High Rollin’ Online and Presidential Profits

I just made a quick visit to the Garden State (that’s New Jersey for the uninitiated) and I can happily report that the casinos and online gambling sites are alive and well.   So how come Donald Trump’s casinos and hotels have gone bankrupt and are shutting down, i.e., his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, NJ?  Maybe it was just more profitable for HIM since he has a better deal now as the president.  And he and his entire family are on the government payroll and don’t pay a nickel for anything they may need.  He just sends the bills to Uncle Sam (that’s you and me).  

FYI.  New Jersey is now joining Nevada and Delaware in an online poker pact.  Figures released last Thursday by the New Jersey Division of GamingEnforcement showed Atlantic City’s seven casinos and online gambling outlets won $235.8 million in September, an increase of 4.1 percent compared with September 2016.  That included $20.4 million last month from online gambling, up 25 percent over last year.

Maybe we will eventually see how the president is faring financially when he finally releases his tax returns, whenever or whether that will ever be?

Ray Myers


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Russia Targets U.S. Military Community with Facebook and Twitter

It just keeps getting “curiouser and curiouser” as Alice once said while traveling through Wonderland.  But you really don’t have to go to Wonderland to have this feeling.  I think I am having that feeling right here in the U.S.A. as we discover more about the Russian interference in last year’s election with every passing day.  Social media has become political media and our comrades in Russia are showing us how it’s done.  So maybe this is how you really achieve world dominance after all.  Here is how it was reported in The Washington Post on October 10 by Craig Timberg.

Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.

In some cases, the disinformation reached the friends and families of military personnel and veterans as well, the researchers said. But it was not always clear who was creating the content. Twitter, for example, makes it easy for users to hide their true identities.

“The social networks mapped over Twitter and Facebook include both genuine accounts created by U.S. military organizations, by service personnel and veterans themselves, and by groups seeking to influence those users,” the report says. “Some of the accounts are pro-Putin accounts pushing out significant amounts of Russian-oriented content.”

The report by Oxford’s Project on Computational Propaganda, which has been studying ways that fake news and propaganda reached Americans during the 2016 election and its aftermath, is the first in which the group sought to explore the spread of disinformation on both Twitter and Facebook, and also how links are shared back and forth across these platforms.

Facebook and Twitter both declined to comment on the report, advanced copies of which were shared with the companies by the researchers.

To examine the kind of information that reaches military personnel and veterans, the researchers analyzed content between April 2 and May 2 on Twitter including popular hashtags such as #GoArmy or #Iraq to determine what users of these hashtags posted. In some cases, said Philip N. Howard, an Oxford professor who co-authored the report, known Russian trolls were using those hashtags to draw attention to content they were promoting.

They researchers also tracked information on several military-themed websites and used the traffic to these sites — along with the Twitter data — to determine what Facebook accounts promoted similar content on publicly available pages. That yielded maps of online interaction showing, for example, that accounts that linked frequently to veterans and military issues also in many cases linked to content related to Russia.

Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.

In some cases, the disinformation reached the friends and families of military personnel and veterans as well, the researchers said. But it was not always clear who was creating the content. Twitter, for example, makes it easy for users to hide their true identities.

“The social networks mapped over Twitter and Facebook include both genuine accounts created by U.S. military organizations, by service personnel and veterans themselves, and by groups seeking to influence those users,” the report says. “Some of the accounts are pro-Putin accounts pushing out significant amounts of Russian-oriented content.”

The report by Oxford’s Project on Computational Propaganda, which has been studying ways that fake news and propaganda reached Americans during the 2016 election and its aftermath, is the first in which the group sought to explore the spread of disinformation on both Twitter and Facebook, and also how links are shared back and forth across these platform.

To examine the kind of information that reaches military personnel and veterans, the researchers analyzed content between April 2 and May 2 on Twitter including popular hashtags such as #GoArmy or #Iraq to determine what users of these hashtags posted. In some cases, said Philip N. Howard, an Oxford professor who co-authored the report, known Russian trolls were using those hashtags to draw attention to content they were promoting.

The researchers also tracked information on several military-themed websites and used the traffic to these sites — along with the Twitter data — to determine what Facebook accounts promoted similar content on publicly available pages. That yielded maps of online interaction showing, for example, that accounts that linked frequently to veterans and military issues also in many cases linked to content related to Russia.

The kind of information shared by and with veterans and active-duty personnel span a wide range, with liberal political content also common, though not as common as conservative political content. The online military community, the researchers found, also shared links about sustainable agriculture, mental health issues such as addiction, and conspiracy theories.

No one subject dominated the online content flowing among these communities, but the largest individual categories dealt with military or veteran matters. Russian disinformation was a smaller but significant and persistent part of the overall information flow.

“The very idea that there’s aggressive campaigns to target military personnel with misleading content on national security issues is surprising. It’s disappointing,” Howard said. “Because they’re opinion leaders, they get more attention from governments and people who spread misinformation.”

The other authors of the report, titled “Junk News on Military Affairs and National Security: Social Media Disinformation Campaigns Against US Military Personnel and Veterans,,” were John D. Gallacher, also of Oxford, and Vlad Barash and John Kelley of Graphika, which uses social media data to analyze online relationships and influence.

Ray Myers

Online Dating

“Being upfront about my disability liberated me.”  In this case a young woman, Emily Ladau, who describes herself as playing the online dating game finally decided to make it clear in her online profile that she was in a wheelchair.  Ironically she was a person who was a advocate for the rights of the disabled, but in the dating world, her disability was her secret shame.  Here is how she describes the change she made on her own online world.

“So I decided it was time for a change. I started gradually, making references to my disability throughout my profile, then adding photos in which my wheelchair is clearly visible. I tried to keep things light and humorous. For instance, OKCupid asks users to list six things they can’t live without; one of mine is “the invention of the wheel.”

Still, I found myself having to make sure that potential matches had actually picked up on the trail of clues I’d left. I grew tired of feeling like I needed to deceive men into being interested because society instilled in me that my disability makes me undesirable. Finally, I took the leap I’d been so afraid to make, opening up about disability to strangers whom I hoped would appreciate my honesty and perhaps send me a message.

Prominently in my profile, I wrote: “I’d like to be very upfront about the fact that I use a wheelchair. My disability is part of my identity and I’m a loud, proud disability rights activist, but there is so much more that defines me (you know, like the stuff I’ve got in my profile). I realize some people are hesitant to date a human who experiences the world sitting down. But I’d like to think you’ll keep reading and dive a little deeper. And you’re welcome to ask questions, should you have any.”

Once I added that paragraph, I felt liberated, relieved that anyone I spoke to would have a clearer picture of me. There have been plenty of matches that haven’t worked out, and whether that’s actually because of my disability, I’ll never know. But I had a nearly yearlong relationship with a man I met through OKCupid, so I know it’s possible for lightning to strike again. My dating life remains a comedy of errors, and I still struggle every day with the feeling that my disability means I won’t find love, but at least I’m being true to myself. I’m putting myself out there — my whole self — and it feels good to be proud of who I am.”

Emily Ladau (@emily_ladau) is a disability rights activist, writer and speaker. She is editor in chief of Rooted in Rights. Her work can be found on her website, Words I Wheel By.

Ray Myers

Russian-linked Accounts Bought $270,000 of Twitter Ads During Election 

First, it was all about Facebook and how the Russians used it, but wait, Twitter was part of this propaganda master plan as well. Perhaps the sworn enemies of capitalism know how our system works better than we do?  Maybe we really do like “fake news” over the real thing after all, and that’s the scary part.  Or we just have an insatiable appetite for any news that’s instantaneous and never really fact-checked.  We see it on our mobile devices and we believe.  No time to analyze or scrutinize!  And maybe the saddest part is that we like it that way.  Here’s the latest.

Twitter has released a statement explaining how accounts affiliated with Russia Today paid to promote news stories, which may have been attempts to influence the election.

The company has turned details over to Congress.

Senator Mark Warner, who is leading inquiries into Russian election interference, said he was “deeply disappointed” with Twitter’s presentation.

Twitter sold more than $270,000 of ads to Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 election, the company said Thursday, further detailing the extent of potential foreign influence that’s spurred Senate investigations and calls for greater regulation.

Twitter accounts affiliated with Russia Today, an outlet with “strong links” to the Russian government,” promoted more than 1,800 tweets that “definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market,” the company said in a statement.

Twitter also said that it found Twitter accounts for 22 of the 450 Russia-linked accounts that Facebook said had bought ads on Facebook during the election. It also found 179 more accounts linked to those 22. Twitter has suspended all those accounts.

Thursday Twitter turned over “a round-up of ads” from Russia-linked accounts targeted to the U.S. market, the statement said.

“We are concerned about violations of our Terms of Service and U.S. law with respect to interference in the exercise of voting rights,” the statement said. “During the 2016 election, we removed Tweets that were attempting to suppress or otherwise interfere with the exercise of voting rights, including the right to have a vote counted, by circulating intentionally misleading information.”

Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia who has been helping to lead inquiries into how Russia tried to influence the election via American social media, was not impressed with Twitter’s presentation.

He said the Twitter briefing was mostly derivative of a presentation earlier this month given by Facebook and lacked thoroughness. “Their response was, frankly, inadequate on almost every level,” Warner told reporters.

Ray Myers


Trump Attacks NFL and Russians Hack Facebook

What a week!  Trump raises the stakes on how patriotic NFL football fans should be, i.e., let’s all stand for the national anthem. You really don’t have to stand, as explained in my commentary yesterday.  And then we find out that Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook had been hacked by the Russians last year and conceivably played an dominant role in insuring Trump’s presidential victory.  I think Maureen Dowd’s column in yesterday’s NY Times explains all this much better than I ever could, please see below “Will Zuck ‘Like’ This Column?”

Ray Myers

Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 9/24/17
WASHINGTON — The idea of Mark Zuckerberg running for president was always sort of scary.  But now it’s really scary, given what we’ve discovered about the power of his little invention to warp democracy.

All these years, the 33-year-old founder of Facebook has been dismissive of the idea that social media and A.I. could be used for global domination — or even that they should be regulated.

Days after Donald Trump pulled out his disorienting win, Zuckerberg told a tech conference that the contention that fake news had influenced the election was “a pretty crazy idea,” showing a “profound lack of empathy” toward Trump voters.

But all the while, the company was piling up the rubles and turning a blind eye as the Kremlin’s cyber hit men weaponized anti-Hillary bots on Facebook to sway the U.S. election. Russian agents also used Facebook and Twitter trolls, less successfully, to try to upend the French election.

Finally on Thursday, speaking on Facebook Live, Zuckerberg said he would give Congress more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia. As one Facebooker posted: “Why did it take EIGHT MONTHS to get here?”

Hillary is right that this $500 billion company has a lot to answer for in allowing the baby-photo-sharing site to be turned into what, with Twitter, The Times’s Scott Shane called “engines of deception and propaganda.”

Robert Mueller’s team, as well as House and Senate investigators, are hotly pursuing the trail of Russian fake news. On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security told 21 states, including Wisconsin and Ohio, that Russian agents had tried to hack their elections systems during the campaign.

As Vanity Fair pointed out, Mueller’s focus on social media during the campaign could spell trouble for Jared Kushner, who once bragged that he had called his Silicon Valley friends to get a tutorial in Facebook microtargeting and brought in Cambridge Analytica — Robert Mercer is a big investor — to help build a $400 million operation for his father-in-law’s campaign.

Some lawmakers suspect that the Russians had help in figuring out which women and blacks to target in precincts in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Senator Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee looking into Russia’s intervention in 2016, has a suspect in mind. “Paul Manafort made an awful lot of money coming up with a game plan for how Russian interests could be pushed in Western countries and Western elections,” Heinrich told Vanity Fair.

ProPublica broke the news that, until it asked about it recently, Facebook had “enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater,’ ‘How to burn jews,’ or, ‘History of “why jews ruin the world.”’”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s C.O.O., apologized for this on Wednesday and promised to fix the ad-buying tools, noting, “We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way — and that is on us.”

The Times’s Kevin Roose called this Facebook’s “Frankenstein moment,” like when Mary Shelley’s scientist, Victor Frankenstein, says, “I had been the author of unalterable evils, and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.”

Roose noted that in addition to the Russian chicanery, “In Myanmar, activists are accusing Facebook of censoring Rohingya Muslims, who are under attack from the country’s military. In Africa, the social network faces accusations that it helped human traffickers extort victims’ families by leaving up abusive videos.”

The Sandberg admission was also game, set and match for Elon Musk, who has been sounding the alarm for years about the danger of Silicon Valley’s creations and A.I. mind children getting out of control and hurting humanity. His pleas for safeguards and regulations have been mocked as “hysterical” and “pretty irresponsible” by Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg, whose project last year was building a Jarvis-style A.I. butler for his home, likes to paint himself as an optimist and Musk as a doomsday prophet. But Sandberg’s comment shows that Musk is right: The digerati at Facebook and Google are either being naïve or cynical and greedy in thinking that it’s enough just to have a vague code of conduct that says “Don’t be evil,” as Google does.

As Musk told me when he sat for a Vanity Fair piece: “It’s great when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius. It’s not so great when the emperor is Caligula.”

In July, the chief of Tesla and SpaceX told a meeting of governors that they should adopt A.I. legislation before robots start “going down the street killing people.” In August, he tweeted that A.I. going rogue represents “vastly more risk than North Korea.” And in September, he tweeted out a Gizmodo story headlined “Hackers Have Already Started to Weaponize Artificial Intelligence,” reporting that researchers proved that A.I. hackers were better than humans at getting Twitter users to click on malicious links.

(Musk also tweeted that it was a cautionary tale when Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay, had to be swiftly shut down when Twitter users taught her how to reply with racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic slurs, talking approvingly about Hitler.)

Vladimir Putin has denied digital meddling in the U.S. elections. But he understands the possibilities and threat of A.I. In a recent address, the Russian president told schoolchildren, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Musk agreed on Twitter that competition for A.I. superiority would be the “most likely cause of WW3.”

On Thursday, touring the Moscow tech firm Yandex, Putin asked the company’s chief how long it would be before superintelligent robots “eat us.”

Zuckerberg scoffs at such apocalyptic talk. His project this year was visiting all 50 states, a trip designed by former Obama strategist David Plouffe, which sparked speculation that he might be the next billionaire to seek the Oval Office.

As Bloomberg Businessweek wrote in a cover story a few days ago, Zuckerberg has hired Plouffe, other senior Obama officials and Hillary’s pollster. He has said he is no longer an atheist and he changed Facebook’s charter to allow him to maintain control in the hypothetical event he runs for office.

Yep. Very scary.

In Putin, We Trust?

I hope that I am not overreacting here, but it seems that the U.S. government has been buying security software from a Russian firm.  So I guess that since we now have that “special relationship” with Putin and his buddies, I should not worry so much about such minor details.  But don’t we have some great American companies who can do this same kind of work.  Maybe those greedy Yanks wanted too many rubles, sorry, dollars.  Well, we have finally put an end to all that and taken some action at the highest levels, or has it really been that effective or timely enough?

“In a binding directive, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke ordered federal civilian agencies to identify Kapersky Lab software on their networks (hmmm, what about the military, and what other federal agencies  are these civilian agencies working for?).  After ninety days, unless otherwise directed, they must remove the software, on the grounds the company has connections to the Russian government and its software poses a security risk.”

Kapersky Labs has been on a federal government list of approved vendors.  They have now been removed.  How did they get there and when did they get there in the first place?

Ray Myers




Tech Devices Will Not Make Us Smarter About Climate Change

Sorry about the late posting today, but we are in the middle of a residential relocation closer to family and grandchildren.  I recommend this type of relocation highly if you are interetested in being closer to wherever those grandchildren may be.  But this post is not about the grandkids, but more about how all American citizens, young and old, should be listening to science and less to political biases about what is happening to our environment.  Here is one environmental scientist’s opinion.

“It occurs to me that all the bloviating politicians who think that scientists don’t know stuff from shoe polish about climate change or land, air and water pollution should throw out all their radios, TVs, smartphones, cars, GPS or radar-guided yachts, and lifesaving medicines.  They can’t work anyway.  These gadgets, gizmos and medicines were all conceived of, or designed by and creates by scientists.”

The climate in which we all live is changing.  We can not change it, but at least we can try to better understand why it is changing and what we can do to better reduce human misery and nature’s destructive forces.

Ray Myers



Hurricane Damages Remind Us of Inconvenient Truths

Let’s all take a break from our political wars and take some time to understand that we must do something to save our planet for those we love.  What good is all the technological “wizardry” we have if we can not save the lives and livelihoods of our fellow inhabitants of Mother Earth.  We can do something if we opt to save our globe and not stand by sheepishly as the false idols of unchecked profiteering continue to tell us that we “can make America Great again” and simply ignore our responsibility to be faithful stewards of God’s bounty.

We owe it to ourselves and to those who trust us to preserve these gifts for our future generations.

Ray Myers

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It’s Not Who You Know, It’s What You Do

Get on the web, and get some friends.  Who knows, with the right connections and all of your networking skills, you too can become rich and famous.  Not so fast I am afraid.  It looks like all this networking may leave you with little to show in the way of professional accomplishments.  Ironically you may find that you have traded quantity for quality in seeking more “productive” relationships.  Less is more?

“Networks help, of course.  In a study of internet security start-ups, having a previous connection to an investor increased the odds of getting funded by that investor in the first year.  But it was pretty much irrelevant afterward.  Accomplishments were the dominant driver of who invested over time.  .  .  If you make great connections they may advance your career.  If you do great work, those connections will be easier to make.  Let your insights and your output – not your business cards – do the talking” (NY Times, 8/27/17).   It seems that networking alone leads to empty empty transactions, not rich relationships.

So as we approach Labor Day 2017, maybe we have to take a careful look at where are labor is leading us.  The social network alone may not lead to sustained professional success.

Ray Myers


Some Parental Advice from Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates does not presume to be a professional parenting expert. But she does have some thoughts to share based on her own personal experience as a mother who happens to be married to Microsoft’s founder. They are primarily reflections on her own parenting experience and what she might have done differently. Her over-riding concern is that parents should decide for themselves what works for their family, but adds that “I probably would have waited longer before putting a computer in my daughters’ pockets.”

“Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning to be kind, coping with feeling of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control. It’s more important than ever to teach empathy from the very beginning, because our kids are going to need it.” One online resource that she mentions is Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org) which advises families on how media can best be adapted to support more shared life experiences. For example, “One of my favorite things you can do is plan a ‘device-free dinner.’ It’s not complicated. It’s exactly what it says: an hour around a table without anything that has an on or off switch . . . (with) the promise of an amazing conversation.” 

Well, maybe they won’t all be “amazing conversations,” but at least we can increase the odds of having some. And Melinda Gates also believes that in learning to better listen and talk with each other, we may all develop a deeper sense of empathy for one another. I agree, and I don’t think you will find an “app” for that yet?

Ray Myers

Is Tech Downgrading Your Life?

So I guess we all really have a choice here, or do we?   How much tech do we want and when do we really want to be “upgraded” to the latest technology?   Or maybe it’s just the age-old question of how we manage our time at work vs. time we have with family and friends.  But unfortunately, it just seems more difficult to make these distinctions when we are “connected” all the time.  Not an easy or simple answer for many “bread winners” in the twenty-first century.

One busy professional reflected on this in this Sunday’s NY Times:  “My personal mode of self-restraint (controlling her life) is to always carry my phone when I am not with my kids and always leave it in the other room when I am.  The kids themselves don’t get phones at all.   When my 12-year-old daughter walks home from school without one, I intentionally have no idea where she is, just like nobody knew where their kids were when I was growing up.  How rare it is these days not to be able to know something.”

And as I mentioned in an earlier blog, we can easily know more in any given moment than we have ever have before, but how much do we really retain in the longer term?   Technology can make it so, but it is really still only a tool to help us remember, and we have to do the rest to “upgrade” our lives.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will take a late summer break this week, but will be back next Monday, August 28




Forget about Trump – How about Internet Freedom!

Hopefully reality has set in.  Donald Trump seems to be coming more irrelevant with every passing days of angry tweets and political posturing.  He really doesn’t know how to play this game!  What has he really accomplished?  So November is slowly approaching and now he is talking about bombing North Korea?  Maybe this will save his presidency, but God help us all.  And now to world affairs and how squelching internet freedom from our friends in China and Russia will make us all better world citizens.

Let’s just talk about China as an example, but I know Trump has great friends in Russia as well, but that may evolve into a more continuing geopolitical saga (can’t get enough of that Vladimir Putin!).  “China’s great firewall, a massive system of Internet filters and blocking, has long had a crack in it.  The firewall prevents most users inside China from accessing platforms outside the country, such as Facebook, Google and Netflix.  In keeping with China’s desire to censor what can be seen and read.  But popular software known as virtual private networks, or VPNs permit a user within China to tunnel through the firewall.  Now the crack is gradually being cemented up.”

Unfortunately, I believe Trump wants to emulate these totalitarian laders, and make Internet freedom a nostalgic fantasy in the U.S.  Please don’t let this happen!

Ray Myers

Nose in Books, Eyes on the Screen

So what’s really wrong with walking around with your eyes on your mobile phones while passerbys navigate their way around you?  More dangerous is the practice of driving while texting in terms of disregard for your own safety and that of others.  In the past the only similar practice I can recall that was seen as more of an anti-social behavior than a hazard to your own safety and others was keeping your “nose in a book.”  But I don’t recall seeing many people driving while reading an old-fashioned “hardbound” or paperback text.  At least I don’t think there were many car collisions attributed to people reading paperbacks while driving.

More disconcerting or hazardous (at least to me) are the anti-social implications of keeping your head down at social gatherings and not meeting or conversing with old friends and new acquaintances.  Being online there are always friends and family you can chose to be connected with and never be “out of touch.”  While you may chose to never have your head “in the clouds” again, you may also find yourself trapped in the world of social media to the detriment of having a real time “social life.”  I know I am portraying the extremes of a social media obsession, and that my observations are not scientifically based, but please take a look at your own social media life.  There may also be a generational gap here, and a personal preference for what constitutes a broader social life.  It still remains your own personal choice in terms of what “worlds” we chose to habitate and to what degree.

So now let’s look up and smell and see the roses!

Ray Myers


Summer Rerun: Tech and Trump Collide! (Originally posted on January 30, 2017)

Figuratively speaking that is. But this is all about how technology has expanded as an industry that has a global reach. Not only in terms of the powers of the Internet, but its effect on humanity around the world. Many different races and people from all corners of the globe can now benefit and contribute to its continuing growth and reach. Silicon Valley has brought some of the most talented tech “workers” from around the world into the U.S. We are talking about companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft. Trump’s proposed immigration ban could impair the ability of top U.S. companies to recruit and retain such talent in order to better compete globally.

In a company-wide email, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, stated his opposition very clearly, particularly in terms of its impact on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. “I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.” In open letters and other public statements during the Presidential campaign, tech executives and workers also objected to Trump’s anti-Muslim statements, and some signed onto a commitment not to help design his proposed Muslim registry.

Well, it’s the start of another work week at the White House. Although it’s only the second one, it already seems like a long time from the inauguration. I’m still waiting for the part where we become “great again!”

Ray Myers

P.S.  TechtoExpress will be on “vacation” next week.  We will return on Monday, July 31.

Summer Rerun: Trump is the Darling of the Heartland – Changing the Media Landscape (Originallly posted on December 19, 2016)

Trump knew where his message would have the most appeal, Heartland, U.S.A. And please don’t try to sell subscriptions to the “New York Times” or “Washington Post” of you are traveling there. No one is buying anyway. Now these media mainstay publications, along with others, have been looking for an Internet age strategy, but “nobody has found it.” Why browse through a newspaper when you can just “order up” the news you want to read online and forget about the rest. That seems to be what most of middle America has been doing this election year. Just get on the Internet and find something you like (it takes so long to read those old print news articles anyway.


I guess the proof is in the fact that he won the Presidential election with the overwhelming support of midwestern Americans. They elected a man who has rarely traveled west of the Hudson River his entire life (well, okay, New Jersey and Philadelphia to broaden his world view :). One adventuresome online news service based in New York City, ProPublica, is now trying to establish some Midwest roots. It is expanding into Illinois with a 10-person editorial team – laudable to be sure, but it can’t begin to make up for vibrant local papers with dozens of beat reporters, statehouse bureaus and investigative teams. Even with a move to the Midwest, “many in the news media believe that news organizations must rebuild relationships of trust with citizens, even Trump supporters.” Now if only I am able to figure out how that trust was lost? Is that really what happened?

So the suggested strategy is for the Democratic Party to change the media landscape (good luck with that). I think in most cases, people will read what reinforces or confirms their perspectives on the world in general. To learn more about your world takes more than just reading your favorite newspapers or listening to your favorite newscasts.

Ray Myers

Goodbye Yellow Volvo.  It was a Gas!

We once owned a yellow Volvo station wagon, 245 series to be exact.  It was a 1977 model and we even personalized the license plate to read “ITZ A 77.”  We were very proud of our first automobile purchase as a married couple and it also became the first car our daughter drove when she was in high school.  It was a very vintage model by then and barely survived until her graduation in 2000.  Let’s just say we like to get our money’s worth and our daughter was just too embarrassed to drive our new 1998 VW Cabrio – too flashy?

But now technology is changing the automotive world.  Volvo seems to be taking the lead.  They have sounded the death knell of the internal combustion engine, saying that all the models it will introduce starring in 2019 will be either hybrid or powered solely by batteries.  The decision is the boldest commitment by any major car company to technologies that represent a small share of the total vehicle market but are increasingly viewed as essential to combating climate change and urban pollution.  Unfortunately, U.S. automakers have continued to churn out S.U.V.s and pickup trucks, whose sales have surged because of relatively low fuel prices.

Maybe so-called President Trump can do something about all this?  But I forgot: he doesn’t believe that climate change is really happening at all.  He is also too busy looking for international enemies wherever they may be?

Ray Myers

Amazing Massive Amazon

What’s not to like about one-stop online shopping?  The only thing you might have to worry about is that in the future you will not have any shopping centers, strip malls or corner stores where “everybody knows your name.”  Gone will be the “social network” of shopping that involves interacting with real people in real time and space (bricks and mortar).  From some economists and business experts, there is a growing concern that Amazon’s tremendous growth and market dominance could increasingly stifle competition and erode jobs.  This is the real threat that Amazon poses as viewed by business researchers and analysts.

“To consumers whose seeming every wish can be fulfilled by the more than 400 million products available for sale on the site, its scope can seem enormous.  Amazon sells 52% of all books (print, electronic and audio) in the United States.  Forty-three percent of all online commerce goes through Amazon.  It’s got 45% of the cloud computing market, meaning it’s the single largest provider of infrastructure that runs thousands of popular websites.  It’s not in banking and insurance, though analysts say that wouldn’t be a stretch.”  Consumers enjoy low prices, while suppliers get squeezed.

And you always thought that people with their heads in the clouds were out of touch.  Seems like that might be a good place to be these days if you are in business.

Ray Myers

The Island Economy of the Trump’s (so-called) Presidency

I was in Vietnam about this time last year.  President Obama also happened to be in Hanoi at the same time, working to enhance America’s internationally presence and improve trade relations with twelve Pacific Rim partners.  Vietnam and the other countries rejoiced at his arrival after a torturous past of wars and corruption that was crippling the economies of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.  Obama helped broker the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Many trade experts saw TPP as the single most valuable tool America had for shaping the geo-economic future of the region our way and for pressuring China to open its markets.  

TPP also included restrictions on foreign state-owned enterprises that dumped subsidized products into our markets, intellectual property protections for rising U.S. technologies – like free access for all cloud computing services.  Like any trade deal, TPP would have challenged some U.S. workers but it would have created opportunities for many others, because big economies like Japan and Vietnam were opening their markets.  For decades we had allowed Japan to stay way too closed because, because it was an ally in the Cold War, and Vietnam, because it was an enemy.  Some 80 percent of the goods from our 11 TPP partners were coming into the U.S. duty free already, while our goods and services were still being hit with 18,000 tariffs in their countries  – which TPP eliminated.

We could have even helped the economic reformers in China.  They were hoping that the emergence of TPP “would force China to reform its trade practices more along American lines and to open its markets  .  .  .  We failed the reformers in China.”

Ray Myers

P.S.  Happy Fourth of July weekend.  Enjoy.  Back on Wednesday, July 5th.

Airport Screening – Safety First, Why Not Show the World?

Americans don’t really seem to care about economic competition when it comes to ensuring safety at U.S. airports.  Things are different in Europe as we all know, but if Google has developed the best computer algorithms to identify concealed weapons in airport checkpoint body scanners in the U.S., wouldn’t the rest of the world want to do the same?  Not so, I’m afraid.  Those “wild and crazy” European Union officials are more concerned about Google’s business practices on their continent and want to exact some hefty fines that will delay many proven screening techniques in airports throughout Europe.  I am not making this up!

So in the land of the free and the brave, we have industry-wide contests to select winners in developing the best body-scanning technology to identify concealed weapons on airline travelers.  A $1.5 million contest to be exact, run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  It’s all about artificial intelligence for which the U.S. seems to be taking the lead in a large number of technological screening endeavors.  For the rest of the world, this may all seem too “robotic”, but let’s face it, we need to make some changes quickly for safety’s sake  The world’s traveling population is growing astronomically, and we need to rely more on available technological resources.  We don’t need more “friendly skies”; we need more vigilance that technolgy can provide whereever we may be on land or in the skies.  European resistance for the sake of a “level economic playing field” is misguided.

Please trust me, I am not advocating that America has all answers for airline safety world-wide.  But I do believe that we can help in making airline travel safer wherever you may be traveling.

Ray Myers