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.



The Squire of Poopville

So hubby and I were watching the original Star Trek series, first season, and there was an episode where Kirk and Sulu got captured by an alien being who manifested as a pompous braggart in a rococo lair.

The annoying douchecanoe alien was lecherous toward female crew who beamed down and got into silly pissing matches with the men, then bullied and threatened them when thwarted. At the end, his parents, who appeared as light beams, came to collect him.

It turned out the douchey alien was just a capricious child engaged in elaborate cosplay. The alien parents apologized to the Enterprise crew for their trouble while sonny boy whined about being removed from the sandbox.

No such deus ex machina will save us.

How’s your Tuesday going? I was out of town for a few days, so I’m beat from traveling. Just chilling out with the dogs, who are always clingy when I return from a trip. You?

Open thread!



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



Sunday Movie/Serial Club : It is Time… Emissary, DS9 Season 1, Episode 1

Welcome back, Schroedinger’s Cat!:

Moving is not fun, no matter how many times I do it. Whether it is across continents and oceans, states or to the neighboring town, it never gets easier. I am so glad that the Insufferable Movie Snob kept the blog going on, posting her detailed and funny reviews. If you haven’t already checked out her reviews you should do so now. She rocks! Here is a link to her last review.

My last movie/TV review post before my brief unplanned hiatus was on Star Trek Deep Space 9. Unlike The Next Generation, aliens of DS9 were more than just obnoxious caricatures and Star Fleet officers were not always perfect. Main and recurring characters experienced growth and change. The show had strong women characters who had more to do than just look pretty. I have be re-watching DS9 since the fall and I for one would like to revisit Terak Nor more than once. It has a wealth of episodes pertinent to this moment in history that we are all a part of.

When I asked which episode you wanted me to review, these were the episodes that came up in the comments.

His Way (6.20)
Its Only a Paper Moon (7.10)
Far Beyond the Stars (6.13)
Blood Oath (2.19)
In the hands of the prophets (1.20)
A Time To Stand (6.1)
Tears of the Prophets (5.26)
Once More Unto the Breach (6.7)
In the Pale Moonlight (6.19)

Most of these episodes are in seasons 6 and 7 when DS9 reached its climax. Because of the serialized nature of the show I think it would be better to go in chronological order. So people who haven’t watched DS9 before can join in if they want to.

With that in mind, I will start at the beginning with The Emissary. I also think Duet is a must watch of the season one episodes and we can end our season one watch with In the Hands of the Prophets. If you would like me to cover any other first season DS9 episodes leave a comment.

This is a complete list of season 1 episodes. Without further ado let’s dive in and begin at the beginning.

The scene of action is Deep Space Nine, an outpost at the edge of the alpha quadrant near Bajor, a planet devastated by war and occupation by the Cardasssians . When the show begins the Cardassians have just left, or should I say wrecked the station, before leaving. Our hero, Benjamin Sisko, a commander in StarFleet is named the commanding officer of the station. Benjamin Sisko has a young son, Jake, who is none too thrilled by this transfer to the middle of nowhere, where the replicators are broken and the living quarters are missing a bed…

Click the link to read the rest!



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.


Saturday Morning Action Serials Open Thread

On the one hand, the Spousal Unit and I adored Leverage, which was John Rogers’ creation (along with the infamous 27% Factor).

But on the other hand, neither of us ever watched an episode of the original Magnum, P.I. — it was the 80s, home recording technology was still in its infancy and television in general wasn’t much further along. And we were both involved in sf fandom / tabletop RPGs, which in those primitive days meant hand-crafting fanzines, apas, and character sheets, not to mention longform reading.

So… those of you who know more of the source material: Is this particular reboot liable to be worth watching?

And apart from the current parlous state of pop culture, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Emmys Open Thread

Beautiful people.