Friday, October 21, 2016

Good Conversation With One Oddity

This conversation between Ezra Klein and Molly Ball is pretty good overall (though it doesn't really address what to do about things) but for a very odd point Molly made near the end.  She said
It’s his celebrity, it’s his money — so many of his positions are so antithetical to the interests of the donor class in the Republican Party that only someone with his own money and visibility could have done that. And, as you said, his shamelessness: He doesn’t care what people think of him.
That’s rare, particularly among rich, famous people. Most rich and famous people care very much about their image. And he doesn’t, and that’s a remarkable quality.
But he does care...a lot.  He carries grudges against people who say that he is a bad businessman or that he cheats (taxes, contractors, whatever) or that he is only where he is because of a rich father...or that he has short fingers.

There have been plenty of stories (I doubt this was the first, but maybe) saying the reason he got into the race in the first place was because Obama slighted him at the White House Correspondents' Dinner (I don't know if a better argument that that event shouldn't exist could be made).  His entire net worth is a judgement on what the value of the "Trump" brand is.

He cares.  He's just way too stupid to understand what he should do to actually get the respect he craves.

Sounds Good to Me

I'm not sure I agree about the $20 but yes, the main use of the $100 and $50 bills are illegal (tax evasion and illicit purchases/sales).  So drop them.  Of course if we're going to start changing up our money system we should also drop the $1 bill in favor of $1 coins and start minting $2 coins, drop the useless penny and really drop the almost as useless (and also money losing) nickel (note the only multiples of 5 cents that can't be made without a nickel are $0.05 and $0.15).

A part I thought was interesting that I would guess most people aren't aware of was when Rogoff said:
The tax evaders are at the upper part of the income distribution. Payment recipients, like cleaners, don’t owe taxes. And if they’re paid under the table, then when they reach retirement age and try to get their Social Security, there isn't any.
The general understanding of immigrants taking jobs, being paid under the table and not paying into the system is really a case of employers cheating the tax system.  Bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, will help prevent this possibility.  I would guess that it would do a better job than abolishing the $100 and $50 would.

Incidentally after that statement the next back and forth was somewhat nonsensical (going from 2% to 4% inflation target would confuse people but negative interest is perfectly sensible?!?).  I think both issues would actually be solved by NGDP level targeting (say 5%) that doesn't have the inflation only "confusion" (which is really banker hysteria) or the goofiness of negative interest.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What Your Vote Says About You

In this person's case, it mostly says they are A Idiot.

I'll admit I'm somewhat sympathetic to 3rd party candidates and voters.  The problem is most of them are represented by this person whose decision is just stupid.  On a related note I also found John Oliver's bit on 3rd party candidates to be off the mark (quite unusual) while Samantha Bee has been spot on (not unusual).

The problem with 3rd party candidates is our elections.  We don't have a parlimentary system where 15% of the population voting for Green party would translate to 15% Green party in Congress.  It translates to zero.  More because most districts don't require a majority to win (i.e. you can win with a plurality...which could technically be as low as 34% but more likely in the mid 40's) the only function a 3rd party candidate really performs is to siphon votes away from the major party candidate that is closest to them in terms of policy.

If all states/districts did run off elections whenever a leading candidate got less than 50% then there would be a stronger argument to vote for 3rd parties.  It would help give a more complete picture of what the electorate really wanted.

Almost by definition in a 2 party system, neither party is going to represent you as well as some (real or fanciful) potential 3rd party could.  That's just going to happen when the two major parties are trying to figure out how to get 50% of the vote.  It's hard to get 50% of people in this country to agree on any single issue much less a whole slate of them.  Unfortunately, in our electoral system where we vote for individuals for all offices in winner take all type elections, a 2 party system is the only one that makes sense.  There are a very small number of reasons to vote 3rd party:

  1. Both politicians really are the same (think Simpsons episode where aliens replace the 2 party candidates) and it doesn't matter so much who wins.  Note: this was Nader's argument in 2000 which I thought was crap at the time.  This is a pretty hard argument to make today, if only for procedural reasons (whether government will function).
  2. One party has put forth a particularly horrid candidate and that party's members can't vote for their candidate.
  3. Non-voters only: people who don't vote but get inspired by some particular candidate.  This can happen for main party candidates too (see: Obama) and yes, everyone should vote, but some people just don't.  Ever.  Showing up to vote for a 3rd party is better than not voting at all.  If you have ever voted D or R this category does not apply to you.

In fairness to the A Idiot there is also a piece by a Gary Johnson supporter.  I disagree with that person on the main issues brought up but that person is not A Idiot.  This is a weird election and this falls firmly into the point 2 above.  If it were a standard Republican on the ballot instead of the Lilliputian fingered, Brobdingnagian-egoed orange one then that person would be A Idiot too, but it isn't.  In this election Republicans and conservatives voting Gary Johnson make sense, Democrats and liberals voting Jill Stein (or Johnson) are A Idiots.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

WA I-732 Climate Bill

No, I hadn't heard of it before either.  It is an interesting story to say...well, something about it.  I'll admit I'm rather partial to both sides of this.  A strong push could have actually accomplished something and rather than seeing the glass as half full, should be supportive liberal groups have rather--HULK SMASH--so, ok.

I've also likely got a white dude perspective on this, but if various liberal/social groups state that they want x, y and z and some white dudes write up a bill that includes x and y but not z (even if said white dudes didn't expressly talk to them) why is that so bad?  Yes, I get the seat at the table aspect, but, in the end it comes off as "I want these things, you are giving me some of them, but you didn't talk to me and aren't giving me everything so fuck you and your plan."

On the other hand: anyone who wants to push for any legislation that helps with climate change that preemptively concedes language/policy to imaginary "sensible Republicans" is pretty much a idiot that deserves their inevitable defeat.  You want Republicans to be invested, you have to force them to it.  You are better off with the liberal super fantastic bill that you can really get everyone who is currently supportive of your primary motive(s) behind.

Oh, and also, too: revenue neutral plans are only useful if you have plenty of revenue already, which isn't really true in most of the US, including Washington and if you don't then they're for shits. So: bad fucking idea.

I don't live in WA, but if I did I suspect I'd be pissed at everyone involved but vote for the bill.

Monday, October 17, 2016

We Couldn't Function if We Remembered

I understand where this post is coming from and what the author is trying to convey, but there is a very good reason we don't keep horrors in mind for long: we wouldn't be able to function if we did.  The fact is that keeping in mind bad things happening a long way away isn't useful.  Most people can't really do anything about the crisis.  Yes, as a nation we absolutely should, but individually, there just isn't a lot a person can do...even giving money, which can be useful for lots of problems isn't really doing much here.  Most of the problem needs to be solved by nations: ending the crises that are producing the refugees and, more immediately, helping those refugees get out of bad situations and allowing them in to nations/places where they can start their lives back up again.

It's actually one of the great adaptations of humanity that, by and large, we get over very bad things, even when they happen to us.  It allows us to keep functioning, and to live.  The image and the reality of that dead baby is horrible, but if you have to remember and carry that with you every day, how could you possibly go on?  Especially when there isn't much of anything you can do to prevent that going forward.

I suppose the press has a responsibility to keep the pressure on by keeping awareness up, but at this point, everyone knows there is a crisis.  It seems to me that the writer remembering that baby is really just inviting suffering into her life.  She may be in a better position than me to "do something" in that she has an actual audience and can keep writing about it, but even if she does, I'm not sure that would really help.  We need decent people in power in politics (in the US and Europe)...

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

I. Don't. Get. His. Supporters.

Yea, yea, lots of them are deplorables, many of the rest are stupid, and some (maybe the rest?) are, for lack of a more specific descriptor: evil.  Really, though, even for supporters in the first two categories, isn't the idea of this person as President of the United States enough of an embarrassment that they just couldn't bring themselves to vote for him?  So maybe not I don't get his supporters as much as I don't get how they could actually turn that support into voting for him for president.

By definition a country that would elect a Donald Trump it's president can't be great.  It is obviously, seriously flawed.  And it may happen!  I don't think it will, but it could.  

I'm actually kind of surprised that more conspiracy theories haven't surfaced so my unsubstantiated but every bit as probable as a Trump presidency seemed 4 years ago theories...  

1.  Donald bet $[1, 5, 10]bn that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency in 2016, and decided to become the Republican nominee to make it happen (figuring that a typical Republican may actually win since so many voters have such a poor opinion of her).  Had been going well, but the Russians are on the other side of the bet so they are trying to interfere in support of Donald and not have to pay out.

2. Less fun bur more likely... Aside from the more sensible Republicans who have thrown support to Hillary (or at least said they would not vote Donald)--a group that actually includes Dubbya--and the sycophants who have turned into Donald cheerleaders (Giuliani and Christie) the overall republican establishment is lining up in "support" of Donald's candidacy with no actual intention of letting him be president.  How?  Well in order of decreasing niceness (and, oddly enough increasing benefit to Republicans)...

Nice version: they already have the impeachment documents drawn up and will be ready to go with them the day after he is inaugurated.  Less nice is blackmail adjacent: they have his tax returns and will threaten to release them if he does not resign immediately after being elected--clearly he will do just about anything not to have those released.  Really not nice: well, Donald doesn't seem like someone to take orders quietly does he?  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Debate Ratings

I didn't really watch, though it was on and I heard a fair amount.  The thing is, not watching doesn't make me an uninformed or uninterested voter, which is what this article about the ratings (high but not as % of voters) is implying.  In 1980 there were newspapers and local rallies, but for most casual voters the debate (only 1 in 1980) really was the only way to get to understand who the candidates were with respect to each other.  That's not really true today.  Between cable news, and the internet there is far more exposure for the candidates than there was then, and people who want to know about them already do.

Further, this election paints such a stark contrast that it's actually really hard to not know who you will vote for at this point.  I suspect that many to most "undecided" voters are really just in the process of acceptance.  They will end up voting for Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson (or staying home) but aren't happy about either choice.

Monday, September 26, 2016

They Want to Blow it Up

So, if you are a rational, logical, coherent, compassionate, humane individual (any one, or all) then there isn't any question that you will vote for Hillary Clinton.  It really doesn't matter if you like her, her politics, her policies, her family, since the other major party candidate has no business being anywhere close to power.

The apparently >50% of Trump supporters who are deplorables of one variety or another has been discussed elsewhere quite a bit.  The remainder are more of a question.  It's possible that many of his other supporters are also deplorables, but smart enough not to answer questions in a way that proves it.  It also seems like there is a group that just wants to blow shit up.  People who may not ever bother voting, or who regularly vote for 3rd party candidates, and who see in Trump a candidate whose election could actually wreck US politics.  I should add: no matter how bad he will be, he won't be enough to destroy US politics so it can be reworked.  He's too incompetent.  He will do real lasting harm, but the likelyhood of much good coming of it is low, and whatever good may come won't be enough to offset the damage.

I think the "Blow Shit Up" constituency is largely incoherent, lacks knowledge of our world/country/politics and/or just doesn't give a damn about their fellow human beings/Americans.  They are, however, a constituency that doesn't normally have a major party candidate to support, and because they don't necessarily vote in most elections, they may be larger than most people think.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Elizabeth Warren is Awesome!

They were talking on the radio about the Wells Fargo CEO taking "responsibility" which, I thought, was odd, since, he still has the job, and all the money he's earned, and will continue to make lots of money and get a big bonus.  I'm not sure what kind of "responsibility" he is taking other than saying the words.  So Sen. Warren tore into him and I feel (somewhat) better about things.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This Election "Undecided" = "Doesn't Like Clinton but Probably not a Racist", or "A Idiot"

I understand not liking the Clintons (not Hillary in particular who I think is better than Bill), but there is no world in which voting for Trump is acceptable to anyone who isn't a racist, misogynistic, sexist, xenophobic ass hole.

If you are voting for Donald Trump you are at least one of those things.  If you are a "liberal" and not voting for Hillary you are probably "a idiot" (if you are a "liberal" and voting Trump see the previous assessment).  I like the idea of viable Green and Libertarian parties for local politics and the US House.  There's really no way that works in this country for president (and really even for US Senate), so if you vote Jill Stein in most places you are a idiot.  If you are "conservative" and vote Gary Johnson, then that is probably the best sign that you are in fact conservative and not a racist ass hole pretending conservative means something it doesn't.

So undecided voters are a bit of a mix.  Some are "a idiots" certainly, but a large fraction are probably Republicans (nominal or de facto) who understand that supporting Donald puts you in league with racists, sexists, bigots and one yuuuge misogynistic authoritarian demagogue (who may or may not be a racist bigot, but that doesn't, it really doesn't).

Thursday, September 01, 2016

And What Gave You That Idea?

There's a whole bunch I don't really understand in this election, but every once in a 30 second period looking at anything about Trump something stands out as particularly bizarre.  Take Jacob Monty an Hispanic member of of Trump's "National Hispanic Advisory Council" (seriously, and yes, that is an actual thing):
“I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately,” Jacob Monty explained. “What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate.”
Ok, really?  Really?!?  I know there has been a lot of completely unwarranted wishful thinking among Republicans and Republican leaners regarding what Trump's "real positions" were but there has been precisely zero evidence that he had any realistic or compassionate plan for anything but immigration in particular.  His campaign was built on the wall and calling Mexicans rapists and banning Muslims from entering.

What the fuck is wrong with this person?  Is he that stupid?  Did he think he could actually make a difference on policy just because Trump is obiously an idiot who doesn't understand anything but will parrot whatever he just heard back?  In fact hating immigrants (particularly those of color) is the only thing that is remotely consistent in Trump's entire campaign.

Another bit of WTF was this morning when a reporter on NPR said something about how "Trump's supporters" have been waiting for these policy details on...

No! No, a million times no.  His "supporters" have not been waiting on policy details.  They don't give a crap about policy details.  If they did, they wouldn't be his supporters.

It's pretty obvious I don't like Republican policies, but if you are a Republican who does give a crap about policy details, you supported any non-Trump candidate, and now you are either behind Gary Johnson (economic policy) or Hillary Clinton (foreign policy) or just not going to vote ("the gays shouldn't marry and marijuana should stay illegal damnit!").  The people who are waiting for these details are a combination of less hateful Republican voters who really want some excuse to go ahead and pull the lever for someone they know is horribly unqualified, and more left leaning people who want the option to further mock Trump and his supporters for their non-nonsensical positions (and there is no way any policy position that Trump could take would be able to make any sense against the backdrop of reality and his previous positions/statements).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Yes, This Election is Terrifying

There is something very broken in a party that could nominate Donald Trump.  While victory is unlikely, he does have the second best chance of anyone to end up president January 2017, and even assuming he does lose there's a good chance that 40+% of all votes cast will be for him, and that represents a large fraction of our population that is ok with a racist, sexist, man-child as president of the United States.

There is absolutely no way that any thinking, caring, or frankly, just breathing person could believe that he is qualified.  So any vote for him is demonstrating a desire to burn the United States Constitution, and perhaps the world beyond.  I suspect that he is too stupid, incompetent and lazy to actually be as destructive as his rhetoric would imply, but just his becoming president would wreak havoc.

A lot of people don't like Hillary Clinton.  I'm not a huge fan (though for very different reasons than you hear about from the mainstream media...seriously, the emails? the foundation? press conferences?).  Yea, there's some poor judgement, but to compare her problems to Trump it's like the difference between accidentally stepping on someone's toes because you were staring at your phone to deliberately murdering someone along with their entire family, friends, neighbors, bombing the city they lived in...

It's not fucking close.  This isn't some lesser of two evils Mussolini vs. Hitler.  It's Anne Hataway (you may not like her but she's going to be good at the job) vs. fucking Donald Trump...I tried to think of a comparison, but to be fair most horrible people are still way more competent than he is he's like a clown pretending to be Stalin or something... Oh, maybe Kim Jong-un, but I'm not sure he's got enough power to count.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

People on the Internets are Horrible

I don't mean to diminish what the author of this piece has gone through.  There are a lot of horrible people on the internet who do things that range from mean but mostly harmless to fear for your life threatening, and that shit really needs to stop, but, I'm sorry, your bad experience with people on the internet is not representative of the bulk of society nor does it mean that the US has not gotten more tolerant.

There is probably a pretty sound defense of the position that we haven't gotten more tolerant (particularly towards Muslims and darker skinned immigrants), but what I think is actually happening is that while the internet has made it possible through anonymity and global reach for like-minded haters to find each other, the Trump campaign (in particular) has made those intolerant among us feel more free to express that intolerance both online and even without the protection of the anonymous internet.

I think that the Black Lives Matter movement is actually being heard in a way that would not have happened 20-30 years ago (yes, the prevalence of video is helping this).  Sexism and related issues are being taken more seriously.  I don't think anyone would argue that gay people are not better off today than in the 80's (or 90's, or even the 00's).  In the past couple years even trans people are getting more respect than they have outside of a John Waters film since...well, ever.  I would not be surprised if Muslims and Latinos are groups that face greater intolerance than they would have in the 90's (probably more so for Muslims).  Even for those cases, however, there doesn't seem to be much evidence that it isn't just a fairly small group that is much louder than they used to be, rather than a larger fraction of the population.

Racism, sexism, xenophobia, et cetera are not gone, but we really do seem to be getting better across the board, especially among the youngs.  That there are horrible people on the internet doesn't really change that and neither does Trump.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Just a fun read

Looking through the states something seemed odd...

Are Republicans from KS aware that the Royals are actually in MO?  Are Republicans in MO aware that the Royals are also in their state (along with the Cardinals)?

I realize that lots of Kansans are big KC Royals fans, and it's perfectly fine to be proud of them, but the team is a Missouri team, not a Kansas one.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Yea, but, No.

There seem to be lots of discussion on how this is the end of the GOP, or the conservative movement or something.  Lots of Dem (leaning, voting or registered) individuals seem to see this and there is an undercurrent of either "Dems will take over" or that lots of disaffected former GOPers will come into the Dem fold or something along those lines, but it won't happen and the GOP will continue for quite a while.  It probably won't even be appreciably diminished.

The thing is that Republicans control lots of state legislatures and governorships, they control the US House and Senate (and thanks to gerrymandering even under the most favorable-for-Dems outcome this election, they will continue to hold the House).  Even if Trump goes down in flames the GOP will keep on keeping on.  Yea, maybe some of their voters will give up but the fact is that the GOP has engineered the system to do well even when they lose badly at the polls.

Remember when they all thought Obama was doomed in 2012, but then he won soundly and the GOP had to go seriously rethink their message (but not their policies)?  Yea, now we have Trump.  It's true that the Repubs would likely be looking at a presidental win against Hillary this fall if they had nominated pretty much anyone other than Trump (or Cruz).  But there won't likely be much rethinking becasue, even if they lose badly, it won't actually hurt them.  They seem to do better when Dems hold the White House than when they do anyway, and Hillary will be a major source of artificial scandal and money for the party for her entire tenure as president.

I think a Trump win would be horrible, but I don't think his loss will do anything to change the Republican party.  The next 8 years are likely to look a lot like the last 8.  Democrats are on a slow roll forward, and 8 years from now--after the next census and redistricting, when we will have an even larger minority fraction of the population and millennials are a bit older--there will be a chance for a meaningful realignment to happen, but Democrats will have to seriously participate in all the elections between then and now, not just this year and 2020.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Things that should be better than they are

"Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut Cashews" from Costco sound awesome and are, I guess, pretty good, but have a major flaw: the cashews are actually first coated in a vanilla creme, then with the namesake dark chocolate and coconut.  That makes it taste like milk chocolate, which they may as well have used, but also, the coating vs. the size of the nut inside is insane.  Way too much outside, not enough cashew.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pokemon Go Economy

I think the writer of this gets one thing wrong about how apps, specifically like Pokemon Go can interact with local economies.  While the "internet destroys local business" is actually correct in a lot of ways, augmented reality apps like Pokemon Go could actually turn that around.  The reason is that, while a normal game leaves me in my living room, this one gets me out into the world around.  I was at my train station last night (walking dog but also hitting pokestops and catching pokemon when their servers allowed) and there were 8 people sitting there and I saw another half a dozen at least walk by.  There isn't anything open there that time of night, but what if there was a bar, or ice cream shop or all night diner--better one with free wifi?

And it doesn't have to be food/drink related (just those are easier things to pop into small spaces), It could be shopping or recreational.  If people are going to walk around a lot more, they are more likely to pop in and out of places they walk by--even if most don't--so being near a gym or pokestop has advantages for businesses that know to take advantage.  Additionally, someone could imagine something like Pokemon Go busses being set up...particularly in areas where the critters are less populous and pokestops are fewer and further between.

But really, augmented reality type games, by their nature, could be a boon to local economies. Local businesses could have stakes in the games, where they need to authenticate something, or where they could, instead of advertising, pay to have their place of business be a stop for something.  Maybe a virtual pet can be trained regularly, but if you get at least 8 oz at a DIY frozen yogurt place you can "feed" your pet some and it gets a special trait, or it levels up faster (a one time bar code prints out on your receipt).  Basically a purchase at a store has an ancillary purchase associated in a game.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Clinton Scandals Explained

More or less anyway.  The only part of this article I where the 2nd camp is labeled "Obama loyalists" since lots of the people with the secondary views are not necessarily Obama loyalists but are almost certainly more liberal Democrats (e.g. Sanders supporters).

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Crappy Comparison in Support of Vegetarianism

I have no problem with people who are vegetarians (or even vegans) but I do have a real problem with arguments like this one that, effectively, call all meat eaters horrible people.

Yes, most livestock in this country is poorly treated, and we should stop that, and yes the reasoning is perfectly legitimate, but the result of reading this article is, for most people: nothing.  Those who are either already vegetarians or are already engaging in cruelty minimizing practices (and, if the latter, spending way more on their meat selections) will agree.  Everyone else, well, they may not like the conditions but the argument isn't new, and the tone is not one that is going to convince them to change.

The problem comes down to: meat tastes good, and poor conditions mean cheaper meat.  We really have evolved to like meat, so giving it up is not easy. On top of that most people are going to get the less expensive option...especially for things like chicken which don't have the [wagyu]/prime/choice/select grade cachet that beef has.  Humanely raised chicken is a lot more expensive (like 3-7 times the price).  Now if humane standards were required, there is a very good chance that the price of humanely raised chicken would come down somewhat (though it would still be higher than current).  That would be fine, and those things are proceeding.

Meat should cost more than it does and we should eat less than we do.  Calling [most] meat eaters assholes (effectively) may even be true but it isn't going to get them on your side.

Point out the bad conditions and work to change them: good.  Convince higher income people to go for [expensive] humane options: good.  Write yet another "Everyone should be vegetarian (or vegan) because meat is cruel/murder" article: fuck off!


This is just really neat.  Got there through a link off one of the Astronomy Pictures of the Day.