Russian Twitterbots and their propaganda campaign for Trump

Internet Research Agency. Home of Russian Twitterbots
Internet Research Agency. Home of Russian Twitterbots

Some of you who aren’t knowingly compromised and corrupted by Russia influences still might think, Gosh did Russia really interfere in our elections in 2016? Symantec answers that with a resounding Yes, After analyzing the data released by Twitter of what the Internet Research Agency posted during the 2016 campaign, Symantec concluded Russian Twitterbots interfered massively. The IRA essentially was an arm of the Russian government. It had hundreds of employees working to destabilize the election and tilt public opinion towards Trump. Several of its top people (who were also military) were indicted by Mueller.

IRA interference was well-planned, methodical, often playing both sides of the political fence to create chaos, but always with a deliberate intent of helping Trump. And anyone who claims the Trump campaign didn’t know about IRA and didn’t amplify what Russian bots and trolls were doing probably also howls that Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald are fearless fighters for freedom – and certainly not in any way influenced by Russia, even if Wikileaks servers are in Russia and Greenwald appears on totally unbiased RT and Fox News. Oh, that.

I’ve folllowed all this on Twitter since before the 2016 election. Early on it became obvious that some accounts were not what they appeared to be. They had fake news names, and pushed out content to auxiliary accounts who retweeted it, and then it was cheerfully retweeted by actual Trump supporters, none of whom of course had a clue they they were being conned. Heaven forfend they should retweet content they knew was bogus!

One of the most egregious accounts was TEN_GOP, who pretended to be Tennessee Republicans. They got retweeted 6 million times. Earluy on Never Trump Twitter called bullshit on this account, saying it was controlled by Russia. There as of course laughter that Never Trumpers would say such crazy things.

Except, TEN_GOP was a IRA bot. The data Symantec analyzed proves it.

Perhaps the most overt aspect of the propaganda campaign was the IRA’s organization of a number of political rallies in the U.S. Despite the fact that the accounts comprised of fake personas and organizations, they nevertheless succeeded in mobilizing people to attend events. Besides its online activities, the campaign’s operators also organized rallies supporting positions on both sides of the political spectrum.

Venice Beach homelessness. Gentrification. Johnny Rotten ranting

Venice Beach homelessness. Johnny Rotten

Yeah, I know, Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten ranting about Venice Beach homelessness at his presumably pricey home in Venice seems comical. Except it’s not. Not when they come over the gate into his yard and put tents up on his doorstep. Not when there are a lot of them, and they can be aggressive, and there are needles and poop on the beach and elsewhere. He’s not making any of that up.

They moved in en masse. They’re all young, they’re all like 24,” Rotten told to Newsweek. “They’re aggressive, and because there’s an awful lot of them together they’re gang-y.”

Venice has the largest concentration of homeless anywhere on the Los Angeles Westside (and probably anywhere in L.A. County except for the Nickel downtown which is just third world conditions.) I lived in Venice for a while and am not surprised by its burgeoning homelessness . Venice has a reputation for tolerance. Geographically, it’s easy to walk from the beach to elsewhere to crash. A huge issue is decreasing numbers of places to live due to Snapchat, which is headquartered there, buying hundreds of homes to use for offices plus homes and apartments being used by AirBnB. This means fewer places to live, which jacks up prices to ridiculous levels. Gentrification in Venice means affordable housing is non-existent. And if you lost your apartment in Inglewood where rents are much less and are homeless, it might as well be on the beach in Venice, among the $5000 a month 2 bdr apartments.

Los Angeles has genuinely been trying, if belatedly, to do something about homelessness and its accompanying health and sanitation issues and was staggered when newly released numbers showed homelessness up 12% in L.A. County over last year and up 16% in the city.

One of the largest increases [in homelessness], however, was among people 18 to 24 years old. Lynn said a 24% jump was partly the result of a change in the methodology of the count. But still, he said, “there was a significant increase, many more unsheltered. We were able to house more youth this year than last year, but this is an overflow population.”

Also exceeding the county average was a 17% spike of the chronically homeless — people with a mental or physical impairment who have been on the street or in shelter for more than a year.

Bracing for what appeared to be difficult years ahead, L.A. city and county officials have backed off their one-time mantra of “ending homelessness,” and are fully linking the crisis on the region’s streets to a housing crisis that is beyond their control.

World’s largest renewable energy storage project coming to Utah

Grid scale batteries
Grid scale batteries

Utah is planning a 1 GW renewable energy storage project which, when completed, will create and store zero emission electricity. That is a huge amount of power, and it will be able to store enormous amount of power too.

The project will use renewable hydrogen to power turbines to create electricity. Excess hydrogen and compressed air will be stored in underground salt caverns to be used as needed to generate power. Excess electricity will be stored in a variety of ways with time scales from seconds to months. The site is near the Intermountain Power Project so power can go directly into the grid backbone.

Energy storage technologies include renewable hydrogen, Compressed Air Energy Storage, large scale flow batteries, solid oxide fuel cells

The technologies we are deploying will store electricity on time scales from seconds to seasons of the year,” said Paul Browning, President and CEO of MHPS Americas. “For example, when we add gas turbines powered with renewable hydrogen to a hydrogen storage salt-dome, we have a solution that stores and generates electricity with zero carbon emissions.”

As a next step in decarbonization, MHPS has developed gas turbine technology that enables a mixture of renewable hydrogen and natural gas to produce power with even lower carbon emissions. The MHPS technology roadmap aims to use 100 percent renewable hydrogen as a fuel source, which will allow gas turbines to produce electricity with zero carbon emissions.

EU elections. Brexit, Greens, Lib Dems gain. Far left, mainstream loses

European elections results

Brexit and far right parties are surging in the EU elections. In Britain, the Farage’s Brexit Party is first, followed by Liberal Democrats, Labour, Greens, and then Tories. That’s right, The Brexit Party, which is running the first time in UK is coming in first, while the Lib Dems who were almost wiped last election came in second.

Seems to me these are seismic shifts, Established parties in UK and Europe who did little but dither for years got clobbered while parties that at least appear to be engaged and who have actual messages did well. Yes, the Brexit Party has an actual message. It’s a repellant message. However it is indeed a message.

Happily Greens are kicking ass in multiple countries, especially Germany, coming in second behind Merkel with 22%. (Please do not confuse the German Green Party, which has been part of ruling coalitions there and possesses actual competence with the doddering, comatose Green Party in the US which has done nothing for 16 years except to come out of hibernation every four years to run a clown for president, then promptly hibernate again.)

I recommend reading the Twitter thread. Mounk says in most elections the left has focused on economic issues. However this time is is focused on cultural issues, and that is what is driving the Green vote, especially among young voters.

He says:
“One widely overlooked story from the European elections is the very poor showing of far-left parties.

Corbyn’s Labour? Came third!
Podemos in Spain? Down to 10%!
Syriza in Greece? Eclipsed by the center-right!
Melenchon in France? In the single digits!”

While I’m not sure Labour is far-left, he is correct is saying the far-left got clobbered. Maybe because it continually reiterates and in fact is captured by its own tired old ideas and ideologies. They don’t have much new to say. And voters responded to this by switching parties.

Huawei ban may have catastrophic effects on global tech

Huawei logo

Global tech may come screeching to a halt due to the Huawei ban. US tech companies no longer can ship chips and software to China and have them come back in new equipment. That process is now dead. What does that mean for iPhone production? No one knows yet. Google just announced they are blocking Android updates and Google apps like Gmail from Huawei products outside China. This is serious.

First off, this is not some new crazy thing Trump announced. Rumblings from itelligence and our government have been saying for at least ten years that Huawei is problematic at best, not trustworthy, and highly suspect as they essentially are part of the China government. Huawei has a long list of bribery and corruption charges worldwide.

There is wide bipartisan support for sanctioning and investigating Huawei in Congress .

Those companies are now waking up to a harsh reality. China’s pursuit of the commanding heights of tech, its intermingling of the party-state with the private sector, and blocking of U.S. tech firms at home give American politicians on both sides of the aisle little reason to hit the brakes. Just a day after the Huawei decisions were released, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee announced a “deep dive” into China’s tech and surveillance industries, with prominent Trump critic Rep. Adam Schiff (D) and his political opposite Republican Rep. Devin Nunes hitting similar hawkish notes on China.

Huawei is controlled by the Chinese government.

But the U.S. government, particularly its intelligence agencies, has been insistent for nearly a decade that Huawei has been in collusion with Beijing’s Communist government on developing its technology, with the goal of giving it an espionage advantage.
The alleged relationship between Huawei and China’s government defies the traditional risk process for two reasons, according to former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, because the equipment is so integral to American infrastructure and because the equipment can be changed through future patches or updates.

Bribery, corruption charges follow Huawei around world.

Security concerns about Huawei and other Chinese telecom equipment providers are mounting after U.S. prosecutors last month charged the company founded by a former People’s Liberation Army officer with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, purloining trade secrets from T-Mobile and encouraging its employees to steal intellectual property.

The focus on national security concerns about Huawei has eclipsed a little reported aspect of the company’s operations: Huawei’s involvement in corrupt business dealings.