Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why Warren Buffet's ending the budget deficit in five minutes is a fairy tale at best

There I was, minding my own business on Linkedin and I saw this:





























Warren Buffet is intervening in government at a radical level? That can't be right! So a quick trip to Snopes:
So yes, it’s true that one of the most respected businessmen of modern times did indeed voice the quote now widely ascribed to him in various e-mailed forwards, although his remark was more in the nature of a wry commentary on the workings of Congress than a serious proposal for tackling the budget deficit. 
The rest of the lengthier e-mail in circulation (see example quoted below) has nothing to do with Warren Buffett. What is presented as the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” began circulating on the Internet in October 2009 as the “Congressional Reform Act of 2009.” In a nutshell, what is presented as a proposed 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution isn’t something that has been put forward by any member of Congress and thus is nothing more than a bit of Internet-based politicking.
Thank you Snopes. Now don't get me wrong. Everyone that read this and smiled, or passed it on, is a smart person, they simply did not pick up on this instantiation of a weapon of influence. Should I, or any reader, think "this can't happen to me", then we have missed the point of this blog. We might have dodged this particular one, but at the end of the day, all of us are impacted by perception management.

Back to the story at hand, I found the "reform act" to be a fun read and agree with a lot of it, especially:
Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
To which I reply with a hearty amen, but that is neither here nor there. This is a perceptor and this post engendered comments like:
Sadly, not even that can end the deficit. In the next election, the people that were taxed and the people who lost benefits would elect new politicians.
This has been proposed before. Until the entrenched clowns on Capitol Hill understand the principles of the Republic, this won't happen.
There are about 100 comments, I just picked two. And there is nothing grossly wrong with either. The problem, at least what they taught in programming in the 1980s is GIGO, (Garbage In, Garbage Out). If you make your wonderful and logical, (at least according to your belief system), comment based on a fabrication, that is like the warning of Matthew 7. We are building a house on a foundation of sand, if there isn't a solid foundation, the house falls down with the first storm.

What are some of the perceptors at work in this real life example.
1) Warren Beaty, even people that do not follow the market have heard of him, if famous then smart, if smart, then right.
2) Most of us, including myself, don't really understand the deficit in detail, but we know it is bad. It is kind of like living next to an active volcano, it didn't blow yesterday, maybe, hopefully ....
3) The implied enemy is the US Congress and durn it, they really should eat their own home cooking in terms of retirement system, health coverage and pay raises. Who can argue against that?

Summary: It is a good thought provoking, fun piece of writing, that taps into the angst of the American people. However, it will never amount to much. Part of the problem is that it smells a bit like the chain letter it is. Also, it is a bit long, has been around a long time so you may have seen it a decade ago and have that "deja vu" feeling when you read it and finally, it is too long and impersonal.





Sunday, May 21, 2017

Electoral college and the shift in online news

Ever try to bring up a news story from some sort of index service only to be greeted by a popup saying:
- You have exceeded your five free articles or
- You have four articles remaining

I do not blame the news services. Print media newspapers and magazines are failing fast. They are trying to move online to survive. However, most citizens cannot afford to join five or ten news services. The result of course is a limitation is choice of news feeds.

Forbes has an article on the largest news services, so does Business Insider. A fairly small number of companies control the majority of the news outlets, print, TV/radio, or online.

When our forefathers created the electoral college, one of the drivers was that the average citizen might not be informed. We think that with the Internet that is ancient history, but day by day the past is becoming the future.

Add to this the possibility an anti-democratic country, say like Russia, is intentionally mucking around with social media as Time suggest and you have a significant problem.

http://time.com/4783932/inside-russia-social-media-war-america/

























The good news is that the Washington Post and the New York Times are engaged in a full on Newspaper war. Both sides are involved in investigative journalism and scooping each other and democracy in the USA is the winner in this case. BTW honorable mention goes out to the fine folks at CNN and thank you for running this story about the competition.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Maybe the Electoral College was a good idea?

The introduction of this blog post is largely based on the Pro/Con website. "The Electoral College was established in 1788 by Article II of the US Constitution, which also established the executive branch of the US government, and was revised by the Twelfth Amendment (ratified June 15, 1804), the Fourteenth Amendment (ratified July 1868), and the Twenty-Third Amendment (ratified Mar. 29, 1961)."

The "pro" argument, "Using electors instead of the popular vote was intended to safeguard against uninformed or uneducated voters by putting the final decision in the hands of electors most likely to possess the information necessary to make the best decision; to prevent states with larger populations from having undue influence; and to compromise between electing the president by popular vote and letting Congress choose the president."

The "con" argument, "Modern technology allows voters to get necessary information to make informed decisions in a way that could not have been foreseen by the Founding Fathers. Also, while Alexander Hamilton in 1788 saw the electors as being "free from any sinister bias," members of the Electoral College are now selected by the political parties and they are expected to vote along party lines regardless of their own opinions about the candidates."

After careful consideration, I am starting to believe Alexander Hamilton was right when he said, “be not perfect, it is at least excellent”.

At first blush, I am somewhat swayed by the con argument, Modern technology allows voters to get necessary information to make informed decisions. This raises two questions:
- Can voters easily get the necessary information?
- Do voters make informed decisions?

in 2017 it is possible to get information, lots of information, possibly too much information. There are a couple of issues to be considered:

- Media bias. A reporter and their publisher should strive for balanced reporting, but over the years bias has become more pronounced. This site lists some classic problems, some are fairly subtle:

  • Bias by omission – leaving one side out of an article
  • Bias by selection of sources – including more sources that support one view
  • Bias by story selection – a pattern of highlighting news stories that coincide with an agenda
  • Bias by placement – Story placement is a measure of how important the editor considers the story.
  • Bias by labeling - tagging of politicians and groups with extreme labels
  • Bias by spin - when the story has only one interpretation of an event or policy 


- Media bias can lead to confirmation bias. Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it.

- Fake news is a type of yellow journalism, (presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines), that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via the traditional print, broadcasting news media, or via Internet-based social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.

Media bias conclusion. With a bit of study, most reasonable people will determine media bias exists, even though modern technology gives us unprecedented access to information, it may be poor quality information. The good news is that FaceBook and others are cracking down on fake news and extreme viewpoint news and there are a growing number of fact check sites. You will have to go on your own search for truth, but this website listing generally unbiased sites may be a place to start.

The second electoral college "con" I want to challenge is: voters make informed decisions? Sorry, it simply is not true. Let's start with investing, most people intuitively know not to buy high, sell low, but they do it again and again. The extreme case is bubbles. I spent the afternoon, (until I got so bored I needed a nap), catching up on the latest on Brexit. 51.9 % of Britons voted for it and now they are slowly discovering the true cost of that decision. Climate change is another, one of the best web sites on the subject is NASA, (at least till a certain political party makes them take it down). Even after they are censured, there will be enough evidence to convince a rational person we should start making changes. I will end with a small and simple example. I have a friend that has a boat and wants me to come and sit on his boat and talk. He is well read and brilliant, but sometimes I cannot follow his conclusions. For one, he refuses to recycle because "Jesus is coming soon to take us all home". I have as much Maranatha in my prayers as the next fellow, but the Kauai landfill is in trouble. News about it is harder to find than  news about VOG, but here is one article, and I quote, "If — and only if — the island can successfully implement an aggressive series of recycling programs geared at achieving a 70 percent waste diversion rate by 2020, the Kekaha landfill has about 10 years of life left."

Voters make informed decisions conclusion. I could have gone on for page after page. I work in cybersecurity and I am amazed at the people that fall for phishing attempts which open up their families or companies to all sorts of grief from ransomeware to data breaches. How is it possible they keep falling for these. P.T. Barnum may or may not have been the person to come up with the phrase, "There is a sucker born every minute", but it is true and as they grow up, they vote.

Conclusion: I am with Alexander Hamilton. The electoral college is not perfect, people will and should challenge it. However, given the evidence at hand, in a world of extreme perception management,  it is at least excellent.





Pepe? Is that you?

From Slashdot, May 08, 2017: "The creator of Pepe the Frog has symbolically killed off the cartoon frog, effectively surrendering control of the character to the far right. Matt Furie, an artist and children's book author, created the now-infamous frog as part of his "Boy's Club" series on MySpace in 2005. Pepe took on a life of its own online as a meme, before being eventually adopted as a symbol by the "alt-right" in the lead-up to last year's U.S. election. In September, Hillary Clinton identified Pepe the Frog as a racist hate symbol, and Pepe was added to the Anti-Defamation League's database of hate symbols. Furie launched a campaign to "Save Pepe," flooding the internet with "peaceful or nice" depictions of the character in a bid to shake its association with white supremacy and antisemitism. But he now seems to have conceded defeat, killing the character off in a one-page strip for the independent publisher Fantagraphics' Free Comic Book Day. It showed Pepe laid to rest in an open casket, being mourned by his fellow characters from Boy's Club."



The Guardian reports, "Furie had been attempting to wrench back his “peaceful frog-dude” – whom he has often said he imagined as an extension of his personality – for more than six months. Pepe’s passing has been interpreted of his ceding control of the character."

RIP Pepe:




Monday, October 10, 2016

Chatbot AI Powered Malware

We all know about the progress being made in chatbots. And the platforms to create them are becoming more available by the month. This will make it possible to leverage this for negative purposes.



Business Insider ran a story: "As artificial intelligence becomes more and more sophisticated, Palmer told Business Insider in an interview at the FT Cybersecurity Summit in London in September, it will inevitably find its way into malware — with potentially disastrous results for the businesses and individuals that hackers target."

Ghostwatch - early powerful perceptor

Mentalfloss carried the story which begins, "After more than 20,000 phone calls, one induced labor, and thousands of angry letters, the UK's Broadcasting Standards Council convened for a hearing. On June 27, 1995, they ruled that the producers of Ghostwatch, a BBC program that aired on Halloween night less than three years earlier, had deliberately set out to “cultivate a sense of menace.



The Telegraph reports, "Ghostwatch, first screened on 31 October 1992, was a mockumentary about an ordinary household in Northolt, north London, haunted by Pipes, a malevolent ghost that caused plumbing pipes to bang. "The drama was given an air of authenticity by using real BBC personalities of the time. Sarah Greene and Craig Charles played reporters who decamped to the haunted house, while Michael Parkinson and the late Mike Smith provided studio links in a mock-up of the BBC’s Crimewatch studio. On tickertape at the bottom of the screen, a phone number was displayed through which viewers could report supernatural sightings. The number (081 811 8181) was the standard phone-in for BBC shows of the time."

It even caused the death of a young lad after he saw it and the pipes in his house started to bang. The Independent says, "An inquest yesterday in Nottingham recorded a verdict that Martin Denham, 18, killed himself, but his mother, April Denham, said: 'I blame the BBC - it is all their fault. They said it was based on a true story but it was all a hoax."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Trump and Clinton

October 11, 2016
Hillary Clinton coattails 121K
Donald Trump coattails 139k
Hillary Clinton house 157M NOTE: invalid results too many links refer to houses/white house
Donald Trump house 188M
Hillary Clinton women 127M
Donald Trump women 160M
Hillary Clinton hate 57.2M
Donald Trump hate 68.2M


Just for fun on April 18, 2016, using Firefox, I Googled:
Donald Trump: 333M results.
Hillary Clinton: 156M results.
May 9, 2016:
Donald Trump: 367M results.
Hillary Clinton: 162M results.
May 25, 2016
Donald Trump: 362M results.
Hillary Clinton: 168M results.
June 7, 2016
Donald Trump 263M results
Hillary Clinton 183M results
June 11, 2016 using Bing after reading about SEME
Donald Trump 24M results
Hillary Clinton 11.2M results
August 12, 2016
Donald Trump 440M results
Hillary Clinton 252M results
September 23, 2016
Donald Trump 354M
Hillary Clinton 262M
** After the Trump "abusive women" reports **
Oct 8, 2016
Donald Trump 432M
Hillary Clinton 266M

April 18, 2016
Is Donald Trump Electable 431k results
Is Hillary Clinton Electable 246k results
May 9, 2016:
Is Donald Trump Electable 432k results
s Hillary Clinton Electable 265k results
Sep 23, 2016
Is Donald Trump Electable 267k results
Is Hillary Clinton Electable 189k results

April 18, 2016
Donald Trump Win 147M results
Hillary Clinton Win 103M results
May 9, 2016:
Donald Trump Win 144M results, (how can it go down?)
Hillary Clinton Win 95.8M, (ditto)
June 7, 2016
Donald Trump Win 81.5M
Hillary Clinton Win 66.6M
September 23, 2016
Donald Trump Win 116M
Hillary Clinton Win 99.7M
October 11, 2016
Donald Trump Win 136M
Hillary Clinton Win 106M

April 18, 2016
Twitter:
Donald Trump: 7.66M followers.
Hillary Clinton: 5.97M followers.
May 9, 2016:
Donald Trump: 8.04M followers.
Hillary Clinton: 6.18M followers.
June 7, 2016
Donald Trump: 8.72M
Hillary Clinton: 6.59M
April 18, 2016

August 17, 2016
Crooked Hillary 12.5M
October 11, 2016
Crooked Hillary 15.7M

Campaign funding total raised:
Donald Trump:    36.5M
Hillary Clinton: 224.5M
May 9, 2016
Donald Trump:    50.6M
Hillary Clinton: 256.2M
June 7, 2016
Donald Trump: 59.9M 4% Super PAC
Hillary Clinton: 288.9M 29% Super PAC

September 23, 2016
Shitpost Trump 890k
Shitpost Clinton 514k
The post that caused this search:
http://www.trustedreviews.com/news/palmer-luckey-oculus-rift-creator-founder-donald-trump-nimble-america-hillary-clinton
“Shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real”.


May 9, 2016
NOTE: I am not political. But if the Donald Trump funding escalates massively and Hillary Clinton's other numbers do not...
NOTE: the source of the funding may matter as well, Donald Trump is 4% from Super PACs and other groups, Hillary Clinton is 30% Super PACs and other groups
NOTE: The Democratic National Convention is likely to be an event to draw the party together, Hillary is being careful with Bernie Saunders supporters, the Republican National Convention is more of a showdown. Let's test a new long tail search.
NOTE: I do not think this election will be decided by TV ads. 2016 could be the year of email and social media. Hmm, let's test a new long tail search.

May 9, 2016
Donald Trump Campaign Funding 39.8M results
Hillary Clinton Campaign Funding 12.3M results

May 9, 2016
Republican National Convention 4.14M results
Democratic National Convention 9.46M results
June 7, 2016
Republican National Convention 2.9M results
Democratic National Convention 9.84M results

June 10, 2016
trump republican party racism 2.03M results
clinton democratic party racism 2.09M results
NOTE: my search is flawed. The results that come up are radically different. With the trump search there is a growing number of stories that he is racist. With the clinton search there is a growing number of stories that trump is racist. Stopping this search. Let's try.

June 10, 2016
trump racist 65.7M
clinton racist 60.1M
NOTE: this is still a flawed search, apples to oranges in the results. This could be a major perceptor, need to find the right measurement.

Google Trends May 9, 2016 (Past 12 months)


The parking lot, (developing ideas)

Found on slashdot, "And then there are the politicians (and their superpacs). They use our service to figure out exactly what people's hot button issues are so their campaign and best push those buttons to make them vote for their candidate. [washingtonpost.com] Or if there is little chance of getting them to vote for their guy, they do their best to make the voter disgusted with "the other guy" so that they just stay home and don't vote at all. All the big ticket campaigns - presidential and congress do this now and some of the in-state races for important districts are doing it too because it is getting cheaper and cheaper every day."