Context is important with news

Context is key to understanding. It enables one to understand why a change or news item is important and when people are masking over a problem or blowing smoke.

Here are a few examples of why context matters:

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook testified to Congress of his concerns of privacy of data. He may say he is concerned, but his business model is to sell access to your data to marketers. Unless that model changes, our data will be exposed. Facebook was told to address these privacy issues five years ago and failed to act. It may be a new company, but it has learned to feign concern like an old one.

Football helmets are very high tech these days to soften the impact of blows to the head during this violent game. Yet, no matter how much cushion is offered, the problem is they cannot stop the fact the brain rattles around inside the head when it is struck. Unless football outlaws head hits, the game may have to require players to sign a waiver acknowledging the potential damage before they play and youth tackle football may be banned.

The changes needed in governments are obvious to many, including the legislators. But, they won’t happen. Why? Change will not occur if the people who need to make it are too aligned with what needs to be changed. Politicians are too enamored with keeping their job to actually do their job. Money matters too much in these equations.

Let me close with a final example. There is a difference between someone who does the right thing 19 times out of 20, but screws up one time versus someone where the opposite is more true. The one error for the first person may be similar to one of the second person, but they deserve a closer look. I have seen good people fired because managers ignored this kind of math. Context is key.

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This zero-sum discourse needs to stop

What does zero-sum discourse mean? It means framing topics in terms of who wins and who loses. I fault politicians, pundits and reporters for this mindset. This mindset preceded the current White House incumbent, but he views most everything through a very short-term transactional lens. Did I win?

The dilemma in discussing who wins and loses on actions, speeches or tweets is it takes the focus away from the issues. Does this decision help or hurt the people, environment or region?

I heard a news discussion on whether the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal helps or hurts Trump’s image? That is the wrong question among many better questions. Does it make the US safer? Does it make the world safer? Are we harming our relationships with our allies? Are we making a fact based decision as other leaders are questioning the veracity of this decision? And, so on.

Whether it is healthcare, debt, taxes, environment, financial protection, etc., I do not care who wins or loses politically. When people care too much about winning or losing, I can tell you who gets screwed – it is the people they represent.

Americans want Congress to address healthcare, with the majority saying to fix Obamacare. Instead, the President and leaders in Congress have sabotaged it over the past three years making premiums even higher. They want to see it politically fail while screwing American people.

I am tired of the lack of collaboration. I am tired of the abuse of factual information. And, I am tired of this zero-sum discourse. To be frank, our leaders need to stop trying to keep their job and start doing their job.

The week that was

Looking back at the week ending April 27, 2018, a few things jump out at me as examples of larger problems.

The US Congress heard a speech from a President that spoke of staying the course on America’s global role in security, free trade and environmental issues. He also warned of the unhealthy focus on narrow nationalism and promoted the ideals of the American experiment. Unfortunately, the speech was given by Emmanuel Macron of France and not the US President.

Yet, the US President did make news when he nominated another poorly vetted candidate this time for the VA director role. He was already a curious choice, but he and the White House were obviously not prepared for the discovery of potential peccadillos in his past. This is a recurring problem for the White House where too many candidates withdraw, should not have been nominated or are approved with some later being fired or resigning as past or new problems surface. It should be noted there are too many articles and biographies that do not define “due diligence” as a strength of the President.

Between two tragedies in Canada and the US, it shows that terrorism need not be imported. Four people died at a Waffle House in the Nashville area, while  ten people died on the streets of Toronto. The larger problem that is revealed time and again, it is very difficult to stop a motivated lone assailant. The only thing that has a chance is an invested community who cares about what happens there. Neither of these people were from an actively tracked hate group, which number over a thousand. Nor were they part of an extreme religious terror group.

On Thursday, a boyhood and even adult idol of mine, Bill Cosby, was found guilty of three counts of sexual impropriety. While the trial involved only one of his victims, the number totals over 60. This is very sad  that someone so present in the public eye for fifty years could harm so many people.

Finally, an unconfirmed report out of China notes that one reason North Korea may be eager to give up nuclear testing is they blew up their testing site. The report said an underground blast may have punctured a hole in a mountain and released some radioactive material. From what others have noted is Kim Jong Un likely does not want to give up the nuclear weapons they created and their conventional forces could do great damage by themselves to South Korea. But, this unconfirmed report is interesting nonetheless and offers a potential explanation for a willingness to talk. Setting this aside, Kim Jong Un wins by getting on the world stage in a meeting room. Yet, talking is far better than the alternatives for keeping a lid on things.

Many other interesting things have happened. Our friend Jill has an excellent summary on Ben Carson’s housing plan which will triple the rents for people in need. Maybe he should have remained a surgeon where he could help people.

That’s all folks. Have a great weekend.

 

Sorry Meatloaf, two out of three IS bad

One of the most popular songs from a singer named Meatloaf off his stellar first album is called “Two out of three ain’t bad.” If you are not familiar with his work, the album is called “Bat out of Hell” and it is end to end one of the finest rock albums ever produced.

But, with due respect to Meatloaf and Jim Steinman, who wrote the songs, in the case of the man sitting in the White House, two out of three is bad. You see, that ratio equates to 67% when rounded and it is two percentage points less than 69%. And, the latter represents the measured rate of mostly false, false and pant-on-fire false statements made by the President of the United States (per Polifacts).

Saying this more frankly, the President is on record as lying more than two out of three times. Think about that – for every three statements, two are not true. And, that is bad.

Being President is all about character. When a person lies like this, it is hard to fathom that person having character. If you layer in his demeaning and denigration of others along with his self-professed sexual assaults, he does not represent what makes America great. In fact, he embodies the worst traits in us. That is sad.

Other leaders do not trust him both within and outside the United States. Why would they? When he makes one of his impulsive decisions that makes his staff scramble, he often makes an untrue statement to support it. He did this with the new tax law, the defunding of an ACA subsidy that helped people in poverty, and  the DACA is dead statement he made his weekend.

The truth matters. Character matters. We need them to matter to the President.

Monday, Monday again

Using a wonderful song from The Mamas and Papas, happy Monday everyone. Our friend Jill enjoys (and eventually laments) it when I place these songs in her head.

A few random thoughts for the start of the week are as follows:

Facebook is apologizing and saying they will do better at protecting your information. Yet, what they fail to tell you is sharing your information is their business model. Unless they are prepared to go to a subscription model, do not expect any major changes. Tailored ads based on your data and search history is revenue.

The biggest news from the Stormy Daniels’ revelations is not the tryst with Donald Trump. It is the illegal election contribution made by the attorney who has boxed himself in with his own revelations. By admitting he did not get reimbursed by Trump, he blocked a possible exit ramp that may have mitigated his guilt. I will say the creepiest thing about the Daniels’ revelation is when she said Trump told her she reminded him of his daughter. Ick.

Trump keeps saying articles about things he will be doing are fake news. Yet, when it happens anyway, does that make it fake? Mind you, he has delayed decisions mentioned in these articles, so as to punish the media with this fake brand. But, when he eventually fires the person or signs a wretched executive order, it verifies the earlier assertion does it not? He did fire Tillerson, McMaster, e.g. even though he said he would not do so after the press reported it.

With the passing of the US spending bill on top of the tax law change, it is apparent that Congress and the President do not care about resolving our deficit and debt issues. These laws make them worse rather than better. It should be pointed out that China is talking about buying fewer US Treasuries bills, notes and bonds. That is how we get cash and is a trade threat the US cannot reciprocate.

A final shout out to the teens who are advocating for better gun governance. You are an inspiration. The lawmakers need to pay attention as they may have awakened a sleeping giant.

 

Take ten – the most and least trusted news sources

The University of Missouri Reynolds Journalism Institute conducted a survey of over 8,700 people last year. The mission was to determine the most trusted and least trusted news sources.

Per a link to the survey from an article in Marketwatch.com, “the questionnaire asked respondents to name three news brands they typically trust and three they don’t. Kearney (the survey leader) took a look at brands that came up at least 10 times and compared how often they were mentioned as trusted versus mentioned as not trusted. These lists show the relationship between positive and negative mentions. The responses were opened ended, and some answers aren’t actual news brands.

Mentioned as trusted:

The Economist
Public television
Reuters
BBC
NPR
PBS
The Guardian
The Wall Street Journal
Los Angeles Times
The Dallas Morning News

Mentioned as not trusted:

Occupy Democrats
BuzzFeed
Breitbart
Social media
Trump
Infowars
Yahoo
Internet
Huffington Post
The Blaze”

I found these results quite interesting for several reasons. The obvious is an individual who is listed as one of the least trusted sources of news. He would be the one telling everyone to trust only him and other news is “fake news” when it is disagreeable to him. Also, the appearance of Breitbart and Infowars on the least trusted list is telling, as well as Occupy Democrats whose name sounds biased.

On the positive side, the names on the most trusted list are very deserving in my view. Personally, through a combination of trial and error and recommendation, I frequently use five of the top ten sources – Reuters, BBC, NPR, PBS Newshour and The Guardian. I have read occasional articles by The Economist, but need to check them out more. A blogging friend, who passed away a few years ago, suggested I check out Reuters and The Guardian. I remember him well for that.

If you are getting your news from one of the least trusted ten, please stop. I would suggest you give a few of the sources from the top ten most trusted a view. Using multiple good sources helps me learn new things and gain perspective.

With the person mentioned in the bottom ten also occupying the White House, it is important we get our news from good sources and not him. He is deserving of his position on the bottom list with a 69% “mostly false or worse” frequency per Politifacts. It is important to us and a key to our democracy. Who prescribes such – only our founding fathers.

That big undo button the President has in his mind

Since there is such a fuss over “button, button, who has the largest button,” let me build on this theme with another button that comes to mind. For some reason, the President believes he has an “undo” button that can make people forget what has happened.

The most recent example is in response to the comments made by Steve Bannon, Trump’s former Chief Strategist, that are derogatory to the President and his family. In trying to diminish Bannon, Trump said Bannon was just a staff member who did not greatly help Trump’s election and never got one-on-one meetings with the President. Call me crazy, but Chief Strategist sounds kind of important and we should not forget that Bannon was given an unheard of security clearance usually reserved for Generals. As for the one-on-one meetings, there are pictures of the two of them meeting, which look like no one else is in the room.

Of course, he changes his stories so often, he presumes reporters don’t remember he said things. The infamous meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and several Russians is now being referenced as treasonous and unpatriotic by Bannon. Yet, we should not forget that the President has changed his story twice on his knowledge of this meeting. First, he said he had heard about it shortly before the news broke. Then he changed the story to knowledge the month before the news broke as he funded $50,000 into Junior’s defense fund. Then, he changed it again and said he was aware of the meeting before it happened, but did not attend. Now, Bannon implies more to the story, asking the question why was the meeting held in Trump Tower?

The above story will likely haunt his son and son-in-law more than it will him, but his story changing as to why he fired James Comey, may come back to haunt him for obstruction of justice. Firing Comey was not the wisest move on Trump’s part, but he added fuel to the fire by doing the following: firing Comey without the courtesy of telling him or his communication people who had to plan on the fly in the White House shrubbery, deviating from the story as to why Comey was fired two days later in an interview with Lester Holt saying it was due to the Russia thing, and then providing altering versions of the story in future tweets.

For me, I am not going to let him off with an “undo” button. He has pushed that button so many times, it has worn out. My thesis is simple. If he is not guilty of anything, then why does he act so guilty with his story changing? And, for those who want him to testify to remedy all questions, there is an interesting story about a deposition he once did, when the opposing attorney made him recant under oath 30 lies he had told. When you change your story so much, it is hard to remember the truth.