Category Archives: politics

Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber

This is the company that some on Saskatoon City Council is so excited to attract to Saskatoon.

As most of you know, I left Uber in December and joined Stripe in January. I’ve gotten a lot of questions over the past couple of months about why I left and what my time at Uber was like. It’s a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told while it is still fresh in my mind, so here we go. 

I joined Uber as a site reliability engineer (SRE) back in November 2015, and it was a great time to join as an engineer. They were still wrangling microservices out of their monolithic API, and things were just chaotic enough that there was exciting reliability work to be done. The SRE team was still pretty new when I joined, and I had the rare opportunity to choose whichever team was working on something that I wanted to be part of. 

After the first couple of weeks of training, I chose to join the team that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started getting weird. On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.

Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on – unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.

It gets worse from here.

How the government is trying to save the ‘birthplace’ of Canada

I hate how we treat heritage properties like this in Canada.

Province House in Prince Edward Island

But while our union is still sound a century-and-a-half later, the foundations of its cradle are falling apart – and the government is working furiously to save it.

Province House is in bad shape. Inside, mortar between Maritime sandstone has turned to dust, timber is rotting and plaster has fallen off the walls. The Prince Edward Island legislature moved out two years ago after decades in the east wing, and the building is closed for renovation work until at least 2020.

“It is a sick building, you might say,” Greg Shaw, a project manager at Parks Canada, told The Globe and Mail.

In 2013, as PEI got ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown conference, crews began some cosmetic masonry work on the outside of Province House. They soon discovered that minor blemishes were actually symptoms of deeper problems. Investigators were dispatched to peel back the layers of the building, and they found that decades of water damage and past stopgap repairs had taken a greater toll on everything from the roof to the floors than anyone had thought.

“You don’t know, really, what you have until you open the thing up,” Mr. Shaw said.

Thanks to an agreement reached when Justin Trudeau’s father was prime minister, Province House is the federal government’s responsibility to fix – even though the building is still owned by PEI. When the memorandum of agreement between Ottawa and Charlottetown was signed in 1974, Parks Canada was using most of the available office space, and agreed to be responsible for maintenance of the building for 99 years. Since then, though, the needs of PEI’s legislature grew and it took over two-thirds of the space.

The imbalance has led the federal government to rethink the deal. In 2014, senior public servants at Parks Canada recommended Ottawa figure out how to get out of its Province House obligations, according to briefing material obtained through Access to Information laws. The PEI government says it has no interest in renegotiating the deal, and points out it covered the cost of relocating the legislative chamber while the building was closed.

In a statement, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna would only say that the federal government “is committed to [the building’s] long-term conservation and has invested $41-million towards this goal.”

That bill – roughly the same cost as a proposed plan to fix up the Prime Minister’s Ottawa residence at 24 Sussex Dr. – may not be enough.

Also kudos to the PEI officials that managed to talk the Government in Canada to pay for the restoration of their legislature building.  The rest of Canada salutes you.

18 Bizarre Moments From Trump’s Unhinged Press Conference

From Rolling Stone

Donald Trump took questions from the media on Thursday afternoon. The hastily called press conference came as a surprise to reporters, who would typically had a briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during that time. (According to reports, Trump walked into the Oval Office earlier that morning and said, “Let’s do a press conference today.”)

The event was ostensibly meant to roll out his new labor secretary nominee, Alexander Acosta. (Previous pick Andy Puzder bowed out Wednesday after it became clear to Republican Senate leaders they did not have enough votes to confirm him.) But the event had little to do with Acosta, and quickly devolved into one of the most remarkably incoherent spectacles in recent memory.

18 Bizarre Moments From Trump's Unhinged Press Conference

Here are some of the most noteworthy moments.

That time he batted back reports of chaos in the West Wing
“I turn on TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos – chaos – yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”

That time he confirmed the veracity of the leaks that lead to Michael Flynn’s resignation
“The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”

That time he couldn’t say Flynn lied
“The thing is, he didn’t tell our vice president properly, and then he said he didn’t remember … that just wasn’t acceptable to me.”

That time he characterized the rollout of his travel ban as “smooth”
“We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban; we had a bad court.”

That time he called the country of Russia fake news
“Russia is fake news. Russia – this is fake news put out by the media. The real news is the fact that people, probably from the Obama administration because they’re there, because we have our new people going in place, right now.”

That time he denied knowledge of whether anyone from his team colluded with the Russian government during the campaign
“Nobody that I know of. How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years.”

That time he bragged about not being a bad person
“And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word ‘tone’? The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such – I do get good ratings, you have to admit that – the tone is such hatred.”

That time he promised America and Russia would have a nuclear holocaust “like no other”
“We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you, one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say, because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we.”

That time he mused about attacking the Russian vessel lurking off the coast of Connecticut
“The greatest thing I could do [politically] is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water.”

That time he conceded his oft-repeated line about having the “biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan” is a lie
Reporter: “You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan – 304, 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 in 2008.”
Trump: “Well, I’m talking about Republicans.”
Reporter: “President Obama 333, George H.W. Bush 426 when he won. So why should Americans trust…”
Trump: “I was given that information, I was just given it. We had a very big margin.”
Reporter: “I guess the question is: Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive as being fake, when you’re providing information that is not accurate?”
Trump: “Well, I was given that information. I was, actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”
Reporter: “You’re the president.”

There is more.  He is delusional and the President of the United States.

Why can 12-year-olds still get married in the United States?

From the Washington Post

Michelle DeMello walked into the clerk’s office in Colorado thinking for sure someone would save her.

She was 16 and pregnant. Her Christian community in Green Mountain Falls was pressuring her family to marry her off to her 19-year-old boyfriend. She didn’t think she had the right to say no to the marriage after the mess she felt she’d made. “I could be the example of the shining whore in town, or I could be what everybody wanted me to be at that moment and save my family a lot of honor,” DeMello said. She assumed that the clerk would refuse to approve the marriage. The law wouldn’t allow a minor to marry, right?

Wrong, as DeMello, now 42, learned.

While most states set 18 as the minimum marriage age, exceptions in every state allow children younger than 18 to marry, typically with parental consent or judicial approval. How much younger? Laws in 27 states do not specify an age below which a child cannot marry.

Unchained At Last, a nonprofit I founded to help women resist or escape forced marriage in the United States, spent the past year collecting marriage license data from 2000 to 2010, the most recent year for which most states were able to provide information. We learned that in 38 states, more than 167,000 children — almost all of them girls, some as young 12 — were married during that period, mostly to men 18 or older. Twelve states and the District of Columbia were unable to provide information on how many children had married there in that decade. Based on the correlation we identified between state population and child marriage, we estimated that the total number of children wed in America between 2000 and 2010 was nearly 248,000.

Despite these alarming numbers, and despite the documented consequences of early marriages, including negative effects on health and education and an increased likelihood of domestic violence, some state lawmakers have resisted passing legislation to end child marriage — because they wrongly fear that such measures might unlawfully stifle religious freedom or because they cling to the notion that marriage is the best solution for a teen pregnancy.

I always find it hard to believe that in a nation that does nothing to stop mass shooting will do anything to stop women from being forced to marry at a young age but maybe I am wrong.  Make sure you read the entire article.  It has a long list of many disturbing statistics that come from being forced to marry at a young age has.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank prints full-page ad in today’s Baltimore Sun to clarify POTUS comments.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank prints full-page ad in today's Baltimore Sun to clarify POTUS comments.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank prints full-page ad in today’s Baltimore Sun to clarify POTUS comments; doesn’t mention Trump by name.

The ad, which states the company is “publicly opposing the travel ban,” appeared to be in response to comments Plank made earlier this month on CNBC, calling Trump “an asset to the country” and a “pro-business president.”

“To have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country. People can really grab that opportunity. He wants to build things. He wants to make bold decisions and be really decisive,” Plank said in the interview.

The comments sparked a boycott by some against Under Armour, including criticism from celebrities such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The new underground railroad

By Jason Markusoff

Maclean’s spoke with more than a dozen refugees of various nationalities who have made this cross-border trip, to better understand what their Canadian supporters call the new underground railroad—a largely informal and hush-hush network of word-of-mouth advisers, drivers and reportedly some smugglers. But sometimes it’s as simple as a couple of shivering migrants guided by the blinking northern lights cast by those wind turbines.

The routes they take are impossibly dark, through scrub brush, mud, snow and water, fuelled by fear of getting caught and turned back south. But after fleeing from beatings and risk of death back home, and long journeys often of detention and other perilous pathways, the entry to Canada is just their last mile of hell.

In the college town of Grand Forks, N.D., Osaa Ahmed would not have to hide his homosexuality like he had to in Ghana. The last full day he spent in his home country was the night somebody spotted him kissing a boyfriend in a parked car, then followed Ahmed home and beat him with an iron cable and cut glass. He fled to Togo, then to Ecuador, a country with no visa requirement for Ghanaians. Unable to cope for long without knowledge of Spanish, he ran out his 90-day tourist visa and started a tour of buses and jungles and jails through South America and Central America, to seek asylum at the Texas border. He was bounced from a Texas detention centre, where he was shackled, to a Pennsylvania prison, where he was mixed in with criminal inmates. He never got money for a lawyer, and the judge Ahmed faced alone rejected his asylum claim, which U.S. immigration statistics show happened in 57 per cent of cases last year, the highest rate in more than a decade.

Which is why Ahmed wound up in late November at a bus terminal in downtown Grand Forks, a final brief juncture for most Emerson border crossers, including Iyal and Mohammed (who says he was also fleeing persecution for being gay and Muslim). It was head to Canada or eventually face U.S. deportation to Ghana. “I’m running away from something I know will happen immediately. If I come here, maybe I stand a chance to get my asylum,” Ahmed says. Along with a fellow backpack-toting Ghanaian he’d met on the Jefferson Lines route from Minneapolis to Grand Forks, Ahmed hailed an Uber driver willing to help for $500. They were let off at the same roadside, instructed to stumble in the dark toward those blinking lights, and they wandered north-ish until 5 a.m. the next day, finding out from a small-town hotel staffer they were indeed in Canada. On Feb. 2, Ahmed heard that he had officially been granted protection in Canada.