Commencement

Last night our son graduated from Minneapolis South High School. We are incredibly proud of him, and also greatly appreciate the experience he was able to have going to a racially and socio-economically diverse school. Here’s the amazing commencement speech delivered via pre-recorded video last night (most of the speaking was pre-recorded, because it wasn’t clear until fairly recently that an in-person ceremony was going to be possible), given by 1999 South High alumna Junauda Petrus-Nasah.

South is a place with great academic and arts opportunities, and the faculty and staff are deeply committed to empowering students to make their voices heard in the world. It’s also a place where one can’t look away from the stark divides in opportunity between students of different races and economic backgrounds, and where there is still a long way to go towards equity.

South is less than a mile from where George Floyd was murdered last year, and just a couple of blocks from the police precinct that burned in the days after. It’s a majority non-white school, and I feel like it’s a place where real change can be fostered, where we don’t shy away from the challenges our society faces.
Anyway, don’t listen to me. Watch the video. It’s excellent.

Memory holed

I originally posted this on Facebook, but for what should be obvious reasons, I think it’s worth reposting here.


John Gruber, today: Bing Censors Image Search for ‘Tank Man’, Even in U.S.

Interesting that Gruber mentions 1984‘s “memory holes” here. I think I’ve been affected by 1984 more than any other book I’ve read, and I re-read it at least once a decade.

Something I didn’t grasp when I read it back in high school: the long-term effects of the memory hole. I distinctly remember Tiananmen Square in 1989. I remember where I was when the news came on — my maternal grandparents’ house. You can “memory hole” something like that without ever erasing it from my memory, or countless others of us who experienced it first-hand.

But what of later generations? What do my kids know of events like this? And if actions are being taken to restrict access to information about events that people don’t remember first-hand, eventually it might as well have never happened. It’s been successfully memory-holed.

Please place this in your mind beside the link I shared yesterday, about bills being considered in many states (including Wisconsin) that will make it illegal to teach critical race theory. When I read that yesterday I thought about another element of 1984: Newspeak. The government was systematically re-engineering the English language to remove words it deemed problematic. As in, the kinds that could undermine its absolute authority.

The only thing Orwell got wrong was the year.

A Bernie cutout done right

This meme is already dead, but I needed a decent version of the Bernie cutout for something I’m working on, and every one I’ve come across so far is really sloppily done. Too much reliance on the magic wand tool; not enough attention to the finer details. Granted, the flyaway hair on top of his head is almost impossible to deal with, but I’ve seen some of these that cut off the bottom of his shoe or are missing part of the crossbar on the bottom of the chair. Come on, people!

So, I went out and found the highest-resolution version of the original photo I could, and I did my own cutout — entirely by hand, the way it needs to be done if you want it done right.

I’ve saved it as a PNG so it has a transparent background. Feel free to take this and use it as you see fit!

Bernie cutout

Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski.

A brief musing on Twitter FINALLY permanently suspending Donald Trump’s account after his attempted coup, when they might have saved untold damage to our country and the world by doing it in 2015, before he even formally announced his candidacy, but had already violated their terms of use to the extent that warranted a permanent ban

There are some interesting questions to explore now regarding what exactly Twitter does with the data from suspended accounts, as well as tweets users have deleted. As a user, when you delete something, you want to believe they’re really deleting it from their systems (which I doubt is the case), but I think definitely there can be legal ramifications if a tweet causes a crime to be committed and the user subsequently deletes it. The tweet may be essential evidence in the legal case against them.

Trump’s entire “body of work” on Twitter is, sadly, an important part of the public record and may need to be archived as part of presidential records (though he always used his personal account, not the official POTUS account). And they may be necessary as legal evidence against him in an impeachment trial or post-presidency legal cases.

Remember how when Obama was president, not only was he rarely allowed to post directly on social media, he wasn’t even allowed to have an iPhone? He had to have a specially secured BlackBerry. What the hell happened to that presidential accountability??!!


Originally posted to Facebook, but I want this to actually live somewhere semi-permanent for myself, not just in Mark Zuckerberg’s database.

Why Capitalism Is Stupid: A Case Study

Note that I didn’t say bad, or evil, but stupid.

Before we go any further, let me state that I have never studied economics, and I’ve only taken one intro-level philosophy class. The topics I’m bringing up here are steeped in both, and I know I’m out of my element.

Capitalism has, as a core principle, a belief that competition drives innovation and growth, which helps a society to thrive; whether its helping society to thrive is intentional or just a consequence is debatable. And in practice capitalism is just as susceptible to corruption as communism — both fail as a result of the boundless greed of the powerful. But for the moment let’s not dwell on the big picture… let’s just look at one example of how capitalism can be… well, stupid.

I live in Minneapolis, a large city of 425,000. Along with St. Paul (pop. 310,000) it is the core of a metro area of 3.6 million. Like all large cities, Minneapolis is divided into a number of distinct communities. The community I live in is called Longfellow, and combined with neighboring Nokomis, the immediate area has a population of around 65,000 people.

Unlike many other parts of the city, Longfellow-Nokomis has always resisted the heavy encroachment of large chain businesses. Of course we have a Target, a scattering of McDonald’s and Subway locations, etc. But for the most part, the businesses here are small and local.

In fact, in an area comprising about 13 square miles, home to 15% of the entire city’s population, there is only one Caribou Coffee, and until recently, zero Starbucks (not counting the one inside the Target… which is a capitalism story for another blog post). Of course we have dozens of local independent coffee houses, but only one each of the two big chains.

And they’re right across the street from each other.

How does it benefit the citizens of the community to have a Caribou and a Starbucks within sight of each other, when the vast majority of residents of the area don’t live within walking distance of either one? Who does a decision like this really serve? How does this help society to thrive?

What we’re looking at here is not a failure of capitalism in principle, but an example of how it fails in practice, as power is consolidated in the hands of a few greedy, powerful corporations.

I’m sure this is the point where a (21st century) Republican dutifully says, “But how can a corporation be greedy? Greed is a human emotion, and corporations are businesses, not people.” Oh right, corporations are only people when it comes to exercising their right to free speech. (And political money equals speech.) I’m sure few, if any, of the individuals within these corporations are ruthlessly greedy. But they don’t need to be. The system is built on a principle whose logical consequence is that increasing profits outweighs any other considerations. That could be defined as greed.

One could argue that Caribou and Starbucks have grown to that tipping point in capitalism where they are no longer focused on competition through innovation, but on stifling competition through consolidation of power. Nothing better exemplifies to me capitalism’s absurd failure than a business opening its first location in a large, heavily populated area within feet of its rival.

Sadly, I’m sure these corporations did extensive research and determined that the best location in Longfellow-Nokomis for a major chain coffee house was right at this spot, even if there was already another one right there. And I bet both will do booming business, because… honestly? Most of us just don’t question it.

Now get in the car. I want some coffee.