Snowden Dramatization

Just saw this pic directed by Oliver Stone… It’s kind of crazy to imagine a person like Snowden, the kind of endowments, genetic or otherwise, to have the kind of problems he has.

The dramatization kind of flushes out some of the things he was concerned about. I have to say, after all these years, this movie scares me. I mean, I had no idea all these things were really happening. I mean for profit corporations may engage in invasive or pervasive monitoring of employees, but that’s driven by greed for money. That’s totally understandable, we accept it just as much as we accept the evils of our jobs. But the government of the United States of America? The best country in the world, would do this? I still have trouble believing it.

So… Let’s see… So, should we come to understand that American dominance in the world stage in diplomacy, trade, science and technology were made possible by massive spying infrastructure it’s government built? So.. all our believe about democracy and “advanced government” with “checks and balances” all our believe that our prosperity is somehow due to our faith in preservation of basic human rights and liberties is what makes this country great. All that may be validated because we find out that maybe the country is great because it paid for a lot of spying and clandestined manipulations.



Really sad.

But it’s all normal. I think one of the things the movie portrays is Snowdens disgust for uncaring or careless coworkers who treat other human beings like cattles. I empathize with that, a basic human descency, even after 911, and all that, can’t just treat people like a lower life form. Can’t joke about their sufferings carelessly.

I recently had this encounter with JP Morgan Chase, a very large bank of United States. Their operator inadvertently let me in on it when he transferred me to a “the team that handles fraud”. This team asked me to enter into a three way telephone call with my primary bank before initiating a funds transfer.

I asked the rep. what they suspect I was doing. He said that this is standard procedure. I know, as well every other adult in the US, that a whole lot of money gets moved by ACH every day. I have had regular transfers between my other banks for many years. Never ever have I had to conference call two banks to make a small cash transfer, whereby, especially, the requesting party is the bank getting the money. Usually banks are happy to gain deposits.

I state my concern to the fraud rep. I explain that I felt that I was being targeted because I have a Chinese name, a culture or genetic heritage in the minority in America. I explain that in the decades that I’ve transferred money via ACH, I was never required to have a conference call with two banks. And it cannot be normal business practice for Chase because they would go bankrupt if they had to have a conference call for every new ACH transfer.

I then proceed to ask Chase rep. To reciprocate and give me an explanation of why my fund transfer were being held up? I asked or some supporting fact or matter of oncern. He refused, insisting that a conference call is normal practice at Chase.

Now, I know he feel utterly justified and also probably he felt he was well trained for my challenges. But really, that sucked.

The worst part is the feeling that his manager, who was likely listening on the line, probably had his mind racing, what terror could this Huan Chang be funding? Or perhaps this transfer is really an attempt to hide income from IRS? How do we coax him into making a mistake so we can sic the American Secret police on him??

I hated this feeling of someone holding in their brain, a determined thought, that I was a bad actor that I was doing something that needed to be slowed down or stopped or more likely entrapped. In particular, the enraging rethorics about standard practice serves to anger me, giving them probable cause to call the secret police on me or something. I hate the fact that there is a whole multi-generational institutional machination to give naive unsuspecting young minds “training” into doubting and hating me–me! Against my very own person. What did my ancestor do to you when your evil clandestine ancestors were training your mentors? What did my people do you you when your mom and daddy paid for this in their taxes? What did we do ?!

I hated the thought that someone is thinking and working against me, in secret, because they truly believed I was a bad actor. I hated it that they hide behind rules and standard procedures, but really, what I hate that their adrenaline is pumping, and their brain is highly aroused because of these dark thoughts about me. That slur, that joke, that diminutive affirmation “this little punk’s puny Asian ass is all mine,” that really drives me nuts! What did I do to garner this kind of attention?

In the case of Chase, they are a for profit company, and they have their freedom to waste it how they want to.

In the case of the government, the waste of money and computer genius on massive data collection. What about climate change? I can’t imagine how many Google’s they must run to index and link all the connected people… Wouldn’t that hurt the environment? The people deserve to know more.

But! Alas, before you come crashing through my front door with battering rams, batons and laser guns, America is great! Snowden is an American when he did what he did. If the movie is accurate, he did a great thing, an American did a great thing. It is to be celebrated. The American government did not come to a crashing halt when a great fault is discovered. It moved forward and got better. All these things are to be praised and celebrated.

But you who are fuming in your hole of an office about the entirety of my puny Asian punk ass, please stop. I really don’t like it when people think I’m doing something mean or bad. And really, all that scheming to “get Huan” is bad for your health.


(This my daughters present public school teachers are amazing… this obviously isn’t reflective of the whole US or even the whole Bay Area… but at the time when I felt this, it did feel like being surrounded by a gang of public school teachers eager to get on their Harley’s to burn some rubber on the ECL…)

I’ve been nursing ego wounds from a week of trying to speak with my daughter’s summer camp teachers. These are public school teachers are called upon to teach summer camp in an unnamed Palo Altan school in an unnamed summer camp.

The head teacher has these two or three carpools to take her to her after school tutoring in Los Altos. So she has her carpool mates come in on the spot at fifteen minutes after class concludes and loudly scream in to the room “EXCUSE ME, BUT SHE HAS TO LEAVE, WE HAVE A CARPOOL WAITING” and some times remarks like “oh my God, mornings and afternoons?!!” Or “God! It’s summer, she can’t be having any fun doing camp work!” The teacher to whom I was speaking to kept on talking and smiling but never once looks up to stop her friends from loudly and rudely interrupting my speech.

It is well rehearsed and well practiced. On all occasions it was in front of my daughter. As her primary mentor I wish I could have taken these opportunities to show her how to deal with boisterous, possibly racist or sexist, bullies at school. However, to these white female teachers, I could not stand up. We rush out of there as fast as humanly possible to avoid one of them taking the shouting up a notch. We do not want to be first in a teacher shooting students and parents incident.

I mean did they care that I was also there at 3pm in the afternoon? Did they care that I had a serious question for the teacher responsible for the class? On some days, I was picking up material so I can help my daughter with work that her teacher couldn’t teach her. Has the teacher no shame in her failure? Public school teachers really really suck here. I mean what kind of jerk behavior is this for teacher, to rush from one job to another and just half-assing each class. What kind of people set up these ass-hole friends to rudely prevent any very polite but important questions about their students!? (That is to say, there is and an Indian parent they interrupt as well, it’s definitely not just against my Chinese family)

I was politely warned that the class has a lot of foreigners. I suppose I should have gotten the message and left the class ? Services won’t be that good for minorities…

Now, the other side of the coin is the problem that her head teacher at camp is actually with her all day. Certainly, I am proud that I didn’t become angry to respond aggressively to the rude and inappropriately irresponsible behavior. I suppose if I complained, my daughter may be targeted further by these other people, I guess they are also teachers at camp and may be present during the day. I never, in my child’s life, for a moment thought I’d fear one of the schools faculty giving my daughter a talk down during the day, until I feared it this week.

What is a parent to do?

I grew up in America in the 90’s in a public school. (Recall movies from this era include the likes of Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds, when they made movies about dedication and innovations in California public schools) It actually got a Blue Ribbon from then President Clinton the year I graduated. Some of the teachers were boisterous for sure (and some quiet, some jocks, some queers, some queens, I dare say the same human spectrum as we have in California today) but definitely very considerate and for all I can see gives their whole life to the job. The population there were very distinct–you can very easily tell a teacher of German ancestry from a French one and from an English one, and I was obvious a recent Chinese immigrant–there were not many mixed or Latin American heritage, but nobody really let any of that burden themselves. They saw talent where it grew and nurtured it. They stay late after class and after school on demand. Sometimes they spend their own money for school supplies. Even the least famous teacher at school paid full attention to their students when they asked questions. They make almost no money, but teaches great classes that inspires us to work hard to learn. The good old days when teachers were actually interested in a successful teaching/learning experience where knowledge is imparted. The teachers were actually interested in the stuff they taught. You can sense their excitement to teach each new topic. You can hear their happiness when you learned as a student. You can feel their pain and sadness at each and everyone of your failures. What a great life I’ve had if only to have known that kind of people once. I feel so sorry for my kids’ generation…

None of this gives me an idea for an aggressive response, a response in kind, or an effective response. But at least my head is in the right gear now, no longer aloft in my memories of how things were in an ancient time.

P.s. okay, wise-asses, I hear you mumble, why don’t you work harder yourself to be a rich and powerful corporate leader, and then surely your problems will melt away. That’s not the point. The problem is that I lose faith in the public school system that I help to fund. These teachers are teaching people that my children will have to live and work with when they grow up. They teach the people who will pay for my social security. They teach the people who will drive my Uber… It is irresponsible for me to see this situation and to not take note of it. It is irresponsible to not consider how to fix it.



While writing this, I heard a pro Union speaker on NPR, Jane McLevy, something about “…there are people out there who are organic-only vegitarian, electric car driving, opponents.of teacher unions…” And also, “Silicon Valley is just as evil and bad for society as Wall Street…”

So, that’s really loaded comments. I’m organic vegitarian and electric car driver for over a decade, and I’m presently complaining about teachers of public schools. My complaint is that union teachers and public schools aren’t really doing a good job. It is not that unions are bad, it’s just the quality of the profession needs to rise to the demands of a 21st century world. Union can help that cause.

For example, wouldn’t it be nice if our law require that any time there is a union, there be at least two unions? The unions will compete with each other to help teachers work more effectively. When all the teachers are in the same union, there is no incentive for it to work efficiently and effectively.

Assuming, that is, the people who think and speak about this matter, really want something “good for society” and not just “more pay for less work”

But they are right, Silicon Valley is certainly very evil in many ways. But think about it this way, wouldn’t you want two devil’s competing instead of one devil? They interfere with each other and hopefully produce something better. Right? We want something better right?

Optimization Rendering of Distributive Justice

P is population under governance.

L is the available policies or laws that can be put into practice and enforcement.

Let there be a utility function u(p,l) for each individual p\in P‘s benefit under political system l\in L. Furthermore let the function be polymorphic and accepts u(p\prime, l) where p\prime \subseteq P

Let the government have the sole objective of optimization of some utility of its people, then Utilitarian says the desired governance chooses

\mathop{argmax}_{l\in L}{u(P,l)}

And furthermore, they define that

u(P,l) =\sum_{p\in P}u(p,l)

The rowlsian would stipulate that selection should be

argmax_{l\in L}{(argmin_{p\in P}u({p,l}))}

It imposes this procedural restrictions on the family of allowable L to mean those that satisfy “equality of opportunity.”

This rendering largely based on Michael Snadel’s Justice class on edX.