Wednesday, May 22, 2013

You Should Skip School If You Don't Want to Know About Harvey Milk

If you are a student in California, your teachers might use today to teach you a lesson some parents might not be comfortable with: Some people are gay. One of those gay people, named Harvey Milk, once spoke up about his homosexuality, and still managed to get elected to public office. Eventually he was shot by someone who didn't like this.
If your teacher is a bit more progressive you might hear about his work to include other minorities, unions, seniors and the disabled. There are a lot of great sources to learn about Harvey Milk including the Harvey Milk Foundation (who would have thought?), the films The Times of Harvey Milk or Milk, news footage in your local library etc... And since I trust you're a good policymic reader, I'm going to focus on 7 awesome quotes from Harvey Milk himself that will showcase just how relevant his ideas remain today, and why California celebrates him as an important local leader who inspired beyond our state.
1. On Equality
"All men are created equal. Now matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about."
2. On Youth
"All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential."
3. On Compromising
"It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions."

4. On Hate Speech
"If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I'd be walking backward - and I don't want to walk backward."
5. On Taxes
"Let me have my tax money go for my protection and not for my prosecution. Let my tax money go for the protection of me. Protect my home, protect my streets, protect my car, protect my life, protect my property.... Worry about becoming a human being and not about how you can prevent others from enjoying their lives because of your own inability to adjust to life."
6. On Politics
"Politics is theater. It doesn't matter if you win. You make a statement. You say, "I'm here, pay attention to me.""
7. Last Words...
"This is to be played only in the event of my death by assassination. I fully realize that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes a target or the potential target for somebody who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbed themselves. Knowing that I could be assassinated at any moment, any time, I feel it's important that some people know my thoughts. And so the following are my thoughts, my wishes, and my desires, whatever, and I'd like to pass them on and have them played for the appropriate people."
"I have never considered myself a candidate. I have always considered myself part of a movement, part of a candidacy. I considered the movement the candidate. I think that there's a distinction between those who use the movement and those who are part of the movement. I think I was always part of the movement. I wish I had time to explain everything I did. Almost everything was done with an eye on the gay movement."
To listen to the full tape...

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Aaron Swartz Continues to Make the Internet More Open

Internet Activist Aaron Swart's project with The New Yorker launched Wednesday. Strongbox lets users share information, messages, and files with writers and editors anonymously.

Months after his suicide, Internet activist Aaron Swartz continues to make the world a more open place. Wednesday the New Yorker announced the launch of a project he helped develop with them, Strongbox, a tool that allows sources to anonymously submit information, messages and evidence with writers and editors.

Strongbox uses a Tor network to protect the transportation of data by redirecting packets through a distributed anonymous network in a series of encrypted steps so no machine in the pipeline knows where the packet came from before arriving. Because any computer within the pipeline can see no more than one hop in the circuit, even a compromised path can't be used to connect the information's source and destination.

Once a user accesses Strongbox, they can upload files or send messages using a randomly generated user name. That anonymous ID can either be used only once to send information to a writer or editor, or the user if they're willing to follow up, can use the ID to access messages and questions from editors and writers who might have further questions.

Within their privacy promise regarding Strongbox they state that, "Strongbox servers are under the physical control of The New Yorker and Condé Nast in a physically and logically segregated area at a secure data center. Strongbox servers and network share no elements in common with The New Yorker or Condé Nast infrastructure."

The final step to access the files involves writers and editors downloading files onto a thumbdrive, using a separate thumbdrive with an encryption key on a laptop without a harddrive that regularly wipes its memory, and then accessing the information on that seperate machine. This allows physical air space between the network that sent the message, and the machine that actually opens the documents.

Strongbox is the first use of Aaron Swartz's Deaddrop code which he finished in the month before his suicide on January 11th of  this year. The code for Deaddrop as well as Strongbox is open source in a fitting tribute to his work.

Aaron Swartz defended the use of anonymous communication on his blog years before in 2008 saying, "In 1787, when America’s framers wanted to argue for its Constitution, they published their arguments (the Federalist Papers) anonymously. Whistleblowers have released everything from the Pentagon Papers to the Downing Street Memos. Anonymous speech is a First Amendment right."

Given the increasing usage of the Internet for everything from our daily communication, work, commerce, socializing and an ever expanding world of applications in our daily lives, digital privacy should be a huge concern. Especially after the recent compromise of the AP phone records, the importance of Strongbox offering journalists a new safer tool to protect sources is more obviously needed than before. And luckily for us, Aaron Swartz was tackling the problem before his death.

As Swartz said, "Here’s to anonymity — and more tools protecting it."

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Google Wallet - E-Commerce Just Got Some New Competition.

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Google Wallet Newest Feature Will Have E Commerce Running For Cover
Watch out PayPal, Square, VenMo, WePay, and everyone else in the mobile payment market. The 800-pound gorilla of tech is now in the ring. On Wednesday Google announced at Google I/O, their annual developer conference, a new feature named Google Wallet.

Google Wallet is elegantly simple, with a $ icon that you can click to attach a monetary transaction to an email in the same way one might attach a photo or PDF to an email. In addition you will be able to use your Google Wallet to shop in stores using your smartphone in a PIN-protected app. For those concerned about what might happen if you lose your phone, Google has thought about that too, with 100% protection for unauthorized purchases and a feature to disable the app if you lose your phone.

The fee structure of Google Wallet will likely look very familiar to you if you've ever used PayPal. With a flat fee of 2.9% per transaction (minimum $0.30), it looks very similar to PayPal's basic structure, which puts a 2.9% transaction fee on the total sale amount plus a $0.30 fee per transaction.
The feature will be rolled out over the coming months to all U.S. Gmail users over 18 years old, but users can get earlier access if friends have the feature and send money to them.

As someone who's previously used Google Ads to drive app downloads for business reasons, I'd be very excited to have Wallet integrated as it would allow Google Analytics to cover the entire pipeline from ad to purchase with no issues regarding different platforms measuring performance using differing parameters. Being able to track the profitability of every ad directly along with email marketing would be a game-changer not just for e-commerce companies, but also for mobile ad networks and the Android app marketplace.

Because this news was just announced, it's too early to see how other e-commerce startups will react now that their business model has a much bigger competitor.

Picture Credit: Google

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Divisiveness of SF Pride's Manning Decision is Nothing New for the LGBT Community

The LGBT rights movement is by no means a monolithic group, and the range of opinions was contextualized Wednesday night when famous activists Dan Nicoletta and Anne Kronenberg took the stage for an event discussing the impact of Harvey Milk at the Castro Theater hosted by Facing History and Ourselves.

During the Q&A the recent SF Pride controversy around Bradley Manning's nomination and subsequent removal from the grand marshal list was brought up, where Dan Nicoletta diplomatically supported SF Pride, the representation of Manning in the movement, as well as the process of debating and disagreeing with each other.

Replying to the question about what he thought about the controversy Nicoletta answered, "And you know I love Pride... and I've worked intimately with Pride... So the discourse is heartbreaking but I think Stuart Milk so eloquently always says that our differences are our strengths and we are going to have fights and we should fight... we'll figure it out, it's a complex issue and I think by giving that spokesperson for Bradley Manning a place to talk about those issues we're doing the right thing...
"Just like in Harvey Milk's Day... under the pressures from the rest of the world when Anita Bryant challenged us at the ballot box and John Briggs challenged us at the ballot box... there was a lot of scrambling to be something other than what we are. To have our arguments in public, I think that's a healthy thing and we will figure it out."

Dan Nicoletta's photography has done much to document Harvey Milk's life as a politician in San Francisco and both he and Anne Kronenberg, who got her start in politics working with Milk, spoke at length about how they think Milk would have lead today had it not been for his assassination.

Meanwhile in current San Francisco LGBT politics, Supervisor David Campus wrote a strong letter to SF Pride in which he said, "The decision to rescind this honor is unprecedented and the community has every right to be concerned about the consequences of this abrupt, top-down directive. Most importantly, however, is the obligation Pride has to be accountable, transparent and representative to the diverse LGBT community it serves. As an organization which receives City funding, Pride has a responsibility to operate with transparency and accountability, and to allow for timely appropriate discussions with the community as needed. The failure of Pride leadership to do so in this circumstance is contrary to this responsibility."

"Controversy is not a new phenomenon to Pride festivities, nor is it a valid reason for Pride not to fulfill its responsibilities to the broader LGBT community. The recent statement made by Pride that the discussion on this matter is “closed” is disturbing, and may serve to further divide the community and foster long-lasting resentments."

Tuesday this week activists also held a "mock Pride board meeting" with a row of empty chairs to represent the absence of SF Pride in the discussion.

Whether or not SF Pride takes the time to respond to the community outcry or Supervisor Campos, the vigorous debate is nothing new in LGBT politics, though it certainly seems to have become reinvigorated thanks to the Manning nomination.Image

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Immigration Reform 2013: Mark Zuckerberg's Lobbying Group Has Already Lost Key Donors

Mark Zuckerburg's forays into political action aren't proving to be successful. After launching on Aprill 11, Zuckerberg's lobbying group has managed to quickly anger allies and lose support from key donors.

As the organization defines itself, " is an organization started by key leaders in the tech community to promote policies to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy — including comprehensive immigration reform and education reform."

While that idea has been quick to garner support from techies, the reality of how that policy has come into play has been problematic. In order to get support from key Republicans, has already waded into other issues, putting out TV ads supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge much to the anger of progressives.

Former Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) commented on' actions, saying, "Leaders in the technology community have every right to talk about how immigration reform will benefit their businesses, but instead, has chosen a strategy that’s condescending to voters and counterproductive to the cause of reform."

The former senator was part of a broader coalition of progressive organizers including Progressives United, MoveOn.Org, Democracy for America, CREDO, Daily Kos, The Sierra Club, The League of Conservation Voters,, and Although many of these organizations are allied with the cause of immigration reform, they have had their interested hurt by's organizing tactics.

Even some donors have left the cause, including Elon Musk and David Sacks. Musk said regarding his departure, "I agreed to support because there is a genuine need to reform immigration. However, this should not be done at the expense of other important causes. I have spent a lot of time fighting far larger lobbying organizations in D.C. and believe that the right way to win on a cause is to argue the merits of that cause."

In its blatant support of the Keystone XL Pipeline, illustrates that Silicon Valley successes are not always the best qualified when it comes to policy, as they managed to not only divide both progressives and their own donors within a month of launch, but did so for a cause that the scientific community is largely against, despite's lip service to STEM education.

In addition, the demographics of illustrate that the Silicon Valley idea of a diverse group is rather stereotypically male-dominated. Out of their 13 listed founders, there is only one woman. Our of their 23 listed supporters, there are only four women. Despite that obvious gender gap they describe themselves as, "A diverse group of leading innovators, job creators, business owners, and founders from the tech community."

While Silicon Valley loves to talk about a meritocracy where the best product or solution wins, looks much more like an old boys club engaging in politics as usual, and much less like an innovative solution to a tough political problem. While they repeatedly state on their Facebook page that the "the tech community is uniting around immigration reform," they lack policy specifics, can't boast any type of coalition work outside the tech community, and speak in generalities that don't indicate where they stand on rights for undocumented students (some of whom studied in the STEM fields also supports), bi-national LGBT couples, the low income workers who support our food industry (techies gotta eat too, right?), families of immigrants (does that engineer have a mom who wants to live closer?), and more.

Maybe will internalize these lessons and pivot to a better strategy like many of their supporters' companies, but if not Mark Zuckerburg's current work in the political arena seems to be causing more problems than it's fixing.
Originally Posted Here.

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Angelina Jolie Opens Up About Why She Got a Mastectomy

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Actress, director, and humanitarian Angelina Jolie is no stranger to the public eye. But in a New York Times op-ed published on Tuesday, she brought the media's attention to an issue Hollywood doesn't normally talk about: breast cancer.

After Jolie discovered she had a defective BRCA1 gene which sharply increased the likelihood of getting breast and ovarian cancer, she opted to have a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her odds of having breast cancer from 87% to roughly 5%.

In the op-ed, Jolie states her reason for sharing her choice with the world: "For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."

And like any good spokeswoman, she also made sure in her piece to go beyond her personal story to share data regarding the issue: "Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women."

While normally I would wish privacy upon anyone undergoing difficult health situations, I hope the media honors Jolie's choice to speak out about this issue and does so in as factual a manner as possible, to help other women learn more about breast cancer and the health choices they can make.

Picture Credit: Gage Skidmore
Originally posted here.

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Meme Alert: Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal: Ryan McHenry Created Viral Vine Video

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Filmmaker Ryan McHenry was recently doing what many folks do when they first encounter a new app or service: figuring out what to do with it. The young filmmaker, who previously won a BAFTA for his short film, Zombie Musical, had a few friends using Vine, the short video app from Twitter, but hadn't posted very much.

When McHenry had the idea while watching Drive and eating cereal to make the first "Ryan Gosling won't eat his cereal" clip, he just wanted to make his friends laugh. And the first two films did just that.

However when his third clip was posted to Vine's Popular page, the one man meme began to take off with every clip afterwards seeing thousands of views, he told Entertainment Weekly.

We'll see if single-handedly developing a meme and getting media coverage from Entertainment Weekly to HuffPost Live will help McHenry in getting support and coverage for his first feature film, but Ryan Gosling will almost certainly be in the news again soon with his latest film, Only God Forgives out this July.

Originally posted 2 days ago on PolicyMic.

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Bradley Manning: SF Pride Still Doesn't Get Why People Are Upset

San Francisco Pride would really like you to forget the whole Bradley Manning issue. After Manning was nominated to be honored by former Grand Marshals of the city's yearly Pride Parade, the announcement was made public, some veterans and LGBT groups protested, SF Pride retracted the honor, faced community protests, changed its tactics, and was protested again — and yet the organization still hasn't absorbed why the community is upset and why it matters.

SF Pride has announced via email that it's postponing the May 14 meeting on Manning's invitation until a larger, suitable location is secured, with the rationale that “We want to allow people to have a chance to voice their opinions about the recent controversy, but also have a large event coming up, and do not want to let one issue, as important as it is to some, overshadow the concerns and interests of the hundreds of thousands who attend SF Pride.”

The email went on to say, “SF Pride's decision concerning the election process of Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal being consistent with SF Pride's long standing Grand Marshal election policy is firm. Thus, the discussion of that matter is closed for this year.”

With this attitude that the matter is closed, any such meeting on Manning serves no purpose. The activists who gathered to protest both on April 29 and May 7 were not hoping to just get an idea out there, they sought concrete actions from SF Pride in order to best reflect the will of participants.
SF Pride justified this decision saying, “A meeting in a larger venue after the 2013 Celebration and Parade will allow people from all sides of that issue and others to fully air and hear one another's viewpoints, without jeopardizing the production of this year's event and the safety and security of the attendees. We ask everyone in the community to come together in Pride this June, recognizing that we can embrace difference without violence and hate.”

This is a classic strawman argument. There is no safety or security risk in honoring or not honoring Bradley Manning. And to deny the community a chance to be heard prior to the event is not respecting viewpoints of a diverse community; it is silencing the chance for those viewpoints to be reflected in action. This lack of representation in action has been a complaint of many protesters, and in its newest tactic to avoid controversy, SF Pride is showing just the attitude the protesters have become tired of.

In my observation of the protesters, I saw no hate for Pride as an organization or movement. Rather, their protest sought to better represent the community and was based out of a desire for greater inclusivity within the community. Many had frustrations due to SF Pride not listening, however this press release shows that such a frustration is well grounded. SF Pride wants to first have its event, and then have a conversation when it can have no effect on the outcome.

Originally Posted Monday May 13, 2013 here.

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Hey Look - I'm Writing Again! At Policy Mic...

In hindsight, I should have posted the last few articles I wrote here too… But oops. I didn’t. So I’m attaching them here. I will do this a series of posts this afternoon so they will be here, tagged and easier to find in the future.
Without further delay… here we go! – Starting with this post from exactly a week ago.

San Francisco Gay Pride 2013: SF Parade Honors Bradley Manning, Now Backtracking Any Way Possible

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In a press release on the afternoon of May 7 prior to their monthly board meeting, the San Francisco Pride Board of Directors released a statement intended to clarify the reasons that Bradley Manning was named a community grand marshal before having that honor revoked.

In their release they argue that “the community grand marshal upon whom the Electoral College votes is defined as ‘a local hero (individual) not being a celebrity’ … Because Mr. Manning is not local, by definition under the Grand Marshal policy, he may not be nominated or elected by the Electoral College as its community grand marshal.”

This release comes on the heels of a protest on April 29 in which many community leaders protested SF Pride for their decision to revoke the honor they’d voted to bestow upon Bradley Manning.
Speakers at the April 29 protest included a wide range of military perspectives from Daniel Ellsberg, famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers, to John Caldera, an honorably discharged U.S. Navy corpsman and openly gay member of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commission. Also present was Rainey Reitman, who founded the Bradley Manning Support Network and spoke of the work of supporters, while Stephen Funk, a gay man who was court-martialed for his opposition to the Iraq war, called Manning a “freedom fighter.”

Almost all the speakers at the protest referenced SF Pride Board President Lisa William’s press release on April 27 which said, “Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform and countless others, military and civilian alike will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country.”

Caldera responded at the rally that “SF Pride sponsors include Bank of America and Wells Fargo, who have foreclosed on hundreds of veteran families” and went on to call for Lisa William’s resignation over the issue.

One former grand marshal, Gary Virginia, demanded an explanation of the process through which grand marshals are selected, and said until the board did so it not only would fail to represent the community, but also taint the honor of former grand marshals if the process was found to be unrepresentative. He assured the crowd that as a co-founder of the Pride Brunch fundraiser, their event would honor Manning.

While SF Pride’s newest press release doesn’t address all of the protesters concerns, nor does it address a recent complaint filed against it at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission concerning Mr. Manning it does backpedal on the former political reasons for removing Mr. Manning’s nomination by changing the reason for revoking the honor to a technical byline. Whether or not this new tactic from SF Pride will remove the controversy surrounding the issue remains to be seen.

NOTE: This story has continued to develop as SF Pride’s Board had their monthly meeting Monday night. SF Pride called in police to remove protesters and promised to hold public comment in the future at a larger venue, however, no date has been announced.

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