Ethics Dunce: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI.)


These two, I can tell apart…

Representative Tlaib is the least recognized of the renegade, embarrassing members of “The Squad,” sort of like José Carreras of “The Three Tenors,” who was always the one nobody could remember after naming Plácido Domingo and  Luciano Pavarotti. She is best known, perhaps, for repeating her classy motto “Impeach the motherfucker!” Maybe people will now remember her for the blight on Congress that she proved she is after her latest debacle.

Tlaib recently called upon the Detroit Chief of Police James Craig to hire only blacks  to run the department’s facial recognition program. Following a demonstration of the technology, Tlaib said,  “Analysts need to be African-Americans, not people that are not. It’s true, I think non-African-Americans think African-Americans all look the same!” Her proof for that statement is that people often confuse Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

I plead guilty: I have always had trouble keeping them straight. That’s because they are both ancient House members who rest on their civil rights era laurels, who engage in race-baiting as a matter of course, and who both have shaved heads. Quick, now: which is Cummings, and which is Lewis?

I also used to get actresses Jaimie Pressly and Margot Robbie mixed up, as does  almost everyone else. (That’s Pressly on the left, Robbie on the right.)

Does that prove white people think all white people look the same?

Oh, never mind. Still, one would like to think a member of Congress would know that such a hiring requirement would violate anti-discrimination laws, in addition to being based on racial bias . Craig responded, “I trust people who are trained, regardless of race, regardless of gender,”  and called Tlaib’s suggestion “racist.” To be kind, I’d just call it ignorant and stupid.

Not for the first time, Tlaib doesn’t know what she’s blathering on about. In Facial Recognition Technology,  the operator doesn’t make the identification, programed algorithms do.  That’s the whole point.  Not to be dissuaded by facts, or her fundamental misunderstanding of the issue, Tlaib has written an  op-ed  or The Detroit News denouncing FRT as “racist technology.”

Incidentally, one of Margot Robbie’s notable roles was in “The Suicide Squad.”


Source: Res Ipsa Loquitur 1, 2

9 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI.)

  1. Two items of note. First, Detroit Police Chief James Craig used to be the chief in Portland, Maine. His tenure there was too short (he got recruited after only two years to Cincinnati, then on to Detroit). He was Portland’s first African-American police chief and by all accounts a competent and highly respected guy (worth pointing out that Craig has advocated that citizens should consider owning guns).

    Second, I’d have to suggest that Tlaib is not the least recognized member of the so-called “Squad.” I believe that honor goes to Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who shares the radical politics of Tlaib, Omar and AOC but wouldn’t trample a litter of kittens frolicking between her and a TV camera.

  2. Computer vision also has trouble making distinctions when given darker skin tones. I’ve seen claims that this has roots in film itself being optimized for white people. The simpler explanation is that darker tones have less overall contrast and fewer people represented in the training images fed to the algorithms.

    Ironically, Google recently got in trouble by having contractors approach black people in public, particularly homeless, trying to address the lack of diversity in training images.

  3. Wasn’t there an article a while back claiming that math was racist? I assume Rep. Tlaib’s argument is that the algorithms are racist.

    Or something.

    • I addressed this matter in a comment on an earlier post. While an algorithm cannot be racist by any definition, it is far from an objective standard. It is only as good as its original programming and the training data used to calibrate it.

      Police using facial recognition software should be treated with skepticism. The technology is still in its infancy. It took billions of years for life to evolve the ability to reliably distinguish images, and computers have only been doing it for a decade or so, using methods that are nearly impossible for humans to carefully audit. Faces of minorities are indeed a weak point for current methods, in no small part due to programmers and operators not taking the time to carefully calibrate the software to identify the particular feature that distinguish non-Caucasian faces.

      Installing a system with known weaknesses to identity persons and subject them to criminal investigation must be treated cautiously, with as much transparency as possible. Attacking the race of the operators is wrong, but demanding accountability regarding calibration is a civic duty.

  4. Mistaking celebrities for one another is quite common. Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg have been confused for one another even though there’s little resemblance. Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling. There have been click bait pages dedicated to the topic. How much more possible to mistake two congressmen, that look very much alike, and most people wouldn’t recognize in a supermarket? Very possible. Very likely.

    Much of this is the constant search for ill intent where there is none. There always has to be something to be offended about.

  5. “It’s true, I think non-African-Americans think African-Americans all look the same!”

    That’s the most succinct expression of self-entitled double-standard bigotry I have seen.

  6. Comparing Tlaib to José Carreras is comedic gold. I love it.

    One sure-fire way to tell the difference between Representatives Cummings and Lewis is to listen to them. Whichever one says, “During my time with Dr, King” first is John Lewis. I once met Mr. Lewis while Christmas shopping in Atlanta. Apropos of nothing, the first words out of his mouth were, “During my days with Dr. King.” The rest of what he said I couldn’t understand. I shook my head in the affirmative and was polite and respectful. Over the years I’ve somewhat followed Mr. Lewis and nearly everything he says makes some reference to his time with Dr. King. Of course, he changes it up a little every once in a while by adding the words “the late” and/or “the great,” but if one listens long enough … He would be practically mute without that phrase. Just a helpful tool in the struggle to differentiate the two.

  7. Tragically, demanding flagrantly unconstitutional solutions to both genuine and faux “problems” has become distressingly common for today’s political figures. Trump has demanded numerous such “fixes,” although to be fair to him, the Democrats as a group have put him to shame, seriously proposing effective revocation by executive fiat of the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth amendments to wild applause from their supporters. That doesn’t even bother to count the bewildering number of policy proposals made by Democrats that run directly contrary to mere U.S. laws.

    A pox on both their houses, for sure, but it’s about time somebody pointed out how utterly vapid Talib’s utterances are, and how divorced from Constitutional law her thinking is. In a perfect world, such people would suffer electoral defeat after espousing such flagrantly lawless positions, and there was a time that such pronouncements would have produced just that.

    Alas, that time has passed and looks unlikely to return.

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