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.

Politics.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read a social media update that says, “Just because I voted for Trump doesn’t mean I support his ideals”. Actually, these people are supporting his ideals by putting him and his incompetent, racist, unqualified ass in the Oval Office.

I have no tolerance for excuses.

I still maintain we had weak choices for President in 2016. Inexplicably we ended up with the weakest. And we are paying the price for it.

I have little faith in the American public to do the right thing in 2020. I have little faith in the Democrats to do the right thing. And we all know the media is going to frame anything and everything in most dramatic, contentious, confusing way possible to guarantee themselves as much ad revenue as possible.

And that’s why I’m not blogging much about politics these days. There’s actually too much to say.

Voting.

Today was Voting Day in Chicago. According to the results coming in this evening, today had one of the lowest voter turn outs in recent history. They’re thinking less than 35% of eligible voters in the city of Chicago voted today.

Earl and I made the trek to our voting location, which was just down the block in a vacant storefront. The lighting was sparse, the process was uneven, and the placement of the voting booths and machines was tight, but we did our civic duty.

The mayoral race is going to end up in a run-off in early April. I’m happy the candidate I voted for made it to the run-off. I haven’t seen what happened with the race for Alderman yet; I’ll be checking that out as soon as I finish this blog entry.

I think folks are soured on politics, even more so than usual. The constant bleating from cable news (which seems to be piped into every restaurant that has an early-bird special), the constant chaos from the White House, and the constant pearls clutching from the Democrats is exhausting. It feels like people want to escape from the cacophony of idiocy. Unfortunately that’s a dangerous thing because then our elected representatives don’t represent the will of the people. They represent the crazy, the determined, and the passionate.

Sometimes we need more even keeled individuals in public office.

I don’t know what we need to do to get more people involved with the voting process. Whatever we’re doing now is barely working. I hope it gets better in my lifetime. It’d be nice to exit stage left on a high note.

Disconnected.

I felt like today was a good day to start taking a break from Twitter again. Normally I can thread myself through the flames from the dumpster fire and make the experience enjoyable, especially when I concentrate on my connections with geeks and pilots, but after wading through some especially robust idiocy this morning I decided enough was enough.

I started out my Twitter experience by blocking the keyword “Trump”. but that went against my belief that if you’re going to Twitter, you should Twitter all the way. So the keyword blocking lasted for just an hour or so. During that time, the idiot in chief went ahead and said we had to build the wall before a caravan of immigrants arrived at the border, and his bots and followers all chanted yes in unabandoned idiocy, so I decided it would be best to just step away for a bit.

By the way, this post will still auto post to Twitter because I haven’t turned off that connection. I’ll be doing that after I finish this post.

I would like to think that I’m stepping away from Twitter forever, but you know and I know that won’t be the case. So I’m stepping away from Twitter for now.

At least until I have the mental capacity to deal with it again.

Cold.

I snapped this photo during my walk this morning. It is currently a third of the temperature it was when this photo was taken and it was 15ºF during my walk. Right now it’s 5ºF. On the bright side, it’s above zero.

Wednesday is suppose to have a high of -5ºF.

Snow doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind snow all that much, even when we have feets and yards of it. But cold? Yeah, I’m not a fan. I don’t like the feeling of cold out there. It’s better than oppressively hot, but I’d be happy with a nice 68ºF year round. I guess I’m finicky.

With all the stuff going on during the Government Shutdown for a wall that no one wants, I really worry about the folks that are working their full-time job but will still get a paycheck of zero tomorrow because President Coulter dictated she wouldn’t support the idiot in the seat unless he got his wall built. I worry about the unpaid government working staying warm, I worry about them feeding their families, I worry about them having a roof over their head. Despite the fact that Trump thinks you can buy groceries on a line of credit, I’m pretty sure even Ike Godsey stopped that practice some time during World War II.

The United States of America is a very cold place right now. It’s a shame I’m not talking about the weather.

Truth.

Just imagine how wonderful society would be if demanded honesty, integrity, and morality. The hearty abandonment of these things, by the most self-righteous of the GOP of all things, is absolutely mind-boggling.

We just keep spiraling the drain.

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Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Mashable.

Yesterday, Twitter part-time CEO Jack Dorsey announced the reasoning for not following the lead of other tech and social media companies and removing Alex Jones’ from Twitter. For those not familiar, Alex Jones is most associated with Infowars, a conspiracy/”alternative-facts” website known for spreading disinformation and perpetuating several conspiracy theories, including that the Sandy Hook school shooting was either staged or faked and that all of the grieving parents are paid actors. Parents of killed school children have relocated hundreds of miles away from their home in high security residences to avoid the loonies threatening them for being paid actors of what Jones calls a staged shooting. I’ve avoided Megyn Kelly and her schtick since she featured Jones on her Sunday night talk show on Father’s Day 2017.

Part-time Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says the platform will not suspend Jones’ account because he hasn’t broken any of Twitter’s content rules. By the way, I say “part-time CEO” because Dorsey’s ego also allows him to be the CEO of Square. When the president of the United States is tweeting nuclear war threats at North Korea on your social media platform, running the platform is truly a part-time job.

I’ve been on Twitter for over a decade. Since the 2016 election I’ve really struggled with the platform. Admittedly, I’ve probably tried to quit Twitter at least a dozen times but like any well-trained tech addict, I’m addicted to the stream of information flowing from Twitter, as plagued with negativity, lies, and dumpster fire chic as it has been for the past year and a half.

I think @Jack’s asinine behavior has finally pushed me over the brink and sobered me up from my addiction to Twitter. Dorsey’s focus on profit for the fledging tech company, and his allowance of perpetuation of outright lies and dangerous conspiracy theories is doing more harm than good for society today. There will always be negativity in the world, that is very much apparent in what has honestly turned out to be thus far a horrible century for the world, but there’s a line of morality and I believe Twitter has crossed to the dark side. We wouldn’t expect someone to investigate if there really was a fire if someone yelled “Fire” in a theatre.

I firmly believe that the growth of tech, and especially the Internet, has outpaced society’s capacity to control, contribute, and consume much of value with all the technology we have at our fingertips today. We are behind what we are capable of, and all of this tech at our fingertips is being weaponized by bad actors in the world. This weaponization is being willfully perpetuated by greedy, power hungry people like part-time Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. When he and his Facebook counterpart Mark Zuckerberg say they’re trying to connect the world in good faith, don’t buy a word of it. Jack and Mark are greedy, power hungry men, with little regard for society, morality, or even a quality human connection.

It’s time for me to say goodbye to Twitter. It will not be easy for me. I’m an addict and I will have my struggles. I have grown reliant on some of the good information that comes from the platform. But I can’t pollute my well-being with the negativity that is rampant on the platform any longer.

I hope to maintain the quality connections I’ve had with folks that I’ve met on Twitter over the years. Godspeed to them as they try to wade through the muck.

Godspeed to all of us.

Truth.

A friend from high school posted this on Facebook. People need to read this:

Okay, I have resisted fb for weeks, but I just need to state some truth that many of you are not aware of.

1) Our Big (her husband –J.P.) is a federal attorney, not an immigration attorney, but someone who knows his way around federal court. He is trying to reunite children with their parent, and we are in TX. Children have been moved all over the country without any records being kept. There is a federal court order to reunite these children with their parents, but the administration is unable to find these children.

2) Under international and federal law, any human that sets a foot on USA soil is entitled to due process. For you morons who do not understand what that is, look it up. Google is your friend.

3) 90 percent of these parents were seeking asylum. For you morons stating seek it from your home country, one cannot seek it from one’s home country. Political and religious asylum must be pursued from inside the United States. That is the law. A woman and her five year old son were seperated AFTER once she crossed the border, she flagged down border patrol and asked for asylum. Not someone looking to buck the system. But someone looking for a better life. That is what America is. Why would people flag down Customs and Border Patrol if they were not trying to do the right thing?

4) 99 percent of people let out of custody, follow through with their court appointments. If they are not granted asylum, they are deported.

5) yes there were children detained under the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations. They were UNACCOMPANIED MINORS. Also, children that were with adults who may not have been actual cbildren of the adults crossing the border….meaning sex trafficking or kidnapping. They were detained as well.

6) Whatever you think is okay, think if your child was taken from your arms. Think about it. Think long and hard. Think about being in a situation that was so desperate, that you decided to travel 3000 miles with nothing but the clothes on your back and a couple of bucks in your pocket. I am a mother. I would never move my children unless their lives were in danger. These mothers are heros.

7) Before you complain, UNDERSTAND THE FUCKING LAW. AND UNDERSTAND HOW THE PRESENT ADMINISTRATION IS BREAKING IT

8. ) If you are a mother, and accept this, shut the fuck up. You have no right to speak. Any mother that accepts this is despicable.

Defriend me, hate me, whatever you want to do but you are dead wrong.

9) It is easy to be white in this country. So many of you are so afraid. White people not understanding white privilege is like a pretty girl saying, “Why is everyone so nice to me??”

10) I can always understand conservative viewpoints. I get it. But this broke me. Kidnapping children for political gain is not only disgusting, but evil, and people will pay.

11) The real haters will never get this far. The people who accept this despicable, hateful treatment of children will never read this. Why didnt they? They are cowards, and do not care about the lives of BABIES. Cowards.

Think, Part 2.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of “Madam Secretary”. The show is in its fourth season, and is on CBS on Sunday evenings. The show hit its stride early in its run and is continuing to offer up compelling storylines. This past Sunday featured the episode “Sound and Fury”.

I’m not going to get too far into spoilers of this episode, but they may be sprinkled here and there in the rest of this blog entry, so let’s say you’ve been warned.

Yes, you’ve been warned about potential spoilers.

This particular episode of Madam Secretary should be required viewing for high school civics classes. It examines how the 25th Amendment works, why it would be considered and what is really involved with invoking the 25th Amendment of the Constitution. A temporary medical issue comes into play here, but the result of the medical concern feels very familiar if you’ve been paying attention to the news at all since the latest administration took office. Phrases like “overwhelming force and ferocity” are bandied about without consideration. Diplomacy is set aside in favor of ‘tough guy’ displays of strength. On the show this is very uncharacteristic for fictional President Dalton. I wish the same could be said about the man in the Oval Office today.

The scenes around debating invoking the 25th Amendment are very honest. It all felt very believable. If anything, it made me think of how that debate would carry out in the real world today. Are there meetings taking place in D.C. to discuss this exact thing?

I’m inclined to think so.

The are two lines in particular that struck me rather hard (and I’m paraphrasing): 1. “We have the greatest system of government the world has ever known, but it’s only as strong as its people” and 2. “We took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not our political party”.

If only the folks in Washington would get on the script.

The tribalism, and the divisiveness behind the tribalism, is what’s deeply hurting our country, and I fully believe the news media continues to pour gasoline on this raging dumpster fire. Tribes saw one candidate as a movie villain and reacted as if they were watching a WWE tournament. The tribe continues to do this today. Trump purposely stirs up the tribe to keep a “villain” in the news. And the news outlets eat it up. It’s the tribalism that is killing objectivity. A good number of elected officials are putting party over country. I have little faith in most of our elected officials; the charade of “serving the people” died years ago.

If you haven’t had the chance to see Madam Secretary or if you don’t even have the interest to follow the show, I still recommend that you watch the episode “Sound and Fury”. It works pretty well as a standalone episode and I think the mechanics are sound to help one understand how the 25th Amendment works.

And how officials should always honor their oath to uphold the Constitution.