Armed bureaucrats at your service.

Last week, a preeminent French Holocaust historian named Henry Rousso was detained for 10 hours when he arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Rousso, a visiting professor at Columbia University up until January 2017, was traveling to College Station to deliver a lecture at Texas A&M University. He was detained by an “inexperienced” agent at IAH, and was released after Michael Young, the president of TAMU, called law professor and immigration expert Fatma Marouf, who intervened on Rousso’s behalf.

Why was Rousso detained? Continue reading

No, seriously, help yourself.

You probably tune out when the flight attendants do their choreographed safety dance. I do, too. As I recently heard a man at 7-Eleven say to his lady over the phone, “Listen, you tell him if he gone kill me, come kill me. I ain’t afraid to die. I don’t want to die, but I ain’t afraid to.” You and me both, sir. You and me both. Continue reading

Sunlight is still the best disinfectant.

You know what they say about people who constantly accuse others of lying and cheating? They make accusations because lying and cheating are within their own repertoire, and their worldview imputes those strategies to others.

Most people don’t lie as a matter of course. Most people don’t cheat easily.

Do you know who thinks everyone lies and cheats all the time? Yep, liars and cheaters.

Liars and cheaters see everything through a lens of lying and cheating. That’s how they get through life. To do things the way the rest of us live – through trying to be honest, maintain our integrity, etc., you know, the stuff your mom and dad and Sunday School teachers taught you – that’s simply foreign to the liar and the cheat. The fact that you live your life without constantly lying and cheating isn’t just odd, it simply doesn’t even occur to a born liar or cheater.

Now, what do you think the odds are that NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times are completely fabricating the same stories and leads from thin air?

Is it possible that they are biased? Yep. Hell, it’s likely, in fact. It takes education to become a journalist. It takes exposure to people and places outside of your provincial little world to write good copy. I can almost guarantee you that “the media” leans left. Education and liberalism are strongly positively correlated. Having a passport is likewise positively correlated with identifying as a liberal (and to having higher income, higher education, working in a knowledge-based job, living in a diverse area, and believe it or not, being happy!).



I lean left, too, but that doesn’t prevent me from being honest with the numbers I report in my job. Just like you might be conservative but you still do your own job with integrity.

But what if my job was to ask you questions and report your answers to my readers?

I can ask biased questions, sure. I can dig on topics you think are irrelevant. I can frame questions with assumptions that make you look bad, in theory. I can bring up topics in my questions that you have zero desire to discuss.

As George Orwell said, “Journalism is printing what somebody else does not want printed – everything else is public relations.”

In fact, a journalist who doesn’t ask questions that make the target squirm a little simply isn’t doing his or her job. Just like a doctor ordering a cholesterol test on an obese person, both the doctor and the patient often already have a good sense of the answer. But the doctor knows that facts speak 10x louder than guesses and implications. And she knows that she’d be in malpractice if she didn’t order the test.

So when it comes to light that the Russians were caught hacking into the DNC’s computers, and multiple sources state that the intention of Russia was to help elevate Donald Trump to power, and then we find out that there were likely proactive conversations between Trump’s campaign staff and senior Russian intelligence officers at that same time

How exactly is asking for clarification on the topic a bad thing?

In fact, wouldn’t it be unethical as a journalist to avoid the topic?

Fox News’s Shepard Smith called Mr. Trump out on this very topic, and received fierce backlash from Trump supporters. Smith’s years of “fair & balanced” blatantly pro-right coverage of politics didn’t matter, once he dared to demand actual answers for shady things happening right before his eyes.

Mr. Trump tweets often on the topic of fake news, and his supporters eat it up. This one where the President said the media was the “enemy of the American people,” was retweeted 49k times and liked 157k times. This tweet cited radio host Rush Limbaugh (who often reminds others that he’s “an entertainer, not a journalist”) to defend the success of his recent news conference against the “fake media” reports to the contrary. 21k retweets, 119k likes.

Hang on, kids. I just want to repeat something for emphasis.

The President of the United States of America, the leader of the free world, the man who holds the office of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, and Ronald Reagan, the Chief Executive Officer of the greatest experiment in self-governance in history, the Commander in Chief of the strongest military force ever assembled…gets on his (unsecured Android) phone and regularly insults the professional ethics of the enshrined and protected Fourth Estate by calling those who dare ask him hard questions “fake news.”

 Conservatives: do you really want to reduce our Shining City on a Hill to a place where only questions about pre-approved, pro-leader fluff are acceptable?

Would you rather the journalists ask easy questions, or the President of the United States be well read and informed enough to give great answers no matter what the question?

Would you rather the White House Press Corps be filled with bloggers and sycophants, or educated, trained professionals who keep asking questions on your behalf until the answers we all deserve come to light?

The answer isn’t to make the test easier, friends. That would be a disservice to us all.

The answer is to make the student smarter and more prepared for the test.

And if the student refuses to learn (or get intel briefings, or read, or think beyond his own confirmation bias), the answer then becomes to fail the student, and move on for the sake of the rest of the class.

 This isn’t about conservative or liberal. This is about shining a light on the goings-on of the people who make decisions on OUR behalf.

The truth ends all lines of questioning. Deflection or attempts to intimidate or delegitimize the questioner only serve to deepen the suspicion as to why the question can’t simply be answered with truth.

Until that truth is told, expect ethical, professional journalists to keep pulling back the curtains and flipping on light switches.

And if you’re an American before you’re a Republican or Democrat, encourage those journalists to keep doing their job.

As Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”



7 steps to keep the wolves at bay.

I rarely feel anxiety anymore, at least not to the level that it affects my day-to-day life. I stress the word “anymore,” because for much of my life, my stomach was in a knot. As a sophomore in high school, I threw up almost daily. It wasn’t because I was physically sick. It was because my stress outpaced my coping mechanisms. Continue reading

I expect

I expect him to be a conservative, but I also expect him to be competent.

I expect him to be a rookie, but I also expect him to be respectful of the office.

I expect him to have a grand ego, but I also expect him to place his grand responsibility above that.

I expect him to be strong-willed, but I also expect him to seek good guidance.

I expect him to be different, but I also expect him to be diligent.

I expect him to upend the government, but I also expect him to uphold the Constitution.

I expect him to do what he thinks is best, but I expect that “best” to be for us, not him.

I expect him to be a Republican, as long as he’s an American first.

I expect him to hate the press he’s getting, as long as he knows the vital necessity of a free press.

I expect him to disagree with people like me, as long as he vehemently protects our right to do so.

I expect him to be a conservative, as long as he conserves the democracy above all else.

If pigs had wings, they’d probably be delicious.

There are some “conservative”* folks out there who would have you believe that the only thing keeping them from being wildly successful entrepreneurs is regulations and the tax code. It follows, of course, that these folks think the path toward American greatness starts with (a) the assumption that entrepreneurship is the zenith of American usefulness, (b) entrepreneurs do better when there’s zero regulation, and (c) entrepreneurs are unfairly targeted by the tax code.

Of course, as is the case with most things conservatives would have you believe, this idea is not only poorly thought out and negated by facts, but also represents a major blind spot in their own place as voters and citizens of this country.

I’ll explain. Continue reading

Warning: This prescription may cause side effects.

I try really hard to maintain my positivity at all times. I believe – through years of serious experimentation and reflection on the subject – that we have a significant amount of choice in how we feel. To that end, I have learned that if I choose to remain positive, I find myself feeling happier.

A few days ago, I ran into a situation that made me stop and think about what has become an automatic for me. Continue reading

Leaks are a symptom, not a problem.

Leaks are bad, I agree. But let’s take it a level deeper. Why do people leak, as opposed to pledging absolutely loyalty to the guy in charge?

When you’re in charge (if you’re good at your job) you need information. You need it from everyone – those who agree with you, those who disagree with you, everyone. You need it to make great decisions that improve the results of your endeavor.

How do you get that information? Continue reading

No more tears, part 2: It’s kinda hot in these rhinos.

At the beginning of February, I announced that I would be challenging myself to refrain from complaining for an entire month.

It’s February 15, so it’s a good time to check in and update you on my progress, what I’ve learned, and what has been challenging me.

So, how am I doing?

Pretty well, actually. What I’m finding is that, in general, my default is not to complain very much. I tend toward looking on the bright side of life. I’ve explained it a few times, like here and here, but I think it’s important to reiterate: this default of mine was not the factory setting. Focusing intently upon staying positive and avoiding complaining this month has served to solidify my confidence that the change has been a lasting one. For that, I’m truly grateful – life is so, so much better this way. Continue reading

Are you an ass or are you just stupid? Or, finding empathy in the land of cognitive bias.

Lately, I find myself having ample opportunity to test my own level of empathy. These tests are coming, mostly, as I encounter people (real, online, or imaginary) with whom I vehemently disagree politically. I’m a politics junkie, and believe it or not, I’m more of a “get stuff done” guy than I am a liberal. I think there are tradeoffs in a complex society, and no one person’s version of “how to America” is right or wrong. Continue reading