Thursday, April 25, 2013

Social Media Influence — Sock Puppets and Government Trolls (reposted from Roundtree)

Go ahead…. read the want ad below from a unspecified government agency. Does it sound like the job might be just a little off the beaten path, even for the government?
Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information. The daily rotation of the user s IP address prevents compromise during observation of likely or targeted web sites or services, while hiding the existence of the operation.
The job described above is something that would have been completely alien 5 years ago. In some ways, it’s also a testament to the start of a new era in society. The age of social media, of  interconnections of people that transcend physical boundaries. Networked social consciousness and opinions. Even if you don’t take the political power of social media seriously, you can rest assured that governments are.
The applicant securing this job would be in charge of something called “persona management software.” Such a technology allows single individuals to command virtual armies of fake, digital “people” across numerous social media portals. Known as “Sock Puppets”, they’re virtual creations that appear online as actual people in the social media world including background information that completes the picture.
A single person may be able to manipulate these personalities, whether it is 50 or a 100 different personae, and view the interaction in real time. Creating or skewing information, developing alliances or destroying credibility. A new battlefront in the war of world opinion, shaping the hearts and minds of the unsuspecting.
Several operations are in process as this post is being written. One particular past operation was designed to influence opinion in the Iraq and Afghanistan war, with 200 million dollars allocated to CENTCOM for something called “Operation Earnest Voice.”
In testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March last year, General David H Petraeus stated….
“OEV is the critical program of record that resources our efforts to synchronize our information operations activities, to counter extremist ideology and propaganda, and to ensure that credible voices in the region are heard.  OEV provides CENTCOM with direct communication capabilities to reach regional audiences through traditional media as well as via websites and regional public affairs blogging. In each of these efforts, we follow the admonition we practiced in Iraq, that of trying to be “first with the truth.”
Social media is indeed rapidly shaping up to be one of the forefronts of political activity. One just has to look at the role of Tweeting, Facebook, and other social media in some of the revolutions that have occurred in the Middle East, and in particular, Egypt.
The recent incident between HBGary Federal and ANONYMOUS revealed some information about using social media and forming a “corporate information reconnaissance cell” with discussions of tactics such as creating online personas to infiltrate activist Web sites and planting false information to embarrass U.S. Chamber Watch and other groups.
In addition, the security firms would use powerful computer software for trolling and to access personal information. There is no doubt that social information is being mined for patterns and actively steered in directions unknown to the unsuspecting user.
For example, in about 30 minutes I was able to find a database of personal information of approximately 100 million Facebook users that I could download and use.
If information is power, then Social Media is immense power… networked.
Other countries as well are getting into the act of trolling and sock puppets to influence public opinion. Israel has announced that it is setting up a network of bloggers to combat websites deemed “problematic” and trying to change opinions on issues such as the Palestinian occupation and its Middle East policies.
As reported by Haaretz Daily, the Israeli Immigrant Absorption Ministry, Erez Halfon, announced they were setting up an “army of bloggers,” to be made up of Israelis who speak a second language, to represent Israel in “anti-Zionist blogs” in English, French, Spanish and German.
With all this influence and deception running parallel with the growth of social media, one might be wary of whom they’re commenting with and sending messages back and forth to.
They may just be talking to one of the new “ghosts in the machine”, created especially for your group in hopes of influencing your opinions on everything from the wars in the Middle East to the Koch Brothers. That annoying troll on your Facebook thread might actually be a government-sponsored propaganda tool.
Oh…. these are dark days indeed. If you can’t trust your computer,  just whom can you trust?

Reposted from: Social Media Influence — Sock Puppets and Government Trolls

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Soldier relives infamous WikiLeaks video

Photo courtesy of SWR

By KB723


It was the video that put WikiLeaks on the map: "Collateral Murder" turned the tide of war in Iraq and landed Private first class Bradley Manning in military detention. But for Army veteran Ethan McCord, it was just another day on duty.

"The helicopters were approximately a mile and a half away and they were zooming in on these guys," McCord recalls to RT's Meghan Lopez. "And looking at it now you obviously can't see anything."

The whistleblower website released the video on April 5, 2010, and instantly made international headlines by exposing what the War in Iraq really meant to some. The clip in question, taken from camera affixed to an Apache helicopter flown by US troops, showed Americans opening fire on civilians and journalists.

"That right there is obviously a camera dangling if you really pay attention," McCord says of one person caught on film. "That guy has an AK-47 right there," of another.

McCord was patrolling a volatile part of Baghdad on July 12, 2007 with the 216th Battalion when his colleagues started shooting. "I was about five blocks away, four or five blocks away to the left of the screen... this was a battalion wide mission," he recalls.

Upon the sound of heavy gunfire, McCord and his infantry squad began running towards the scene to provide support. Once again, though, the Apache unloaded. By the time McCord arrived, the helicopter guns were quiet and most of those on the scene were dead.

"One guy's head was off, the top of his head was completely off and his brains were on the ground and the smell, the smell still haunts me every day. I don't know how to describe it," he says.

Then when McCord approached a van targeted by the airstrike, he heard a noise he wasn't expecting: the cry of a little girl.

"I think she was four years old and you could tell she had a wound to the stomach and I remember her looking at me and the blood around her eyes made her eyes so ghostly," he says.

McCord grabbed the girl and ran her into a nearby building. There he picked the glass out of her eyes so she could blink and handed her off to a medic.

"I went back outside and we were told to take pictures and so I started taking pictures of the van," he says.

Then he discovered another child.

"That's me right there," McCord tells Lopez as he walks her through the now infamous "Collateral Murder" clip. "That is a little boy that I originally thought was dead."
Despite their injuries, the children survived. Part of Ethan McCord, though, changed forever.

"I couldn't stop myself from crying," he says.

McCord sought out mental health afterward, and says he was mocked by his commanders and threatened with expulsion from the military.

"And that's when I started drinking," he says. "And the mental health [doctor] had given me prescriptions: 13 prescriptions."
Things got worse, though, and McCord began imagining the worse. Routine daydreams turned to fantasies about killing own children and everyone around him. In response, he tried to end his life.

"I had already begun drinking pretty heavily and I downed all of the pills and I drank a fifth of Crown Royal at 10 o'clock in the morning and my wife at the time found me and called the ambulance," he says.

After trying to take his own life, McCord was dismissed from the military. "Kicked out with no disability, no benefits from the Army whatsoever," he says.

Then McCord moved to Wichita, Kansas and attempted suicide again.

"I actually wrote a poem right before I did it. Right before I put the gun in my mouth," he says.

"I don't know if I really want to talk about it. It was really bad."
Ethan McCord's story is tragic, but he is not alone. Thousands of veterans suffer from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For those who can't handle the stress, many have taken their own lives. They were fathers and brothers, soldiers and sons, and now they are just another casualty in American wars abroad. In the past two years alone, McCord has lost eight of his veteran brothers to suicide — and his own outlook on life hasn't exactly improved either.

"I know that I will never, ever, ever get better," he says. "I will never get over this."

For the world, the "Collateral Murder" video was another black mark on an unpopular war. For Ethan McCord, though, it was a catalyst that made him question the entire purpose of the war.

"You know America, we were John Wayne, we were wearing the white hat. Americans were always trying to help people, that's what we do, we try to spread freedom and democracy," he says. "With the barrel of a gun."

History will be the ultimate determinant for how the Iraq War is viewed, but for Ethan McCord and so many soldiers suffering from post-war stress, the future is far and the past is too much to cope with.

"It does concern me that many more will be returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, I will be Happy they are home as their families will be Happy as well... My Biggest concern is: Will our government look after these soldiers suffering from PTSD, so far they have not done much for our Veterans, I am adding a story from another I posted a week or two ago that a fellow poster gave me the link to, it is my Hope that our Elected Officials will do more to assist our returning Veterans!!!"   Embarrassed

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why Social Security & Medicare Are NOT in Crisis

I've borrowed this from the Mosquito Cloud blog (Please leave any comments that site):

Dean Baker and many other, more honest liberal economists, have been pointing out that SocSec is not currently suffering a crisis, and that since it doesn’t add a penny to the deficit it should never have become part of the deficit reduction hysteria. The same economists admit that Medicare does have funding problems, yet few have focused on the solutions. Perhaps the problems and solutions have more to do with framing the issues at hand. Into this framing breach steps Jack Rasmus and in plain spoken, non econo-jargonesque language, easily understandable by the least educated peon, presents a perspective and solutions which I feel are broadly populist, progressive, and could sway a vast swathe of  even “Hands off My Medicare” teapublicans to reassess their incongruous conceits.
Please, if you feel as I do, spread the link to this Vid and use Jack’s framing, arguments and stats to fight back.
Why Social Security & Medicare Are NOT in Crisis
Jack Rasmus [Union lawyer/economist] exposes the lies perpetrated by Politicians and Media about the financial state of Social Security and Medicare today. He offers alternative small tax changes that would instead lower the retirement age, increase retirement benefits, fully fund Medicare Part B and D, and create a surplus to pay for Medicare for All (Universal, Single Payer Health Care). He explains how neither of these programs, nor the country itself, are broke but that trillions of dollars are instead being hoarded by the rich and corporations, who are trying to make retirees pay for the economic crisis and deficits created by the wealthy.
Dr. Jack Rasmus Presentation to the Progressive Democrats of America, San Francisco, February 28, 2013 (36 min 13 sec) - SS, Medicare, and Fiscal Cliff realities and alternatives

Neutral principle defined

Purveyor is busy writing his next column where, I trust, he will address some of your concerns. I'm pretty sure he is tired of explaining, "neutral principle" (NP) over and over again. While we wait, as Purvy's neutral principle disciple, I'm here to explain and defend NP. As the last thread has become a gun toting, boot kicking, weapons, orgasm fest, I've started a new post. Purvy's own words from previous conversations:
Neutral Principle is a philosophy, an applied philosophy! When I was an undergraduate I was so dissatisfied with the way philosophy was taught, I organized my own 3 credit course, whereby WE, the group/students read the great philosophers and related those lessons to current political and legal events. It was the most fulfilling class ever and I went on to teach seminars based on that format. NP urges the adherent, so to speak, to practice in their personal lives what they promote in their political and legal lives: "I will not lie, cheat nor steal."

Curiously, those demands can be found in Poly-theism, Christianity, Judaism, etc. NP starts with the reasoned, the ethical and coincidentally, serves the religious, emotional and moral inclination.

NP is PROCESS! The consistent and honest application of process. [removed] NP is NOT a catch all for every problem, particularly international problems, maybe someday, but not now as moral and ethical considerations very widely across international boundaries. Furthermore, moral and ethical values are all to often used as a ruse, a surreptitious, deceitful way for one nation/society to get what it wants, morality and ethics be damned?
And: of my favorite analogies...

Back in 1990, a Court case "Colorado v. Hill" determined that a woman entering a health clinic has a right to "bubble or zone of protection." The principle being that a protester in close proximity, (10 or so feet) can arguably be threatening. Furthermore, free speech is coincidentally protected as the protester(s) can still be heard and/or display any placards or signs from "10 or so feet," or across the street. Effectively, there are two competing rights at issue and sans moral relativism, how does society deal with such?

Judge St Joan, applied principle in her decision, NOT her own moral predilection, rather she protected both the individual as well as the abstraction of free speech?

Now, "the other shoe drops"... What about a "scab" crossing a picket line? Shouldn't a strike breaker be accorded the same principles--a ten foot "zone of protection" just like the woman entering a clinic? Again, coincidentally the striker's freedom of speech is protected, HENCE, principle, "neutral principle" is the basis for legal reason?

OUCH! I have presented this dilemma to many people and depending on one's moral-political inclination, can cause dissonance! But, that's NP! Moreover, the phrase "pro-choice" is not only about abortion, it's about a philosophy! For millennia, the "Divine Right of Kings," made our choices for us, then came the "enlightenment" and the "American Experiment." Somewhere along the way Karl Marx made the scene, while at the same time America began to lose her principles? We need to find those lost "principles?

I firmly believe that NP is what the Founders envisioned, but not necessarily by those words?

I see neutral principle as a set of principles or philosophy derived from first principles in a logical and consistent manner. In the US, those first principles would be our Constitution. It's the "logical and consistent manner" that is so lacking in today's mainstream parties. Each party has it's platform and then contorts the Constitution and the rule of law to justify its position.

Any questions, boys and girls?