Imagine the Alternatives

Sexual assault awareness month; deporting the "good people"; and more.


  • President Hillary Clinton quietly sent her son-in-law, investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, to Iraq on Monday, adding “winning the war against ISIS” to his growing list of responsibilities, which also include “solving Middle East peace,” “heading the new White House Office of American Innovation,” “managing the U.S.-China summit,” and “ending the opioid crisis.” The Chinese government, convinced of Mezvinsky’s importance in the Clinton White House, not only has established a “back channel” to him through its ambassador in Washington, it has also quietly encouraged a Chinese state bank to invest in his troubled hedge fund. While Clinton’s husband has largely stayed out of the White House and remained at home in New York, her daughter Chelsea has also taken a unpaid role in the administration while continuing to run the family foundation and earning five- and six-figure fees giving speeches to corporations with interests in Washington. Meanwhile, most top sub-Cabinet level positions are still unfilled, though in one piece of unexpected news, longtime Clinton confidante and political adviser Sidney Blumenthal has been removed from his brief stint as a member of the National Security Council.

  • According to the theory of an infinite universe (as explicated by astrophysicist Brian Greene), somewhere out there it’s statistically possible that there’s a planet just like Earth where the above paragraph is actually happening, and you betcha, the opposition party and media out there would also largely be acting like “This is normal.”

  • Meanwhile, back here on the lonely planet, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon has lost his seat on the NSC and is seen as steadily losing a power struggle with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is aligned with the Wall Street wing of the White House personified by former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, who is the chair of the National Economic Council, as Eliana Johnson, Kenneth Vogel and Josh Dawsey report for Politico. Hmm, why does Wall Street always come out on top?

  • President Trump, who has declared April “sexual assault awareness month,” tells The New York Times Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush that he thinks Fox News host Bill O’Reily is “a good man” and shouldn’t have settled the many sexual harassment suits against him.

  • Helen Beristain of Indiana voted for Trump, despite the fact that her husband was undocumented, believing that “the good people would not be deported.” Now he has been deported to Mexico, as David Mack reports for BuzzFeed.

  • In the same way that Reddit users learned to band together to make posts rise to the top of that social news site, pro-Trump Twitter users have learned to band together to make their messages and memes trend there. Or so claims “Microchip,” the pseudonym of a pro-Trump Twitter user who says he is a freelance mobile software developer from Utah, profiled by Joseph Bernstein for BuzzFeed.

  • Sam Altman, the head of Y Combinator, who has gotten much more politically active of late, tells Megan Rose Dickey of TechCrunch that “this was the election of the algorithm,” citing stories suggesting that Cambridge Analytica helped the Trump campaign micro target messages at millions of individual voters. (His statement comes about 9 minutes into the video.)

  • A coalition of civil rights and human rights groups, along with tech experts, are urging that law enforcement agencies not rush to embrace Axon (formerly TASER International)’s offer of free body cameras for their police.

  • Today in big data: Car insurers in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri including Allstate, Geico and Liberty Mutual charge premiums that are “on average 30 percent higher in zip codes where most residents are minorities than in whiter neighborhoods with similar accident costs,” ProPublica’s Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Lauren Kirchner and Surya Mattu report. Their study was done in partnership with Consumer Reports.

  • Media matters: In the wake of implementing “demonetization” policies supposedly aimed at undercutting hate speech, YouTube has just launched YouTube TV, a streaming service offering TV and cable channels to paying subscribers. The result: YouTubers who run news and/or politics channels are facing a collapse of their advertising revenues, as this video from Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski explains.

  • This is civic tech: The government of Ontario is spending $700,000 to help launch Code for Canada, aiming to bring together coders and designers to find high-tech solutions to improve people’s lives, Jessica Galang reports for Canada’s BetaKit.

  • Here’s a nice story from ABC-TV in NY on how tenants in the city are using JustFix.nyc to deal with negligent landlords.

  • The New Yorker’s Moira Weigel reports on a recent hackathon in San Francisco focused on improving abortion access.

  • Our friend Dan Schultz’s “Internet Noise” tool, made as a protest of the repeal of the FCC’s Internet privacy rule, gets profiled by Thomas Beller in The New Yorker.

  • Attend: The schedule for Organizing 2.0, taking place this Friday and Saturday in New York City, is now up. Curated by veteran organizers Elana Levin and Charles Lenchner, the event is a must-attend for anyone wanting to learn the basics of digital organizing or get the latest smarts. Tickets are still available.

  • Apply: Our friends at the Data & Society Institute are looking to hire a communication manager.

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