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Polls Gone Wild

Perhaps the biggest story to come out of yesterday’s primaries and caucuses–if we’re willing to exclude anything involving Donald Trump–is the massive upset Bernie Sanders achieved in Michigan. Not a single major poll predicted anything other than an easy Clinton win in that state. Instead, Sanders won by a small yet comfortable margin. If you aren’t the sort of person who pays much attention to political polling, it may not sound like a big deal, but it is.

International Women's Day

It’s fair to say that, historically speaking, women have gotten the short end of the stick. Though they have contributed no less than men to the construction and functioning of our civilizations and cultures, they have typically been deprived of any just compensation for their contributions–or even the most basic agency. Things are somewhat better in 2016, depending on who you are and where you live. The world is, overall, a better place for women than it was in 1908, when women marched in New York City for voting rights and better treatment.

A Primary Primer

What better day to talk about US Presidential primaries than Super Tuesday? “Literally any day before Super Tuesday,” the crowd shouts back. Too bad; I’m doing it today. In truth, I’m writing this because somebody asked for it. How primaries work is like second nature to me at this point, but it is probably a bizarre, senseless rituals to others. This is a good opportunity to demystify it. What is a primary, anyway?

Trump: From Sideshow to Main Event

Given the outcome of the Nevada caucus, it’s looking more and more like Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for President. A year ago, I would’ve considered it impossible. Six months ago, I would’ve said he was a longshot for the nomination, much less the Oval Office. Now? What should have been obvious all along is finally becoming clear. Donald Trump may or may not be able to win the White House–that remains to be seen–but that a one-man reality show could hijack the Presidential campaign season so quickly and easily, absurd as it may have seemed a year ago, now seems like it must have been inevitable.

Stealing the 2016 Election

Remember, it’s only wrong if you get caught. We’re into another Presidential election year in the US, as if the other three years aren’t just as much about Presidential campaigning. But this means it’s a good time to talk about the nuts and bolts. Commonly discussed during election years are turnout statistics, get-out-the-vote efforts, and other features that fascinate wonks but perhaps don’t make that big a difference. Often neglected until after the election is over are the various factors that influence who even gets to vote, and how those votes are counted.

Feminism vs. Capitalism

Singer/songwriter Kesha made headlines recently as she attempted, unsuccessfully, to have her music contract with Sony nullified. She sought this on the basis of rape allegations she’d made against her producer, Dr. Luke. If you’re unfamiliar with the case, there’s a good breakdown here. As I often do, I’d like to use this particular case as a springboard to talk about broader issues. Many think pieces were written in response to Kesha being forced to uphold her contract.

The Platform Economy

It’s becoming more and more common for workers to be self-employed using apps like Lyft, Uber, Instacart, Postmates, and others. This transition has been called the “sharing economy,” the “gig economy,” and other optimistic-sounding terms. But what we’re really looking at is a “platform economy”: an economy where the primary beneficiaries are those who own platforms. It must be said that the basic idea of a platform economy is not new.

The FBI vs. Apple

By now, you may have heard that the FBI is asking Apple to help get into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. WIRED has a good summary of the situation. Some thoughts after spending a few days thinking, reading, and arguing the issues involved: * The government forcing Apple to write special software so that they can brute force the phone's security would be an unusual, possibly unprecedented, power grab.

Machine Learning that's Killer

Finding terrorists who haven’t yet struck is like looking for a needle in a haystack. In fact, it may be looking for needles where there aren’t any. Ars Technica put up an interesting but deeply concerning piece yesterday regarding the use of the NSA’s SKYNET program to automatically identify terrorists based on metadata. Patrick Ball—a data scientist and the executive director at the [Human Rights Data Analysis Group](—who has previously given expert testimony before war crimes tribunals, described the NSA's methods as "

Donald Trump was Right

No, it’s not a joke title! He actually was right about something. If you watched this past Saturday’s Republican primary debate, you saw Donald Trump go on the offensive against Bush–George W Bush, that is, as a line of attack against his brother, Jeb (who polls in the single digits, despite once being the establishment favorite). Trump let loose a number of claims: * George W Bush did not keep us safe; 9/11 happened on his watch.