Racist Tweets from a Racist President

Racist Tweets from a Racist President

A few days ago, I was considering writing about “The Squad” and my hope that they would find common ground with Democratic leadership. With eyes on the 2020 prize, I believe a more centrist Democratic candidate and platform is the best way to displace Trump. Nancy Pelosi is playing the long game and she’s right to do so. More on that later, because over the weekend POTUS found a way to unify the country more successfully than at any other time during his political life.

This isn’t about politics. This is about character.

Prior to this weekend’s attacks, I would contend that most decent people already viewed POTUS as a racist. His history is well-documented, here and elsewhere. I’ll spare you another recitation.

The tweet above is definitionally racist. The spin from the sycophants is both predictable and disgusting. Whatever your politics, we must demand more of our elected leaders.

We can disagree on policy from A to Z. I’m always up for a discussion on how to make the world a better place, all the better if opinions diverge. Our political structure is built for slow and careful deliberation and its history is rich with debate. None of this is the point.

We should, and must, all call out racism by its name.

Anything short of that is complicity. Worse still are those in politics and among the public who defend these tweets and deflect to politics. There is no modern equivalent among the Democrats. None.

So let’s be direct and honest, POTUS is a racist. This isn’t new and the evidence is overwhelming. These tweets mark the end of the counterargument. Supporting Trump is supporting racism.


Unity in Division

For Democrats, for the first time in months, the focus is on something other than their warring factions. Across the party and far beyond, this abject racism serves as a rallying cry for all who reject it. This isn’t the beginning (housing discrimination, Central Park 5, birtherism) and won’t be the end, but it is an important inflection point. It’s long past time to unite around basic norms and decency.

Set politics aside and demand more from our political leaders. All elected officials who fail to condemn Trump are complicit. They lack the character to serve this country effectively. Vote them all out.

Those who still support Trump enable him and embolden his racism, and are themselves racist – no equivocation necessary. Decent people must fight this scourge at every turn. Anything less is distinctly un-American.

Shut Up and Dribble, Part 2

Winners, on the field and off.

As a country, we’ve long found pride and a sense of community through competitive sports and the victories of “our” athletes and teams, whether local, regional, or national. From youth participation and all that it imbues in our children to elite level competition and the myriad rooting interests we develop throughout our lives, sports are a cultural phenomenon the depth and breadth of which has few parallels.

The USWNT’s recent World Cup performance has earned the team, its star players, and women’s soccer, much due acclaim in recent days. They took care of business on the field and are using their platform to advocate for equal pay, LGBTQ acceptance, and more. If this makes you uncomfortable – good. Change isn’t easy, but they’re arguing for a more equal society and we should listen.

Like so many athletes before them, they’ve been told to shut up and dribble. LeBron didn’t. Neither will Rapinoe & Co.


Historical Context

Sport isn’t some siloed, esoteric enterprise that stands apart from our broader culture. Quite the opposite is true, sports have always reflected and often led, on a range of social and political issues.

  • Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics.
  • Jackie Robinson in MLB (too late, but well before the Civil Rights Act).
  • USA Hockey in Lake Placid.
  • The 1999 Women’s World Cup win.

All of these performances had lasting effects far beyond the field of play. To argue otherwise ignores history and context.


Criticism of the Team

In response to Megan Rapinoe’s assertion that the team wouldn’t visit the White House: “they should respect the President and country”.

Fun facts: the Warriors haven’t visited Trump and this year’s Patriots visit quietly fell by the wayside. I don’t need to recite all the reasons I wouldn’t go and I can’t know the leading motives of any of the teams, but if you think they should show up for the photo op and pledge fealty to a racist and anti-LGBT administration, you’re a gutless sycophant, not a proud patriot.

They celebrate too much, or the wrong way.

Among pro athletes, inclusive of soccer players, they’re rather subdued. If they were men, you’d ignore it. Supporting data: all men’s team sports.

They “stomped on” / “danced on” the flag.

This is false. Yes, it was dropped during the post-game celebration. This is wrong and shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. But in the moment, distracted by having achieved the pinnacle of your career in sports, things happen. Get over it.

The flag was then quickly picked up by a teammate, not stomped or danced upon. If you’re upset about the flag being on the ground for 2-3 seconds, that’s not what you’re actually upset about.


American Heroes

This is the best women’s soccer team the world has seen. They dominated the deepest Women’s World Cup field in history.

Off the field, they are using their success and their platform for good. Their impact is significant and I believe lasting.

We celebrate winners, always have. We, with the benefit of history, celebrate agents of positive change. They are both. As such, they are heroes. Not just to the tens of thousands of girls soccer players they will inspire for a generation, not just to the LGBT community, not just to women, no, this team should be embraced as heroes by all Americans.

Still don’t like this team? Still want them to “shut up and dribble”? They won’t.

Watch the NYC celebration here and below. If you oppose these positive and inclusive messages and think this group un-patriotic, our world views are irreconcilable. History will judge. I like my odds, a lot.

If you’re feeling aggrieved by this team, their strength and their voice, think long and hard about why. You’ll find answers in the realms of blind loyalty to POTUS, the fake patriotism of right-wing media, likely mixed with heavy doses of sexism and fear. Prove me wrong.

 

 

 

Trump Launches Re-election Campaign in a State He Can’t Win

Trump won Florida in 2016. He won’t in 2020.

Last night, Trump launched his re-election bid in Orlando, Florida. Despite the raucous crowd and having won the state in 2016, he won’t win Florida in 2020.

Yes, the same state that Ron Desantis and Rick Scott won in 2018.

Let’s review those races:

 

  • Race
  • Trump, 2016
  • DeSantis, 2018
  • Scott, 2018
  • Margin of Victory
  • 113,000
  • 33,000
  • 10,000

 

In these races, 8M-9.5M votes were cast. At most, these margins represent a separation of ~1.4%.

Most recent Presidential races in the state have been similarly close. You know the closest one. W followed that up with the widest margin of victory since his father’s win in 1988. Even that 2004 win was by fewer than 400K votes (over 7M total cast) and while his brother was serving as Governor.

So what’s different in 2020?

Amendment 4 & the Puerto Rican exodus.

 


Amendment 4

Some background, from Wikipedia:

After the abolition of slavery in the United States, Florida enacted Black Codes, which restricted freedoms for African Americans and led to mass incarceration. The 1868 Florida Constitution enacted felony disenfranchisement, a ban on voting for felons even after completing parole and probation, disproportionately impacting African Americans. Though other Jim Crow laws, such as education requirements, were repealed in successive constitutions, felon disenfranchisement continued.

In 2016, 6.1 million adults in the United States could not vote due to felony disenfranchisement laws. In 2018, Florida was one of four U.S. states that enacted permanent felony disenfranchisement, affecting 1.7 million felons. Felons must wait five to seven years after the completion of their sentence before they can apply to have their voting rights restored by the State Board of Executive Clemency, which is composed of the Governor of Florida and the Florida Cabinet, and meets four times per year at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida’s disenfranchised felons constituted 10% of the adult population, and 21.5% of the adult African American population.

In 2018, Florida voters, by a wide margin (65/35), righted this long-standing wrong by restoring voting rights to of Floridians with felony convictions, exclusive of murderers and sex offenders, after the completion of their sentence.

Effective January 8, 2019, 1.4M ex-felons – about 10% of Florida’s adult population, along with one in five black Floridians – became eligible to vote.

Naturally, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature and Trumpian Governor are doing everything they can to controvert the will of the voters and Jim Crow the shit out of the new law.

But let’s look at how Amendment 4 might impact 2020.

Vox ran the numbers and concluded that Democrats might gain ~48,000 votes, with “an additional 40,000 votes that could be cast on behalf of either party.” This doesn’t change the outcome of the state’s 2016 Presidential election, but both the recent Senate and Gubernatorial races might have gone the other way.

 


Puerto Rican Exodus

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, many thousands of Puerto Ricans fled to Florida. The New York Times breaks down the potential electoral impact of that migration, here, where they suggest Democrats might gain 40,000 votes.

 


The Numbers

48,000 + 40,000 = less than 113,000

If you read NYT or Vox articles I’ve cited, you might wonder why I chose them, since they both conclude that these forces are insufficient to flip the state. But they’re trying to close the 2016 gap of 113,000. The 2018 races suggest that the sentiment gap is much smaller.

Ron DeSantis ran as a Trump clone. He won by just 33,000 votes. Sure, it was a midterm election and turnout was down slightly from 2016 (8M vs. 9.5M). But for a midterm, that’s relatively strong and higher turnout generally favors Democrats.

With Trump essentially on the ballot, this race offers the best possible proxy for the coming 2020 race. The gap has closed, significantly.

48,000 + 40,000 = far more than 33,000

Trump is losing supporters and the broader electorate is shifting away from him.

 


As was made clear in 2016, nothing is certain and voters are unpredictable. All 2020 outcomes are still possible. Still, it’s hard to ignore Trump’s weak early polling, the evidence waning support, and some 88,000 new Democratic votes in Florida.

Trump loses Florida in 2020 and can’t win the presidency without it.

 

Justin Amash and the Sad State of the GOP

Justin Amash – Not a Partisan Hack

…and that’s why he’s at risk

Rep. Justin Amash (R, MI) is a good man. He and I diverge politically on some important issues (abortion, environment, healthcare), but I agree with his libertarian views on other matters (defense/surveillance, foreign policy, individual liberties). Most importantly, he’s thoughtful and principled, not just another partisan sycophant.

Because he’s not a lap dog for the GOP leadership and the President, he’s long been at odds with the clapping seals who define his party. In May, he became the first GOP Congressman to publicly voice his support for impeachment. Earlier this week, he resigned from the House Freedom Caucus, of which he was a founding member.

His independence and his Twitter account have brought him into the national political conversation and raised his profile considerably. Is he planning to run for President in 2020? I doubt it. His party has left him. He has no chance of winning.

So what have his principled leadership and national profile gotten him?

He’s no longer funded by the Devos family. POTUS and Don Jr. are attacking him and will likely campaign against him. And he’s now down 16 points to a Trump-swab primary challenger.

 


Michigan Republicans – you can do better. You have a year.

When Amash’s brand of common sense and decency (he’s not perfect, but he’s pretty good) put you at risk of losing your party’s primary to an avowed partisan hack, something is broken.

That something is the GOP. Mindless adherence to the President’s callous agenda du jour is what the party now requires. It’s a sad day when the abdication of truth, decency, and oversight responsibilities, are the keys to a primary victory. I hope that’s not what Michigan Republicans actually want. There’s plenty of time. I hope you’ll choose wisely. I hope.

Michelle Carter Committed No Crime

Terrible Person, Not a Criminal

 

Michelle Carter is a terrible person who deserves to live with crippling guilt for her actions toward Conrad Roy. But she’s not a criminal and her conviction sets a dangerous precedent.

She and her attorneys were smart to seek a bench trial. The verdict of a dispassionate executor of the law should have put her in better stead than risking a jury trial. Shockingly, Judge Lawrence Moniz found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

The facts of the case are undisputed: Conrad Roy took his own life. Michelle Carter encouraged him to do it.

 


Civil Case Dismissed

What brought this to mind was the news earlier this month that the Roy family’s wrongful death suit against Carter was dismissed “with prejudice and without costs.” Translation: the civil case was garbage.

So… she can’t even be tried civilly for death by text, but she’s been convicted of manslaughter. Got it.

 


Causation

In the criminal case, the relevant legal matter is that of causation. The manslaughter conviction by Judge Moniz asserts that Carter caused Roy’s death via text message. That’s insane and sets a dangerous precedent. The BU Law Review offers this excellent, in-depth note on the case.

Just as shocking is the fact that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the conviction. When she was first convicted by Judge Moniz, I presumed it was just a weak judge giving in to public pressure. The affirmation by the SJC makes clear that this case must go to SCOTUS. We need clarity around a potential new causation standard, one that needs to be tested against the First Amendment.

 


Made Up Crime, Slippery Slope

This is a travesty of justice. The rest of us can only hope that we are never convicted of a made-up crime by an activist judge.

While the state courts have screwed this up, my hope is that SCOTUS will take up this important First Amendment case. The slippery slope I fear is that an array of nasty comments could become criminal acts. Words are not violence and we must affirm that. If we don’t, we’ll fill our courts with teenage keyboard commandos and we’ll be well on our way to prosecuting thought crimes.

 


Today we’re told that a spike in suicides followed the initial release of “13 Reasons Why”. Will those involved with the show also be charged? Given what’s happened to Michelle Carter, it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Update:  As I should have expected, the “study” linking an increase in suicides to “13 Reasons Why” is hot garbage. Apologies. I should know better. https://reason.com/2019/05/07/13-reasons-why-suicide-study-junk-science/

…but I’m not wrong about the Carter case.

 

Worth Noting

None of this is meant to trivialize bullying or the mental health challenges faced by many. As a society, we’ve made great strides on both fronts and must continue working to protect the most vulnerable.

You Need a Password Manager

Another day, another security breach.

It wasn’t even hackers this time, just the gang at Facebook who can’t shoot straight.

Update: 4/4/2019. It just keeps getting worse.

You Need a Password Manager

Facebook exposed your FB and IG passwords to its 20,000 employees. You need to change both, now.

But this is just one example of a much larger problem. Both consumers and providers are subject to hacks and leaks, and they happen all the time.

It’s likely that at least one of your accounts has been compromised at some point. Don’t believe me? Check here.

The problem isn’t going away, so you need to take responsibility for holding up your end. Unfortunately, you probably suck at security.

How many of the following are you guilty of?

  • Reusing passwords.
  • Using simple passwords – yourfavoritenoun76, qwerty14, my$t3r10u$.
  • Writing down passwords, or storing them in a text file.
  • Not using multi-factor authentication (MFA) where available.

Passwords are both an annoyance and prone to hacking. But despite advances in and wider availability of various biometric protocols, we’re stuck with passwords for the foreseeable future and we need to do better.

 


What you can do

Use MFA/2FA where you can. It’s not perfect, but you’d be a fool to have any meaningful data behind a login without it.

Use complex passwords, 16+ characters where you can. Complex phrases are at least as good as a long string of random charters.

And since you probably have 100+ accounts, you need a password manager (PM).

(Chrome now does a nice job of recommending and saving passwords, but you still need a password manager.)

 

If you know how PMs work and aren’t using one…shame.

If you don’t know how they work, let’s review the basics.

A password manager helps you to generate, store, and retrieve passwords.

Thus, your accounts are more secure, you’re less likely to be hacked, your information is protected, and your life is better.

 


Which password manager?

Doesn’t matter.

Why not?

Because adopting any of the decent ones and using it the right way will be massively better than whatever else you’re doing today.

 

Personally, I’ve been using 1Password for years and it’s been great. But I chose it at a time when I could “own it” for about $30. Naturally, it’s offered on a subscription basis today.

If I were starting into a new one, I’d give LastPass a go. There’s a free tier and it offers a 30-day test of the premium version.

 

Secure your accounts. Start today.

Stay safe out there.

The Most Important Democrat in the 2020 Race

Andrew Yang Sees the Future

He’s right, and he’s good for the 2020 race.

Odds are decent that you’ve never heard of Andrew Yang. I don’t think he can win, but I do think he’s talking about the most interesting political issue of the next 20 years.

The 2020 election is a long way away. I’m not here to make predictions, but the 2018 midterm and Trump’s approval ratings suggest that the Democratic nominee already has an advantage. But looking to 2020 and beyond, as the country continues to diversify and Trump’s base, along with conservatives, broadly, die at a faster rate than Democratic voters come of age, the electorate is shifting blue and our elected representatives will soon better represent it.

I don’t want to go down this prediction rabbit hole except to suggest that certain items we view as politically contentious will, I believe, be put to bed soon, including:

  • Climate change – It’s real and we need to take it more seriously.
  • Universal healthcare – We long ago codified universal access to care. Now we need a better way to pay for it.
  • Immigration – We need more of it and a better process.
  • Debt – It’s hard to see how we could do worse than we’re doing today.

I have confidence that we are entering a political climate wherein we can address all of these issues. And while the work will last decades, and perhaps centuries, with a shared understanding of the problems and a commitment to solving them, we will make tremendous progress on all fronts.

Which brings us to the next major political issue of the coming 20 years, Universal Basic Income.

 

Universal Basic Income – a Social Imperative.

As we enter an age of AI-driven automation, UBI is inevitable. According to AI expert Kai Fu Lee, 40% of jobs are at risk in the next 15-25 years. PWC projects 30% of jobs will be lost. These are huge numbers that are not likely to be overcome through jobs gained in AI.

Further, according to McKinsey, there will be significant skill mismatches in the labor force. All of this coincides with an accelerating trend of separating labor from economic output.

 

We Can Afford It.

The impact of automation on the labor force is foreseeable and it may well come rapidly. This will shock the labor force and has the potential to hurt our consumer-driven economy in the short run.

The upside is that productivity will continue its acceleration. While stocks markets may oscillate, the next technological revolution will power long term economic growth. We are a rich country that will keep getting richer. We should raise taxes on the rich (not 70%, but higher than 37%) and we may need to tax the output of robots and automated systems.

It’s in this context, where millions, maybe tens of millions, will find it near impossible to find work, that we’re going to need to rethink how we provide for the basic needs of large swaths of the population.

UBI is a solution for this high automation, low labor economy. Andrew Yang knows this. He’s right, and he’s ahead of the curve on this topic. I’m glad he’s bringing this important issue to light.

See more about him and his campaign.

Momo Challenge – Be Smarter

Only you can stop viral hoaxes

Last week, I was warned by the school principal about the dangers of the “Momo Challenge”. It had not been reported by reputable news outlets and had already been debunked by some. Still, schools, police departments, and well-meaning adults worldwide were sucked into the fake news vortex and shared their fears with their friends online.

Context:

Yes, parents must monitor their kids’ online activities. Yes, an image of this very sculpture appeared in an otherwise benign Minecraft video, triggering several nights of bedtime fears right here at home. Yes, there are many ways kids can get themselves in trouble through what they share and whom they engage with, online.

But the Momo Challenge, clearly defined as violence and self-harm inspired by this character who was alleged to have infiltrated WhatsApp, YouTube, etc, is a hoax. Full stop.

 

These fears began last fall when images of the sculpture by the Japanese artist Keisuke Aiso began circulating online. The hoax gained much more momentum earlier this month.

The ‘Momo Challenge’: A sinister threat to young people or an urban myth?

 

Hoaxes like this exist only to the degree we give them life, so why was it so successful?

Fear.

We often fear things we don’t understand. For many well-intentioned adults, social media, and particularly WhatsApp, is a black box.

Media illiteracy.

Smaller news organizations, desperate for eyeballs, often lead with blood and fear. Many people read only the headlines. They then share foolish stories, uncritically.

Media literacy has never been more important. The success of fringe media and comments sections everywhere prove its non-existence.

Kids, and the virtue signaling mob that surrounds them.

We all want them protected, of course. But what sets this hoax apart from some others is the opportunity to virtue signal.

While Tide Pods were eaten, and condoms being snorted, by, per the urban myth, large numbers of teens, this one was coming for your elementary school children. Alerting your friends to this scourge makes you better than everyone else, a better parent. Schools sharing this demonstrably fake news must have made administrators feel better.

Worse still, many defended the decision to spread this misinformation, even after the hoax was debunked. Parents pivoted to the broader risks social media and communications platforms can present. While true, this obfuscates the point of the matter at hand. Our Superintendent defended the department’s sharing of it by suggesting it was best to “err on the side of caution.” That’s too low a standard for me. We must seek the truth before we can assess risks and how to mitigate them.

 

How we can do better.

Social media is full of scams and hoaxes. Some are benign “free vacation” offers seeking likes, followers, and your data. Trust me – you’re not going to win a Disney vacation by liking and sharing, not even if you type “done”. Fake news hoaxes, as has been well-documented in recent years, are widespread and pernicious. They don’t point to specific harms, but they are meant to inflame and divide.

We can do better. Thinking persons must do their part.

  1. Don’t spread misinformation. Odds are, if you’re reading this, you’re not the problem. Still, use Google or Snopes for a quick fact check before you share.
  2. Fight fear and misinformation with cold hard facts.

Here’s an excellent take on this topic: Don’t fall for it: a parent’s guide to protecting your kids from online hoaxes

 

You and your kids have never been safer. Take a breath and check the facts. Let’s do better next time.

 

Latest: ‘Momo Challenge’ Sculpture Has Been Destroyed

Artificial Intelligence Will Take Jobs

A few months back, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that AI wasn’t on his radar as a concern for taking over the American labor force and went on to say that such a concern might be warranted in “50 to 100 more years.” If you’re reading this, odds are you also think this is a naive, ill-informed view.

An array of experts, including Mnuchin’s former employer, Goldman Sachs, disagree with this viewpoint. As PwC states, 38% of US jobs will be gone by 2030. On the surface, that’s terrifying, and not terribly far into the future. It’s also a reasonable, thoughtful view, and a future reality for which we should prepare.

Naysayers maintain that the same was said of the industrial and technological revolutions and pessimistic views of the future labor market were proved wrong. This is true. Those predicting doom in those times were dead wrong. In both cases, technological advances drove massive economic growth and created huge numbers of new jobs.

Is this time different?

It is. Markedly so.

The industrial revolution delegated our labor to machines. Technology has tackled the mundane and repetitive, connected our world, and, more, has substantially enhanced individual productivity. These innovations replaced our muscle and boosted the output of our minds. They didn’t perform human-level functions. The coming wave of AI will.

Truckers, taxi and delivery drivers, they are the obvious, low-hanging fruit, ripe for AI replacement. But the job losses will be much wider, cutting deeply into retail and customer service, impacting professional services like accounting, legal, and much more. AI won’t just take jobs. Its impacts on all industries will create new opportunities for software engineers and data scientists. The rate of job creation, however, will lag far behind that of job erosion.

But it’s not all bad! AI is a massive economic catalyst. The economy will grow and goods will be affordable. We’re going to have to adjust to a fundamental disconnect between labor and economic output. This won’t be easy. The equitable distribution of the fruits of this paradigm shift will dominate the social and political conversation of the next 5-15 years. And if I’m right more than wrong in this post, basic income will happen (if only after much kicking and screaming by many). We’ll be able to afford it. Not just that — most will enjoy a better standard of living than today while also working less.

I might be wrong. The experts might be wrong. You might think I’m crazy (let’s discuss in the comments). But independent of specific outcomes, I hope we can agree that we’re on the precipice of another technological revolution and these are exciting times!

Watson’s Reckoning

Watson’s Reckoning

To most in the know, IBM’s Watson has long been considered more hype and marketing than technical reality. Presented as infinitely capable, bleeding edge technology, you might think the well-known Watson brand would be delivering explosive growth to IBM.

Reality is far different. IBM’s stock is down in a roaring market. The company is, in effect, laying off thousands of workers by ending its work-from-home policy. More than $60M has perhaps been wasted by MD Anderson on a failed Watson project. All of this is happening against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding market for Machine Learning solutions.

But why? I saw Watson dominate on Jeopardy.

And dominate it did, soundly beating Ken Jennings and Brad Reuter. So think for a moment about what Watson was built to do. Watson, as was proven then, is a strong Q&A engine. It does a fine job in this realm and was truly state of the art…in 2011. In this rapidly-expanding corner of the tech universe, that’s an eternity ago. The world has changed exponentially, and Watson hasn’t kept pace.

So what’s wrong with Watson?

  • It’s not the all-encompassing answer to all businesses. It offers some core competencies in Natural Language and other domains, but Watson, like any Machine Learning tech, and perhaps more than most, requires a high degree of customization to do anything useful. As such, it’s a brand around which Big Blue sells services. Expensive services.
  • The tech is now old. The bleeding edge of Machine Learning is Deep Learning, leveraging architectures Watson isn’t built to support.
  • The best talent is going elsewhere. With the next generation of tech leaders competing for talent, IBM is now outgunned.
  • …and much more discussed here.

The Machine Learning market is strong and growing. IBM has been lapped by Google, Facebook, and other big-name companies, and these leaders are open sourcing much of their work.

Will Watson survive? Time will tell.