Tag: republicans

Republicans vote to end US internet privacy

US Republicans cheerfully voted to allow the big telcos and ISPs to spy on consumers and flog their personal details to the highest bidder.

The US House voted on Tuesday 215-205 to repeal regulations needing internet service providers to do more to protect customers’ privacy.

The White House said President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump strongly supports the repeal of the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama.

The rules forced internet providers to ask consumer consent before using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history for advertising and marketing.

Last week, the Senate voted 50-48 to reverse the rules in a win for AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications who paid a lot of money to get their Tame Republican candidate’s elected.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement praised the decision of Congress to overturn “privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favoured companies over another group of disfavoured companies”.

Last week, Pai said consumers would have privacy protections even without the Obama internet provider rules, but most sane people think that you must be smoking something to believe that is true.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it is not rocket science to work out that companies “should not be able to use and sell the sensitive data they collect from you without your permission”.

One critic of the repeal, Craig Aaron, president of Free Press advocacy group, said major Silicon Valley companies shied away from the fight over the rules because they make so much dosh from flogging consumer data.

“There are a lot of companies that are very concerned about drawing attention to themselves and being regulated on privacy issues, and are sitting this out in a way that they haven’t sat out earlier privacy issues,” Aaron said.

One amusing side effect of the story is that interest in VPNs in the US is suddenly booming.

Republicans are destroying their emails

tumblr_m3cujpo5xc1qz4ar6o1_500US republicans are trying to avoid their embarrassing emails being found by hackers or foreign powers by using an app that destroys them after they have been read.

The messaging app is an encrypted, self-destructing messaging app called Confide and apparently it has been downloaded by “numerous senior GOP operatives and several members of the Trump administration”.

One operative told Axios that the app “provides some cover” for people in the party. He ties it to last year’s hack of the Democratic National Committee, which led to huge and damaging information dumps of DNC emails leading up to the 2016 election.

Confide makes it difficult to screenshot messages, because only a few words are shown at a time. That suggests that it’s useful not just for reducing paper trails, but for stopping insiders from leaking individual messages.

But the difficulty here is that it is probably illegal. As the Hillary Clinton scandal showed, messages have to be stored and monitored by government officials.

Encrypted message apps like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp apparently spiked in popularity after Trump’s election, and the Clinton campaign reportedly adopted Signal after the DNC hack was discovered.

Ironically the republicans say they want to clamp down on encryption and other similar security options so that they can spy on “terrorists.”

Zuckerberg to announce political advocacy group

28 year old Facebook boss mark Zuckerberg is rumoured to be heading into the murky world of political lobbying – co-organised with Harvard roommate Joe Green. It is expected the group will primarily be advocating immigration reform.

The group will, according to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, seek $50 million in capital before it lobbies for federal reform on topics including immigration and education. It has reportedly secured millions from LinkedIn top exec Reid Hoffman.

Its first task is tipped to be focusing on making US citizenship easier for immigrants, and it is also expected to be pushing education reform and pursuing science funding.

Bill Gates, the well regarded billionaire and philanthropist, has been busying himself with education reform too – in the guise of privatised services, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which in part lead to the Chicago Teacher’s Strike, the biggest strike of its kind in years.

Other figures rumoured to be involved in the group include some who have previously been close to Washington. Rob Jesmer was the former exec director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Joe Lockhart, Facebook’s ex communications veep, was a press officer for Bill Clinton, and Jon Lerner, a Republican strategist, are reportedly involved in the unnamed group the WSJ reports.

Zuckerberg has previously donated to Republican causes and has met with Barack Obama.

It is not uncommon for capital-rich business figures to involve themselves in advocacy, politics, or philanthropy with a political bent, as they use their money to allow them louder voices than the general electorate. 

CISPA resurrected, heading back to Congress

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, also known as CISPA, is back from the dead thanks to a couple of US lawmakers.

The bill was drafted to give US companies a bit more protection against lawsuits, by allowing them to collect and share more user data. The idea is that CISPA will help curb security threats, with the added benefit of undermining privacy.

Last year, the bill passed a House of Representatives vote, with a few guarantees that it would not grossly violate privacy rights, but violating them just a bit seems fine. However, the Senate refused to pass the bill, which has been stuck in legislative limbo ever since.

Now though, the unpopular bill is scheduled for a new vote. Venture Beat reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) will reintroduce CISPA this Wednesday. What’s more, the revamped bill is not the amended version which was not passed by the Senate, which means it is even worse than the first time around.

However, CISPA is facing strong opposition from privacy groups and activists. Non-profit group Fight for the Future has created a website listing contact information for each lawmaker who cosigned the last version of the bill, a list of companies that support the new bill and a few fun facts about the bill itself.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Mozilla, the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders and a host of other organisations and individuals have voiced concerns over CISPA so far and the list is set to expand. However, it does not seem very likely that the bill will have much luck on the Senate floor. Republicans, who control the House and tend to support CISPA, failed to seize control of the Senate in the 2012 election, so the outcome should be the same this time around, unless lobbyists did a very good job in the meantime.

Republicans fire advisor who spoke sense on copyright

US Republicans have fired an advisor who suggested a radical shift on its copyright policy.

Derek Khanna penned a paper which suggested that copyright law needed to be reformed because it was not in line with GOP policy on the free market. He pointed out that copyright controls were unbalanced in favour of the rights holder and needed to be changed.

It advocates several key reforms, including reducing copyright terms and limiting the draconian “statutory damages” that can reach as high as $150,000 per infringing work.

The paper was released and was swiftly retracted by the GOP, many of whom depended on Big Content money.

According to Ars Technica, the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives, told staffer Derek Khanna that he will be out of a job when Congress re-convenes in January.

The incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise, was approached by several Republican members of Congress who were upset that Khanna dared to stand up to Big Content when it was GOP policy to roll over and do what they were told.

But the memo was actually seen as a viable stance on copyright tech policy by scholars and public interests advocates. In fact it was actually seen as the GOP working to make itself electable among young voters and those who know anything about technology.

It looks like the Republicans still think that surrendering to Big Content and its cheque book is more likely to get them elected than sensible policies. 

US republicans getting silly about WoW

The US democratic party is getting so desperate to score political points that it is starting a witch hunt into how democratic candidates play the online game World of Warcraft.

A row has broken out in the State of Maine where a Democratic candidate has been told she should not me allowed to stand for office because she plays an Orc assassination rogue.

According to a press release, the Maine GOP attacked Lachowicz for a “bizarre double life.” Because in the popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft she’s “Santiaga,” an “orc assassination rogue” with green skin, fangs, a Mohawk and pointy ears.

She is running against incumbent state Senator Tom Martin in south-central Maine, a heavily Democratic district of about 80,000 people. Martin is the first Republican to hold the seat since the 1960s and the seat is one which could flip back.

Lachowicz has made no secret of her Orcish activities. She has blogged under her own name about her World of Warcraft achievements as well as what the US calls “left-wing politics” which the rest of the world would consider “conservative”.

The GOP quoted some of her Orcish lines from her posts including one on tax policy that concludes, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I may have to go and hunt down Grover Norquist and drown him in my bathtub”.

Martin claims it is nothing to do with him. He said he was unaware of the state Republican Party’s press release or Lachowicz’s hobby. He said that he deplores “mudslinging politics” and had nothing against people with pointy ears or Orcs in general.

Maine GOP, which is behind the whole thing, is unrepentant of its witch hunt. They do not think it is nice that people make comments about drowning Grover Norquist and stabbing things. Orcs are those sorts of things that roll across the border and steal American jobs. They are probably not Christians and favour eating babies.

They claim playing any game other that golf shows a shocking level of immaturity and poor judgement that voters should know about, Maine GOP party spokesman David Sorenson told Politico the fact she spends so much time on a video game says something about her work ethic and, again, her immaturity.

Not sure about that one. According to her website she also seems to spend her time running the school-based programmes for a statewide mental health centre. She’s the former Democratic Party chairwoman for her town and has served as vice chairwoman of the county party.

The move might actually backfire on the GOP which is starting to look petty, mean and out-of-touch. Already the local democrats are rallying WoW players in the state to back her as a “a gamer who’s under attack.”

They are playing it as a similar situation to Clinton versus George Bush Sr where the elderly politician’s views on the evils of rock music made him a laughing stock amongst young people.

The party’s chairman, Ben Grant, got into the swing of things calling the attacks “a new low this year”.

What Google users think of Romney and Obama

As the US presidential campaign heats up, avoiding the never ending stream of sensationalist reporting is slowly becoming next to impossible. Pundits seem to be digging ever deeper, even bringing up Mitt Romney’s prep school exploits and Barack Obama’s rather interesting history with dogs in Kenya.

Thanks to ever shorter news cycles, most issues brought up in the campaign go unnoticed, or they are forgotten in a matter of days. However, since we don’t usually deal with politics, we will take a somewhat different approach. Surely, there must be a way of looking past the 24-hour news cycle and checking what is really on the public’s mind.

Google’s autocomplete feature seems to offer the answer. It does not have a reality TV attention span, it meticulously collects search histories and unlike most media outlets it is unbiased, yet pretty amusing. So what does Google think of Willard and Hussein?

Simply typing Mitt Romney in the search box comes up with a couple of interesting searches. Ranked first and second are Romney’s bio and wiki. The dog-on-roof incident ranks third and fifth. In case you don’t know what we are on about, well, Google it. Romney’s views rank fourth, Romney news came in sixth, while the seventh suggestion reads “Mitt Romney Mormon.” The last three are about his family and platform.

The top Obama suggestion is Twitter, the second is “Barack Obama call me maybe,” while his bio and wiki rank third and fourth. Interestingly, Obama’s “net worth” came in fifth and Birthers made sure that his birth certificate ranked sixth. The rest aren’t worth mentioning.

However, once you type “Barack Obama is” things tend to get a bit more interesting. Here’s the list.

Barack Obama “is”: An idiot, a Muslim, gay, the Antichrist, your new bicycle (?!), what number president, Osama bin Laden, a good president, a socialist, the devil.

If you thought Romney would fare any better, think again. This is his suggestion list.

Mitt Romney is: an idiot, Mexican, a tool, a Mormon, a douchebag, a liar, the Antichrist, evil, a serial killer, stupid.

Still, thing could be worse. At least Rick Santorum dropped out of the race.


White House to monitor extremism on social networking

The White House is dedicating a lot of time and money to monitor social not-working sites like Facebook and Twitter to find those who are “advancing violent extremist narratives”.

In a 12-page strategy from the White House seen by CNET, it promises to closely monitor the internet and social networking sites.

The federal government will start “helping communities to better understand and protect themselves against violent extremist propaganda, especially online.”

Most of the paper is focused on al Qaeda, which apparently is on the “brink of collapse”, but now it seems that the US has finally worked out that all the headjobs it allows to carry guns are more of a threat. There are domestic terrorists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic groups, religions nutcases, Apple fanboys and other groups that promote radicalisation around strange ideas.

However, there is still a Christian fundamentalist current in the US Senate which wants to use such technology to deal with Muslim radicals rather than focusing on others which might have links to the ever loving Bejesus.

They do not want the government to investigate those far right groups and gun carrying Christian militias that are waiting to fight the anti-Christ, and are quite happy to blow up welfare buildings while they wait.

One Republican, Michael McCaul, said it was important to investigate the radicalisation of Muslim youth in the United States which is a threat to Homeland Security.

He claimed that there are 36 Americans who have left the United States, mostly from Minnesota, to join forces in Somalia, to receive training under al-Shabaab, to receive training by Al Qaida and Anwar al-Awlaki. We are not sure why Minnesota is just a hotbed of terrorism – maybe looking at Facebook can tell us.

McCaul is certain that al-Awlaki is the “emerging threat”. He is radicalising Muslim youth over the internet “here in the United States,” McCaul claimed.

But not everyone in the US wants to purge the country of Muslims, nor wants to give Homeland Security too much power to monitor their Facebook accounts.

There is some fear that this White House announcement may signal that monitoring of social networks will broaden beyond the U.S. Department of Homeland Security already does. Already Homeland Security has said that its spooks were permitted to create accounts on social-networking sites.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation unearthed documents showing that DHS officials were sending “friend” requests to people applying for US citizenship.

The CIA uses hardware called Visible Technologies, which monitors millions of posts on social-networking websites. Tax collectors are using social notwork monitoring to get those who brag about not paying tax.

All up, things are starting to look like that revolution for Freedom appears to be going West. 

US Republicans spend fortune trying to kill Duffy video

The US Republican party is doing its level best to kill off a video that it posted on YouTube.

The video shows United States Representative Sean Duffy moaning about how he is “struggling” to get by on his $174,000 salary. Given that this is the bloke who demanded that all public employees take a paycut because the state can’t afford to pay them, the video makes him look like a rich brat who does not really understand the concept of money.

Polk County Republicans tried to pull the video from YouTube, but unfortunately it was copied by shedloads of others who do not really like Duffy much.

Now the GOP is spending a fortune on lawyers to stop anyone else from republishing the video. It insists that no one else can republish the video without their permission, even though they originally released the video on YouTube for the whole world to see.

So far they have managed to get the video pulled from some sites, but one, called Talking Points  Memo believes the GOP has no case and has decided to keep the video up on its web page.

Duffy’s congressional salary is over three times that of the average public employee in Wisconsin, and over five times that of an average worker in Wisconsin.

He moans that he has to spend $600 a month on health care and contribute toward his pension plan. Duffy claimed he is struggling because he has six children, a mortgage, and student loans.

The quote is:

“I can guarantee you, or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I’m living high on the hog, I’ve got one paycheque. So I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I’m not living high on the hog.”

Of course some of his debt problems would be solved if he flogged that second home he owns. He might also have been better off investing in contraception rather than children. We suspect that there are a few Republicans that are wishing their boy’s mum had also invested in contraception.

*EyeSee David Icke said that the GOP is trying to breed alien lizards to take over the world.  Lizards get paid more than humans.

Truthy uncovers Republican "astroturfers" plaguing Twitter

The Indiana University website which aims to root out social network-based political ‘astroturfing’ campaigns reckons it’s struck paydirt.

The Truthy.indiana.edu website combines data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing to review political memes, and has been searching for deceptive tactics and misinformation in the run-up to the US November 2 mid-term elections.

The most blatant example unearthed by the website so far is the Twitter account @PeaceKaren_25. While concealing its ownership identity, it has generated more than 10,000 tweets since the end of June, say the researchers.

Another account, @HopeMarie_25, was created 10 minutes later and also has a concealed owner identity. This retweets all tweets from @PeaceKaren_25 while producing no original tweets of its own.

“The names and behaviors of the two accounts suggest that they are colluding and are most likely controlled by the same entity,” says IU professor Filippo Menczer. “We do not know if these are bots or human-bot hybrids.”

Almost all of the 20,000-odd tweets from the two accounts support Republican candidates, especially US House GOP leader John Boehner.

They frequently include links to various websites supporting GOP candidates, as well as Boehner’s website gopleader.gov, his Facebook page and blogs, and the gop.gov website for Republicans in Congress.

“Both accounts promote the same targets, while the second account also promotes the first account,” Menczer said. “This is very clever and hard to catch automatically because it looks real.”

The team’s also identified several other suspicious bot accounts, each of which has hundreds, and in some cases thousands of re-tweeting followers. They appear to violate Twitter account rules, which state that “mass account creation may result in suspension of all related accounts.”

One is a website that displays pro-Sarah Palin and anti-Muslim propaganda.

“Most of the tweets originate from one account, @GoRogueRunSarah, which has generated over 15,000 tweets,” says graduate student Michael Conover.

To avoid detection by Twitter, duplicate tweets are cleverly disguised by adding different hashtags or subtly tweaking the web addresses, says the team.

And Menczer says he knows exactly who’s responsible.

“Most of the bot accounts in this network can be traced back to Bill and Paul Collier from Pennsylvania, who also run the Freedomist.com website,” he says.