Category: Politics

Thermonuclear War

We’ll all most likely die due to nuclear weapons. Here’s a list of close calls where we would have died if protocol was followed or we weren’t lucky.

Andrew Yang’s Book Report

The War On Normal People

Andrew Yang book report


First off, I want to say thank you to my wife Jenny. She’s a corporate lawyer and she’s Chinese and she really seems to care about the American people. Other than that I don’t know that she has much in common with Andrew Yang, but she did meet him in 2018 which is why I have a copy of his book, SIGNED no less 🙂 (as a rule I generally don’t buy books based on politicians, although I did buy The Art Of The Deal once for a friend).

DEC191764 - YANG GANG #1 CVR C MATHTRIX - Previews World

Overall impression:

I liked the book, I think his style of speaking casually, following almost every point up with hard numbers (#math y’all), and oftentimes relating what the numbers mean. For example, he’ll talk about the rising cost of education. He won’t just say it’s going up he’ll give a year with a number (like, college in 1975 cost $5,000 on average adjusted for inflation, in 2014 it cost $25,000) or he will just give a raw percentage (like, 20% of the jobs in our country are in retail and 85% of these will be automated in 10 years), and relating a lot of his points to his own life so that you know where he’s coming from.

Things I didn’t know about Andrew Yang before reading this book:

  • He supports medicare for all as the way we help fix our broken healthcare system (and he acknowledges things like doctors will be paid less)
  • In addition to his Universal Basic Income (UBI) policy, he spent almost as much time talking about a digital social credit (DSC) system based on people helping each other out not for money but for time/favors from other people, essentially bringing communities together to help each other
  • He seems very anti-corporation, or rather, very pro small business VERY anti-big business, essentially talking about how big businesses should be regulated much more than they are, taxed more than they are, JAIL corporate executives in proportion to court fines (Sackler family, because Purdue pharma was fined $675 million (out of profits of $34 billion I should add), the CEO and members of the board must spend 6.75 months in prison
  • He likes competition
  • His UBI proposal didn’t have much actual evidence that it will help to create jobs or businesses, but there is strong evidence that it will make people less stressed, happier, and have more time to spend with family (although a lot of people end up working more)
  • As I was reading I went along and looked up the UBI examples given and there is not ONE that gives an actual livable wage, they are all well below the poverty line, it’s more like supplemental income, and so I think most of the studies are flawed. Like, if someone gives me an extra $400 a month, that’s great, but I’m not going to quit my job to start a business or pursue a passion.
  • His UBI proposal of $1,000 a month per person 18+ years old will cost about $4 trillion, or roughly 20% of our GDP
  • He used to play video games (the way he spoke it sounds like he liked to get together with friends and 4 v 4 random people, essentially he enjoyed pub stomping noobs but it’s not like he himself (as far as was written) ever got too high up the ranking ladder)

Good points:

I think the book made me appreciate Andrew Yang more and recognize that he understands a lot of the problems in the United States. He spent I would say 70% of the book talking about problems where I agreed with his assessment almost every time and 30% of the book talking about solutions where I agreed with him maybe 70% of the time, but there were reservations I had.

Problems with the book:

Again I think he does a good job of outlining the problems that America faces and puts particular emphasis on technology displacing workers (something MANY overlook he focuses on like a laser). He understands that the country is broken, mainly in the way that “normal people” haven’t gotten a wage increase since the 70s, because businesses didn’t need labor in America (i.e. outsourcing) and shipping things got cheaper (air transport, globalization, opening of China, etc.). Actually those 2 reasons aren’t mentioned in the book (Richard D. Wolf often cites them and I think they are good reasons) but Yang nails the problem and recognizes it as a bad thing.

Mostly the book can be summarized as below:

Technology good, people good, policy bad, fix policy or technology (while good) will DESTROY PEOPLE, I have some ideas (social credits, UBI, Medicare for all)

And this is part of the problem, or rather the solutions are the problems (for me) with the book. Like, UBI as an answer, especially a UBI of $1,000 a month, is OKAY but not really. For one, it’s good for a lot of people, I agree. I think it doesn’t go far enough in that his idea is if you have a family of 2, you’ll make $22k a year, or just enough to be at the poverty line. I get that could be a start but the major problems are…


OH SNAP! GIF by Reactions | Gfycat

  1. UBI Replaces ALL ELSE – He says UBI will be there TO REPLACE any existing social program. While this makes sense for say disability where you get a check and may/may not actually have a disability and the idea here is that if you go back to work you can’t collect disability (whereas with UBI you get it while working or not working), what about all of the social programs that poor people rely on? Like, you’re punishing a poor single mom who gets food stamps (SNAP) for her kids to eat because now let’s say she gets $100 from SNAP and then she says, okay, I guess I’ll take UBI, she only really gets $900, whereas somebody making $100k a year gets MORE than her?! That makes no sense.
  2. UBI Will Be Paid For By A Regressive Tax – He says UBI will be paid for by a 10% Value Added Tax (translation into American: a sales tax) whereby everything bought gets a tax put on it. You buy a pair of pants, 10% VAT tax, you buy an expensive jet, 10% VAT tax. Now, I get that it’s nice to have something simple, and in theory it’s fair because everyone is treated the same. But that’s putting the SIMPLE in SIMPLETON, in that, you’re an idiot if you believe it’s fair. Hypothetical situation, pants. Rich guy buys himself a pair of pants, okay, cool. Poor guy also buys a pair of pants. Now, let’s say the rich guy is 100x more rich than the poor guy (the poor guy makes the median wage of $33k a year while the rich guy makes $3300k, otherwise known as $3.3M). The rich guy isn’t going to buy 100 pairs of pants for every pair of pants that the poor guy buys, consumption just doesn’t work that way. Does the rich guy get less of a “Freedom Dividend” AKA UBI? Nope, assuming they both just buy the pair of pants they both pay the same VAT tax and get the same UBI. What about toothbrushes? Is the rich guy going to buy 100 toothbrushes for every toothbrush the poor guy buys? ETC. ETC. ETC. The poor guy is pay a lot more AS A SHARE OF HIS INCOME. If he made more, he would pay less as a percentage of his income, thus the less you make the more you are taxed by this VAT tax (if it was PROGRESSIVE, it would work the other way such that the rich guy would pay more).

Regressive tax - Economics Help

General Ranting And Conclusion(?):

Aside from those two BIG issues, I think I generally agree with him. The major point of the book is that we need to fix our policy in terms of people left behind by technology. The sad part is that a lot of people won’t have jobs but…the great part is we won’t HAVE TO HAVE AS MANY JOBS.

This is one thing that most people fail to recognize. When we have less work to do, it’s not that we should fire tons of people so that the few working people can work a lot and earn a lot, we should instead have more people working for a LOWER AMOUNT OF TIME. Like, take 10 million people and tell them, “Congratulations, we will pay you the same wage but you now work 50% fewer hours!” and then we employ another 10 million people and say “Congratulations, you will be paid the same wage as these other 10 million people and work the same (50% fewer) hours!” The idea is that we take the work that needs to get done and reduce the amount of it that needs to be done by certain people so that others can then join the labor force.

Additionally, I think the idea that we should just sort of “write off” a lot of the workforce and assume they can survive on poverty wages is interesting, but not that satisfying. I think we should either raise that wage AND/OR try to organize people into doing jobs that need to be done. Like, clean up our parks, help to keep streets free of crime by organizing sports leagues, have people help to categorize things online or train machine learning models, train those that can learn in trade skills that are needed.

In conclusion I think the book was good, I will still be voting for Bernie over Andrew Yang just because I feel like Bernie is less likely to be corrupted by D.C. (I mean, he’s been there for this long and they haven’t corrupted him yet, aside from his friendship with some people). Andrew Yang gave me the sense that he’s rubbed elbows with a lot of venture capitalists and could be swayed to try something “cool” even if it hadn’t really been tested or might be a terrible idea for poor or working class people.

Jill Stein

Image result for jill stein

So if you’re like me you’re going to vote Jill Stein this election. Not because you don’t want Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump, but because you’re living in a blue state, you had supported Bernie Sanders, and you don’t want to throw your vote away. What I’ve come to learn this political cycle is that very few Americans actually care about politics, and of those Americans that actually do care about the election, there are very few people who are educated on the policy positions of the major candidates and/or understand how the electoral college system works. For example, Hillary Clinton is polling (on average) 21%+ higher than Donald Trump in New York, meaning that if even if 10% of that sample decides to vote for Jill Stein, it has no effect on the outcome of the election (Clinton still gets the same number of electoral college votes).


An example of where the electoral college system fails to align with the popular vote


The reason it would matter though is that if Jill Stein gets 5% of the popular vote (not electoral college votes, which follow a winner-take-all system) the Green party would be eligible to receive ~$20M in federal funding. Now that may not seem like a lot when each party spends $1B for a presidential election these days, but used strategically it could educate that large set of people that don’t follow the news, politics, etc. and only perk up during the presidential election season (and they might watch a YouTube ad and say “hey, that seems like a reasonable use of my tax money!”).

So what are Jill Stein’s positions?

1 – 100% clean energy for the US by 2030

2 – Universal Healthcare (everyone gets healthcare regardless of income)

3 – Cancel college debt (currently on average $35k/student)

4 – Firmly anti-war and for cutting off aid to countries engaging in aggression

5 – For reproductive rights more so than any other candidate

6 – Wants to fight wealth inequality (Hillary has said the same but I think has a track record against that), proposed a 0.03% transaction tax to fight high-frequency trading

7 – Legalize weed

8 – Raise taxes on the wealthy substantially

9 – many more progressive ideas around the environment, jobs, etc.


Now given that sampling of her policies I’m sure people could say “the devil is in the details” (which is verbatim what someone told me and I thought it was an interesting phrasing until I saw the John Oliver segment). I don’t know why people don’t push candidates that oppose drastic measures to save the planet from sea-level rise don’t look at those same details (which are all over scientific literature, documented evidence that if we don’t eliminate fossil fuel usage we will enter a period of sea-level rise, drastic storms, and trillions of dollars in damage). But anyway, if you haven’t seen the piece yet, John Oliver did a smear job on Jill Stein…

John Oliver on third-party candidates

For the purposes of this post, you can fast-forward (skip over the joke candidates that set the stage for the smear job) to 4:28 when, for about 10 seconds, he actually talks about why Jill Stein might be an appealing candidate. And then the smear…

1 – Jill Stein wants to use quantitative easing to erase student debt

2 – Jill Stein edited a tweet to not come down as hard on the side of vaccines being safe (which they are)

3 – Jill Stein wants a better understanding of 9/11


So 2 and 3 are apparently deal-breakers for most people but Stein, who has been a doctor for decades, IS NOT AGAINST VACCINATIONS!!

As for 3, I don’t know that you can fault someone for saying that the 9/11 commission left A LOT of unanswered questions. When the co-chairs of the commission write a book 2 years after the event and say that they were “setup to fail” given that didn’t have enough funding or time to do their investigation, it seems to suggest we should have or should take a closer look at one of the worst terrorist attacks in our history.

Image result for Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission

Also, it’s interesting that a redacted 28-page portion of the 9/11 commission report we only recently got access to in July 2016 showed that at the time they knew that government officials in Saudi Arabia were supporting terrorism. Likewise, Hillary Clinton also said in an e-mail that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s governments are funding ISIS, so I don’t think it’s that strange that it would have been nice to know more about 9/11 (I’m sure if you asked people on the street they would have NO clue where the hijackers were from, let alone that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian citizens).


While I get that 2 and 3 then give ground to crazy people that don’t want to vaccinate their kids and believe 9/11 was an inside job, I don’t think that if you take the comments at face value they are bad.


So to get to the “Jill Stein’s #1 issue” even though I’d say her #1 issue is probably clean energy or healthcare, erasing student debt with quantitative easing (QE). I get that a lot of people are quick to say “it’s can’t be done” (which it could), and it’s true that it would be very politically difficult. That said, QE is no magic trick, it’s just printing money. After essentially creating money, the Fed could then use that created money to pay off debt (like they did during the crisis), except this time instead of taking bad mortgage loans they take on the student debt. So it’s 100% possible (hard politically but not impossible) that QE could be used to erase student debt. This has been what Jill Stein has said time and again.


The real crux of the argument that makes sense is that “The president doesn’t have the authority to do that.” Well, the president really shouldn’t have the authority to do a lot of the things that they have done over the years, but somehow those things still happen (warrantless surveillance, suspension of habeus corpus, etc.). So yes, the president can’t just print money, I don’t think that’s what was being argued by Stein. I think the argument is that some group of people decided that the US government should bail out the big banks to save the economy, they absorbed trillions of dollars in debt, and in the end the banks remained solvent. The same decision could be made on behalf of students, an investment in our future.


So while Jill Stein’s position of absolving debt has a low chance of happening in this political environment, the real issue to me is WHY? Why is it the case that tens of millions of Americans are struggling to pay college debt when 50 years ago this was unheard of (and is still unheard of in most of the world)? I think a president Jill Stein or a president Bernie Sanders would be dealing with these issues and asking who are the roadblocks to legislation that a majority of the American people want. I’d hope that they would use their high office to educate the American people and let us know why too. If we know why the things that the majority of the people want “can’t” happen in a democracy, then we should change the laws so that those things can (that, after all, is the supposed to be the point of a democracy).

Republican debate crasher

At the 2015 Republican debate on December 15, there was someone in the audience that was not satisfied with the political system. The man shouted out “Americans need free and fair elections, not billionaire auctions!” Of course the guy was not responded to and the topic was not even brought up (the topic of getting money out of politics). It turns out the person was Kai Newkirk, part of the “99 rise” movement. I think what he did was disruptive but in a good way since the issues that many Americans agree about and feel strongly about are not even being mentioned at these presidential debates. The video below shows his outburst in its entirety.


Also, another note about the debate, John Kasich must have been getting speaking tips from a kung fu master because that guy just went crazy with the hand chops. I even made a video about it (see below).

How much does a bombing cost?

Often on the news we hear about how a country bombed another country. During the Iraq war I remember hearing this on the news A LOT, but one thing was never really talked about, what does this actually cost? Well I found a good estimate that I would like to share with you. I know that this is just an estimate but it gives you a rough idea of how much bombing costs.

TLDR; $3M/strike

The report where I got my information

Now in this report they talk about the different aircraft and refueling costs and I know that these are not the only costs (the cost to train the pilots, the cost on the infrastructure of the country being bombed, the innocent people killed, etc.) but I think it can give us a good estimate. A particularly revealing graphic from the report is below.


As you can see, the cheaper aircraft are drones like the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. However, in the same report they say that a lot of the bombing is done by F-15s, F-16s, and F-22s. Another interesting thing to note is the cost of the munitions, which vary greatly from a tomahawk missile costing over $1M to a GBU-31 bomb (shown below being loaded on a plane) costing a “mere” $30,000. The report talks about how typically each strike involves around 2 munitions being expended.

GBU-31, I wonder if the GB stands for “Great Big”…


And so, even at the cheapest of the cheap airstrikes, it will cost $60,000 for the bombs alone. However, the report also did an estimate of targets attacked per month (100) and cost per month (shown below). Now this is only for the “low intensity” bombing campaign, but as you can see from the table below it will cost about $300M a month (probably less but it’s easier for the math), or $10M a day. Now dividing that by the number of targets attacked per day (about 3.3) we get $3M per target attacked. Now it’s worth noting that a lot of the cost may come from the fact that they have to fly lots of planes (sorties) before they actually attack a target (90 sorties a day but only 3.3 attacks per day), but I think we can treat the sorties where they don’t attack as intelligence gathering or an overhead cost to bombing. So, in essence every time you hear “so and so bombed ISIS” now you know that it’s costing about $3M. Tax money well spent? Feel free to leave a comment.


Where the U.S. middle class has gone

There are a couple of graphs which explain the phenomenon of why the middle class has been shrinking and people seem poorer (because relatively THEY ARE). So while Americans are more productive (it’s more than doubled since the 70s), wages have stagnated, meaning that people are producing more but not making more money.

That’s the first graph, but these others are also pretty revealing. Basically, where has the money then gone if productivity is going up but wages aren’t? Who’s getting the extra value? THE RICH. So as can be seen from the graphs below income has risen only modestly for almost all Americans but has increased dramatically for the top 1%.




Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the power of workers, namely organizing together to form unions, may also have an effect. One thing is certain, unions have been getting absolutely smashed by big business. Feel free to leave a comment or if you want more cool graphs, check out the link to this cool article from Mother Jones.



George Washington was a billionaire

An interesting article about the United State’s first president and a topic not often discussed, his finances. Basically, Washington (and other founding fathers of America) was incredibly wealthy due to land speculation. As much as he was a leader of the revolution, he was also a leader in the real estate sector. The link is below but I took an excerpt in case the link breaks.

“What was the president’s financial position relative to the size of the economy?” At the time of his death, Washington’s $780,000 estate was equivalent in value to almost one-fifth of 1 percent—0.19 percent—of the $411 million GDP. If Washington had lived two centuries later, and boasted a fortune worth 0.19 per cent of the nation’s approximately $15 trillion 2011 GDP, he would have been worth $25.9 billion, taking fourth place in the Forbes list of seriously wealthy Americans. Bill Gates is in first place at $59 billion, Warren Buffett in second at $39 billion, and Larry Ellison of Oracle fame gets the bronze medal with a $36 billion stash. Washington’s $25.9 billion sneaks him in just ahead of Christy Walton of the Wal-Mart chain. The first president is in rich company.