Posts

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.

 

 

 

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.

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

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.

Mark Zuckerberg, Global Editor-in-Chief

 

Mark Zuckerberg, Global Editor-in-Chief

Not a hot take:  Facebook is a media company

 

Not just a “social” media company. Simply put, they’re the world’s biggest media company.

What about Google?  Not a media company.

But Google Plus?  Irrelevant.  Google News?  Curated differently, and far less — professional media only, promoted based on preferences and relevance.

 

So why Facebook?  Curation.

The day Facebook started curating our feeds is the day it became a media company. I’m not complaining or even suggesting there’s an alternative. Whatever the underlying exact metrics that govern our feeds, they are critical to our use of the platform and FB would be a noisy shit-show without these smart, useful measures.

The fact that these decisions are being made by computers and on the fly doesn’t absolve Facebook of editorial responsibility. The algorithms report to the engineers and the engineers to Mark. So now, as has been the case for a while but was forcefully exposed this fall, he’s got significant editorial responsibility.

Facebook stands alone in its reach, relevance, and responsibility. Mark Zuckerberg is now the world’s Editor-in-Chief.

Think that’s hyperbole? Not with 1.8B MAUs. Not with a market cap over $300B. And not when you’re the founding CEO who is the face of and wield significant shareholder voting control over, the company.

This isn’t simply about fake news, or silos, confirmation bias bubbles and the like. It’s much bigger than what’s trending, how, and why. As the world’s preeminent news organization, Facebook is going to have to figure out all of this and more.

This is a huge, complicated problem. Balancing their business objectives and this enormous responsibility will be difficult, but it’s in their interest, and their customers’ interests, to make the necessary investments in this area. Fortunately, they have billions in cash and many smart people on the team.

 

So Mark — years ago, you probably did imagine yourself in Bill Gates’ shoes. You’ve done that. Awesome. Congrats. Now welcome to a whole new level of responsibility you may never have considered.

Best of luck. The fourth estate may depend on it.

Winning, Losing, and Whining

Winning, Losing, and Whining

Why (almost) everyone is a loser this cycle

 

First, it was Trump, widely expected to lose and making baseless claims of rampant voter fraud.

Now that the results are in, it’s Jill Stein raising $5M+ (more than her campaign raised) for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Hillary’s camp is on board. Why not? Nothing left to lose.

If that’s not enough, it’s now Trump claiming he won the popular vote and millions voted illegally for Hillary. Great.

 

Let’s get real.

Count. Recount. Count again. Trump won. He’s going to be president. The recount money is about as well spent as this money.

Jill Stein knows she isn’t going to win. There’s no chance this flips for Hillary. And if the laughably ignorant Dr. Stein preferred an outcome other than a Trump presidency, she should have backed the Democratic nominee. Instead, she continues to put her personal fame ahead of smart political calculus. She won 50K votes in Michigan. Hillary lost by 10k. This race was closer than some other swing state surprises, but you can do the math. (Swing state third-party voters — WTF? Seriously, WTF?)

This recount effort, much like the medically (and mentally?) unsound Dr’s sad campaign, isn’t about politics. This is Dr. Stein opportunistically drawing upon widespread rage and disappointment in a desperate and vain attempt to burnish her reputation and remain relevant for a few more days. Go home doc, the party’s over. And folks, stop donating! You could burn that cash for heat.

 

There’s still no widespread fraud

It was a lie when Trump started it. It remains untrue despite his win and his recent outlandish claims. We all know he’s a sore loser. Now we know he’s also a piss poor winner. I’m shocked!

 

Great expectations, miserable failure?

Hillary has to own her loss. The country is, on the whole, in pretty great shape and she lost to an angry sweet potato. That’s a bad loss.

 

There are no winners, but…

There’s one candidate who is decidedly less of a loser today than the rest. He’s a dimwit who is unfit for the presidency, but it’s fair to say that, both before election day and since, he’s acquitted himself in a more dignified manner than his competitors. Electorally, his performance was about as expected, despite knowing little of the world. His earning 5% of the vote, with few brain cells firing, a highly questionable track record in NM, and little money offers hope that a better third-party candidate might one day be relevant. (I can hope, right?)

As importantly, he’s ridden off into the sunset (on his bike and blazing a joint?) without making a fool of himself. Yes, the same guy who fakes heart attacks.

 

We get another crack at this soon enough. The 2020 campaigns will start in a little more than two years. Let’s do better, ok?

 

But from this moment, every day and forever, support and defend our democracy. It’s baseless and classless for both sides to malign the process. The process is great and it’s incumbent upon all of us to support and defend it, even when we disagree with the results.

 

Trump Translation Guide

Trump Translation Guide:  Promises vs Reality

After running the most fact-free campaign ever, President-elect Trump is already backpedaling on many of his promises and he’ll find it impossible to make good on others. As such, I’ll try to maintain this “Trump Translation Guide”, distilling his middle school social studies education, Forrest Gump-like command of the language, and reckless overpromising into what he means, or what might actually happen.

There’s a pattern here and it’s more than ‘everything he says is BS’. While true, on a policy level there is increasingly less daylight between him, Hillary, and Obama.

Congratulations Trump voters! For little difference in policy, you elected the least prepared, most obnoxious candidate ever.

This isn’t a fact check, so much as a reality check.  It should be fun.

 

Build a wall, get Mexico to pay for it:

  • Maybe a fence in some places.
  • Mostly an investment in border security.
  • Mexico is NOT going to pay for it, unless indirectly via US consumers.

Deport 14M illegals:

Repeal and replace Obamacare:

  • Not taking insurance away from 20M people.
  • Keeping protections for pre-existing conditions and kids under 26.
  • No word on the individual mandate.
  • It will get the fixes it needs. This is inevitable and not a partisan issue.

Drain the swamp:

  • Load up on insiders and immediately hire supporters, irrespective of personal qualities.

Mitt Romney is such a loser:

  • Have you met my Secretary of State?

 

I know more than the generals:

  • About my insane hair.

 

Mosul is such a disaster:

  • I don’t have a plan, but criticizing everything seems to get me on TV.

 

I’ll keep (I kept) that business in the US:

  • Not according to Carrier.
  • Ford was never leaving Kentucky for Mexico.

 

“Lock her up!”:

  • Nah, just kidding.

 

Global warming, the Chinese hoax:

  • Maybe, just maybe, even I am not that dumb.

 

There’s plenty more and there’s no end in sight. The upside is that his caving on these issues brings him closer to a normal, centered reality that’s better for all of us.

Totally worth hiring an incompetent asshole to do most of the same things as an accomplished policy wonk with some flaws, a frosty personality, and a love of pantsuits.