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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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.

Special Sunday Edition for Americans: You and Your Flag

As a public service and in light of recent comments by our “so-called President,” I would like to post this informative article which may help us all better understand how to respect and not disrespect the American flag.  Knelling or sitting down during the playing of the national anthem is not designated as disrespectful.

“Here Are Some Ways People Disrespect The Flag Daily Based On Flag Code” -° HUFFINGTON POST

09/24/2017 12:56 AM EDT

Taking a knee is not one of them.

President Donald Trump accused athletes on Friday of disrespecting the American flag by silently protesting, but taking a knee isn’t covered in the U.S. Flag Code’s respect section.

On June 14, 1923, or Flag Day, a federal code was put in place that would serve as a guideline for how to handle the American flag. There are several sections in the code about proper national anthem conduct, how to display the flag, and yes, even how to respect the flag.

The code does state that everyone should stand at attention facing the flag during the national anthem, but standing or kneeling isn’t actually covered in the respect portion of the code.

Here are some things that Americans do on a daily basis, however, that are disrespectful:

American Flag Clothing

“The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.”

That means every American flag swimsuit, button-up shirt, and even those famous Old Navy flag shirts, are disrespectful.

The Flag Shouldn’t Be Carried Flat  

“The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

Most people know the flag should never touch the ground, but few know that it has to be displayed vertically. Maybe it’s a nod to the lyric that had the flag “gallantly streaming” in the air. Whatever the case, an unfurled flag that sits flat is a disrespect to the flag code.

Drawing On The Flag

“The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”

This one seems pretty self-explanatory. Most people understand that drawing on the symbol of the country will probably be seen as disrespectful. But freedom of expression is a constitutionally protected right, so artists are still free to make that choice.

Disposable Flag Products 

“It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

Sorry to put a damper on probably every Fourth Of July cookout ever, but the paper plate supporting that juicy burger better not have a flag on it.

Flag Advertisements

“The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.”

If a business or company is using a flag in its advertisements, that’s yet another disrespectful gesture. A flag printed on a disposable flyer is probably a double offense.

Flag Uniforms

“No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.”

Sports teams aren’t allowed to put the flag on uniforms. The only way to respectfully wear the American flag is with a patch on the side for service members, firefighters, and police officers.

Perhaps a special “patriotic organization” exception could be made for athletes during certain memorials and holidays, though.

Ray Myers


Melania Speaks Out Against Bullying – Wait, What?

Just two days ago, I commented on the bullying tactics of so-called President Trump.  He has become masterful in using social media to taunt and berate friends and foes alike.  Here is what I wrote:  “Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – ‘Crooked Hillary’ in the tweet – knocking the former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground. Eighty-four thousand people ‘liked’ this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/20/17).”

Now the so-called President’s First Lady has launched a crusade against bullying, and in particular, cyber bullying.  The first lady’s speech made no mention of her husband as she urged the world to “ensure that our children’s future is bright.”  So please help me figure this all out.  If you are a man and the so-called President, you can bully and/or cyber bully anyone you want, any time, but now Melania is telling all young boys and girls (around the world?) that they should not follow her husband’s example. She plans to follow up with social media leaders and educators on this topic.

Maybe it’s time for the Trumps to coordinate their “messaging.”  But I doubt if that is ever going to happen.  After all, he is the “Bully-in-Chief.”

Ray Myers


Abuser of Twitter and of Women Too

So I may be digressing from my usual commentary here about how technology’s advances and empowerment have made the internet a powerful tool for free expression, but Trump has also managed to make it a tool of oppression.  For example, “Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – ‘Crooked Hillary’ in the tweet – knocking the former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground.  Eighty-four thousand people ‘liked’ this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent.

A woman has been Speaker of the House (and proved substantially more effective than the two men who succeeded her), another came within a whisker of the presidency, and others (Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) wield the decisive votes on health-care and other legislation.  But recent events make it feel as if we’re in an earlier time, when a woman’s job in politics was simple: sit down and shut up.  This no doubt is the work of a president who, by word and deed, make sexism safe again, giving license to shed ‘political correctness and blame troubles on minorities, immigrants and women (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/20/17).”

Unfortunately, it looks like there will not be a second chance for Hillary, but her recent book sale numbers may portend what the future may bring.  “What Happened” is now the No. 1 best-selling book in America.

Ray Myers


Trump is the Biggest Winner in the Midst of All this Hurricane Disaster

Well I guess we should all be thankful that the so-called President’s estate in Florida has been spared any catastrophic damage that we know of to date.  But I am sure that if there is any way for him to claim more expensive damages at the expense of the American taxpayer he will be the first in line.  He owes it to himself and to the country?  I don’t think things have always been this way, but then again, we never had a “president” like him before.  Oh, just in case you haven’t heard, our government is running out of money to provide the required Secret Service protection for him and his entire family?  I do have to admit that this guy really knows how to make the “big deals” when it comes to his benefit and that of his family.  Your money was never more well spent, right?

Now I have to connect all this devastation to how improved technological resources could have spared us all this destruction.  But as I noted in my post last week, it is not the technology (scientific data) that has failed us, it is our political leadership that remain “deniers” of the climatic reality that is now destroying many Americans homes and their livelihoods.  Let’s face it, we (and Mr. Trump) must acknowledge these inconvenient truths as I discussed at the end of last week in this blog?  Let’s make America “Save Again.”  And this should be reflected in both our understanding of humans’ impact on “Mother Nature” as well as our general concern for the safety of our citizenry (fewer guns).

I will be back on Wednesday, and am hopeful that all this weather will settle down, and we can get back to more staid political topics, like what is Trump going to do to improve our infrastructure, and build that “Great Wall” in Texas to keep the Mexicans out, etc.  Maybe on the question of the “Wall” he will have to wait until all that water recedes before he can really start? 

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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Trump Tweets While Houston Floods

I think the title of this short blog is self-explanatory, but let’s talk a little about how some leaders (emperors?) react to natural disasters.  Just like ol’ Nero fiddled away while Rome burned back in 64 AD, our so-called President likes to tweet when disasters like the floods in Houston threaten the lives and livelihoods of American citizens.  What else has he really done about it?

Fortunately, some Americans have begun to fill this void by using social media to help those in harm’s way.  Now I know Melania looks great in stiletto heels 👠, but this is not a fashion show!  It’s a disaster!  The Facebook group “Hurricane Harvey Helping Hands” has multiple examples of homegrown rescuers posting photos of their boats and trucks along with their phone numbers.  Police have also asked boat owners to use social media to help authorities with rescues.  Some Texans have responded in a true expression of their Lone Star State independence: “I am not going to wait.  I am going to get out there and help people myself.”

Now remember that “big, beautiful wall” we are going to build along the Mexican border with the United States.  Luckily, we haven’t been able to get started yet.  With our current “open” border the Mexican government has been able to send supplies and offer other forms of relief assistance to our fellow Americans.  I am sure that they will now be glad to help us build that wall (a la Trump), so that we can keep them out the next time.  WHAT?

Ray Myers

P.S.  Happy Labor Day weekend.  I will be back next Friday, September 8


Hate on the Internet

Talk about your unintended consequences!  At least I don’t think “social networking” on the Internet was envisioned as creating a platform for hate groups and terrorists in the U.S.  Unfortunately this has come to pass before our very eyes in the deadly confrontations in Charlottesville last weekend.   Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that such groups are also able to raise funds for their reprehensible intentions to spread hatred for blacks, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, feminist activists, etc., thanks, in some measure to “funding” sites that solicit contributions online.  The sites themselves are not the culprits, but the hate groups that use them for such purposes must be stopped.  PayPal, for example, has already agreed to remove at least 34 organizations that include companies that are selling gun accessories explicitly explicitly for killing Muslims!

Silicon Valley firms may be ill-prepared to manage such a large societal role.  These companies have limited experience handling these issues.  They must answer to share-holders and demonstrate growth in users and profits – weighing in on free speech matters risks alienating large groups of customers across the political spectrum.  These platforms are so massive – Facebook, for example, counts a third of the world’s population in its monthly user base:  GoDaddy hosts and registers 71 million websites – it may actually be impossible for them to enforce their policies consistently.  But tech companies are reportedly forging ahead.  At this point it appears to be an industry-lead initiative that has been decried by some “alt-right” leaders as intrusive censorship that could lead to increased government “”meddling.”

Spewing hatred on the Internet, to my mind, is not exercising free speech.  We are constantly being reminded that “words have consequences” in our daily political discourse.  Freedom of speech demands that we use words to ensure a freedom of expression that does not foment hatred.

Ray Myers



The Internet Knows Who You Are!

Who really were all those crazy white men who came to Charlottesville last weekend?  It seems like most of them were NOT from Charlottesville at all.  Thanks to the Internet they were able to spread their poisonous rhetoric far and near.  And thanks to the Internet we are also able to find out who they are, and hopefully never let this happen again.  But I am being overly optimistic, and as long as Trump is in the White House it looks like we are in for a lot more hatred and potentially violent episodes in the days ahead.

So it is not all about cable news stoking Trump’s bigotry and paranoia as I wrote earlier this week. The Internet also still seems a powerful force when used to coalesce and connect those who wish to do others harm.  Fortunately, it can also be used to call out those who are hate mongers.  “The mostly male crowd that participated in Friday night’s tiki-torch-lit rally did not cover their faces, and they were widely photographed.  A Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist, began posting photographs of participants and uncovering their identities.  .  .  The account would soon identify students enrolled at the University of Nevada and Washington State University, leading both of  the schools to issue statements condemning racism.(Washington Post, 8/15/17).”

Remember the days of “Make Love, Not War.” A distant memory for many of us who attended college in the sixties.  Many now seem to prefer Hate to Love.

Ray Myers

We Have All Been Trumped!

Cable news loves Trump.  He has been a boon to their ratings over the past two years, and they are not letting go any time soon.  So in many ways, we have become what we like to watch, and Trump is the character who has captured our imagination for the right or wrong reasons.  It’s all about the ratings, baby!

“The three leading cable news networks rarely discuss any other topic other than Trump during prime-time hours, their highest-rated period of the day.  Trump is the focus during daytime hours, too, when cable news actually tends to report some news, rather than merely talking about it .  .  . But cable’s reliance on Trump is as much a programming strategy as a reflection of the news of the moment.  Zucker (Cable News Network President) acknowledges that the audience’s response to all the Trump news on cable validates the approach.  Only a few years ago, ‘writers wrote that cable news was irrelevant, that it was being overtaken by the Internet’ he said.  ‘The fact is, cable news has never been more relevant or more successful than it has been for the last two years.'”

And I thought the Internet was going to change the world!  I guess that watching TV is just more entertaining, and maybe that is what most people want to do during “prime time.”  Cable news has become our latest national obsession.  Jeff Zucker is very happy!

Ray Myers

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

Summer Rerun – Tweeting Away at the National Conventions in U.S.  (Originally posted on July 13, 2016)

You too can be commenting on the activities at the national conventions thie election year. Now people around the world can “experience democracy in action.” What a concept! And Twitter is making this all possible. Social media can now become political media. I guess we already have some of that on PBS when they broadcast the proceedings from the House and Senate floors. But let’s be honest, most of the time all we see are politicians milling around on their chambers’ floors while some random tweets are scrolling on the bottom half of the TV screen. I guess the conventions will be a lot livelier, but who knows?

Watching Donald Trump has been a lot more entertaining when compared to Republican candidates of prior campaigns, but I think the TV networks recognized his entertainment value to the detriment of his political rivals. “The Donald” probably knew this too, and now that he has succeeded in securing the nomination may decide not to run at all! What a country! What are we doing? We would rather be entertained than challenged to make a choice about what direction the country should go. And the most successful candidate may be the one who best panders to all our fears and prejudices. My biggest worry is that political intolerance will grow in this country, and tuhat our thirst for demagogary will increase at the expense of substantive debate (remember those Republican debates!)

In the meantime, let’s keep tweeting while “Rome burns.” Twitter may help us better follow the machinations at the upcoming political conventions, but realistically, they are currently treading water in an ocean of social media. Their stock price has fallen by over half in the last 12 months, and user growth has stagnated at roughly 310 million regular monthly visitors. Everybody wants to be on Facebook. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can help us with the election process four years from now?

Ray Myers

Summer Rerun from Last Summer:  Tweeting Away at the National Conventions in the U.S. (Originally posted on July 13, 2016)

You too can be commenting on the activities at the national conventions thie election year. Now people around the world can “experience democracy in action.” What a concept! And Twitter is making this all possible. Social media can now become political media. I guess we already have some of that on PBS when they broadcast the proceedings from the House and Senate floors. But let’s be honest, most of the time all we see are politicians milling around on their chambers’ floors while some random tweets are scrolling on the bottom half of the TV screen. I guess the conventions will be a lot livelier, but who knows?

Watching Donald Trump has been a lot more entertaining when compared to Republican candidates of prior campjmaigns, but I think the TV networks recognized his entertainment value to the detriment of his political rivals. “The Donald” probably knew this too, and now that he has succeeded in securing the nomination may decide not to run at all! What a country! What are we doing? We would rather be entertained than challenged to make a choice about what direction the country should go. And the most successful candidate may be the one who best panders to all our fears and prejudices. My biggest worry is that political intolerance will grow in this country, and that our thirst for demagogary will increase at the expense of substantive debate (remember those Republican debates!)

In the meantime, let’s keep tweeting while “Rome burns.” Twitter may help us better follow the machinations at the upcoming political conventions, but realistically, they are currently tread ing water in ocean of social media. Their stock price has fallen by over half in the last 12 months, and user growth has stagnated at roughly 310 million regular monthly visitors. Everybody wants to be on Facebook. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can help us with the election process four years from now?


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 Reruns – What Ethics?: Tech-Free Friday – Some Advice for the Donald (Originally Posted on December 9, 2016)

As a public service for the President-elect, and maybe for the rest of us as well, I would like to offer the following for our collective consideration. This is excerpted from the United States Office of Government Ethics’ website and presents some information on how executive branch employees must avoid conflicts of interest in the execution of their governmental duties, so as not to be disqualified from working on such matters.

Financial Conflicts of Interest:

The public may lose confidence in the integrity of Government if it perceives that an employee’s Government work is influenced by personal interests or by payments from an outside source. An executive branch employee’s Government work may have the potential to benefit the employee personally, affect the financial interests of the employee’s family, or involve individuals or organizations with which the employee has some past, present, or future connection away from the employee’s Government job. Separately, an employee might be offered a payment from a non-Federal source, such as a former employer, either before or after entering Government. Accordingly:

           # An employee may be disqualified from working on a particular Government matter.

           # An employee may be prohibited from holding specified property.

           # An employee may be prohibited from accepting a payment from a non-Federal source.

Employees Entering Government:

Individuals who join the executive branch may be required to take actions, either before becoming an employee or shortly thereafter, in order to comply with ethics laws and regulations concerning conflicting financial interests and impartiality. 

Current Government Employees:

Executive branch employees have a continuing obligation to take the actions necessary to comply with ethics laws and regulations concerning conflicting financial interests and impartiality.

I know that the Donald will probably seek out and receive more profe$$ional advice on how to deal with this matter, but I offer this information freely.

Ray Myers

P.S.  After nearly six months in office, the so-called President clearly prefers his own advice (see Washington Post, 7/14).  Oh, the current Director of the Office of Government Ethics will be resigning at the end of the month.  I wonder why?  I will not be posting a blog on Monday, but will return on Wednesday, July 19.


Summer Reruns – Trump’s the One:  “Twitter King of Insults is Now President of the United States” (Originally Posted on November 11, 2016)

Ain’t democracy great?   You too can become President of the United States.  Just get yourself a Twitter account and start hurling insults at whomever you like and, if you are running for President, just direct most of them at your opponents and see what happens.   If you saw my Twitter/blog post of October 26th, you may remember my commentary on the two pages of the “A” section of The NY Times that was devoted to cataloging some of Mr. Trump’s insults/lies directed at political opponents.  Of course, Hillary was his primary target, almost exclusively during the last two months of the campaign.   Why spend all that money on political campaigning?    Twitter can help you “reach out” to all of your eager followers.  Tech has made it so.

Is this what technology is all about?   The ability to say anything you want in 140 characters, and not worry about the accuracy or veracity of what you say.  Someone else can do that if they want, but maybe that is the most dangerous part of all.  Why take the time?  Tell your followers what they want to hear, and make it quick.   And the more you tweet, the more they want to hear.  I also think it has a very addictive appeal.  They can take a glance at their mobile devices, and get a quick fix of pithy put-downs of any opposing view or person.  In this case, go on the attack against your political rival who is trying to explain her future plans and priorities as President of the United States in a more comprehensive (traditional) way.

May we never see a campaign like this again.   But maybe it’s all about free speech, but I don’t think so.  We all have a reponsibilty to be truthful in whatever communication mode we choose.   And that includes messages of 140 characters on your Twitter account.

Ray Myers

P.S.   I will be posting “Summer Reruns” through the remainder of the summer months.  And if you are a big fan of the so-called President and his family, please continue to follow.  I also think that the “real or fake news” (take your pick) about the Trump family will be very interesting over the next few months.


Trump Bump or Trump Bust?

I’m just not sure who to believe any more?  One day the papers report (yes, I still read old time print news) that that the U.S. economy is not meeting grow the expectations, and the next day I discover that more jobs have been created than expected.  The “devil may be in the details” here, since the key question seems to be “what kind of jobs?”  Recent growth  statistics may be the most telling.   Over the second quarter in the U.S. a predicted growth rate of 2 percent is a far cry from the 4 percent that the so-called president pledged.  Using Twitter, Trump will probably be the first person to dispute these numbers and predict even bigger growth rates in the future.

Please don’t accept the Trump tweets as factual or even as “alternative facts.”  I often think of Trump’s obsession with tweeting as a modern day equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.  Many expert economists note that so far the economy’s trajectory remains the same as it did under President Obama.  Furthermore, without a meaningful change in government policies – greater infrastructure investment, an overhaul of the corporate tax code, a new commitment to improve the skills of American workers – there is no reason to expect the domestic outlook to change.  “The safe bet is to expect more of the same.  Unless we do things to boost productivity, this is the economy that we are going to see.”

So far, we have not seen these meaningful changes.  Time to put down “Nero’s fiddle,” take away Trump’s Twitter account and make him do something Presidential.  I don’t think he can really help himself.

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

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.