Scam Alert

You’re already stressed-out enough, you miss your friends, you’ve started watching even bad movies now, and you’re out of hand sanitizer.

But now you get an email informing you that some criminal not only has the password to your computer but that he’s going to share all those naughty videos on your hard drive …. unless you send him the equivalent of $2,000 in bitcoin.

Two friends received such emails in the last five days and both asked how they should respond — so here are my suggestions.

The bad news is that you’ve been doing a poor job of creating and protecting your passwords. The good news is that the email is just a scam and almost certainly harmless. By the law of large numbers, one of the thousands of people this criminal is threatening might actually have such videos and would pay up.

The criminal most likely bought a package of thousands of emails and passwords on the Dark Web and it just so happened you are/were a subscriber to one of the services that suffered a data breach at some point.

Fake or not, the email is a wake-up call to do a better job of protecting your personal data. Besides, you need a project and you’ve probably got the time.

  1. Check all your email addresses to see where the hacker might have obtained your logins.
  2. Start using a password manager to store your passwords. There are many opinions on this but it’s certain that something is better than the clearly inadequate scheme you have been using.For mere mortals LastPass is free and offers tools to check for weak and duplicated passwords and other vulnerabilities. LastPass also offers a version of their software for any device (Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, etc.).

    Besides LasPass, Bitwarden, Avira Password Manager, 1Password, and Dashlane are all reliable and reputable alternatives.

  3. Change the password on your computer.
  4. Consider using a more secure email service than your old Comcast, AOL, or Yahoo account. Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offer reasonably secure alternatives.

And because you may have expected this to be a political post, well, here’s one (but it’s not mine and it’s definitely not for children’s ears):

What’s a life worth?

In late March Donald Trump told the press corps, “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down […] This is not a country that was built for this.” Since then Trump seems to have backpedaled on his notion to open the nation for business on Easter Sunday — presumably to the peals of church bells announcing the resurrection of the nation and his own polling numbers. But in a move calculated to sideline the nation’s infectious disease experts — including some of his own advisors — Trump is back at it again.

You never thought the pit bull was going to let go of your pants leg, did you?

Trump recently announced the formation of an “Opening Our Country Council.” He indicated that neither his son-in-law and daughter nor the Vice President would be involved, and it is still unclear who will actually be on the council, or why it is really necessary. Regardless, Trump claims that he — not state governors — has “total authority” to decide when workers will be forced to return to work — without testing, without masks, and without sufficient ICU beds or ventilators to let them survive the COVID-19 infections they will receive by returning too soon to the germ pool.

Trump may not have a plan for dealing with the Corona virus, but he claims total authority to carry out that plan.

Naturally, the nation’s governors are pushing back. New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that before anyone talks about “opening” the nation for business the first order of business will be testing. Connecticut governor Ned Lamont announced that social distancing would remain in effect until at least May 20th, and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said that economic recovery depends entirely on public health safety.

As for Trump’s “total authority,” Cuomo told CNN, “The president does not have total authority. We have a constitution, we don’t have a king, we have an elected president.” University of Texas Constitutional Law professor Stephen Vladeck agreed, slamming Trump’s authoritarian move: “Nope. That would be the literal definition of a totalitarian government—which our traditions, our Constitution, and our values all rightly and decisively reject.”

With the nation in the grip of both a deadly pandemic and an incompetent fascist wannabe, the nation’s governors have been left to their own devices.

California governor Gavin Newsom announced that his nation-state of California had no choice but to fend for itself given Trump’s inaction and incompetence. California, together with Oregon and Washington, has formed a regional alliance to plot its own course for economic recovery. The same strategy has been adopted by an alliance of Northeast governors from New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

When Hong Kong temporarily suspended its lockdown after a few weeks, it experienced a spike in new infections and was forced to lock down citizens again. The same sort of spike occurred in Singapore after it prematurely relaxed social distancing. So we know that keeping people sheltered in place must go on much longer, and we know that only testing will tell us how much of the population has been exposed and how much has recovered.

Fifty million Americans receive Social Security payments and many workers are either salaried or still manage to draw an income. These lucky enough to own their homes and have health insurance have a sense they will probably survive the pandemic. For the most part, this segment of America has enjoyed a healthy life of adequate and nutritious food, clean water and a clean environment, and does not have disproportionately high rates of diabetes, hypertension or asthma. This privileged segment of America does not live in crowded apartments in polluted neighborhoods for which they must pay rent, is not forced to commute during a pandemic on crowded subways or buses, and can afford to have someone else deliver food and supplies to their homes.

But for the rest of America, life is incredibly precarious — and has always been. African Americans, Latinos, Indigenous people, the working class, the working poor, and the disabled are at elevated risk and are dying in shameful numbers. There is an old saying something like, “When white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia.” And by sending America’s most vulnerable back to work without adequate protections, we are sending many to their deaths — all for the sake of corporate greed. And because their lives do not hold particularly great value by policy makers.

As we now contemplate the frightening lack of hospital beds and ventilators — and who must die for lack of one — the rules for triage are revealed as decidedly racist. On April 7th Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders released a memo entitled “Crisis Standards of Care Planning Guidance for the COVID-19 Pandemic” which described state guidelines for making decisions about who receives care and who doesn’t during the global pandemic. The memo describes the recommendations of a panel of medical professionals in which those with the lowest scores have the highest priority for treatment. “But among the factors giving patients a higher score, and therefore, a lower priority for medical intervention are health conditions common to black, Latino and Asian people including diabetes, hypertension and obesity.”

Oh, well, they’re just going to die anyway.

Similarly, Alabama’s 2010 triage handbook for ventilator use puts a low premium on the lives of disabled people: “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.”

We are not so very far removed from the world of 1935, when a magazine called “New People” published by the new German “Racial Politics Office” pointed out to subscribers:

“60,000 Reich Marks is the cost to society of caring for those with congenital diseases. Citizens, this is your money.”

Friedman’s Cabinet

A New York Times editorial by Tom Friedman making the rounds offers specific recommendations for a Biden cabinet. Friedman’s terrible picks deserve both scrutiny and comment.

For starters, the “Team of Rivals” approach is even more ill-conceived today than it was in 2016. And backing up for a second, what’s the rush to anoint Joe Biden before he survives the Coronavirus, the last Democratic primary, and a convention? Joe Biden is not Juan Guaidó: he can’t simply proclaim himself president (or nominee) before an election says he is. Premature anointment is a 2016 mistake Democrats seem determined to repeat in 2020. This is a party that never learns.

Instead of a “Team of Rivals” that magically makes Republicans sing Kumbaya along with Democrats, what we really need is an experienced Democratic cabinet that reflects America’s neighborhoods and not America’s boardrooms. We need a kick-ass team of Democrats who believe in science and education and health and economic and racial justice — including Democrats usually relegated to the sidelines while people like Friedman’s choices run America into the ground as ineptly as their Republican golfing buddies.

The Democratic Party is being held together with duct tape and spearmint gum. If Democrats need anything, it is to give power to people already inside the tent, especially progressives and African Americans — rather than handing Republicans, Think Tank ideologues, CEO’s, and Friedman’s Davos crowd any more power than they already have.

Where Friedman casts a few crumbs to progressives and African Americans, they are cynical and ill-fitting posts akin to ambassadorships. With Friedman’s picks, Corporate America can rest assured that Neoliberalism and reckless foreign policy will continue — and his choice of so many American oligarchs all but guarantees it.

Worse, Friedman’s cabinet assignments are an extension of the Centrist Democrat election “strategy” of sidelining progressives and minorities in favor of America’s imagined “heartland” and “center.” The enthusiasm with which Friedman’s half-baked notions have gathered appreciative sighs is discouraging. It confirms my belief that Democrats are a party of small ideas and wishful thinking.

Who on Friedman’s List will finally deal with reparations, student debt, or the formation of a single-payer National Health Care System? Who on his list is prepared to implement economic, criminal, policing, and racial justice reforms? Remember: this will be a Biden monster cobbled together from human parts harvested from the Clinton and Obama administrations.

Basically, the best Friedman has come up with is an offer to share Democratic power with Republicans immediately after being won — that is, if a lackluster candidate and an uninspiring cabinet can even inspire voters to choose a Democratic slate.

Below are my comments on Friedman’s specific choices. Among them are too many Centrists and Republicans, a frightening number of oligarchs, numerous Think Tank and Davos buddies, and a racial and socioeconomic mix that looks little like the real America.

Post Person Notes
Vice President Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala or Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island This is a giant “F*** You” to African Americans. And from which section of his colon did Friedman pull Gina Raimondo?
Treasury Secretary Mike Bloomberg Another member of the Ruling Class?
Health and Human Services Secretary Bill Gates Another member of the Ruling Class?
Secretary of Oversight for the trillions of dollars in emergency Coronavirus spending Elizabeth Warren Instead of letting Warren create a single-payer national healthcare system
Attorney General Merrick Garland Why not Kamala Harris and save Garland for SCOTUS (again)?
Homeland Security Secretary Andrew Cuomo Another Giulani in the making; he is not acceptable to progressives
Secretary of State Mitt Romney A White Republican, and not even one most White Republicans like
Defense Secretary Michèle Flournoy A Clinton neoconservative, just what we don’t need
Labor Secretary Ro Khanna An attempt to buy off a progressive critic of reckless “Defense” spending
Secretary of National Infrastructure Rebuild (Friedman’s new cabinet post) Walmart C.E.O. Doug McMillon Another member of the Ruling Class?
Commerce Secretary Former American Express C.E.O. Ken Chenault Another member of the Ruling Class?
O.M.B. Director Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio Why is Friedman afraid to let a Democrat run the OMB?
Education Secretary Laurene Powell Jobs Friedman has been hob-nobbing at Davos too long with celebrities like Steve Jobs’ widow
U.N. ambassador Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Why not put AOC in charge of the Green New Deal? Maybe because Centrists don’t believe in it.
HUD secretary Ford Foundation chief Darren Walker Walker is Friedman’s only African-American pick but is not exactly in touch with its problems
Interior Secretary Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico Friedman treats this like an inherited position: Grisham’s father, Manuel Lujan, was Bush’s Interior Secretary
Energy Secretary Andy Karsner (a green Republican who led renewable energy for George W. Bush) Another from the Davos crowd, and affiliated with Laurene Jobs. But why not an author or cosponsor of the Green New Deal?
E.P.A. administrator Al Gore Gore made some nice movies back in the day, but my choice would be Jay Inslee