Interesting pair of maps showing the route of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline

The upper map is the official map from Energy Transfer Partners. It is remarkably free of detail. Enter Carl Sack's map below, which contains a lot more detail and was designed explicitly to help oppose the pipeline. It's objectively a better map in many ways, particularly showing the locations of rivers and the Sioux Reservation.

It's also notable that Sack includes the "Unceded Sioux Territory". My understanding (and I could be wrong) is that land has disputed legal status today, the result of a broken treaty with the Sioux. The passing of this pipeline through that land is a key part of the dispute, though, and mapping it helps us understand the protest against the pipeline's passage through that land.

politics
  2016-11-21 20:13 Z

Donald Trump warned us the 2016 election would be rigged. Was it? I’ve seen no evidence the vote was subverted enough to change the presidential result. But there were plenty of problems with the election, problems we should fix to protect American democracy.

2016 was the first major election after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Several states put new limitations on the right to vote such as North Carolina’s intentionally racist voter ID law. How many votes were suppressed in 2016? It’s too early to know (counting and analysis takes time), but voter suppression definitely had some effect. The right to vote is one of the most important rights we have in America, we must defend it for everyone.

Clinton won the popular vote by at least 1M votes but lost the election. That’s not “rigged,” the system is functioning as designed. But the Electoral College is curiously anti-democratic, Trump himself called it “a disaster for democracy.” A particular problem is that the way votes are allocated means there’s gross inequality. Voters from small states like Wyoming or Vermont have 2–3x the power as voters from big states like Texas or California. This bias disenfranchises racial minorities as well. The Interstate Compact is one possible way to reform the electoral college.

The FBI meddled in the election. Comey’s decision to bring up vague, irrelevant email evidence less than two weeks before the vote had a significant impact on public opinion. Comey’s handling of the email investigation had been unusually critical for months. The Trump campaign was tipped off about Comey’s October surprise before it happened; Giuliani even bragged of “a revolution going on inside the FBI”. The national police meddling in an election is something you expect in a tinpot dictatorship, not the US.

The Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee to influence the election. The DNC emails WikiLeaks published ended up not containing much of significance but still hurt the Clinton campaign. Back in July Trump invited Russia to hack Clinton. After the election a Putin adviser bragged “maybe we helped a bit with WikiLeaks.” Foreign espionage threatens our independence.

Voting machine security has not come up as a specific concern this election. But it’s crucial to fair elections; a lot of computer voting to date is woefully insecure. A post-vote audit comparing electronic votes to verified paper votes would be a huge reassurance.

I have a lot of admiration for American democracy. Keeping our elections free and fair requires constant vigilance. We need to stop voter suppression, reform the electoral college, and prevent inappropriate influence both from US and foreign governments. Keeping democracy healthy is a non-partisan goal; it is American.

politics
  2016-11-18 20:32 Z

Were you offended by me calling Trump a racist? Perhaps you voted for Trump and resent the association? “I’m not a bigot”, you think, “I only voted for Trump because Clinton was so awful”. OK, I’ll accept that at face value. But only if you step up now.

If you are not a bigot now is the time for you to speak out against bigotry. When Trump demonizes Muslims, speak up. When Trump insults Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, call it out. When Trump supporters carry out racist attacks, condemn them. When Trump embraces misogyny, say something. When Trump appoints white supremacists to his cabinet, reject them. Publically.

These next few years are going to be very hard for vulnerable minorities. LGBT people, Muslims, immigrants (both documented and not), we all feel threatened. We need you to step up and defend us. If you supported Trump and the GOP in this election but are a decent person who is not a bigot we need you to act and speak.

There are things that are open for legitimate political debate. Trade policy, gun control, tax rates, healthcare, our response to global warming. I disagree with GOP positions on many of these topics but they are certainly open for civilized discussion. Overt bigotry against Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans, or LGBT people is not acceptable and must be firmly denied. We all need to speak out.

politics
  2016-11-16 17:12 Z

So Trump will be president. There’s been a rush to normalize the election, to embrace the new president, to make it seem all OK. It’s not OK. America elected a racist demagogue who is singularly unfit to be president. We should not normalize Trump’s monstrous campaign. It feels obvious (or pointless) to catalog his faults now, but perhaps in the coming years it will be useful to remember what Trump has been up to now.

Trump made numerous policy statements that should have disqualified him as a candidate. His advocacy of assassinating families of terrorists and torture are calls for war crimes. His proposals of a registry of Muslims and banning Muslims from visiting the US violate the First Amendment. His encouraging assault at his political rallies and his promise to jail Clinton are the threats of petty tyrants, not American Presidents.

Trump is personally odious. He bragged about sexually assaulting women. At least ten women publically accused him of sexual predation. His only response has been to threaten to sue them. He doesn’t pay his bills. He brags about paying no taxes, based on a dodgy tax scheme. He spearheaded a racist campaign trying to deny Barack Obama’s citizenship. He is a prodigious liar about things both big and small, like his non-existent charitable donations.

But 26% of eligible voters voted for Trump, he will be president. I don’t quite know how to sit with that, that so many Americans voted for a racist sexual predator. Voted for someone lacking even a basic understanding of American governance. In many cases people voted for him because of his racism and ignorance, not despite it. That’s America 2016.

So what next? We could ask 2012 Donald Trump for advice; back then he openly called for revolution against Obama. But that’s crazy. We have to live with his presidency. But we don’t have to pretend that he’s normal or acceptable. We don’t have to pretend he’s not the man he was in the campaign. As Gessen says, “Believe the autocrat. He means what he says.”

politics
  2016-11-15 22:31 Z

Today’s SF Chronicle has two remarkable opinion colums about state politics in California.

Debra Saunders, the token right-winger, reveals Carly Fiorina is a deadbeat. She owes $500,000 to her employees for her failed 2010 senate candidacy. What makes this laundry-airing remarkable is Fiorina is rumored to be running for President. And Saunders got Fiorina’s former campaign manager Marty Wilson on the record confirming the debt. Quite a takedown.

Also Slick Willie Brown’s normally terrible column is interesting this week in revealing the Democratic machine. He floats a trial balloon for how California’s top politicians might shuffle jobs in the next few years, with Harris for Boxer and Newsom for Jerry Brown. “The issue will be which of their clients they persuade to run for the Senate seat”; the “they” refers to consultancy Ace Smith. I guess they’re the ones calling the shots.

politics
  2014-12-28 21:12 Z
politics
  2014-08-14 16:47 Z

Mozilla, the creators of the Firefox browser and other important open web technologies, just appointed Brendan Eich as CEO. The problem is Brendan Eich donated $1000 to Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage referendum that set back marriage equality in California for five years. And now there’s a shitstorm.

I held my tongue on this for a few days to give Eich and Mozilla time to give their side of the story. Well, they did and it’s a mealy-mouthed non-explanation where Eich desperately tries to sidetrack any questions about his politics with a confusing endorsement of “inclusiveness” and Indonesians. It ends with him questioning the world’s faith in Firefox because his colleagues are calling him out on failing a basic measure of human decency. The interview is dishonest and disgusting.

I don’t think there should be a political litmus test for CEOs, even CEOs of mission-driven non-profits. It’d be fine with me if Eich were an NRA supporter or a no-tax Tea Partier or some other debatable position. But this isn't politics. Gay marriage is a civil right and Eich unapologetically contributed to deny me and my friends equal citizenship in the United States. It’s unacceptable and makes him unfit to be the CEO of Mozilla.

Apparently he doesn’t intend to apologize or recant. Fine. But it’s particularly appalling that he doesn’t even want to explain his position. I’d respect him more if he said “I oppose gay marriage because of my religious beliefs” or whatever, at least then he’d have some integrity. Instead he just wants us all to ignore his demonstrated anti-gay stance, a dishonesty and lack of courage. Unexamined bigotry is the most dangerous kind.

Brendan Eich must go. His position as CEO is threatening Mozilla’s future. Sadly there’s a crisis in the board of directors too. This kind of chaos destroys organizations.

politics
  2014-04-02 15:37 Z
A slide from NSA's program to record all voice calls.
politics
  2014-03-19 23:54 Z

This letter to the editor from Tom Perkins about the anti-tech backlash in SF is just breathtakingly stupid.

I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.” … This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?
This comparison is so obviously idiotic I’d just ignore it. But it’s by Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner-Perkins, one of the most influential VC firms in the tech industry. Blogging it so we “never forget” if you know what I mean.

I’m concerned about the growing class tension in the SF Bay Area. While I think some of the rhetoric in the protests is deplorable there’s significant, meaningful issues of equality and access in the Bay Area that need to be addressed. But then to have some jackass come in and Godwin the whole discussion, in the Wall Street Journal no less, just ick.

Maybe it’s time for Kleiner Perkins to rebrand.

politics
  2014-01-25 20:37 Z

AOL, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Yahoo joined today to ask for Global Government Surveillance Reform. While asking nicely isn’t likely to accomplish anything on its own, the public statement does move the discussion forward.

The request is sincere. I personally know people at Google and Twitter who’ve shaped their policies and they have just as much of a liberty / freedom of speech / Internet nerd background as you could hope. And all of these companies have a commercial interest in limiting spying to protect their international businesses. For example, NSA spying on Gmail is a significant threat to Google’s business plans in Europe. They have a self-serving reason to want to stop NSA overreach.

My concern is they don’t have any real hope of succeeding in what they’re asking. This request strikes me as particularly naïve: “governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications.”. Bulk data mining is a hugely valuable intelligence asset, there’s no way NSA is just going to stop collecting everything they can just because we ask nicely.

I think the requests for oversight and transparency are more realistic. Since the Snowden documents started coming out I’ve wavered between being appalled by NSA’s contempt for the Constitution and impressed by their technical capabilities. I accept at some level the US government needs an agency that, say, is hoovering up everyone’s cell phone movements as a way to track bad guys. The problem is that it’s illegal for NSA to collect that data against US citizens. And the current workaround for the Fourth Amendment is a ridiculous system with no meaningful judicial or legislative oversight.

The current state of surveillance threatens democracy; it has to change. The good news is some of America’s most powerful corporate interests also want to fix it.

politics
  2013-12-09 17:51 Z