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Trump just fired FBI director James Comey

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Trump fired FBI director James Comey today, effective immediately.

From NYT:

President Trump has dismissed the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said Tuesday.

ABC News:

President Trump has previously been critical of Comey, suggesting that his actions helped Hillary Clinton during the campaign, while Clinton blamed Comey and his late announcement about the FBI's investigation into her email server contributed to her electoral college loss.

Image: Brookings Institution

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mxm23
12 days ago
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To be hired by a Trump front company for quadruple his FBI salary.
San Rafael, CA
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Uber President Jeff Jones Is Quitting, Citing Differences Over ‘Beliefs and Approach to Leadership’

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Kara Swisher and Johana Bhuiyan, reporting for Recode:

Jeff Jones, the president of Uber, is quitting the car-hailing company after less than a year. The move by the No. 2 exec, said sources, is directly related to the multiple controversies there, including explosive charges of sexism and sexual harassment.

So was Uber’s toxic culture a surprise to Jones? Or was it even worse than what he was braced for?

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mxm23
50 days ago
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Or is he the scapegoat?
San Rafael, CA
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Can you get a 25/25 on this advanced grammar test?

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I got 25/25. “You must be an English scholar because only 4% of Americans can get a perfect score on this test.”

∞ Read this on The Loop

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mxm23
78 days ago
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Guess what Doofus? I took it twice, once trying to get the right answers and one getting them wrong deliberately, and I got 25/25 both times. Rigged.
San Rafael, CA
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Failing to See, Fueling Hatred.

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I was 19 years old when a some configuration of anonymous people came after me. They got access to my email and shared some of the most sensitive messages on an anonymous forum. This was after some of my girl friends received anonymous voice messages describing how they would be raped. And after the black and Latinx high school students I was mentoring were subject to targeted racist messages whenever they logged into the computer cluster we were all using. I was ostracized for raising all of this to the computer science department’s administration. A year later, when I applied for an internship at Sun Microsystems, an alum known for his connection to the anonymous server that was used actually said to me, “I thought that they managed to force you out of CS by now.”

Needless to say, this experience hurt like hell. But in trying to process it, I became obsessed not with my own feelings but with the logics that underpinned why some individual or group of white male students privileged enough to be at Brown University would do this. (In investigations, the abusers were narrowed down to a small group of white men in the department but it was never going to be clear who exactly did it and so I chose not to pursue the case even though law enforcement wanted me to.)

My first breakthrough came when I started studying bullying, when I started reading studies about why punitive approaches to meanness and cruelty backfire. It’s so easy to hate those who are hateful, so hard to be empathetic to where they’re coming from. This made me double down on an ethnographic mindset that requires that you step away from your assumptions and try to understand the perspective of people who think and act differently than you do. I’m realizing more and more how desperately this perspective is needed as I watch researchers and advocates, politicians and everyday people judge others from their vantage point without taking a moment to understand why a particular logic might unfold.

The Local Nature of Wealth

A few days ago, my networks were on fire with condescending comments referencing an article in The Guardian titled “Scraping by on six figures? Tech workers feel poor in Silicon Valley’s wealth bubble.” I watched as all sorts of reasonably educated, modestly but sustainably paid people mocked tech folks for expressing frustration about how their well-paid jobs did not allow them to have the sustainable lifestyle that they wanted. For most, Silicon Valley is at a distance, a far off land of imagination brought to you by the likes of David Fincher and HBO. Progressive values demand empathy for the poor and this often manifests as hatred for the rich. But what’s missing from this mindset is an understanding of the local perception of wealth, poverty, and status. And, more importantly, the political consequences of that local perception.

Think about it this way. I live in NYC where the median household income is somewhere around $55K. My network primarily makes above the median and yet they all complain that they don’t have enough money to achieve what they want in NYC, whether they’re making $55K, $70K, or $150K. Complaining about being not having enough money is ritualized alongside complaining about the rents. No one I know really groks that they’re making above the median income for the city (and, thus, that most people are much poorer than they are), let alone how absurd their complaints might sound to someone from a poorer country where a median income might be $1500 (e.g., India).

The reason for this is not simply that people living in NYC are spoiled, but that people’s understanding of prosperity is shaped by what they see around them. Historically, this has been understood through word-of-mouth and status markers. In modern times, those status markers are often connected to conspicuous consumption. “How could HE afford a new pair of Nikes!?!?”

The dynamics of comparison are made trickier by media. Even before yellow journalism, there has always been some version of Page Six or “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Stories of gluttonous and extravagant behaviors abound in ancient literature. Today, with Instagram and reality TV, the idea of haves and havenots is pervasive, shaping cultural ideas of privilege and suffering. Everyday people perform for the camera and read each other’s performances critically. And still, even as we watch rich people suffer depression or celebrities experience mental breakdowns, we don’t know how to walk in each other’s shoes. We collectively mock them for their privilege as a way to feel better for our own comparative struggles.

In other words, in a neoliberal society, we consistently compare ourselves to others in ways that make us feel as though we are less well off than we’d like. And we mock others who are more privileged who do the same. (And, horribly, we often blame others who are not for making bad decisions.)

The Messiness of Privilege

I grew up with identity politics, striving to make sense of intersectional politics and confused about what it meant to face oppression as a woman and privilege as a white person. I now live in a world of tech wealth while my family does not. I live with contradictions and I work on issues that make those contradictions visible to me on a regular basis. These days, I am surrounded by civil rights advocates and activists of all stripes. Folks who remind me to take my privilege seriously. And still, I struggle to be a good ally, to respond effectively to challenges to my actions. Because of my politics and ideals, I wake up each day determined to do better.

Yet, with my ethnographer’s hat on, I’m increasingly uncomfortable with how this dynamic is playing out. Not for me personally, but for affecting change. I’m nervous that the way that privilege is being framed and politicized is doing damage to progressive goals and ideals. In listening to white men who see themselves as “betas” or identify as NEETs (“Not in Education, Employment, or Training”) describe their hatred of feminists or social justice warriors, I hear the cost of this frame. They don’t see themselves as empowered or privileged and they rally against these frames. And they respond antagonistically in ways that further the divide, as progressives feel justified in calling them out as racist and misogynist. Hatred emerges on both sides and the disconnect produces condescension as everyone fails to hear where each other comes from, each holding onto their worldview that they are the disenfranchised, they are the oppressed. Power and wealth become othered and agency becomes understood through the lens of challenging what each believes to be the status quo.

It took me years to understand that the boys who tormented me in college didn’t feel powerful, didn’t see their antagonism as oppression. I was even louder and more brash back then than I am now. I walked into any given room performing confidence in ways that completely obscured my insecurities. I took up space, used my sexuality as a tool, and demanded attention. These were the survival skills that I had learned to harness as a ticket out. And these are the very same skills that have allowed me to succeed professionally and get access to tremendous privilege. I have paid a price for some of the games that I have played, but I can’t deny that I’ve gained a lot in the process. I have also come to understand that my survival strategies were completely infuriating to many geeky white boys that I encountered in tech. Many guys saw me as getting ahead because I was a token woman. I was accused of sleeping my way to the top on plenty of occasions. I wasn’t simply seen as an alpha — I was seen as the kind of girl that screwed boys over. And because I was working on diversity and inclusion projects in computer science to attract more women and minorities as the field, I was seen as being the architect of excluding white men. For so many geeky guys I met, CS was the place where they felt powerful and I stood for taking that away. I represented an oppressor to them even though I felt like it was they who were oppressing me.

Privilege is complicated. There is no static hierarchical structure of oppression. Intersectionality provides one tool for grappling with the interplay between different identity politics, but there’s no narrative for why beta white male geeks might feel excluded from these frames. There’s no framework for why white Christians might feel oppressed by rights-oriented activists. When we think about privilege, we talk about the historical nature of oppression, but we don’t account for the ways in which people’s experiences of privilege are local. We don’t account for the confounding nature of perception, except to argue that people need to wake up.

Grappling with Perception

We live in a complex interwoven society. In some ways, that’s intentional. After WWII, many politicians and activists wanted to make the world more interdependent, to enable globalization to prevent another world war. The stark reality is that we all depend on social, economic, and technical infrastructures that we can’t see and don’t appreciate. Sure, we can talk about how our food is affordable because we’re dependent on underpaid undocumented labor. We can take our medicine for granted because we fail to appreciate all of the regulatory processes that go into making sure that what we consume is safe. But we take lots of things for granted; it’s the only way to move through the day without constantly panicking about whether or not the building we’re in will collapse.

Without understanding the complex interplay of things, it’s hard not to feel resentful about certain things that we do see. But at the same time, it’s not possible to hold onto the complexity. I can appreciate why individuals are indignant when they feel as though they pay taxes for that money to be given away to foreigners through foreign aid and immigration programs. These people feel like they’re struggling, feel like they’re working hard, feel like they’re facing injustice. Still, it makes sense to me that people’s sense of prosperity is only as good as their feeling that they’re getting ahead. And when you’ve been earning $40/hour doing union work only to lose that job and feel like the only other option is a $25/hr job, the feeling is bad, no matter that this is more than most people make. There’s a reason that Silicon Valley engineers feel as though they’re struggling and it’s not because they’re comparing themselves to everyone in the world. It’s because the standard of living keeps dropping in front of them. It’s all relative.

It’s easy to say “tough shit” or “boo hoo hoo” or to point out that most people have it much worse. And, at some levels, this is true. But if we don’t account for how people feel, we’re not going to achieve a more just world — we’re going to stoke the fires of a new cultural war as society becomes increasingly polarized.

The disconnect between statistical data and perception is astounding. I can’t help but shake my head when I listen to folks talk about how life is better today than it ever has been in history. They point to increased lifespan, new types of medicine, decline in infant mortality, and decline in poverty around the world. And they shake their heads in dismay about how people don’t seem to get it, don’t seem to get that today is better than yesterday. But perception isn’t about statistics. It’s about a feeling of security, a confidence in one’s ecosystem, a belief that through personal effort and God’s will, each day will be better than the last. That’s not where the vast majority of people are at right now. To the contrary, they’re feeling massively insecure, as though their world is very precarious.

I am deeply concerned that the people whose values and ideals I share are achieving solidarity through righteous rhetoric that also produces condescending and antagonistic norms. I don’t fully understand my discomfort, but I’m scared that what I’m seeing around me is making things worse. And so I went back to some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches for a bit of inspiration today and I started reflecting on his words. Let me leave this reflection with this quote:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image from Flickr: Andy Doyle

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mxm23
78 days ago
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Interesting and thoughtful essay.
San Rafael, CA
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The American Formula

AVC
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It’s that time of year when investors (including me) spend the morning reading Warren Buffett’s annul shareholder letter.

There are always nuggets of wisdom and insight in these letters and I enjoy them very much.

In this year’s letter, Warren spells out the formula that America has used to build the greatest economy in the world.

Sadly one of those four pillars is at risk – “a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants.”

We can’t allow that to happen. There is too much to lose by turning off that tide.

Thanks to AVC reader Abid Azam for sending me that quote this morning.

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mxm23
84 days ago
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Another one at risk is The Rule of Law.
San Rafael, CA
mwclarkson
84 days ago
I was about to say... Rule of Law seems endangered, and given the right's hatred of science, Human Ingenuity might be at risk.
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“Donald Trump is the literal opposite of Fred Rogers.”

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nerdy-south:

foulmouthedliberty:

khillmatic:

I posted that earlier to my facebook feed, and I’ll be honest…  When I did it I was kind of hoping it would encourage my friend who studied the life of Fred Rogers extensively to chime in because I knew he would have something pertinent to say.  I was not wrong.  

image

“Fred Rogers had such a huge problem with both Regan (who he programmed his show against) and Bush Jr. (The latter of which is much more complicated as they had a relationship that tested Fred’s boundaries.) that I can’t say “I can’t imagine how Fred would react” I know how Fred would react based on his interactions with the lesser evils of Reagan and Bush:

1. Had he not been retired, he would have themed weeks specifically against what Trump was putting in the news cycle. When Trump mocked a disabled reporter he’d have a week on disability and inclusion, when Trump promoted sexual assault, he’d program a week on respect and physical boundaries, when he bad mouthed women he’d have strong women on for a week. Fred would have travelled to do a week on Mexico and he would have moved in an Islamic neighbor.

I know this for a fact because these are the actions he took with Regan both with his “conflict weeks” and his traveling to Russia for remotes during the Cold War.

2. Fred would have attended events Trump invited him to but he would do so on his terms. He would participate in these events as well as long as it was on his terms. Because Fred would rather speak truth into those spaces then avoid them. But Fred would not accuse, he would just bear truth, refuse to be seen as supporting an evil and exit.

This is what he did to respond to the love the Bush family had for him and his work. He even offered prayer at one of their fundraisers: but it was a challenging prayer, one insisting that those in power and privilege use that for the least of these and especially children. After delivering that prayer Fred exited the building and sat outside like a kid after soccer practice waiting for his ride, spurning the thousands of dollars a plate dinner not even gladhanding with the bushes after.

When asked why he said he had reached the limit of what he could do before becoming an accuser. He wanted to challenge but never accuse as accusation was what Fred associated with the devil.

3. Fred would accept invitations to news programs when those programs allowed him to educate parents on countering the negative things coming from the president for their children. He knew those things affected children so he wanted to spread tools on helping them reject war, violence, hatred, oppression and racism.

He did this during any presidents term if it didn’t prevent him from meeting an obligation to children (he once turned down a spot on Nightline to talk about violence and children, one of his main causes, because he had a visit to an elementary school that same morning and knew he wouldn’t be mentally present for it if he was planning for Nightline in the afternoon.)

So we need to be like Fred. Getting in between children and any normalization of Trumps ways or words. Fred would have been diligently working on how to handle Trump in the land of make believe. Just like when King Friday started building nuclear bombs with money he promised to schools. Yeah Fred wasn’t subtle.” - Rev. Kevin Ireland

So much love for the people who share my love for Mr. Rogers, an actual saint among us for as long as we were blessed to have him.

I don’t believe in angels but I do believe in Fred Rogers.

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mxm23
92 days ago
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Such a valuable story of acting on principal
San Rafael, CA
popular
112 days ago
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mwclarkson
114 days ago
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Providence RI USA
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3 public comments
smadin
112 days ago
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I sure miss Fred Rogers.
Boston
skittone
112 days ago
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WWFRD?
adamcole
113 days ago
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"I don’t believe in angels but I do believe in Fred Rogers."
Philadelphia, PA, USA
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