Realizing Black Male Success   ◆

R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, writing for Ebony about “a comprehensive study of Black males who have excelled at college and beyond”:

The overwhelming majority of stories and studies that are concerned with Black males, from cradle to the grave, tend to look at what’s “wrong.” This type of approach is known as a deficit model because it assumes there is something wrong and often assumes that the problem lies within Black males. Deficit approaches usually pay lip service to social inequalities like poor schools, disproportionate policing, and an unstable job market. Yet these theories tend to suggest that once Black men get their act together, they can have the same access and opportunities as other Americans. This approach does little, if anything, to move Black men from the lower ranks of American society.

The CSREE study begins with an alternative perspective – a strength based approach. Rather than document ad nauseam what ensnares Black male mobility, the report asks what do Black males, their communities, and their schools do to ensure success? From this approach we see not just what is going right but how to expand these practices so more can excel.

Why the Election of 9 Black Female Judges in Alabama Matters   ◆

Lindsay Peoples, writing for The Cut:

In an unprecedented event, nine black women were elected as circuit and district judges in Jefferson County, Alabama, this November. For a predominantly Republican state, the Democratic sweep came as a surprise, as Alabama is one of the few states that judges still have to run on party lines to get elected.

Remarkable, not just for the fact that it happened in Alabama, but also that in 2017, it’s a story at all to have black women judges.

As one judge notes,

There’s never been an African-American woman on either the Alabama Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, so if President-elect Trump wants to invite me to do so, it would be a great honor. But I’m afraid that’s a bit far off in our nation’s history. Maybe I’ll be wrong; hopefully I’ll be wrong. But that’s where we are.

“An open letter to Trump from the US press corps”   ◆

Columbia Journalism Review:

While the Constitution protects the freedom of the press, it doesn’t dictate how the president must honor that; regular press conferences aren’t enshrined in the document.

But while you have every right to decide your ground rules for engaging with the press, we have some, too. It is, after all, our airtime and column inches that you are seeking to influence. We, not you, decide how best to serve our readers, listeners, and viewers. So think of what follows as a backgrounder on what to expect from us over the next four years.

It goes on to list eight “ground rules”:

  • Access is preferable, but not critical.
  • Off the record and other ground rules are ours—not yours—to set.
  • We decide how much airtime to give your spokespeople and surrogates.
  • We decide how much airtime to give your spokespeople and surrogates.
  • We’ll obsess over the details of government.
  • We will set higher standards for ourselves than ever before.
  • We’re going to work together.
  • We’re playing the long game.

That last one is my favorite:

We’re playing the long game. Best-case scenario, you’re going to be in this job for eight years. We’ve been around since the founding of the republic, and our role in this great democracy has been ratified and reinforced again and again and again. You have forced us to rethink the most fundamental questions about who we are and what we are here for. For that we are most grateful.

Enjoy your inauguration.

Brutal.

CNN goes out of its way to avoid the word “lie”   ◆

CNN headline following the first White House press briefing, where the press secretary outright lies several times:

White House press secretary attacks media for accurately reporting inauguration crowds

And from the article itself:

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

Aerial photos have indicated that former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience.

Spicer said, without any evidence, that some photos were “intentionally framed” to downplay Trump’s crowd.

He also expressed objections to specific Twitter posts from journalists. And he said, “we’re going to hold the press accountable,” partly by reaching the public through social networking sites.

His statement included several specific misstatements of fact in addition to the overarching one.

What’s remarkable to me is all the ways CNN tries to say “he lied” without once using the word “lie”:

  • “for accurately reporting”
  • “contradicting all available data”
  • “without any evidence”
  • “specific misstatements of fact”
  • “In fact”
  • “actually”

At some point, some major media publication will have to use the word “lie”, clearly and directly, in reference to this administration’s blatant and demonstrably false statements.

Also:

The CNN television network made a choice not to broadcast the Spicer statement live. Instead, the statement was monitored and then reported on after the fact.

This is how the media will have to deal with this administration: To the extent possible, don’t televise live anything coming out from the White House. Wait, fact check, and then broadcast, indicating the lies where necessary.

Advent Calendar Day 1: My Shot

There’s a grand tradition for those who celebrate Christmas: The Advent Calendar. Each day starting on December 1 and ending on Christmas Day, you open a flap on the calendar to reveal something: A poem, a candy treat, or a tchotchke.

(Yes, I recognize the irony of using a Yiddish word to describe a Christian celebration. I’m multicultural like that.)

Over the years, a new internet tradition has developed. Bloggers with large audiences create online advent calendars, with links to items that might generate a few shekels in referral fees.

I don’t have a large audience, but I’m gonna take a shot with this tradition anyway. So… starting today1, I’m writing about items I bought with my own hard-earned moola in 2016. Every item will be something I found interesting, useful, or just plain fun. I’ll link ’em up to Amazon or somewhere else you can buy ’em easily. And if you do, a few pennies get redirected to me, yet costs you nothing more.

And I make this pledge to you, my loyal reader: Whatever amount I generate from this brazen scheme, I will use it to buy something I love and will make me happy.

I promise.

My first pick will not come as a surprise if you’ve met me in person, as I’ve been obsessed with this musical since buying the CD in February. My friends and family have had to put up with me quoting lyrics from it at the slightest provocation.

I won’t make you wait for it: I’m talking about the original Broadway cast recording of Hamilton: An American Musical.

You’ve no doubt heard about this record-smashing hit musical. It won a Grammy. And a Pulitzer. And a Tony. OK, 11 Tonys. And tickets are virtually impossible to get2.

If by chance you haven’t heard about it, it’s “a story of America then, told by America now“. It’s a hip-hop history lesson on the life (and infamous death) of the ten-dollar Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton.

And it’s fucking brilliant.

I grew up listening to hip-hop. And I’ve always enjoyed musicals3. But I never thought those two could be combined, and I certainly didn’t imagine they could be combined well.

Turns out, the creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a genius (and not just because he took home a MacAurther “Genius” Award).

The music, story and lyrics are all sublime. A mix of hip-hop, R&B, traditional musicals and even some BritPop, the album rewards you for repeat listens. Even after nearly a year, and hundreds of plays, I still hear nuances, from musical motifs that pop up unexpectedly, to Miranda-as-Hamilton’s angry growl as he exclaims to George Washington during Meet Me Inside that detractors “take your name and rake it through the mmud!”

(When you’ve binged enough, you too can identify every single “yo!” used in the show.)

The brilliance doesn’t stop at Miranda’s work, though. The cast itself is phenomenal, starting with Leslie Odom, Jr as Aaron Burr (the damn fool that shot Hamilton), Phillipa Soo and Reneé Elise Goldsberry as two sisters, one he loves and marries, the other he just… loves, and Daveed Diggs fast-rapping his way through two very different roles.

(I’m unjustifiably proud that not only do I know most of the album’s lyrics, but I can actually do even Daveed’s fastest raps. That’s right, I match his practical, tactical brilliance.)

Of course, when you’re this obsessed, would it be enough to just listen to the cast album, non-stop? No, you will never be satisfied until you buy Hamilton: The Revolution, the behind-the-scenes book and libretto. It’s beautifully produced, with stories explaining how the sausage got made. You just assume that it happened, but this book really puts you in the room.

And then you find yourself wanting to read the biography of Hamilton that started Miranda down this crazy path, because you want to learn the real story about the man whose enemies destroyed his rep and America forget.

And then, and then, you learn Miranda decided to “reimagine” songs from the musical and collaborate with massive artists like The Roots and Busta Rhymes and Usher and Queen Latifah and Kelly Clarkson and Alicia Keys, and Ashanti and the end result is yet another drop of brilliance called The Hamilton Mixtape.

(Hearing Ja Rule and Ashanti do Helpless, knowing that Helpless was in part inspired by Ashanti and Ja Rule made me shudder.)

So, that’s the story of tonight, the first day of this advent calendar. I hope you’ll be back. I mean, how can you say no to this?


  1. The plan was to actually start on December 1, but life got in the way. 
  2. But I got some, in both San Francisco and New York! Woo! 
  3. I wish I could remember my first. It might be the movie version of The Sound of Music. Or the cast album for Jesus Christ Superstar. I honestly couldn’t say. 

A Master Class on Thinking

About a year ago, I and fifteen or so other company leaders participated in a seven-session “master class,” where we talked extensively about what being a “leader” means at our company, and how we tackle the “big questions”.

These sessions, held every two weeks or so, lasted two hours, followed by dinner.

Each session focused on a concept, anchored by one of these books as the jumping off point for our discussions. Each of the books are either classics of philosophy, or soon-to-be classics. All are worth reading.

The conversations were thoughtful, frustrating and always insightful.

The concepts and associated books were

Debate: On Liberty, chapter 2

Stories: Thinking, Fast and Slow, chapters 1, 4-8, 16-18

Design: The Sciences of the Artificial, chapter 5

Focus: Scarcity, Introduction, pages 19-65

Loyalty: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, chapters 1-5, 7, 9

Meritocrarcy: Capital in the Twenty-First Century, pages 11-16, 20-27, 237-304

Rightness: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, chapter 2; Utilitarianism, chapters 1-2

While the master class focused on specific chapters (mainly to limit the amount of reading busy managers needed to do!), I encourage you read the entire book if you can.

If you can arrange a “master class” of your own to discuss with others, I strongly encourage it.

Aaron Sorkin writes a letter to his daughter   ◆

Sorkin, to his wife, and 15 year old daughter Roxy, following Trump’s win:

Here’s what we’ll do…

…we’ll fucking fight. (Roxy, there’s a time for this kind of language and it’s now.)

I originally quoted three paragraphs, but that seemed unfair. Go read the whole thing.

On a totally unrelated note, I miss Jed Bartlet.

“Trump definitely has the 1L Terror Shits”   ◆

Fantastic take on the initial Trump-Obama meeting the other day:

This was Obama’s chance for the most perfect revenge that would never be picked up on as revenge at all. He was gracious, polite—everything he needed to be for a peaceful transition and a good review from the press. And that would continue when the doors were closed, because that’s the key. Not a Come to Jesus meeting, oh no. If Obama were smart—and he is very smart—he would have treated Trump like an equal, and brought the discussion to a level that assumes far more of Trump than anyone has so far. Assumes that he’s an adult who’s been paying attention. Statistics, esoteric minutiae about the executive branch procedure, economic growth numbers, labor figures, domestic policies, countries Trump has never even heard of, shit that would never in a million years have been in Trump’s campaign soundbites or digestible summaries.

No way to escape. No aides to remember any of it for him. Just the two of them.

Because that’s what would strike a precise chill into Trump. The thundering realization that he’s woefully unprepared for the hard, boring, thankless reality of this, and Obama’s version of a smooth transition won’t and shouldn’t include remedial civics.

That’s what I saw when they shook hands and Trump stared at the floor instead of looking back into Obama’s face. He’s just figured out how little he knows about any of this.

I can only hope this is true.

ACLU to Trump: See You In Court   ◆

The day after Trump’s win, the ACLU published an open letter to him on their site, then took out a full-page ad in the New York Times:

If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying members and supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

Right now their website is very focused on fighting Trump and his policies. He’s been huge for fundraising:

In just five days, our Facebook followers have increased by 25 percent to nearly one million people; 400,000 people viewed our open letter to President-elect Trump on our website; and 150,000 new people have joined our e-mail list. We have also heard from thousands of people offering to volunteer their time and services and have received roughly 120,000 donations, totaling more than $7.2 million.

This is the greatest outpouring of support for the ACLU in our nearly 100-year history, greater than the days after 9/11.

ACLU will be getting a big donation from me this year. You should donate too. And check if your company matches donations to increase your impact.