Thursday, February 25, 2016

Apple's on the right side of this one

"There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all."

A quote from a Supreme Court Justice known for being so conservative that Pat Buchanan looks like flower child by comparison. 

He got it, so why doesn't the FBI?

Yes I'm talking about Apple and more specifically Tim Cook's refusal to assist with the unlocking of an Iphone connected to the San Bernardino terrorist case. 

Over the past week or so I've watched as the FBI, Justice Department and other members of law enforcement trot out the same tired straw man of national security that gave us the Patriot Act.

Their argument is still just as flawed.  Worse it's still based on a fundamental misunderstanding of technology that heralds from the days of floppy disks and dial-up modems. 

The media coverage hasn't helped either by incorrectly framing the controversy as the loss of a "back door" in the previous incarnation of IOS ( IOS 7).    "Back doors" are the stuff of 80's flicks like Wargames and Tron not 21st century mobile devices.

Before IOS 8 it's true that Apple did have the capability to unlock an encrypted phone after being presented with  the proper legal documents.  Which was exactly the position Apple didn't want to be in.  By which I mean being constantly pestered by requests to invalidate Apple's own security features. Not exactly good for business and definitely counter to a more progressive view of the world.

So with the advent of IOS 8 Apple removed this capability (and themselves) from the equation by eliminating the code that allowed them to unlock an encrypted phone.  Well, at least that's what they thought until San Bernardino happened.

Law enforcement has long wished for a more "limited" interpretation of the fourth Amendment.  In their view we'd all be so much safer if only they could just flip a switch and listen in on the bad guys at a moment's notice. 

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help."

They stop just short of levying charges of treason when denied such powers but never miss an attempt to try to shame Apple (or anyone else that offers some deference to privacy rights) into compliance by claiming such defiance of the "Rule of Law" only helps criminals and terrorists.

"If Apple wants to be the official smartphone of terrorists and criminals, there will be a consequence"

Here's the core of the problem....

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

Nobody is suggesting that criminals or terrorists should be allowed to run about unhindered.  But what happened to good old fashioned detective work?  Edward Snowden's revelations may now be called "exaggerated" but the fact remains that there's ample resources available to law enforcement without potentially short circuiting the 4th Amendment.

The country was founded on a system of checks and balances for a reason.  It extends not only to the three branches of government but little stuff like trial by jury and the right to not incriminate one's self.

You're a fool if you believe that anyone with unfettered access to your private data isn't going to abuse the privilege. 

Remember Richard Nixon?  He had to leave the presidency precisely because of just such an abuse of power.  He felt benevolent leadership required keeping tabs on everybody.

Nobody thinks about individual liberties until their own is threatened. 

Hey, I'm not a big fan of Apple or their products.  Personally I don't care much for benevolent overlords that reign over walled gardens.  So I find it ironic that Tim Cook is on the right side of this issue.

Perhaps it's because he understands the difference between selling products and selling out civil liberties.

A distinction the FBI chooses to ignore.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

John Batiste, Colbert & the unexpected...

Say what you will about late night talk shows (and I have) but every once in awhile you get something that transcends the context.

That happened tonight at the end of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert when Colbert introduced bandleader, John Batiste as musical guest.

Colbert explained that the performance was meant to mark the anniversary of the Beatles first TV appearance on that same stage some 52 years earlier.

The music that flowed from Batiste's piano was a quiet medley of Beatles standards finally coming to rest in a rendition of Blackbird.  

The history of it all had weight but Batiste's performance is what almost moved me to tears.

I was floored. 

To be honest, up to that point I hadn't thought much of John Batiste outside of just being a happy go lucky bandleader and sometime sidekick.  

Nothing wrong with that.  I mean Reggie Watts of the Late Late Show is entertaining, The Roots on the The Tonight Show are a lively bunch but I wouldn't go out of my way to explore their musical catalogs.

They all may be decent musicians in their own right but they're just not at the same level as what I saw on Colbert's stage tonight.

Batiste is something different and for me, unexpected.  Till tonight we hadn't really seen the breadth of his talent having been primarily performing upbeat jingles and backing for other visiting musicians on the program.  

In short, not exactly the kind of stuff they invite you to Carnegie Hall for.

Batiste and Stay human are releasing an album of the show's music plus a few of Batiste's own songs.  Might be worth picking it up which is something I never thought I'd say. 

Apparently I need to give Colbert more credit for spotting talent.  

The Glass Floor

Up until recently the term "glass ceiling" was common when discussing women in the workplace.  It was a societal problem, a symptom of a stereotype that held that females of the species were far better suited to the kitchen than the boardroom.

The stereotype still exists but it's far more subtle now.  In the second decade of the 21st century we find more women holding the reigns of business but the numbers show they're still a minority.

Now it's less about glass ceilings and more about what you get paid once you successfully break through it.  Numbers don't lie and on average women still only make 70% of what men do in the same role.  It's just the evolution of the stereotype.  It's systemic discrimination and it's wrong but it happens.

But there's another kind of discrimination.  One that's hard to define and has no champion to defend against it.  It's discrimination born from our own ingrained subjectivity.

You can read any of the articles on how to have the perfect interview to get the job but do you comprehend the hidden message?  You're expected to be at your best but the person across the table from you is usually at their worst. 

Just walking through the door could kill your chances based on nothing more than a personal bias.  Who hasn't suspected they've lost a job because of somebody's closet racism, sexism or ageism. 

But try to prove it.

You can chalk it up to human nature but let's face it, as human beings we're awful to each other.  The truth is, most people go through life with their own little prejudicial firewall.  

The lizard part of our brains tells us that everybody is out to take our stuff and only when you prove that you're not can you make any progress. 

This is why interview advice ends up sounding like a mashup between a polished sales pitch and a Dominatrix's slave. 


This is where the Glass Floor comes in. 

It's bad enough trying to get a job you're qualified for but what if the only thing available is something less than that. 

What if instead of going for the regional sales manager you're forced to apply for grocery stocker. 

Hey, things happen and we all need some kind of income.  

Thing is, you've got an even bigger uphill battle when you're aiming lower than that sales manager gig. 

Nobody really believes your heart's desire is to be facing bottles of salad dressing the rest of your life.  Thing is, your interview for that prime minimum wage gig starts from the premise that it is.  

Meaning you'll have a hard time convincing "Buck the Boss" who rose to his lofty heights after a string of pizza delivery gigs after barely graduating high school that you're seriously interested.

It's the glass floor where those that have supposedly "made it" have no fallback position.  Yeah, you could leave that CFO position off your resume but if you're a bit older nobody is going to believe that you're that into jockeying pallets of Hidden Valley Ranch. 

Get real, stocking shelves is a crap job and everyone who's ever done it knows it.  It's not meant to be a career path but when you're sitting across the table from "Buck"  you might as well be going for a tenured Professorship at Harvard.

It's a big reason why the old saying still rings true.  There's a lot of people with Masters degrees living on the streets.

That anyone would expect a dead end job to be a lifetime career path is ridiculous.  The reality is, they don't.  It's just another "plausible" means of legally discriminating against an otherwise viable and willing candidate.

It is, the glass floor.

My advice, I don't know, I haven't found an answer yet.  Maybe I should try entrepreneurship!  I know I still have that work at home email somewhere around here...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Not so "Super" Bowl 50

I have to wonder...

I'm sitting there passively watching yet another Super Bowl unfold while I busy myself with more important things like watching paint dry or folding socks.  It's a Sunday so this is the most exciting entertainment option available (which isn't saying much) and at least in this country it's something of a big deal to see the last football game of the season. 

I could care less about who's winning, I'm here in the hope that perhaps I'll find some entertainment value in the halftime show or a few clever commercials that always seem to crop up this time of year.

So let's take a look at the halftime show...

Unless you're a big fan of Beyonce's thighs in hot pants, a U2 cover band and an also ran pop star the halftime show was in a word, half-assed.

The performances forgettable, the manufactured message of unity obvious and the choreography on par with a bunch of pre-pubescent majorettes marching in a Thanksgiving Day parade.

In short...WTF?

Nothing memorable here.  I don't even like Katy Perry's music but she knocked it out of the park last year.  I can appreciate talent and effort even if I'm not a fan of the artist.  Maturity allows for that.  It also allows me to come up with brutally honest analogies.   This year's halftime show looked like a hip-hop cheerleader review at a high school football game.

I won't even talk about the game.  Who cares?  The Broncos were celebrating victory with 10 minutes left on the clock for god's sake.

Take the NFC championship, put the Panthers in Cardinals uniforms and you pretty much have the same game.  It was over in the first quarter.  OK, to be fair,  at least the Panthers  pretended to play a football game.

Don't even get me started on the commercials.  Boring, lackluster and devoid of creativity.  Toyota tried to convince America that bank robbery was best accomplished in a Prius.  Anthony Hopkins was hocking free Tax software, 

Christopher Walken was trying to convince you that a dowdy Korean Sedan was a testosterone therapy replacement and Alec Baldwin was... I don't know what he was doing.  He must have needed the cash. 

No tear jerking Budweiser puppies, just Helen Mirren making you feel bad about yourself.  And what the hell? Pokemon and PuppyMonkeyBaby?

I get the feeling this whole game and everything surrounding it was nothing more than a Peyton Manning retirement party.  It was almost like they hired a bunch of people off of Craigslist to pull it off.

This is what you get when the Half-time show is based on Internet memes.

At least there was Colbert when it was over...