Monday, October 30, 2017

Facebook is Evil

Traditional news outlets (newspapers, TV news, radio news) were dedicated to reporting the "truth".  While it can be argued that some sources slant their coverage one way or another, most western media try to be honest in their reporting.  This honesty has a few characteristics:

  • Report the facts, not opinion.  If an article is opinionated, identify it by calling it an editorial or opinion piece.
  • Report all the news, do not just pick and choose what to report.
  • Do not let commercial considerations influence reporting
  • And probably a few more that I would have learned if I studied journalism instead of engineering at school
Facebook is becoming people's main source of news, but they are an evil source of information.  This is probably not because they want to be evil, but their business model demands it.  Facebook wants you to spend lots of time on their site so they can advertise things to you.  Therefore, they want to know your likes and dislikes, and want to know what interests you.  So they only show you news and opinion that interests you - things you really like and things that get you angry or concerned.  They also show you comments on these pieces of news - the positive comments make you think you are right and the negative comments make you angry and so you read more comments.  You are getting a biassed opinionated snapshot of some of the news.

On top of this, Facebook allows people to buy ads with no oversight, like Russian operatives, Climate Change Deniers, Big Corporations.  You will only see these ads if you might agree with them.  It is unclear whether you are seeing news or ads, adding to readers' confusion.

People who rely on Facebook are being brainwashed by the Facebook algorithms into thinking they are right, that there is no other valid point of view except the ones they know, and that most people agree with them.  They are also missing all news that Facebook censors out of their news feed in order to keep you interested.

This is amplifying the issues of today:
  • Climate Change is manmade?
  • Can muslims be good citizens of western countries?
  • Should American government help with health care?
  • Is free trade good for workers?
So I think Facebook is evil - a biassed commercially driven unregulated source of news - along with being a good way to find out what your old school buddies are doing these days.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Canada's Best Savings Account Interest Rate?

I was frustrated with the abysmal savings account interest rate in Canada: 0.1% to 0.50% at major banks.  In the USA, you can get 1%+ at Capital One Bank or Allied Bank.

Finally, I found a proper bank (CDIC insured) that pays almost 2% interest and charges nothing to electronically transfer money to and from my big bank (RBC).  This bank is Alterna.  Just thought I would pass on the info for folks who would like to make their money work a little harder.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Americans' Gun Obsession

As a Canadian returning from 20 years in the USA, I am often asked why Americans have an obsession with guns.  About one in two Americans have guns, and the death statistics for guns are eye-popping.

I am no expert, but I have some opinions on why most Americans love guns and are afraid of any restrictions on them.

  1. Most Americans are actually in favour of increased gun control, however they are drowned out by fervent gun supporters.  Few people want bans, but the majority would support laws that limit magazine size, mandate background checks, and limit access to silencers and automatic weapons.  However, most of these restrictions were soundly defeated in recent years.  Most Americans are more concerned about their money than guns so elections are won and lost on economic issues.
  2. The fervent gun supporters are organized by the NRA,which is expert at manipulating the USA's democratic process.  The NRA is supported by gun manufacturers and members.
  3. There is a whole mythology in the USA about the righteous citizen with a gun, defending his house, family, himself, and the American Way in a society that is full of criminals or "bad hombres" according to President Trump.  Think about the old movie "Death Wish" starring Charles Bronson.
    1. Many Americans believe that violent crime is increasing, and they don't want to wait for police to deal with criminals, they believe they can do it themselves with guns.  Statistics actually show crime is decreasing, but never mind.
    2. Many Americans believe that their government is evil, based on what they have heard for years from Fox News, the Republican Party, and websites like Breitbart.  They believe that they can keep the government at bay by owning guns.
    3. It is macho to own guns.  The idea that you can kill anyone within 100 yards whenever you want has appeal to many.
  4. There is a fear, stoked by the NRA and Republicans, that to give any concession on gun regulation with start a landslide that will end with gun bans.  Better to energetically oppose any measure, no matter how reasonable, than to give an inch.  How else can we explain the NRA's opposition to not allowing people on the no-fly list to buy guns?  If they are too dangerous to fly, why is it OK for them to buy AR-15's with 100 round magazines and ammunition?
  5. The Second Amendment is often cited as a reason for all the guns, but it is just an idea on an old piece of paper.  If Americans did not want guns, they could repeal the amendment just like they repealed the Prohibition of alcohol.  The second amendment is cited like the bible to justify guns, but ignore this distraction, lots of stuff in the constitution and the bible are ignored because Americans have different desires.
  6. There are many Americans who enjoy hunting and target shooting with guns.
The latest mass shooting will not cause any changes in gun laws, in my opinion.  It will take a much higher body count of innocent victims caused clearly by unregulated guns for the majority of Americans to shake off their apathy and put some common sense gun laws in place.