Subject: Do you offer university postgrad scholarships?

Hi there.

My name is David Johnston, I’m a 31yo New Zealand born citizen.

I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and four years commercial experience as a data transformation and web developer. I spent two years at Acme transforming documents to and from a spine, and the last two as more general frontend and full stack web developer.

With the recent election of Donald Trump and Russian manipulation of social media, I’m feeling I’d rather be working in this space than my current job.

What I want to do is a create an API for scraping news websites and social media, gathering sentiment,  and presenting it wordcloud format or similar.

I don’t have a particularly theoretical approach in mind – I’m not educated in linguistics; my interest in the software engineering solution.

Have a look at this web application I made: www.blacksheepcode.com – this is something I threw up pretty quickly and haven’t refined – but it shows the possibilities of web browsers as good application interface.

I want to create an open source API, free for the world to use, but something you might find useful.

Essentially, a good way to do this would be for me to go to university, and make this project the subject of my postgrad thesis.

What I’m ask of you, is if you offer sponsorship or scholarships to allow me to go this. I’d be looking for $60,000 living costs/year + study costs.

I hope this finds you well, and I’ve attached my CV if you’re more interested in my technical experience.

 

 

 

 

Why didn’t Obama tell everyone about the Russians before the election?

It’s become clear recently that the FBI was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s emails and Russian attempts to interfere with the US election.

Comey has faced criticism – why did he come out about additional Hillary emails ten days before the election, but didn’t mention the Russian interference?

Surely Obama would have been briefed about this.

Why didn’t Obama hold a press conference and tell everyone what was going on?

Is it really that the extent of it hasn’t come to light until recently?

It feels like the Obama establishment really fucked up on this one – instead of fighting like the Russians are – by exposing information, they’re opted for a strategy of secrecy. Hardly does wonders for their credibility.

 

Here’s how the western intelligence community should respond.

The western intelligence community should respond with their own wikileaks style dump of data they have on the matter.

One of the great appeals of the Russian propaganda outlet Wikileaks, is the open data nature of the documents.

For example, in regards to the DNC hack, the data surrounding how it was ascertained that Russian hackers were responsible, should be released.

Donald Trump’s entire tax history should be released.

The CIA etc wouldn’t necessarily have to publish the data themselves. Who knows what the level of direct collusion between Putin and Assange is, but the CIA could similarly leak data to a friendly hactivist type organisation. Or directly to the Washington Post I suppose.

 

It’s apparent that you can use data leaking and data manipulation (eg. Twitter bots, paid trolls) to quite an effect. The Western intelligence community should perhaps consider responding in kind. After all, intelligence warfare is quite a peaceful kind of warfare. If all conflicts were just releasing embarrassing data about each other, that could be awful in its own right, but apparently better than dying a bloody death.

 

 

A new form of nihilism

Nihilism is the philosophy that life has no intrinsic meaning. Nihilism commonly then leads to conclusions like:

  • Let’s just kill ourselves now.
  • Let’s have a life of hedonism and enjoying yourself while you can.
  • Actually, you’re probably going to enjoy yourself more if find some sense of purpose.

But the common narrative around nihilism tends to a personal sense of purpose – about the individual’s lack of intrinsic meaning or purpose.

With the election of Donald Trump, and its repurcussions regarding action on climate change, demonstrating how apparently stupid, selfish, ignorant or self destructive a huge chunk of our society is, I think a more deep seated nihilism is seating in.

That is – when talking about combating climate change, from the perspective of the human race as a whole, it’s seen as a good thing for humans to survive, or for things not to be unpleasant for us in the near future.

But given the apparent selfishness and stupidity of people, I do start wondering maybe it really doesn’t matter if it all goes to custard. Of course care – but from a nihilistic perspective things might be easier for me if I just didn’t. 

This College Humor video sums it up well:

Who’s to blame? Russian paid trolls.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

That Russia interfered with the US election is not an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.

The current understanding is that:

  • It was Russian hackers who hacked and released Hillary Clintons email server
  • Russian paid shills and bots congregated social media like Twitter and /r/the_donald to post and promote pro-Donald / anti-Hillary content.

Here’s Republican Paul Ryan agreeing that Russia interfered with the US election:

Here’s Mitch McConnell condemning the Russian interference:

What’s still in question is whether Donald Trump and his campaign were directly working on orders from Russia – there’s currently no concrete evidence for that. With every link between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia that comes out, it looks worse and worse.

Who’s to blame? Cynical establishment politicians

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

I think it’s a fair criticism that Hillary Clinton must have been a bad candidate to have lost to Donald Trump.

That isn’t to say that I necessarily think she would have been a bad president. After all – Obama did make her his Secretary of State, and I do respect Obama’s judgement on many things. I don’t know what to make of the ‘Hillary Clinton is a corrupt warmonger, in the pockets of wall street’ arguments, they smell of fringe conspiracy theorying to me.

But I do think that Hillary Clinton appears to be an insincere politician who panders to political winds, rather than bravely sticking to idealism.

Her about turn on the TPPA is a good example, from calling it ‘the gold standard of trade agreements’ to saying she opposes it. I’m not sure I believe her when she says she no longer thinks it’s right for the US.

It’s fair to say that a huge amount of Trump’s support base was from people who felt that neither Democrats nor Republicans represented their interests. This video here gets into it well:

I sympathise with the sentiment – but I can’t abide accepting Trump’s hateful rhetoric as the price to pay for shaking up the system. I’d much rather have a slow moving establishment politicians, than four years of Trump’s rhetoric.

The 2016 election wasn’t just defined by Trump though – there was also Bernie Sanders who gathered a significant chunk of Democratic support in the primaries, and polled  better than Hillary in head to head polls vs Trump.

The pet peeve I have is politicians’ resistance to announcing that they’ll end the drug war. I think that there are many policies, like this one, that politicians agree with, but don’t want to announce, because their research shows that it won’t be politically popular with certain demographics (eg. social conservatives, religious).

Especially in a two party system, there is an incentive to remain as politically close to the opponent as possible – the idea being that it’s more about winning those swing votes, than winning over people who are already aligned your political leaning.

But I think people see through this game playing. If politicians were willing to be a bit more honest about their genuine political views – then they’d at least appear more credible – even if they piss of some of their potential support base.

Addendum: Perhaps this comes back to being the fault of the public again. Politicians do what they do, because research shows that it works. If people were more ok with voting with politicians who honestly expressed opinions that the voter disagreed with, then perhaps we’d have more honest politicians.

Who’s to blame? Racists and hateful people who are sick of being polite about it.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

 

It’s quite clear that a significant chunk of the US hold anti-mexican or anti-muslim attitudes, and these people loved Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

This video contains examples:

Obvious caveat: This is from a comedy show, and obviously they’ve cherry picked their interviews to find the most interesting and outlandish soundbites.

Also – this shouldn’t be taken to say that this represents all Trump supporters – but I think it’s clear a significant amount of Trump’s support is from people who don’t like immigrants  and/or gays/transgender people, and don’t want to be polite about it.

Who’s to blame? Unprincipled Republicans.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.
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I googled ‘unprincipled republicans’ to get this image. 

When Donald Trump eventually won the Republican primaries, all Republicans by and large got behind him and endorsed him at the Republican National Convention.

It seems like Republicans desire to gain power and push their agenda, trumped their unease with Donald Trumps alarming rhetoric or basic incompetence.

Even Republicans who seem like a voice of reason, like John McCain endorsed Donald Trump John McCain endorsed Donald Trump – though he later withdrew his endorsement.

For context here’s:

Who’s to blame? The media.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

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During the Republican primaries, I think the media saw Donald Trump as boon.

Not seen as a serious contender, I think he was seen as a good source of interesting soundbites that would draw viewers and sell advertising. Trump was always saying something crazy, such as attacking one of the other Republicans, which the media would then pick up and make the focus of the news that night.

Essentially – the media the fed the troll – giving the air of attention to the person saying the most outlandish stuff.

This has been part of an ongoing trend of dumbing down in the media. I think the media have got lazy and instead of providing intelligent, informed news, they’ve been providing the public with news that the public wants to see. This is reflected in the clear trend of soundbites getting shorter.  A provocative Donald Trump insult is a more attention grabbing sound bite that an informed policy outline can fit in nine seconds.

Addendum: The public is also to blame. The media produces inflammatory content, because that’s what the public chooses to view. If the public were more discerning with what they choose to watch or click, the media would be more incentivised to produce more intelligent content.

 

Select quotes from Donald Trump’s inaugaural speech

Source of quotes: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/20/donald-trumps-full-inauguration-speech-transcript-annotated/

Identifying enemies

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. … The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.

January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

I mean, that’s quite serious rhetoric.

Classic ‘fall from grace’ imagery

America will start winning again,

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

 

The US military is depleted? What world does Donald Trump live on?

…and I will never ever let you down.

Did Donald Trump just rick roll us?

Strong, worrying isolationist tones

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

it’s going to be only America first, America first.

An isolationist attitude is not going to help solve global problems. I think freetrade + paying for carbon is the answer.

Misc.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.

I actually quite like this.