forever. DeVos bought her way into this position in order to dismantle the Department of Education from the inside, and we cannot allow her to be successful. Public education has always been the great equalizer in our society. We must fight to retain it.

I’d like to say more, but you know how I feel about DeVos, right?

Posted in Civil Liberties, Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Congratulations, Vladimir!”

In spite of everything that Vladimir Putin has done over the course of the past few years, from interfering in our 2016 election to launching the first chemical attack on British soil since World War II, our President reached out yesterday to personally congratulate the former KGB officer on once again being ‘elected’ the President of Russia.

Why Donald Trump would do this, given that Putin, just a week or so before, had boasted of his ability to drop nuclear warheads on the United States, I’m not quite certain. After all, as Senator John McCain said today, “An American president does not (typically) lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.” For some reason, though, Donald Trump felt compelled to disregard the advice of multiple national security advisers and congratulate our adversary. [Trump, by the way is apparently furious that someone in his White House leaked the fact that he’d been given a briefing before making the call, which said explicitly, in all caps, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” only to then go ahead and congratulate Putin. I know some will see this as evidence that Russian news anchor Olga Skabeeva was absolutely right a few days ago when she said “Trump is ours!” a few days ago, but there has to be another reason, right?

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cambridge Analytica and the Russian prostitute connection

Remember how, this past weekend, I was telling you about how Facebook had confirmed that, back in 2014, Cambridge Analytica, the political analytics firm owned by far-right hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and managed at the time by Steve Bannon, had harvested the Facebook profiles of approximately 50 million unwitting American voters using the platform, allowing the company to build a “psychological warfare weapon” that, according to one of the men involved, could exploit the “inner demons” of Americans in a highly targeted fashion for political and economic gain? Well, the Cambridge Analytica story apparently doesn’t end there. Judging from undercover video released by BBC4 this afternoon, it would appear that, in order to accomplish their nefarious objectives, Cambridge Alanytica has also both bribed opposition candidates across the globe, and employed the services of prostitutes, in hopes of gaining leverage over those who stand between their clients and electoral victory. Here’s video of Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix telling a man posing as the representative of a wealthy Sri Lankan family looking to influence a national election, about how opposition politicians can be taken down with Ukrainian sex workers and hidden video cameras. “They are very beautiful,” Nix says of the prostitutes. “I find that works very well.”

Funny that, out of all the prostitutes in the world, Nix should mention a preference for the ones from Russia, isn’t it? If I were a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I’d want to ask him about that, and what he might know of the claim in the Steele dossier that a very similar trap had been set for our President in Moscow… Oh, but that’s right, Devin Nunes and the other Republicans on the committee shut it down, saying that there wasn’t any reason to continue the investigation, in spite of the fact that, among other things, they hadn’t even called a single person from Cambridge Analytica to testify.

But, yes, it looks as though Robert Mercer’s company, Cambridge Analytica, a division of SCL Elections, is every bit as evil as we’d thought… Here, with more on how the company uses micro-targeted false news stories to sway elections, is an excerpt from today’s New York Times.

…In a series of meetings at London hotels between November and January, all of which were secretly filmed, Mr. Nix and other executives boasted that Cambridge Analytica employs front companies and former spies on behalf of political clients.

The information that is uncovered through such clandestine work is then put “into the bloodstream to the internet,” said Mark Turnbull, another Cambridge executive, in an encounter in December 2015 at the Berkeley hotel in London.

“Then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again, over time, to watch it take shape,” he added. “It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘That’s propaganda.’ Because the moment you think ‘that’s propaganda,’ the next question is, ‘Who’s put that out?’”…

Here’s Turnbull in another clip from the BBC4 undercover report.

If you’d like to watch the whole report, you can do so on Youtube… There’s something incredibly satisfying about watching evil men talking caught on hidden cameras, talking about how they use hidden cameras to destroy the lives of others, knowing that they’re going to enjoy the same miserable fate.

Posted in Corporate Crime, Media, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 90 Comments


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