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.

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

How I handle Trump’s Election

Donald Trump

Trump in Iowa on Dec. 5, 2015 (Source: Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

All right here it goes.  I have been waiting until now to really get into the election here.  I do have a lot to say but I am going to start here.

I was wrong

I thought Trump had no chance. I had calmed friends and even wrote a lighthearted piece after Trump won the Republican Nomination on why we should embrace him as a candidate.  I concluded with he can’t win.  Many people were wrong on this but we should all take a moment and admit it.  That brings me to my next point.

Trump will be our next President

There are those who say he didn’t win because electoral college.  It’s the system we got and it was put there for very good reasons.  Also if you are one of the people saying “He’s not MY President.”  He is.  If you live in the USA he is the President of it.  I remember people saying that after Obama won (Some are still saying it.) and when Bush won.

It does nobody any good to delegitimize the person in a position you want someone with your beliefs to hold.  Unless you want there to be no President don’t taint the position.

No voter supports or even knows every position of a candidate they voted for

Did you know that Hillary wanted animal breeders and zoos to be required to have disaster plans for the protection of animals in their care?  I didn’t until a minute ago and look for an obscure position to write here.  If you know me you know I am not a fan of Hillary or Trump.  I was hoping Hillary one between the two.

Labeling all supports of X as Y is wrong, bigoted, hateful, and dangerous.  Let me just list a few and I’m sure one of them will be hurtful to you while another will be something that you had thought.  I am doing this as an example because it is so important to understand this.

All supporters of Gay marriage are gay
All supporters of creationism are idiots
All supporters of Black Lives Matter are criminals
All supporters of legalizing weed are drug addicts
All supporters of abortion rights are going to hell
All followers of Christianity are hypocrites
All followers of Judaism  are rich
All followers of Mohamed are terrorists
All followers of Atheism have no morals
All supporters of Trump are Racists
All supporters of Hillary hate America
All supporters of Nickelback are tone-def

You do not fit into those boxes and they do not define who you are.  You are complex and have tremendous life experiences that make you who you are…  and so does everyone else.  Please do not box others.  It just allows others to put you in a box.  We must accept that there are those out there who are not tone-def and still like Nickelback.

We must still call out stupid, hateful, untrue, bigoted, and hurtful statements and actions.  I still will. But one thing I have learned over the years is this.

Calling someone a racists does nothing to change the fact that they are racists

Calling someone tone-def because they like Nickelback will not stop them from liking it.  This is true for anything.  Calling someone an idiot has made no one smarter.  In fact it can make people dumber or to play more Nickelback.  Telling a girl that girls are bad at math may influence them not to study or like math because they were told they would be bad at it.

So what do we do?  For me the answer is simple one but very hard to do.

Do not call them a racists, tell them that action is racists.

A couple of male friends I was with were a bit inebriated.  One called to order food and after handing the phone off to the other said louder than he new “Hey, she sounds hot.” and the repeated “Ask her if she’s on Tinder!” over and over again.

After the phone call I confronted my friend telling him that was harassment.  He argued that it wasn’t and I tried to explain that she was just doing her job and doesn’t deserve to have to fend off unwanted advances to earn a living.  We didn’t convince each other and eventually moved on.

You may not agree with me that it was harassment and that a bit of the point.  How does a harasser know that they are harassing unless you attempt to explain what action that they themselves took was harassment.  I’m saddened to say that racism will not just die out.  at some point, if the goal is to end racism we will have to convince some racist that racism is wrong.

I am afraid that this may get the biggest reaction in this whole article but to cure a Nickelbacker you are going to have to make them listen to Metallica.

My Election Prediction(s)

I was one state off in my last two election predictions.  This time I’m going to give you three maps to ponder. First is my prediction of what will happen  This is my what I feel will happen but it is not what my gut says.

perdiction

The one state that is the hardest for me to predict is Ohio.  It is the state that will be the last to be called.  But the race will be over much before then.  Early voting and the way the electoral map works is just to much to overcome.

I am not as firm in my convictions as I was last time so here is my Clinton landslide map.

clinton

This I call the conscious/young vote.  It is hard to poll young people and they just won’t break for Trump.  Then you have the people in the voting booth thinking the just can’t vote for the Donald.  Texas I think is closer to turning blue sooner than people think.

Now for the Trump best case scenario.

trump

This is the best I think Trump can do. All I really need to say is that Trump still loses in this scenario.  Trump does 68 electoral votes better that the modest prediction and still loses.  there is no way for Trump to win at this point.

The state to watch for me is Georgia.  The sooner it is called the better for Trump.  If it called when the polls close we are in for a long night.

 

Avast Anti-Customer?

avast-logo1

Quick graphic job. Unlike Avast’s customer service

[Update:  I have heard back from Avast after this post went up.  They have attempted to make this right.  Will do full update after fully resolved]

I went on a twitter rant last night. The target was Avast, an antivirus company.  This is not against their products that I find work if somewhat annoying.

I am coming at this with over 20 years of customer service from driving cab to retail management, to tech support.  I also know that customer service is not easy but it is also vital, especially today, to attempt to do it right.

*Deep sigh* Before I start ripping into you I want to lay out the situation.  We had a little hacking scare.  So I decided to up my protection from Avast from the free to the lower tear paid service.  You charge $49.99/year but always have sales, this one was $19.99/year.  I got charged the $50 plus tax and because a browser issue, probably on my end, I got charged twice.  Two mistakes easily corrected. The double charge is obvious but the deal I expect some push back on but was ready to fight for.

So I call on a Sunday evening and find out that ALL billing questions you must put in a ticket on their website.  Fine… Let me find that on your website… 30 minutes later I am able to find the place to put in a ticket.  I mentioned nicely both problems and waited.

Five days later.  Five business days later…

captureLet me just pause here.  How the hell does it take you more than one business day to respond to somebody’s complaint?!  It’s 2016 not the 1950’s.

And this problem isn’t tricky or nuanced.  Even if it was tricky you send a reply that day saying so and that you are working on it.  I’ve got over $100 tied up for a week waiting for you to correct this crap.  It had actually left my mind during a busy week that you overcharged me and I was waiting for a reply.

Generations of fruit flies lived and died, 1.5 million people have been born in that time. And you can’t get someone read a ticket and say, “Yep he’s right” and respond?

After five days you had better get it right so both of us can move on…

This is the email I got five days after I put in a ticket.

Hello Toby,

Thank you for contacting Avast. May I offer you to combine your licenses together and thus create an extended coverage (merged and combined with the remainder of your old one – therefore ensuring you don’t miss any of the time you have paid for) instead of refund to be initiated, please?
Just let me know.

Best regards,

Andrew

*Deep Breath* NO!  Did you not read both parts of the complaint?  You double charged AND over charged! At the deal value that is still less than one of the payments I made!  You want me to pay $100 for 2 years when I was trying to pay $20 for 1 year?!?!?

On what planet do you think I am from?  This isn’t some new math mistake.  This is complete ignorance of issues that you are responding too.

Also the end of the question in the response  “…instead of refund to be initiated, please?”  Poor grammar and I can tell just by these seven words that Andrew is not at fault.  I’m fairly certain the billing customer service people are judge on money not customer satisfaction.  Andrew probably saw that  he would have to give me more than he is allowed without permission and brought it to his boss who said no refunds or it’s your job.

Avast doesn’t know what they have done.  They better make this right and soon.  I am not going away.  I hope that you don’t take another 5 days to respond to my nice response to your customer “service” response.

You will regret it.