Over the past year, we seem to be fixated on Russia and political collusion or electoral ties of foreign influence. A bulk of the conversation seems to focus on Facebook or other social media outlets as the center point of false news. I can only step back into time and think about when Obama was a candidate for President and used social media to get voters motivated. It was a different tactic that worked. On the other hand, there were much libelous conversations and accusations that Obama was a Muslim and possibly not American. Credible news sources, even today, redistribute conversations based on social media feeds and introduce that as a news segment rather it be entertainment or editorial coverage. The point is that news sources have contributed without much fact-finding to false news. At this point, it would be hard-pressed to blame Russia or any foreign government that they are ultimately responsible. At least with a news story, there is a journalistic standard to retract or publish a correction. The internet does not allow retraction because it becomes a trend of an unstoppable train of misinformation.
Long ago I have said that Facebook is a dangerous company with an addiction for numbers rather than quality. Today Facebook appears to be the hot topic of Washington politics. Instead, what does Facebook do to speak before Congress? It sends its lawyers instead of its CEO. But lets not just throw Facebook under the bus. It is fair to say that local news media outlets are just as responsible for allowing fake news or facilitates bias and misinformation. Take a look at any local news website and take notice of the public comment section. It is usually filled with hate speech and equally disturbing information. Sure, its community based but the rhetoric distracts from the actual news coverage towards community conversations. That is not news. That is creating an entertainment value that distorts real news to essentially become misleading news – because it’s on its website. Such comments are no different than Facebook or any other social media site.
First, Facebook is not our news source as some would like to insinuate. Television media is not really a news source either as we would like to think it is. Television regardless if its Fox News or CNN has its own bias and spin. Real reporting is old fashioned journalism where a story develops and progresses based on the facts allowing the reader to decide or speculate. Newsprint will enable us to be educated on the facts and allows constructive dialog by editors and those that engage in a sensible and respectable level. Social media has very little respect value and sensibility.
Sometimes technology and flash news briefs don’t make us smarter. In fact, I argue that it makes it hard to distinguish what is factual versus what is not credible. Old fashioned newsprint and some bits of patience could potentially restore our credibility value and reduce the hyperbolic rhetoric that appears on social media and television newscasts each day in America. For the sake of quality news, it may be safe to say its a good idea to turn back the clock and reinvest in print media once again. At least we can learn a bit of patience and not be up to our ears in news overload.
Executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google appeared today before Congress to discuss issues of possible Russian election interference. What I learned from that discussion was that internet providers are not as transparent as they claim to be. It has been a long-standing unwritten policy that the internet will not be controlled by anyone or any company. What we perceptively learned today was that the big internet giants have an interest in revenues and public image. Naturally, they do not wish to be labeled as “controllers of free speech.” But what about television, mail adverts or newspaper media flyers. They are regulated by many rules and regulations, and the deliverables of that particular irregularity or false product could be held liable for distribution not to mention investigators will be serving search warrants and filling up evidence boxes for later court dates. Such false advertising or false production is similar to snake oil pitches. Eventually, the salesman and the product can be banned and criminally charged if it causes harm.
The internet can be a dangerous place. It does have a unique mystique about it, and the data it collects and shares can be compared to a diamond mine depending on how one desires to implement a plan. But the internet today is not the porn hub central that once was deemed the 1990’s deviant playground. Today, the internet has become a part of our connected world with ala carte news and home appliance device connectivity. This is a differing contrast to European and foreign markets that protect user information. The internet has become dangerous because we have created conditions for it to be hazardous. Without fundamental enforceable law and boundaries, we have allowed the internet to be policed by not companies and people but instead analytics and software. This is not to imply a conspiracy theory of artificial intelligence taking over the world. Alternatively, the implication is that software is not human enough to determine what is real versus what is not. But to take that argument a bit further, many Americans have difficulty in distinguishing between fake or credible.
Based on that little snippet of discovery it will be hard-pressed for any prosecutor to effectively rule on the Russian election hacking issue. Not because of evidence, but because of the complexities of election laws differing across state lines and internet data servers that typically reside outside the United States as a form of redundancy and backup qualities. Let’s not mix up collusion with election tampering. Collusion is a secretive path to data where tampering is a physical adulteration of data. But I think it is equally important to ask tech giants to disclose to government or a branch of oversight how it maintains its secretive or propriety paths. For example, today I performed a random search of Kevin Spacey and Anthony Rapp separately. What I quickly discovered was that Spacey had all the press information while Rapp had similar linkage. There was not one negative search story about Rapp to include alternative viewpoints or discussions. Why? Is it that analytics immediately point to what is deemed credible or is it what tech giants want us to read?
Overall, it is very complicated, and any legal ramifications about internet tampering will ultimately set a new precedent of how we or others police credible data. Another question to ask ourselves “does metadata exclude opposite viewpoints on purpose because it deems them as false?” This would be the argument I would introduce because not one blog or publication raised issues with Rapp. I am not attempting to slam Rapp. I am only using this as a prime example of how information seems adulterated and selectively scrubbed while searching for it.
The bottom line is that tech giants have an agenda and we the people are its product. Naturally, there won’t be much transparency from tech giants because that would remove a large slice of income and data collection from its grasp. Google, Facebook, and Twitter currently monopolize our data where we do not own ourselves or our privacy any longer. Until someone breaks up the monopoly or peels back the onion of these companies, we will continue to witness distortion and snake oil pitches that seem all too real. Perhaps the internet and another nation adulterated our recent election by creating emotional harm. At what point will it become perilous where many people die or are harmed because the internet has succeeded credible standards seemingly no longer used because it’s not technical or high speed sufficient?
Last week Kim Jong Nam, the son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was assassinated according to Malaysian police. Kim Jong Nam died shortly after two women put a substance on his face while he was checking in for a flight. Police have not said how the women were able to apply the nerve agent to Kim’s face and also avoid becoming ill themselves. The seeming contradiction of a poison that could kill him quickly but not sicken the attackers has stumped experts. A statement from the inspector general of police said that a preliminary analysis from the Chemistry Department of Malaysia identified the agent as “VX Nerve Agent.”
When I heard the news events regarding Kim Jong Nam I couldn’t help but think, “this is like a 007 film in real life.” The scary world of missile test launches just took a back seat causing the world to become a whole lot more terrifying. Just think for one moment that every bomb terror plot or dirty nuclear device that our nation heavily investigates and monitors now has to deal with a potential military grade nerve agent that can kill unmonitored within seconds. What makes this story interesting is that it was quickly administered with the potential to expose others in a public area such as an airport. Look for a moment at the diplomatic chaos it has stirred. Is Homeland Security prepared for this new threat both domestic and internationally? Maybe on paper, but perhaps not as prepared as we may think.
My question is, “was this a test of a new terrorism threat to airport security?” If so, how will airports or security experts deal with detecting nerve agents as a threat from public places? But another question is where did this nerve agent come from? It has been since the 1960’s since nerve agents were widely identified. Ask any soldier from the Cold War Era, and they will mention stories about Nerve Agent Treatment Autoinjector training scenarios. The threat was real until Congress banned nerve agents in 1972. 32,000 tons of nerve and mustard agents had already been dumped into the ocean waters off the United States. Currently, Russia stockpile of nerve agents is still available but lacks the money and resource to destroy it. Perhaps this is the footprint from where an international investigation should begin? But that is likely to occur due to the current relations between the United States and Russia.
I would suggest that Congress and the United Nations begin an accountability audit of nerve agent nation facilities immediately. This is not the time to point fingers at how the nerve agent was acquired or used. It is a time to place steps and practices, so this horrible event doesn’t escalate into a catastrophic incident. If I were the Director of the CIA, I would be concerned how a nation such as Malaysia has a military grade nerve agent on its land. What if this nerve agent was in a small container on a plane bound for the United States? Do we have the technology to intercept it? These are the questions that you and I should be concerned about.
For the life of me, I have been attempting to wrap my head around why Donald Trump is so interested in closer relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It doesn’t take a degree in economics to understand that we have no real trade ties with Russia. Trade ties between the U.S. and Russia are minuscule, to say the least. In fact, Russia and the U.S. are free to antagonize each other because they have very little to lose economically from deteriorated relations and we have nothing to trade one another with. I have not overheard a recent Russian conversation where some rich guy in Moscow has always wanted one of our illustrious Buick Lacrosse sedans. To make matters darker with humor, you won’t find many Russian kids asking for that new American game console. The truth may be that kids 12 and under in Russia already know how to hack those game consoles.
So why all the attention from Trump? It’s somewhat like a twisted secret love affair that I have no be let in on? To be perfectly candid Russia doesn’t need anything from the United States. The people of Russia currently don’t trust Americans, and most of its population find Americans lazy and lacking in imagination. For example, Russians point that American culture is lazy and outsources everything. They think we eat out a lot. The Russians may be right on that one. Then there is something like the Ice Bucket Challenge in the U.S. for ALS awareness. Russia has the ultimate ice challenge; they just get naked and jump into a frozen lake. I don’t think American laws and insurance industries will allow us to keep up with the Russians on that one. Americans on the other hand only think of caviar, vodka and winter fur hats about Russian culture. Perhaps we there is some truth about our imagination. We were once a nation where our sworn enemy was Russia. But we hardly know anything about the nation other than what the media and a few 1970’s based history classes teach us. But that doesn’t present any argument on why Trump seeks better relations with Russia? Perhaps the quest is to get to know one another? That is only my best guess. The U.S. and Russia are codependent partners of China. Both nations greatly depend on manufacturing from China. Perhaps that is another strategy to bring jobs back to American and Russia? Let’s wait and see on that one.
What personally find interesting is the similarities of Trump and Putin. They both are somewhat similar in how they address the camera. It is entirely off script. But it should be noted that Putin is brilliant with a hint of being sinister. Putin doesn’t need Twitter. He has an entire intelligence community and cabinet at his disposal to delve out concerns. If Putin wants to get a message across, then it may have already occurred and left before you get the Tweet. Trump, on the other hand, craves the media attention and loves to Tweet. While the media is dissecting a Trump tweet is has a team of people that never spoke with him telling you the opposite argument while Trump has moved to the next tweet only to say, “why are you listening to them?”
It is fair to say that Russia and the U.S. have a long way to go in diplomacy. While we are mostly concerned about what Trump may be accidentally sharing with Putin is a cause for concern in addition to the allegations of Russia engaged in hacking. I will say that Russia may be our best first steps at healthy relationships because we already have Red Phone to communicate quickly with each other. We don’t seem to have those phones with China or other nations where our influence has deteriorated. Perhaps that is why dealing with Russia is a good first step to effective diplomacy. I’m not suggesting it is flawless or should be our first new Presidential attempt. But it may be the best possible scenario with the least amount of repercussions. Trump shoots from the hip and Putin responds better this way. I would much rather Trump talk to Putin than let us say North Korea, China or Saudi Arabia at this juncture for fear of saying something that could be misinterpreted or undiplomatic. I will say this for sure, our new Secretary of State will certainly have an unusual and difficult tenure during this administration.
When I hear “Conspiracy Theory” I tend to roll my eyes and shut down my listening ability. To be quite honest I don’t find much if any credibility at all in conspiracy planning. Today I was in the car running some errands and noticed a few lingering campaign signs along the roadway. What struck me was during the entire election cycle there was not one Trump or Clinton sign visible. I shrugged it off thinking perhaps the television ads alone were enough. But as I was listening to the radio I heard something about Vice-President Elect Pense saying, “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.” I began to think perhaps our general election could have been hacked but not in the traditional sense.
Naturally, all eyes are on voting machines and ballots. But there are strange anomalies during the canvas stage. For example, when Britain held a referendum on whether to leave the European Union (Brexit) all polls seemed to lean on remaining. The result was a shocking exit plan. Immediately afterward media outlets were trying to understand or interpret polls versus ballots. Nearly the same circumstance occurred with Trump versus Clinton. All polls appeared to lean towards Clinton, but the result flipped traditional blue states to red.
What if, just what if the canvas data and polling information were skewed and adulterated by Russia or another nation? Of course, this would be the most surprising identifier of events to alter an election and perhaps the most ridiculous theory. But it could be possible.
What presents an argument for my case is the Stuxnet program. Stuxnet is a computer worm that was developed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. What is most intriguing about the virus was its ability to go undetected. The worm also infected a nuclear power plant in Russia. The Stuxnet program was not intended to harm computers and networks. Instead, it was designed to alter and reverse data calculations. That program ran during the George W. Bush years until 2015. That is a long time to go undetected.
Here is something to ponder. What if hackers took the original code and altered it to shift election data results. Of course, election officials at the state level are not concerned with polls and data. Instead, they are watching ballots and machine data carefully. But many polls use standard software platforms and continually share random samplings of purchased or shared consumer data. The same data that seems to be frequently hacked at banks, stores, and online. If there is a similar virus introduced and designed to manipulate canvas and poll data, then that would affect any election result. Perhaps the beta test was Brexit? The ultimate test was the recent U.S. elections – If that theory is correct.
I certainly hope that my question about conspiracy theory is not taken as an interpretation of a sore loser. I will recognize whoever is our national leader. But perhaps there may be a clue that something is wrong with our data. We had every indication that another nation may try to influence our election process. Perhaps this was how it was done?