A’tif Khalil is a citizen journalist focused on Mount Vernon, New York. In this episode we discuss the challenges of covering stories about City Hall when you know the people inside, personally. We also discuss a recent incident involving Mount Vernon’s Mayor along with Internet celebrity Fatboy SSE. The two visited the local high school on Friday, January 12, unannounced, resulting in a disruption of the school day and suspensions. Khalil publishes local news stories in Black Westchester Magazine and on WBAI radio.
Lohud.com has done a great job. They have an entire playlist of videos documenting the implosion of the eastern span of the Tappan Zee Bridge on January 15, 2019. It was crazy.
So you’ve got the financial stuff to make it in New York’s expensive suburban housing market, but the loss of the SALT deduction, stock market volatility and possibly the end of the world have you thinking twice. If you are fearing more than fear itself, apparently you are not alone. One real estate broker published an annual survey for his territory, Pelham, New York, including this striking remark:
“People want to live below their means.”
PODCAST LINK (in case the embedded player is not working)
Licensed Real Estate Broker Maurice Owen-Michaane talks about his “Pelham 2018 Market Report“. Michaane sees a trend in buyers seeking homes that are LESS costly than they can actually afford, even in New York’s affluent suburbs. We discuss the market psychology and geo-politics driving this new trend.
Twas the Sunday before Christmas…December 23, 2018. AJ Woodson, Producer and Host of Black Westchester / People Before Politics asked me to be a guest on his show. Why? He happened to notice that I attended an annual report conference held by the Comptroller of Mount Vernon, NY the prior Thursday, December 20, 2018 at Mount Vernon City Hall. Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas posted an excerpt of the meeting on Facebook, and there I was in the second row, seated next to A’tif Khalil, who reported on the session for Black Westchester. Small world.
The meeting was a public briefing by Deborah Reynolds, Comptroller for the City of Mount Vernon, to explain the status of the budget. Her remarks were centered on the draft 2019 fiscal budget, which at that point had not been presented to the Board of Estimate.
There were also charged political accusations against the Mayor, including allegations that she is unable to perform her duties because of an administrative lockout from the City’s general ledger software, MUNIS. Missed filings. Unauthorized purchases. More.
When I was asked to be a guest on BW, I dusted off my meeting notes, and then began to parse through several key documents that provide the backstory to this intriguing he-said-she-said matter. In September 2018, the Mayor filed an Article 78 lawsuit to compel the Comptroller to pay over $1 million dollars in unpaid bills, including $278,000 for the attorneys representing the City in the lawsuit itself. In October 2018, Mayor Thomas petitioned Governor Andrew Cuomo to remove Comptroller Reynolds from her position. There are more clues about the current state in Reynold’s response document.
In short, it’s a complicated mess, but in this episode of People Before Politics, I was given a generous amount of time to break it down, to the best of my ability, based on the publicly available reports and filings.
Many thanks to the Black Westchester team, for this opportunity to parse it out and try to make sense of the matter. People Before Politics is a great show. I look forward to it every Sunday at 6:00 PM at inthemixxradio.com.
I’d appreciate any feedback you may have to offer. @redbluetalk
If One Direction was big the last time you changed your Facebook password, then for heaven’s sake, change it now. While you’re at it, I strongly recommend turning on 2-factor authentication.
We’ve become numb to headlines like this: “Facebook Security Breach Exposes Accounts of 50 Million Users” – NY Times 9-28-2018. 500 million guest accounts at Starwood were hacked. Research at Google reports that if your account data was breached, then you are 10 times more likely to be a victim of hijacking. If you’ve been phished, 500 times more likely.
RedBlueTalk is supposed to be about how politics and government impact everyday life, so what does Facebook passwords have to do with that? A lot. You see, it seems like the US Government is either unwilling or unable to do what needs to be done when it comes to the largest technology companies. Congress holds flashy hearings, but very little happens in the way of fines, regulations or anti-trust activity. “Well Senator…” we heard Mr. Zuckerberg drone on last April, but what really changed? Nothing.
It’s way beyond Facebook. There has been an endless stream of large companies that confessed to data breaches including massive streams of customer data. Macys, Adidas, Sears, Kmart, Delta Airlines and on and on have had names, addresses and credit card information stolen.
Facebook is like catnip for hackers. They absolutely love it. Facebook makes its system widely available to developers through a public API, or Application Programming Interface. This makes it possible for third party developers to write programs that work with Facebook. This way of working has unlocked tons of great apps, like TinFoil for Facebook, which allows you to enhance privacy, or PiZap which lets you edit photos right on Facebook without an external editor. Unfortunately, it also allows developers like Cambridge Analytica. That’s the now famous political firm that was hired by the Trump 2016 election campaign. It gained access to private information for more than 50 million Facebook users. Congress hauled Mark Zuckerberg in to talk about it. Zuck shrugged.
Passwords are not enough anymore.
They can be stolen, guess or phished, fairly easily. Phishing is where you provide your password to a hacker, thinking you are typing it into a legit site. Everyday Internet users like us need to take a queue from the big companies. When you work for a giant firm, you are required to use a “token” or some extra piece of information in addition to a password before you get access to corporate resources.
Google, Facebook and Twitter all allow users to enable 2-factor authentication. You should use it. It requires that you enter a one time password in addition to your regular dusty old password. It creates reduces the chance that a stolen password will work at all. That is why I’ve created this video to show you how it works with Facebook.
My daugher asked, “But will I need to enter the one-time password everytime I use Facebook? That would be horrible.” She is correct, that would be inconvenient, and the answer is no. The way Facebook works, you only enter your credentials (username/password/2nd factor) when you are trying to access Facebook from a device that is not known to Facebook. I’ll bet you look at Facebook on your phone several times per day. C’mon admit it, most of us do. You never get prompted for your password, right? That’s because the Facebook session on your phone is persistent, meaning it remains active even if you use other apps or close the Facebook app. I find even if I log out of Facebook, I’m not prompted for a password when I launch the app, as long as I’m on the same Android phone. However, if I try to connect to Facebook from some other device, another phone or PC, then I am prompted for credentials, and that’s the only time you’ll need to fetch a new one-time password from a text message.
Your password is going to be hacked if it hasn’t been already, so be ready.
1/ Don’t count on the government cracking down on the companies that lose your personal data en masse. The evidence is everywhere that the government could help, but won’t because of its love affair with billionaire technology pioneers.
2/ Change your password and make it unique for every service, especially the big targets: Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.
3/ Protect your privacy like the big dogs, and turn on 2-factor authentication everywhere possible. If someone gets your password, they would also need your mobile phone to log in as you, anyplace. That’s makes it much harder, and also let’s you know immediately that somebody’s trying to use your password.
4/ As I mention in the video, give yourself an escape hatch, in case you lose your phone. When you enable 2-factor authentication, also print out backup codes and keep them handy, so you don’t get locked out of Facebook, if you don’t have your phone.
Check out this podcast interview with Black Westchester Publisher and hip hop insider AJ Woodson, talking about the implications of NY Senate Bill S9191, to require an Internet background check on people seeking a license to possess a firearm. Recorded November 29, 2018.
Congress and social media are coming together.
Instagram politicians reach way beyond election district boundaries. I created a list of all 27 US Representatives from New York showing a real-time update of Instagram follower counts. [Note: This list pulls in a lot of data from Instagram, so it takes like 8 seconds to load. Please be patient.] Tech notes at the end.
There was a point during the Thanksgiving weekend when Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was gaining over 500 new Instagram followers per hour. She now has more followers on Instagram than constituents in the Bronx and Queens, New York. I’ll discuss her specific case further, but this article is focused upon the whole phenomenon of IG politicians and how we experience them.
I once saw a PBS documentary about Henry Ford. In it a woman said that before the Model T came along America was a mostly poor, agrarian country with muddy roads. By her account people didn’t know each other very well because they didn’t have an easy way to meet. Instagram, and the rest of the socials, are like a political accelerator pedal for candidates and electeds who figure out how to step on it just right.
So I decided to look at the Instagram feed for each member of the New York delegation to the 116th US Congress (session starts in January 2019), and see if I could discern any sort of patterns.
Representative-Elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is in an Instagram class of one.
As of this writing, Rep-Elect Ocasio Cortez has more than 50 times more Instagram followers (880k and climbing hourly) than the second most IG popular New York member of Congress – Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, with 18k followers. She has 11 times more Instagram followers than the other 26 New York Representatives, combined. Excluding Cortez, the average New York Representative has just under 3k followers. Rep-elect Ocasio Cortez has 300 times more Instagram visibility than the entire rest of the New York delegation. And the job starts in January 2019.
Rep. Eliot Engel is social media savvy, but not on Instagram.
In the next Congressional District north of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’ , where I live, our dear friend Rep. Eliot Engel just won an uncontested re-election in CD-16. He is the ONLY member of the New York Congressional Delegation with no Instagram account. I checked over and over. He is genuinely active on Twitter, and he has a well curated Facebook page with 62k followers, but Instagram is not his thing. Engel has been connecting with voters using a flat-out honest narrative for over 30 years. I would argue he has been doing the same thing as his neighbor in the 14th Congressional District for decades, reaching out to voters on their exact level, successfully. If you can’t speak social media like a native, maybe there’s some wisdom to choosing your venue carefully.
Boring Instagram photos will not get you a political following.
In between these Instagram fame extremities (Ocasio Cortez v Engel), there is a middle 25 members of Congress from New York that have Instagram feeds loaded with smiling photos – Me with so-and-so. Me giving a trophy to so-and-so. Me with the head of the union. Me with the cops. Me at the dedication ceremony. And so on. Here’s a bit of advice to the politicos and their consultants. If you’re going to use Instagram at all, put some interesting photos up there, please. Don’t just hand your iPhone to your aid and say “get a picture of this”. In other words, don’t be boring. Use Facebook for that. Even a selfie is better than a staged “me-with” photo shot by an aid from 10 feet away. They have a place, but don’t over-rotate on photos like this one:
View this post on Instagram
Successful politicians on Instagram mix it up.
Antonio Delgado is on the right track. He’s using Instagram to explain who HE is. He’s got photos HE took, including some family photos, and you get to see what HE sees. Yes, there are a few schlocky “me with so-and-so” pictures, but even those support the deeper story he’s ‘Gramming up. There is also some professionally produced content in there, but in the main, you will learn something about this person’s world view by subscribing to his Instagram feed, and that’s the whole idea. Sample:
View this post on Instagram
People can’t take their eyes off politicians that use Instagram Stories, but very few “Story”.
The golden nugget of Instagram is Instagram Stories. In case you’re not Insta-inclined, that means photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours by default, and show up on your phone with a notification, so you feel like you’ve got an inside track on the very latest thing from the person who is IG-Storying. It’s loaded with kitchy emojis, logos and other software gimmicks. People get a dopamine hit when they watch Stories, and then they want more. The politician that figures out how to use Stories can win the war for attention on the Internet. Reps Meeks, Delgado and Clarke are Story-ers. Rep.-Elect Ocasio Cortez is all over IG-Story, of course.
More Instagram followers does not equal electoral victory, but it’s a financial gateway.
Beto O’Rourke had 3x the followers of Ted Cruz. Beto lost the race for Senator from Texas. However, it means something that Antonio Delgado (8702 followers) beat incumbent Rep Jon Faso (682 followers). Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY22) (1050 followers) was ousted by Anthony Brindisi (2171 followers). My theory is that they have larger followings because of an interconnectedness within their districts AND through awareness within the national political affinity groups. For Democrats this means Indivisible groups, National Democratic Committee members and so on. If your message catches fire, the out of district attention allows you to use the rest of the country like an ATM machine, to raise money to take back home into your election race. The financial implications of a massive Instagram subscriber base are profound.
BONUS OBSERVATION: “Live on Instagram” can make politicians into people magnets.
Back to my Ford analogy. Instagram allows us to engage politicians in a way we seldom did before, just like the Model T gave Americans a way to know their non-adjacent neighbors over 100 years ago. If Instagram is a vehicle, and IG-Stories is an accelerant, then IG-Live is a jet engine. While I was developing this blog article, and the companion IG locator page, on the eve of Thankgiving Alexandria Ocasio Cortez launched a live broadcast. She and a campaign aid were cooking and talking about politics and whatever, with an audience of over 2500 Instagram followers. In the hours afterward her follower count was soaring.
There are approximately 711k human beings residing in each US Congressional District. With nearly 900k Instagram followers and climbing, it’s clear Ms. Ocasio Cortez is being heard on an international stage. Only Facebook itself could know exactly how many of her Instagram followers are constituents of New York’s 14th Congressional District. As people get to know their elected officials better through the Internet, those political subdivision lines won’t mean exactly what they do today.
If you’re a Web development person, this is for you. I created the list using a PHP call that I found on Stack OverFlow. It pulls in data from Instagram, scrapes it and displays the number of IG followers. The only problem is there are 27 members of Congress, and the 27 PHP calls slow down the page load. To drive the load time to an barely acceptable 7 seconds, I used the PHP on about half of the rows in the table, and for the rest I use estimates. The members with small very IG followings aren’t changing very fast anyway. If you know a less resource intensive way to fetch the Instagram statistics, I would love to hear from you. Here’s the code:
$raw = file_get_contents(‘https://www.instagram.com/redbluetalk’); //replace with user
By Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28359031
Working in WordPress to bring together all the elements for a spiffy new web site.
Still figuring out all the knobs and dials.
Welcome to RedBlueTalk, this is my first post, after clearing out the old junk. New WordPress Theme, new GUI editor, new plug-ins.