Archive for November, 2016

How Can We Eliminate “Fake News” Online?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Right now, a very large number of people believe a raft of things that have been debunked. They’re hearing this from “fake news” sites. An example would be “Trump had more votes than Clinton.” This is manifestly not true. Trump got more Electoral College representatives, but lost the popular vote.

Another example is the rumor that Vince Foster’s death was murder and that it was covered up. A moment’s search will get you reports from the 5 different investigations, all of which concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that it was anything other than a tragic suicide, unconnected to the Clintons. This includes efforts by two special prosecutors, appointed by their political enemies.

I’m absolutely certain that there are some out there that would cater to my prejudices, too.

So: there’s fake news out there. It’s influencing significant numbers of people.

We are in publishing. What do we do about this phenomenon? How do we do it? More difficult: how will we be able to identify fake news that reinforces our prejudices?


Simple, Easy, Obvious . . . and WRONG

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

President-elect Trump has ridden the back of a wave of anger and fear and discontent. And no one can doubt that there are people in this country with real reasons to feel all of those things.

We cannot, we must not, ignore those feelings and those causes. But we should look deep into the root causes, rather than settling for the easy solution.

President-elect Trump has made rafts of promises, explicit and implicit, that he cannot possibly keep. For example, most of the
“good jobs” have been taken away not be trade but by technology and by time.

It is a simple fact that the economy has changed. Basic manufacturing jobs were once relatively high-paying jobs, and could be filled by those people who had a minimal education and training, but who were willing to work hard and who had physical skills.

But then again, there was a time when butchers were rich, and millers were in the top tier of the middle class. That changed long ago. Farmers with a hundred acres were once well off. That changed long ago.

Those “good jobs” in manufacturing will never be “good” in the same way again. And to the extent that their successor jobs exist, there will be far fewer of the ones that pay well, and they’ll demand far more of those who fill them. That’s what a change in time and technology has done for and to us.

The remaining jobs will be low wage jobs. They’ll offer wages that will get you about what the old jobs did — but the standards of wealth and sufficiency have changed. Now, a single car, and a small house etc aren’t a good living — in the US. Now, those are good jobs for a low-wage country, but not for here.

Now, the US worker needs to be able to do things differently, or to do different things, if he or she is to earn a “good wage.”

So, President Trump may be able to kill trade deals. He may even be able to force companies to continue to manufacture in the US. But those “good jobs” and the lives that went with them are gone for good.

What will he do when he has to confront that failure?

I’m terrified, because I believe that he, and those who depend upon his promises, won’t look for answers and for solutions in the world as it is, and in the technologic and economic changes that have occurred.

I think that they’re going to look for someone to blame. And we’ll have yet another populist turned tyrant as he hunts down that mythical group of Others who are doing us harm. It’s so much easier and more satisfying to blame Them for our problems.

You can hunt down and kill Them. And you’ll feel like you’re fixing what’s wrong with your life. It’s so much easier than looking at the type of work you’ve done in the past, and saying that it’s gone, and you’ll have to find a different way. It’s so much easier than picking up your family and moving. It’s so much easier than designing a government program to help impoverished families retrain and relocate, without producing pipe dreams or a failed command economy.

But the easy answer isn’t usually the right one when you’re addressing complex problems in the real world.

You know the old saying: To every complex problem, there’s a solution that is simple, obvious, easy . . . and WRONG.

We’re clearly headed in that direction. I wish we weren’t. Ideas?

Pick Your Battles

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

In this latest election, we’ve seen the results of a very polarized electorate, among other things.

I believe that it is incumbent upon all of us to DO something about that. Each of us cares deeply about some issue, or a few issues. There are places on the Internet where we can find like-minded souls, and discuss those issues, and we tend to congregate in those places.

But there are other places, where the benighted fools who disagree with us hang out.

I’m suggesting that we each go to one of those places, and every so often enter a conversation with the people who hang out there.

Be CIVIL. Be respectful. Listen to them. And with every possible fact, bit of logic and persuasiveness at our command, try to convince them of the validity of our POV.

You’re going to get flamed. But maybe, if you keep responding politely, seriously and thoughtfully, maybe you’ll open some minds.

If we all do this, and if we respond respectfully, politely and with careful consideration to those idiots who do the same in our groups, then it is my carefully considered opinion that we might just find our way to a better society.

Or so I hope.

The old saying goes, “Pick your battles.” I’m expanding that. My version runs: “Pick your battles, but DO pick some.”

When you’ve done this, please come back, and tell me what happened.

I look forward to your comments.