Saturday, August 19, 2017

One more lesson from Charlottesville: Our comedians are more ethical than our president; Salon, August 19, 2017

Sophia A. McClennen, Salon; One more lesson from Charlottesville: Our comedians are more ethical than our president

"This week we have now seen another key feature of satire: It offers ethical responses to unethical actions.
The ethics of satire is often hard to see, especially because comedy can so often be crass and crude...
This is all to say that comedians are unlikely moral leaders. And yet in the Trump era, when literally every value in our nation seems to have been turned upside down, we are now seeing comedians play an increasingly larger role as champions of good versus evil.
This is why as Meyers ended his monologue he directly went after Trump for failing to uphold his moral obligations as president of our nation:
The leader of our country is called the president because he’s supposed to preside over society. His job is to lead, to cajole, to scold, to correct our path, to lift up what is good about us and to absolutely and unequivocally and immediately condemn what is evil in us. And if he does not do that, if he does not preside over our society, then he is not a president. You can stand for a nation or you can stand for a hateful movement. You can’t do both. And if you don’t make the right choice, I am confident that the American voter will.
Meyers wasn’t just scolding Trump for failing at his job; he was also showing his audience what real leadership looks like." 

Friday, August 18, 2017

There is a shriveled emptiness where Trump’s soul once resided; Washington Post, August 17, 2017

Michael Gerson, Washington Post; There is a shriveled emptiness where Trump’s soul once resided

"Every additional day of standing next to Trump — physically and metaphorically — destroys reputation and diminishes moral standing. The rationalizations are no longer credible. But resignation, in contrast, would be a contribution to the common good — showing that principled leadership in service to the Constitution is still possible, even in the age of Trump. When loyalty requires corruption, it is time to leave."

Trump is a cancer on the presidency; Washington Post, August 18, 2017

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post; Trump is a cancer on the presidency

"Trump must be held accountable for his false moral equivalency and his willingness to exalt the treasonous Confederacy at the expense of our union. The “harsh penalty” that escaped him in 2011 must be visited upon him now. People of good conscience must speak up and stay vocal. More Republicans must stand up to him now and do so boldly. They have to put the country before party or some longed-for policy that pales in comparison to the preservation of our ideals. And if Trump succeeds in surviving this unbelievable affront to all we say we are, he will not be to blame. We will."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump again blamed ‘both sides’ in Charlottesville. Here’s how politicians are reacting.; Washington Post, August 16, 2017

Kevin Schaul and Aaron Steckelberg, Washington Post; Trump again blamed ‘both sides’ in Charlottesville. Here’s how politicians are reacting.


"
Tim Scott R

SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR
Aug. 15, 9:43 p.m. 
The moral authority of this nation rests upon clarity of convictions & actions that reinforce our commitment to the greater good for all! My party&our nation must stand united against hate, racism& groups/individuals who want to reject the truth that we are all from one blood.
Kamala Harris D
CALIFORNIA SENATOR
Aug. 15, 4:26 p.m. 
“Many sides” suggests that there is no right side or wrong side, that all are morally equal. But I reject that. It's not hard to spot the wrong side here. They're the ones with the torches and the swastikas.
Marco Rubio R
FLORIDA SENATOR
Aug. 15, 5:27 p.m. 
The organizers of events which inspired & led to #charlottesvilleterroristattack are 100% to blame for a number of reasons [Later tweet:] Mr. President,you can't allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain
Patty Murray D
WASHINGTON SENATOR
Aug. 15, 5:38 p.m. 
There is only one side. White supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis, & hate groups have no place in our country. The President needs to say that.
Paul Ryan R
HOUSE SPEAKER AND WISCONSIN CONGRESSMAN
Aug. 15, 6:01 p.m. 
We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity."

Hundreds mourn for Heather Heyer, killed during Nazi protest in Charlottesville; Washington Post, August 16, 2017

Ellie SilvermanArelis R. Hern├índez and Steve Hendrix, Washington Post; Hundreds mourn for Heather Heyer, killed during Nazi protest in Charlottesville

"“Thank you for making the word ‘hate’ more real,” said her law office coworker Feda Khateeb-Wilson. “But...thank you for making the word ‘love’ even stronger.”

In a packed old theater in the center of the quiet college town that has become a racial battleground, those who knew Heyer turned her memorial into a call for both understanding and action.

“They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” said her mother Susan Bro, sparking a cheering ovation from the packed auditorium, where Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) were among the crowd.

“No father should ever have to do this,” said Mark Heyer, his voice breaking on a stage filled with flowers and images of the 32-year-old paralegal who was killed Saturday when a car plowed into a crowd of protestors gathered to oppose a white supremacist rally."

August Wilson’s Pittsburgh; New York Times, August 15, 2017

John L. Dorman, New York Times; August Wilson’s Pittsburgh

"The stacks of the main Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh soon became Wilson’s new classroom, nurturing his intellectual curiosity. I walked throughout the building, imagining Wilson using the large reading rooms and admiring the architecture. With the words “Free to the People” etched in stone across the entrance, the ornate library, which opened in 1895, complements the nearby 42-story Gothic Revival Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh.

Back in the Hill District, the local Carnegie Library branch has a community room dedicated to Wilson. During my visit it was packed, filled with patrons playing chess. There is that stool salvaged from Eddie’s restaurant, a large map of the Hill District and notably, a high school diploma issued to Wilson by the library.

August Wilson was 60 years old when he died of liver cancer. His memorial service, held at the grand Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland, was followed by a jazz-infused procession through the Hill District.

“When Wynton Marsalis played ‘Danny Boy’ at the service, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Mr. Udin said. “August dealt with death in a manner of dignity, the same way he would have done with any of his characters.”

I always wondered how August Wilson could write about joy and tragedy with such vigor. But then I realized that his use of raw vernacular among African-Americans was rather unprecedented. Not only are Wilson’s poems and plays necessary, but they will continue to be vital in understanding the complexities of the common man."

What I Saw in Charlottesville Could Be Just the Beginning; Politico, August 14, 2017

Brennan Gilmore, Politico; 

What I Saw in Charlottesville Could Be Just the Beginning


"This violence will continue unless we commit universally to condemning and standing against it. I am confident that most of my neighbors in Virginia and the majority of my fellow Americans know that the side marching through my town carrying lit torches and assault weapons, mowing down peaceful anti-racist protesters, and espousing an ideology of hatred and bigotry, is wrong. But it takes more than just knowing. If Americans want the violence to end, we need to actively oppose those who seek to divide us along racial lines and demand that our leaders do the same.

In his book on the neurological bases of the good and bad of human behavior, the biologist Robert Sapolsky emphasizes that it is fundamental human psychology to create an “us” and a “them.” But, he writes, “If we accept that there will always be sides, it’s a non-trivial to-do list item to always be on the side of angels.”

That’s our charge. Whether it is in Bujumbura or Charlottesville, we all must be on the side of the angels."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Conversation With Native Americans on Race; New York Times, August 15, 2017

Michele Stephenson and Brian Young, New York Times; A Conversation With Native Americans on Race

"While there are naturally nuances to everyone’s personal story, we saw a profound universality in their experiences. No matter who you are, if you are Native American, your opinions and experiences are marginalized to the point of invisibility in American society and culture. This project presents an opportunity to express some of the deeper debates that shape the journey shared by many Native Americans to personal liberation."

What did you expect from Trump?; Washington Post, August 15, 2017

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post; What did you expect from Trump?

"We should be clear on several points. First, it is morally reprehensible to serve in this White House, supporting a president so utterly unfit to lead a great country. Second, John F. Kelly has utterly failed as chief of staff; the past two weeks have been the worst of Trump’s presidency, many would agree. He can at this point only serve his country by resigning and warning the country that Trump is a cancer on the presidency, to borrow a phrase. Third, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have no excuses and get no free passes. They are as responsible as anyone by continuing to enable the president. Finally, Trump apologists have run out of excuses and credibility. He was at the time plainly the more objectionable of the two main party candidates; in refusing to recognize that they did the country great harm. They can make amends by denouncing him and withdrawing all support. In short, Trump’s embrace and verbal defense of neo-Nazis and white nationalists should be disqualifying from public service. All true patriots must do their utmost to get him out of the Oval Office as fast as possible."

West Point Cadet, Simone Askew, Breaks a Racial and Gender Barrier; New York Times, August 14, 2017

Emily Cochrane, New York Times; West Point Cadet, Simone Askew, Breaks a Racial and Gender Barrier

"On Monday, more than a decade after her pretend marches in the woods, Cadet Askew, now 20, led the freshmen Army cadets for 12 miles — the first African-American woman to hold the highest student position at the United States Military Academy. As the West Point corps of cadets first captain, the Northern Virginia resident will not only be at the forefront of every academy event, but she will set the class agenda and oversee the roughly 4,400 students.

“You’re selected for this role, that’s not the end of it,” said Cadet Askew, speaking Monday after she had finished overseeing the return of the freshmen cadets from their initial summer of training. “That’s just the starting line, and it’s more so, ‘Hey, what do you do with this role? What are you able to accomplish alongside your teammates?’ And I’m very, very fortunate to be around some awesome people.”

It is a significant step for West Point."

Under Armour and Intel C.E.O.s Follow Merck Chief, Quitting Panel in Rebuke to Trump; New York Times, August 14, 2017

David Gelles and Katie Thomas, New York Times; Under Armour and Intel C.E.O.s Follow Merck Chief, Quitting Panel in Rebuke to Trump

"Though three C.E.O.s had spoken out by the end of the day, for much of it, Mr. Frazier of Merck was the lonely voice of opposition.

On Sunday, Mr. Frazier, the son of a janitor and grandson of a man born into slavery, watched news coverage of white nationalists clashing with counterprotesters in Charlottesville, and of Mr. Trump’s ambiguous response to the violence.

That evening, he informed his board members that he was preparing to resign from Mr. Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, one of several advisory groups the president formed in an effort to forge alliances with big business...

“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” Mr. Frazier wrote. “As C.E.O. of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against extremism.”

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Obama Responds To Charlottesville Violence With A Quote From Nelson Mandela; Huff Post, August 12, 2017

Paige Lavender, Huff Post; Obama Responds To Charlottesville Violence With A Quote From Nelson Mandela

"Former President Barack Obama tweeted a quote from former South African President Nelson Mandela Saturday in an apparent response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia...

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” Obama tweeted.

The quote is from Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Obama’s series of tweets also featured a photo of him greeting children at a day care facility in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2011."

The false equivalency of Trump blaming “many sides” in Charlottesville; Vox, August 12, 2017

German Lopez, Vox; The false equivalency of Trump blaming “many sides” in Charlottesville

"In short, there aren’t multiple morally equivalent sides here. There’s one side — white supremacists — that has long oppressed all other groups of people. Their protests aim to ensure that oppression continues, even if it means using violence. The people counterprotesting, on the other hand, are trying to end that oppression.

So while it’s true that both sides participated in the brawls seen throughout the protests, one side — in a country that supposedly values equality — has the much stronger case by actively working against the hate, bigotry, and violence that the white supremacist side is actively trying to perpetuate.

But Trump won’t acknowledge any of that. Asked to clarify his remarks, a White House official said, “The President was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today.” Trump is deliberately not calling out the white supremacists who led to the unrest in Charlottesville."

Trump babbles in the face of tragedy; Washington Post, August 12, 2017

Michael Gerson, Washington Post; Trump babbles in the face of tragedy

"One of the difficult but primary duties of the modern presidency is to speak for the nation in times of tragedy. A space shuttle explodes. An elementary school is attacked. The twin towers come down in a heap of ash and twisted steel. It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul — grief for the lost, sympathy for the suffering, moral clarity in the midst of confusion, confidence in the unknowable purposes of God.

Not every president does this equally well. But none have been incapable. Until Donald Trump.

Trump’s reaction to events in Charlottesville was alternately trite (“come together as one”), infantile (“very, very sad”) and meaningless (“we want to study it”). “There are so many great things happening in our country,” he said, on a day when racial violence took a life...

By his flat, foolish utterance, Trump proved once again that he has no place in the company of these leaders.

Ultimately this was not merely the failure of rhetoric or context, but of moral judgment. The president could not bring himself initially to directly acknowledge the victims or distinguish between the instigators and the dead. He could not focus on the provocations of the side marching under a Nazi flag. Is this because he did not want to repudiate some of his strongest supporters? This would indicate that Trump views loyalty to himself as mitigation for nearly any crime or prejudice. Or is the president truly convinced of the moral equivalence of the sides in Charlottesville? This is to diagnose an ethical sickness for which there is no cure."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What a presidential president would have said about Charlottesville; Washington Post, August 12, 2017

Editorial Board; Washington Post; What a presidential president would have said about Charlottesville

"HERE IS what President Trump said Saturday about the violence in Charlottesville sparked by a demonstration of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.

Here is what a presidential president would have said:

“The violence Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., is a tragedy and an unacceptable, impermissible assault on American values. It is an assault, specifically, on the ideals we cherish most in a pluralistic democracy — tolerance, peaceable coexistence and diversity.
“The events were triggered by individuals who embrace and extol hatred. Racists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and their sympathizers — these are the extremists who fomented the violence in Charlottesville, and whose views all Americans must condemn and reject.
“To wink at racism or to condone it through silence, or false moral equivalence, or elision, as some do, is no better and no more acceptable than racism itself. Just as we can justly identify radical Islamic terrorism when we see it, and call it out, so can we all see the racists in Charlottesville, and understand that they are anathema in our society, which depends so centrally on mutual respect.
“Under whatever labels and using whatever code words — ‘heritage,’ ‘tradition,’ ‘nationalism’ — the idea that whites or any other ethnic, national or racial group is superior to another is not acceptable. Americans should not excuse, and I as president will not countenance, fringe elements in our society who peddle such anti-American ideas. While they have deep and noxious roots in our history, they must not be given any quarter nor any license today.
“Nor will we accept acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated by such elements. If, as appears to be the case, the vehicle that plowed into the counterprotesters on Saturday in Charlottesville did so intentionally, the driver should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The American system of justice must and will treat a terrorist who is Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or anything else just as it treats a terrorist who is Muslim — just as it treated those who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
“We may all have pressing and legitimate questions about how the violence in Charlottesville unfolded — and whether it could have been prevented. There will be time in coming days to delve further into those matters, and demand answers. In the meantime, I stand ready to provide any and all resources from the federal government to ensure there will be no recurrence of such violence in Virginia or elsewhere. Let us keep the victims of this terrible tragedy in our thoughts and prayers, and keep faith that the values enshrined in our Constitution and laws will prevail against those who would desecrate our democracy.”"

Friday, August 11, 2017

Google canceled companywide meeting over anti-diversity memo after questions leak; Salon, August 11, 2017

Angelo Young, Salon; Google canceled companywide meeting over anti-diversity memo after questions leak

"Google canceled a planned company-wide meeting to discuss a memo questioning the company’s diversity efforts after employees said they feared being exposed to online harassment. The town hall meeting between company higher ups and their employees had been scheduled for Thursday, but Google CEO Sundar Pichai canceled the meeting a half-hour before it was scheduled to start.

The search giant is dealing with the fallout from the 10-page memo written and posted on the company’s internal network by Google software engineer James Damore arguing that women are biologically less suited to be engineers. The company responded by firing Damore on Monday.

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai said in an email sent to Google staff on Thursday. “But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites, Googlers are now being named personally. Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”"

One of Google’s highest-ranking women has answered that controversial memo with a very personal essay; Washington Post, August 9, 2017

Jena McGregor, Washington Post; One of Google’s highest-ranking women has answered that controversial memo with a very personal essay

"Like many Google leaders, Susan Wojcicki probably faced some difficult questions from employees this week about the controversial employee memo that exploded on social media. But the most personal question may have come from her daughter.

In an essay published by Fortune on Wednesday, the chief executive of YouTube, which is owned by Google, wrote that her daughter asked her about the memo, which raised questions about Google's diversity efforts and included statements about gender differences. It was written by a company engineer who was fired earlier this week in its aftermath. “Mom,” her daughter asked her, “is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?”

Before revealing how she answered her daughter, Wojcicki said the question has been “pervasive,” based on her experience. “That question, whether it's been asked outright, whispered quietly, or simply lingered in the back of someone's mind, has weighed heavily on me throughout my career in technology.”"

Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O.; New York Times, August 11, 2017

David Brooks, New York Times; Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O.

"The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses. We all have our theories about why these moral crazes are suddenly so common. I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some people embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground. They feel a rare and comforting sense of moral certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos.

Which brings us to Pichai, the supposed grown-up in the room. He could have wrestled with the tension between population-level research and individual experience. He could have stood up for the free flow of information. Instead he joined the mob. He fired Damore and wrote, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not O.K.”

That is a blatantly dishonest characterization of the memo. Damore wrote nothing like that about his Google colleagues. Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob.

Regardless which weakness applies, this episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position. We are at a moment when mobs on the left and the right ignore evidence and destroy scapegoats. That’s when we need good leaders most."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The First Amendment doesn't guarantee you the rights you think it does; CNN, August 8, 2017

A.J. Willingham, CNN; The First Amendment doesn't guarantee you the rights you think it does

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances

That's it. That's the entirety of our Constitution's First Amendment, the central animus of our American way of life that gets dragged out every time someone's banned from Twitter.
There's a lot going on in those few sentences, and it's important to know when and how it applies to common situations -- and, equally as important, when it doesn't.
Let's look at some common First Amendment arguments; illuminated and debunked by a constitutional expert."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Google has fired the employee behind that controversial diversity manifesto; Washington Post, August 7, 2017

Jena McGregor, Washington Post; Google has fired the employee behind that controversial diversity manifesto

""If you think about the continuum of the workforce, you’ve got one end where people are going to say this person should be fired," Kropp said, while on the other end, there appear to be employees who may agree with his remarks. "Whatever Google decides to do, they're going to be potentially disappointing somebody along one of those groups or making them angry."

The company’s new vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown, who started at the company just weeks ago, had put out a statement in recent days expressing her disagreement with the essay, as did other executives. Brown wrote in an internal response that "like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender," and that "we are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company."

Ari Balogh, vice president of engineering at Google, wrote in a statement that "sharing different perspectives is an important part of our culture," but "one of the aspects of the post that troubled me deeply was the bias inherent in suggesting that most women, or men, feel or act a certain way. That is stereotyping, and it is harmful.""

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Google engineer wrote that women may be unsuited for tech jobs. Women wrote back.; Washington Post, August 6, 2017

Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Washington Post; A Google engineer wrote that women may be unsuited for tech jobs. Women wrote back.

"In a screed that rocketed around Silicon Valley this weekend, a software engineer at Google blasted the company's efforts to increase the number of minorities and women in its ranks and leadership positions.

The essay, reported by Motherboard and posted by Gizmodo, was posted on an internal Google forum by a male software engineer and titled “Google's Ideological Echo Chamber.”

The author has not been publicly identified, but his words have sparked a backlash. Critics say his sentiments reflect a tech company culture that's unwelcoming or even hostile to women and minorities. Another fear: The engineer's words reflect the unspoken thoughts of many others in an industry dominated by white men."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

‘We can change the meaning’: Trademarks filed for n-word after Supreme Court decision; Washington Post, August 1, 2017

Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post; ‘We can change the meaning’: Trademarks filed for n-word after Supreme Court decision

"Gene Quinn, founder of the intellectual property blog IP Watchdog, said trademarking epithets to limit their use was a “laudable purpose,” but difficult to achieve.

To be maintained, trademarks must be used in interstate commerce, he said, and are awarded in different classes, such as clothing, food or video games. Anyone trying to erase these words from the marketplace would simultaneously need to put them into the marketplace."

The Trump administration is waging war on diversity; Vox, August 4, 2017

Dara Lind, Vox; The Trump administration is waging war on diversity

"Back when diversity was a settled question — at least in public — it was assumed that any politician (or company, or celebrity) would want people of different races, religions, and abilities highly placed at public events and featured in promotional campaigns. It was assumed that the president would do anodyne photo-ops like hosting a Ramadan break-fast — things that would both remind Muslims in the US that America agreed they were Americans, and remind non-Muslims that someone can be American while observing religious holidays and eating traditional foods. There was an interest in treating everyone as, if not yet fully American, Americanizable — and an awareness that maybe it would be America that would change to meet them, as much as the other way around.

There was an interest in portraying, and treating, no one as unassimilable. Trump has given those who worried immigrants might not integrate a voice — a powerful one.

The distinction between assimilation and integration — between the vision of America as a melting pot and America as a salad, to use the standard metaphors — might seem like nothing more than a difference of degree: how much someone should have to change to become American once arriving here.

But it’s really a question of how diverse a country can be without breaking."