Posts Tagged ‘Melania’

Facebook Has an Algorithm Problem

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

facebook thumb downAlgorithms are cool. I get it. I mean, I get that they’re cool, not how they work. I like to think that, if I had to, I could probably work really hard to understand them, but I dropped out of engineering school to do this. No regrets.

In fact, writing about life in all its complexities has given me an appreciation for what people — real people, not some numbers-crunched algorithm people — have to deal with on a daily basis. It has exposed me to the value of compassion, compromise and common sense.

Our universal dictionary, Wikipedia, defines an algorithm as “an unambiguous specification of how to solve a class of problems. Algorithms can perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning tasks.”

But they can’t, obviously, do ambiguous.

I’m thinking about algorithms because Facebook, an Internet empire built on them, recently said it was going to hire 1,000 people to review ads in response to the embarrassing revelation that users’ news feeds during the 2016 U.S. presidential election were awash in political ads run by Russians, undoubtedly using their own algorithms to target various groups in an effort to influence the outcome. Facebook said Russians bought about $100,000 in ads — with rubles — but apparently the social media giant’s algorithms detected no ambiguity afoot with Russians arguing to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights or stirring up anti-gay feelings, not in Moscow, but in the American heartland.

Congress is investigating. That’s good. It should do something this year. But Facebook has more than a Russia problem. It has become the major source of news for millions of Americans, yet its news feeds have been shown to be awash in fake news. Lots of really fake news, not Trump “fake news,” which is real news.

Facebook — actually Mark Zuckerberg — is talking about becoming a more responsible source of reliable news information and hiring “content moderators” to review, well, content, and a lot of additional people to look out for violent content on the site. Swell. 

If you will permit me a self-serving observation, he’s talking about hiring people to exercise judgment over what appears publicly on Facebook because: (1) algorithms can’t think or feel like people and (2) this is how responsible newspapers have operated forever. Just saying.

In the interests of full disclosure, I also will say I have had my own personal experiences with Facebook algorithms. Recently, I received an e-mail telling me that an ad I wanted to run boosting a column on a Facebook page I administer was rejected because it had too much copy. It didn’t say the copy was boring or poorly written or even offensive. Just too much of it.

OK, I’ve had editors tell me the same thing, but I was also never prepared to give an editor ten bucks just to run the column. Oh yeah, the ad in question was proposed in July. I got the rejection e-mail on Halloween.

Then there’s the friendly way Facebook greets me every day with news of the weather in Phillipsport. “Rain is in the forecast today, Robert.” Thank you. If I Iived in Phillipsport it would matter a lot more, but it’s a half hour drive and there’s a big mountain range between us and my page unambiguously says where I live. Can’t the algorithm read?

But the incident that really convinced me that Facebook had an algorithm problem was its response to a complaint I filed regarding a post that was being sarcastic about the dotard-in-chief. I am guilty as charged of leveling (much-deserved) sarcasm at the Trump, but this cartoon had him in a coffin with a bystander saying to Melania, “‘Sorry about the assassination, Mrs.Trump, but he knew what he signed up for.”

As a “content moderator” for newspapers for several decades, I would never let such a tasteless, provocative, potentially dangerous item to be published. I told Facebook the same thing. I said they should delete it. It encouraged violence at a violent time in our history.

The algorithm replied that the post did not violate Facebook’s standard of, I don’t know: Acceptability? Appropriateness? Decency? Who sets this pathetic standard?

I use Facebook a lot. It has many wonderful benefits. But “automated reasoning” is not a substitute for good old, gut-instinct common sense. It’s the best way to connect people with people. Maybe people cost a little more than algorithms, but I think Zuck can afford it and there are a lot of laid off editors looking for work. If it’s not fake news that he’s serious about running for president some day, he’ll be glad he did it.

I’m also curious to know what Facebook says if I decide I want to pay to boost this post. I wonder if they’ll let me run a picture of Zuck. Can I even call him Zuck?

Stay tuned.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump, Turmeric and Taoism

Friday, May 26th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Fit ... or fatigued?

Fit … or fatigued?

So, turmeric.

C’mon, admit it. You’ve jumped on the bandwagon for the latest health “super food.” Well, super spice.

If you haven’t yet discovered it, turmeric is a major ingredient in curry. It also makes mustard yellow. It also is believed to have benefits in fighting several chronic debilitating diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even cancer. It’s also supposed to be a mood enhancer. Side effects appear to be minimal. It can be ingested in tea, via tablet supplements, cream and, of course, in Indian food.

I added it to my daily regimen of B’s, D, aspirin and cod fish oil a couple of weeks ago. That regimen, along with a health-conscious diet and exercise, I can honestly say has helped keep me in relatively good health, especially for a guy who has recently been banged up in an auto accident. (Not my fault and I’m doing fine.) I do believe the diet and supplements are a main reason for my (usually) not looking, feeling or acting my age, which is several years older than the man who likes to remind us that he’s the president and we are not.

Volumes have already been written about the emotional health of Donald Trump, our narcissist-in-chief (NIC), and many more are sure to come. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. Everything about him is not normal and I refuse to normalize it. But I do wonder about his physical health.

How does someone with great wealth and access, literally, to any food, treatment, fitness coach or exercise regimen that would keep him fit and healthy for many years to come and allow him to continue to enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten gains well into his nineties — a man also obviously obsessed with his appearance — how does he allow himself to become a belly-hanging, fried-chicken-eating, two-scoops-of-ice-cream guy who had to excuse himself from an event on his diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia because of “exhaustion”?

Makes me wonder if maybe all those short speeches and quick, in-and-out visits to museums and sites of special interest aren’t only because of a short attention span. Maybe he gets tired quickly. Not that we’d ever know. In fact, we know remarkably little about the health of the man who, at 70, was the oldest ever first-time elected president.

The most recent “update,” as it were, from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who says he has been Trump’s personal doctor for 36 years, came in an interview with the New York Times in February. He told The Times that Trump undergoes regular physical checkups, gets all the important tests and takes a statin to keep his cholesterol and lipid levels at a healthy rate.

Bornstein, who could fairly be called a character, said Trump is healthy, while alternating between telling The Times that Trump’s health is “none of your business” (which is not true, since he is the president) and volunteering that he takes a prostate drug that promotes hair growth. Well, at least we know what’s important healthwise to the NIC.

Bornstein caused a stir during the presidential campaign when asked if he was concerned about Trump’s health, given his age and the fact he was running for the presidency. The doctor replied, “If something happens to him, then it happens to him.’’

Nice to know the doctor is in touch with his Taoist side. But really, who’s looking after Trump’s health on a daily basis? If he’s like most men in their 70’s (I’m going to generalize here) he’s inclined to skip doing some healthy stuff and do some not-so-healthy stuff instead. I don’t think it’s sexist to suggest that a lot of older men sometimes depend on someone else, usually a woman, to remind them about taking vitamins, or medicine or exercising or going easy on the dessert or getting enough sleep, etc. I’m speaking from my own experience here, not lecturing.

What we do know about Trump is that, while he’s at the White House, his wife, Melania, spends the week in New York City with their young son. Also, she doesn’t like to hold hands with him when they’re together. We know he watches a lot of TV and gets up early in the morning to tweet angrily about whatever bothers him — and apparently it’s a lot. Does he go to bed early? Don’t know. We know he likes chocolate cake and Big Macs and french fries and well-done steak with ketchup on the side. Exercise? Well, there is that golf every weekend.

Let me say here that, like a lot of other Americans, I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about the good health of the NIC. Rather, I’m curious about who is and wondering why the man himself doesn’t seem to care much. Maybe he thinks he’s perfect just the way he is. Or maybe no one dares to mention that he could use to lose a few pounds and maybe even take some turmeric to improve his mood. Skip all that TV and read a book before bed.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” One out of three is good only in baseball, Mr. NIC.  We know, because you told us, that you were surprised to discover how hard the job of being president is. It can be emotionally and physically demanding. Everyone wants something from you and no matter what you do, someone is unhappy. It could be exhausting even for someone who’s not going to be 71 in two weeks, as you are.

Look, it’s up to you, but I think I speak for a lot of Americans in saying if the demands of the job are taking a toll on you physically, no one would think less of you if you said you were stepping down for the good of the country to spend more time with your young son and young wife. Actually, it’s a very patriotic thing to do. Ask John Boehner.

Me, I’m going to stick with the turmeric and hope it improves my mood.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump Couldn’t Lose for WInning

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Who knew?

     Who knew?

Sitting and watching the March blizzard do its thing outside the window — working, working, working to shut everything down — a memory from the 2016 presidential campaign snuck into my consciousness. The post kept popping up on my Facebook feed, but I honestly can’t remember the original source of the news. I’m also not in the mood to go researching for it because I didn’t think it was fake news then and today I am convinced it is the god’s honest truth.

In brief, one of DT’s former aides (of which there are many) wrote an article in which she claimed he never expected to win the Republican nomination and the election. Indeed, she said he did not want to win the election. Rather, she said, he just wanted to get his name out there for whatever profit he could gain from the publicity and maybe help launch a TV network he was planning. Branding.

Less than two months since his inauguration, it’s obvious: Donald Trump likes being president, but he is less than fond of doing president. The title and the glory are great — right up his alley. Put a big, gold “T” on the White House.

But the work? Daily intelligence briefings? Reading reports on the battle against ISIS? Getting up to speed on how complicated health care is? Learning the difference between the debt and the deficit, Medicaid and Medicare, China and Taiwan, Iran and Iraq, legal and unconstitutional? Isn’t that what we have Mike Pence for?

The man has no patience for details, for facts, for differing opinions, for the legal process, for diplomacy, for Cabinet meetings, for, at the very least, hiring people to fill the hundreds of federal government jobs unfilled since he took office. Who knew being president was such a big job?

Well, for one, his predecessor. And, with varying degrees of success, a long line of predecessors before Barack Obama.

Getting back to that aide’s story … Was there ever a campaign for president run with such obvious disregard for facts? WIth such disdain and outright rudeness aimed at other candidates? With such arrogant disregard for the bigotry and violence it encouraged in its followers? With such crudeness towards women, minorities, the physically handicapped? With such an ill-informed, self-obsessed liar as the candidate?

Rhetorical questions.

It was a campaign expressly designed for maximum press coverage, which it got. What went wrong for Trump is that he was up against the worst field of Republican candidates imaginable, few of whom had the guts to match him insult for insult (some of whom now kiss up to him since he’s the titular head of their party) and then ran into the most disliked Democrat in America as his opponent in the general campaign. Even encouraging the Russians to wiretap Hillary Clinton wasn’t enough to doom the Trump campaign.

Hard as he tried, most Republican leaders and elected officials couldn’t bring themselves to publicly call him a bully and a liar and a fraud and so their voters — the ones who weren’t outright racists or conspiracy theorists or rightwing extremists, all of whom loved him from the get-go — went for the celebrity candidate who promised them … well, whatever they wanted him to promise them.

I won’t be playing golf every week, he promised. Mexico will pay for the wall, he promised. Social Security and Medicare are safe, he promised, Everyone will have health care, he promised. How could he know that House Speaker Paul Ryan hated Social Security and Medicare and had no clue about how health insurance worked? That would have required understanding all that stuff himself and talking to Ryan about it. Work.

Trump’s bad luck followed him into November. Clinton beat him by three million votes and still lost, thanks to the Electoral College, which is a concept the new president surely still does not understand. Although he swears he had the widest winning margin there in decades. He couldn’t lose for winning, no matter how hard he tried. And now he has to try to convince a bunch of much smarter people who report to him every day that he knows what he’s doing.

Not that they believe him.

Which is our problem, America.

The golf? Jeez, I know I promised I’d be a working president, but this is ridiculous. Anything to get out of that depressing White House every weekend. ISIS this; ISIS that. Merkel this; Merkel that. Warren this; Warren that. What’s wrong with Flynn talking to Russians? Some of my best friends and creditors are Russians. How come nobody told me federal judges were appointed for life? Do I attack North Korea if they launch a missile at us? I can’t believe Ryan is going to try to find money for that stupid wall. Now they’re trying to pin my name on that ridiculous health care plan he came up with. Maybe I can feed that Maddow dame the only legit tax return I have this century to take the heat off the Russia thing. And what the heck is going on with Lindsay Graham and that loser McCain? Is Turkey an ally? Did La La Land win the Oscar or not? Bad dudes in Hollywood. I wonder if Rudy wants his old job back at Justice, or is he ticked I didn’t name him ambassador to Russia? Damn, why does the FBI want to talk to me? Melania!? Melania!? Help! They want me to organize the Easter egg roll! Stop hiding in New York!

Damn, where’d I leave my phone? Maybe I can get Snoop Dog to come down to Mar a Lago for golf this weekend. Hey, Bannon, it’s still Black History Month, isn’t it?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Playing Solitaire in the White House

Friday, March 10th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The trigger card

            The trigger card

You’ll have to pardon me here as I try to catch up on the news. Last I knew, the narcissist-in-chief (NIC) had just shown himself to be presidential by reading a speech (which he did not write) from a teleprompter for about an hour straight without veering off message, insulting any minority group or mentioning the size of his, uh, inauguration crowd.

A lot of people who call themselves journalists apparently thought this was evidence of a heretofore well-hidden capability to do presidential things.

With that reassurance that all was well with the republic, I busied myself with other, more pressing personal stuff: Reading; having dinner with my sons; wading through a mountain of unopened mail that had been gathering since I was involved in an accident; deciding whether my partner and I should have Chinese or Mexican takeout for dinner; looking for something to add to my Netflix queue while waiting for Denzel’s 2004 version of “The Manchurian Candidate” to become available; being impressed at how well the Sinatra version from 1962 has held up.

Then it got a little spooky. I heard that after his “presidential” reading, the NIC apparently went off message a few days later. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I’ve been able to piece together from all those alternative “news” sites on Facebook, some time late Saturday night, the NIC was wandering around the White House in his bathrobe when the phone rang. His cell phone, not THE phone. A voice on the other end that sounded remarkably like Steve Bannon channeling the NIC’s deceased mother suggested that to occupy his time, since Melania preferred to stay in New York, he should play his favorite game — Solitaire.

“Yes, mother,” the NIC obeyed and hung up.

Having stacked the deck with red queens, the trigger card, the voice called back a minute later and said, “Blame Obama.”

Again, “Yes, mother.”

And that’s apparently how we ended up with one president accusing his predecessor (on Twitter) of wiretapping his home phone. At least that’s the best I can piece together from news reports since no one has offered a scintilla of evidence of such a wiretap and the FBI director (the guy who clinched the election for the NIC) says it never happened. The White House ignored that response and a cadre of lawyers reportedly set out to find  proof of what their master had tweeted.

Now, apparently, all those “journalists” who swooned over the State of the Union reading are what one might call non-plussed for having been suckered again by a performance. “Sir, what  proof do you have of  this dastardly deed by Mr. Obama?” they asked the NIC, who had none, of course. Never does.

No one apparently thought to ask, “Sir, since you’re the president and have the power, why don’t you just declassify the documents that prove you were wiretapped?’’

Well, because: (1.) If there really was an illegal wiretap (the president can’t order one), the guilty parties would have left no records.

(2.) If such records did exist, they would prove that a judge thought there was sufficient reason for the FBI to wiretap the NIC even before he took office and how embarrassing would that be?

But probably mostly (3.), because he didn’t know that the president couldn’t order a wiretap or that a president could declassify any document he chooses. Details are not the NIC’s strong point.

As I take it, you-know-who was so angry that no one — even Sean Spicer struggled to keep a straight face — believed him when he said Obama had his Trump Tower phones tapped — he kicked Bannon and Reince Priebus, his two top aides, off Air Force One when he flew to Florida for his regular weekend of presidential golfing.

Bannon, however, was smart enough, I gather, to pack a few stacked Solitaire decks in the NIC’s bags. Some time over the weekend, as he wandered the halls of Mar-a-Lago in his bathrobe, the phone rang again.

This time, THE phone, not his cell phone.

“How about a game of Solitaire, son?”

“Yes, mother.” Hang up.

Short pause. Red queen.

Ring!

“Hello, mother.”

“Okay, now listen carefully, son. Last time I called you the damn cell phone dropped the call after I said, ‘Blame Obama’ and you made up some cockamamie story about him tapping your phone. What were you thinking? (Bannon’s voice getting a bit hoarse.) Blame Obama for that botched SEALS raid in Yemen, you ninny.”

“Yes, mother.”

And as far as I can tell, that’s how the NIC came to exploit the widow of a Navy SEAL who died in that raid during his State of the Union address, while at the same time blaming his predecessor and his generals for the failure of the mission. How’s that for presidential?

I can’t wait for Denzel’s “Manchurian Candidate” to arrive in the mail. Hope it’s as good as Sinatra’s.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Donald and the Boys Plot to Beat Hillary

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Roger Ailes and Donald Trump

Roger Ailes and Donald Trump

(A scene from “Just One of the Boys,” a show previewing Off-Broadway. The characters: Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, all wealthy, overweight, white men in their 70s. Plus a narrator, off-stage.

***

A bunch of the “boys” were sitting around the GOP clubhouse having a few drinks the other day. It was too rainy to play golf and they were way too out of shape to care anyway.

The talk inevitably came around to women. Women they had known. Women they could have known. Women they should have known. Women they wished they had known. Women they still wished they could know. If you know what I mean.

RUdy Giulianai and New Gingrich

Rudy Giuliani and New Gingrich

It was an exercise in fantasy, braggadocio, misogyny and out-and-out lies. Also, a lot of wishful thinking since, in addition to being out of shape, they were all of that age — 70 and up — where most of the women they had in mind would likely respond with, “Are you out of your mind?”

What the boys — Donald, Rudy, Newt and Roger — were doing, in addition to trying to top each other’s tales of “conquest”  — was trying to develop a strategy for Donald to “put that witch, Hillary, in her place,” as Roger explained. Only he didn’t say witch.

So far, all the bullying, shaming, yelling, interrupting and lying by Donald hadn’t worked as well as they all thought it would. For some reason, a majority of women and, to the boys, a surprisingly large number of men, seemed to feel that Hillary had much better experience and a more suitable temperament to be president of the United States than did Donald.

A woman, for Pete’s sake! And not a babe either! She doesn’t even look presidential, they agreed. “And she’s been really mean in the things she’s saying about me,” Donald chimed in.

“Yeah,” agreed Rudy.

“You should say mean stuff about her,” said Roger.

“Well, you know I could have at the last debate, but I decided not to,” Donald said. “I was nice, but she attacked me for saying Miss Universe got fat and Rosie O’Donnell was a pig. I mean, it’s true, so how could it be mean?”

“You’re right, Donald,” Newt pitched in. ‘‘They are fat. You should go after her on Bill.”

Rudy and Roger nodded in agreement. “Do it, Donald,” urged Roger. “What kind of woman puts up with her husband fooling around with all sorts of other women, stays married to him for 40 years and has a successful career in politics?”

“She must be stupid,” said Rudy. Newt nodded in agreement.

“So you think I should do it, guys?” asked Donald. “I mean, I made a point of telling the press after the debate that I was going to bring up Bill and his women in the debate, but didn’t, so that the press could tell people that I was being nice when I didn’t have to be — and I can be very nice, if you know what I mean. I mean, I’m the nicest guy you ever met. But I didn’t have to be and I wanted people to know that and, since I didn’t bring it up, how could they know? Know what I mean?”

“Uh huh,” all replied.

‘‘But the time for being nice is over, Donald,” said Roger. “All the legitimate polls — not the ones they quote on my old Fox stomping grounds — show her comfortably ahead of you. We’ve got to give your core supporters — the ones who don’t read — more red meat to consume. Bill’s affairs. That’s the ticket. Make them forget about your tax-dodging — and your draft-dodging, too, for that matter.”

“Hey, Roger, low blow,” said Donald. “Nobody in this room served in uniform. But my sexual escapades years ago put to shame all the groping and leering you did at Fox. By the way, Who was hotter, Gretchen Carlson or Megyn Kelly? You get anything from either one? I hear Fox paid Gretchen $20 million to go away and drop her lawsuit. How are things with you and your wife over in Garrison?”

“I’m living in New Jersey now.”

‘’Bummer, right Rudy?” said Donald. “Didn’t you marry your cousin once? And remember when you had your girlfriend march with you in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, instead of your wife, Donna? That would have been great reality TV. Especially letting Donna know you guys were splitting by announcing it at a press conference. Great ratings. Plus the fooling around with your young press aide. Being mayor was good, huh?”

“Yeah, but what about Newt?” asked Rudy. “Being speaker of the House had its perks, too, right Newt? After all, you were sleeping with your young press aide in Congress while you were married to your second wife, who you were cheating with on your first wife while she was fighting cancer. And didn’t you ask your second wife for an open marriage — sort of what I wanted from Donna?”

“Yeah,’’ said Newt. “She said ‘no.’ No imagination. She even told the press I didn’t have the moral character to be president when I was thinking of running. Imagine that. So I divorced her and married Callista. We’re still together.”

“Like me and Melania,” puffed Donald.

“Yeah, how’d you manage that?” asked Rudy. “I remember your first wife, Ivana. Gorgeous. And a terrific businesswoman, but, what, you had three kids and she just wanted to raise them after a while?”

“Yeah. And her foreign accent sounded too weird for a potential First Lady. See, guys, I was thinking about running for president way back then.”

“Really? So I can see why Marla Maples, was attractive to you,” said Rudy. “Young. Model. Actress. Well-spoken.”

“But she wouldn’t pose nude for Playboy,’’ said Donald. “Boring.”

“Yeah, but not always,” said Rudy, a former prosecutor. “I hear you took the Fifth Amendment 96 times in your deposition on the divorce from Ivana when they asked about whether you were sexually involved with other women. That’s impressive.’’

“Actually, it was 97 times, Rudy, but who’s counting?”

“Yeah, you’re the man, Donald. So, now you’re with Melania. How’s that going, old man?

“Yeah, how’d you pull that off?” asked Newt. “I mean, she’s a young babe, too, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“No, I don’t mind. It’s true. You’ve probably seen her nude photos. My daughter, Ivanka, is beautiful, too.”

“”Absolutely,” agreed Roger. “If I still had a TV network, I’d offer her a job.”

“Well, I may my have own network soon,” said Donald. “She can run it for me, but I wouldn’t let you within 10 miles of her. No commentator gigs for you, either, Rudy or Newt. … Let’s have another round. What were we talking about?’’

Roger, the brains of the outfit,  reminded the Donald and the rest: “We’re coming up with a strategy whereby you criticize Hillary because her husband, Bill, who happened to have been an effective president in many ways, if I have to admit, was also a serial philanderer, having affairs with a variety of women, young and not so young, in and out of the White House, yet she has stayed with him for 40 years, having somehow reconciled their difficulties and salvaged her ambition, career and their marriage to the point where he is a respected ex-president and she is now a viable and, some say, likely successful candidate for president. We just can’t allow that.”

“Cool,’’ said Donald. “We ought to invite Bill to these gatherings some time. You know, we used to be friends. I admire his style.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com