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Unlike his successor, Obama recognizes his good luck

first_imgI sometimes think of luck as a secular way of thinking of God.Whatever it is, it accounts for the bizarre course a life can take.Good luck has been my constant companion.It was my great good luck to be born in America and to have grandparents who had the gumption to leave Europe, where most of my extended family was murdered in the Holocaust It was my great luck to have loving parents It was my good luck to have some marvelous teachers, a few of whom managed to brush aside my defenses and teach me a thing or two about writing.It was sheer luck that took me to Washington to do some graduate school research — and to leave town with a job offer from the Washington Post. He had been lucky.Letterman, absurdly bearded, agreed.He, too, had been lucky. Not only that, he had been clueless.When others of his generation were putting their lives on the line for civil rights, he and his friends had cruised to the Bahamas so they could spend what sounded like their spring break falling down drunk.Letterman was sorry for that.He admitted to guilt as he admitted to being lucky.Some of the reviews of Letterman’s Netflix interview noted that Obama did not directly discuss Donald Trump. Nonetheless, Trump loomed over the entire hour.Not only did Obama remind you that a president could be articulate, even eloquent, and come into and out of office with not whiff of scandal, but his obeisance to luck was so totally un-Trump that it was almost shocking.Here was a man who, by acknowledging the role of luck, was acknowledging his own limitations:He could not do everything on his own. He needed the coin to come up heads.I can’t imagine Trump saying anything even close.I cannot imagine him saying that it was not his self-proclaimed genius nor his well-advertised negotiating skills that made him the billionaire he asserts he is or the president he’s become.To do that would confess humility, which Trump sees as weakness, and would bring him down to the level of a more or less ordinary guy — one who, as luck would have it, had a millionaire for a father and the birthright of good looks and excellent health.  Categories: Editorial, OpinionToward the end of David Letterman’s recent interview with Barack Obama, the subject turned to the matter of luck.The former president acknowledged the role it has played in his life.Yes, he had talent, he said, and he had worked hard, but neither of those could fully account for how a mixed-race kid who had known his father for only one month of his childhood had wound up president of the United States.center_img I stood once on a pier at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba as desperate Haitians, having been scooped out of the ocean by the Coast Guard, were brought to safety.I looked at those people — their skin baked from the sun, their eyes uncomprehending, their entire wealth consisting of the shirt on their back — and praised my astounding good luck. I turned to the fellow next to me and remarked how smart we had been to be born in the U.S.A.Otherwise, it could have been me floating in the ocean. Obama understands what I mean. He would never have disparaged Haiti as Trump so recently did — or, for that matter, black African countries such as Kenya, where Obama’s own father was born.Few people would call Obama humble, but he knows the importance of chance and that he did not blaze his own path.He had mentors, heroes from the civil rights era who made his own presidency possible. One of them is Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., beaten bloody in 1965 by Alabama state troopers in a march for voting rights.Last year, Trump responded to Lewis’ criticism of him by tweeting about the congressman:  A friend recently asked me why I had often been critical of Obama during his presidency.It would take at least another whole column to explain.But the hour with Letterman reminded me of how decent a man he is — how effortlessly presidential. All former presidents, once they get detached from their policies, take on a certain charm — even the hapless George W. Bush.But Obama is enormously helped by his successor in that regard.He is lucky in that, too. Richard Cohen is a nationally syndicated columnist.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homeslast_img read more

Monitoring kids’ social media won’t stop next shooting

first_imgA WASTED EFFORT?There is little evidence that such monitoring works, and these practices raise plenty of questions about privacy and discrimination.Nikolas Cruz, the suspected perpetrator of the Parkland shooting, hardly presents a case for schools to proactively check social media.If anything, it shows that people already alert law enforcement when they see genuinely threatening material online.Cruz was reported to the FBI and local police at least three times for disturbing posts; one call to the FBI warned that he might become a school shooter, while a separate call flagged a YouTube post saying that the user wanted to become a “professional school shooter” (although the poster wasn’t identified as Cruz until after the shooting).And Cruz’s explicit declaration of intent is the exception, not the rule, which means monitoring the Internet wouldn’t usually turn up such warnings.Our informal survey of major school shootings since the 2012 Sandy Hook killings in Newtown, Connecticut, shows that only one other perpetrator’s social media accounts indicated an interest in school violence: Adam Lanza.Lanza, the Newtown shooter, posted in discussion forums about the Columbine high school shooting and operated Tumblr accounts named after school shooters. These postings were not a secret, and while viewers at the time may not have known whether to take the threats seriously, it is hard to imagine in the current climate that his posts would not be reported to the authorities — as they should be.Generally, school shooters’ online profiles — which wind up being extensively analyzed in the wake of attacks — reveal little that sets them apart from other teenagers.An algorithm trawling the Web for people who like violent video games or firearms would be swamped with far more hits than any law enforcement agency or school administrator could conceivably review.The same would be true of any program that looked for words like “gun,” “bomb” or “shoot,” as the Jacksonville, Florida, police department discovered the hard way when its social media monitoring tool — while producing zero evidence of criminal activity — flagged comments about crab burgers, pizza or beer being described as “bomb,” or excellent. (It also caught two uses of the phrase “photo bomb.”)DISCRIMINATION EVIDENTSocial media monitoring tools can also result in discrimination against minority students.A recent ACLU report showed that the Boston Police Department’s social media monitoring efforts contributed nothing to public safety while searching for terms like “Ferguson” and “#blacklivesmatter,” as well as terms likely to be used by Muslim users, like “#muslimlivesmatter” and “ummah,” the Arabic word for community.There is also substantial evidence to suggest that children of color, especially those who are Muslim, would be treated as dangerous and perhaps subject to extra monitoring, despite the fact that the majority of school shooters have been white. Categories: Editorial, OpinionThe Parkland, Florida, school shooting has reignited the national conversation on what can be done to prevent such tragedies, which seem to occur with frightening regularity.One option, which already is used by many schools and probably will be adopted by more, is to employ companies that monitor students’ social media feeds to flag threats of violence, as well as behavior such as bullying and self-harm.Miami-Dade County’s school system has asked for $30 million in upgrades that include “advanced monitoring of social media,” while schools in California, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia have indicated that social media monitoring, including by third-party companies, is a key security feature.But schools should think long and hard before they go down this path.  Children of color appear likely to be treated more harshly in general, even when their white peers break the same rules.KIDS MAY GET SNEAKIERAs many Americans cheer the Parkland shooting survivors for their political activism, it is important to recognize the chilling effect of ongoing surveillance.Given that 92 percent of American teens go online daily and 24 percent are online almost constantly, monitoring programs can operate like listening devices that record every utterance and pass it on to school administrators.Yes, this scrutiny may on occasion reveal risky behavior that requires intervention.But far more often, it will also squelch young people’s ability to express themselves — and probably drive conversations to communications channels that cannot be easily monitored.POLICIES NEEDEDThis is not to say that schools should never look at students’ Facebook posts.But they should generally do so only when there is a reason — for example, when a student or parent has flagged concerning behavior or when the school is investigating online harassment or bullying. Every school must have in place policies available to parents, teachers and students specifying when it will look at social media postings.Such policies should be narrowly tailored to avoid impinging on the privacy and free speech rights of students, and they should limit the sharing of data with third parties and include procedures for deleting information when a child graduates or leaves the school, as well as safeguards to ensure that children of color are not unfairly targeted.In the wake of yet another school shooting, Americans are understandably looking for ways to keep students safe.We should focus our attention on measures that have been proved to work, such as sensible gun controls and ensuring that parents and peers know whom to contact to report threats and to receive help, rather than expensive tools that are unlikely to make us secure but carry substantial costs for the very children we are trying to protect.Faiza Patel is co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.Rachel Levinson-Waldman is senior counsel in the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?last_img read more

Letters to the Editor for Monday, Oct. 7

first_imgMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationGov. Andrew Cuomo’s press conference for Sunday, Oct. 18Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motorists Categories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionUnion labor offers city many benefitsWhy have Albany’s developers suddenly decided to turn their backs on the labor force that has consistently been an integral part of the local economy by bringing out-of-town contractors and workers to do the work?Local union members are better trained, more productive and better equipped to bring projects in on time and under budget. They don’t leave a long list of items that need fixing because they weren’t done right the first time.Those members also earn a living wage, so they are not struggling to feed their families the way over 3 million New York households are, according to the United Way ALICE project.These wages are invested back into the local economy, supporting local businesses and making Albany a better, more attractive place to be.The naysayers love to tell us how union wages are too high and skyrocket the cost of projects. They are focused on only one portion of a project’s cost, neglecting costs of materials, management and waste disposal; the list goes on. At the end of the day, the project cost will increase minimally. However, developers would also do well to remember this: You get what you pay for.Union labor built the South Mall and much of Albany’s skyline. Don’t leave the local union men and women behind that have made the Albany area their home.Mike MartellSchenectadyTrump has solutions that the Dems don’tWhy don’t the Democrats stop abusing our president and start putting their money where their mouths are?Take, for example, out west and in  the central part of United States. Why don’t they try to figure out a way to prevent all of the disasters? How many more Democrats are going to throw their hats in the circus arena?There is no excuse for abortion nowadays, especially with all the contraception option out there and surgery to prevent unwanted babies. The only way I would accept abortion is if a woman was raped. If she was raped, she should see a doctor right away before it’s too late.I think our president should demand seeing all the liberals’ taxes back six years. When they legalized marijuana, what will they do with the tax on it? Put it in the general fund like they did with our Social Security? Don’t we have enough drugs out there destroying people’s lives and putting other lives in danger? I would like the names of the legislators who vote for it. Why isn’t Hillary in jail for using her own server, which was illegal?I pray that President Trump gets re-elected. Wake up America. He is doing a fine job. At least he’s trying to negotiate with North Korea and other countries. He’s right about China. They ship more goods over here than we send there. He’s right about putting tariffs on the goods they send over here.James MaxfieldScotialast_img read more

Customer-led strategy rings the till for C&RP

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Retail Bidding in a big way

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Property chiefs unite in BIDs funding row

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US expert predicts reduced power for property managers

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The year of leverage

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Compco’s Camden and W1 refurbs

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Courtauld institutes Great Portland revamp

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