To Jeffrey D. Sachs: sprinkling tech on politics makes it worse, not better

In an op-ed in today’s Boston Globe, the influential economist Jeffrey D. Sachs laments the lack of trust in modern American politics. He then proposes that we solve it with (among other things) “e-parties” and “e-governance.” But proposals like this ignore the way that trolls and partisans now wreck every online social space. Sachs’ op-ed, … Continued

Difficult questions about “A message from MIT’s faculty”

Some MIT faculty, led by Roger Levy and Nancy Kanwisher, posted a short message regarding what they believe in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. More than 400 faculty have now signed it. As an MIT alumnus, I read this statement and wondered about the platitudes it contains: why make this statement, and why ask faculty to … Continued

How to deal with schmucks (like the guy Delta Air Lines just banned)

There’s a lot more public nastiness since the election. For example, there’s the passenger who, as a Delta Air Lines flight was boarding, starting shouting offensive stuff like “Donald Trump, baby! We got some Hillary bitches on here?” Delta has banned him for life. Is this the right way to deal with real-life trolls? Here’s part of … Continued

Nordstrom: “We sell what sells, including Ivanka Trump”

Should Nordstrom continue to carry Ivanka Trump merchandise? It sells. So Nordstrom will keep selling it. In its rambling email to employees, it wraps that fact in tissue paper and packing peanuts. Why not have the courage to tell the truth? A friend of mine recently emailed Nordstrom to protest its decision to continue to … Continued

Oval office power play 2017

It was a beautiful spring day in Washington when the two most powerful people in the free world held their first meeting. She sat primly on the striped couch, waiting. Her silver hair glistened in the sunlight; an active intelligence danced in her eyes. She’d been here before, in the presence of a succession of … Continued

The bad faith lesson of Donald Trump at the New York Times

Donald Trump’s latest statements at the New York Times demonstrated an amazing “flexibility” (in other words, he changed long-held positions). If you were scared of Trump’s rhetoric, perhaps this encouraged you. But once you understand the dangers of negotiating in bad faith, your optimism will evaporate. What is bad faith? In a negotiation, each side … Continued

CIA director-designate Mike Pompeo uses passive voice to justify a power grab

Passive voice in opinion pieces is pernicious: it hides who actually is supposed to do stuff. Donald Trump’s choice for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, repeatedly used this technique in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. When you’re advocating surveillance and data collection, we want to know who’s doing it — but Pompeo uses passive misdirection to focus on terrorists … Continued

Who won the Trump University lawsuit? Look at the statements.

The Trump Organization settled fraud suits against Trump University for $25 million, removing the trial from the President-elect’s schedule. But because a settlement is a negotiated solution, you can’t immediately tell who came out on top — maybe $25 million is a lot less than the plaintiffs could have gotten. That is, until you read … Continued