Personalizing the news

To the Editor:

One of the recent trending features of the smartphone is the ability to “personalize” your news. Here is how it works, if you like MSNBC, you can make sure that first thing in the morning, that is what you see, one side of the story.

Creating an “echo chamber” for yourself, which by the way, “echo chamber” was a term coined after “The Hillary” lost the election. All news outlets had created their own “echo chambers” by only interviewing people and reading polls with which supported the narrative, “Hillary will win.” These “news outlets” not only did the public a great disservice by not seeking the whole story, but themselves as well.

Journalists telling people what they want to hear instead of the truth is nothing new. In 1931 journalist Walter Duranty was given a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on rumors of famine caused by Russia in the Ukraine during the beginning stages of their collectivism efforts.

“There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from disease due to malnutrition … conditions are bad. But there is no famine.”

However, there was mass starvation, The Ukrainian Holodomor was the man-made famine/genocide where up to 30,000 people died a day, one-third of them children. In other words, Walter lied.

Personalizing one’s news is willful blindness and insulates a person from all the facts, like perhaps how awesome Donald Trump might really be doing. Beyond just the news, creating a habit of insulating oneself from all the facts can have devastating effects on every aspect of one’s life.

For example, imagine what your world would be like if you only had half the information on mortgage rates, relationships, pets, where to live or a job you’re interested in. The practice of seeking only the information you want creates a cognitive bias with really bad results.

Save personalizing things for an ice cream sundae and not the news.

Suzanne Cruz


Small business disruption survival

To the Editor:

A tidal wave of change is sweeping over American small businesses. If you’re a small business today, innovators are coming up with ideas that promise to change the way we all live. It is called disruption, which is the development of new ideas that introduces something unexpected and more efficient that is both destructive and creative.

Small businesses will be more affected because they don’t have the money or ability to navigate disruption. It is estimated that a little over half of small businesses should have a presence on the Internet in the next five to 10 years; or one out of every two small businesses will miss out entirely in this new e-commerce. This is not a disruptive trend of the future — it is here today.

Disruption is nothing new. Remember gas station attendants or bank checks? It is very difficult to know what’s lurking on the horizon.

Technology will continue to change the rules of the game. Although the sources of disruption may be too numerous to count, economists believe the strategy for counterbalancing the impact may be almost “singular.”

At the core of disruption is customer dissatisfaction. Nothing is more important than satisfying your customer. For me, almost every business transaction over the past five years has been disappointing. The list to too long to count. You know what I’m talking about.

If someone else can out-satisfy your customer, you might be in trouble. On the other hand, if you can generate customer satisfaction consistently, disruption poses less risk. Small business disruption is among the most powerful force in America today.

Can’t be avoided. But if you can stay up with trends and make sure customer satisfaction is extremely important, your business has a good chance of surviving and thriving in this new economy.

Ken Perkins


Religion in class

To the Editor:

I’ve been following with interest the well written articles by Union Democrat reporter Guy McCarthy and the several ensuing emails about the sophomore biology student at Bret Harte High School who is attempting to be able to express his opinions/beliefs in a biology class he is taking. I almost always avoid these religion/scientific discussions/arguments with a 10-foot pole as they are so contentious. But, Ph.D. MacWillie’s letter on Dec. 22 compelled me to reply.

Living/growing up and going to school in Marin County, California, in the late ’40s and early ’50s, we were always allowed to ask our questions and speak our thoughts in our classes. That is how we learned. If I was in that young B.H.H.S. student’s class, I’d want to hear his viewpoint, back up information and thinking and have the opportunity to compare it to what the “correct” school criteria/class information that was presented. That is how you learn and develop your own thoughts and beliefs.

We have way too much of the them-against-us, us-against-them in our world right now. Let’s listen to all sides and make our own opinions. To Ph.D. MacWillie, if it is a big bang theory or evolution, where/what created that?

Ron Ringen


Understanding fire danger

To the Editor:

I am a Sonora citizen who has observed the insidious build up of Cal Fire’s equipment, personnel and, of course, budget.

I’m having trouble understanding how the fire-danger rating system works. According to the official website, firefighters execute controlled burns when relative humidity is between 20 and 60 percent (They don’t burn when fire danger is high, am I right?). I’m certain I remember driving up the hill last summer on multiple occasions, noting the fire danger warning signs alongside the highway. Even on a hot, windy day in August, the fire danger was only high or very high.

So how come today it’s a no-burn day? It’s 38 degrees, zero wind and 45 percent relative humidity. And now they say fire danger is “extremely high.” And I’m still seeing a bunch of Cal Fire’s apparatus driving up and down the highway and, of course, the usual shiny new fire engines parked at Starbucks and other retail enterprises.

Does anyone know those guys are on 24-hour alert (On the clock?) right now? I wonder what kind of salaries/wages they are pulling down while driving all over the countryside, sipping Starbucks and waiting for a catastrophic wildfire to materialize.

I offer my sincere regret to all those who frown on me for not worshipping the Cal Fire heroes, but I’m not seeing any heroics — just a whole bunch of mismanaged tax dollars and a state (my home) burning to the ground all around me.

Thomas Russell


A fascist president

To the Editor:

There are growing concerns that America may be approaching being governed by a fascist regime. No, really, but you judge for yourself.

Below is what history teaches us about how fascism can take over a country and its people. I choose to refer to this as “checking off the boxes.”

First, let’s get a clear understanding of how fascism works.

“Fascism: a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.”

Now you check the boxes:

• A dictator having complete power (control) — Compare Trump to Josef Goebbels (Reich Minister of Propaganda): “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”

• For Trump, it has been 1,628 “significant” lies — five a day — since he won the Electoral College vote. Trump makes Goebbels look like some kind of rookie. Trump beats Goebbels in both quantity and quality of his lies.

• Suppressing the opposition — From “lying, fake news media” to denigrating women, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, the FBI and anyone who does not pledge their total loyalty to him.

• Industry and commerce — “Modern Fascism should be properly called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.” Benito Mussolini (and the Trump Republicans)

• Racism and nationalism — Two modern-day racists, Roy Moore and Trump, are defined by this most famous quote attributed to Sinclair Lewis: “When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a Bible/cross”?

Have you checked the boxes? Does our current occupant have all the traits of a fascist dictator? Are you concerned? Then vote for what is best for your family and your country.

Elections have consequences.

Domenic Torchia