9-11-01 What I Never Forget

What is it that we should never forget?  I won’t forget that both my parents called me that morning unaware of what was going on. Or that my cousin had a baby that day.

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I will never forget to watch the towers fall on TV. The brave first responders that ran into the buildings to help.  The people who searched for people and then bodies after.

I remember how 15 of the hijackers and Osama bin Laden were Saudis and much of the money that funded Al Qaeda was Saudi oil money. And finding out that Bush allowed Saudi Nationals to fly out of the country while no one else could fly.

I remember “I can hear you,” “Let’s roll,” and “Mission accomplished.”

I remember Bush and company using 9-11 to get us to attack Iraq.  I remember the forgotten war we are still losing troops in 16 years later. I remember when the number of soldiers who died in the wars surpassed the number we lost on 9-11 (September of 2006)

I remember Bush not blaming the Islamic religion but extremist.  I remember how that shifted when the president changed because he was a secret Muslim.  I remember having to remind people the Obama wasn’t President during 9-11.

I remember the US forgetting its morals in the defense of its liberty.  I remember Guantanamo, rendition, the PATRIOT ACT, Abu Ghraib, torture, Blackwater.  I remember that our enemies use these as recruiting tools.

I remember that my niece, born on that day 16 years ago, is now old enough to drive.

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Thoughts on Charlottesville and Aftermath

There has been so much I to be expressed in the wake of Charlottesville and the response afterward.  I will not get to all of it here.  I am going to start with something that seems to be missed in the discussion.  That Friday and Saturday, the police and government officials screwed up.

The Friday night Tiki torch parade of white nationalist came and surrounded a bunch of anti-white nationalist protesters.  The violence that ensued could have been prevented if the police had set up a line between them.  It could have been done.  As soon as one cop saw the line of citronella Nazis moving, they could have easily moved a line of cops in a position to separate the two groups like they do at most every protest/counter protest.

The same thing on the chaos on Saturday morning.  When you watch the shots of the shield bearing clashes there were cops not interfering.  Not keeping the peace.  I’ve seen it done.  I’ve been hemmed in by cops several times.

The tragic homicidal car incident there was nothing the cops could do about that.  The violence that happened earlier could have been prevented by police.  There was a decision made in the chain of command to not interfere.

Now onto the most important thing that not near enough people understand:

Racism exists and has always existed.

Many of you are going “Duh.” but I think it is important at this moment to say it. Charlottesville was not some isolated incident, it is the latest in a line of hate going back to the Civil War.  These groups change names, adjust ideologies and tactics but have always been there.  There core selling point is that if the blacks (And Jews, Native Americans, Mexicans, etc.) are given liberty they will take it from whites.  I will not waste time explaining further, just know that these people exist and have always existed.

These people are not (all) militants living the woods waiting for the second civil war to start.  These are lawyers and policeman, business owners and hiring managers.  People who have the power to change peoples lives for the better or worse.  When a white nationalist banker interviews a black couple about a home loan, it matters.

I know there are those who will argue that there are Blacks that show preferential treatment to Blacks too.  If there had been an equal footing in the past that may make a valid point.  My parents were alive when “Segregation Now” was shouted by a sitting Governor.  Even if the law says we are all equal that doesn’t change people’s minds.  Do you think those thousands that watched and cheered for that Governor’s words, when the law changed, said to themselves, “Guess everything I believe in was wrong. I’m going to teach my children tolerance.”  No, that didn’t happen.  We learn our values from our parents and it takes a lot to change them later in life.

Racism exists. It matters. It influences politics. It influences people’s everyday lives.

So, how should we fight Fascism/White Nationalists?

This is where I have struggled.  Where is that line of response that goes too far?  When is it appropriate to punch a Nazi?  I do not have all the answers to that.

What I can support is the identifying of Nazis.  One thing that has given hate groups power is the ability to act anonymously.  The internet allows one to shout hate without repercussions.  Just as the KKK hood empowered people to hide in the crowd of a lynching.

I also am glad people at the rally are losing jobs.  If they have the power to hire people or influence people’s lives, that have the power to oppress non-whites.  Companies who tolerate that of their employees have bigger issues.

I do not condone death threats to people or threatening one’s family.  Even before Charlottesville, there has been too much of that going on on the Internet.  I think death threats, even over the internet, should be prosecuted as crimes.

I have gone this long without mention the President.  That was intentional.  The only thing I will quickly address is there being good people on both sides.

No.  

If you show up to a rally and there are Nazi flags and people shouting “Jews will not replace us.” and don’t leave?  You are showing support for Nazi ideals.  for the slaughtering of Jews.  For the oppression of other races.

And to those who are giving excuses like “Both sides” or think this is about a statue.  Take a long look at who you are sympathizing with.  Are you a Nazi sympathizer? A White Supremacist apologist?

Is our president a racist?

Google Memo: Complete Breakdown

This Will be a breakdown of the memo that James Damore at Google published internally.  It will not go into Google’s response or Mr. Damore’s motivations here.  This is a breakdown of the actual Memo done by a white male in the IT industry.

Before I started this process I have not read more than a few excerpts and some friends opinions.  I usually attempt to avoid “news” like this.   The rhetoric that happens around a thing like this usually gets blown bigger than the actual thing people are talking about. The full memo can be found here, it is too long to quote and break down every piece of it but will be as thorough as possible.

Google memo

Interesting start.  Don’t know which way he leans but knowing the industry we can guess.  He does invite comment so here we go.

The first three paragraphs are setting up the memo.  Basically “I’m not prejudiced but..” He also says Google has been receptive to what he has said in the past.

What follows is a TL;DR (Too long, Don’t Read) summary of the memo in five bullet points.

● Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.

I found this interesting having never heard anti-PC point of view put this way.  The silencing of the mentally harmful is a problem.

● This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too
sacred to be honestly discussed.

This happens in every business I have worked for.  The status queue is hard to fight against in any group.  Fact of life.

● The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this
ideology.
○ Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
○ Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression

The ideology is not defined but the results are pretty clear: Disparities are due to oppression so Google oppresses to combat disparities.

● Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.

● Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

And this is where people get into trouble.  I am curious what arguments James makes.

Skipping the Background paragraph, He goes into Biases, not at Google but of polittics.

LRBiasis

As soon as I read this I see where James has gone wrong.  His framing of “Left Biases” is obviously from someone on the right.  It implies those on the Left don’t have respect, are not just, unstable, and not pragmatic.  He does imply, in turn, out that the Right is not compassionate, closed, and not idealistic but it is clear which side he believes (more) in.

In the paragraphs that follow he diplomatically states, these are not 100% but Google is definitely on the left side of this biases table. the thing that bothers me the most is, “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture…”  Not sure how attempting to create diversity creates a monoculture.  James equates political diversity with cultural diversity.  The two are not the same.

The next section is entitled “Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech”  Here is where I started pulling my hair.  There is a lot of saying how men and women are physically different and also traits many traits are male dominated and female dominated.  Then says what he just said is not try for everyone and doing so is bad.

There is a lot of stereotyping in this.  I’ll share some highlights.

Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher
agreeableness.

This is typical sexist talk.  Women aren’t assertive they are gregarious.  Women can’t be assertive so why would you assign them important leadership or a project that is going to require tough customer pushback?  But wait, there’s more!

Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).
○ This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist
and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.

And I start swearing in my head.  I currently am doing an assignment in the NICU at a hospital.  Babies born premature who only are alive because of the constant vigilance of the 96% female nurses there. (96% is from that one NICU) They literally hold lives in their hands.  One mistake or missed sign of trouble and someone’s baby dies.  Every milliliter of formula and ounce of pee and poop carefully recorded and checked.  Then deal with the parents about every up and down in their recovery.  Don’t dare tell me women seek out less stress or anxiety jobs.  *deep breath*

Then he says men have a higher drive for status without saying what are high-status jobs that they seek.  He does say:

Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.

This comparison makes no sense to me.  Tech jobs are not dangerous and coal mining I would say is not a high-status job.  What I get the sense is that James sees software engineer as a high pay and prestige job.  Most every job title has high stress.

He then goes into “Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap”  by stating a gender stereotype and then saying how Google can bend to that stereotype.  Isn’t that just feeding what he is fighting against?  My *cough* favorite part of this section is:

● Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average
○ Unfortunately, as long as tech and leadership remain high status, lucrative
careers, men may disproportionately want to be in them. Allowing and truly
endorsing (as part of our culture) part time work though can keep more women in
tech.

Let women work part time.  That’s all they can handle… see NICU rant above.

The next section, “The harm of Google’s biases” is very Google specific and references things I have no way of knowing. so I will withhold comment.

The section called “Why we’re blind” is an interesting diatribe of the differences/stereo types of men/women and how discussing them hurts men.

We have extensive government and Google programs, fields of study, and legal and social norms to protect women, but when a man complains about a gender issue issue affecting men, he’s labelled as a misogynist and a whiner.

This sentiment ignores the history from the beginning of it to about the 1970’s where sexual inequality was enshrined in law and still in rape/sexual assault legal practice. (I know there will be pushback on that on all sides)  Things don’t change on a dime, it takes a lot of time and effort to change historical biases.

The last section is suggestions to Google.   There are a few valid points (Stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races for example.) but the last point in the memo I want to address touches on many of James’s points.

Stop alienating conservatives…  Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad businessbecause conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is required for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.

Conservatives are more careful and vigilant the Liberals and therefore better at buisness.  Putting those traits on a political kinda ignores the success of the business in the field you work in, James.  Skipping over what you laid out as left bias toward embracing change in a changing industry; there is a solid business reason why sexual diversity is sought after by companies.  Because a business wants the best people working for them no matter who are what they are.   They don’t want to scare away potential talent by having a stance against GLBT people.  Businesses, overall, would like to stay out of politics but will lean toward inclusion for their own self-interest.

To sum up, James Damore attempts to make an argument against a diversity push by pointing out why diversity is important.  Points out his belief in the superiority of ‘Right politics” and his prejudice against women.  A few good points don’t make up for the filth in the memo.  He does sound like a person I could sit down and have these arguments with, which is more than I suspected with the rhetoric that’s out there.

The actual law: Trump Jr. and Russia

Up until this week, I have been avoiding writing about this. After Commie was fired I saw

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D. Trump Jr’s Twitter profile image.

the writing on the wall. At that point, it was at least obstruction of Justice. Now we have more. Let us go over some of what we know for sure.

 
1. Russia attempted to interfere with the election in favor of Trump.
2. Russians contacted and offered something of value to the Trump campaign.
3. Several current Govt. officials and Former Trump campaign people have lied, under oath and in official documents, about meeting with Russian officials.
 
Those are facts. Proven and documented.
 
Now let’s go to the actual law pertaining to #2.

52 U.S. Code § 30121

(a) ProhibitionIt shall be unlawful for—

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—
(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f) (3) of this title); or
(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

That is pretty clear.  (1.A) “contribution of … to make an express or implied to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;” Part (2) makes it clear that both the giver and receiver of the thing of value are breaking the law. Even if the current defense by Donald Trump Jr. said that the meeting was unfruitful is still enough to violate the law.

You may ask what is the definition of a “Foreign National?”  Simple part (b) of the code offers a definition.

52 U.S. Code § 30121

(b) “Foreign national” defined As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means—
(1) a foreign principal, as such term is defined by section 611(b) of title 22, except that the term “foreign national” shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States; or
(2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 1101(a)(22) of title 8) and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined by section 1101(a)(20) of title 8.

It refers to the definition in 611(b) of title 22.  Let us examine that.

22 U.S. Code § 611 – Definitions

(b) The term “foreign principal” includes—
(1) a government of a foreign country and a foreign political party;
(2) a person outside of the United States, unless it is established that such person is an individual and a citizen of and domiciled within the United States, or that such person is not an individual and is organized under or created by the laws of the United States or of any State or other place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and has its principal place of business within the United States; and
(3) a partnership, association, corporation, organization, or other combination of persons organized under the laws of or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.

You can go read an exception list to this definition but it is clear.   Rob Goldstone, the British publicist, and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian Lawyer, fall under the definition of “Foreign National.”

The Trump campaign including Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manaford, Jared Kushner, Rob Goldstone, and Natalia Veselnitskaya broke the law.   Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. (When I looked into running for office, I read campaign fundraising laws myself.)

There is more that we don’t know than we know at this point.  I try not to drown myself in the trickle.  This took me about an hour to put together this morning.  If someone is being paid to comment on this and says they don’t know the law and how it pertains they are not trying or are flat out lying.  Take in media from a place of knowledge, not ignorance.

 

Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats on Healthcare

Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats on Healthcare

Congratulations!  The GOP imploded and didn’t even vote on a crappy healthcare bill!  You should be so proud.  You stood your ground against something that never had a chance of passing.  I’m not sure what version of a slow clap is appropriate…. I think I’ll go with the Joker.


After you take your lap this weekend and claim a victory.  What are you going to do now?  Are you just going to line up an await the crappy tax reform bill that’s coming and watch that implode too?  Why not take this opportunity to do the unthinkable, propose legislation?

We have a president who is, yes, mad at you.  But I think he is also mad at the Republicans for failing him.  You know he wanted Paul Ryan to hold a vote so he could call out the spineless GOP members who voted against it.  He is ripe to at least listen to a healthcare alternative.  He has said that he wants affordable healthcare for every American, give him what he wants.

TrumpCare 2.0

We all know that the Democrats had a healthcare plan that you were working on for when Hillary took office. (Too soon?) I’m sure you can scrounge up a proposal and then a bill that fixes some things in Obamacare. The most important part would be the public option.  Call it a Medicare buy-in.  Everyone loves Medicare.  Heck, most of the leadership qualifies for it.

So you have a not so crazy healthcare plan with a Medicare buy-in that would be an option for rural areas with no competition.  Get the whole Democratic caucus to sponsor it.  And present it to President Trump.  If he says no the Dems have something on paper to fight the GOP with for the next 4 years.  A much better scenario than the Republicans, “Oh crap! We won and now we have to actually do the thing we said we would!”  You would have a proposal/Bill that you can run on and not just a vague thing to run against.

But then there is the possibility that Trump will support it.  Think of the overturn in power. A united Democratic front with the president to pass something good and the President’s party is the opposition to it.  Who’s the party against the American people then? You want to win back rural and blue collar voters?  Who must argue against Medicare?  What party is the party of obstruction?

There is little downside.  Worst case scenario you win a couple of news cycles before we get bogged down it tax reform.  Best case we get the public option that should have been in Obama care from the start.

I wish I had faith in the Democratic party to be bold and fight for something instead of just against the other side.  If you truly believe that everyone should have healthcare, then take actions toward it.  Please restore my faith in the Democratic party.

Thank you,

Toby Sterling

5 Complaints About Protests and Why they are Wrong

I came across another article about protests and when and what to protest.  This one was local and kind and just wanted energy focused on what can be changed.  And all I can picture is President Jed Bartlet from the TV show “West Wing” yelling at his chief of staff Leo McGarry.

“You fight the battles that you can win!”

Leo McGarry responds, “You fight the battles worth fighting for!”

Protests, broadly speaking, are a form of free speech and civil disobedience.  They are part of what this country is founded on are meant to disrupt and draw attention to a cause or an injustice.  From the temperance movement to the civil rights movement, people have attacked protesting as invalid and a waste of time.  Laws have attempted to narrow what is allowed and make punishments harsher for civil disobedience.   Yet with all the forces against the tactic, it is part of what has made this country great.

Protests and protesters are attacked for many reasons and dismissed by some for the strangest of reasons.  People try to invalidate them because they are disruptive, whiners, criminals, lazy, and, most annoyingly, paid.  Let’s talk about attacks on the validity of protesting.

1. “They are a bunch of lazy people, get a job!”

I wouldn’t need a job if I got a nickel for every time I heard that being shouted at protesters.  This is a false narrative.  There is a reason you don’t see too many protests Monday through Friday 9-5.  Because people work.  There are exceptions like a protest at a plant closing.  But most protesters have jobs, just like most Americans.

As far as being lazy?  If you think traveling, sometimes across the country, to meet up with people to march 5 miles and stand for another hour during speeches is something lazy people do… I tried to come up with some clever quip here but protesting is the least lazy response to something that happened to people you don’t know and can’t directly help.

Then you have the organizers.  These people are the most active people I know.  Setting a time and date, or an immediate response protest.  Coordinating with other activists. Getting the word out. Figuring out the logistics from transportation to speakers to locations. Then trying to control an angry crowd into some semblance of order.  It is a lot of work.

2. “I could support the protest if it didn’t block traffic or hurt businesses.”

Tell that to those who sat at white-only lunch counters, or through tea into the Boston Harbour, or to Kim Davis who refused to give out marriage licenses to gay couples.  Protests work because they disrupt people’s lives.  Protest that does not disrupt some aspect of people’s normal routine is not a protest.  Me writing about protests is not a protest.   If I went to a public square and started shouting these words I am disrupting those in that square.

Even if you think a nondisruptive protest is still a protest, it is ineffectual it’s not going to make news that a  dozen people held a sign quietly in a park.  The point of a protest is to make itself aware to those not participating.

3. “Bunch of liberal hippies.”

Oh yeah?!  There hasn’t been a fifty-year continuous protest outside abortion clinics in America.  The Tea Party was not a protest movement.  Gun right activists have never held a rally.  Do I need to go on?

4. “Paid and Professional Protesters.”

This is a relatively new one to me.  The quick answer is no, there are not thousands of protesters on retainer and/or getting paid to protest.  (That’s something the CIA has done in other countries.)

Yes, there are independent media people who get money by going to protests through donations and that is for their media. (Live streams, photos, social media updates, etc.)  There are also organizations that plan rallies and marches like the Women’s March that raise money, organize buses, provide food and water.  But not paid protesters.  Most of these organizations attempt to raise money at these events, not pay it out.

5. “Why are you protesting that when this is more urgent?”

I learned a long time ago in personal relationships never to tell someone what they should be passionate.  I have never come out ahead in those conversations.  Now extrapolate that to thousands of people in the street.  They are there because the believe they are doing the right thing.  That, in this moment, this is where they need to be to fight for what is right.  You choose what you protest.  I’ll choose what I protest.

I have learned in my time as part of the Occupy Movement is that protests by themselves are not the ends but a means to an end.  Even though Occupy hasn’t changed the world from the top it has changed conversations.  Even Republicans talk about income inequality.   Bernie’s success was boosted by the networks and tactics established during Occupy.

Lessons learned and voices heard in the protests today will lead to changes tomorrow.  The effect of protests continues long after the signs are thrown away.

Pizza Cooking the Toby Way

downloadI overslept because I didn’t set my alarm.  Work was normal.  Ran errands after work. bought a fresh pizza to cook. get home.  Take the pans stored in the oven out of it and turn it on.  put groceries away then look at instructions for pizza.

It required me to provide a pan to cook  it on.

Looks at pans, looks at size of pizza, looks at pans… it won’t fit.  Check pizza droopiness level and it’s way to high for on the rack.  Look under pizza to see what it is sitting on. A piece of cardboard smaller than the pizza…

Find the best balance between pan size and pan that that has aged not so gracefully.  Do calculations between halves leaving less burnt cheese to clean off pan and quarters being easier to get off hot pan with sides. Cut raw pizza in quarters.  Place half of pizza, 2 slices in oven. Cook.

Remove from oven.  Glad of choice of paper plates for flexibility and lack of caring about. Eat half of pizza while other half cooks.  Repeal last two steps.