Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone

July 5th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

A great article in The New York Times about how Obama spends his evenings. A night owl he stays up late working alone or watching sports getting around 5-6 hours of sleep each night. I love these humanizing stories about the greatest president of our time but as someone that has had to make a lot of decisions in the past few years this part struck a cord with me.

There is time, too, for fantasy about what life would be like outside the White House. Mr. Emanuel, who is now the mayor of Chicago but remains close to the president, said he and Mr. Obama once imagined moving to Hawaii to open a T-shirt shack that sold only one size (medium) and one color (white). Their dream was that they would no longer have to make decisions.

During difficult White House meetings when no good decision seemed possible, Mr. Emanuel would sometimes turn to Mr. Obama and say, “White.” Mr. Obama would in turn say, “Medium.”

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Is ‘SimCity’ Homelessness a Bug or a Feature?

January 16th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

The players of the latest SimCity are running into a very challenging and ultimately existential problem; homelessness is proving very difficult to eradicate.

For Bittanti, it’s impossible not to see the connections between the homeless problem in the Bay Area and the way it’s portrayed in SimCity.

“That is, can we fix homelessness in SimCity, or because we haven’t fixed homelessness as a problem in real life, therefore we are bound to lose?” Bittanti asked. “Is SimCity a reflection of what’s happening in reality, and therefore is very realistic, or is it a programming issue?”

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December 30th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Dear NYPD,

Whether they hide behind a hashtag or badge we share a common enemy in those that would use violence to solve problems. To end this cycle and reestablish trust we need institutional reform on many different levels of our society; but know this, the status quo will not stand.


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Race/Sex-ism: what’s a guy to do?

August 7th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

I’ve often heard (white) men bemoan their feeling of helplessness in the current battle over white male privilege. Wading into the debate is often met with anger on both sides as “bros” call us libtards and activists point out everything we are doing wrong. I understand the urge to stand up and say something. When a (hopefully) minority segment of your demographic gets an outsized portion of the spotlight it makes the rest of us look bad. When a feminists says “why do all men believe they have the right to comment on our beauty” or a black woman says “why do all white people dismiss me as an angry black woman” my first thought is “hey, that’s sexist/racist, I’m not like that”.

Then I remember that I should just shut the fuck up and take my lumps. It’s been true for thousands of years, they get to have some moral indignation.

While I have a responsibility to do my part in this war on privilege it is not as a vocal leader. That role is reserved for those without privilege. Freedom has to be taken by those who deserve it, not given by those who have withheld it (see also: war on terrorism). My job is to be support the activists in the places where they aren’t able to be heard. In those moments where it’s “just the guys” and we feel like we can really let it all out. Call out the joke as racist; point out when someone objectifies an attractive woman; ask why the resume from Kim didn’t even get a second glance; stop saying “that’s gay”. Most of all, raise your children to respect people of all genders, colors and sexual orientations. There are lots of fucktards out there but it has nothing to do what’s between their legs and everything to do with their fucktard parents.

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Executions should be by firing squad, federal appeals court judge says

July 24th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

U.S. 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on the use of lethal injection to kill inmates as reported by the LA Times:

“Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments,” U.S. 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in a dissent in the Arizona death penalty case of Joseph Rudolph Wood III.

“But executions are, in fact, brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should we. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”

To my mind your support of the death penalty should hinge on one question; how many innocent people is it ok to kill in the name of justice? For me that answer is zero but those that disagree should not be able to mask the brutality of state sanctioned murder behind the euphemism of lethal injection.

Again Judge Kozinski:

I personally think we should go to the guillotine, but shooting is probably the right way to go.

(source: The excellent Next Draft newsletter)

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America and Iraq: Un-disentanglement

June 16th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Great article from The Economist talking about the various options that America has to combat the rise of ISIS in Iraq.

It is much easier and less risky for America to aid the Iraqi government as part of an anti-ISIS coalition with Turkey and Iran than to do so in the guise of Iraq’s leading patron or ISIS’s archenemy. And a limited programme of military aid might be enough to ward off Republican attacks that the administration is doing nothing about ISIS; critics will be hard pressed to explain to a war-weary public why America should be doing even more to reinsert itself into Sunni-Shiite bloodshed in Iraq. This, in fact, appears to be the policy the Obama administration has selected.

Whatever policy emerges on dealing with ISIS, it’s clear that America’s long-term strategy for the Middle East has to be oriented towards letting local powers settle the geopolitical balance themselves. Iran, Turkey, and other regional players will have to take the lead in backing the Iraqi government and combating ISIS, because America lacks the expertise, the political will, and ultimately the capacity to do that job.

I couldn’t agree more with the The Economists analysis of our long-term strategy.

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The founding fathers would approve this remix

March 13th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

– Henry David Thoreau

Rootstrikers TED Talk remix from Jordan Harrison on Vimeo.

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Intellectual Property Rights at Work

August 19th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Marvin Gaye’s family claims that “Blurred Lines“is too similar to Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” and is attempting to extort money from Robin Thicke. In a bold move Mr. Thicke has filed a preemptive lawsuit in the hopes that the court will rule in his favor. Take a listen for yourself:

Marvin Gaye:

Robin Thicke:

While one cannot deny that there is a similarity they are clearly different songs. Robin Thicke was almost certainly influenced by the original work but that does not give the Mr. Gaye’s heirs the right exert control over the derivative work. Whether you think this is an isolated case of fair use or you believe, as I do, that Everything is a Remix I don’t see how one can argue that Mr. Thicke owes anything but appreciation. Even if you don’t care for the song surely society is better off when artists can create new material without having to worry about being sued.

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Your fear is violating my civil rights

June 7th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Three months ago the TSA announced they were going to start allowing small knives back on airplanes. As someone who has lost two key chain knives to the TSA I was thrilled. As someone who has long hated the security theater that the agency provides I was honestly dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe that someone actually had the balls to rollback one of the many stupid rules that give us a false sense of security. My joy was short-lived. Faced with pressure from flight attendants and legislators the TSA re-banned small knives. *Facepalm*

I understand why though. Who is going to remember the person that makes our lives easier by paring back security? Who is going to be crucified the first time a flight attendant gets cut by some drunk asshole? The political calculus is simple and it’s depressing. Enter the NSA’s PRISM project. In news that surprised nobody it turns out the NSA is keeping track of who we are calling. And by “we” I mean every man, woman and child in the country and then some to be sure. The lack of surprise makes it all the more appalling.

So who do we blame? We can’t really blame Obama because he simply did the same thing that any other viable presidential candidate would have done. At least he got a warrant.

Blaming the Obama Administration for permitting the NSA to request this type of information is like blaming a dog for eating the steak you left on the counter while you were at work. Maybe the perfect dog wouldn’t do that. Maybe. You really should have seen that one coming.

The PATRIOT Act is a tool often used to violate our civil liberties but you can’t really blame the tool. In reality it’s our own irrational fear of terrorism that has brought us here. When three people die in a bombing we call it a national tragedy and congress launches hearings to find out how on earth we failed to stop two morons from building a bomb out of fireworks. Spoiler alert, it’s impossible. If we can’t even figure out how to stop our kids from shooting each other in school, how the hell are we going to stop the Tsarnaev brothers?

When nineteen fundamentalists with box cutters can paralyzed our country with fear something is wrong. The 9/11 terrorists killed 3,000 people and we started two wars, killed hundreds of thousands, spent trillions of dollars, created a giant government agency and made air travel a living hell. Yet 30,000 Americans are killed by gunfire at home every year and it’s par for the course. Something is wrong.

Inner demons

There is an adage that I try to live my life by when it comes to fear.

If it makes the evening news, you probably don’t have to worry about it.

Namely if something happens that is interesting enough to garner national news coverage then it is almost certainly a rare and isolated occurrence. If we can, as a society, accept this reality then I believe we will be able to start making meaningful change. We can make the world safer for our children but we aren’t going to do it by confiscating bottles of water and collecting massive amounts of private data.

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The White House Takes Aim at Patent Trolls

June 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Some great news from the EFF regarding the ongoing battle against patent trolls. The White House has waded into the fight with some legislative ideas as well as five executive actions. Julie Samuels sums them up for the EFF:

  • Tighten functional claiming: requiring patent applicants to explain their inventions better and to limit those inventions to a specific way of accomplishing a task, as opposed to all ways of accomplishing a task. This is an important (and obvious) fix that should help stem the tide of overbroad software patents and increase patent quality.
  • Fix transparency: requiring patent owners to update records at the Patent Office with the patent’s real owner. Taking away secrecy takes away one of the patent troll’s favorite weapons.
  • Empower downstream users: ending the abuse associated with targeting end users, such as small businesses, startups, and even individuals who find themselves facing lawsuit threats and licensing demands for simply using everyday products. As the White House puts it: “End-users should not be subject to lawsuits for simply using a product as intended, and need an easier way to know their rights before entering into costly litigation or settlement.” We couldn’t agree more.
  • Expand dedicated outreach and study: working with members of the community, including third-party stakeholders, to address flaws in the system. This would include increasing scholarly programs at the Patent Office, something that if done right could have a direct positive effect on patent quality by bringing in big thinkers to address systemic problems at that office.
  • Strengthen enforcement of exclusion orders: streamlining procedures for imported goods that are found to infringe U.S. patents.

This sounds like a great stop gap while we debate the merits of software patents1. These things take time after all.

  1. or patents in general for that matter []
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