Sunday, March 5, 2017

And in the end...

"this is for everyone's enjoyment."

In 2007, I was 18 years old.

I wrote in mostly lowercase because I had taken to James Frey and E.E. Cummings.

I was concerned with cool. I was concerned that I would write something cool. I was certain that my definition of cool was the definition upon which history would compare other things as cool.

I was 18. I wrote in vulgarities, and exposed myself to the world. I didn't care what anyone thought. Yet I promised not to expose my emotions--I rebelled against teenage angst.

I cared what everyone thought. I still do. My writing would confidently assert an opinion and then quickly back away from it.

On Sunday, September 23, 2007 I was a supremely lonely individual. I had just begun my adult life across the country. I had just begun college. I had no friends at college yet. I had only vague faces and strained conversations; half-remembered names.

I wrote because I had written before. I wanted to move away from MySpace, a rapidly deteriorating medium, and find a larger audience. I had dreams of revealing the mind of a teenager, of being brutally honest and incisive.

I still do.

“Hey Nick it's Ana”
“Hi, what's up?”
“I am not going to be home because I am with my son.”
“oh, ok”
“His wife is having a baby! I left your lunch on the counter.”
“I am going to the hospital with my son now, when will you be home”
“20 minutes, what about lunch?”
“I left it on the counter, but I won't be there, my daughter-in-law is having a baby. Do you understand?”
“No, I don't understand, do I have to buy my own lunch?”
“You don't understand, my son is having a baby! I won't be home for lunch.”

In 2009, I was 20 years old. I had just begun my semester abroad in Alcala de Henares. I still wrote in a grammatically half-baked way. I cannot emphasize enough that this was intentional. I was 20. I still wrote without a filter.

I had become more honest though. In two years, I had found friends at college, found myself happy abroad, and embraced my introversion. I believed I knew everything. I still kind of do.

I had found friends abroad, and some would become my closest friends. I thought I was fluent in Spanish. I kind of became fluent, but I've lost most of it now.

I wrote as much as I could during that semester, attempting to hold onto a feeling. In Spain, I was in love. I can feel the sun on my skin still. The hot sidewalks and a sweeping breeze running through the ancient city that was Cervantes' birthplace.

"I want to feel valuable and not like an impostor. Also, I want to write blogs and not diary entries. I guess I didn't do so hot at this one.

Ciera got cast in Spring Awakening (the play not the musical). The car has been deemed totaled (we're driving a rented Dodge Avenger now—huge blind spot, and totally for men having midlife crises). Liam bailed (he's going back to Vermont because he had an epiphany, and I hope that works for him). And we saw Take Me America—musical about gaining asylum in this country.
I used to wish I could just have a breakdown. Odd how I don't wish that now despite the difficulties."

In 2011, I was 22 years old. I posted something every day. I wrote at least 365 words per entry or I posted a picture (worth 1000). I had graduated college, spent the summer with my dying grandmother, and moved across the country to start a life with my girlfriend Ciera.

My first job was not going well, we had just gotten in a car wreck, and Ciera and I were frantically searching for a place to live. We were living in a family friend's basement pursuing things that we thought would be our careers. Ciera thought she would be an actress; I thought I would be a professional mediator.

I missed my friends, I missed my family. I didn't know what being an actual adult meant.

In 2012, I tried to write everyday again. My heart wasn't in it. In 2013, I posted a mere 81 times. By 2014, I barely posted 5.

This blog was supposed to be an experiment, a living breathing diary. I had resolved to be as public as possible. I wanted to see myself grow and change.

I have seen that. And I have changed. I no longer wish to show myself to the world in that same way. I no longer wish to share with everyone every detail of my life.

I am no longer lonely.

I still track my life. In 2016, I left Seattle, moved to New York, changed jobs, and got married. I still keep a tab on the many activities that happen in my world. But now they are private.

For public eyes only. I meant it. I meant to be open; to detail my life completely and honestly. I no longer need to. Continuing this blog with my current attitudes would be disingenuous to my younger self. I would not be respecting the spirit of that 18 year old vulgarian who spoke as 18 year-olds do and did not flinch from being offensive.

This post is my last post of substance on this blog.

You can find me now at THEDATAISM.WORDPRESS.COM

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Top Line: Week of 2/19/2017

  • Donald Trump's conflicts of interest continue; specifically, a party sponsored by the state of Kuwait at Trump hotel. 
  • The White House's contact with the FBI regarding an ongoing investigation is unprecedented and possibly a violation of ethics rules.
  • The president continues to use an unsecured Android phone.
  • Getting shot by police during an encounter is far more likely for minorities.
  • Voter ID laws suppress minority votes.
  • It pays to be white in America.
  • The White House removed all of the data in its Open Data portal. This may be simply a transition issue, or it could be something else. Keep an eye on this topic.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Underpaid and Ripped Off: The Gender Earnings Gap in California

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Look Out! NYC Motor Vehicle Incidents

New York City's Vision Zero is an attempt by the city to reduce motor vehicle related injuries and deaths to zero. While deaths are on the decline, incidents where an injury has occurred are on the rise.
Incidents largely correspond to traffic patterns. Weekends experience more traffic deaths late at night while there is a noticeable increase of incidents during rush hours on weekdays.
While the city is clearly working to reduce traffic incidents, the map shows a clearly mixed bag--and in predictable spots. For example, there are a large number of incidents that occur around the John Jay Park (and playground) and FDR Drive.
The Google street view shows two intersections that make it easy for a person to cross from a quiet side-street into one of the busiest and fastest moving roads in Manhattan. There is a pedestrian walkway 3 blocks up, but that is clearly not redirecting people.
One of Vision Zero's main goals is to create barriers between pedestrians and traffic. The second dangerous intersection shows some of the steps the city has taken to more clearly indicate that pedestrians should avoid dangerous behavior.
The city is certainly taking the right steps, but much more has to be done.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Top Line: Week of 2/12/17

This week's Top Line will be dedicated to Donald Trump's 77 minute press conference from earlier this week.

There were so many verifiable falsehoods that I have stuck only to the statements that garnered the most press and attention.

  • Donald Trump has yet to fully resolve his conflicts of interest.
  • During the campaign, advisers close to Donald Trump, were in contact with Russia. This story is news.
    • Donald Trump's history with Russia is substantive
  • Donald Trump's visit to Mar-a-Lago last weekend precipitated a potential national security breach--there is sufficient evidence for an investigation.
  • In the 8 elections since Ronald Reagan, the number of electoral votes that Donald Trump received ranks number 6. He received 304 electoral votes. Donald Trump under performed the median number of votes at 348.5.
  • Racism is defined, in part, by "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race." Not all people of a given race know each other.
  • The Congressional Black Caucus is a group of black members of Congress. They have invited Trump to meet, but have not heard back from the White House.
  • Jake Turx--reporter for Ami Magazine--was definitely throwing a soft-ball question, simply asking if the White House would condemn the recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents.
  • Donald Trump is far from the least racist person.
  • Savings for the F35 program are not attributable to any action taken by the current administration--the savings are due to higher unit orders which save money on a per unit basis.
  • The media's job is to interrogate authority, be skeptical of the official line, and seek out the truth. Media also issues retractions or corrections when the organization prints false or misleading content. By contrast, 70% of Donald Trump's statements have been evaluated as Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire by has not retracted or clarified a single one of these statements.
  • Regulations do not hamper businesses in the United States. In fact, the World Bank rates the US as number 8 for "Ease of doing business" for 2017.
    • The number of regulations is less important than the quality of the regulations.
  • While the Boeing Dreamliner's parts are put together in the US, many of it's component parts still come from abroad. Made in the USA is somewhat of a misnomer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Timeline of the Michael Flynn Scandal

Confused by the multiple versions of events that have been presented to the public regarding the Michael Flynn scandal? So was I.

I created the handy viz above to help me out.

Please let me know any corrections or omissions.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Lot of People

Feel free to zoom in on this picture--there are 10,000 little tiny people icons.

That's a lot of people; in a world of 7.4 billion, it is only .000143% of all the people in the world.

There has been a lot of talk recently about crowds, people, and percentages. What is 1 person? What is 10,000? What is 10 million?

To some extent viewing even 10,000 people together is an overwhelming proposition--I struggle to understand the meaning of a mass of humans that size. Further, it becomes almost nonsensical to attempt to understand that the Women's March drew over 3 million people out into the streets to protest a mere few weekends ago.

One way that I have attempted to think about these numbers is think about a fraction of the group. One percent of 10,000 is still 100 people.

My wedding had 125 people attend--I count myself lucky to have so many that I love in my life. Even then, I had to make hard choices about who would be invited. When I think about my same wedding, that packed reception hall, and imagine it occupied by only 25 people, I get a sense of 1% of 10,000. 100 people missing from that celebration, and I know and love each one.

When we talk about the number of people affected at any given moment by any given policy we sometimes lose sight of the humanity in each individual.

Often, we encapsulate a population in the story or picture of a single individual, we create a narrative and stamp it across the spectrum, assuming the details are more or less the same.

But the details are not the same.

So, it seems strange that this week's visualization is a stamp of a single human icon shown thousands of times. When you explore the visualization, I ask that you think about just a few of the individuals in your life, their unique stories, and apply those to the generic human outlines.

Top Line: Week of 2/5/17

  • The fiduciary rule asks that brokers disclose any conflicts of interest when selling investment products to customers. It is currently being considered for repeal.
  • Amnesty International released a report showing that the Syrian Government is engaged in systematic torture, gassing, and mass killings for political prisoners.
  • The murder rate is trending downward.

  • The comments sent to Republican Senator Tim Scott are racist and do not elevate discourse.
  • TSA's 'behavior detection' screening program is unscientific and contrary to the studies it cites.
  • Trump's conflicts of interest are still unaddressed.
  • Kellyanne Conway's comments regarding Ivanka Trump's clothing line are probably a violation of ethics rules and at least warrant an inquiry.
  • There is no Chief Information Security Officer at the White House, raising serious questions about cyber security.
  • Over half of the Navy's aircraft are unable to fly due to maintenance backlog.
  • Jeff Sessions is no civil rights hero.
  • This is happening. It's really happening.
  • This is an interesting read: this too; and this one.
  • Correction from last week: USACE did what was legally mandated in regards to consultation for the Environmental Assessment for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Of the 29 agencies that they contacted only 6 responded however.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

State of Washington v. Trump: Notes

"Official action that targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment cannot be shielded by mere compliance with the requirement of facial neutrality.” - Larson v. Valente

I am currently reading through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision on the Trump Administration's Executive Order banning people from seven countries from entering the United States. The decision is incredible and exciting to read (if you are a legal junkie).

Below are my notes so far; I have, as always, attempted to keep them factual, but analysis always injects some opinion. I would love to discuss other interpretations.

  • Government - the President and Executive Branch
  • States - Plaintiff states of Washington and Minnesota
  • TRO - Temporary Restraining Order (the thing that is preventing the immigration ban from being enforced)
Top Line:
  • The Government presented surprisingly weak and sporadic arguments; going so far as to misquote clearly inapplicable case law.
  • "It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties . . . which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile."
  • The Executive Order did not provide for proper due process (the fifth amendment) and the Government did not even attempt to argue that it did.
  • The Government argued that those affected by the ban did not have any rights under the Due Process clause.
  • It is well established case law that all persons in the United States are entitled to Due Process; this also includes certain people abroad.
  • The Government holds the burden of proof
  • The court specifically notes the slippery nature of the administration and rejected revisions by White House counsel as sufficient. Basically, the court believes the Government could do take-backsies on anything that isn't in the actual Executive Order.
  • It isn't really possible to grant a halt to the immigration ban in only one state while leaving it in place in other states--unless we build a wall around every state border. The Government actually argued that would be possible without giving any specifics.
  • Endorsement (or exclusion) of a specific religion sends the ancillary message to . . . nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.’
  • The Government could not cite evidence that the Executive Order satisfied any urgent need. Instead, the Goverment said that the court shouldn't even review the order.
Full notes:
  • Arguments were heard over the phone--an indication of the urgency of this case.
  • The substance of the case is in violations of the 1st, 5th, and 10th amendments and whether the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) should stay in place while the case is litigated.
  • The State of Washington and Minnesota were granted standing because their students, faculties, and staff were affected by the immigration order.They are granted 'third-party' standing as a litigant that is "'fully, or very nearly, as effective a proponent of the right' as the third party; or when the third party is less able to assert her own rights."
    • The states are allowed to represent their own citizens, who have come to adverse harm
  • "The Executive Order prevents nationals of seven countries from entering Washington and Minnesota; as a result, some of these people will not enter state universities, some will not join those universities as faculty, some will be prevented from performing research, and some will not be permitted to return if they leave...the Government does not argue otherwise"
  • The Trump Administration argued that the President has "unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens."
    • This argument is literally unprecedented; traditional arguments note that the Judiciary should give wide deference to the Executive on matters of immigration policy, but no case law has ever supported the notion that the Judiciary cannot even review the constitutionality of a case.
    • "The Government has taken the position that the President’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections."
    • "There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy."
    • "the Supreme Court has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that the political branches have unreviewable authority over immigration or are not subject to the Constitution when policymaking in that context."
  • The government's argument that the court shouldn't even review the case is based on a quote taken out of context that "are plainly not subject to the Mandel standard."
  • Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2, 120-21 (1866)  “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace . . . under all circumstances.”
  • United States v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258, 264 (1967) (“‘[N]ational defense’ cannot be deemed an end in itself, justifying any exercise of legislative power designed to promote such a goal. . . . It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties . . . which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”
    • Those who would sacrifice liberty for security receive neither.
  • The Court reviewed four questions in order, and the Government failed to clear even the first two:
    • 1. Whether the Government would likely succeed in a full case
    • 2. Whether the Government "will be irreparably injured"
  • "The Government has not shown that it is likely to succeed on appeal on its arguments about, at least, the States’ Due Process Clause claim, and we also note the serious nature of the allegations the States have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims."
  • "The Government has not shown that the Executive Order provides what due process requires, such as notice and a hearing prior to restricting an individual’s ability to travel. Indeed, the Government does not contend that the Executive Order provides for such process. Rather, in addition to the arguments addressed in other parts of this opinion, the Government argues that most or all of the individuals affected by the Executive Order have no rights under the Due Process Clause."
  • It is the Government's burden to show that it is likely to succeed in this case.
  • "The procedural protections provided by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause are not limited to citizens. Rather, they “appl[y] to all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens,” regardless of “whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 693 (2001). These rights also apply to certain aliens attempting to reenter the United States after travelling abroad. Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U.S. 21, 33-34 (1982)."
  • White House counsel issued guidance, but that guidance was insufficient and lacked proper authority. "The Government has offered no authority establishing that the White House counsel is empowered to issue an amended order superseding the Executive Order signed by the President and now challenged by the States, and that proposition seems unlikely."
  • "The White House counsel is not the President, and he is not known to be in the chain of command for any of the Executive Departments. Moreover, in light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings"
  • "There might be persons covered by the TRO who do not have viable due process claims, but the Government’s proposed revision leaves out at least some who do"
  • "We decline to limit the geographic scope of the TRO. The Fifth Circuit has held that such a fragmented immigration policy would run afoul of the constitutional and statutory requirement for uniform immigration law and policy."
  • "The First Amendment prohibits any “law respecting an establishment of religion.” U.S. Const. amend. I. A law that has a religious, not secular, purpose violates that clause,Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13 (1971), as does one that “officially prefer[s] [one religious denomination] over another,” Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 (1982). The Supreme Court has explained that this is because endorsement of a religion “sends the ancillary message to . . . nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.’” Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 310 (2000) (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring)). The Equal Protection Clause likewise prohibits the Government from impermissibly discriminating among persons based on religion. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 50 (9th Cir. 1978)."
  • The States have offered evidence of numerous statements by the President about his intent to implement a “Muslim ban” as well as evidence they claim suggests that the Executive Order was intended to be that ban, including sections 5(b) and 5(e) of the Order.
  • "Despite the district court’s and our own repeated invitations to explain the urgent need for the Executive Order to be placed immediately into effect, the Government submitted no evidence to rebut the States’ argument" 
  • “It is well established that the deprivation of constitutional rights ‘unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’”( Melendres v. Arpaio, 695 F.3d 990, 1002 (9th Cir. 2012) quoting Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976)
  • Case law that I really want to read more of:
    • Zadvydas v. Davis
    • INS v. Chadha
    • Kleindienst v. Mandel
    • United States v. Robel
    • Larson v. Valente
    • Melendres v. Arpaio

Ignoring National Security for Politics

This post contains my opinions. I attempt to cite facts and build a reasonable case, but I am always open to discussion and changing my mind.

382 law enforcement agencies were asked "What are the main violent extremist threats that your agency faces?"

Given the choice to select up to 3 options, the agencies overwhelmingly responded that anti-government violent extremism was their primary concern.

The DHS Countering Violent Extremism program is geared toward preventing violent extremism in all its forms. Reuters broke the story that the program will be renamed and focus solely on Islamic Extremism.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are nearly 900 right-wing extremist groups in the United States. These active hate groups will no longer be monitored under the CVE program.

While we must continue to combat Extremism wherever it arises, by categorically removing the most common and identifiable forms of extremism from the CVE mandate the president exposes the American populace to danger needlessly.

There is no clear reason to do such a thing, when law enforcement agencies tell us that anti-government violent extremism is a far more pressing priority.

Denying simple facts, without an eye toward the real-world applications and effects is a pattern of this fledgling administration thus far. I find myself unable to describe the actions through any lens other than a dogmatic, and systematic Islamophobia.

This is no small charge. And I do not take it lightly. Religious phobia--the malicious and willful kind that I am speaking of--denies people their individuality in favor of discrimination based on religion. It is fundamentally undemocratic because it assumes guilt--both by association and by default.

Please allow me to build my case.

Thesis: Donald Trump's administration is actively Islamophobic
  • Donald Trump called for a Muslim ban during the campaign.
  • Excuses as to why the current ban is not a Muslim ban have been dispelled by his own cabinet members--specifically Rudy Giuliani.
  • Stated reasons for preventing terrorism through the ban do not stand up to scrutiny; see map below:

Conclusion: The administration is unable to differentiate ordinary people from violent extremists. This conclusion casts an overly broad net against innocent people. The policies also actively ignore hate groups that would seek to also target innocent people. 

Donald Trump's Islamophobia is a security risk to America.