Friday, April 28, 2017

The United Viral Video - A Guide to the Situation

Do you ever see a commercial on television that is so disconnected with reality that cognitive dissonance sets in? What you are watching is so completely incongruous to your experience that it causing you confusion. An example of this is those Discover credit card commercials that claim that they are so pleasant to deal with that is like talking to an old friend. I had a Discover card for a short time and it was an awful experience. They had some of the worst customer service and the amount of junk mail, spam and telemarketing that I received increased astronomically. The card was accepted virtually no where. Their main source of revenue must be selling the names of their customers. They treat you like an old friend? Ya, maybe one that you severed ties with years ago because they're an asshole. So yes, I get confused by their commercials. It is so obviously a lie, like listening to Trump talk, I have to shake them off. Shudder! I have the same feeling when I see United Airlines slogan ... "Fly the friendly skies."

It almost seems like companies like Discover and United Airlines have to over-compensating for their biggest failings ... a lot like when Trump says, "No one treats ladies with more respect than me" or "Hispanics love me." We know they are lying. United's customer service is the worst of any airline I have flown on and I have heard even worse stories about them from friends. So when the viral video came out of the United passenger being removed from a flight, no one was surprised. No one that flies a lot anyway. I would stop using them, but when you live in an area with a small airport like I do (with only four airlines), often you don't have a lot of choices. Only four airlines service the Burlington airport. If I'm flying to Chicago, which I do often, I'm probably taking United.

If you are one of those people that has never flown or hasn't done it very often, you must be thinking "What the fuck!" when you saw this video. The rest of us feel that way also, but there is an explanation for this situation and it is not entirely United's fault. I, in no way, want to seem like I am apologizing for the United. I am a little tired of this story but now that the fervor has died down, I can see it with some perspective. Let's exercise this beast.

Why do airlines overbook? What is passenger bumping? Why is it a good thing? Airlines overbook their flights. This is for a good reason. Many passengers just don't show up for flights, whether it is traffic that made them late for a flight, they forgot about it, got lost on the way to the airport, got very sick and even, died. Overbooking prevents the plane from being empty or half empty when it flies. Operating a 747 is extremely expensive. If a flight is mostly empty and the plane or crew is not needed at the next airport, your flight is going to be cancelled. Keeping a flight reasonably full keeps costs down. This is one of the reasons flying is so much cheaper than it was decades ago. They'd fly a half empty plane and eat the cost. Airlines now are very good at predicting how many people aren't going to show up and they overbook accordingly. Usually it isn't a problem.

United Flight 3411 wasn't overbooked but it had no empty seats. This is only a problem if the airlines needs seats for their employees to get to another airport. In this case, there was a flight in Louisville, Kentucky that needed a crew, four people - pilot, navigator and two flight attendants. They needed to get from Chicago to Louisville for a flight leaving that airport. If there are no seats available, which isn't that rare, airlines look for volunteers to get bumped. Bumped means that you get placed on the next flight available to your destination, you don't have to pay for that flight because you already paid, you get offered a voucher for another flight and if you have to stay overnight, you usually get a hotel stay for free. A good deal! When I was younger and poorer, my wife and I used to do this intentionally. We ended up getting vouchers for our next vacation a number of times. United Flight 3411 offered a $400.00 voucher to their passengers while they were already boarded on the plane.  No one bit, so they offered a $800.00 voucher ... still no bites. It was at this point, that United does a lottery and forces people off the plane. Four people are chosen randomly.

As you can see, United's procedures for bumping passengers is awful. This is expected because pretty much every customer service experience I've ever had with United has been bad. Most airlines bump passengers when they are in the terminal at least an hour before the flight boards. Asking for volunteers after they have been settled into their seat is just dumb. Delta Airlines actually asks passengers when they check-in whether they are open to being bumped. Very smart! So if they need to bump someone, they seek the people who agreed to it already. I have not yet had a bad experience with Delta by the way. To go further as to how ridiculous United is, to tell someone they have to get off the plane after they have waited, boarded, squeezed their bag into the overhead and then settled into seat is just moronic. Why anyone thought this was a good idea I don't know. I'm surprised something like this hasn't happened before now.

Don't get me wrong, United is not 100% to blame for this situation. As F. Scott Fitzgerald says in The Great Gatsby, "it takes two to make an accident." The guy who got booted takes a lot of this blame. I won't use his real name, lets call him Dr. Douche Bag, for short Dr. Bag. Here are some thoughts about him:
      1) For one, when you are in an airport, especially post-911, when people in authority come up to you tell you to leave your seat, you get up and leave. Tensions are high in the airports, don't be defiant, don't be proud, say "yes, sir" or "yes, ma'am" and do what you are told. Even if there is an injustice happening, which there wasn't, don't resist it, because if you don't, things are going to get worse and probably fast. People who work at airports are stressed out! Don't push them, if you do, then you are the problem, not them. This guy was flailing his arms and berating the police when they showed up. Not a good idea. They have enough shit they have to deal with than to deal with your shit.
       2) Dr. Bag was holding up a flight, when he resists leaving a plane means everyone is held up. Not just everyone on his flight. But everyone else down the line as well. The flight crew on your flight may have another flight, the extra flight crew definitely has another flight and the plane that you are may be needed for another flight. How selfish are you that you think your schedule should hold up all these people? Bummer! You were chosen in the random lottery. Adults deal with these things. Throwing a temper tantrum is not how adults deal with this situation.
        3) Dr. Bag claims that he has patients to see in the morning. Guess what? Everyone on that plane had something to do the next morning. That's why United was not able to get volunteers. Louisville is a four hour drive from Chicago. He could have rented a car and been home a short time after midnight. If he didn't want to drive, a bus from Chicago to Louisville is about seven hours trip. He could have napped on the bus and gotten home late and still seen patients in the morning. He could have spent the night in Chicago, at United's expense, gotten a voucher and caught the 7:35am flight the next morning that arrives in Louisville at 9:35am. He could have gotten most of his morning schedule in. 

Misnomers: Social media exploded after this incident. So much so that I really got sick of it. There were so many more important things happening including a couple of shootings and some innocent people killed by chemical weapons not too long before this incident. In the current political moment, the mobs that gather on social media love victims. One victim is easier to comprehend than hundreds or thousands, especially one caught on video.  Lets talk about what social media got wrong:
      1) This is not racist. Because he is from Chinese and Vietnamese descent, some have jumped to the conclusion that this is racism. That's right, whenever anything happens to anyone that isn't white, racism is the cause. But there is zero proof of this. Four people were chosen to leave the plane: Dr. Douche Bag, his wife and another couple. I have been googling like mad to find out what the race was of these three people but I have found nothing. I am willing to bet that the other couple is white, mostly because if they weren't, then everyone that is claiming racism would be using that as an example. I don't know the race of his wife, but please note, she left the plane quietly. United uses a computer generated algorithm that searches for the passenger manifest for people who don't have kids, don't have disabilities or connecting flights etc. So it isn't exactly random but it doesn't search for people with Asian last names either. I haven't looked at the code, but in my 20 plus years as a software engineer and analyst, I cannot imagine anyone writing code that searches for Asian people to be booted from planes. This is just nonsense, paranoia and grandstanding. It only goes to show how far our society has jumped the shark on this subject.
       2) The same people who are calling this racism are also stating that the doctor is 69 years old and shouldn't be asked to leave the plane. I find this ironic in that the people hopping on the racism wagon are being ageist. What? Because he's 69, he cannot be bumped from a plane?  Too frail to wander the airport? Really? Hillary Clinton is 69, Bernie Sanders is 75 and Donald Trump is 70 ... it seems that the nation is okay with a person in their 70's running the country ... but United is awful to bump a 70 year old from their flight.
       3) Social media gets a lot of things wrong, because people are ignorant often mouthing off about things they know nothing about. Often they don't read articles, only the headlines and respond emotionally. One of things I saw people saying was that it was United employees pulling this guy from his seat. This isn't true. They were O'Hare Airport police and there were four of them. These people are paid to keep everyone safe at the airport and I am glad they are there.
       4) He is bleeding, but he wasn't hit by the police. He was bleeding because he swung his arm, lost balance and fell hitting his head on the armrest. The images in the video are powerful but as usual, they don't tell the whole story.
       5) The title "doctor" commands a lot of respect. When people see a doctor being dragged from an airplane, they are bit more peeved than usual. But this doctor is well known to the locals of Louisville and not for being respectful. In 2005, he was found guilty of dealing drugs, trading drugs for sex and lost his license. He just gained his license back in 2015. So whether he needed to see patients in the morning ... maybe ... maybe not. But respectful doctor ... eh, probably not.

The short of it, if you are asked to get off a flight and you really need to be home the next day, well ... it is probably a good plan to get off the plane and rent a car, or take the early flight in the morning. Unless you are a media whore, that is probably your best bet to get home without the drama.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Are You Terrified Yet? - Trump Log #24

North Korea probably has a nuclear bomb right now that can reach Hawaii. Shortly, they'll have one that can reach the West Coast of the US mainland putting such cities as Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco in their sights. By the end of the Trump administration (if he last four years), they will probably have one that could reach the East Coast putting all of us at risks. Just think of what a bomb of that magnitude would do a modern American city! You will not have to be in one of these cities to feel the devastation. The fallout will spread for miles, for years, while the global economy would crash. Terrifying? Yes!  The fact that we have an unstable, immature, ego-maniac in charge while this could happen makes it tenfold.

If you think the people calling this man's impeachment are annoying ... think again.  This is real. 

Trump Log:
4/19/17- In Trump's first 100 days, he has spent twice Obama's annual travel budget. Do you remember Republican complaining about Obama playing golf? You don't hear a lot of them complaining now. (Source: Slate)

4/20/17 - It has become a joke, Trump stating that a aircraft carrier is headed to the Korea Peninsula when it was actually heading south toward Australia. But this is serious. Whether it was miscommunication between him and the Pentagon or a "bluff,", we'll probably never know, but this has caused some major anxiety with one of our greatest allies. (Source: New York Times)

4/21/17 - Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is using similar techniques of his boss drawing specious correlations between illegal immigration and coming down hard on the police in some of America's largest cities (including New York City, Chicago and Santa Cruz). This administration's only tool on the bully pulpit is lying. (Source: The Atlantic).

4/22/17 - Trump skips security briefings but watches Fox News all day. So why did he think the US Carl Vinson was near North Korea? He heard it on Fox News, of course. (Source: Washington Post).

4/23/17 - From an environmental viewpoint, this is the worst Presidency at the most critical time in history. (Source: New York Times)

4/24/17 - No one seems to know where Trump is going in his policies towards Iran. He is inconsistent and acting somewhat like a bully. (Source: New York Times)

4/25/17 - During the campaign Ivanka Trump talked about her father's child care tax break. Now she is trying to get it passed through Congress. It would give working families a whopping $20.00 in tax savings while wealthy families could save thousands. (Source: Slate)

Prior Trump Logs:
Issue # 1 - posted November 15th, 2016
Issue # 2 - posted November 22nd, 2016
Issue # 3 - posted November 29th, 2016
Issue # 4 - posted December 6, 2016
Issue # 5 - posted December 12, 2016
Issue # 6 - posted December 19, 2016
Issue # 7 - posted December 26, 2016
Issue # 8 - posted January 3, 2017
Issue # 9 - posted January 10, 2017
Issue #10 - posted January 17, 2017
Issue #11 - posted January 24, 2017
Issue #12 - posted January 31, 2017
Issue #13 - posted February 7, 2017
Issue #14 - posted February 14, 2017
Issue #15 - posted February 21, 2017
Issue #16 - posted February 28, 2017
Issue #17 - posted March 7, 2017
Issue #18 - posted March 14, 2017
Issue #19 - posted March 21, 2017
Issue #20 - posted March 28, 2017
Issue #21 - posted April 5, 2017
Issue #22 - posted April 11, 2017
Issue #23 - posted April 18, 2017



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The War on Truth Continues- Trump log #23

I am not sure if it is worth reporting what Trump says anymore. Does he just say whatever he thinks sounds good? Whatever is off the top of his head? The aircraft carrier that he said was heading to North Korea is heading towards Australia now. Or does he think having a veil of confusion surrounding his administration will keep the world on its toes and give him the upper hand?

I told myself that I would stop writing these Trump logs if I could go one day without finding something to include on my weekly list of daily Trump anxieties.  I assumed I would have been done by now. I don't go looking for them. I just read the news and they fall on my lap.

4/12/17 - Trump is using the health care of millions of Americans as a bargaining chip. (Source: Politico)

4/13/17 - Trump's Secretary of Education, DeVos, is backing away from rules designed to assist students with their loan debt. (Source: New York Times)

4/14/17 - Trump's EPA is refusing to ban chlorpyrifos, a dangerous chemical. When asked Pruitt, his EPA head, cites business concerns. (Source: New York Times)

4/15/17 - In 2013 President Obama launched the National Commission on Forensic Science to bolster the validity of the forensic science. Anyone in law enforcement or who has been accused of a crime, should be concerned about the validity of forensic science in its pursuit of the truth. Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions is cancelling the Commission. The assault on science and truth itself continues. (Source: New York Times)

4/16/17 - Trump says he can't be sued for inciting violence at one of his campaign rallies because he won the election.  Um ... that's not how it works. (Source: Washington Post)

4/17/17 - Trump's administration is perhaps the most secretive since Nixon's. (Source: Washington Post)

4/18/17 - Democrats in Congress and about a dozen Republicans have united in their demanding of Trump releasing his tax returns. They are refusing to consider any of Trump's tax reforms until the returns are made public. Looks like we have another campaign promise that he won't be able to fill. (Source: New York Times)

Prior Trump Logs:
Issue # 1 - posted November 15th, 2016
Issue # 2 - posted November 22nd, 2016
Issue # 3 - posted November 29th, 2016
Issue # 4 - posted December 6, 2016
Issue # 5 - posted December 12, 2016
Issue # 6 - posted December 19, 2016
Issue # 7 - posted December 26, 2016
Issue # 8 - posted January 3, 2017
Issue # 9 - posted January 10, 2017
Issue #10 - posted January 17, 2017
Issue #11 - posted January 24, 2017
Issue #12 - posted January 31, 2017
Issue #13 - posted February 7, 2017
Issue #14 - posted February 14, 2017
Issue #15 - posted February 21, 2017
Issue #16 - posted February 28, 2017
Issue #17 - posted March 7, 2017
Issue #18 - posted March 14, 2017
Issue #19 - posted March 21, 2017
Issue #20 - posted March 28, 2017
Issue #21 - posted April 5, 2017
Issue #22 - posted April 12, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Oh This Again - Trump Log #22

Over 100,000 people have been killed by Assad in Syria with conventional weapons since the civil war began. This week he killed less than 100 with chemical weapons. We've all seen the horrific pictures. Why we are more outraged by chemical weapons than conventional, I don't know. Trump has responded by bombing the shit out of Syria's military.  Boom! Trump gets bi-partisan approval for the first time during his presidency. Even the media has shown approval.  Americans love killing. The ego maniac gets attention when he kills ... gee, what do you think he will continue to do? Maybe, kill more people because that is the only thing that we can agree on as a culture? 

Oh this again. The only thing W. did that was approved on both sides of the aisle was when he used the military. We've been here before.  Please no, make it stop. There are no good options in the Syrian situation. When there are no good options, taking the one that the costs less (in lives, in money etc.) is usually the best.

Trump Log:

4/5/17 - Trump's budget would not only eliminate long distance train service, leaving 220 towns and cities without train service, but it would leave a lot of huge train projects up in the air. (Source: New York Times)

4/6/17 - Trump's nomination for Secretary of the Army is another hatemonger. (Source: Slate)

4/7/17 - Trump has passed no major legislation in his first 100 days, but he has rolled back eleven regulatory measures, protecting ordinary Americans and our environment, and he has 20 more in the works. (Source: New York Times)

4/8/17 - One of the few good things to come out of the George W. Bush administration was PEPFAR, a program aimed at assisting in fighting AIDS in Africa. Under the Trump budget, it could be cut also. (Source: Washington Post)

4/9/17 - It isn't just illegal immigrants that need to be concerned with Trump's policies on immigration, but some 200,000 legal immigrants are now in fear of deportation. (Source: Washington Post)

4/10/17 - Of 553 high-level positions that require Senate confirmation, Trump has only filled 22 and 24 await confirmation. His administration may just be incompetent because they are lacking leadership. (Source: Washington Post)

4/11/17 - Trump's policy toward the situation in Syria is incoherent. (Source: New York Times)

Prior Trump Logs:
Issue # 1 - posted November 15th, 2016
Issue # 2 - posted November 22nd, 2016
Issue # 3 - posted November 29th, 2016
Issue # 4 - posted December 6, 2016
Issue # 5 - posted December 12, 2016
Issue # 6 - posted December 19, 2016
Issue # 7 - posted December 26, 2016
Issue # 8 - posted January 3, 2017
Issue # 9 - posted January 10, 2017
Issue #10 - posted January 17, 2017
Issue #11 - posted January 24, 2017
Issue #12 - posted January 31, 2017
Issue #13 - posted February 7, 2017
Issue #14 - posted February 14, 2017
Issue #15 - posted February 21, 2017
Issue #16 - posted February 28, 2017
Issue #17 - posted March 7, 2017
Issue #18 - posted March 14, 2017
Issue #19 - posted March 21, 2017
Issue #20 - posted March 28, 2017
Issue #21 - posted April 5, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump Log #21

If Trump were caught on video havng sex with a donkey while burning an American flag and singing the Russian national anthem, he wouldn't lose a single one of his supporters. He mentioned this phenomenon during the election that he could shoot someone and it wouldn't affect his campaign. Regardless of how bad of a President this guy is, it will not change the mind of his base. I have seen some detractors who regret voting for him, but his core base of supporters have remained loyal. I don't expect this to change. He was elected by some very dumb people with a dim view of reality and also, by the top .1 % richest people who are so greedy and corruptible that all they care about is their own net worth regardless who he hurts in the process. No time or energy should be spent trying to change their minds. We don't need them to impeach this man. We just need the political will. They are the minority, vocal yes, but very small.

Trump log: 

3/29/17 - Trump is trying to block former Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying to Congress about Russia. He must have something to hide. (Source: Washington Post)

3/30/17 - We usually have human rights requirements for anyone that we sell weapons to.  Not anymore, at least not for Bahrain.  What does this say to the rest of the Middle East? (Source: New York Times)

3/31/17 - Trump is easing combat rules in Somalia that were intended to prevent civilian deaths.  (Source: New York Times)

4/1/17 - Donald Trump has settled in the class action suit against Trump University. He has been found guilty of using "high-pressure sales techniques and false claims" to sell admission to his bogus for profit "school." Over 3700 students were rewarded $25 million ... that is 90% of the tuition that was paid by this group. If he wasn't a fraud, then why would he have settled. (Source: New York Times)

4/2/17 - Ten years ago, a bunch of graduates signed up for a program where if they worked as a civil servant, their student loans would be forgiven.  Now that their ten years is done, Trump says ... hold on there ... (Source: New York Times)

4/3/17 - Trump is popular with at least one group, Arab leaders. (Source: Slate)

4/4/17 - Trump signs a bill that will allow internet companies to sell your on-line activity.  (Source: New York Times)

Prior Trump Logs:
Issue # 1 - posted November 15th, 2016
Issue # 2 - posted November 22nd, 2016
Issue # 3 - posted November 29th, 2016
Issue # 4 - posted December 6, 2016
Issue # 5 - posted December 12, 2016
Issue # 6 - posted December 19, 2016
Issue # 7 - posted December 26, 2016
Issue # 8 - posted January 3, 2017
Issue # 9 - posted January 10, 2017
Issue #10 - posted January 17, 2017
Issue #11 - posted January 24, 2017
Issue #12 - posted January 31, 2017
Issue #13 - posted February 7, 2017
Issue #14 - posted February 14, 2017
Issue #15 - posted February 21, 2017
Issue #16 - posted February 28, 2017
Issue #17 - posted March 7, 2017
Issue #18 - posted March 14, 2017
Issue #19 - posted March 21, 2017
Issue #20 - posted March 28, 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

In Search of Something Positive: Trump log #20

I've been trying very hard to find anything good to come from the Trump administration. Coal jobs are returning, yes, but is that a good thing. It is difficult to consider that being a good thing even for those who are employed in this industry. Getting black lung is hardly good compensation for any job. Green jobs seems the more logical step for these people.

All the positives I find are a stretch. Perhaps when he destroys everything in our government, we will build it back better, like raising a house. When you build it back up, you rebuild it better. I am beginning to think this way about the Department of Education or the EPA.  We've learned from our mistakes. Eventually, we'll have another good president again and they will build it in a leaner, more efficient way.

His budget is exactly that, a burning down of everything we've fought for and worked for decades. It needs to be approved by congress, so we'll get to see how truly disgusting the Republicans are and it will give us ample ammo for the midterm elections. Sorry, this is about as positive I can be at this moment.

Trump log:
3/28/17 - A trend is developing in the Trump administration. Billionaires become "advisers" to the president and because they are not being paid. Ethics rules don't apply to them to me, apparently, because they are not employees. The latest: Icahn. (Source: New York Times)

3/27/17 -  There have been two major military actions during the Trump administration, Yemen and Mosul, Iraq. Both produced a disproportionate amount of civilian deaths. This is disheartening when you consider that Trump is trying to roll back some of the rules that were instituted, during the previous administration, to help prevent civilian deaths. (Source: New York Times)

3/26/17 - Trump's second nomination for Labor Secretary may not be as bad as his first, but still pretty bad.  (Source: New York Times)

3/25/17 - In a huge step backwards, Trump issues permit to start work on the Keystone Pipeline. (Source: New York Times)

3/24/17 - It is becoming obvious at this point that Trump's negotiation skills are not as great as he claimed, at least not while dealing with government. He threatens fellow members of the GOP if they don't vote for the ACA repeal. (Source: New York Times)

3/23/17 - Trump is using shame as a tool to motivate local law enforcement to cooperate with his immigration policies. This a bad idea all around. (Source: New York Times)

3/22/17 - If anything good came out of the Obama year, certainly the Consumer Financial Protection Agency is it. This government agency has returned $12 billion to American consumers and is currently going after predatory payday lender, but Trump is go after them with his axe. (Source: New York Times)

****
Prior Trump Logs:
Issue # 1 - posted November 15th, 2016
Issue # 2 - posted November 22nd, 2016
Issue # 3 - posted November 29th, 2016
Issue # 4 - posted December 6, 2016
Issue # 5 - posted December 12, 2016
Issue # 6 - posted December 19, 2016
Issue # 7 - posted December 26, 2016
Issue # 8 - posted January 3, 2017
Issue # 9 - posted January 10, 2017
Issue #10 - posted January 17, 2017
Issue #11 - posted January 24, 2017
Issue #12 - posted January 31, 2017
Issue #13 - posted February 7, 2017
Issue #14 - posted February 14, 2017
Issue #15 - posted February 21, 2017
Issue #16 - posted February 28, 2017
Issue #17 - posted March 7, 2017
Issue #18 - posted March 14, 2017
Issue #19 - posted March 21, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fake News and Our Media Landscape

When I was a kid, pre-Internet, every guy I knew had heard a story about Rod Stewart and semen. No need for me to go into the details of it because it was a lie, but what is amazing is that if I talk to someone my age who is from the West Coast, they heard the same story as well. Since we didn't have the Internet, how did this happen? In the 19th century, Mark Twain said that "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." In the Internet era, truth doesn't have a chance ... truth hasn't even thought about putting on its shoes while the lies has done global laps. Another good example is Mikey from the Life commercials died from ingesting pop rocks.  Everyone from coast to coast heard this and it wasn't true. If we couldn't fight fake news before the Internet, how can we do it now? When Bill Clinton was president, I knew a few people who had a video tape of "The Clinton Chronicles." 300,000 copies of this tape existed and were even stocked on the shelves of some video rental stores. It was a bizarre "documentary" that portrayed the Clintons as murderous drug dealers. I watched this with someone who believed it completely. A co-worker of mine handed me the tape and told me I needed to watch it.  We don't need the Internet for this nonsense. 

In case you didn't notice both of the links in the prior paragraph are from Snopes.com. This is one of the first web sites I ever visited. The first time I was on it, I was connecting with 2400 baud modem using a dumb terminal. It was text only, no graphics. Their web site hasn't changed all that much. It is content over color. It is still my go-to source for all things bullshit but it takes time for them to actually fact check, so it isn't always on top of things. You might have to wait a few days to get an answer. They started off just tackling urban legends, but now, in this political environment, a lot of it is current events. Another good resource is Politifact.com, but it is strictly politics.

It did not occur to me how big of a problem fake news was until the results of the 2016 election came in. People believe crazy shit. Hillary is a murderer, she is running pedophilia ring out of a pizza joint, Obama is a secret Muslim, Elvis is alive, the Earth is flat .... I could go on. But a lot of the fake news isn't obvious. I've fallen for them as well. Some of their websites are very convincing.  A friend of mine posted the John Birch Society's web site on Facebook telling all his friends "to get informed." He still doesn't believe me when I tell him what an awful source of "info" these people are, but their web site is quite convincing regardless of how paranoid and conniving they are. Another friend posted a story from the Washington Times. I told her that this publication was founded by the "moonies" (the Unification Church) and she shouldn't confuse it with the New York Times or the Washington Post. That didn't go over well either. Even though you might piss off your friends, shouldn't you still point out that they are posting bullshit? Yes, I say, but of course, I thrive on this shit. Conflict is my friend.

It actually should be easier to figure out what is fake news now that we have the Internet. More of it exists, sure, but we have more tools at our disposal to weed out the crap.  All you have to do is take a few minutes to verify a story and certainly, you need to verify it if you plan on sharing a story on social media. The traditional sources are still the best, however imperfect, they at least attempt to get things correct.  Sources like the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune, at least have editors and fact checkers. They are not perfect and are leaner than ever thanks to the Internet, but they still catch most of the nonsense. In the era of the 24 hour news cycle, there is a race for the scoop. Some complain these publications are more liberal or conservative for their like. This is only true if you reading the editorials or Op Eds. If you are simply reading the news, these are great resources. Their political leanings don't come through in the actual news articles. If you read something really wacky on the net, first thing you should do is check these sources. If it is true, they might not have the story yet because they are verifying the story. Getting it right is worth the wait.  NPR's On the Media created a breaking news handbook to assist people with this problem. I suggest you check it out the next time a breaking story hits the airwaves like a shooting or a terrorist attack.

Many lists of fake news outlets have been published recently. The one on Wikipedia is a good one. One obvious way notice that you are on a fake news site is that their addresses look like those of the legit news web sites. ACBnew.com.co ... don't go here, but notice the "co" at the end of the address.  Or notice bloomberg.ma ... again, not .com, but .ma.  What isn't on this list is what is commonly called clickbait. Clickbait web sites have sensationalist and spurious headlines to get you to click on them. They usually sell advertising based on clicks so the articles themselves are usually not as bad as the headlines but since most people don't read entire articles, but headlines, they don't have to be. The most notorious of these are Occupy Democrats, USUncut, Infowars and Unworthy. I see these in my Facebook feed and I cringe. Don't click on these regardless of how outrageous the headline. They make money every time you do.  

I aslo avoid television news, especially Fox News and MSNBC. They are both incredibly bias, Fox News more so but they are both awful. PBS is the only one I will give any time to mostly because they are probably the least sensational and more concerned about reporting the truth. They actually have an ombudsman who does internal criticism and auditing to make sure they maintain their balance. I've yet to find any other television news network provide a name of their ombudsman. I've read vague references but nothing solid. Fox News does make reference to occasional "mistakes" but it does seem odd how all their "mistakes" are mistakes that make Democrats look bad.

I get most of my news from newspapers. I have an electronic subscription to the New York Times and my wife does to the Washington Post. I listen to a lot of podcasts and to NPR (National Public Radio). Like PBS, NPR has an ombudsman that keeps them in check. It does lean towards liberal but mostly in tone and not in content. Consistently they had more Republicans on the air than Democrats and are quite fair when they are on.  I also like Slate.com, but they are biased on the left and they make no effort to hide this. They are not a news site, but mostly editorial. For print magazines, I occasionally read The Economist and Harper's Magazine.

The Pew Research Center published this graph that is a pretty good visual for the landscape of American news: 


I would put Fox News further to the right closer to Drudge, but they do have some reasonable programs like Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday so that might push them closer to the center. Also, I'd take Breitbart off because they aren't even news ... at least move them over to #10. This graph is also a little old. The Colbert Report no longer exists and since Buzzfeed published the Trump urine story a few weeks ago, I would think they would be dropped from this list. 

Reader beware ... you are the ultimate arbiter of truth. If you doubt its truth, then don't share it. It can stop with you. It doesn't matter if you believe with the sentiment or wish it to be truth, if it isn't true, then don't share and stop reading it. Just stop.