National Embarrassment Embarrasses Nation

Here’s a fascinating exchange between Trump and a reporter, who asks about the British national security organization GCHQ’s sharp rebuke of Trump’s claim that they (GCHQ) had a role in spying on Trump at President Obama’s behest:

Jaffy highlights Trump’s reference to Merkel’s phone being tapped, but what I find most interesting is what occurred next: Trump shifted blame for the false claim about GCHQ to Fox News. As if U.S. presidents bear no responsibility for babbling unverified nonsense in public.

I think I mentioned to y’all a while back that our family, alarmed by our grandma’s transformation from a conservative but kindly old lady into a rage-filled Fox bot, secretly activated the parental controls on her TV and blocked Fox News. In a matter of days, she turned back into a kindly old wingnut and now dotes on Animal Planet.

On the basis of our successful experiment and in the spirit of bipartisanship, I offer the following information to Sean Spicer, who, while undoubtedly a vile sack of shit, is probably weary of being trotted out daily to defend the indefensible:

To set up and use Parental Controls:

1. Press the Menu button on your remote.

The Main Menu is displayed on your TV screen.

2. Highlight System and press OK/Select.

3. Using the arrow buttons on your remote, highlight Settings and press OK/Select

4. Select Parental/Purchase and press OK/Select.

5. Create or enter your 4-digit Parental Controls PIN. You’ll then need to retype your PIN to confirm your selection.

6. Select Parental Controls to turn them on.

7. Select Parental Preferences to block by content rating/channel/day/time or to control adult information.

You can’t fix stupid and hateful, but you can deprive it of fuel. You’re welcome, Spicer.



Set Your DVRs: News Is Supposedly Going To Be Broken

May want to pop some popcorn too!

And we leave the last word to the drunk at the end of the bar er, um, noted, local crazy person er, um, official mouthpiece for state propaganda outlet er, um pundit and talk show host:

Open thread!



Reality Conforms to My Expectations: Today’s Wikileaks Release

Earlier today a couple of you asked me what I thought of the Wikileaks release. I wrote the following in two related comments. I’m highlighting the relative parts and I’ve edited the non-essential portions out from the original comments.

First:

Wikileaks is a distro arm, and has been for a while, of the Russian government. Given that some of what was dropped – and please remember I am, like everyone else with a clearance, not allowed to actually look at anything Wikileaks posts because I don’t need to know it whether its spilled onto the unclassified Internet or not, so I’m working off of other people’s reporting – claims that the CIA has the ability to make its cyber activities look like Russian Intelligence’s cyber activities. And that this is the stuff being pushed heavily by the known Russian governmental propaganda outlets, their fellow travelers, and sites/individuals that seek to shield the President from all criticism… It is important to remember that there is a remarkable amount of overlap, in terms of time and language, between what is reported and tweeted and distroed by other social media by RT and Sputknik towards the US on this stuff, what is then reported and tweeted/retweeted and distroed by other social media by FOX News personalities (Hannity, the Fox and Friends lack of brains trust), right wing radio talkers (Levin, Hewitt, etc), Breitbart, WND, etc, and then, ultimately the President and a number of folks in and around his inner circle. This pattern has been going on and remarked on for months and is quite bizarre.

And:

I think what you’re going to see, and I want to clarify from above, that the claim will be that the CIA did the hacking into the DNC and RNC on Obama’s request, but made it look like Russia and made it looked like Russia was helping the President’s campaign. That’s the only reason you start talking about the CIA having the ability to make its hacking tools and malware look like Russia’s. This will be in order to discredit the charges of Russian hacking and a Russian campaign of active measures in support of the President’s campaign.

Hopefully that makes more sense.

Lo and behold:

 

I don’t think any of this comes as any great surprise to anyone, but its always nice when reality conforms to one’s expectations of it.



Excellent Read: “In Conversation: David Letterman”

We need a respite, or at least I do. From NYMag, something to break the political monotony:

Since retiring after 33 years on the late night television, David Letterman has kept a low public profile — aided by the growth of a truly impressive beard. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been as fixated on politics as the rest of us. “If I still had a show,” says the 69-year-old, dressed in a baggy sweater and cargo pants and sitting high above midtown Manhattan in a conference room at his publicist’s offices, “people would have to come and take me off the stage. ‘Dave, that’s enough about Trump. We’ve run out of tape.’ It’s all I’d be talking about. I’d be exhausted.” Late-night TV comedy has offered some of the sharpest — and most-remarked-upon — responses to the Trump presidency. But despite the work of Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live, and the rest, it’s hard not to wish Letterman, late-night’s greatest ironist and most ornery host, was still around to take aim. And so we’ve brought him out of retirement to weigh in on life after television and his old frequent guest and punching bag, the man he calls Trumpy…

David Marchese: Have you ever wondered what you might’ve said if you’d been doing The Late Show the night after Trump was elected?
No, I haven’t thought about it. See, I was out running one day when he was still president-elect, and I thought, Let’s call him. I’ve known the guy since the ’80s. I was one of a few people who had routinely interviewed him. I’m not blinded by the white-hot light of “president-elect.” I mean, we elected a guy with that hair? Why don’t we investigate that? He looks like Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. I don’t know. I’m sorry for rambling. I’m afraid something has happened to me hormonally. I can’t stop talking…

There’s this idea that reducing Trump to a punchline could make him seem harmless or helps to normalize him. Is there any validity to that argument?
I guess it’s a possibility. On the other hand, Donald Trump can be Donald Trump, but if he doesn’t help the people that need help, then he’s just a jerk. That press conference that he held berating the news media? I mean, how do you build a dictatorship? First, you undermine the press: “The only truth you’re going to hear is from me.” And he hires the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Steve Bannon, to be his little buddy. Bannon looks like a guy who goes to lunch, gets drunk, and comes back to the office: “Steve, could you have just one drink?” “Fuck you.” How is a white supremacist the chief adviser to our president? Did anybody look that up? I don’t know. How’s this interview going? Do you think you’re talking to a normal person here? Don’t I seem like I’m full of something?…

For probably the first half or so of your TV career, you stayed away from politics —
Because Carson was my model. I’ll tell you the other thing: All of that changed because of Jon Stewart.

Because what he did on The Daily Show influenced you?
I wouldn’t say that, but he made it so that not doing political stuff got to be the elephant in the room. And also it was having Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton. It was hard to ignore that. We’re always looking for the easiest path, the most obvious joke. Bill Clinton having sex with the intern, well, that’s not comedic heavy lifting. After that it became George W. Bush, and I thought he was funny in a harmless way. I mean, Dick Cheney was the guy to keep your eye on at a party, because he’d be going through your wife’s purse. But George W. was nothing but fun.

So the political jokes were about expedience?
We changed our attitude to make it easier on ourselves. And again, what defense do you have for ignoring these topics? None, really…
Read more



Small Ray of Sunshine Open Thread: Is Trump Making Reporting “Sexy” Again?

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Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”
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During “normal” times, people tend to regard the press as, at best, a bunch of prying busybodies, and at worst a pack of tattle-tales. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) But for a brief shining moment after Watergate (and not, I would add, necessarily to the benefit of the profession), investigative reporters were swashbuckling young rebels who brought down an evil cabal which had threatened the very foundations of our democracy. Since some people mistook the movie version of All the President’s Men for a documentary, earnest suburban youngsters with adequate SATs dreamed of becoming the next Robert Redford Bob Woodward or Dustin Hoffman Carl Bernstein. Journalism became a credential-requiring career, not just a job for oddballs too literate for the factory floor and too stubborn or damaged to climb into the better white-collar ranks.

But if Trump and his handlers, on both sides of the Atlantic, are determined to reenact Watergate (second time as farce!), maybe we’ll at least get an influx of bright young minds interested in actual investigative reporting, as opposed to cocktail-party scrumming to join the ranks of the Media Village Idiots…


Read more



Virtually Speaking tonight

I’ll be talking with Jay Ackroyd tonight on Virtually Speaking. We’ll be geeking out about healthcare policy and health politics.
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtuallyspeaking/2017/02/15/richard-mayhew-health-care-policy-progosis

We’re on live at 9:00 PM EST








In US, TV Watches You!

Funny title aside, this is serious:

Here’s the full Federal Trade Commission statement:

What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership.  And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

That’s what Vizio was up to behind the screen, but what was the company telling consumers? Not much, according to the complaint.

Vizio put its tracking functionality behind a setting called “Smart Interactivity.”  But the FTC and New Jersey AG say that the generic way the company described that feature – for example, “enables program offers and suggestions” – didn’t give consumers the necessary heads-up to know that Vizio was tracking their TV’s every flicker. (Oh, and the “Smart Interactivity” feature didn’t even provide the promised “program offers and suggestions.”)

The complaint alleges that Vizio engaged in unfair trade practices that violated the FTC Act and were unconscionable under New Jersey law. The complaint also alleges that Vizio failed to adequately disclose the nature of its “Smart Interactivity” feature and misled consumers with its generic name and description.

To settle the case, Vizio has agreed to stop unauthorized tracking, to prominently disclose its TV viewing collection practices, and to get consumers’ express consent before collecting and sharing viewing information. In addition, the company must delete most of the data it collected and put a privacy program in place that evaluates Vizio’s practices and its partners. The order also includes a $1.5 million payment to the FTC and an additional civil penalty to New Jersey for a total of $2.2 million.

Here are tips smart companies take from the latest law enforcement action involving smart products, which were also discussed at the FTC’s recent Smart TV workshop.

  • Explain your data collection practices up front.  Tell consumers from the outset about the information you intend to collect. Ditch the tech talk and use easy-to-understand language. Especially when explaining new technologies or data collection people may not expect, transparency can be the key to customer loyalty.
  • Get consumers’ consent before you collect and share highly specific information about their entertainment preferences.  If consumers wouldn’t expect you to be collecting information from them, especially sensitive information, make sure they consent to what you intend to do. The best way to accomplish that is to get their opt-in to the practice – in other words, to express their consent affirmatively.
  • Make it easy for consumers to exercise options.  Would a function called “Smart Interactivity” that “enables program offers and suggestions” clue consumers in that everything they watch is being collected and shared with third parties? We don’t think so. Companies can hardly claim to offer consumers a choice if the tools necessary to exercise that choice are hard to find or hidden behind plain-vanilla descriptors.
  • Established consumer protection principles apply to new technology.  FTC guidance documents like Careful Connections: Building Security in the Internet of Things, .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, and Start with Security may not have “Smart TV” in the title, but smart businesses look to them for advice on avoiding deceptive or unfair practices.