Tag Archives: 2020 Election

Fake News, Aziz Ansari & The Vote

In the run up to the 2016 presidential election, a tweet featuring popular Indian American actor Aziz Ansari urged voters to cast their vote from home. The photoshopped image showed Ansari, star of Master of None and Parks & Recreation, holding a sign that said “Save Time. Avoid the Line. Vote from Home.”

It’s illegal to vote from home or online in an US election, but that of course, did not deter Russian hackers behind the ad who used Twitter and Facebook to spread misinformation about the 2016 election.

Did some people tweet in their vote? Twitter did not say. Not even when a Congressional committee eventually began an investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, as fake news surged unchecked on social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook included.

Four years later we are in another contentious election cycle. And the fake news machinery rolls on, brazenly manipulating a divided electorate with tales that range from the silly to more serious.

In a post that went viral, President Trump recently retweeted a link entitled “Twitter Shuts Down Entire Network To Slow Spread Of Negative Biden News”, from the news site Babylon Bee, that openly admits to running “Fake News you can trust” – the tagline on its Twitter page.  Sometime the truth isn’t obvious even when it stares you in the face!

Absurd news stories from the conservative Babylon Bee and its left-leaning counterpart The Onion, often get significant clicks and shares with their satirical takes on current events. But they sit outside the fringes of ‘countermedia’ outlets which produce stories that are much more insidious and dangerous to democracy.

What’s different with the current crop of fake news protagonists, is they’re not just distant, foreign ‘troll factories’ igniting discontent among voters in the US. A University of Colorado study of Facebook and Twitter users in America reports that people at ideological extremes in this country are likely to make misleading stories go mainstream via social media.

Fake news instigators are unleashing a wave of misleading ads and false news to sow unrest among voters.  But’s what’s more concerning is that bad actors are weaponizing social media, with much more dangerous consequences.

Axios reported that at least 11 Congressional nominees have expressed support for QAnon, a conspiracy theory cult which has propagated bizarre stories through its Redditt and other social media accounts, like the one about the coronavirus being created by the ‘deep state’, and the notorious ‘Pizzagate,’ which ended with an armed vigilante storming a neighborhood pizzeria.

This election season, purveyors of fake news are adopting devious tactics to spread misinformation and disinformation to interfere with the election, intimidate voters and suppress the vote.

Speakers at an October 16 Ethnic Media Services briefing shared their perspectives on the intent behind messaging that’s being fabricated to confuse and disenfranchise voters.

Cameron Hickey, Jacqueline Mason and Jacobo Licona

“It doesn’t have to be false to be a problem,’ said Cameron Hickey, Program Director of Algorithmic Transparency at the National Conference on Citizenship (NCOC). In fact, fear mongering in conspiracy theories is designed to make recipients scared, angry or self-righteous and provoke changes in behavior, like the aforementioned gunman in the ‘Pizzagate’ incident.

With regard to the upcoming election, said Hickey, the most ‘concerning’ thing is talk of an impending ‘civil war’ that is appearing in messaging from both sides of the political spectrum. Warnings to voters about being prepared for armed conflict in the event of election results that don’t result in their favor, are “seeding the ground for potential violence,” warned Hickey.

Information about mail-in and absentee ballots, or when and where and how people can vote are embedded in messaging  that may be (intentionally or unintentionally) misleading. A classic example of this said Hickey, is the one which says, “Republicans can vote on Tuesdays and Democrats vote on Wednesdays.”

Jacqueline Mason, senior investigative researcher at First Draft, shared a picture of Kamala Harris, the Democratic VP nominee, that went viral on social media. The photoshopped image showed Harris against images of black men she had allegedly imprisoned beyond their release dates, though upon closer inspection, the background appears to be composed of repeated images of the same six men.

What does this discordance say about our culture with its reliance on digital echo chambers and crumbling trust in mainstream media and government?

“We are no longer having conversations about the issues or the identities of the politicians running for office but exaggerating narrow bands of their perspective and amplifying them in ways that distort reality,” said Hickey.

Not only is it becoming harder to distinguish between what’s true and what isn’t, in the false narratives being pedaled on social media, but it appears that civil discourse, along with a responsibility to the truth, is also slipping away from our collective grasp.


Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

 

Congressman Khanna Informs Local Media on What Keeps Congress Awake at Night

Congressman Ro Khanna spoke with the journalists from ethnic media on 12th November 2019. The teleconference, organized by Vandana Kumar, Publisher India Currents, came at a timely juncture when the nation and community is gearing up for the 2020 Presidential elections and it is time to take stock of what the nation has gained and lost in the last few years. Cyber security and Healthcare emerged as two issues that impact the community and are close to the heart of the Congress.

Cyber security, with routine data mining in the face of the fast changing social media landscape, was raised as a special concern. As Internet becomes a large part of our daily lives what is Congress doing in terms of legislation to address the issue of cyber crime? The Congressman addressed the press’ concerns and spoke of his request for the Internet Bill of Rights.

Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) has introduced the Internet Bill of Rights, a proposal that includes the right to know about “all collection and uses of personal data by companies,” and to be notified “in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered.” He aims to strengthen people’s ability to correct or delete personal data in a company’s control, and require companies to obtain consumer consent before collecting or sharing data with third parties. In the Congressman’s words the bill would require people to give their consent making it harder for the companies to collect data, a situation better than the one in China where people have very little protection.

The Congressman also felt blatant falsity should not be allowed. There is an obligation on the part of companies like Google and Facebook to check for an obvious disregard of the truth. If copyright violation can be checked then surely they can remove false information by following the same procedure. Perhaps, he said, we need an independent depoliticized government agency that can define the rules and draw the boundary of truth.

Though there is a desire to regulate social media before the 2020 election, what really keeps the Congress awake at night is the question of healthcare. Khanna is hoping the social media corporations will hopefully voluntarily self regulate if no legislation can be passed in time for the 2020 elections. However, Congress must and has been working hard on providing affordable healthcare.

It is the Congressman’s view that “more than almost anything else, our health has a tremendous impact on our day-to-day activities, state of mind, and overall well-being. Good health is foundational to everything else we do – our ability to take care of our families, be productive at work, and pursue our passions and hobbies”.

“We need basic care and low premiums,” said the Congressman.

Congressman Khanna would like the creation of a single-payer health care system, or Medicare for All and supports legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate for more reasonable drug prices. This type of legislation will allow Americans below the age of 65 to buy into Medicare. A result of this would be that community members could save money through reduced fees and premiums.

Congressman Khanna also supports legislation to allow for the importation of drugs from nations that we trust. He was an original co-sponsor of legislation to allow for the importation of Canadian drugs.

“We must increase coverage, support small businesses, expand primary care, and provide lower premiums. Medicare for All is the next step toward addressing the high costs and inequalities in the current health care system,” said Congressman Ro Khanna. The congressman feels the states should be empowered to create their own solution if the federal government is unable to establish a single-payer system. We must guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.

The telebriefing on “The Role of Silicon Valley in the 2020 Elections”, moderated by Vandana Kumar (Publisher, India Currents), gave Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) an opportunity to share his perspectives as a key lawmaker representing the Silicon Valley. Sponsored by India Currents in partnership with Ethnic Media Services, it is part of the ‘Conversations with Candidates’ series initiated by India Currents to expand ethnic media news access to elected officials and presidential candidates.

Ritu Marwah is a citizen who would like to pay closer attention to the political issues that are bound to impact her life. She understands that an informed citizen is a safer citizen.

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

By Mani Subramani

Moody’s model predicted the wrong outcome in the 2016 elections. “In response to the miss, Moody’s expanded the range of potential voter turnout and made several other changes to how it assesses voter reaction to economic conditions. If applied now, Moody’s says the altered models would have called 2016 for Trump,” says this article. That’s the nature of statistical models – they are sometimes wrong!   

Americans are tired of Trump style over substance approach. They are sick of him labeling critical media outlets as fake news, overruling US institutions (CIA) in favor of foreign entities (Putin), disrespecting decorated veterans (Senator McCain), making crude remarks about women, denying climate change, peddling fake conspiracy theories about the deep state and now, potential impeachable offenses!  

In order to justify Trump’s behavior one needs to disbelieve all media outlets, ignore the obvious effects of climate change, accept incompetent foreign policy, believe the fake theory that coal jobs are coming back and that globalization can be reversed. 

Trump has always been a conman with a solid base of supporters. Proving the adage that you can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time.  Let’s hope, for the sake of this great democracy, that he cannot fool all the people all the time!!

A lot has been made of US economic strength under Trump. However, these analyses ignore several factors. With the exception of a three quarters of 3+% growth, it has been around ~2% to below 2% in the most recent quarter –  a rate which Trump characterized as “weak” while campaigning in 2016.  

Similarly unemployment rate decline, which began in 2010, has just continued to decline and now stabilized around 3.6%. On the other hand budget deficits have exploded. Three consecutive years of rapidly rising deficits threatens to break the trillion dollar mark this year. Having this occur during an economic expansion shows dangerous underlying economic weakness. In sharp contrast, after a high in 2009 the deficits steadily reduced under Obama. Proving once again that whatever Trump does, he does horribly. Exactly what you would expect from a man who specialized in serial bankruptcies! 

This does not mean the voters are going to hand the election to the Democratic nominee. The nominee needs to articulate the message that an irresponsible and crooked leader has wastefully spent the public treasure on wealthy individuals and corporations who spent it on stock buybacks. 

This money would have been better spent on addressing inequality, health security, infrastructure, job training and securing the world for future generations for all Americans. Such investment would lead to sustained economic growth, jobs of the future and improved quality of life.  

In July 2019 the support for impeachment was around ~40%. Recent polls show a majority supporting impeachment. The Democratic nominee must inspire a robust voter turnout. There are a few candidates in the pool who are articulating populist ideas well and practicing good retail politics.  They are quite capable of unseating Trump. 

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

Recently, the highly predictive Moody’s election model projected President Trump would easily win re-election by a wider margin and could even win a Reagensque landslide.

Despite my Democratic Party affiliation, I must regrettably agree with Moody’s model. With unemployment at a historic low of 3.5%, the S&P has risen 28% since the day he was elected, and we are on the cusp of ending the trade war with China with a deal, and possibly a denuclearization accord with North Korea.   

Whether it is due to Trump’s policies is arguable, but Trump has certainly boosted consumer and business confidence to new highs. Many areas in the nation face acute labor shortages in this expansion. It was a streak of political genius that he ran and won with a catchy slogan- “Make America Great Again.” Those four words were more powerful than the lengthy policy prescriptions that Hillary patiently presented.

With this economic tailwind behind our nation, the Democrats seem determined to lose in 2020. A motley crew of far left wing zealots like Senator Warren, Reps Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Tlaib are driving the direction of the party and forcing candidates to fall in line.  Warren wants to almost criminalize wealth creation and corporations in this country. This is the only nation on earth where a graduate student like me could land with a meager $520 and today, 30 years later, live in a million plus dollar home and achieve a successful career while still enjoying all the rights and privileges of native-born fellow Americans. 

The Democrats promise a “Medicare for Allthat essentially strips people of their choice of employer provided health care and impose fines if they do not enroll in Medicare. The Democrats would cripple life and commerce in the U.S with their  maniacal focus on climate change, forgetting that China, India and Mexico are the major polluters of this planet. The Democrats want to also make college tuition free, even for millionaire’s kids or those underperforming 

The average American, while certainly willing to make reasonable accommodations, is more focused on providing for their family, educating their kids, retaining their jobs in this rapidly changing workplace, having a secure retirement and on being able to pass on their life’s savings to their loved ones without the Government raiding them. The Democrats and their agendas are completely divorced from this reality. 

At the end of the day, as the old adage goes, Americans vote with their pocket books. Till Trump keeps our pocketbooks filled, the majority will gladly re-elect him in a heartbeat.  The Democrats have given me, this moderate, middle of the road Democrat nothing to say “Yes” to! 

Mark my words, with the Democrats not relating to mainstream  and rural America, and if the economy continues to boom and associated optimism continue to hold up, President Trump will be reelected, and yes, possibly in a landslide. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

Recently, the highly predictive Moody’s election model projected President Trump would easily win re-election by a wider margin and could even win a Reagensque landslide.

Despite my Democratic Party affiliation, I must regrettably agree with Moody’s model. With unemployment at a historic low of 3.5%, the S&P has risen 28% since the day he was elected, and we are on the cusp of ending the trade war with China with a deal, and possibly a denuclearization accord with North Korea.   

Whether it is due to Trump’s policies is arguable, but Trump has certainly boosted consumer and business confidence to new highs. Many areas in the nation face acute labor shortages in this expansion. It was a streak of political genius that he ran and won with a catchy slogan- “Make America Great Again.” Those four words were more powerful than the lengthy policy prescriptions that Hillary patiently presented.

With this economic tailwind behind our nation, the Democrats seem determined to lose in 2020. A motley crew of far left wing zealots like Senator Warren, Reps Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Tlaib are driving the direction of the party and forcing candidates to fall in line.  Warren wants to almost criminalize wealth creation and corporations in this country. This is the only nation on earth where a graduate student like me could land with a meager $520 and today, 30 years later, live in a million plus dollar home and achieve a successful career while still enjoying all the rights and privileges of native-born fellow Americans. 

The Democrats promise a “Medicare for Allthat essentially strips people of their choice of employer provided health care and impose fines if they do not enroll in Medicare. The Democrats would cripple life and commerce in the U.S with their  maniacal focus on climate change, forgetting that China, India and Mexico are the major polluters of this planet. The Democrats want to also make college tuition free, even for millionaire’s kids or those underperforming 

The average American, while certainly willing to make reasonable accommodations, is more focused on providing for their family, educating their kids, retaining their jobs in this rapidly changing workplace, having a secure retirement and on being able to pass on their life’s savings to their loved ones without the Government raiding them. The Democrats and their agendas are completely divorced from this reality. 

At the end of the day, as the old adage goes, Americans vote with their pocket books. Till Trump keeps our pocketbooks filled, the majority will gladly re-elect him in a heartbeat.  The Democrats have given me, this moderate, middle of the road Democrat nothing to say “Yes” to! 

Mark my words, with the Democrats not relating to mainstream  and rural America, and if the economy continues to boom and associated optimism continue to hold up, President Trump will be reelected, and yes, possibly in a landslide. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

By Mani Subramani

Moody’s model predicted the wrong outcome in the 2016 elections. “In response to the miss, Moody’s expanded the range of potential voter turnout and made several other changes to how it assesses voter reaction to economic conditions. If applied now, Moody’s says the altered models would have called 2016 for Trump,” says this article. That’s the nature of statistical models – they are sometimes wrong!   

Americans are tired of Trump style over substance approach. They are sick of him labeling critical media outlets as fake news, overruling US institutions (CIA) in favor of foreign entities (Putin), disrespecting decorated veterans (Senator McCain), making crude remarks about women, denying climate change, peddling fake conspiracy theories about the deep state and now, potential impeachable offenses!  

In order to justify Trump’s behaviour one needs to disbelieve all media outlets, ignore the obvious effects of climate change, accept incompetent foriegn policy, believe the fake theory that coal jobs are coming back and that globalization can be reversed. 

Trump has always been a conman with a solid base of supporters. Proving the adage that you can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time.  Let’s hope, for the sake of this great democracy, that he cannot fool all the people all the time!!

A lot has been made of US economic strength under Trump. However, these analyses ignore several factors. With the exception of a three quarters of 3+% growth, it has been around ~2% to below 2% in the most recent quarter –  a rate which Trump characterized as “weak” while campaigning in 2016.  

Similarly unemployment rate decline, which began in 2010, has just continued to decline and now stabilized around 3.6%. On the other hand budget deficits have exploded. Three consecutive years of rapidly rising deficits threatens to break the trillion dollar mark this year. Having this occur during an economic expansion shows dangerous underlying economic weakness. In sharp contrast, after a high in 2009 the deficits steadily reduced under Obama. Proving once again that whatever Trump does, he does horribly. Exactly what you would expect from a man who specialized in serial bankruptcies! 

This does not mean the voters are going to hand the election to the Democratic nominee. The nominee needs to articulate the message that an irresponsible and crooked leader has wastefully spent the public treasure on wealthy individuals and corporations who spent it on stock buybacks. 

This money would have been better spent on addressing inequality, health security, infrastructure, job training and securing the world for future generations for all Americans. Such investment would lead to sustained economic growth, jobs of the future and improved quality of life.  

In July 2019 the support for impeachment was around ~40%. Recent polls show a majority supporting impeachment. The Democratic nominee must inspire a robust voter turnout. There are a few candidates in the pool who are articulating populist ideas well and practicing good retail politics.  They are quite capable of unseating Trump. 

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.