To my friends at the ACLU, stay out of Hollywood

The Internet is awash in repeated (and retweeted) reports that the ACLU wants an inquiry into gender discrimination in Hollywood. Some readers know I was active in the Indiana affiliate of the ACLU (even served a couple of years as its president). I often support much of what the ACLU works on, but on this instance I have to part ways with them.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of evidence of gender discrimination in Hollywood. And something ought to be done about it. But this is not an issue the ACLU should be pushing.

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded with a core purpose of protecting civil liberties—the rights found in the Bill of Rights and other parts of the Constitution. The ACLU’s purpose is to keep government from overstepping its bounds—even when that overstepping is wildly popular.

Hollywood, for all of its power, is not a governmental actor. It cannot infringe on First Amendment or even Equal Protection rights. Only a government can do that. Like it or not, there’s not a single thing in the Constitution that requires private industry to treat women fairly.

Again, I’m not saying Hollywood should be able to discriminate. I’m only saying that this issue is not something within the ACLU’s purpose. There are plenty of things the government is up to (NSA spying, police abuses, etc.) that needs the ACLU’s limited resources. Spending its time and money on something that involves private industry engaging in bad behavior is unwise.

NFL publishes price list for cheating

In a little-noticed move yesterday, the NFL published what can only be described as a price list for teams that want to get the rules waived during a game. All the team needs to do is inform the officials of the intended infraction and pay the designated amount (I’m guessing payments will be electronic?). The refs get payment confirmation and no flag will be thrown.

Word of this price list circulated quickly through the dark side of the Internet as players and teams fought to keep it secret. Of course, once something hits the Internet, it doesn’t remain secret for long.

Despite my efforts, I haven’t been able to get ahold of the actual price list, but based on the comments I’ve seen I can piece together some of its parts. Some were willing to chat with me online and share their thoughts. Out of respect, I won’t identify people making comments.

“This is great!” said one player. “If we need to interfere with a receiver, all we have to do is signal that the team will pay the $10,000. That’s a small price to pay for preventing your opponent from taking the lead in the fourth quarter.”

One coach noted that his club—one of the wealthiest—will have a distinct advantage. “We’ve had strong teams in recent years but just haven’t been able to get past the last hurdle. We’ve got plenty of cash, and I suspect we will use it to level the playing field against certain teams.”

I asked this coach if the NFL should just shred the rule book all together. “No,” he said. “Certain rules have to be there for safety reasons. That’s why grabbing a guy’s face mask will still get you a yardage penalty. But the rules designed to ensure fair competition, well, it’ll be nice to get them waived when needed.” When pressed to identify when a waiver might be needed, the coach said, “Say your offense has momentum. The last thing your guys need is some dunderhead getting himself declared an ineligible receiver and cutting the momentum off. For a lousy thousand bucks, we can ensure that a dumb mistake won’t kill us.”

With all of this coming on the heels of “Deflate-gate,” I had to ask the obvious question: does this price list include using under-inflated balls? One player would only say, “What do you think?” I asked what the named cost was, but he demurred. “It’s not a million bucks, I’ll say that.” He wouldn’t reveal anything more, which leads one to wonder: are there increased prices for playoff games, championship games, and even the Super Bowl? After asking the coach this question repeatedly, he simply signed off the chat.

What is wrong with @MacSparky????

David Sparks, aka MacSparky, has really done it this time. I don’t know whether I want to cheer or yell at him. I met David briefly a few years ago at Techshow. He’s as nice in person as he is in his podcast, Mac Power Users, or on his blog. But today he has my dander up.

David prepared a very nice, thorough review of the new MacBook. He discusses its pros and cons, and explains how it fits into his workflows. But then he included this little tidbit:

Since getting the new MacBook, I’ve found that I can work just about anywhere and I like that. Earlier this week I had lunch with my wife at Disneyland and then spent several hours doing legal work on the laptop while watching the Mark Twain steamship paddle down the Rivers of America. How many people can have that view from their office?

A photo of his laptop with the Mark Twain in the background accompanied that portion of the review. I don’t know Disneyland as well as I know the Walt Disney World theme parks, but I know right where that picture was taken.

Dagnabitall anyway!!!!

At first I thought, “David, what the hell are you doing taking work to Disneyland? That’s blasphemy! Are you nuts? I won’t even attend MILOFest because I’m not spending my time at a Disney resort in a conference, doing work, or anything else like that.” Disney locations are sacred to me. I was so irritated with David I was almost speechless.

Then it hit me: David can do work at Disneyland. Holy freaking cow. I am soooo jealous. On rare occasion, I can duck out of the office with a file and my MacBook Pro and do some work while enjoying a nice iced tea or other soft drink at some restaurant. But I don’t have a view that’s anywhere near what David had.

I suspect that David has a number of places in Disneyland where he enjoys just sitting and watching the park do its thing. I can think of a few places at WDW where I enjoy sitting and just absorbing the experience of being there. If I was located close enough to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, I can imagine that I might use a couple of those spots as a remote office. Being 2084 miles away from Disneyland and 1,106 miles from Disney World makes it pretty much impossible, I’m sad to say.

Anyway, David, good on ya for having a great (really, a great!) place to do some work. I will remain envious, but you’ve got my support. Just do me a favor and post more pictures from your remote office. :-)

Baltimore is more complicated than that

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.47.26 AMIt was with distress yesterday that I saw news reports of riots breaking out in parts of Baltimore after a funeral. Mourners buried the body of a man who died in police custody (and whose death has not been fully explained) and then gathered to protest. Some of the protesters turned violent, smashing police cars and looting stores. The police suffered some injuries, at least one of which may be quite serious, and a number of officers were sent to the hospital. I do not know how many non-police officers were injured.

This is a mess. A sad, tragic mess.

There are a few important things to point out. First, not all of the people protesting were violent. Not all of them are necessarily even thugs, as suggested by Baltimore’s mayor. Mob psychology can make even good people do things that are out of character. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but the good people who made stupid choices shouldn’t be thrown in with the group of opportunists who seized the chance.

Second, not all of the police officers are innocents. I know a lot of cops, and I believe they are good men and women. I’m proud to represent them in various matters. There are some officers, though, that have difficulty with the responsibility entrusted to them. They abuse their power and too often go unpunished. When the community sees this lack of punishment, it leads to disrespect for the police.

Many officers, however, believe they should be respected simply because they are the police—no matter how badly they may behave. The bad behavior, of course, leads to more disrespect, which leads to more frustration for the police…and a vicious cycle continues. The police become more militant (out of a perceived need), and the community becomes more estranged.

What we see on the news, lines of police officers in riot gear facing off against apparently angry protesters, is not the full picture. Among those officers are a few who would like to “show the criminals a thing or two.” Among the officers are also many who hope things don’t get out of hand so that no one is endangered. Among the protesters are a few who would like to “teach the police a lesson.” Also among the protesters are many who may be angry that their voice isn’t being heard but who reject violence. There was dramatic footage yesterday taken from a cell phone showing a protester who was stepping in front of the police line, turning and facing his fellow protesters and putting his arms out to encourage them to back away from the police. He was joined by a few other protesters doing the same thing.

What bothers me most about this situation is that the government leaders are most interested—appropriately—in restoring order yet will not have the same level of interest or dedication to solving the underlying problems of distrust between police officers and the communities. There needs to be an honest disclosure of police abuses and appropriate punishments for the guilty—just as there needs to be a fair prosecution and punishment of those who engaged in acts of violence. If government leaders are not willing to take on the uncomfortable duty of holding police responsible when they cross the line, then all the government is doing is making the situation worse. If the community sees a bunch of protesters punished (protesters, not thugs) but the police officers escape punishment, then the distrust and disrespect for the police will deepen. The problem will become harder to solve.

I do not know what the answers are. I don’t know how to get members of the community to begin trusting police officers again. I don’t know how to get police officers to understand that they will be more respected by acting as upright individuals. I do know, however, t
hat if something isn’t done soon, we will find ourselves living in a nation that experiences more violence on both sides of the line.

The Nepal earthquake

511pyvWg3YLYears ago I read one of the most gripping books I’ve encountered: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. The story is a first-person account of the 1996 disaster that claimed a number of lives on Mt. Everest. Krakauer tells the story of how one even gets to the Mt. Everest region in the Kingdom of Nepal. He introduces you to the locals in Kathmandu as well as the sherpas who live in the mountains and earn a living by helping take climbers up and down the mountain.

Candidly, I can’t stand to look at the news any longer. I don’t want to see the death toll climb. The people who have suffered (and continue to suffer) are just a little too real to me because of Krakauer’s book. But I feel obligated to help and ask you to do the same.

Please donate to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts. If you’re not a fan of the ARC, please find some other way to help. The people of Nepal are amazing, and like all people of the world they deserve our help in this time of need.