News.

One of my goals in this New Year is to eliminate much of the cruft that is nipping at my personal bandwidth. The vast majority of this extra noise is of my own doing; I willingly use apps like Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook to feed my need for information.

The thing is, it isn’t always good information.

I’ve always fallen back on the stance that I maintain a Facebook account to keep up with what’s happening with friends and family back East. I chat with other pilots, read about a geeky things in geeky groups, and follow people I don’t know but would like to meet in person someday. I’m intelligent enough to discard all the political misinformation and the like, but discarding the “keep scrolling!” hooks takes bandwidth and quite frankly, my bandwidth is more valuable than that.

I’ve been delving deeper into Apple News. I’m finding that I can keep tabs with what’s happening in the world through this fairly simple to use app and I’m noticing Siri’s AI is making things better on a daily basis. After consistently using Apple News for the past couple of weeks and providing the app feedback, what I like, what I don’t like, etc., I’m finding it’s giving me news I’m looking for. I will say News is not validating my viewpoint, there were a few articles highlighted today that wanted to make my blood pressure go up, but that’s a good thing. There’s too much tendency for apps to reinforce silos and narrow viewpoints. Apple News doesn’t feel like it’s doing that.

One of the best thing about using Apple News is that it doesn’t automatically show comments to articles. If you’ve ever dealt into the comments section on The Washington Post or New York Times, you know that it’s a dismal and hopefully inaccurate view on where society it is today. There’s no way of telling whether the author of a comment is a citizen, a human, a bad actor, or a bot. And as long as the engagement keeps ticking up the ad revenue for these outlets, we’re never going to know this. So I find it’s best just to stay away from the Peanut Gallery Commentary. That’s what Twitter is for.

If you haven’t given Apple News a try I suggest giving it a whirl. Try it out for a week or two, give it valid feedback with what stories you like and what stories you’re not interested in.

You might enjoy what you read.

Good Tidings.

The Hallmark Channel is reversing its decision to pull commercials containing a same-sex couple kissing and is re-establishing the relationship with Zola, the advertiser.

Hallmark CEO’s statement: “I am sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused… Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials… We will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive & celebrate our differences”

Politics.

We had the impeachment hearings on all day today. Earl was sending text messages from the living room to my home office when the big stuff happened and if I wasn’t in a meeting I would run out to see what was going on, shake my head a bit, wonder why Trump is still in the White House, and then I’d go back to my office and do some more work while I had Twitter scrolling by on my iPad.

We now have the Democratic Debates running this evening. I’m getting pretty burned out on politics today. However, I can’t help but feel that I need to be tuned into what’s going on to make sensible choices in the upcoming votes coming along in the next year.

Look, I’ll admit that I don’t have a lot of confidence in the American people doing the right thing in 2020. The Democrats have to have such a incredibly solid candidate to beat Trump in 2020 and right now there’s so much uncertainty and ‘pie in the sky’ chatter. That is, of course, assuming Trump is the GOP candidate come next November.

I’m not a political strategist. Last time I voted I scanned my ballot into the wrong machine (we have two precincts voting in the same location here in the neighborhood). But I floated this idea around the thinking of the GOP: they admit Trump/Pence really are criminals and convince resignations. Pence resigns, Nikki Haley goes in as VP with a promise to pardon Trump, who resigns due to health issues (see the visit to Walter Reed last weekend), and boom, the GOP has given the United States of America their first female president by way of Nikki Haley.

Hey, at least it’s not Sarah Palin.

I believe this would energize the GOP base, even the middle of the road folks who feel disenfranchised by the current administration and it could swing some middle of the road Democrats who are not enjoying the promises of higher taxes and forced medical insurance plans. Likely to happen? Probably not. Plausible? Yes. But ultimate I don’t believe the GOP is that smart.

It’s going to be a very long year to the 2020 Presidential Election. As painful as it is, I feel a duty to pay attention to what’s going on.

Fasten your seat belts.

LA Times Opinion: Facebook gives up fight against fake news

Facebook Mantra: “Must. Not. Disturb. The. Revenue.” From the LA Times:

Opinion: Facebook just gave up the fight against fake news

Facebook’s new advertisement policy will allow political candidates to lie in their campaign advertisements. Here’s why that’s bad.

Up is down. Left is right. Cats are dogs. President Trump is a very stable genius. Trump is Lucifer incarnate.

These are all demonstrably false statements. But now, thanks to a new Facebook policy that exempts political advertisements from fact-checking, they may as well be true. At least, as long as they appear in a campaign ad.

Yup, that’s right. Facebook, already a “Mad Max”-style digital hellscape of fake news and misinformation, has taken the final step toward creating a fact-free reality: allowing politicians to lie with impunity. The Truthpocalypse is now, officially, upon us.

The newsletter Popular Information reported Thursday morning that the social media platform tweaked its advertisement rules last week, loosening restrictions on all advertising in general and exempting political advertisements from fact-checking entirely.

Per Popular Information: “The old rules prohibited all ads that contained ‘false’ and ‘misleading’ content and made no mention of the fact-checking program. The new rules are limited to claims that are ‘debunked by third-party fact checkers.’ Moreover, Facebook says ‘political figures’ are exempt from even that narrow restriction.”

Facebook just rolled our plump, defenseless democracy over belly-up and invited the wolves over to take a bite.

Why? Well, there’s really no explanation. What we do know is that this can only further muck up our elections.

Of course, Team Trump had already been playing fast and loose with the previous standard for truth on the platform for months. As Popular Information also points out, recent false or misleading Trump campaigns include a “false ad targeting seniors that claimed Trump was still considering closing the southern border,” an “ad scamming its supporters by claiming there was a midnight deadline to enter a contest to win the ‘1,000,000th red MAGA hat signed by President Trump'” that had run every day for weeks, and an “ad that falsely claimed Democrats are trying to repeal the Second Amendment.”

Lord knows they won’t waste a second to exploit their new fib-friendly freedom.

And to my conservative readers, surely you must see how this shoe fits on the other foot. “A vote for Bernie is a vote for free puppies and iPhone 11 Pros.” Or maybe, “Want Kaepernick to start at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys? President Kamala can make it happen.” Or, even worse: “Mayor Pete’s America: More gays, less guns.”

Oh the horror! Just think of how easily fooled all of us uninformed, country-loathing, entitled liberals could be! (Conservatives should also be mad that the president is blatantly lying to their face. But whatever.)

Of course, Facebook’s been trending in this direction for quite some time now. In May, the company folded to the fake newsers and refused to pull down an obviously doctored video portraying Nancy Pelosi as mentally impaired. It was just another example of Facebook acting derelict in its duties — or at least what critics hope its duties would be — to police and patrol the content on their platform.

That event made an enemy out of the House speaker and further cemented the views of those in her party that the tech giant requires regulation.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg still fears federal regulation, reportedly. But these lax new rules sure prove he still doesn’t seem to understand the immense amount of power he wields in influencing our elections. Somehow, a $71-billion company can’t regulate its advertisements with the same scrutiny of a local TV station. Oh well.

In the meantime, I’m abstaining from Facebook to mull a run at local office.

Who wouldn’t vote for a Free Ice Cream for All platform?

Reality.

When it comes to “connecting people together”, Mark Zuckerberg has little interest in anything outside of greed. Tech journalist maven Kara Swisher shares a very interesting opinion piece in The New York Times.

Mr. Zuckerberg really doesn’t want Elizabeth Warren as President.

Give Us Something.

I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy about the Presidential election coming up in 2020. The news media is going to milk this for every monotonous penny they can squeeze out of the event. How many debates and town hall meetings do we need to have, here 15 months out from the election?

In a bizarre act of god knows what that I’ll never understand, the Republicans don’t have the balls to admit that Trump is a freakin’ train wreck and run a sane, hell I’d take someone that just isn’t senile, candidate in place of Lord Orange Flauntimess. The Democrats are literally throwing anything and everything they can against the wall to see what sticks and what falls like limp spaghetti.

The American public is going to be so burnt out from the process I’d be surprised if anyone turned up at the polls for primaries, let alone the general election.

I just want a candidate that doesn’t care about my love life, encourages people to work hard and better themselves, and recognizes the separation of church and state. Is that too much to ask?

Truth.

If you’re gonna bathe in the muck, it’s a lot easier to avoid idiotic memes on Twitter than it is Facebook. Also, it’s better to endure stupidity from a stranger instead of your blood(y) relatives.

Digital Rights Are Human Rights.

Donald Trump’s 2016 digital campaign director claimed to have run 5.9 million visual ads on Facebook, in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s 66,000.

When I was in Junior High School we had a “lifestyle” class the rotated each quarter, or 10-week marking period. One of the lifestyle classes in the rotation was General Art. Taught by a passionate Mr. Tassone, one of our exercises included taking turns standing on a desk and modeling in front of the class while our peers sketched our pose. I’m horrible at drawing; I’m lucky if I can sketch a stick figure and remember all the appendages, but one thing stuck out during this lesson: “no two people will sketch the exact same thing because no two people can have the exact same perspective.”

While this certainly applied to the stick figure I was drawing at the time, it really is something that applied to life. Who knew that Mr. Tassone would offer such a nugget of wisdom in a required class?

The differing perspective of an art subject is very much like what we experience on services like Facebook today. Because of the careful curation, regurgitation, and thousands of other data points in the Great Algorithm of Facebook, no two experiences on the social media platform are alike. What I see on my Facebook feed is nothing like what a straight, white, conservative male in RandomTown, Red State is going to see. True, we might both see the same Gillette ad, or the latest rage in a snack chip, but when it comes to pushing ads tailored to our respective demographics, there’s going to be little overlap.

Now, imagine one of us has been identified as a “Persuadable”. Let’s say the straight, white, conservative male in RandomTown, R.S. has been on the fence when it comes to voting for Clinton or Trump in the 2016 Election. He knows Clinton is a Democrat but she’s rather middle of the road on a lot of the things he believes in. He also knows Trump is a blowhard from Manhattan who’s lost a lot of money in casinos and god knows what else. Our friend in R.S. really doesn’t feel like he has a great choice for President and he’s trying to make a good decision at the polls. His vote is a secret, after all, so he might just vote for Hillary after all and not just talk about it. He partakes in a few political discussions on Facebook and is subsequently identified as a Persuadable.

Cambridge Analytica then uses that data to flood his timeline with a crazy amount of propaganda swaying him in the direction of their client. There are no guard rails to guarantee the ads being pushed at him are based in any sort of truth, but the FCC doesn’t apply here, so the spin on television is a walk through a poppy field compared to the ridiculous vitriol spun through Facebook ads.

Our friend’s family back East can’t figure out why he’s solidly flipped to Trump because they don’t see the ads he’s being subjected to on his timeline. Everyone’s Facebook feed is different and unless you pose as a Persuadable, you’re not going to see an ad targeted to at them. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandburg don’t care; they’re worried about rolling in as much money as possible because in the United States, money is power. Status is power. Fame is power. Mark and Sheryl want to be rich and famous, and they have set aside any resemblance of a moral compass to feed that demon they have inside. I’m sure I’ll chat about my disgust of them in many future blog entries.

Folks like to screech about Cambridge Analytica and their scandal and quite frankly, they deserve to be screeched about because they’re a company devoid of any sort of moral foundation. Like Mark and Sheryl, they want money, and some folks at Cambridge Analytica would probably get elementary school kids addicted to Meth if it increased their bottom line and pleased a top paying client. But the truth of the matter is Facebook does whatever they want, paying token fines for their behavior, because they are unregulated.

Personally, I believe if you can’t make that claim on the Evening News on traditional television, you shouldn’t be able to advertise it on Facebook.

Are things going to change? Not under this administration, it benefits them too much. Right now the only way to change Facebook is to abandon the platform. Hard to do? Absolutely. Hell, I have an account on Facebook and I’m still active on there, mostly sharing photos and talking about stupid crap. One day I’ll get an ad for MAGA hats and the next day I have Kamala Harris begging me for money. The Gillette ads still coming along with regularity.

But I do my very best to eliminate Facebook from any other of my online interactions. I don’t “Sign In With Facebook”, I don’t allow cookies, and I use “Private Browsing” mode in both Safari and Firefox. Google Chrome? Oh hell no. Using Google Chrome for web browsing is like walking through town naked while screaming your personal business at the top of your lungs.

As I said in an earlier blog entry, technology has vastly outpaced society’s grasp of what we have at our disposal these days.

Digital rights are human rights. Interestingly enough, personal data is now more valuable than oil.

It’s time to take our digital rights back.

A little more about the documentary “The Great Hack”.

The Great Hack.

We sat down and watched “The Great Hack” on Netflix. For those not familiar, “The Great Hack” outlines the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal around the 2016 elections. The production value of the documentary is typical 2019 fare and sometimes the narrative wanders a little bit, but the documentary as a whole is well done. It’s interesting, and more so chilling, to see what bad actors will do with the data of individuals.

tl;dr Cambridge Analytica had at least 5,000 data points on every citizen of the United States. They used that data to target people they categorized as persuadables, and then blasted propaganda at those people to convince them to vote and to sway them to vote to the wills of their clients, including The Trump Administration.

Illegal? Debatable. Immoral? Depends on who you’re talking to. Unfortunate? Absolutely.

I firmly maintain the growth of technology has outpaced the ability of society in general to use it responsibly. So many folks fear AI and sentient robots and the like, but technology is already being weaponized against the populace. Since this benefits the bad actors currently in power in the U.S. government, I have little hope that something will be done from a governmental level to address this issue. So it’s up to us to be vocal about what’s happening and to educate those less tech-savvy as to what’s going on behind the curtain. Oz was not a benevolent wizard.

Neither are the actors behind the curtain of our democracy.