@DotPolitics Weekly: America finally gets the political candidates it deserves

Your weekly dose of Internet politics.

 

Aaron Sankin

Tech

Published Mar 20, 2015   Updated May 29, 2021, 6:25 am CDT

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Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalupu recently won an election to become the president and the vice-president of the student body at the University of Texas. “The intention was never to win,” Rotnofsky told the Daily Dot. “It was always to satirize student government elections and the university in general.”

Like most political campaigns, Rotnofsky and Mandalupu’s effort to get elected was joke, a meta-commentary on the absurdity of the political process. They sought endorsements from the cashiers at late-night fast food restaurants near campus; they hired a Tinder correspondent to swipe right on UT students and give them the hard sell directly; they took out a fake attack ad against themselves; they deftly maneuvered their way through a campaign finance scandal dubbed “lunchablegate.” All in all, they were everything a 21st century campaign should be: smart, adaptable, and Internet savvy. Now that they’re in office, the pair is attempting to get a statue of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) advocate Jefferson Davis removed from campus because it’s 2015.

On a related note, Donald Trump would like everyone to know he is completely committed to pretending to run for president, at least until the pomeranian that’s been asleep on his head for the past decade wakes up. Trump knows American will never tell a pollster they’d maybe vote for a bald, pretend presidential candidate, that’s why so much of Trump’s fortune is invested in dog roofies.

Obama administration kills transparency rules for key White House office. This week is something called Sunshine Week, where reporters and good-government activists celebrate and push for government transparency. How did the Obama administration mark Sunshine Week? By stating it will no longer comply with any Freedom of Information Act requests relating to its Office of Administration.

A 2009 court ruling exempted the Office of Administration, which handles many day-to-day aspects of the executive branch, ranging from human resources to IT support, from having to comply with public information requests. A notice recently issued by the White House simply made it official. Like the Bush administration before it, the Obama administration has never complied with FOIA requests relating to the office. The change may have only functioned to permanently codify an already long-standing practice, but it still rankled open-government advocates for its decrease of transparency inside the agency that runs the White House’s email system at a time when the public happens to be paying an unusual amount of attention to politicians’ email systems.

Trying to shield the Office of Administration from FOIA actually makes a lot of sense. Office admins are always the ones who know where the bodies are buried. And by “bodies” we, of course, mean Barack Obama’s secret stash of emergency cigarettes.  

Massive Bitcoin theft rattles Dark Net’s biggest black market. Former users of the now-shuttered Dark Net drug trade hub Evolution Marketplace would like the thieves who absconded with over $12 million to know that consequences will never be the same because they are currently doing a backtrace and will report the culprits to the cyber police. The Daily Dot’s Patrick Howell O’Neill explains why it didn’t have to be this way:

“Over the past few years, numerous Dark Net marketplaces have enabled the safeguard [of multi-signature transactions], including Evolution. Problem was, Evolution made multi-signature transactions entirely voluntary. Vendors and buyers would have to agree to use the system, which requires two out of three parties—buyer, seller, and market owner—to approve a transaction before any money changes hands.

“The added security also added an extra step to the process of buying and selling on these black markets—a minor security speed bump that, despite the Dark Net’s long history of multi-million-dollars thefts and seizures, few Evolution users put even an inch above profits or sheer laziness.

Rotnofsky and Mandalupu aren’t the first joke UT candidates to win a student government election. In 1982, a cartoon clown named Hank the Hallucination was elected student body president. Since Hank didn’t technically exist, the office was awarded to the second-place candidate, Paul Begala, who would go on to become a top advisor in the Clinton Administration and a cable news talking head. The next time you see Begala on CNN arguing how Hillary’s email scandal is just a tempest in a teapot, look deeply into his eyes. You’ll see the bitter, damaged soul of someone who knows he was once bested by an imaginary clown.

Snowden leaks haven’t changed how most Americans use technology. Most Americans (correctly) have no idea how Bitcoin works, but at least they’re pretty sure they didn’t steal all that Internet money from Evolution Marketplace and then donate it to ISIS. They are, on average, about 80 percent confident they weren’t involved in that. Everyone’s so busy these days, it’s hard to tell anymore.

Since they’ve done nothing wrong, they naturally have nothing to hide, which is why, according to the results of a survey released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project, about two-thirds of Americans who are aware of NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations about the government’s omnipresent monitoring of electronic communications haven’t changed their online behavior in any way to prevent that type of monitoring. Changing online behaviors can include something as simple as not talking so openly on Facebook about how much money you’re making selling pot to the kids at your local high school. So the bar here is set pretty low.

In a sense, rationalizing being too lazy to enable two-factor authentication on your Gmail as doing your patriotic duty isn’t all that irrational. If the NSA wants your info, the NSA is probably going to get your info. The agency is the largest employer of mathematicians in the country and, if enough of them direct their prodigious brainpower at guessing your password (“Trump4Prez4Realz4Ever4AnotherSeasonOfTheApprentice”), it’ll either fall to them eventually or they’ll find another way in. Most steps someone might take to protect themselves against the NSA are actually more effective at stopping cybercriminals from stealing your identity.

Whether people cooperate with the NSA or don’t cooperate with the NSA, the agency is doing its part to make the world a safer place. Thanks to government super-spies who used our nation’s intelligence apparatus to eavesdrop on former romantic partners, you truly are the real heroes.

Gotta hear both sides.

Lawmakers brutally kill 4th-graders’ bill in front of them. Surveys show that young Americans aren’t particularly interested in running for elected office. Serving your country by representing its people in the halls of government is a noble and highly respected calling; why would today’s youth rather do anything else?

A group of New Hampshire fourth graders learning about the legislative process drafted a bill that would make the Red Tail Hawk New Hampshire’s official state raptor. The kids got a state representative to submit the bill and then went the capitol to watch—surely with unbridled, childish glee—as legislators proceeded to mercilessly vote it down. “[The hawk] grasps…[its prey] with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood,” said Republican Rep. Warren Groen as the kids began their long march to the psychiatrist’s office.

The bill was defeated 133-160.

How ISPs will try to get away with suing the FCC over net neutrality. Pop quiz, hotshot: You’re an Internet service provider and you don’t like the new net neutrality rules imposed by the Federal Communications Commission. You think you can make the case in court that the agency overstepped its authority in the reclassification of broadband, but you’re likely to have business before the FCC at some point in the future and don’t want to antagonize the commission too much. What do you do?

Pour a bunch of money into a trade association to do your dirty work for you.

If you’re not a young, rich douchebag whose business card at one time listed your job title as “entrepreneur” as if that was an acceptable thing to do, you’ve probably never been to South by Southwest. This is basically what its like:

https://www.instagram.com/p/0Vxg3Kmlbk/

Iceland’s most popular party wants to give Edward Snowden citizenship. Despite what the name suggests, the Icelandic Pirate Party’s platform isn’t to get the country navy to raid cargo ships for their precious booty. It’s more interested in copyright reform and fighting government surveillance. Yeah, we were disappointed, too.

Now this is a story all about how C-SPAN got trolled by a ‘Fresh Prince’ clown. The caller was born and raised in West Philadelphia.

7 reasons Twitter won’t fix its revenge porn problem. #NeverTweet.

Here is a real question a concerned citizen asked Rick Santorum at the South Carolina National Security Action Summit:

“Why is the Congress rolling over and letting this communist dictator destroy my country? Y’all know what he is and I know what he is. I want him out of the White House. He’s not a citizen. He could have been removed a long time ago. … He’s trying to destroy the United States; the Congress knows this. … Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago. He’s totally destroyed our military, he’s fired all the generals and all the admirals who said they wouldn’t fire on the American people if he wanted to take the guns away from them.”

Q: What percentage of the life of the average elected representative involves pretending to listen to a crazy person complain about things that are both largely imaginary and that you have no control over?

A: The 40 percent that doesn’t involve begging rich people for money.

Proof Americans get the government they deserve: Hotboxing a condom on your head is exactly as dumb as it sounds; An erotic ebook about Microsoft Office’s Clippy is the best thing you’ll ever read; This prank site will send your enemies an edible bag of d**ks; Trolls hijacked a funeral-home website to post ‘Dragon Ball Z’ memes; AP confuses alleged murderer Robert Durst with Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst.   

Sincerely,

Aaron Sankin & The Daily Dot Politics Team

Illustration by J. Longo.


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*First Published: Mar 20, 2015, 5:56 pm CDT