Sunday, December 7, 2014

Is America a "Congenitally Racist Country Erected Upon the Plunder of Life, Liberty, Labor and Land?"

At this moment especially, when we search for answers to Ferguson, New York and elsewhere, we can find them in this stunning piece of real, old-time, long-form, investigative journalism, from the cover of the Atlantic magazine in June. And the chief answer, without question, is that we are a nation founded on white supremacy and still imposing it actively through governmental power, from policing on up to health insurance and housing policy and much more.

Here is the author, Ta-Nahesi Coates, from a Nov. 26 post about the agony of watching a black president contort himself so as not to have to address the essential core of racism at the heart of our economy, polity, history and America's existence"
"In nearly every major American city one can find a population of people whose very existence, whose very history, whose very traditions, are an assault upon this country's nationalist instincts. Black people are the chastener of their own country. Their experience says to America, 'You wear the mask.'"
White supremacy is pervasive and it is part of everything we are as Americans. If you read nothing else, please read "The Case for Reparations: Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racists housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole."

We must name the truth of our country and we must face and honestly confront and answer for it. Only then, do we create a way to heal.

Uber Netflixed Taxis, Who Will Uber Uber?

Credit: Getty Images
Digital disruption ala Uber vs. taxis, is an accelerating, inexorable force. It's not a question of if software will eat you; it's just a question of when.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Back Again!

I've waited a bit just to make sure, but it appears that Vivek Kundra finally is back to stay.

His saga is a cautionary tale for everyone seeking to serve the Obama administration, though. Washington is a "no good deed goes unpunished" town. In attempting to make personnel decisions carefully and to avoid conflicts of interest, the Obama administration has unleashed an evil djin--a crowd of pundits, bloggers, reporters and groups ready to pounce on the slightest taint. Once leashed, this monster will leave no stone unturned, no closet unopened. I suppose that is as it should be, especially in this era of transparency, but it's going to take some getting used to. Remember the days when all manner of private peccadilloes remained private?

I guess sunlight will be disinfecting us all now. So here's a reminder: Don't commit anything to the Ethernet, public records, or anywhere else unless you are prepared to see it, well, everywhere.

And now that Kundra is back, expect to see mountains of once-hidden or impenetrable federal data being unearthed, cleansed, transmitted and revealed. The countdown begins . . .

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Vivek Kundra!

So Vivek Kundra already has been forced to take leave of his brand new post as federal chief information officer just days after he finally was officially named to the job. He had been working in the Office of Management and Budget unofficially for a while before the formal announcement, giving rise to rumors and mutterings about why no announcement was forthcoming.

Today, as he spoke to a large audience at the government technology expo, FOSE, in downtown Washington, FBI agents raided the offices where he had served as the District of Columbia's chief technology office since 2007.

According to WTOP Radio, which broke the story of the raid, they took two men into custody. One, Yusuf Acar, is acting chief security officer for the District and buys computers and hires contract employees for city offices. He was charged with bribery of a public official, money laundering, wire fraud and conflict of interest. The other, Sushil Bansal, is president and chief executive officer of Advanced Integrated Technologies Corporation. He also is a former D.C. government employee, charges against him include bribery of a public official, money laundering, wire fraud and conflict of interest.

The two allegedly conspired to fraudulently bill DC for inventory and workers that never appeared, then split the payments.

WTOP reported that AITC had been working for DC since 2004, but that its billings doubled to more than $5 million in 2008 after Kundra took over.

Let's face it. This doesn't look good for Kundra. Even if he bears no taint at all of the alleged crimes, they occurred in part on his watch. According to WTOP, "Bansal's company has offices in D.C. and India and received more than $13 million in business with the D.C. government in the past five years, according to court documents."

So many people, myself included, have had such high hopes for Kundra as a prophet of virtual government and a smart, apparently good-hearted agent of change who both understood and appreciated public servants and the challenges they face. Of course he is innocent until proved otherwise, but Washington is an unforgiving town and Obama is a very careful and tough president facing a snarling GOP ready to pounce. Already he has passed on a number of nominees with lesser problems than a new FBI investigation swirling around them.

Having been on a panel with Kundra and studied him and his accomplishments from afar, I was an early supporter. I remain a supporter of his Gov 2.0 spirit and accomplishments today. But I am sad. Just very, very sad, no matter how this turns out. It's like the tragic story of White Sox slugger "Shoeless Joe Jackson," who was suspended from baseball for life with seven others accused in the infamous "Black Sox scandal" of having thrown the 1919 World Series. "Say it ain't so, Joe," a young fan is said to have implored Jackson outside the courthouse. Tonight I feel what that youngster must have felt.

Shoeless Joe and his seven compatriots were acquitted by a Chicago jury in 1921, but were banned from the game nonetheless. One fears a similar fate for Kundra.

Whatever happens, I salute WTOP's Mark Seagraves for sticking with this story like a terrier with a bone. It's nice to see some good old shoe-leather reporting for a change. It's a dying art, Mark. Big ups.