The Fake World of Social Media: Bots vs People. Is social media like Facebook and Twitter a force for good or an evil force intended to manipulate people? The NYT launched a nearly year-long investigation into the phony world of buying and selling fake people through social media. A company called Denumi sells bots (fake social media followers) so the Times bought 25,000 fake followers for $225 and played with them. Turns out there are millions of bots (fake people) used by businesses, politicians, and anyone trying to influence everything from political candidates to perceptions about shampoo. Those who have studied the use of bots in social media to influence attitudes and opinions say that social media is rotten with fraud and fakery. Read More about that here. Of course the same thing can be done less efficiently as they do in China with real people. There the government employs an army of fake commenters who generate an estimated 448 million comments in the media aimed at distracting the public and redirecting attention from sensitive issues. Russia does the same thing as it demonstrated how easy it is to manipulate public opinion in America. And Trump also does the same thing using his cabinet members and the Republicans in Congress to spread falsehoods.
Newspapers in the News. The LATimes now has a supplement called Times OC, a short weekly section which is mostly fluff news about Orange County. Editor is John Canalis: firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile back in the big city the LAT has voted to unionize for the first time in its 136 year history. Most other major newspapers in the country unionized long ago. But the big shake-up is that the publisher and CEO of the LAT Ross Levinsohn was forced to take a leave of absence amid accusations of sexual harassment. And now the LAT gets a new editor, Jim Kirk, previously editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. He replaced Lewis D’Vorkin who was editor for only a few months of news room turmoil. He was called the Prince of Darkness amid accusations that he was setting up a shadow newsroom to blur the lines between news and advertising in order to boost revenue. His former job was a product officer at Forbes and he will now be moved to a position in the parent company, Tronc. And the OCR continues to retrench with an announcement that a significant number of staff members will be laid off in coming weeks. This is bad news for the OCR which has already slashed its coverage (and staff) and now relies heavily on generic news that could go in any of its newspapers anytime regardless of location. The good news at the OCR is that the news division now sometimes reprints stories from the NYT, AP, and Washington Post. Even the editorial page is lightening up and occasionally presents counterpoint to what used to be only right wing mantra.
How Does San Clemenete Spend its Edison Money? In recognition of the danger that San Onofre presents to nearby communities, Edison was forced to pay San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, and Oceanside significant sums to help the towns prepare for radiation emergencies after Edison leaves and the cities are on their own. Last year, San Clemente received 193,000 but ended up returning $30 unspent. The program runs two more years but San Clemente will get less next year because it failed to spend everything last year. A Public Records Act was needed to find out details on how the rest was spent and it is unclear if the money was spent wisely or used as a slush fund for other town priorities. True, there is need for training now that Edison is gradually leaving the scene. Edison has asked for (and received) many exemptions from the NRC (such as no fire department, fewer guards on security, and no off-site radiation monitoring) so the future burdens of accidents will fall on local towns. But why does Edison money go to managers of recreation and golf courses, for example? What the town should be investing in is radiation monitoring. There is no off-site monitoring which is real time and publicly available. When the radioactive fallout comes, there is no way to know how much, where, and which radionuclides. Should we believe the authorities when an accident happens? In all major radiation catastrophes in the past, authorities have lied to the public about radiation levels and it is safe to assume they will do the same thing here.
Government by the Rich. Trump claims to be interested in American workers but when it comes to running the government he leans heavily on Wall Street billionaires, hence the term “Government Sachs.” Advisors coming from Goldman Sachs include Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), Gary Cohn (National Economics Council), Dina Powell (National Security) and even Steve Bannon. But Goldman Sachs has fallen on hard times. Co-President David Solomon likes to collect wine and has 1,000 bottles stored in his Manhattan residence. Recently some were stolen including a single bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti which he bought for $133,650. How nice to be able to spend $100,00 on a bottle of wine but what a pity when the rich have to suffer losing their wine bottles. Speaking of billionaires, Betsy DeVos has a fleet 16 private airplanes including: 1 Boeing Business Jet, 5 Gulfstream G550s, 1 Gulfstream G450, 2 Bombardier Challenger 350s, 3 Cessna Citation CJ4s, and 4 helicopters. She is Secretary of Education in spite of the fact that she never attended a public school in her life (she is using her position to advance the interests of private and charter schools). If you haven’t heard of her, she is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater USA. The Trump insiders have truly amazing stories.
Is Trump a Country Club Republican? Trump has spent more than a third of his Presidency at his private residences including his country club golf courses. Does this reveal his true values? Michael Goldfarb says “Donald Trump is a man of his class- the nouveau riche, country club class. Louder and more obnoxious….” Read more.
Is Trump a Racist? Read Charles Blow: “Trump is a Racist. Period.” If you want a list of his racist statements, read David Leonhardt: “A Definitive List of Donald Trump’s Racist Statements.”
Who Gains from the New Tax Laws? Smart marketing by the Trump administration boasts about how the new tax laws are a windfall for the average worker. They don’t mention that half of the 11,000 lobbyists in Washington worked vigorously to get deals representing their clients (not you). Who benefited? Look at the one-time $1000 bonuses workers are getting at Walmart and Bank of America! The truth is that corporations are raking in huge windfall profits and doling out peanuts. BOA will rake in an additional $2.7 billion this year and will dole out a mere $145 million to its employees. Apple will rake in an additional $40 billion and dole out $300 million to employees. Hold your nose and read on.
Why Do Some People Love Trump? Speaking of holding your nose, many agree that he is disgusting and dishonest but they support him anyway because they love his policies, especially those that benefit them personally (never mind if the rest of the country suffers). Usually they talk about how they are benefiting from the stock market, and usually they don’t like to talk about some of the other things like racism, sexism, anti-environment, anti-democracy, anti-education, anti-poor people, anti-science, anti-foreigner, the list is long. But are we talking about Trump values or are these now the values of the Republican Party? Many were shocked in the Alabama election when the die-hard Republican evangelicals were enthusiastic in their support for a racist pedophile liar who abused women. It is worth taking a look at the selective vision of people who love Trump and don’t care about his warts. On January 18 the NYT devoted an entire page to people who wanted to explain their thinking and values.
The Trump Insult List. On Jan. 29, the NYT devoted 2 full pages to 425 people and organizations insulted by Trump. For personal abusive insults, Hillary Clinton was the winner followed by guess what former president. For organizations, the media came in first place for insults followed by the Democrats, New York Times, and CNN. Check to see if you made the list.
Evolution Washington Style. Did you know that Dinosaurs roamed Washington and Maryland 100 million years ago? Footprints from the Cretaceous era were recently discovered under the grounds of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center not far north of the nation’s capital. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/science/dinosaurs-footprints-nasa.html Turns out that Washington D.C. was once a swamp. Still is a swamp according to many. But Donald Trump is working hard to carry out at least one of his campaign promises: drain the swamp. He has done an excellent job. Gone are Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Omarosa Newman, Dina Powell, Michael Flynn, Tom Price, Sebastian Gorka, Anthony Scaramucci, Michael Short, Angella Reid, and of course ethics director Walter Shaub. Speaking of purging the system, the Guggenheim Museum offered to lend the president a solid gold toilet. They even offered to hook it up and make it flush. Trump refused.
Real Evolution Scientists previously thought that homo sapiens first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago and started to migrate out about 50,000 years ago. New fossil remains discovered in Israel were dated at 180,000 years so the history of the human race has to be revised. And in Morocco, fossil remains discovered last June revealed modern looking humans about 350,000 years old. We are much older than anyone thought! On the bad side, some scientists predict that the human race has only about 100 years to live. But don’t worry, researchers in China have successfully cloned monkeys so presumably we can someday clone humans from cells in a petri dish.