Author Archives: Michael Froomkin

Adventures in Terminology

What is the opposite of “woke”?


I need a better answer than “DeSantis”….


Photo credit: Sheba_Also 43,000 photos, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Etc | 5 Comments

Carbon Count Still Rising

The latest measurement of atmospheric CO2 (as of June 03, 2021): 419.9 ppm; June 2020: 418.32 ppm; 25 years ago: 360 ppm; 250 years ago, est: 250 ppm.

I would imagine that it will go up faster with economic recovery.

UPDATE: Hit 419 on Monday – NPR says that’s the highest level in 4 million years.

Posted in Science/Medicine | Leave a comment

Apple’s Great New Privacy Commercial vs Reality

Apple has unveiled a terrific new video/commercial for the privacy features of the iPhone:

While I do think Apple deserves real credit for resisting government attempts to get a back door into iPhone encryption, I can’t help but view that video a little cynically in light of reports, not so long ago, that more than half of the App Store privacy labels were false.

Bonus shout-out to “Mind Your Own Business” by Delta 5 which provides the background.

Posted in Kultcha, Law: Privacy, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 8 Comments

UMiami Confronts Legacy of Two Buildings (But Not a Street) Named After Racists

The University of Miami has not, historically, been especially “woke”, so I found this announcement to be a (pleasant) surprise:

May 3, 2021
Dear Members of the University of Miami Community,

This evening, during a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, we considered a number of issues related to our campuses, including two pending petitions to rename facilities at the University of Miami. We have determined that this is a moment to honor the accomplishments, contributions, and legacies of Black role models in the naming of buildings for the first time in University history, reaffirming our commitment to belonging and justice by recognizing those who overcame racism to enrich our campus, our city, and our world.

Our actions today acknowledge the pain and the promise of our Black students, alumni, colleagues, and neighbors while intentionally choosing to learn from and build on our history. We engaged in serious deliberations about our past, our future, and our ongoing pursuit of racial justice.

During this time of racial reckoning in the United States, the decisions we make must be shaped by our aspiration to be an exemplary institution in the community and nation. That desire compelled us to reevaluate how we can do better to address head-on the hurtful aspects of our past and apply their lessons to our future.

It takes intentional and sustained effort and focus to reckon with and understand the effects of a national history that includes 12 generations of enslavement. We agree with the Historic Review Committee on Naming’s (HRCN) recommendation that we reaffirm and strengthen the University’s commitment to inclusion and recognize the dignity of all persons. Therefore, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has made four important decisions:

First, we will name our brand-new Student Services Center building—which is central to our mission and our campus—for a distinguished Black alumnus/a of the University of Miami. In helping to transform the way we provide services to our students, this state-of-the-art building reflects our ambition to lead the educational revolution by providing an education for life that has belonging, equity, and justice at its core. This decision stems from our commitment to honoring ’Canes from all walks of life as the University continues to grow, evolve, and thrive. A small committee of trustees, faculty, and students will be selected to identify an appropriate namesake, which will be announced in the fall with a grand opening and dedication ceremony.

Second, the rehearsal hall at the Frost School of Music will be renamed to honor someone whose accomplishments reflect the values of our University and whose life epitomizes their personal commitment to the University. Henry Fillmore, after whom the hall is currently named, used patently offensive language and images to promote his music. His most prominent work—the success of which led to his renown and likely the naming—was full of racist caricatures that amounted to dehumanizing Black people. He died in 1956, nearly a decade after the federal government took action to end segregation in the United States armed forces. However, in considering whether Fillmore acknowledged the negative aspects of his work, the HRCN concluded he did not. The selection of a new namesake for the rehearsal hall will be undertaken by a committee to be appointed by the Board of Trustees, which will make its recommendation in the coming months. Input for a new name will be solicited from students, faculty, alumni, and other members of the University community.

Third, we will no longer refer to the structure on Merrick Drive by our founder’s name. As the founder of the University, we have much to be thankful for to George E. Merrick, yet we understand that for some members of our community, the name on this garage is a reminder of the harm caused by segregation. Therefore, we will adopt a neutral directional name for that structure on the Coral Gables Campus.

Finally, on each structure involved in these petitions, we will educate the campus community about our imperfect past and our vision for the future. We will establish prominent and widely accessible educational features to be displayed on campus to introduce the history of the current and prior honorees, provide context, and explain the decision to retain or remove a structure’s historic name. These markers will remind us that we can recognize the important contributions individuals have made to our University, while acknowledging that the actions in which they engaged during their lifetimes are not consistent with our views today.

This approach, which embraces our role as a teaching institution, will include the other building and street that were the subject of the second petition, bearing the family name of our founder and one of the most ardent advocates of the University, George Merrick. The Solomon G. Merrick Building is one of the oldest on the Coral Gables Campus. Its naming in honor of George Merrick’s father was consideration for the gift of 160 acres of land and $5 million in financial support that led to the very establishment of the University of Miami. Moreover, we do not believe that individuals should be judged by the shortcomings of their family members. The decision regarding the street named for George Merrick himself goes beyond the purview of the Board of Trustees.

While we recognize that George Merrick’s proposals as chair of the Dade County Planning Board perpetuated a wealth gap for Black residents and broad inequities in our community that persist to this day, his vision and donation made possible the institution that would later become the first university in Florida to desegregate. The fact of that progress underlines that, while George Merrick himself might not have imagined our University in all of its current rich diversity, in the years since his life and death, the institution he helped found has made and continues to make substantial headway towards racial justice and equity, and we are committed to enhancing that pursuit.

In addressing renaming petitions, we sought to bring into balance our University’s diverse community and our storied past. We took three key issues into consideration. First, we examined the context in which honorees exhibited behavior that is antithetical to our shared values and hurtful to members of our community. Next, we contemplated the opportunity honorees had to express regret or correct course during their lifetimes. Finally, we considered the balance between how the impact of an honoree’s actions ran counter to or advanced the mission of the University.

Please join us in acknowledging the considerable, thorough work of the HRCN; the guidance and perspective of the board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Social Justice; and the impassioned students, faculty, staff, trustees, and community members who made their voices heard through a rigorous review process.

During that process, students have also advocated for a gathering space that facilitates community building and fosters a greater sense of inclusion and belonging. We are delighted to share that the administration has begun planning for an estimated $3 million renovation of nearly 13,000 square feet on the second floor of the University Center to create an expanded multi-cultural space, allowing for informal gatherings and programming for cultural organizations. This flexible space would fulfill desires expressed thus far and could be expanded to meet the needs of a number of student groups on campus. Our newly elected leaders of student organizations and the 2021-22 Student Center Complex Advisory Council will work with the administration to solicit input into the design this summer in the hopes of opening the new multi-faceted cultural space in 18 months’ time.

We are proud of the decisions the Executive Committee made tonight, and we are excited to celebrate the rich and diverse talent and commitment that continue to move the University of Miami forward. We remain hopeful that this inflection point in our ongoing conversation and actions on racial justice will add to the necessary, honest, and productive engagement that ultimately draws us together as Miami Hurricanes.

Hilarie Bass, Esq.
Chair, University of Miami Board of Trustees

Julio Frenk
President, University of Miami

I wonder if the usual contingent will howl, or if this will be accepted quietly? Meanwhile, calling the former Merrick Garage “the structure on Merrick Drive” would have the ring of “the artist formerly known as Prince” … but for the fact that the “structure on Merrick Drive” incorporates the very name they are removing, making it a bit circular, at least until they find a suitable “neutral directional name” for it. Central Garage? Or maybe, “the Southern Garage” would be slyly and geographically appropriate?

The statement explains the partial renaming by saying, “The decision regarding the street named for George Merrick himself goes beyond the purview of the Board of Trustees.” Which makes me wonder — who gets to decide the names of streets on the campus? Is this something the Coral Gables Commission regulates? If so, that may be unfriendly territory for any renaming application — although with three new members inaugurated last week, maybe things have changed.

Posted in U.Miami | 14 Comments

Seems Its Not Too Early For The Opening Shots Of The 2022 Election

Rubio Supports Trump by

Posted in 2022 Election, Trump | 2 Comments

Weird Doings at the Coral Gables ‘Debate’

Well, it wasn’t a debate.  For one thing, two candidates didn’t turn up.  In Group 2, Jose Valdes-Fauli was a last-minute no-show due to a medical emergency.  In Group 3, Kirk Menendez was a no-show … saying that he had an obligation with his son, which he was not able to get out of, although the moderators didn’t share this with us until right near the end; apparently they don’t check their email very often….

So the event was rebranded as an ‘informational session’ for an hour with each of the two remaining candidates (and the 120+ viewers).

The moderators, Leon Kellner & Sue Kawalerski managed to put combative questions to the candidates present, first Rhona Anderson and then Javier Baños.  The moderators clearly have their axes to grind, which meant the heat/light ratio wasn’t everything one might have hoped for.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the event was the deep resentment and hostility that the heads of the various community groups who asked questions expressed about the way they had been treated by Coral Gables staff, and their desire to have some heads roll. I have to admit that as they grew their bill of particulars against the city’s lawyers — agreeing to various zoning changes, signing off on various aspects of the Wawa gas station deal, failing to include penalty clauses that might have prevented the cutting of trees outside the site despite a promise not to, I began to wonder if they might not have a point.

As regards the candidates, there was not much effort at neutrality: I got the strong feeling that the organizers of the event support the two candidates who spoke, and really don’t want Menendez, about whom they couldn’t wait to share what they termed breaking news, but was actually a three-day-old blog post on Political Cortadito.  It accused Menendez of profiteering (the crafts homes rezoning), being sued for allegedly being tens of thousands of dollars behind on his credit card (how can we trust you with city money if you can’t manage your own?), and letting his law license lapse.

That last complaint seems odd or at least dated because when I looked it up during the non-debate, the only Kirk Menendez I could find on the Florida Bar website, was a Kirk Reagan Menendez who graduated from St. Thomas Law in 1992 — sounds like the right one, no? The Florida bar web site reports Kirk Reagan Menendez  is a “member in good standing” and “eligible to practice law”.  A smear gone wrong? Arrears suddenly paid up? I have no idea, nor exactly why I should care unless there’s some suggestion he was practicing law illegally while a candidate.

Underlining how even-handed they weren’t being,  the moderators asked Baños about a lawsuit just filed against him. with Leon Kellner emphasizing in a very bombastic fashion that allegations are not proof (no such disclaimer for the Menemdez “news” they shared, however, including the part about … a lawsuit).  Having then seen neither this explanation nor this one, I — and I suspect many other listeners — had no idea what lawsuit against Baños they were referring to. And I didn’t get to find out much from the discussion because the questioners dropped the issue as soon as Baños professed ignorance of the case and said he hadn’t been served.  Sure was a tough grilling there — on par with the audience planted softball asking how Baños’s background as a CPA would help him as a Commissioner.  (Per Baños, it would be very helpful.)

Not that I especially want Menendez, but I then I don’t especially like the Baños package either: smooth, quite well informed, and missing almost no opportunity to stick a shiv into his absent opponent by accusing him of being pro every type of development and at one point, if I followed the convoluted talk, gratuitously suggesting that Menendez had been repeatedly fired by his city employer.  (Eh?)

Indeed, Menendez has yet to offer me any reason to vote for him other than just not being the other guy. Given the blithe nature of the Menendez platform, it’s hard to know what his views actually are on development, and indeed they might be awful. But as the general tenor of the Menendez campaign is a Chip-Withers-worthy ‘keep things the same’ vibe (and, no, that is not a compliment), I don’t see the support for the Crafts development — a part of town which in my opinion was no landmark — as telling me much about his attitudes to growth in the rest of the city.  And at least the Menendez campaign, unlike the Baños campaign, hasn’t resorted to attack mailers signed by some fake political group. Although, as I may have mentioned once or twice, they have spammed me and spam-texted me which is Not Nice.

Anderson acquitted herself very well.  She had practical ideas for how to improve notice about coming development projects, and how to make staff more careful in how they testify to the Commission, but she didn’t take the bait on having a referendum on every big project, noting accurately that turnout was low and not very informed for Commission races, and would likely be worse if we had regular votes on zoning issues.  Baños, to his discredit, was more willing to pander on this one.  The moderators were pushing the idea, but it’s ridiculous.  As Anderson said, some zoning plans are 1000 pages long: they need to be broken down and discussed piece by piece in citizens’ meetings, not sent to an electorate which will never read it.

Both candidates got asked if they’d support renaming our part of South Dixie Highway for Harriet Tubman (Coral Gables, alarmingly, is the only jurisdiction here to have opposed it).  Anderson said forthrightly she was for the change.  Baños first tap danced around, saying something mushy and hard to follow about having a resident’s poll or a referendum–although if I understood him he concluded by saying that he thought it would be just, and “she should be honored.”  But from the sound of it, that was couched just as a personal view, and in no way a promise to reverse the vote of the Coral Gables Commission opposing the renaming.

Anyway, two more hours of my life I won’t get back, and other than making me feel even better about voting for Anderson, I don’t think it taught me much.

I do hope Valdes-Fauli proves to be OK.

Posted in Coral Gables | Leave a comment