Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Then there were six -- women hit presidential trail -- June 20, 2019 column

By MARSHA MERCER

It’s fitting, if long overdue, that in the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage, six women are running for a major party’s presidential nomination.

One hundred years after women got the right to vote, voters in 2020 conceivably could do what they did not in 2016 — deliver the United States its first woman president. 

So far, polls suggest two septuagenarian men — Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump — may duke it out in November 2020. But it’s still very early, and polls are just polls. 

President Trump, who never stopped campaigning, officially launched his re-election campaign Tuesday with a rally in Florida, and Democratic presidential hopefuls will take the stage next week in Florida for the first candidates’ debates. 

Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard will be among the 10 candidates onstage Wednesday night, and Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Marianne Williamson will be among 10 onstage Thursday night. Both events will last two hours.

Voters will begin making their choices known in a little more than seven months — at the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3 and the New Hampshire primary Feb. 11. Super Tuesday, when 13 states, including Virginia, will hold contests, will be March 3.

Even at this nascent moment, though, the 2020 campaign has accomplished something we’ve not seen before: It has made the idea of women running for president mainstream and almost unexceptional.

In 2008 and 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton was a trailblazer. She naturally played up her historic role last time as the first woman to become a major party’s presidential nominee.

On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina made a brief run for her party’s nomination in 2016. After she left the race in March, Ted Cruz named her his running mate in April but then quit the race a week later. 

And perennial candidate Jill Stein was the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 2012 and 2016. 

An all-time high of 84 percent of Americans say women are just as suited emotionally for politics as men — up 6 percent since 2016 and 14 points since Clinton lost to Barrack Obama in the 2008 primaries, the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago reported in March after their analysis of 2018 General Social Survey data.

Today’s pundits seem obsessed by how many Democrats are running for president — 23! 

Yes, it’s the most ever, but is it mind-blowing in a country of 327 million people, and after what happened in 2016, that a couple dozen people might have the guts to run for president? Or, if we’re being uncharitable, that some just want the publicity? Many people still believe publicity — not the White House — was Trump’s goal last time.

Come to think of it — only six women in a field of about two dozen candidates is a paltry showing. 

And if one of the qualified women does become the front-runner, she likely will have to endure thinly veiled — if veiled at all — sexist jibes about her looks, her clothes, her hormones and her background.

Until Trump’s pollsters told him Biden was beating him in key states, Trump liked to insult Elizabeth Warren. Then he switched to insulting Biden. 

The centennial of women’s suffrage gives the next election an historical reference point. 

Congress passed the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote on June 4, 1919, and sent it to the states for ratification. Tennessee put the measure over the top Aug. 24, 1920. 

All women then had the right to vote, but Virginia was among nine Southern states that dragged their feet on the amendment. The Virginia General Assembly finally ratified the 19th Amendment in 1952. That’s not a typo. 1952.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton made history by winning nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, before losing in the Electoral College. In Virginia, Clinton beat Trump 49.8 percent to 44.4 percent or by 212,030 votes.

Democrats may not nominate a woman for president this year, but it’s no longer just wishful thinking that they could. And it’s no longer just wishful thinking that a woman could win. 


(C)2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Americana: Seeing Winslow Homer's inspiration -- June 13, 2019 column

Winslow Homer Studio -- Portland Museum of Art

By MARSHA MERCER

Long before people over-shared their lives online, practically begging for fame, one of America’s greatest artists walked alone on the rocky Atlantic coast.

Winslow Homer lived from 1836 to 1910 and spent most of the last quarter-century of his life in a rustic studio on Prouts Neck, a point that juts into the ocean in southern Maine.

There, with the tempestuous ocean as his muse, he created some of his most dramatic seascapes.

We can see his paintings in museums around the world, but, thanks to the Portland Museum of Art, we can see his inspiration at Prouts Neck.

The museum bought Homer’s studio in 2006 and did a major renovation, restoring it in 2012 to the way it looked when Homer lived there in the 1890s.

On a private road with spacious old vacation homes, the Homer Studio is open to the public only through small-group tours from the museum, about 12 miles away. I’d wanted to see the studio for years and last week finally did.  

The spectacular vistas alone are worth the trip, but the studio also shows how genius can thrive with solitude, a little space and few amenities.

Homer’s studio was a former stable of about 1,500 square feet he had moved closer to the water and remodeled. It has two simple, pine-paneled rooms downstairs, one with a large fireplace for cooking, and a loft above with a long porch balcony overlooking the sea. The little house had neither electricity nor central heat.

The story has it Homer would stay until his water bucket froze solid, then reluctantly move to warmer climes until spring.

A guide displays laminated prints of “Weatherbeaten,” “Cannon Rock” and several other Homer seacoast paintings and shows photos of the locations before leading visitors on the Cliff Walk to see the views that inspired the magnificent art. This being the 21st century, visitors must sign a form releasing the museum from responsibility in case of a mishap.

You walk the narrow, rocky path, avoiding the poison ivy, and watch waves crash white against the rocks and clouds hang in a crystal blue sky – just as Homer did, with his dog Sam. The light and air are invigorating.

“The sun will not rise, or set, without my notice, and thanks,” he once wrote about this place. How many of us can say that about where we live and work?

Homer never married, stayed close to his family – and desperately sought privacy. Villagers in the fishing community left him alone, but people who “summered” in the small hotels then in the area wanted to meet the famous artist.

He cultivated a reputation as “the hermit of Prouts Neck,” building a tall wood fence around his property and putting up signs that read, “Mr. Homer is not at home” and “SNAKES SNAKES MICE!”

He refused interviews and instructed his two brothers to knock in certain ways, so he knew who was at the door.

And that brings us to his family – whose support was noteworthy.

His mother was an accomplished watercolorist, and young Winslow liked to draw, so his parents bought him art supplies and books of sketches from Europe, biographers tell us.

When Winslow wouldn’t consider college, his father arranged an apprenticeship with a lithographer, where Winslow learned to copy and draw. His independent spirit rebelled, though, and when his apprenticeship ended, he vowed at 21 never to work for anyone again.

He became a freelance illustrator and Civil War artist-correspondent for Harper’s Weekly and didn’t start painting seriously until he was about 27.

Two of his first oil paintings were based on his Civil War experience. He placed them in an exhibition and wrote his older brother Charles: If they don’t sell, I’ll give up painting and take a steady job.

The paintings did sell, Homer kept painting and became successful.

Only several years later, when he visited Charles’s home and saw one of the pictures, did Winslow realize his brother had secretly bought them. Furious, Winslow wouldn’t speak to Charles for weeks.

One hates to think what would have become of Winslow had Charles not bought those paintings.

We can be grateful and walk where Homer did at Prouts Neck, where he found his inspiration and we might find our own.    

© 2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Impeachment -- a bad idea for Democrats -- June 6, 2019 column


Here's my column of June 6, 2019. Posting belatedly as I was out of town.

By MARSHA MERCER

California Democrats at a state party convention Saturday chanted “Impeach! Impeach!” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was making a speech. 

“We will go where the facts lead us,” Pelosi said, trying to reassure the crowd. “President Trump will be held accountable for his actions – in the Congress, in the courts, and in the court of public opinion.”

But when?

“We can’t wait,” a coalition of progressive groups declared Tuesday. The groups wrote Pelosi to express “deep disappointment and concern” she hasn’t gotten on with impeachment.

In the very near future, the Trump era will be one that evokes the question – what did you do? We urge you to use your power to lead and to stop asking us to wait,” the letter from CREDO Action and about two dozen other groups said.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 did not exonerate Trump, as he and his allies claim.

“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said last month in his only public remarks on the report.

But Mueller’s team also did not recommend the Justice Department make a case against Trump.

“Under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office . . . Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller explained.

To many Democrats, it seemed Mueller was inviting Congress to hold Trump accountable.

The Constitution says the president may be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but leaves what constitutes an impeachable offense to the House.

Impeachment starts in the House, but removing a president from office then requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate. That, as Pelosi has said, will require a compelling case -- with facts.

It’s a heavy lift. No president has ever been removed from office.

For his part, Trump calls impeachment “dirty, filthy, disgusting” and is stonewalling House requests for testimony or documents by White House aides.

Meanwhile, 11 of the more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates have expressed “full-throated support” for immediate impeachment proceedings, according to HuffPost, which keeps a running list.

Joe Biden has not jumped on the impeachment bandwagon, but after Mueller spoke, 
Biden’s campaign said impeachment “may be unavoidable.”

Nearly 60 House Democrats from true-blue districts support opening an impeachment inquiry.

But even 60 members are less than one quarter of the 235 Democrats in the House. 
Many centrist Democratic representatives from swing districts either haven’t decided or won’t say whether they support impeachment.   

They and Pelosi recognize something many on the left ignore: Democrats could impeach Trump and make liberals feel good – and the Republican-controlled Senate likely would leave Trump in office.

Were he to remain in office, as Bill Clinton did after his impeachment, Trump likely would emerge stronger for 2020, his followers more motivated to re-elect him.

A stickier problem for Democrats is most Americans oppose Trump’s impeachment and removal, according to polls.

Among registered voters overall, 54 percent oppose while only 41 percent favor impeachment and removal, the latest CNN poll reported Sunday.

While 76 percent Democrats say yes, only 35 percent of independents and 6 percent of Republicans want to see Trump impeached and removed.   

House Democratic leaders may be moving too slowly for the party’s liberal base, but they risk alienating the 65 percent of voters who say Trump already has faced more investigations than any previous president.

On Monday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will open a series of hearings into the Mueller report. These are not impeachment hearings but could lead to them.

So far, only one Republican supports impeachment -- Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a libertarian.

We don’t know what facts Democratic investigations may turn up that could change minds. But here are two more numbers from the CNN poll to keep in mind: While 93 percent of Republicans oppose Trump’s impeachment and removal, so do 59 percent of independents.

Without the latter on board, impeachment and removal don’t stand a chance.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Cooperstown -- Americana home run -- May 30, 2019 column


By MARSHA MERCER

When Eppa Rixey visited Cooperstown, N.Y., in retirement in 1959, he wrote a postcard home: “I finally made it!”

It was a joke, but Rixey later achieved the high honor of becoming the first Virginian elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I didn’t know of him or his poignant story until I visited Cooperstown last week.

If you make it to Cooperstown, a village of nearly 2,000 people and one stoplight on beautiful Lake Otsego, you too likely will learn something about Americana, baseball and yourself.

I expected plaques of the baseball greats at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum but never imagined I’d get teary watching a film there. More on that in a minute.

Let’s pause with Rixey, “an atypical ball player,” as “The Baseball Hall of Fame Almanac” for 2019 says.

Born in Culpeper in 1891, Rixey went straight to the big leagues after graduating from the University of Virginia in 1912 with a degree in, of all things, chemistry.

In the off season, he earned a master’s in chemistry and studied Latin and math at U.Va. Few players went to college then, and, the almanac says, Rixey “fought off the resentment the other players had for his education by engaging in their hazing.”

Playing 21 seasons, he set the record for the most victories by a left-handed pitcher. And when Warren Spahn broke Rixey’s record in 1959, Rixey graciously said he was glad -- because people would remember he had set it earlier.

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963, Rixey sadly had a heart attack and died before his induction.

Four other Virginians also made it to the Hall of Fame. All were born before 1916 and played in the Negro Leagues: Ray Dandridge of Richmond, Leon Day of Alexandria, Pete Hill of Culpeper and Jud Wilson of Remington.

Cooperstown, the hometown of 19th century author James Fenimore Cooper, has a large teaching hospital and an excellent art museum. 

But its main draw – for about 300,000 tourists a year – is the Hall of Fame. I wonder how many visitors underestimate, as I did, the emotional pull of the national pastime.

“Generations of the Game” – the museum’s introductory film, new last year – tugs at heartstrings with shots of crazy home runs, impossible catches and ecstatic fans. The fans’ hairdos and clothes speak of the past, but their joy is timeless.

There’s heartbreak too – in the grainy, black-and-white footage of legendary Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig’s farewell on July 4, 1939.

Gehrig, nicknamed the “Iron Horse” for his streak of playing in 2,130 consecutive games, had just been diagnosed at 36 with a little-known fatal disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. We know it as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Yet he courageously stands before more than 60,000 fans at Yankee Stadium and says, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Gehrig’s record lasted until Cal Ripken Jr., broke it in 1995. In an interview for the film, a damp-eyed Ripken recalls from memory Gehrig’s farewell, pausing, as Gehrig had, for the echoes caused by the loudspeakers. It’s enough to make you cry.

But there’s no crying in baseball.

The Hall of Fame casts baseball in rosy light but doesn’t ignore its problems, including race.

One exhibit quotes a letter from Richmond in 1883 to the manager of an integrated, minor league team in Toledo, warning him not to play Moses Fleetwood Walker, a black catcher, in Richmond “as we could mention the names of 75 determined men who have sworn to mob Walker if he comes on the ground . . . We only write this to prevent much bloodshed, as you alone can prevent.”

Walker didn’t go to Richmond; he was released from the team before the trip due to injuries.

Soon, Jim Crow would halt integrated baseball until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” Robinson once said.

As the first black player inducted into the Hall of Fame, Robinson opened the door to other deserving black players – including the four Virginians. Dandridge was inducted in 1987, Day in 1995 and Hill and Wilson in 2009.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Monuments to Union generals tell stories we need to hear -- May 23, 2019 column


By MARSHA MERCER

Last Saturday, 17 people gathered at hectic Thomas Circle, where Massachusetts Avenue, 14th Street and M Street intersect in Northwest Washington.

It wasn’t a protest or a line for concert tickets. We were doing something most people don’t – looking past the bumper-cars traffic to the equestrian statue smack in the middle of the traffic circle.

With journalist and history enthusiast Keith White, who leads walking tours for friends, as our guide, we looked closely at about a dozen monuments to Union generals in the nation’s capital, answering the 21st Century question: “Who ARE those guys?”

Until controversy engulfed Confederate monuments across the South, many people knew only the big names -- Lee, Jackson and Davis. The Confederate statues have made us rethink who and what we should honor and why.

Similarly, in Washington, people flock to the monuments to Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson, while hardly noticing many others. But the uncontentious monuments to victorious Union generals who helped preserve the Union also tell compelling stories.

Two monuments we saw honored Civil War generals from Virginia who made the agonizing decision to stay loyal to the United States -- when doing so meant an irreparable split from friends and family.

(It’s worth noting some Northerners also fought for the South; New Yorker Samuel Cooper and Pennsylvanian John Pemberton became generals in the Confederate Army.)  

Thomas Circle is named for the best Union general you’ve never heard of.
George Henry Thomas was born in 1815 into a slave-holding family on a plantation in Southampton County, Virginia, near the North Carolina line.

A West Point grad, he served with distinction in Florida and Mexico, and his proud hometown presented him with an engraved silver sword for his bravery in the Mexican war.

He became an artillery and cavalry instructor at the military academy under Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, who was superintendent. Yet when Lee and other Southerners resigned from the U.S. Army to join the Confederacy, Thomas remained.

His sisters, avid secessionists, were so distraught, the story goes, they turned his picture to the wall, denied they had a brother named George, returned his letters unopened, and refused to send him the sword he’d left with them for safe-keeping.

Thomas was a brilliant military strategist. He managed to hold his position and avoid a rout during the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga, earning the valiant nickname, the “Rock of Chickamauga.”

When his statue in Washington was dedicated in 1879, 14 years after the Civil War ended and nine years after Thomas died of a stroke at 53, the federal government shut down for the day and former soldiers flooded the city.

But Thomas never reconciled with his sisters. Near the end of their long lives, they gave his sword to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond.

Another Virginian who stayed loyal to the Union army was Major General Winfield Scott, born in Dinwiddie County in 1786.

A hero of the Mexican War, Scott was known as “Old Fuss and Feathers” for his love of discipline and pomp.

By 1861, when the Civil War started, Scott was the army’s top general, but he was in poor health and couldn’t even mount his horse. He recommended President Lincoln name his fellow Virginian Lee to lead the Army.

When Lee refused, Scott is said to have told him: “Lee, you have made the greatest mistake of your life, but I feared it would be so.”

Scott resigned, wrote a two-volume autobiography and died in 1866.

The sculptor of Scott’s monument put him on a small mare, his favorite mount. But Scott’s family insisted a great military man should be shown on a stallion. The sculptor made an adjustment. Today, most people don’t notice, but in 1874, the statue was widely ridiculed.

The Scott monument is in busy Scott Circle, where Massachusetts and Rhode Island avenues and 16th Street NW meet. 

On Memorial Day, we honor those who gave their lives in military service.

We owe respect and a deep debt of gratitude to all who serve and sacrifice, and especially to Virginians Thomas and Scott who made the wrenching decision to fight to preserve the United States.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.
30

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Who pays for the trade war? We do. -- May 16, 2019 column


By MARSHA MERCER

How or when President Donald Trump’s trade war will end is anyone’s guess. There’s no long-term plan or end game in sight.

But two things are clear: You’ll pay more and Trump will claim he won.

Despite what you’ve heard, China is not paying for the tariffs any more than Mexico is paying for the border wall.  

“We find that the U.S. tariffs were almost completely passed through into U.S. domestic prices, so that the entire incidence of the tariffs fell on domestic consumers and importers,” three economists wrote in a report on the impact last year of Trump’s tariffs. They are Mary Amiti at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Stephen Redding at Princeton and David Weinstein at Columbia.

Trump imposed tariffs on nearly $283 billion in imports last year – about 12 percent of total imports – and foreign countries retaliated with tariffs of their own on American goods amounting to $121 billion. 

By the end of the year, tariffs reduced U.S. income by $1.4 billion per month, the economists calculated.

Trump says consumers can buy American to avoid tariffs, but that’s easier said than done in our global economy. 

Besides, “We also find that U.S. producers responded to reduced import competition by raising their prices,” the report said.

A tariff is basically a tax at the border that’s paid by the importer, usually an American firm. Businesses may try to absorb the costs for a while, but eventually they pass them on to the consumer.

Even Trump’s top economics adviser, Larry Kudlow, conceded on “Fox News Sunday” that American consumers and businesses are paying the tariffs.

Trump says the world has been ripping off America too long. He insists tariffs bring back industries, like steel, and create jobs -- but the cost is astounding.

The steel tariffs Trump imposed last year created about 8,700 jobs in the U.S steel industry, according to calculations by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. But the price tag for American consumers and businesses for each job created or saved was more than $900,000.

“Wow!” the report said.

Trump has told allies and advisers the trade war is very popular with his base and will help him win re-election, The Washington Post reported.

“You want to know something? We always win,” Trump said on the White House lawn this week.

Well, let’s hope so. The last time the United States fell hard for tariffs was the 1930s, when tariffs probably worsened the Depression.

But Trump loves tariffs. After trade talks with China fell apart, he hiked tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods last Friday. China announced retaliatory tariffs of $60 billion on U.S. goods.

Trump wants to impose tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese products, and he’s eyeing tariffs on autos from Europe and Japan.

Everyone agrees China should stop its aggressively unfair business practices -- like making American companies share technology and trade secrets. The question is whether tariffs are the right tool.

While the economy remains strong, the trade war is hurting the nation’s farmers who rely on overseas markets for soybeans. That’s opened a rift between the president and some Republicans in Congress.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and a lifelong farmer, complained he can’t through to Trump on the need to lift tariffs.

Trump gave farmers a $12 billion bailout last year and is planning another for $15 billion.

“Our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now,” he tweeted.

But Sen. Patrick Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, isn’t buying.

“Think about what we’re doing. We’re inviting retaliation that denies our farmers, the most productive farmers on the planet, the opportunity to sell their products overseas and then we say, `Don’t worry, we’ll have taxpayers send you some checks and make it OK,’” Toomey said.  

Consumers can expect to see higher prices of Chinese goods by mid-June, experts say. Items affected include auto parts, bicycles, dog leashes, fish and seafood, furniture and luggage.  

So grab your wallet. You’re likely to suffer collateral damage in the trade war.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Can anyone save what's left of privacy? -- May 9, 2019 column


By MARSHA MERCER

First came the email saying my credit card may have been compromised “at an undisclosed merchant,” and the bank was sending a replacement card.

Wait, what happened? And what’s an undisclosed merchant, anyway? When I called to find out, the customer representative said the bank doesn’t share that information.

The bank says it gets information from various outside sources – such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express and law enforcement agencies – and details about a specific breach are not disclosed, even to the bank.

That’s good, I guess, but it leaves customers in the dark.

My new card arrived promptly, and I started updating accounts where my credit card is on file for payments. That’s a downside of convenience and reward points.

We’ve all been there. No matter how hard we try to preserve a semblance of control over our personal data, we constantly lag enterprising crooks.

What we don’t willingly share on social media, companies “harvest” for their own business purposes. That word, harvest, grates on me, but, like it or not, our personal information is a commodity.

In our hyper-connected age, privacy is melting faster than glaciers on our warming planet.

Now, Congress -- after years of railing about the loss of privacy -- is holding hearings on the issue and fussing at corporate leaders. But lawmakers are divided on how to write a federal privacy law to replace our confusing patchwork of state and federal laws.  

The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down somewhat on Facebook and other mega companies that shirk their responsibilities.

Even social media and tech giants claim they’re on our side and promise – again – to do more to protect our privacy.

“The future is private,” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg declared April 30, insisting he was serious.  

Facebook is negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission a fine up to $5 billion  in a settlement for failing to abide by a 2011 consent decree to protect users’ privacy.

Facebook shared the personal information of about 87 million users -- without their knowledge or consent – with Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm that has since gone out of business. 

The fine, expected any day, would be the largest in American history, and may require the company to take such steps as appointing a top level privacy official and a privacy oversight committee.

It’s just a slap on the wrist, critics say.

Two senators, Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Republican Josh Hawley of Missouri, say the enormous fine is a “bargain for Facebook.” They suggest the FTC hold Zuckerberg and other corporate leaders personally responsible.

Facebook is redesigning and updating its services to encourage private messages, communication within groups and Story. Stories disappear 24 hours after they’re posted.

Other companies now use privacy as a selling point, following Apple’s lead.

“We believe privacy is a fundamental human right,” Apple’s website says.

But it doesn’t come cheap. Apple’s budget iPhone XR starts at $749.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times Tuesday: “Privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services.”

Google unveiled a $399 smartphone and promised tools to help customers control their data, such as expanding incognito mode, which allows users to search without being identified, to maps and other apps. 

Our smart products already record and send back our conversations and activities – often to train artificial intelligence, but still. Amazon workers and contractors reportedly listen to consumers’ conversations with Alexa. That’s creepy.

And, Amazon’s Key will deliver your online purchases inside your home, car or garage.

All Prime members need do is allow access to their property. A promotional video shows happy people opening their car trunk, garage and front door and finding packages safe and sound. What could go wrong?

In this fast-changing world, we can’t expect the government to save our privacy. And we can’t trust the big tech companies to have our privacy at heart.

We each must decide how much we want smart machines to do for us and how much privacy we’re willing to give up for the convenience.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.