Another example of the misguided view of Google by the States.  Google simply indexes what it discovers on the internet.  They do a masterful job, as evidenced by over 70% of users in the US use Google rather than Bing, or DuckDuckGo, or anybody else (the use in Europe is over 90%). They do not advocate which sites to place at the top of their rankings, but it is an algorithm that determines their rankings based on the number and popularity of external links,  among other things.

States, at the beckoning of Google competitors, are going after Google for publishing sites that have illegal content.  Not having such sites show up in Google is a good thing, but it is not up to Google to determine those sites.  Why aren’t the States using Google Search results to go after the offending sites, but instead they are going after Google for displaying sites that Google finds on the public Internet?  If someone has a legitimate reason to have a site in a search result taken down, then take down the site, it will no longer be available and will quickly fall off the Google Search result page.  These Attorneys General are not doing their job, they want Google to do it for them.

This is not that dissimilar to the recent European ‘right to be forgotten’.  There, if someone finds a search result that they disapprove of, they can petition Google to remove that site from the search result.  The offending site is not affected, and in fact the offended party doesn’t go after them, just the search result. It is up to Google to determine which sites are  ‘forgotten’ and which aren’t.  That is not Google’s mission.

Detractors of Google Take Fight to the States – NYTimes.com.

The US is losing the middle class.  Any view of the economics in the US tells us this.  How long can this diminution continue until the remains of the middle class, those who were in the middle class and now aren’t (though no fault of their own), and the working poor join forces to alleviate the economic pain they all feel.

It can change peacefully, and  incrementally, or it can change in a more, violent isn’t the right word, contentious way. It is up to those in power to decide.  They will only have themselves to blame.  Too many people are hurting, and we can have change like occurred in the US in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, or it can more closely resemble the political change that occurred in Europe during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

Is It Bad Enough Yet? – NYTimes.com.

The CDC was severely criticized by the punditocracy in the US during the Ebola scare.  It was alleged they did not know what they were doing, and their lack of action in recommending travel restrictions and other measures was another failure of the Obama Administration, and put Americans at risk of a mass outbreak of Ebola here.

The outbreak in Africa is not over by a long shot, and my heart goes out to those who do not have the health care infrastructure that we do. And we can’t let down our guard now that the punditocracy has moved on to other ‘serious’ issues and the threat of Ebola has lessened. But let’s take a look at how the CDC recommendations fared so far.

Two nurses in a hospital in Texas contracted the disease from a patient who was mishandled by the hospital when he first went to it.  He was misdiagnosed and released.  Shortly after, he went back to the hospital and was admitted, and later died of the disease.  The hospital did not follow the CDC procedures either when he was first diagnosed, or maybe after.  He was contagious and was released into the general population. Fortunately, no one in the general population was infected.  Two nurses who treated him while he was in the hospital contracted the disease, and one flew to Cleveland during the incubation period, but no one else contracted the disease from these nurses.

With the public, and health care industry, on high alert it appears that all the hospitals that have treated people with Ebola are following the recommendations from the CDC.  This includes the hospital in Nebraska that has admitted serious cases directly from Africa, the hospital in Atlanta that treated the two nurses from Dallas, and the hospital in NY that treated the patient who became ill in the US after returning from treating people in Africa.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of health care professionals successfully helped treat these patients and none have contracted the disease.

Two Governors (Christie and Coumo) ran around for a few days like their hair was on fire, trying to prevent people from entering the US from the African nations that are the center of the Ebola outbreak.  They wanted to ban flights into New York and New Jersey from those nations (although there are no direct flights into the US from there). Christie successfully quarantined an asymptomatic nurse for a few days, and then when it was apparent she was not a carrier of the disease and Christie had no scientific backing for his actions he let her go home to Maine on a commercial flights, without lifting the 21 day quarantine period.  The Governor of Maine then tried to quarantine her there but was unsuccessful.  The prevailing medical opinion (that an asymptomatic person is not a danger to anyone else) was ignored by these politicians and now the Governors look like buffoons, not the CDC.

So, for those keeping score it is: CDC 1, Governors and pundits 0.

I truly hope the people most affected by Ebola get the help they need, and this dreaded outbreak abates.  Until then I will listen to and take the advice of the CDC and the scientific community, and continue ignore those who try to score political points from this tragedy.

 

Something to end the week with:

Why You Are Wrong.

I suggest you read the whole article, but for the TL:DR folks:

  • First of all, the data backs up my point. I have facts out the waz. Your data are flawed, old, biased or incomplete.
  • More important than the data, though, is that my argument is just.
  • There are several authors who have made the very point I am making more eloquently than I have, and you can buy their books and read them in your spare time, which I suggest you do, because right now you’re uneducated and just talking out your butt.
  • I shall now appeal to authority by quoting a philosopher who agrees with my premise, thereby wrapping my argument in the wisdom of the ages.
  • I should also mention—and it absolutely pains me to say this—that there are crazy people who agree with what you have to say. I’m not saying you’re crazy. I’m saying they’re crazy. But you’re both saying the same thing. Draw your own conclusions as to what this means.
  • While your argument is completely incorrect, I do agree with you on one small, meaningless point. Doing so gives me some upper hand, because I now appear to be the more magnanimous party.
  • Let’s just agree to disagree, but let’s also agree that I’m more right.

 

I saw this letter online and it is signed by Congress people who wish to influence the FCC on its net neutrality proposal. The public response to the proposal was overwhelming in favor of not letting the big ISPs (Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon) control who and at what speed you can connect to.

At first I thought it was a ‘birds of a feather flock together’, with the two most hated companies in America joining forces with the Congress with abysmally low approval ratings.  Then I had a moment of sanity and realized it is about money, and lobbying money overwhelming the desire of the public.

How pathetic is that?!?!?!?!?

I ran into an article today that talked about this great service/platform.  The idea behind it is creating a place for neighbors to converse, help out, give tips, etc.

The concept of Think Global, Act Local is endorsed by creating a community based on geography that can be a place where neighbors can go when:

  • A catastrophe occurs and you want to stay in touch with neighbors (Hurricane Sandy)
  • A new restaurant opens and you want to let your neighbors know so the restaurant becomes a success
  • You are looking for a dog sitter, baby sitter, house sitter and having someone from the neighborhood often is the best referent
  • You want to commiserate with neighbors about something that is going on in your community.

It is free, fun, and potentially fulfilling.  Give Nextdoor a try.

it is true that the past 6 years of the Obama administration has been a disappointment to me, but what is the alternative?

David Brin, not a flaming liberal, but a right of center libertarian has a series of posts on his website that compares the performance of Obama to recent US Presidents.  His conclusion contains a challenge: ” Name one unambiguous-attributable statistical metric of US economic or middle class health (or anything else, for that matter) that did not do better, across both the Clinton and Obama administrations, than across both Bush Administrations.”

He has posted this challenge for the past 4 years, and no one, that is not anyone, has answered it.  Doesn’t that tell you something?

This post is an example of his challenge: CONTRARY BRIN: So Do Outcomes Matter More than Rhetoric?.

When many people contribute to the current debate about privacy on the internet (or in the 21st century generally) they lament the loss of privacy our digital lives have engendered.  It is true that our digital footprints have led marketeers, and governments to know:

  • what we are viewing,
  • who we are conversing with,
  • what we are searching for,
  • what we have bought,
  • etc.

The default reaction is that this is an invasion of our privacy and should not be tolerated.  The EU now has a ‘right to forget’ law that allows people to petition the search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) to omit valid links on the Internet that the person does not want to show up in searches.  Interestingly the offending link isn’t taken down, just the search result.

So, what are the cost and what are the benefits to this loss of privacy?

Costs

To Me:

  • Others can know all that I have written online by using a search engine,
  • Marketeers can see what I am interested in buying, or have bought, by tracking my online digital footprints,
  • Search engines can monitor what I have searched for and taken that as a proxy for what I am most interested in,
  • Anyone can put all this, and more, together to get a sense of who I am:
    • my age,
    • my gender,
    • my hobbies,
    • where I go,
    • who I go there with,
    • etc.

To the collectors of the info:

  • Aggregating and storing all this crap, and most of it is worthless,
  • Finding ways to take advantage of all this crap,
  • Delivering something of value to me that they can monetize.

Benefits

To Me:

  • Delivering search results that are relevant to me,
  • Delivering ads (which I am going to get anyhow), which are more likely to be relevant to me,
  • Delivering content that interests me
  • Delivering content that is relevant to me

To the collectors of the information:

  • Something of value they cherish (money, prestige at knowing something about me,etc).

Summary

What is missing from all this discussion is the benefits to me, they only talk about the benefits of the ‘trackers’; and the costs to them, they only talk costs to me.

I don’t know, and in fact nobody knows, all that everyone knows about each of us.  I know that Google has a digital dossier about me, as does Facebook, and Amazon, and Newegg, and Best Buy and … I don’t know what I don’t know about all the others that have collected info on me.

I can’t or don’t want to worry about tracking all that stuff.  The bottom line is that I don’t care what they have in their files about me, I only care about what they do with it, and how they use it.

  • If they just store it (I know that is unlikely) they incur the cost and get no benefit,
  • If they use to provide value to me by one of the benefits listed above, I gain and they gain
  • If they abuse the data, I just need some recourse against them for abusing information about me. This recourse could be:
    • Not interacting with them anymore
    • Participating in a class action suit,
    • Leading, following, or whatever in some sort of boycott or protest against them.

I protect my identify as best I can online by using secure passwords, and never re-using them, and I use two-factor authorization wherever I can.  I can’t recall ever having a credit card number stolen when purchasing something online.

I have potentially had a credit card stolen by thieves getting access to it at Home Depot, Target, and Neiman Marcus during an in-store purchase.  Fortunately, in the US, it is the bank that is responsible for any loss in these situations not me.

The bottom line, for now, is I get sufficient value from others having and using that information.  When the calculus of that changes I might sing a different tune.