Saturday, February 26, 2022

Remember when human beings answered the phone?

 Posted on a list serv  on 02/24/22

There were once also things called human beings who answered devices called telephones. Human beings could be given all kinds of information and asked all kinds of questions, and generally understood what was said to them. If not, there were generally other human beings available who could be accessed to assist in the process of accepting information and/or answering questions.

The system worked with amazing accuracy, and problems could be resolved with a single telephone call.

My post in response

Your point is well taken. Your post is a keeper. I have increasingly been thinking the same thing over the last year or so. It seems surprising now when you get an actual human on the phone. The robot voices sound so real that I ask, "Is this a real person?" Sometimes the answer is "yes" and sometimes I get a replay of the instruction.

The other thing I have noticed in my own behavior is a powerful preference for avoidance. I really hate getting caught up in these systems and avoid them if at all possible. I have a handful of clients I just see pro bono because I can't figure out how to bill their insurance carrier and have already wasted more time on their billing than I could earn just using the same time to see another client. Back in the old days working in an agency we called it "bad debt" and it just got written off.

Some might say, "It's just the cost of doing business."


My new meme is "I don't do autorenew. Can I send you a check?"

Friday, February 18, 2022

12% of Americans believe in the overthrow of the American government to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.


In June, the researchers sharpened the questions. This brought another surprise. In the new

poll, they looked for people who not only distrusted the election results but agreed with the

stark assertion that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an

illegitimate president.” And instead of asking whether survey subjects would join a protest

that “might” turn violent, they looked for people who affirmed that “the use of force is

justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.”

Pollsters ordinarily expect survey respondents to give less support to more transgressive

language. “The more you asked pointed questions about violence, the more you should be

getting ‘social-desirability bias,’ where people are just more reluctant,” Pape told me.

Here, the opposite happened: the more extreme the sentiments, the greater the number of

respondents who endorsed them. In the June results, just over 8 percent agreed that Biden

was illegitimate and that violence was justified to restore Trump to the White House. That

corresponds to 21 million American adults. Pape called them “committed insurrectionists.”

(An unrelated Public Religion Research Institute survey on November 1 found that an even

larger proportion of Americans, 12 percent, believed both that the election had been stolen

from Trump and that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save

our country.”

Gellman, Barton, January 6 Was Practice, The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2022, p. 31

Is this finding that 12% of Americans want to overthrow the U.S. government to restore Donald Trump to the presidency a concern to the other 88%? If it is what can, should, be done about it? Is the cult of Trump and the GOP going to bring down our democracy? It already is if you look at the states that have enacted voting suppression laws and campaigned for insurrectionists to occupy state wide offices that over see elections.

As Tip O'Neil said when he was speaker of the house in the late 70s and most of the 80s, "All politics are local." Pay attention to who is running for your local offices from school board on up.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

People support Trump because they are afraid of being replaced.

Barton Gellman's article, "January Was Just Practice" in the Fan/Feb 2022 of The Atlantic should be required reading. Gellman describes many important ideas for America's future as a democracy.

The first question addressed is what lead to so many people voting for Donald Trump and his supporters in the Republican party. Many demographic characteristics have been proposed as predictive. Robert A. Pape, a political scientitist, has found based on his research, that one of the most predictive factors of voting for Trump was the fear of losing white privilege. In communities that experienced the greatest loss in white residents to people of color, the whites were more likely to vote for Trump and favor his policies. Pape refers to the theory called the Great Replacement.

Milošević, Pape said, inspired bloodshed by appealing to fears that Serbs were losing their dominant place to upstart minorities. “What he is arguing” in the 1989 speech “is that Muslims in Kosovo and generally throughout the former Yugoslavia are essentially waging genocide on the Serbs,” Pape said. “And really, he doesn’t use the word replaced. But this is what the modern term would be.”

Pape was alluding to a theory called the “Great Replacement.” The term itself has its origins in Europe. But the theory is the latest incarnation of a racist trope that dates back to Reconstruction in the United States. Replacement ideology holds that a hidden hand (often imagined as Jewish) is encouraging the invasion of nonwhite immigrants, and the rise of nonwhite citizens, to take power from white Christian people of European stock. When white supremacists marched with torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, they chanted, “Jews will not replace us!”p.30

Gellman writes a little further on in the article: 

Only one meaningful correlation emerged. Other things being equal, insurgents were much more likely to come from a county where the white share of the population was in decline. For every one-point drop in a county’s percentage of non-Hispanic whites from 2015 to 2019, the likelihood of an insurgent hailing from that county increased by 25 percent. This was a strong link, and it held up in every state.

Trump and some of his most vocal allies, Tucker Carlson of Fox News notably among them, had taught supporters to fear that Black and brown people were coming to replace them. According to the latest census projections, white Americans will become a minority, nationally, in 2045. The insurgents could see their majority status slipping before their eyes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The “Big Lie” and the end of democracy

George Packer writes in his article, Imagine The Worse, in the Jan/Feb. 2022 issue of The Atlantic, “If the end comes it will come through democracy itself.” p.18

Packer writes further, “We know what’s driving us toward this cataclysm: not simply Trump, but the Republican party.” p.18

Packer writes,Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers around the country have spent the year stacking state election offices with partisans who can be counted on to do Trump’s bidding next time. State legislatures have tried, in many cases successfully, to pass laws that will make it easier to manipulate or overturn election results and intimidate nonpartisan officials by criminalizing minor infractions. In state after state, Republicans have tried to make it harder for Americans, especially Democratic constituencies, to vote. This tireless campaign of legislation and disinformation has set in motion an irreversible process of electoral sabotage.” p.18

The basic idea is that voters will no longer choose the electors that will cast their ballots in congress for President but the state legislatures will. Packer writes, “The danger is that the express will of the American people could be overthrown.” p.20

There is no easy way to stop a major party that’s intent on destroying democracy. The demonic energy with which Trump repeats his lies, and Bannon harangues his audience, and Republican politicians around the country try to seize every lever of election machinery—this relentless drive for power by American authoritarians is the major threat that America confronts. The Constitution doesn’t have an answer. No help will come from Republican leaders; if Romney and Susan Collins are all that stand between the republic and its foes, we’re doomed. P20

The choice Americans face is between authoritarianism which the Republicans favor and democracy. Local elections and State elections matter. Are candidates supporters of the “Big Lie” or not? The answer matters for the future of our democracy. Find out the answer before you vote if you are allowed.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Bernard Rollin and ethical "mindfucks."

From Nautilus, issue 41, pp.12 - 13

Well into the 1980s, doctors would perform open-heart surgery on infants without giving them pain-relieving drugs. This is hard to believe: By the standards of contemporary medicine, not to mention common sense, the practice is akin to torture. Yet then-conventional wisdom held that babies did not feel pain, at least not in any meaningful way. Their brains and nervous systems were considered undeveloped. And regardless of what they felt, they wouldn’t remember it.

One can read about this in Science and Ethics, written in 2006 by Bernard Rollin, an iconoclastic philosopher who died in November at age 78. When I read of his passing, I recalled a conversation we had several years ago. Rollin, who devoted much of his life to speaking for the voiceless, was still enraged at what happened to those babies. He might have made the point that knowledge changes, sometimes profoundly, and that one era’s objective truth may be revealed, by the light of another era, as a fallacy held together by thoughtless habit. The exact word he used was “mindfuck.”

For more click here.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Fixing stuff saves the earth

From Scientific American, February, 2022, p.11

Unlocking Section 1201 is an essential part of the broader right-to-repair movement, which aims to combat the measures that make it difficult or impossible to improve or fix electronics. Limiting the ability to repair a broken device destroys independent repair shops and encourages consumers to dispose of a machine instead of fixing it. This is bad for device owners, and it contributes to the rising tide of electronic waste around the world.

For more click here

Saturday, February 12, 2022

$5 billion funding for EV charging stations in U.S.


The Biden administration announced yesterday $5B in funding for states to construct charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. It marks the first tranche of funding drawn for such projects under the $1.2T bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year. 


Initial funds will be focused on fast-charging stations located along major interstate highways, an attempt to address a disconnected and difficult to access charging infrastructure across the country. The administration has set a goal of 500,000 new chargers by 2030, an elevenfold increase over current stations. 


Electric vehicles sales in the US jumped 83% in 2021 year-over-year, accounting for 3% of the market (hybrids notched another 5% of light vehicle sales). Still, EVs make up less than 1% of the more than 250 million passenger vehicles on the road today—see a visualization of the challenges facing the industry here.

For more click here.

Friday, February 11, 2022

U.A. inflation rose 7.5% in 2021.

US inflation rose 7.5% during the 12-month period ending in January, according to government data released yesterday, the largest such increase since February 1982. The consumer price index, a proxy for inflation that tracks the price of a basket of goods and services (see 101), rose 0.6% in January, exceeding the 0.5% increase seen in December. Inflation has exceeded a 5% annual rate for the past eight months. 


Higher inflation means consumers can buy fewer goods with each dollar they spend. The core index, which removes the sometimes-volatile food (up 7%) and energy (up 27%) components, rose 6% year-over-year—still the highest hike since August 1982. See data for the full basket of goods.

For more click here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Fact of the day - Mattel now makes Barbie Dolls for its Inspiring Women Series.

Educator, journalist, anti-lynching activist and NAACP co-founder Ida B. Wells joins the pantheon of distinguished women honored by Mattel with her own signature Barbie doll. Resplendent in a deep blue, floor-length dress with lace details, the new Ida B. Wells doll also comes with a historically significant accessory: a miniature replica of the Memphis Free Speech, the newspaper where Wells became editor and co-owner in 1889.

Mattel has created numerous Barbie dolls to honor both historic and contemporary heroines in the hopes of inspiring "generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before." It's Inspiring Women Series includes dolls dedicated to Maya Angelou, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson and singer Ella Fitzgerald.

The oldest of eight children, Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Miss., in 1862. When she was 16, both of her parents and a younger brother died during the yellow fever epidemic. Wells raised her younger siblings and became a teacher to support her family.

For more click here.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Fact of the day - 1/4 of U.S. children have an immigrant parent.

From NBC News:

One in 4 children in the United States have at least one immigrant parent — underscoring the nation's growing diversity and the impact that policies surrounding immigration and families can have on so many children.

About 18.6 million children have at least one foreign-born parent, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. About 7 million of the immigrant parents— almost 4 in 10 — are from Mexico, with another 3.5 million from Central and South America, and the rest from around the globe.

For more information click here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Let's care before we share. Media literacy is #1 for democracy


Unethical Fox leads people to death

 "Fox News" should not longer be called "Fox News," A better term is Fox Entertainment. The reason for this change is that Fox does not adhere to ethical journalistic standards. It distributes not only misinformation but harmful information which contributes to multiple harms including death.

While the deliberate provision of false information is not illegal, it is unethical, and as unethical behavior subject to public censure including boycott of its advertisers which make the engagement in this unethical behavior and provision of this harmful misinformation possible.

Educate your children and grandchildren, other family members, and neighbors about this unethical activity. Stop buying goods and services from Fox sponsors and let them know that you are doing so as long as they enable this unethical behavior.