Oh Great, Another Slogan: Buy American, Hire American.

Noel McKay, left, a program manager and Karen Latina, right, a biotech consultant, hold up signs during a Tech Stands Up rally on Pi Day, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, outside City Hall in Palo Alto, Calif. Subcontracted tech service workers and direct tech employees rallied together to call on their companies and CEOs to stand with their workers against injustice and hate. CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Risberg.

As a conservative columnist recently pointed out, the Tiny Tyrant is acting the full lame duck by concentrating on Executive Orders very early on. This is usually not seen until much later, usually when congress is busy blocking a president. The Tiny Tyrant has also turned to “foreign policy” in attempt to overshadow investigations and come across as doing something. The latest EO was announced in Wisconsin, at the expense of the Paris Climate Accord meeting. Now we have “Buy American, Hire American”, which, as Jake Tapper pointed out, is the height of hypocrisy when it comes to Trump’s own business dealings, which depend greatly on immigrant workers and the H-1B visa program. Of course, I’m sure he’ll declare all his little cash cows to be exempt. Contrary to the Tiny Tyrant’s constant vow of jobs and greatness and all that other crap, every move he has made so far is damn near custom-tailored to crash the economy, and this move will accelerate that considerably, if congress can be swayed to enforce it. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen.

The “Buy American, Hire American” executive order emphasizes enforcement of “Buy American laws” that will encourage government agencies and Americans to buy and hire American. The main thrust of the order calls on cabinet secretaries to implement administrative changes and produce reports that identify potential abuses of the H-1B visa program, which awarded 85,000 work visas this year to foreign knowledge workers through a lottery system, and look for ways the government can only award contracts to American business owners.

Regarding immigration, the order doesn’t address the administration’s main criticisms of the H-1B program, such as exploitatively low pay and replacing the lottery system to guarantee recipients are the best candidates for the positions. It also carries little weight on its own.

“It doesn’t do anything,” said William Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) in Philadelphia. That’s because the changes Trump campaigned on need to be approved by Congress.

[…]

The policy proposal sent a chill through the tech industry, which heavily depends on H-1B workers to fill out full-time and contract positions. That tension intensified earlier this year, after Trump signed his first executive order restricting entry of immigrants from or traveling from several Muslim-majority countries and companies such as Google required resident employees abroad to immediately return to the U.S.

The White House’s tenuous relationship with Silicon Valley was strained further as Trump’s policies homed in on issues central to the tech industry’s ethos and economic health. And with cracking down on H-1B visas in his sights, there’s concern Trump could hurt the economy he’s trying to help.

 […]

Besides a potential congressional hurdle, there could still be economic consequences to Trump’s desired changes, especially when it comes to funding existing programs and trade.

For example, further restricting H-1B visas could actually result in taking jobs away from American workers by encouraging companies to relocate, Stock said. That would create more jobs in places like Ireland, India (which is currently the biggest recipient of H-1B visas), China, and countries in South America, where there are growing IT workforces.

“If the workers can’t come here, then companies are going to have to go where the workforce is,” Stock said. “The unintended consequences are going to outweigh what he was trying to achieve.”

[…]

Restricting H-1B visas or prioritizing American businesses also doesn’t replace jobs lost due to the collapse of manufacturing or mining industries.

Dan Ikenson, the director for trade policy at the Cato Institute a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., said the order looks tough, especially when it comes to government contract spending. But he worried that Trump’s emphasis on only awarding government contracts to American companies could mean that taxpayers lose out. From a free market perspective, Ikenson said, there should be as many foreign companies as possible bidding for government contracts.

“You need the competition,” Ikenson said, arguing that only contracting with American businesses could result in overspending. “We shouldn’t just assume that it’s good for America if Americans transact with other Americans.”

That economic stance is why Trump’s immigration policies have garnered criticism from economists across the political spectrum.

“We need smart foreign workers to come here and share their ideas,” Ikenson said. “Immigrants are 50 percent more likely than Americans to start new businesses.”

Think Progress has the full story.

The Joy of Housing.

Rick Steves gets a hug.

Ricks Steves, author, and well known television travel guru, has his own idea of investing, and that investment hasn’t just grown over the years, it’s helped a tremendous amount of people.

Travel guide guru Rick Steves just gave a $4 million apartment complex to homeless women and kids who need housing.

Steves realized, early on, the importance of affordable housing, during his travel adventures (how else?) as a young man in Europe.

[…]

Twenty years ago, he devised a scheme where he could put my retirement savings not into a bank to get interest, but into cheap apartments that could house struggling neighbors.

“I would retain my capital, my equity would grow as the apartment complex appreciated,” Steves explained on his travel blog. “Rather than collecting rent, my “income” would be the joy of housing otherwise desperate people. I found this a creative, compassionate and more enlightened way to “invest” while retaining my long-term security.”

The 24-unit apartment complex became began housing single moms who were recovering from drug addiction and were now ready to get custody of their children back.

“Imagine the joy of knowing that I could provide a simple two-bedroom apartment for a mom and her kids as she fought to get her life back on track.”

There’s a nice little glow. Steves has now given the complex over to the Y.

Via Raw Story.

Dakota Access Allowed to Keep Risks Secret.

© Marty Two Bulls.

It’s not enough that the pipeline went through, and once again, drinking water is threatened (which is fine, of course, because Indians), but ETP can now keep risk information to themselves. Just keeps getting worse. And to those people who think they are helping through vandalism? You aren’t, so fucking stop it.

Despite concerns that the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline could threaten the primary source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux, a federal judge ruled that the pipeline’s developer can keep some information about spill risks secret from the public.

The ruling — which would permit Energy Transfer Partners, the developer of the pipeline, to keep information about spill risks at certain points along the pipeline shielded from the public — comes after unknown protesters used a torch to burn holes in empty above-ground segments of the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes had argued that information about spill risks could potentially strengthen their case for more environmental review of the project.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected that argument, saying that shielding the information from public view would prevent vandalism of the pipeline.

“The asserted interest in limiting intentionally inflicted harm outweighs the tribes’ generalized interests in public disclosure and scrutiny,” Boasberg said in his ruling.

[…]

Pipeline spills in North Dakota are not uncommon — according to analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity, North Dakota has averaged four pipeline spills a year since 1996, costing more than $40 million in property damage.

Under the Trump administration’s proposed budget, the Environmental Protection Agency would face sharp cuts in its enforcement programs, limiting its ability to enforce and penalize companies that violate environmental laws. When pipeline operators, for instance, violate laws like the Clean Water Act by spilling pollutants into waterways, the EPA is normally the agency that imposes fines on those operators. Last week, for instance, the EPA and the Department of Justice issued a fine against a pipeline operator in Ohio that violated the Clean Water Act by discharging approximately 1,950 barrels of gasoline from a pipeline into nearby waterways.

Think Progress has the full story.

Flight Pattern.

A ballet about the plight of refugees, commissioned for the Royal Opera House, has been showered with five star reviews and described with words like potent and sombre. It’s the work of the Canadian Crystal Pite who has built a reputation as one of the most respected choreographers of her generation – and who is the first woman to have created a new work for the Royal Ballet in almost two decades. It’s titled ‘Flight Pattern’ and Kirsty Wark went to speak to her about using dance to engage in a difficult harrowing subject.

Beautiful and so very poignant. I wish I could see this in person.

The Edinburgh Remakery.

Here’s a grand undertaking, and one desperately needed all over the place. We have become so accustomed to living in a consumer driven throwaway manner, and even when people want to be thrifty, or would prefer to fix something, there’s often no option to do so.

The Edinburgh Remakery is a social enterprise that teaches repair. The shop sells refurbished computers and furniture, and hosts workshops where people can come along and learn how to repair their own things. There’s a big vision behind it: “we want to generate a repair revolution. This means changing the way people use and dispose of resources, encouraging manufacturers to build things to last and to be fixable, and making sure the facilities are in place to allow people to repair and reuse.”

Films for Action has the full story.

The Mental Cost of The Regime.

Tucker Viemeister.

Tucker Viemeister.

Before I get started, Snowflakes, melting, yeah, yeah, yeah. If you’re one of those people, stuff it, because you have your safe spaces, triggers, and melting points too. I certainly can’t say I’m happy with the shift into fascism, only fucking idiots are happy about that one, and I certainly answer to Tiny Tyrant Fatigue Syndrome, but outside of that, I’m doing okay. More or less. (Currently escaping into work, as I look down and see I’ve gotten paint all over my keyboard. Pretty!) Anyroad, the Regime is taking its toll on the mental and emotional health of too many Americans, so I guess it’s a really good thing the Fuck You Care Plan failed. If you do find yourself depressed, anxious, panicky, whatever, don’t be silly about it, reach out, and get help.

The White House occupants also remain steadfastly committed to wreaking havoc on our mental states. As Republicans pushed an insurance bill that would have done lasting damage to Americans’ mental and behavioral health well-being, clinicians reported the psychic wages of the Trump war against U.S. citizens. “Add up the additional medications prescribed, extra ER visits, delayed procedures, missed work, plus the fallout from other illnesses being relegated to the back burner, and you have the makings of a major medical toll from this election,” Danielle Ofri, a physician at Bellevue Hospital and professor of medicine at New York University, warned at Slate.

So how exactly is Trump harming our mental states in this moment and for the foreseeable future? Here are five ways, representing just a drop in the bucket, if that bucket were dropped in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

Head on over to Raw Story for the full article.

Homicidal Cop, Good. Whistleblower, Bad.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo holds Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. CREDIT: YouTube/New York Daily News.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo holds Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. CREDIT: YouTube/New York Daily News.

A short while back, I posted about the history of the cop who murdered Eric Garner. It was an ugly history, one which was ignored in keeping Daniel Pantaleo employed. That employment continues, but the  person who disclosed that hidden history? No, they are no longer employed.

The release of previously secret disciplinary records of the NYPD officer that killed Eric Garner is stirring controversy in New York City, reinvigorating a heated debate among activists and city officials over transparency and police accountability.

On Tuesday, ThinkProgress published the disciplinary records of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who used a prohibited chokehold against Garner in 2014. The records — which were previously hidden from the public — originated from the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the independent city agency that fields complaints about officer misconduct. They were leaked to ThinkProgress from an anonymous source who was discovered by the agency and forced to resign.

The news also forced the CCRB to formally confirm that the documents are real.

The CCRB’s actions triggered indignation from Cynthia Conti-Cook, a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society’s Special Litigation Unit. The group is currently involved in lawsuits to obtain disciplinary records from both the CCRB and the NYPD.

“When there is more political will to fire a whistleblower than an officer who killed an unarmed man, it sends a message about the Mayor’s capacity to act quickly and therefore simultaneously sends a message about his lack of political will to hold police like Pantaleo…accountable for misconduct,” she said, referring to the fact that Pantaleo remains employed by the NYPD, and received a raise last year.

I could not possibly agree more. This is shocking behaviour. Well, it should be shocking. I’m afraid we have all become much too inured, and given the increasingly open shite supremacist feeling in uStates, there tends to be little more than an ennui laden shrug over such heinous actions.

Civil rights groups and several city officials were also outraged by the content of the documents, which showed that Pantaleo had 7 complaints and 4 substantiated allegations years before his encounter with Garner—far more than the overwhelming majority of his fellow NYPD officers, according to CCRB data. The revelations also raised questions about whether Pantaleo was properly disciplined, as the documents showed that the NYPD repeatedly enacted lesser penalties than those recommended by the CCRB.

Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said that earlier review of the records could have saved her son’s life.

“Someone should have taken a look at his record a long time ago,” Carr told the New York Daily News. “If they had done that maybe my son would still be alive.”

That’s assuming that anyone looking at Pantaleo’s record would have actually done something about it, which is more than questionable. Cop shops all over the country simply don’t have a problem with bigoted, homicidal cops, nor do they seem to be overly concerned about dead brown people. It seems the only time they do care is if they end up in the public spotlight, and even then, the result is rarely justice.

Think Progress has the full story.

The Hidden History of A Homicidal Cop.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo holds Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. CREDIT: YouTube/New York Daily News.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo holds Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. CREDIT: YouTube/New York Daily News.

The cop who murdered Eric Garner is still employed. As of last year, his salary was $119,996 , a 14% increase over what he was making when he murdered Garner. A person could get ideas about that. I certainly have number of ideas, none of them painting cops in a good light. Think Progress has gotten an exclusive look at hidden documents which highlight Pantaleo’s past behaviour as a cop, and it’s not a good record in any way. The article is long and in-depth, so head on over for a read.

Now, documents obtained exclusively by ThinkProgress indicate that Pantaleo, who is still employed by the NPYD, had a history of breaking the rules. These records are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, and the city refuses to release them.

Before he put Garner in the chokehold, the records show, he had seven disciplinary complaints and 14 individual allegations lodged against him. Four of those allegations were substantiated by an independent review board.

Neither Pantaleo nor the NYPD responded to Think Progress requests for comment.

EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTS: The disturbing secret history of the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner.

Norway’s Storebrand Goes NoDAPL.

NorSR

© C. Ford. All rights reserved.

More and more efforts are directed at divestment, and Norway’s largest private investor has decided to go No DAPL.

The largest private investor in Norway has pulled out of three companies connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) because of the conflict at Standing Rock.

Storebrand, an Oslo-based financial-services company that specializes in sustainable, socially conscious investing, has sold off nearly $35 million worth of shares in Phillips 66, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, and Enbridge, the company announced on March 1.

“Storebrand has made the decision to withdraw all investments from the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, including positions in the North American companies Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Enbridge Inc. and Phillips 66,” said Storebrand in a statement on March 1.

“Our conclusion is that these are poor long-term investments, both for our pension customer and from a sustainability point of view,” the company said.

Storebrand had investments of $11.5 million in Philips 66, $7 million in Marathon Petroleum Corp. and $16.2 million in Enbridge Inc., for a total of $34.8 million, said the company. According to its website, it has been in operation since 1767 and was managing pension funds since 1917, pre-dating Norway’s social security system by 50 years.

“There is too much uncertainty, for us as an investor, as to whether there has been a good process that ensures the rights of all parties in the conflict,” said Matthew Smith, Head of Sustainable Investments. “There has been involvement by the United Nations, by President Obama, and President Trump. Caught in the middle are the people directly impacted by the pipeline.”

[…]

Storebrand tried numerous tactics to enact change, Smith said in the statement, but none of them worked.

“Generally, it is our belief that we can have a more positive effect on companies and situations by using our position as an owner to effect change. We have successfully done so on many occasions, but it doesn’t always work,” Smith said. “Storebrand has been in direct contact with the companies, and has worked with international groups of investors. Our most recent initiative is an investor letter, representing 137 investors with $653 billion assets under management, that encourages involved banks that have lent money to the project to use their position and influence to engender positive change and a reconsideration the routing of the pipeline.”

Storebrand was forced to conclude that “active ownership is not going to deliver a better outcome,” he said. “We do hope that this can give a final indication to the involved companies to reconsider the routing of the pipeline.”

The investor joins a growing number of companies and entities that have pulled funds from Wells Fargo and other banks that are financing DAPL, ranging from the City of Seattle to individual account holders. Others, such as New York City, have put DAPL banks on notice.

The decision was not easy, Smith told The Guardian.

“Divestment is a last resort,” he said. “When you divest from companies, you give up your possibility to influence companies to come to a better solution.”

Full story at ICMN.

This Is Our Land.

Water Protectors Leave Oceti Sakowin Reluctantly.

‘Absolutely False’: No Contact From Trump Administration, Archambault Says.

marty-two-bulls-cartoon-dapl-020717
NODAPL; The Last Stand © Marty Two Bulls.
 
marty-two-bulls-cartoon-dapl-020117_WEB
No DAPL; Beware the Early Thaw © Marty Two Bulls.

Oh. So. Cool.

I want one!

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Made for Ikea’s Space10, this is the Growroom, specifically made for cities, it can grow a communities worth of food and herbs. I’m not urban, but I still want one. The best news? Space10 and architects Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum have open sourced this, so anyone can make one.

You can see the specs at two places: one, two.

The Bias of Devices.

Getty Images.

Getty Images.

A lot of people are enamored with the idea of artificial intelligence, imbued with the rosy hues of optimism, eternal life, and other amazing feats. What you don’t hear about so much are all the little problems which creep in, like the very real biases and bigotry of humans infecting devices which are made to learn. The term artificial intelligence has always struck me as inherently biased, underlining the point that organic intelligence is always superior. Why not machine intelligence, or some other actually neutral term? Anyroad, we aren’t that far along that terminator fears need be realized, but Wired has a good article up about how good humans are at providing devices with the very worst of our intelligence.

Algorithmic bias—when seemingly innocuous programming takes on the prejudices either of its creators or the data it is fed—causes everything from warped Google searches to barring qualified women from medical school. It doesn’t take active prejudice to produce skewed results (more on that later) in web searches, data-driven home loan decisions, or photo-recognition software. It just takes distorted data that no one notices and corrects for.

It took one little Twitter bot to make the point to Microsoft last year. Tay was designed to engage with people ages 18 to 24, and it burst onto social media with an upbeat “hellllooooo world!!” (the “o” in “world” was a planet earth emoji). But within 12 hours, Tay morphed into a foul-mouthed racist Holocaust denier that said feminists “should all die and burn in hell.” Tay, which was quickly removed from Twitter, was programmed to learn from the behaviors of other Twitter users, and in that regard, the bot was a success. Tay’s embrace of humanity’s worst attributes is an example of algorithmic bias—when seemingly innocuous programming takes on the prejudices either of its creators or the data it is fed.

Tay represents just one example of algorithmic bias tarnishing tech companies and some of their marquis products. In 2015, Google Photos tagged several African-American users as gorillas, and the images lit up social media. Yonatan Zunger, Google’s chief social architect and head of infrastructure for Google Assistant, quickly took to Twitter to announce that Google was scrambling a team to address the issue. And then there was the embarrassing revelation that Siri didn’t know how to respond to a host of health questions that affect women, including, “I was raped. What do I do?” Apple took action to handle that as well after a nationwide petition from the American Civil Liberties Union and a host of cringe-worthy media attention.

One of the trickiest parts about algorithmic bias is that engineers don’t have to be actively racist or sexist to create it. In an era when we increasingly trust technology to be more neutral than we are, this is a dangerous situation. As Laura Weidman Powers, founder of Code2040, which brings more African Americans and Latinos into tech, told me, “We are running the risk of seeding self-teaching AI with the discriminatory undertones of our society in ways that will be hard to rein in, because of the often self-reinforcing nature of machine learning.”

I don’t understand why anyone would assume tech to be more neutral than we are, after all, this is not a scenario where machines and devices are having a board meeting and figuring out how to maintain neutrality and purge biases. All the code, it comes from us naked apes, who truly suck at neutrality en masse. Even when we think we are neutral about this or that, implicit bias tests often show us deep biases we weren’t altogether aware of, and how they influence our thinking.

As the tech industry begins to create artificial intelligence, it risks inserting racism and other prejudices into code that will make decisions for years to come. And as deep learning means that code, not humans, will write code, there’s an even greater need to root out algorithmic bias. There are four things that tech companies can do to keep their developers from unintentionally writing biased code or using biased data.

I imagine the suggestions will give all the bros serious indigestion, but they are suggestions which need wide implementation, given the human penchant for racing ahead in technology while lagging woefully behind in social evolution. Wired has the full story.

#FU2RACISM.

Face-Up-to-Racism-Adshel-1-768x512

SBS has revealed its new campaign ‘#FU2RACISM’ ahead of Face Up To Racism week, which runs from February 26 to March 5.

The campaign, created in-house by SBS’ creative team, is designed to promote a week focused around programs on race and prejudice, with the focus being on SBS’ documentary Is Australia Racist?’, presented by Ray Martin.

The campaign was inspired by the research results from one of the largest-ever surveys conducted on racism and prejudice in Australia, commissioned by SBS with Western Sydney University, which found one in five Australians experienced racism over the past 12 months.

The campaign will run on SBS television and across the five major metropolitan cities at train stations, bus stops, shopping centres and digital billboards.

“Through ‘Face Up to Racism’ week, SBS is provoking an important national discussion about racism and prejudice in Australia today, at a time when debate about difference continues to make headlines around the world,” said Amanda McGregor, director of marketing at SBS

SBS is encouraging users to use the hashtag #FU2racism to share stories about their experiences.

This is a great campaign, and I hope it’s successful in getting people to examine their own biases. Via Mumbrella.