Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Federal Reserve looking to launch "sentiment analysis and social media monitoring" program

A couple weeks ago the Federal Reserve Board of New York floated an RFP (Request for Proposals) for a program of "sentiment analysis" of social media networks.   I've embedded the scribd version of the doRFP below for your reading pleasure.

They seek to "to establish a fair andequitable partnership with a market leader who will who gather data from various social media outlets and newssources and provide applicable reporting to FRBNY."

The idea is for the Federal Reserve to have a system to monitor traffic on online social networks, gather the discussions, extract "sentiments" (thoughts, opinions) about the Federal Reserve, and report them to the FRB.

In part the issue here isn't so much that they're doing this - plenty of organizations are doing this already, and it's fair for organizations to want to know what is being said about them.  "Sentiment analysis" via monitoring social media is the act of summarizing what people are saying in online networks (twitter, facebook, etc) to extract information that's useful to the organization.   As they themselves say: "There is need for the Communications Group to be timely and proactively aware of the reactions and opinionsexpressed by the general public as it relates to the Federal Reserve and its actions on a variety of subjects."

In part the issue is that this is a pseudo-branch-of-government intent on tracking every conversation, and in particular "reach out to key bloggers and influencers" plausibly so they can control the messages from those key bloggers and influencers?

In part the issue is that the RFP timeline is it was issued on Sept 16, 2011, and that they expect a response (proposal) by Sept 28, 2011.  The two week timeline implies that there are software companies who have already developed this sort of service.  The FRB seems to expect the service can just be deployed (perhaps after the expenditure of many $$$'s of consultant time for training, installation, and support).

Their stated purpose is:

Social media listening platforms are solutions that gather data from various social media outlets and news sources.They monitor billions of conversations and generate text analytics based on predefined criteria. They can also determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document.

The information gathered can guide the organizations public relations group in assessing the effectiveness of communication strategies.

Here are some of the services it can offer:

  • Track reach and spread of your messages and press releases
  • Handle crisis situations
  • Continuously monitor conversations
  • Identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers
  • Spot emerging trends, discussions themes and topics


Solution requirements:

A. Geographic scope of social media sites

The solution must support content coming from different countries and geographical regions. It should also support multiple languages.

B. Content and Data Types

The solution must be able to gather data from the primary social media platforms –Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums and YouTube. It should also be able to aggregate data from various media outlets such as: CNN, WSJ, Factiva etc.

C. Reports and Metrics

The solution must provide real-time monitoring of relevant conversations. It should provide sentiment analysis (positive, negative or neutral) around key conversational topics.  It must be able to provide summaries or high level overviews of a specific set of topics. It should have a configurable dashboard that can easily be accessed by internal analysts or management. The dashboard must support customization by user or group access. The solution should provide an alerting mechanism that automatically sends out reports or notifications based a predefined trigger.

D. FRBNY Technology Integration

The solution must be able to integrate with existing FRBNY technologies such as: Google Search appliance, Lotus notes suite and web trends.  It must have support for single sign on or windows integrated authentication.

E. Cost Structure

The solution should offer a flexible pricing structure that can support multiple user licensing. It should also have the option to base pricing on content volume and usage. _Supplier acknowledges an understanding of and agrees to comply with the above minimum solutions requirements.


Frbny Social Media Rfp

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nobody got rich on their own - Elizabeth Warren clearly explains the social contract, shows why right wing rich coddlers have it all wrong

There's a chorus that's been making me sick, and Elizabeth Warren just speared the chorus with a clear thinking straight to the core issue description of the social contract.  The what?  The social contract was something I vaguely recall hearing about in History class way back in High School, but it's basically the bargain we make with each other as a society that keeps the society running.  Scroll down to the video below - or else read a bit of my ranting first.

BEGIN-RANT: The right wing chorus that's taken over has this irrational basis in individual freedom, individual responsibility, getting the government out of our affairs, etc.  But it's entirely hypocritical - because the same people who push for individual responsibility also pushed for the bank bailouts in late 2008.  If they were all hot for individual responsibility they should have just let the banks fail, that would have taught those bankers a thing or two.  And what about government intrusion into deciding who can and cannot marry?  Why should the government be controlling this, and say that marriage can only be between a man and a woman?  And what about the ability to choose to have an abortion?  Why should the government intrude into this, if government should be small and out of our individual lives?  The examples of hypocracy can go on and on .. and hypocracy exists in the Democratic party not just those close minded right wing blow hards in the Republican party.  BTW - hypocrisy and hypocracy are different but similar things.

Basically the thing going on is the public conversation is about coddling the rich - making sure the rich have all sorts of benefits, tax loopholes, ability to commit crimes and get off scotch free (witness the recent rape allegations against Domonique Strauss-Kahn that got dropped), etc etc etc ... A common bit of rhetoric is the "self made zillionaire" whose right to run their factory (or whatever) the way they want is sacrosanct, and the government should but out.

The truth is that we are not individualists.  One of the American memes is individualism, but it's really a figment of our collective imagination.  None of us can get along on our own.  Anything we do is done within a context created by all of us working together.

END-RANT: This is where you'd start reading again if you skipped my rant.  This is a transcript, and below that is the video.  The speaker, Elizabeth Warren, has spent the last couple years working to establish a consumer protection agency.  But due to Republican led coddling of the rich, she isn't being allowed to be considered to be the lead person of that agency she worked so hard to create.  They are afraid to give her that power, and someone else got the job instead.  As a result she is now a candidate for the Senate in Massachusetts.  After hearing her say this I'd almost want to move there so I could vote for her; but then I remember the stories about their winters and, well, there are braver people than me living in that state.
I hear all this, oh this is class warfare, no! There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea. God bless! Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Criticizing Obama is pragmatic - Barack Obama - Salon.com

The "progressives" seem to be shocked and surprised and outraged thinking that Obama is betraying them. What's really going on is they put projections onto Obama to pretend that Obama was like them, and being like them his administration would undertake every pet change they thought was important. If they had listened instead they'd have learned he was more of a centrist than progressive. By criticizing Obama, progressives are modeling the behavior of social movement participants as diverse as the abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights advocates, feminists and proponents of GLBT rights. Progressive movements have never achieved their goals by peacefully acquiescing to the will of politicians. While successful progressive movements have undoubtedly made and accepted compromises, they have also condemned politicians when doing so was appropriate. The election of Obama does not provide a reasonable basis for abandoning this tried and tested historical approach to social change.

Source: http://www.salon.com/2009/12/22/obama_pragmatism_2/

Meet the Billionaire Brothers Funding the Right-Wing War on Obama | Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace | AlterNet

They're the 9th richest people in America and they're pushing hard to upend President Obama's progressive agenda. Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch are the wealthiest, and perhaps most effective, opponents of President Obama's progressive agenda. They have been looming in the background of every major domestic policy dispute this year. David and Charles are also responsible for a vicious attack campaign aimed directly at obstructing and killing progressive reform. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, funded in part by Koch foundations, has waged an underhanded campaign to falsely charge that a set of hacked e-mails somehow unravels the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring. Fred Koch, father of Charles and David, helped to found the John Birch Society in the late 1950s. The John Birch Society harnessed Cold War fears into hate against progressives, warning that President Kennedy, Civil Rights activists, and organized labor were in league with communists.

Source: http://www.alternet.org/story/144455/meet_the_billionaire_brothers_funding_the_right-wing_war_on_obama?page=0%2C0

Biden announces $5 billion expansion of Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit « Climate Progress

A $5 billion expansion of clean energy manufacturing tax credits for wind, solar and electric vehicles is exactly what the doctor ordered. Vice President Biden announced today that the $2.3 billion of tax credits currently available under in the ARRA stimulus package’s section 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program will be expanded with an additional $5 billion. The additional funds will leverage $15 billion in private investment, work immediately to create new clean energy manufacturing jobs, and boost the America’s competitiveness in global clean tech innovation. This is great news for American workers, manufacturers, and technology developers. The effects on the clean-tech manufacturing sector will be deeper and more systemic than traditional jobs spending. By bringing $15 billion of private capital “off the sidelines,” the program will work to build capacity, experience, and relationships between investors and companies within the US clean-energy manufacturing sector.

Source: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2009/12/17/205204/biden-announces-5-billion-expansion-of-advanced-energy-manufacturing-tax-credit/

Homeland Security Embarks on Big Brother Programs to Read Our Minds and Emotions | Rights and Liberties | AlterNet

Half-baked Homeland Security is spending millions to develop sensors capable of detecting a person's level of 'malintent' as a counterterrorism tool. The program is right out of the supposedly canceled Total Information Awareness program aka big brother incarnate. The idea is to detect (at a distance) physiological cues of malintent, enabling police to arrest people based on malintent before they can act on it. Conceived as a cutting-edge counter-terrorism tool, the FAST program ("Future Attribute Screening Technologies") will ostensibly detect subjects' bad intentions by monitoring their physiological characteristics, particularly those associated with fear and anxiety. FAST includes include "a remote cardiovascular and respiratory sensor" to measure "heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia," and other sensory stuff.

Source: http://www.alternet.org/story/144443/homeland_security_embarks_on_big_brother_programs_to_read_our_minds_and_emotions

Copenhagen climate summit: Gordon Brown says 'future of humanity' at stake - Telegraph

Arriving in Copenhagen, Mr Brown said: "Over the next three days the leaders of almost every nation on earth will gather in Copenhagen. Their role; their opportunity; their responsibility: to shape the future of humanity. It is a defining moment." To win around developing nations who are resisting limits on their carbon emissions, Mr Brown could back a deal for rich countries to give more money. He is now preparing to make Britain pay into another international fund to help poor countries limit the amount of their forests they cut down for logging and agriculture. Increasing Britian’s “green” spending is controversial because of the size of the Government’s deficit. As he arrived in Copenhagen, Mr Brown, painted an apocalyptic picture of the consequences of failure at the summit, saying that the world economy would suffer an unprecedented “catastrophe” if temperatures rise too far.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/copenhagen-climate-change-confe/6819390/Copenhagen-climate-summit-Gordon-Brown-says-future-of-humanity-at-stake.html

Sen. Byrd stunner: “Coal Must Embrace The Future: The truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy because most American voters want a healthier environment.” « Climate Progress

"For more than 100 years, coal has been the backbone of the Appalachian economy." a.k.a. "Coal, Kentucky's Ace in the Hole". Change is undeniably happening in the coal industry. "Mountaintop removal mining" despite being a horrendous disaster, also requires fewer employees than traditional mining. Meanwhile the Central Appalachian coal seams that remain to be mined are becoming thinner and more costly to mine. (BTW an early indicator of "Peak Coal") "Let’s speak the truth. The most important factor in maintaining coal-related jobs is demand for coal. Scapegoating and stoking fear among workers over the permitting process is counter-productive...Let’s speak a little more truth here. No deliberate effort to do away with the coal industry could ever succeed in Washington because there is no available alternative energy supply that could immediately supplant the use of coal for base load power generation in America. That is a stubborn fact ..."

Source: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2009/12/03/205068/sen-byrd-wv-coal-environment-climate-mountaintop-removal/?mobile=nc

The Real Reason Obama Is Escalating In Afghanistan | World | AlterNet

Chris Parenti suggests "The real purpose of these 30,000 soldiers is to make Obama look tough as he heads toward the next U.S. presidential election." I think he's forgetting the things Obama said about the two wars. He called Afghanistan the just war, the one we should have fought, rather than the delusionary distraction war in Iraq. Parenti suggests "It is political theater, nothing else" and I suggest that Parenti should reread Obama's speeches from 2007-8. I think many people projected onto Obama the hopes they had for what could be and pretended that Obama promised everything they hoped should be true. Maybe that's why people are disappointed with him now, that he isn't fulfilling all their wishes.

Source: http://www.alternet.org/story/144421/the_real_reason_obama_is_escalating_in_afghanistan

Is Government Action Worse Than Global Warming? - Reason Magazine

Man-made global warming occurs as a result of burning fossil fuels is a negative externality—a spillover from an economic transaction that harms parties not directly involved in the transaction. In this case, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is thought to be boosting temperatures, raising sea levels, and having other effects on the climate that people must adapt to (by using more air conditioning, switching crops, and so forth). Ideally, once the full costs of man-made global warming are calculated, consumers, businesses, governments, and international agencies can adopt policies that take those burdens into account. But, do we have time to wait to figure out all the details of accounting to calculate this to the nth degree? The goal of both approaches is to make polluters pay for the costs they impose on others. But they work only if those costs can be accurately assessed. In the real world things are never so simple.

Source: http://reason.com/archives/2009/09/08/is-government-action-worse-tha

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Court Case Asks if ‘Big Brother’ Is Spelled GPS - Government's over-reaching surveillance system

When Judges around the country cite the novel, 1984, as legal precedent maybe that's a sign that Big Brother is alive and well and quietly monitoring everything we do.  The issue is the GPS features in cell phones, and the Fourth Ammendment's promise of protection against Government invasion of our privacy.  A recent NY Times article gives a litany of court cases involving GPS devices, GPS features of cell phones, and the repeated invocation of a novel, 1984, as legal precedent.

http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/fdocs/docs.fwx?submit=rss_sho&shofile=10-1473_002.pdf: Judge Diane P. Wood of the federal appeals court in Chicago wrote about GPS-based surveillance saying “make the system that George Orwell depicted in his famous novel, ‘1984,’ seem clumsy.”

http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2010/08/12/08-30385.pdf: Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the federal appeals court in San Francisco wrote that “1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last.”

http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2011/08/cellsite.pdf: Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn denied a government request for over 3 months of "location data from cellphone towers" calling it an “Orwellian intrusion” and asking whether the courts must “begin to address whether revolutionary changes in technology require changes to existing Fourth Amendment doctrine.”

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/s/supreme_court/index.html?inline=nyt-org: In November the Supreme Court will hear United States v. Jones, No. 10-1259 which will "will address a question that has divided the lower courts: Do the police need a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s car and track its movements for weeks at a time?"

Today we routinely carry devices that track our every move (cell phones, cars, toll collection passes, etc) and those devices give us valuable information we use in our lives.  For example I frequently whip out my iPhone or iPad and use the Map feature to figure out where i am and how to get to a location.  That Map feature determines my location using both GPS circuits and interpolated location information from cellphone towers.

The Supreme Court case is itself an appeal of an earlier decision by a 3 judge Appeals Court panel ruling that the government is seeking too much information.  http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1046181.html


Source: Court Case Asks if ‘Big Brother’ Is Spelled GPS

The criminalization of speech since 9/11 and use of the "Material support for terrorism law"

Remember what freedom of speech was like before Sept 11, 2001?  Today it's different, and it's worth pondering the place we've arrived and why.  Today you can be arrested for wearing the wrong T-Shirt to specific events, such as attending a speech by the President while a shirt bearing a statement in support of Islam, or critical of the U.S. Government.  Many such as myself were wary of the patriotism and flag-waving following Sept 11, 2001 because this sort of nationalistic fervor has been behind atrocities committed by other countries in the past.  And the "either you're with us or against us" tone of the Bush Administration may have been useful in corralling support from other governments, but when it was applied to the American People it has turned into a pattern of repressing freedoms of Americans to do things like exercise free speech and other rights that make America what it is.

That's the tone of a Salon.COM article posted yesterday, on Sept 10, 2011 (the eve of 9/11's 10th anniversary), an article that focused on how the Bush and Obama administrations have taken strong measures to criminalize our right to free speech.

Prosecutors, since Sept 11, 2001, have been aggressively using a pre-existing law criminalizing "material support" for designated terrorist groups.  The U.S. State Department is in charge of designating these groups, and it would be a concern worthy perhaps of criminal penalties for significant aid to actual terrorist groups.  There are other examples that could be an example of aggressive government that limits our freedom, but the Salon.COM article (linked below) focuses on a specific example.

What does the material-support law say, exactly?

It gives the government the power to designate non-U.S. groups as foreign terrorist organizations based on very broad criteria. That includes whether the group has used or threatened to use a weapon against personal property; whether the group's activities undermine our national defense, foreign relations or economic interests.

What's worrying however is that "terrorist group" is broadly defined, one persons terrorist is another persons freedom fighter, and so to is "material support" broadly defined.

What is most problematic about the law, though, is "material support" has been interpreted so broadly. It is used regardless of whether the provider has the intent to support terrorism, or whether any specific act of terrorism has taken place or is being planned, and even to include pure speech and advocacy.

The Salon article references the case of Jubair Ahmad who was recently convicted of "material support" for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) because he uploaded a video to YouTube.  The Salon article doesn't go into what kind of group LeT is, nor the type of video, but it does seem the act of uploading a video is very small in terms of "material support".

How and how much has this statute been used in the decade since Sept. 11?

The law is widely used "in suspected terrorism cases" in both federal courts and military commissions.  In the Lashkar-e-Taiba it was used to prosecute what would normally be a First-Amendment-protected-activity (freedom of speech).

Is this a post-9/11 law?

The law existed before Sept 11, 2001.  However it's use and interpreted has changed dramatically since that date.

The Supreme Court held in a 1969 case called Brandenburg v. Ohio that even advocacy of violence can be criminalized only when it is intended to result in imminent criminal conduct and if it is likely to produce imminent criminal conduct.

In other words, before Sept 11, 2001, there was acknowledgement that speech the government disagrees with is itself part of the marketplace of ideas that is protected by the First Amendment.   A common phrase about this goes something like: "I may hate what s/he says, but I will fight for his/her right to say it".  That's one of the core principles of the U.S. but is that what our government is practicing today?

Advocacy and freedom of speech can serve as a safety valve so that people can let of steam before their anger escalates to committing acts of violence.

A Supreme Court case last year held for the first time that the Government can criminalize speech, even speech advocating lawful activity.  The case was Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project (that is, Attorney General Holder).  Its result, stated by Salon.COM, is to thwart the efforts of humanitarian groups to persuade violent organizations in renouncing their violence.

What were the facts of that Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project case?

Human rights groups wanted to assist two groups (Kurdistan Workers' Party in Turkey and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka) by teaching them the ropes of bringing human rights claims to the United Nations.  Their goal was to teach International Law and nonviolence, hoping to promote peace.  The U.S. designated both as terrorist groups.  The Supreme Court declared that promoting peace among terrorist groups violates the material support law.





Source: The criminalization of speech since 9/11