Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

How to Make Sense of the Wikileaks Clinton Campaign Email Document Dump and Controversy

It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish fact from fiction in the coverage of Wikileaks' ongoing publication of internal emails from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, known as the Podesta emails. There are internet hoaxsters pushing fake emails that are not contained in the actual published files. There are junk reports from prominent newsy websites that are based on obvious misreadings of the files in question. There is Clinton campaign and Democratic party spin seeking to distract from the content of the published emails. There is Trump campaign and Republican party spin exaggerating the content and import of what has been revealed by the leaked documents. And so on. In this article, we'll provide a bit of context on the leak itself, cover some examples of how it is being exploited by hoaxsters, how it is helping to reveal the incompetence of newsy sources of information, and how it is playing out within the context of the presidential campaign itself. We'll conclude with some tips on how to sift through the bullshit.

Big Brother In Mother Russia: Putin's New Anti-Terror Bill Wants ALL The Data

Oh, Vlad.  Just when the rest of the world is getting really good at pretending we want to value human rights and raise awareness, you have to go and sign into law an anti-"terrorism" bill so rights-infringey, even some of the pro-Kremlin crowd thinks it goes too far…


Big Comrade is watching you...
(Image courtesy thetimes.co.uk.)

Independence Day For The Internet! New U.N. Resolution Expands E-Freedoms

Congratulations!  If you are reading this right now, you are exercising one of the most recently-expanded universal human rights!  As of July 1st, by order of the United Nations, access to the internet (which had been considered a basic human right since 2011) has been supported even more thoroughly by the organization, who condemned any “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.”

In grand internet tradition, a cat meme seemed the best way to celebrate.
(Image courtesy funnyjunk.com.)

Fighting Trump Fans On Twitter? There's A Bot For That

The 2016 presidential election for the United States has already been weird, dirty, and unsettling, as any form of major or minor media will be happy to inform you of. Now, a chatbot posing as a Donald Trump fan (or foe?) has only added fuel to the fanatical fire…

Yell all you want at the AI Trump supporter...
like the hair of the Don, it is ultimately unflappable.
(Image courtesy play.google.com.)

A New Don: "Yuuuge"-ly Popular App Lets Players Build Trump's Wall

The race for the presidency of the United States is heating up, with vitriol, intrigue, and computer "warfare" the likes of which society has never seen.  Hillary Clinton has spent millions trying to convince shills to talk her up online and detract from her opponents (all while playing ignorant to a swath of computer crimes), while Bernie Sanders has crowdfunded a surprisingly vibrant support network via his online followers.

However, it is the nimbly adaptable Donald Trump who has used modern technology to encompass a uniquely strong spectrum, beginning with developing an oddly-enthusiastic contingent of "alt-right" supporters who create memes and catchphrases to exult the admittedly-engaging rhetoric of "Make America Great Again."

And now, as any good leader of the future would have, there is an app that supports his vision.


Could this be the ticket to resolving decades of lax leadership?
Or is an app just the start of more political games?
(Image courtesy twitter.com.)


New "Greenhouse" Plug-In Exposes Corporate Political Pay-Outs

It's been a running joke for some time that American politicians should wear advertising logos, a'la racecar drivers, to indicate which corporations they are shilling for.  Despite this idea not yet rising to prominence, now, there's an easier way to tell who (and how much) has been paid to play in politics.


Usually when teenagers say "Greenhouse", weed is somehow involved.
Surprisingly, not this time.
(Image courtesy welikeit.fr.)


Bullets, Bomb Blasts, and Barbeque: Top Tech For Independence Day!

Alright, look.  It's the 4th of July weekend in America right now, and we are gonna celebrate some freedom in the manner that befits us best...mayhem.

America the Beautiful...bless it with fire!
(Image courtesy pinterest.com.)


Nothing to Hide: Privacy and Surveillance in New York City

"If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of." This is perhaps the most well known slogan of anti-privacy advocates and would-be totalitarians the world over. At one and the same time, this simple statement both criminalizes the practice of privacy while excusing some of the most heinous attacks on the rights and liberties of individuals by governments and corporations.

Of course, the notion that "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of" is absurd on its face, at least in any society that is predicated upon the civilizational principle separating the public and private spheres. Perhaps the simplest way to undermine this dangerous idea is to ask some rather simple questions of those who espouse it. For example: What is your name? What is your Social Security Number? What is your bank account number? What is the password to your main email account?

Recently, we decided to head out onto the streets of New York City with actor and comedian Adrian Sexton to ask folks if they agreed with the statement "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of." And if they answered in the affirmative, we then asked them to provide us with rather sensitive information. Some of the replies were rather surprising. Check it out below:

We See What You Did There: Edward Snowden Given Human Rights Award By Sweden

While the United States remains steadfast in putting Edward Snowden in the "whistleblower spy" archive of history, other nations consider his efforts a laudable fight against the subtle tyranny of the surveillance state.  This week in Sweden, Snowden was awarded the Right Livelihood award, a humanitarian recognition of his work to free Americans (and others) from the zoo of Big Brother's surveillance amusement.

And we, in good conscience, shouldn't let them.
(Image courtesy garymvasey.files.com.)

According to the Guardian UK, Snowden was not physically able to attend the ceremony, as he considered it a threat to his safety (he is wanted on charges under the Espionage Act in the United States, whose notorious record of "renditions" would have rightly worried Snowden.)  However, he spoke with the committee via teleconference from Moscow, where he is currently living in exile.  In a show of solidarity for Mr. Snowden's deplorably alienated circumstances, none of his family members would accept the award in his absence, noting only that someday Snowden himself should be able to do so.

Informed and angry.  He's not wrong.
(Image courtesy reddit.com.)

The award jury noted that Snowden was being commended “for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights."

No one cares you have nothing to hide.  Something can be used against you.
(Image courtesy car-memes.com.)

President Barack Obama, who did not comment on Snowden's award, had previously campaigned with a strong intent to protect American whistleblowers.


They spelled Obama's name wrong, but everything else about this is sadly correct.
(Image courtesy csnbbs.com.)



This Message Will Self-Destruct: CIA and Homeland Security Seek To Officially Destroy Thousands Of Emails

When you delete your emails, it's likely just to remove clutter, liberating your inbox from constant coupons, ads, e-pleas, etc.  But when the CIA and Homeland Security want to delete emails, considerably more eyebrows are raised.

According to engadget.com, two of our most totally-not-shady Big Brother organizations want to delete all of their emails that are seven years or older, as well as the emails of all CIA employees who have been retired for 3 years.  A plan of action was shown to the National Records and Archives Administration (NARA) that indicated this intent, with only 22 top officials' correspondence to survive the digital culling.

History now seems to be written by the digital winners.
(Image courtesy news.yahoo.com.)

For two organizations who thrive on intelligence (one where it's in the very title of the company), this seems like a bad idea.  Numerous senators, including Dianne Fenstien (D-CA), are actively opposing this plan, fearing the expunging of evidence.

The motion was made by the CIA as part of an effort to help streamline its email collection for better management, a mission that NARA had asked of all government agencies to figure out a plan for.  Homeland Security's excuse was that it would free up valuable server space ($50 a terabyte per month) and that deletion could also possibly thwart the intended intelligence-gathering of Einstein, their government-website traffic-tracker.

They can stash endless info on regular citizens, but heaven forbid their own emails get retained.
(Artwork by Will Varner / Image courtesy twistedsifter.com.)

While this would be a win for private privacy, the overarching scope of government intel is something that people don't want to be able to simply vanish like so many extraordinary renditions before it.

Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Gizmodo, "It's kind of sad. I want to applaud the government for choosing to discard unnecessary data about people. But we have good reason to question the government's reasons because of what we've learned about what we've NOT been told."

If you think the government shouldn't be doing the modern equivalent of shredding countless files and burning the confetti, you can tell NARA right here.

Uh...thanks but no thanks.
(Image courtesy reanimatedresidue.wordpress.com.)

Congressman Rogers: Google Being Unpatriotic For Halting Pro-NSA Bill

"Unpatriotic" is the new "communism" when it comes to slinging mud, and Congressman Mike Rogers has gotten down and dirty on Silicon Valley.

Heavily insinuating that companies like Google and Microsoft were acting unpatriotically for their disapproval of the FISA bill (which did not go far enough enacting measures that would prevent the NSA from broadly expanding its powers of espionage over the internet), Rogers tried to rationalize things in terms of money, like a good politician.

According to www.techdirt.com, Rogers was quoted at a CIA conference on national security, saying, "One sixth of our economy now, is through the internet! One sixth! So this notion that we're all going to say "well the government should do nothing and just completely keep away" -- and I'm not for regulation, by the way, that's not what I mean, but I mean in some way to... to help defend these private networks or allow them to defend themselves -- if we don't get it right, one-sixth of our economy is going to go away. Like that (*snaps*). If every time you turn it on, you lose money, how many times are you going to turn it on and use the internet for commerce? You're not!"

Hypocritically, in the same speech, Rogers had previously attacked the Silicon Valley companies' ethics due to their discreetly-worded rebuttal of the FISA bill.  The companies had rejected the bill citing worries over losses of European profits. As in, Europe would be smart enough to immediately distrust this bill, despite incompetents like former Congressman Rogers (who is retiring to become a talk-radio bloviator) trying to pull the wool over peoples' eyes.


Congressman Repays Official ISP Bribes with Sweetheart Bill

Don't say you're surprised.  Ars Technica has the gory details:
US Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) on Wednesday filed legislation that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from attempting to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility.
It probably won't surprise you that Internet service providers have enthusiastically given money to this congressman. As we reported in our May 16 story "Bankrolled by broadband donors, lawmakers lobby FCC on net neutrality," Latta received $51,000 from cable company interests in the two-year period ending December 2013.

Congress Pretends to Curb Illegal and Unconstitutional Wiretapping Program

The Democratic and Republican parties are among the greatest threats to the people and Constitution of the United States.  From Wired:

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would end the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records. Unfortunately, it may not end the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records.
The House voted 303 to 121 Thursday in favor of the USA Freedom Act, broad legislation aimed at reforming the NSA’s surveillance powers exposed by Edward Snowden. The central provision of the bill, which now moves on to debate in the Senate, is intended to limit what the intelligence community calls “bulk” collection–the indiscriminate vacuuming of citizen’s phone and internet records. But privacy advocates and civil libertarians say last-minute changes to the legislation supported by the White House added ambiguous language that could essentially give the NSA a broad loophole through which it can continue its massive domestic data collection.

FCC Caves to Corporate Masters of the Democratic and Republican Parties

Anyone who expected a group of Democrats and Republicans to do anything other than continue to carry water for their corporate overlords on this issue, as with all other issues, seriously needs to have their head examined. From the Washington Post:
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted in favor of advancing a proposal that could dramatically reshape the way consumers experience the Internet, opening the possibility of Internet service providers charging Web sites for higher-quality delivery of their content to American consumers.
The plan, approved in a three-to-two vote along party lines, could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming.
The proposal is not a final rule, but the vote on Thursday is a significant step forward on a controversial idea that has invited fierce opposition from consumer advocates, Silicon Valley heavyweights, and Democratic lawmakers. The FCC will now open the proposal to a total 120 days of public comment. Final rules, aimed for the end of the year, could be rewritten after the agency reviews the public comments.
Again, supporting the Democratic or Republican parties in any way, shape or form is effectively tantamount to declaring oneself in active opposition to the most basic interests, rights and liberties of the people of the United States. 

Unintended Consequences of the Snowden Leak

In the aftermath of the Snowden NSA leak last year, supporters of the National Security Police State and Surveillance Society in the Republican and Democratic parties quickly ran to the media arguing that the leak represented a grave threat to national security because it would potentially reveal sensitive intelligence sources and methods.  It is now being reported by the WSJ that, in response to the Snowden leaks, Al Qaeda have changed up their crypto protocols and rolled their own encryption software.  And the uninformed  responses from the professional hysterics in the media and blogosphere are not hard to find.  Take some guy named Bob Cesca at the Daily Banter, for example. He writes:
So this is just peachy. I’ve always been very, very cautious to not over-emphasize the general scope of the terrorist threat, but this has more to do with stupidly and recklessly helping the ones that are out there, and it appears as if Snowden & Company have done precisely that.
What this reveals is that Bob Cesca doesn't know the first thing about the basic tenets of cryptography. One of the first things anyone learns when doing the most rudimentary study of cryptography and cryptanalysis is that "home-brewed," closed source  cryptographic software is essentially broken by definition, since by definition it cannot be subjected to rigorous review.  This makes it easier to break.  So, ironically, by switching up their crypto, Al Qaeda are likely providing new attack vectors for intelligence agencies the world over.  And this is in fact the view of at least one actual expert in cryptography, Bruce Schneier, as opposed to the uninformed reactions of professional political whiners.  He writes:
The Web intelligence company Recorded Future is reporting -- picked up by the Wall Street Journal -- that al Qaeda is using new encryption software in the wake of the Snowden stories. I've been fielding press queries, asking me how this will adversely affect US intelligence efforts.
I think the reverse is true. I think this will help US intelligence efforts. Cryptography is hard, and the odds that a home-brew encryption product is better than a well-studied open-source tool is slight. Last fall, Matt Blaze said to me that he thought that the Snowden documents will usher in a new dark age of cryptography, as people abandon good algorithms and software for snake oil of their own devising. My guess is that this an example of that.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Project on Track in 2014

By L. Lawless 

With all of the earthly unpleasantry of the ever-encroaching surveillance state, it is nice to think that NASA is using its powers of sight to gaze upon the galaxy like never before. The James Webb Space Telescope, currently being completed at the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, is due to launch in 2018 and will use infrared capabilities to observe the universe from a gravitationally-stable location (known as the “L2” LaGrange point) 1.6 million kilometers away. However, fluctuating annual budget issues are putting the project (NASA’s most ambitious telescope launch since the Hubble) in possible jeopardy, with administrators worried that sequestration-induced budget cuts may further delay the launch (which at the time of the project’s conception had been slated for no later than 2011).

Currently at Goddard, several elements of the telescope are being prepared for testing in the facility’s cryogenic chamber, which simulates the environment of outer space by using liquid nitrogen to create a super-cooled sealed environment. The Fine Guidance Sensor, Mid-Infrared Instrument, Near Infrared Spectrograph and Near Infrared Camera will be subjected to Goddard’s thermal vacuum chamber this year in what may prove to be an expensive round of testing. Due to the necessity of continued testing for both the flight and engineering models of the telescope’s equipment, the Webb’s 2013 budget of $627.6 billion would not have been enough to continue to sustain the project as planned. However, thanks to sequestration negotiations and the White House’s interest in the telescope as a major space initiative, Congress recently granted the project $658.2 million for 2014. If further sequestration issues are not dealt with in the years to come, the volatility of the budget will force NASA to take money from other projects to assure the continued development of the Webb project.

The extremely sensitive thermal imaging cameras and optics must be extensively calibrated so that the telescope will have the capacity not just to identify planets, but to characterize their composition. The Webb’s primary optic (main mirror) is 6.5 meters across, and is comprised of 18 smaller hexagonal mirrors that will be folded into the nosecone of a rocket and then deployed once in space. Once in place, mirror calibration is made possible by small activators that can manipulate and hold the mirrors in place for weeks at a time (working as one unit, calibrated down to nanometers) in conditions that could reach -400C. The mirrors themselves are made of gold-coated beryllium substrate, which is optimum for maintaining stability in an unpredictable space environment. Concise testing of these elements is critical, as the mirrors and actuators must be calibrated down to billionths of a meter to achieve the project’s peak results. The Webb telescope will use its precise thermal imaging array not just to see and characterize planets, star formations, and various other phenomena through clouds of space dust, but also to examine remnants of light from the early universe that may lend clues as to the nature of space’s oldest galaxies.

Sources

Lee Lawless is a writer and musician living in New York City.

Obama Admin Proposes Overhaul of Illegal NSA Surveillance Programs

From the NYT:
The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.
Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.
Of course, these assertions by anonymous administration officials are less than worthless until we see the actual details of the proposal.  Anyone who's been paying attention should be quite amused by this trial balloon.  Remember, just a few months ago, the Democrats and Republicans were running around telling us that all this illegal surveillance was necessary to "protect" us from the "terrorists".  It is time to repeal the Patriot Act, which continues to provide the legal excuse for these unconstitutional encroachments on the rights and liberties of the people, and to remove the Democrats and Republicans from all public offices. 

Top Senate Witch Spooked by CIA

Senator Diane Feinstein of California is one of the most outspoken supporters of turning the United States into a totalitarian surveillance society.  Apparently, however, she only supports these policies when it is everyday folks whose rights are being trampled upon by the lawless spy agencies that are eroding our rights and liberties.  When it is her and the rest of the degenerate parasites in the Congress who are under the microscope, she appears to have a different view.  From CNN:
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee suggested Tuesday the CIA violated federal law by secretly pulling classified documents from her panel's computers during a staff probe of the spy agency's controversial detention and interrogation program.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein said CIA Director John Brennan told her in January that agency personnel searched the computers because they believed the panel's investigators might have gained access to materials on an internal review they were not authorized to see.
"The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or how we obtained it," Feinstein said in blistering remarks on the Senate floor. "Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee's computer."
Feinstein said that she had "grave concerns" the search may have violated federal law regarding domestic spying as well as congressional oversight responsibilities under the Constitution.
Note that Feinstein engaged in no such concern trolling to defend the people's rights against unlawful search and seizure when they are routinely violated by the federal government.  Throw this witch to the curb. 

Policy Makers Likely Even More Ignorant Than the Public on Tech Security Matters

The other day, we poked some fun at the US public for ignorance of basic tech-related terminology.  Much more serious, however, is the depth of ignorance and incompetence common among public officials who hold sway over cyber-policy decisions.  Whether it is a "cybersecurity" official who doesn't know what an ISP is, a judge who doesn't understand  email or a technophobic luddite who controls the Department of Homeland Security . . .  these people's ignorance actually puts the public at large in danger, and represent real threats to our security not to mention our civil liberties.  Of course, one would not expect anything less from the Democrats and Republicans.  From the Guardian:
One of the world’s leading cyberwarfare experts has warned of the damaging lack of government literacy in cybersecurity issues, pointing out that some senior officials don’t know how to use email, and that one US representative about to negotiate cybersecurity with China asked him what an “ISP” was. . . .

Yet former head of US homeland security Janet Napolitano once told Singer. “Don’t laugh, but I just don’t use email at all,” Singer recalled. “It wasn’t a fear of privacy or security - it’s because she just didn’t think it was useful. A supreme court justice also told me ‘I haven’t got round to email yet’ - and this is someone who will get to vote on everything from net neutrality to the NSA negotiations.”

Obama himself, Singer said, had expressed concern that the complexity of the issue was overwhelming policy makers.
Ignorance hiding behind complexity.  I'm sure they'll find a way to simply it for themselves while making the rest of us less secure and less free at the same time.  Win/win from their end, I suppose.  

Europe Considers Digital Independence

From the Register:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has lent her support to the idea of building
out new European data networks to help keep Europeans' email and other data out of the hands of US spies.
In the latest edition of her weekly podcast on Saturday, Merkel said she planned to raise the issue among other topics in a meeting with French President Fran├žois Hollande this week.
"We'll talk, above all, about which European suppliers we have that provide security for the citizens," Merkel said, speaking in German, "that they need not cross the Atlantic with their emails and other things, but we can also build communications networks within Europe."