What does Charlie Baker like about Jeff Sessions?

To celebrate Rosa Parks Day this year, I called the Governor’s office to follow-up on his thoughts about Trump’s appointees. A few weeks ago, Baker told the press that he didn’t want to “pre-judge” the appointments. Instead he said:

Trump “has made clear he wants to unify the country post-election, and I said that, based on some of Bannon’s previous remarks and activities, that was a concern to me,” Baker said of the pick. “But I’m going to take a page from President Obama’s book on this one, who said the other day that he thinks the Trump administration’s team should be judged on the totality of his appointments. Let’s see what else happens.”

Time has passed and Trump has named more people to his cabinet. In fact, so far Trump has selected individuals who control a combined eleven billion dollars in personal wealth. So much for draining the swamp.

Because the office of the Governor represents me and my interests, I want to know what Charlie Baker thinks about Trump’s appointments. So yesterday I called again, for the third time, to ask. And once again, his aide Shauna greeted me on the other end of the line. We’re starting to get familiar with one another. And I like her a lot. Our conversation went something like this:

Hi, Shauna! Good morning. How are you? First of all, I’d like to wish you a very happy Rosa Parks Day!

Shauna seemed very happy to have been wished a happy Rosa Parks Day. I continued.

I know I’ve called before to ask this. Governor Baker said that he didn’t want to pre-judge Trump’s appointments until we had a clearer view of his whole administration. Now that a few weeks have passed and we know more of his appointments, can you tell me which of Trump’s appointments the Governor likes and supports?

Regrettably, Shauna told me that she is not authorized to make statements on the subject other than what has already been released to the public. So I asked the only natural next question.

Can I speak with someone who is authorized to tell me what the Governor thinks on the matter?

Even though she wasn’t sure whether her supervisor had the proper authorization to tell me my governor’s opinion on matters of public governance, she forwarded my call to her supervisor John anyway. Once John picked up the phone, I started over.

Hi, John. Good morning. How are you today? First of all, I’d like to wish you a very happy Rosa Parks Day!

I paused for his response and half-heartedly hoped that he’d wish me a happy Rosa Parks Day in return. Instead, the line fell silent. So I pressed on.

I’ve called a few times before to find out what Charlie Baker thinks of Trump’s appointments to the cabinet. A few weeks ago he told the Globe that he wanted to wait to judge the administration on the totality of Trump’s appointments. Now that he has appointed more people to his cabinet, can you tell me which of Trump’s appointments does Governor Baker support and why?

John reminded me that Baker has already said that he is concerned by Bannon’s appointment. But that was not my question.

I appreciate that he is concerned about Bannon. But there have been several over appointments. For instance, Trump has named Jeff Sessions to run the Department of Justice. Jeff Sessions is a man who was too racist to be confirmed as a federal judge. I do not support racism in my government officials. I’d like to know does Charlie Baker support racism in his government officials? I’d like to know which of Trump’s appointments the Governor agrees with and supports and why.

John then told me that he’d pass my request onto the Governor.

Charlie Baker, please have the dignity and the courage to continue the public conversation you began a few weeks ago. Please tell me which of Trump’s cabinet appointments you support. I ask you as one of your constituents and as a voter.

Please call Baker’s office and ask him the same. The number is (617) 725-4005. #makeAmericaGreatAgain #drainTheSwamp

Singing and Protesting in the Rain

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Protesting Kellyanne Conway's invitation to speak at the Harvard School of Government

Protesting Kellyanne Conway's invitation to speak at the Harvard School of Government

Tonight I participated in a protest at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. They invited chief propagandist Kellyanne Conway to speak. We cannot normalize post-truth spin doctors.

When we normalize racism, we commit a racist act.
When we normalize violence, we commit violence.
When we normalize financial inequality, we oppress the poor.

Stand up. #drainTheSwamp #makeAmericaGreatAgain

Help Harvard protect freedom of association. Write your professors

Earlier this year, Harvard instituted some very well-meaning but misguided sanctions of students who participate in single-gender social organizations. The sanctions have been marketed as promoting inclusivity, which is a pretty-sounding word. Who is against inclusivity, after all? But the way they achieve it is by coercion and restriction of thought and association. Harvard plans to discriminate against students based on who they choose to hang out with. Discrimination is not inclusion.

This policy reminds me of a joke about post-Nazi Germany. It goes something like this. After the War, Germany was trying to heal. As a matter of unifying its citizenry, there was a great campaign to encourage tolerance among the varying and fractured subpopulations within the country. Government officials went around explaining town-to-town, “You must be tolerant. If you are not tolerant, we will compel you to be tolerant.” End joke.

These sanctions are a thinly-veiled attempt to undermine final clubs. Before I go on, let me very clear: I was not a member of any final club as a student. I am not currently affiliated with a final club. I have several close friends and former students who were sexually assaulted at final clubs. And I do not support final clubs as an institution. And I cannot believe that the administration is making me defend their existence. In fact, I’m angry about it.

But I want to know, what problem are the sanctions a solution to? The administration has already said that it plans to apply the sanctions inconsistently. According to the Crimson:

According to an email from the Seneca’s undergraduate officers to Seneca members obtained by The Crimson, Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich assured the Seneca at a May meeting that if the group removed gender requirements from its charter and bylaws, the club “could continue to operate as it always has.”

Although the Seneca will continue to only invite women to their first recruitment event of the semester, men will be allowed to attend the event without an invitation and participate in the subsequent parts of the selection process should they wish, said undergraduate co-president president Avni Nahar ’17 in an interview.

“Like Women in Business or Latinas Unidas, although men may apply, our membership can be made up wholly of women without incurring the sanctions of the administration’s new policy,” Nahar and co-president Fran F. Swanson ’17 wrote in the email, according to a copy obtained by The Crimson.

So the sanctions cannot be about combating elitism or exclusivity. So what does the administration intend by these sanctions? Just to use large, centralized power to punish people they disagree with. When I was a student at Harvard, I learned not to take away freedom of thought and association simply because I don’t like someone or who they hang out with, no matter how reprehensible I find them. Harvard should not discriminate on the basis of the organization students choose to join. Harvard’s new and bizarre brand of inclusion is based on suppressing and removing the parts it doesn’t find convenient. It is not, in a word, inclusive. And these sanctions do nothing to address the very real and very grave issue of sexual violence on campus.

As a resident tutor in Quincy House, I learned the all too grim reality that sexual violence is not confined to final clubs. It happens everywhere, including in the Houses. Sexual violence transcends group and team affiliation, race, gender, age, position, religion, or creed. Sexual violence is a rank and insidious social ill that plagues our campus. Instead of curtailing freedom of association on campus, I wish the faculty would draft courageous and targeted policies that address the real problem: sexual violence.

Fortunately, there is a motion to protect students’ right to free association on campus before the faculty right now. Members of the Faculty of Arts and Science will vote next Tuesday, December 6, on the motion. I have written to faculty I know to urge them to support the motion.

Here is a letter I sent to Howard Georgi, the Residential Faculty Dean (formerly called House Master) at Leverett House:

Dear Chief,

Since the election, I’ve rededicated myself to the people, institutions, and values that are important to me. Because Harvard is important to me, I’m writing to ask you to vote in favor of the motion before the faculty next week to protect students’ freedom of association. Harvard should not discriminate on the basis of group affiliation.

First, I want you to know that I was not in a final club as an undergraduate. And I have close friends who were sexually assaulted in final clubs during my time at the College. I do not support final clubs as an institution.

But I also have friends and former students who were sexually assaulted on campus in the Houses. Sexual violence at Harvard is a very real and grave problem. And I am in favor of policies that will protect students from sexual assault.

The sanctions against the final clubs are well-meaning, but an answer to a different question. It does not tackle the challenging and important problem of sexual assault on campus. Instead, the sanctions have been marketed as a way of embracing inclusivity. But it is an inclusivity by coercion and restriction of association and thoughts, which is no inclusivity at all. I do not want to punish people simply because they hang out with people I do not know or necessarily like. That’s not what the Core education taught me.

I hope you will help the administration abandon the current sanctions and draft new policies that tackle the problem directly: sexual violence on campus.

Will you support the motion next week?

Thanks for your time and your support of the House system.
All the best,
Josh

If you know someone on the Faculty, please send them a similar note to support the motion to protect students’ freedom of association.

I really cannot believe President Faust and Dean Khurana are making me defend final clubs. Really. Sheesh.

Merry Christmas! New law gives your home computer and phone to government

Has your computer ever been infected with malware or spyware? Well, if it has, a new law that will go into effect December 1, says that if you’re computer has been hacked into into, then the federal government can legally hack into it without your knowing about it, too!

That’s right! Anyone acting on behalf of the federal government can go to any judge in any district to get a warrant to search your computer just because some jerk on the Internet infected your computer with some bogus scamware.

That means those bank statements and other private documents you keep on your home computer are up for grabs. Pictures of your friends, of your family, of you—including that selfie stash of yours! they’re all fair game. Run a company with sensitive customer data? Well, if any of your computers gets hacked, KA-BOOM! The feds can legally hack it, too. They can peek around and copy all of your company records. Who cares if it’s confidential? Now it’s “evidence”.

Starting three years ago, the Department of Justice drafted changes to the Search and Seizure rules of Federal Criminal Procedure law. The DOJ sent its changes to the Federal Courts. The courts okayed the changes to hack into American computers and passed them on to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS approved the changes on April 28. Now Congress has them for review. If not blocked, they go into effect on December 1. Christmas comes early for the FBI!

I’ve highlighted the relevant parts of the proposed amendment to the Search and Seizure Rule 41 that give the feds license over your data if your computer has been infected by malware and is part of a botnet.

10 FEDERAL RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Rule 41. Search and Seizure
***
(b) Authority to Issue a Warrant.
At the request of a federal law enforcement officer or an attorney for the government:
* * *
(6) a magistrate judge with authority in any district where activities related to a crime may have occurred has authority to issue a warrant to use remote access to search electronic storage media and to seize or copy electronically stored information located within or outside that district if:

(A) the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means; or
(B) in an investigation of a violation of U.S.C. §1030(a)(5), the media are protected computers that have been damaged without authorization and are located in five or more districts

But there is hope! You are the hope. You can call Congress. Here’s what to say.

Congress can change the law. There is a bill in the House and one in the Senate to repeal this odious big government overreach of power and invasion of privacy.

Here’s what I said when I called Rep. Katherine Clark’s office earlier (district office: (617) 354-0292):

Hi, my name is Joshua Reyes and I live in Cambridge, MA. I’m calling to ask Representative Clark to cosponsor H.R.5321 Stopping Mass Hacking Act. Personal privacy is important to me. And I do not expect to give up my personal privacy just because my computer or phone is connected to the internet. Does Representative Clark agree with me?

Thank you and have a nice day.

And to my senators Warren (Boston office: (617) 565-3170) and Markey (Boston office: (617) 565-8519):

Hi, my name is Joshua Reyes and I live in Cambridge, MA. I’m calling to ask Senator Markey/Warren to cosponsor S.3475 Review the Rule Act of 2016. Personal privacy is important to me. And I do not expect to give up my personal privacy just because my computer or phone is connected to the internet. Does Senator Markey/Warren agree with me?

Thank you and have a nice day.

Many representatives and senators don’t know about this obscure amendment. So it’s important to call now and let them know how you feel! December 1 is just a day away. I believe in you!


Don’t live in Massachusetts? No problem! Look up your representative. Look up your senators.

Charity Spotlight: Massachusetts Bail Fund

I recently donated to the Massachusetts Bail Fund. I love them. Here’s why:

Would you like to go to jail without receiving a trial? Nope. Me, neither. But that’s how the justice system works.

When you are suspected of a crime and due in court, you usually have two options: wait for the trial in jail or fork over money as bail. If you don’t show up to court, you lose the money. If you do, you get it back once the case is closed.

When the type of justice you get depends on how much money you have, the wealthy always win out. If you can afford to drop $500, you get to go home, go to work the next day, and continue with your life.

But what if you couldn’t afford bail? We lock you up to wait for your turn in court. Taxpayers pay $125 each night we force you to stay there. You have no control over how long it’ll take for a date in court to open up. You could wait weeks, months, and sometimes years, for a trial. Those bills add up. Meanwhile, you don’t show up to work because you’re behind bars. You lose your job. You can’t pay your bills. Your life is ruined before you even make it to court, just because you couldn’t post as little as $50 for bail.

The Massachusetts Bail Fund fronts the bail for clients who can’t afford it themselves. When a case closes, the fund gets the money back. Last month, they posted bail for 382 people.

And it works: half of the cases were dismissed. That means the judges decided that it wasn’t worth the time to finish these cases. No harm, no foul. Without help from the bail fund, nearly two hundred people would have sat in jail just to wait in line to go back home. In October, they lost only 4 bails. That’s a 99% success rate. Imagine if everything worked 99% of the time. That’s a world I’d like to live in.

Since the money goes back to the bail fund after each case closes, your donation can be re-used to help more people. That’s good for the clients, that’s good for their families, that’s good for the community, that’s good for law enforcement, and that’s good for you, the taxpayers. What a smart investment!

I love this fund because I’m cheap. Instead of shelling out $4,000 a month to lock someone up just to hang out, I’d rather the state spend it on something that I use, like the MBTA. I’m just selfish like that. Charlie Baker, fix the T.

Look up bail funds in your state! Or donate to the Massachusetts Bail Fund.

Thankful to live in Massachusetts

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I’m going to take today and following few days to slow down and relax, look around me with a careful and thankful eye, and reflect on what I have to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my friends and family—for their love, loyalty, and support. I am thankful for where I live. I am thankful for a warm, dry home, access to good, healthy food, clean water, and a fuzzy, sometimes-affectionate cat named Donut.

I am thankful for my community. Cambridge is a great place to live. We have wonderful public and social services, a thoughtful municipal government, a vibrant and diverse population of interesting and often friendly people, good jobs, good bars—here’s looking at you, the Abbey— fun when you want it, quiet when you need it, tall trees, wild turkeys, fluffy bunnies, and four full seasons. I’m thankful for all of it.

And I am thankful for my state. I am both proud and horrified to say that Massachusetts was the only state in the lower forty-eight to vote Democrat everywhere on the county-level in the last presidential election. (Apparently, Hawaii did, too.)

As all parts of the country, folks in Massachusetts are hurting, too. I am thankful that my neighbors across the state voted against solutions that promote finger pointing, blame, and hate to ease their pain. I am thankful that in Massachusetts we voted to protect our environment, to fight for women’s rights, black rights, immigrant rights, Muslim rights, gay rights, and general civil rights, and to dignify people with the basic rights to health care, equal pay for equal work, and higher wages.

Are you thankful for you local and state governments?

On this day of thanksgiving, I hope you are, too!

Ask the Globe to investigate Trump’s appointees

I love the Boston Globe newspaper. I’m a subscriber. They do really good work, like this very readable informational piece on assault riffles.

So I thought, I don’t know much about Trumps appointees. And I can imagine a Thanksgiving conversation with my family going like this:

Do you know anything about this Harold Hamm guy Trump wants on his cabinet? —No? Me, neither.

And that’s no good. I don’t know anything about billionaire, oil-tychoon Harold Hamm. Instead, I’d like the conversation to go more like this:

Do you know anythign about this Harold Hamm guy Trump wants on his cabinet? No, let’s pull up his biography on the Boston Globe.

What! Hamm tried to get university scientists fired because he didn’t want them to report on earthquake activity associated with gas and oil extraction in his state?

Investigating Trump’s appointees and communicating their history is exactly what a good functioning, independent, free press can do. It’s a role critical to democracy because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth. And an good informed citizenry makes for a stronger republic. So I called the Boston Globe news room to pitch my idea. Here’s what I said:

Good morning! My name is Joshua Reyes and I’m a subscriber to the Boston Globe. First, I’d like to that you for the good work the Globe does.

I have something that I like the Globe to do. I’d like you to write biographies of Trump’s appointees. I don’t know much about them. So when I talk with my family about politics, I’d like to say, “Let’s just look up their biography on the Globe.”

Can the Boston Globe investigate the appointees and publish individual bios of them?

The person who answered was really friendly and seemed to like the idea. She said she’d pass it on to their political editor.

You can call, too! The news room number is (617) 929-3100.

The press needs help your help. Investigations take time and money to do well. Reporters need a livelihood, too. In this society, you get the news you pay for. So you should buy a subscription to your favorite local paper. If you need a suggestion, though, go for the Globe.

What does Charlie Baker like about Steve Bannon?

Charlie Baker has once again proven he is a weak coward. He failed the Bannon test.

Bannon has a history of domestic violence, intimidation of victims, and the promotion of hate speech against gays, Jews, and blacks. Charlie Baker has said that he is concerned with Trump’s appointment of Bannon, but that he’s going to wait-and-see before pre-judging.

Baker, what more information would you like before making an assessment? I called yesterday to find out.

Here’s roughly what I said:

Hi, good morning. How are you?

My name is Joshua Reyes. I live in Cambridge, MA. And I have a few questions about some of the governor’s recent comments.

I’d like to know what he likes about Bannon’s past? Baker said we should not pre-judge his appointment. So please tell me what about Bannon does Baker approve of?

Baker’s aide told me that he had not commented on Bannon, but rather on the entire Trump administration—which is simply not true, Baker did comment on Bannon explicitly. After the aide told me she cannot speak on behalf of Charlie Baker, I asked:

How can I find out more about what he thinks? Will you tell him I’d like him to clarify his position?

Then I politely ended the conversation:

Thank you for your time. Have a good day.

You can call, too. It takes two minutes! You will feel big and strong and powerful! (617) 725-4005

Charlie Baker, what more do you need to learn about Bannon to judge him?

Governor Baker is a political coward

Throughout the past presidential election Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker has repeatedly and publicly proven himself a political coward. He perpetuated the false equivalence between Trump’s vague, hateful, disgusting, and violent demagoguery against Americans and Clinton’s sensible, articulate vision of governance.

Most damning, however, Baker did not vote. Baker is a coward.

Governor, you are an elected, public official. Voting is an honor and an obligation, Baker. You yourself hold office because other people voted for you. You must lead by example. Be a leader. Have a reasoned opinion and defend it. If you discover you are wrong, have the courage to admit your mistake and explain your new stance.

I don’t want my leaders to be perfect. But I do want them to lead.

Speak up. Vote.