We Stopped Herr Hitler — Now We Must Stop Something Potentially Far Worse: President Trump

Views: 7050

G+ Community: Saving Science & Tech from Trump

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As I write these words late in the evening of 8 November 2016, Donald Trump has become the president-elect of the United States.

In 1933, a man named Adolf Hitler, who by all accounts was far more intelligent, refined, educated, and self-controlled than one Donald J. Trump, was appointed chancellor of Germany, a country that at the time was among the world’s leaders in arts and science. Within a few years, he dragged Germany into a maelstrom of racism, death, and horror, with few German fingers raised to stop him.

Luckily, though he was on the path to do so, Hitler never obtained operational nuclear weapons. Nor for that matter was he known to brag about committing sexual assault. He was many horrible things, but he was not an ignoramus.

On the other hand, Hitler’s supporters and Trump’s supporters are very much one of a kind, and history teaches clearly that giving any quarter to such monsters is the fastest route to total annihilation.

We will in coming hours and days hear much talk — as did the citizens of 1933 Germany — about “coming together” for the sake of our country.

When it comes to a President Trump, I reject such calls, and I assert that all ethical Americans should do the same.

To “come together” with such an ignorant and lying man and his minions — a man who is a proponent of sexual assault, of torture, of deep-seated racism and antisemitism — a man who mocks the disabled, who doesn’t believe in science, and who encourages mindless violence and restrictions on freedom of speech — is to lend tacit if not active approval to such abominable attitudes and behaviors. This is a binary decision — there is no middle ground. You either accept the evil and join it — or you fight against it body and soul.

There is a long list of villains — some knowing, some “merely” complicit — who have enabled the rise of the ultimate, perverted horror of a President-Elect Trump.

These include (in no particular order and merely to mention a few): FBI Director James Comey, Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, news organizations like those of CNN and CBS who played crucial roles in Trump’s rise, Bernie Sanders and his followers along with third-party candidates, and yes, we of the Internet and social media, who provided the means for echo chamber exacerbation of racism and fake news to multiply without bounds in the name of profits.

There is no coming together with the likes of a President Trump and his storm troopers, any more than there can be a coming together with a pit full of lethal cobras, spiders, and rabid hyenas.

All legal means must be employed to stop the damage that a President Trump could and would do to this country and the world. This may include both vast civil disobedience and the leveraging of the technology that we control toward limiting the ability of a President Trump and his appointees to destroy what’s great about the United States of America and the rest of this planet.

A hideous monster like a President Trump, combined with a totally GOP-controlled Congress and likely multiple Supreme Court nominations, empowered by USA military and nuclear capabilities, could easily make Hitler’s Reich look like a playground by comparison.

I had hoped — in fact I had already planned and publicly noted — my intentions to move away from political content postings after this election. I realize now that this will be impossible. I apologize for raising your hopes about this unnecessarily.

I am no longer a young man. I do not intend to sit by for the time I have remaining while simply pontificating about the niceties of technology and tech policy while this country is dragged down into a nightmare that would likely even terrify Adolf Hitler himself.

I will be endeavoring to use any and all legal means available — political, technical, and more — to accomplish as effective as possible a figurative “neutering” of a President Trump and all individuals associated with him, to limit the damage that he and his Deplorables can do to this already great nation.

There cannot be “business as usual” in the face of the existential threat represented by Trump.

I welcome you to join me in this effort.

But if you feel that you will be offended or otherwise upset by my use of my various venues and lists for such purposes — which will now likely be escalating dramatically — I urge you to unfollow or unsubscribe from me now.

We are faced with a form of total war. This war must be fought via legal and peaceful means, so long as we ourselves and our fellow Americans are not threatened with illegal actions or violence by a President Trump or his thugs.

Together,  we shall ultimately prevail against the epitome of ignorance and evil that is Donald J. Trump.


I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so — my opinions expressed here are mine alone.
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The correct term is “Internet” NOT “internet” — please don’t fall into the trap of using the latter. It’s just plain wrong!

Asking Google Home About George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words”

Views: 1330

What actually happens when you ask the newly released Google Home Appliance about legendary comedian George Carlin’s famous Seven Words That You Can Never Say on Television? Yeah, let’s give this a try. It turns out that the precise wording of this query seems to be fairly critical. No pun intended. I have not modified the answer in any manner.

UPDATE: The “Google modified” list presented in the audio linked below may apparently only be presented to Google Home Appliance users (even reportedly when filters are disabled), perhaps out of fear that persons in the room might be offended by the “spoken out loud” response. A “pure” list appears to be more routinely presented to users who make the same query by phone (to the same underlying Google Assistant system). Fascinating.

I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so — my opinions expressed here are mine alone.
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The correct term is “Internet” NOT “internet” — please don’t fall into the trap of using the latter. It’s just plain wrong!

Unreadable Webpages and Crummy Electricity

Views: 821

Hmm. I thought I’d been explicit about this in earlier postings about Google’s New Blogs and other webpages, but apparently not explicit enough. So let’s try again.

Whenever I discuss the problems of the increasing unreadability of webpages, due to font choices, low contrast, and other “form over function” web design choices, I inevitably receive email from folks offering me “helpful” hints to bypass those poorly and shortsightedly designed pages.

Run this theme! Edit this style sheet! Install this add-on! Use this RSS reader! Switch to this browser! And so on …

The thing is — trust me — I already know how to do all this stuff.

I’m not the one I’m concerned about. It’s average users — who read pages in their native formats on the most popular browsers — who are being increasingly disadvantaged.

And most of these users don’t know about these workarounds, and frankly are unlikely to install or use these typically ephemeral bypasses that can break at any time.

By and large, these readability “solutions” are designed for techies, not for ordinary users who sometimes don’t even fully understand the difference between the desktop and a browser. I work with people like this all the time. They’re everywhere, and they’re a rapidly growing category of users.

We techies tend to be blinded by our own science, to the point where we undervalue or simply don’t recognize the disparities between our view of technology and the ways that ordinary, non-techie folks with their own lives use our services and tools.

It’s a disgraceful situation on our part. And it’s our fault.

Most people increasingly view the Internet as they would a refrigerator, or an ordinary TV set. They just expect it to work. And that’s a completely reasonable attitude given how much absolutely necessary day-to-day functionality we’ve pushed onto the Web.

Here’s an analogy.

Imagine if one day your local electrical power company suddenly changed the parameters of the electricity they were sending you, in a manner that mostly caused older equipment to have problems.

So you complain, and the power guys say that they’ve determined that newer equipment works better with the new parameters, and anyone with older equipment should just search around, find, and install special power filters and regulators so that their older equipment will work again.

And you ask when the company asked if anyone wanted them to make these electricity changes.

And they reply that they didn’t ask. They don’t really care much about your demographic of equipment, and they suggest that you can take the electricity or leave it. Thank you for calling. Click.

Now maybe you have the time, skill, and/or money to go out and find the electricity add-ons you need (or install solar power, perhaps). But what if you don’t?

Anyway, I’m sure you see my point.

Electricity delivery of course is usually regulated in various ways by the government, but if the current trends in webpage design continue to selectively disadvantage particular categories of users, it is increasingly likely that the government will get involved in this area, just as they have in other aspects of perceived discrimination and disability concerns.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer that these firms fix these issues themselves, rather than having the government moving in with their own heavy-handed mandated changes that not infrequently cause new problems more than they solve old ones.

But one way or another, the status quo and current webpage design trends are increasingly untenable.

So the choice for these firms seems fairly clear. Either throw the switch yourselves toward better webpage design and viewability choices that won’t leave users behind, or wait for the government to start firing high voltage regulatory lighting bolts your way.

Be seeing you.

I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so — my opinions expressed here are mine alone.
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The correct term is “Internet” NOT “internet” — please don’t fall into the trap of using the latter. It’s just plain wrong!

How to Copy Text from the New Low Contrast Google Blogs

Views: 1081

A number of people have been contacting me since I noted the awful new low contrast text in the new Google Blogs, mentioning that they could no longer copy text from the blog pages to paste onto blank pages as ordinary easily visible fonts.

Many people use text copying as a fallback method for viewing otherwise difficult to read or unreadable pages, as a “lowest common denominator” method that usually always works — even when various page reading add-ons break due to layout changes.

In the case of the new Google Blogs, at least on some platforms, Google’s fancy new low contrast pages also include various tricks that cause some users’ left-mouse-click copy text command that they’ve been using forever to now fail. There are a couple of approaches to dealing with this.

As a general rule, disabling JavaScript on offending pages of these sorts (not just on Google pages) will help, though this can be tricky for some users and can sometimes have serious undesirable operational side-effects.

If your goal is only to copy out text after selecting it (and yes, selecting still works on the new Google Blogs), the pretty much standardized Control-C keyboard shortcut will usually copy the selected text into your clipboard, and you can then past it out onto another page using the regular mouse paste command (or the Control-V keyboard shortcut).

Of course, none of this would be necessary if Google hadn’t joined this bizarre design craze sweeping the Net and making webpages ever more unreadable for ever more users, with a hopelessly narrow-minded “one size fits all, form over function” philosophy.

But you’ll need to talk to Google about that. I’ve already done so — to no useful effect. Perhaps you’ll have better luck than I have. But I won’t be holding my breath.

I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so — my opinions expressed here are mine alone.
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The correct term is “Internet” NOT “internet” — please don’t fall into the trap of using the latter. It’s just plain wrong!

The Risks of Facebook Advertising and Racial Discrimination

Views: 1274

There’s a rising controversy right now — I’ve received a couple of dozen queries about this in the last few days — regarding Facebook’s permitting advertisers to block particular ads from specific “ethnic affinity” groups, e.g. African American.

Facebook insists that these aren’t actually racial categories per se since they don’t directly ask users about their race. Rather, Facebook insists that they “merely” assign a kind of racial “score” to users based on user activities. 

That’s Facebook double-talk of course. Look at stuff that Facebook figures mainly interests whites, and Facebook sorts you into the white club. Look at materials that Facebook assumes mainly attract blacks, and Facebook relegates you to the black shack. Same idea for Hispanics, and so on.

These assumptions are naturally going to be wrong part of the time, but Facebook cares not, since they don’t make a point of explicitly telling you which racial categories — and that’s what these actually are, racial categories — that they’ve slotted you into.

But they do tell advertisers, at least to the extent that they permit advertisers to exclude different racial groups (or, excuse me, I mean “ethnic affinity” groups) from seeing particular ads or even knowing that those ads exist.

Facebook insists that their rules prohibit using these “racial control” facilities in illegal ways — such as to foster housing or job discrimination against particular racial groups.

But this issue hit the fan now when it was demonstrated how simple it is to get clearly racially discriminatory and illegal ads approved via Facebook’s advertising portal.

Facebook (which, despite having put these racial categories in their “demographics” section, seems to assert that they’re not really demographic!) tries to explain away these problems with the usual excuse — blame the users (or in this case, blame the advertisers). This despite the fact that it’s Facebook’s creation of these racial filters that practically begs racist advertisers to use them to exclude what those advertisers deem to be “undesirable” persons.

This kind of “hey, it’s not our fault!” excuse would never fly with newspaper ads or other traditional advertising, but has become common with Internet darlings, including firms like Uber and Airbnb, who are increasingly facing government actions pushing back on their cavalier attitudes in a range of contexts.

This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with targeted advertising as a whole. In fact, it helps avoid wasting users’ time with ads for products or services that they probably don’t care about.

But once you step into the fire of racial classification on the Net, you’re letting yourself in for a world of pain.

Just as a thought experiment, imagine if Google permitted YouTube uploaders to specify which racial groups would be permitted to find and view particular videos? Google would be rightly crucified in short order.

Obviously, Google would never do this. Yet what Facebook is actually doing is far worse than this imaginary example, and they’ve been doing it under the radar of most users. People writing to me are expressing outrage that Facebook didn’t clearly inform them that they were being secretly stuffed into racial boxes and being spoon-fed particular ads based on those racial classifications.

Ultimately, this sort of misbehavior by Facebook threatens to provide ammunition to politicians and their cronies who have long wished to impose draconian controls on users’ ability to post a wide range of completely legitimate materials on social media, video, and other sorts of sites. There’s nothing that these politicos would love more than to leverage racial discrimination into broad-based Internet censorship.

Facebook needs to clean up their act. Or the government is likely to clean it up for them, and in their overreaction do immense harm to everyone else in the process.

I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so — my opinions expressed here are mine alone.
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The correct term is “Internet” NOT “internet” — please don’t fall into the trap of using the latter. It’s just plain wrong!