I Was Speechless, Now I’m Not

Yesterday I wrote an episode about being absolutely flabbergasted that The Donald would support protests that will literally kill US citizens. Time has lent me a little perspective.

One thing about Trump’s murderous actions is actually smart in an evil kind of way. A few months from now, Trump will say, “I tried to stop the recession, but the damn Democrat Governors stopped me! It’s not my fault!”

Because he’s totally in charge — unstoppable, a fucking genius, just ask him — until it’s not convenient to be in charge and a scapegoat is needed.

And honestly, the coming recession is not entirely his fault, though if he weren’t such a pig-headed asshole, or at least even capable of listening to his advisors, the problem would not be so bad. But Trump’s say-it’s-not-a-problem-until-you-take-credit-for-solving-it approach was the guarantee this virus needed that it could go wild.

Things are bad. This is where Trump usually declares bankruptcy, and leaves the people foolish enough to do business with him holding the bag.

But, true to his bragging before he was elected, Donald Trump could literally take a Russian-made AK-47 into a nursing home and mow down the occupants, and if he said it created jobs, 42% of the American populace would say, “their sacrifice is for the best.” There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will shake the conviction of that 42%. We can go into why another time (most of the reasons have little to do with Trump himself), but that bunch is fuckin’ entrenched.

Somewhat symmetrically, about 48% of the populace of this country would never, ever support Trump, even if he managed to do something magnificently awesome. A hypothetical that will never happen, but anyway.

So for Trump and his sorta-Republican handlers, this is all a game, playing the slavery-inspired electoral college and the disproportionate influence of rural voters to close the gap in the approval ratings. Thus, “Liberate Michigan”, a swing state. Some of those protesters may die as a result, but even more poor people will. And a significant group will say (not out loud) that a few more dead old folks is the price you have to pay to let me go back to making some asshole rich. Because the assholes have equated making them rich with survival.

Nowhere in that equation is the idea that maybe for a little while we can take care of people without making the assholes rich. Or, god forbid, the assholes could take care of their own.

For perspective, the retail employees of my company are still being paid while their stores are closed, and a heart-warming percentage of them are volunteering to bolster customer support over phone and Internet, as people need more remote help with tech than ever before. If you asked our CEO why he was paying idle employees, he would look at you funny and say, “because it’s the right thing to do.” If you were to ask those volunteers who could earn the same paycheck while playing WoW, they would say the same thing. “We have a rare opportunity to really help.” Ethics are powerful.

But there are no ethics in Washington, especially among the corporate dickwads who whisper in Trump’s ear. It’s 42-48 and all that matters are the votes and where they happen. The real threat to reelection that Trump faces is that if everyone can vote by mail, the Republicans won’t be able to rig the election by suppressing the vote in poor neighborhoods. Donnie himself actually said EXACTLY THAT on Fox the other day. Seriously. He said that if there was mail-in voting everywhere, Republicans would never be elected again.

I Imagine one of his handlers slapping his head and saying “of all the things we told him, that is the thing the idiot actually learned?”


What You Pay to Google

I do it too. I use Google’s “free” services. But they’re not free. Google makes a shit-ton of money off me. Consider this list of things The Goog knows about me:

name, age, blah blah blah – tragically that is already forfeit
thousands of web sites I’ve visited
thousands of searches I’ve done (yeah, those searches)
the full content of thousands of emails I’ve sent or received. I don’t use my gmail account, but any time I send a letter to a gmail address my words are duly noted. Every word that goes through gmail is archived.
Almost every purchase I’ve made online
Every purchase I’ve made in stores using Google wallet (which are none, because that is my pathetic line in the sand.)

Google, along with all tech companies, has to reveal what they collect about you if they want to do business in Europe. But here’s the thing: While I can get a full accounting of activity on my Google account, I can find no way to see, and delete, the data collected about me while I’m not actively logged into g-whatever. Which is most of my life.

I use Duck-Duck-Go for searching now, which is better anyway if you want to refine your search with + or -. I have not put a full embargo on gmail addresses, but it’s tempting. Somehow they have the right to read the communications of someone who has never entered into any sort of agreement with them. (I am not such a person, but they must exist.)

Google must hate Facebook for getting caught harvesting shit that is none of their business so often. If it weren’t for Facebook’s ineptitude, Google might still live in an unregulated world. As it is, they are doing their damndest to obey the letter of the law while still collecting “anonymous” data they are not responsible for revealing. It is not anonymous. If it were, it would have no value.

Screw those guys.

More On Egregious Privacy Violations

Last episode (less than an hour old now – you might want to read it first) was about a case of computer rental companies engaging in truly horrifying invasions of privacy. The article I cited finished with a mention of an interview with an anonymous representative of the company DesignerWare, in which he said that he felt his company had done no wrong. DesignerWare is the company that created the software used to steal passwords and get pictures of unsuspecting nekkid people.

They say they’ve done no wrong!? Are you shitting me? They were pure evil!

Wait, no, that’s not quite right. They enabled pure evil. They didn’t activate “Detective Mode” on those computers, the mode that allowed such terrifying transgressions. They wrote the software, and they sold it, but it wasn’t they who turned it on in situations where it wasn’t warranted.

How do we assess the responsibility of DesignerWare? People tried to sue gun makers when people were shot, but with no success. Is Detective Mode like a gun, where the manufacturer can’t be held responsible for the behavior of its customers?

On DesignerWare’s site, they even tout the features they’ve added to protect users’ privacy. But behind the scenes they put in this super-spy-mode feature to help rental companies recover their hardware.

It wasn’t DesignerWare who turned on Detective Mode when it wasn’t warranted. That was something the dickheads at their client companies did. Those bastards deserve to be strung up by their short-and-curlys. No doubt there. But was DesignerWare wrong?

The key word, I believe, is ‘warranted’. Is such an invasion of privacy ever justified? The DesignerWare people would say yes, there are legitimate cases where the rental company has the right to use every means at its disposal to recover its property. Funny thing about ‘warranted’, though – law enforcement would have to get a warrant to conduct similar surveillance. (Well, not any more, but that’s another rant.)

My argument is this: if there’s no legal or ‘warranted’ way to use that software, then at the very least DesignerWare is guilty of fraud for selling it without telling their customers that use of that feature is illegal, rendering it valueless.

Detective Mode is not a gun. Gun companies argue that it’s not their responsibility if their customers use the product illegally. They can do this because there are legal uses of the product, and most gun owners follow those laws. DesignerWare can’t argue that they’re not responsible if their customers use the product illegally, because there is no other use.

So, yep, DesignerWare is evil.