Yet another hate crime.

The recent racist killings of Asian Americans by “not a racist” white male suffering from a sex addiction and a “bad day” has been in the making it’s way around the interwebs and news media. Of course, the white male suspect has been captured without any further incident.

Can you imagine if he were black, latino, or asian? Wait… Did you think that too?

Wait… Why did you think that? Hmm… but I digress….

*****

Here’s a fun fact… Columbine HS shooting/massacre happened 21 years, 11 months ago. This guy is 21 years old. He probably wasn’t even born yet when Columbine happened.

Here’s another fun fact… Apparently, this guy bought his gun the SAME DAY he killed the Asian Americans. How the FUCK does that even happen?

Here’s another fun fact, since 1982, whites have dominated the mass shooter market (another data set) making up the majority of the incidents relative to other racial/ethnic groups. I think it’s actually white males but the data set doesn’t seem to make this distiniction.

Here’s a final fun fact. HE WAS KICKED OUT OF THE HOUSE BY HIS OWN PARENTS. As much as his parents and the church community attempted to help him with his “sex addiction,” the moment the parents kicked him out of the house, they should bear some of the responsibility of his actions. Do we know if his parents called for help when they kicked him out? Did they advise him to go to his church group for help? What we do know is that he ended up with a firm belief he had to “eliminate temptations.”

*****

On Friday, an employee resource group where I work held an impromptu session to listen and discuss the events of Atlanta specifically but also as a broader forum with other people and experiences. The discussions got me thinking too much and is now prompting this post that’ll probably be written over the course of a few days. There is one question that people always ask… how can I help? As much as I appreciate this question, I think as a society, we have to reframe this question two ways…

  1. How can society change?
  2. What can society change?

Apart from the typical “create an open dialog” mantra that you hear from everyone, that’s clearly not enough. Ever since the LA riots in 1992, the dialog has been open but it’s not enough. Fast forward 30 years from the LA riots, the Black Lives Matter marches from 2020 shows us that there has been progress but why is there still violence against minorities? We ask all sorts of questions yet change comes slowly. But society has shown it can adapt from the rotary phones to a hand held computer/phone/camera/video camera in just 40 years. What does that mean? IT SHOWS SOCIETY IS CAPABLE OF EMBRACING CHANGE.

So how can society change? Unfortunately in the past 20+ years, I’ve come to realize (as many people should) the government is ultimately the only place where societal change can be implemented. Slavery? Gone with the Emancipation Proclamation, a Presidential executive order followed quickly by the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Women can vote (again) via the 19th Amendment. But have you noticed that every time the change has always resulted in issues. Jim Crow Laws, poll taxes and literacy tests come to mind. This makes me wonder…. why does the government HAVE TO EXPLICITLY GRANT these freedoms? I don’t know but I think society fears the unknown and the unfamiliar and thus have a tendency to push back against this.

So back to my original question… how can society change? I believe there needs to be a concerted effort to CHANGE the dialog of the selfish “You’re infringing on MY rights” and to CHANGE the government at all levels. With the “infringing on my rights” dialog, I’ve always admired at how crazy and self-centered certain segments of the US population are when it comes to rights and freedoms. Let’s take healthcare… certain people were rabidly opposed to having to pay for health insurance and also opposed to paying the tax penalty for NOT having insurance. It was “my right” to not pay for health insurance. What about the all the rights of the others who paid insurance? If you went and used services like ER/urgent care, where do you think the majority of those expenses get passed to? Your lack of insurance passed the costs down to the insured. With more than 60% of bankruptcies caused by medical issues/bills/expenses, you’re “right to no insurance” now infringed on all the rights of the insured. Why should the insured have to pay for such stupidity? So what is the proposed change? I think a very simple change might be to start thinking about how our actions will affect other individuals and then adjust accordingly. As a society, we might not get it right all the time but if everyone is trying to think of others then at least we’ll get some great change out of it.

Now… how do we change government? Society holds power over politicians in at least two simple ways. The first is to vote. Society should vote against politicians that do not support the values that lead to a “positive society.” What is a “positive society?” A simple answer would be a society that embraces the mantra of the “golden rule” aka “treat others as you would like to be treated.” The second way is to control where the money flows to. Politicians require money for their campaigns and to stay in office. And since politicians require money, society should control where the money flows. We should only support politicians that values a positive society. In addition, corporations (since they are people too) also have the power to affect government. The workers should also encourage their companies to only support politicians that value a positive society. Simple yet very complicated. I think if society can embrace or even strive to follow the golden rule, only positive outcomes will be expected.

So what can society change? First, what are common themes everyone can agree on? I can actually think of a few items…

  1. Healthcare reform. In US, the amount of care relative the amount spent for the care is considered horrible. Studies have shown that medical inequality is a significant issue for low income families potentially even bankrupting them. Providing a basic level of healthcare that consist of yearly medical, dental and vision visits, routine bloodwork (metabolic panel, lipid panel, CBC), STD checks, and other basic female/male tests should be mandated. Additional services would be provided through insurance and the private market.
  2. Tax reform for individuals and corporations. Currently, there is a growing divide between the top richest and the poorest. The growing disparity should be a concern especially since the the bottom incomes are slowly being pushed into perpetual poverty with minimal paths to middle income. What’s even more concerning is that the poorest are forever saddled with unfavorable situations that continually keep them in the same poor economic situation. Would universal basic income for the poorest help? What percentage of taxpayers are actually living below the poverty line? I think there is some equitable way to allow people to keep getting rich from their businesses while at the same time provide help to the poorest to live with some sort of dignity.
  3. Education reform. The idea of “free 4 year tuition” is nice but I actually don’t think that is feasible. I think what’s most important is tuition and loan borrow reforms. The tuition has gradually increased over many years. One study implicates the free “unlimited” lending power of the government to provide loans for students to attend college (source data, second source). The government should offer a capped loan amount to the students. This would restrict the “supply” of money forcing students and colleges to reevaluate where to spend the capped amount.
  4. Political reform. Let’s get rid of lobbyists from even being able to interact with politicians. Else, there should be a system where lobbyists must register who they will talk to during the day. If found to have conversed, the politician should be immediately removed from office and the vote transferred to the politician’s party. Coupled with the ability to direct money, this reform has the most potential of creating political operatives who will work towards a positive society.
  5. Gun Reform. NO ONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO PURCHASE and KEEP A NEW GUN on the same day!!! This does not limit the 2nd amendment rights of “bearing arms”… it is a matter of accountability, background check which leads to a safer society.

Hey (Republican) Senators!

So if Republican Senators listening to the impeachment trial do not believe Trump is responsible for causing the 06JAN2021 Capitol Insurrection, who do they think should be held responsible? Have the Senators asked themselves why these Trump insurrectionist supporters decided to storm the building?

Since these Senators are very keen on “interpreting” the Constitution narrowly, they should be very clear to mention the fact that Trump was impeached in his final days as President. Thus claiming it is “unconstitutional to impeach a former president” is obviously a lie. Furthermore, claiming to follow the Constitution, these Republican Senators failed to follow the Constitution when the Articles of Impeachment were delivered. The Republican controlled Senate slowed any discussion of a trial until AFTER they lost their power 20JAN2021. Furthermore, if the Senators are going to interpret the Constitution, they should also remember that 14th Amendment also has language related to a President who took the oath to “PRESERVE, PROTECT and DEFEND the Constitution.” Didn’t Trump encourage Pence to disregard the Constitution and the Electoral College so that the election will be cast in Trump’s favor? How is that “PRESERVING the Constitution”? Reports about how Trump watched with glee the insurrectionist storm the Capitol Building…. How is that DEFENDING the constitution? Trump proclaimed himself to be the “law and order” President… yet allowed his supporters to storm and damage the Capitol Building.

Everything the Republicans are doing infuriates me. In fact, it should infuriate anyone who believes in the Constitution and in America.

Social Media’s Ultimate Dilemma

With social media blocking Trump after the 06JAN2021 insurrection, my initial reaction was “wow… finally!” But after reflecting a bit more, I had two follow up questions… 1) why now? and 2) what will happen in the future? Specifically, the 2nd question is really about the precedence these companies are setting. Throughout the 4+ years of Trump tweets, discussions about how much of the false, provocative, agitative tweets only really came to the forefront during the 2020 elections where misinformation had to be addressed (USA Today in 2020, CNN in 2016). Clearly there’s been discussion and pushback on how best to handle the information. Let’s also be clear here… the 1st amendment “free speech” allows free and public expression without any censorship by the government but there are exceptions to this. Most people will say private companies are excluded from the 1st amendment because they are not government. Although true, I think though many companies will try to follow the spirit of the 1st amendment to allow the speech. I think that’s why Twitter and Facebook allowed Trump tweets and posts for so long.

So why now? I think it’s a matter of convenience. First… Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election. Second… Twitter and Facebook had been slowly escalating the method of how to censure Trump’s false posts. Third… If it were not for the insurrection on 06JAN2021, I don’t think Twitter/Facebook would have blocked Trump. But because the language in Trump’s tweets potentially caused the violence, he “broke” the EULA regulations and thus de-platformed. Let’s be honest here. This de-platforming was a long time in the making. Trump has consistently spread false information during his 4 years in office (over 30,000 claims!!).

What will happen in the future? I’m not sure. I think the social media companies need to establish a clear transparent system of governance and punishment related to the spreading of false information. Trump’s actions has exposed a huge weakness in the idea of balancing social media virality, factual information, and speech. This is what I think social media companies should do:

  • Social media companies should donate to an independent fact checking service. This service can be an internal company service or a 3rd party like factcheck.org
  • When any user makes a claim, that claim should be fact checked.
  • If the claim is proven false, then the user is tagged and also educated about why this claim is false.
    • The claim will not be shared and any subsequent shares also cannot be shared again to minimize the virality of false information.
    • The user is also warned about continuing to post false information.
  • If the user makes another false claim, the user’s post will be marked as false similar to what Twitter did by flagging Trump’s false tweets.
    • This user is again warned and educated.
    • The post will not be able to be shared minimizing any virality.
    • The user will then receive a demerit. Demerits “expire” after a week of good behavior (aka no false posts).
  • If the user again posts a false claim, the post is flagged as false.
    • The user is warned and educated.
    • The post will not be able to be shared minimizing any virality.
    • The user gains another demerit.
    • The user is also banned from posting for 1 hr. Every demerit the user gains adds 30 minutes to the ban.

This should allow social media companies to limit the spread of false information while attempting to balance the “free speech” doctrine. I also think that social media companies should also define what they deem to be hate speech or speech that leads to violence or speech that have threats of violence. Then the same demerit based system should also be used for those types of posts. Can social media companies implement this?

A Modern Day Insurrection

Wednesday 06JAN2021 is a day to remember. Trump supporters took over the US Capitol Building disrupting the certification of the 2020 Presidential election. This is but just one outcome of Trump’s rhetoric for the past 6 years. The constant lies, the abuse of power, the grandstanding, the putdowns of opponents and general desire to constantly show power helped to incite the Trump followers to march down to the US Capitol building. If the march was supposed to be a peaceful protest, once at the steps of Congress, these protestors started to force their way and eventually overpower the Capitol police in charge of keeping the peace.

There are so many observations to note

  • The clear double standard between policing white protestors vs black/brown protestors. White protestors were touching and pushing the police with the “Blue Lives Matter” banner in the back. And… what is even more amazing is that the police did not use force to push back the protestors but actually retreated as they advanced. That is white privilege at work.
  • Trump’s Facebook and Twitter social media were finally suspended for violating policy of prohibiting incitement of violence. This makes me wonder… why can’t social media companies implement a common set of rules that determine what kind of speech is appropriate? Speech that incites violence or speech with specific negative law-breaking consequences should be regulated. Consistently false claims that being made (ie rigged election) should also be regulated. Perhaps a set of simple questions like:
    1. Did this speech promote people to do something violent?
    2. Did a large amount of people (10+) actually commit acts of violence?
    3. Did this speech that claimed “X” turn out to be false?
    4. Has this speech that claimed “X” been continued to be spread by the account?
    5. The workflow to flag should be a simple yes/no matrix. A “yes” for 1 and 2 should lead to a ban. A “yes” for 3 and 4 should also lead to a ban. The punishment for continually violating the rules should be temporary suspensions of 1 day > 1 week > 1 month > and finally permanently. Free speech does not mean a person should be able to spread false information or incite violence.
  • The Democratically controlled House of Representatives is starting to talk about a second impeachment of Trump for his actions if invoking the 25th amendment does not happen. I have mixed feelings about this. I think the only message an impeachment will send is that the transfer of power must be civil and peaceful and that future attempts will never be tolerated. Republicans (like Minority Leader McCarthy) are only now offering peace to Biden stating impeachment would further divide the country. I think that’s a bit too late. Biden should let Congress do what Congress does. The Republicans dug themselves into this hole by sticking with Trump all the way to insurrection and should not expect that a white flag will instantly calm things over.
  • What Congress should be doing is looking for ways to censure/reprimand all the Republicans who humored Trump and his false “rigged election/stolen election” rhetoric EVEN AFTER the insurrection attempt by objecting to the certification results. Those like McConnell or Graham who conceded should be spared as they eventually conceded that Biden won. Congress should also be looking to clamp down on speech that has been already proven to be fake/false. Part of the reason why Trump was able to get to where he is was because he was able to continually peddle falsehoods about people and processes that if repeated over many times becomes “Fake Truths.”
  • In the initial breach of the Capitol Building, credit needs to be given to the understaffed/undermanned Capitol police for not escalating through the use of force. Although video shows them being engulfed by the crowd, the fact that only 5 people died after a 4 hour scuffle is pretty amazing.

These insurrectionists are being identified and arrested. How ironic that the “Law and Order” Republican party disrupted the law and order in Washington DC.

For you, the Un-American…

America prides itself on its democratic traditions and peaceful transfer of power. But it takes just one person in power to upend any semblance of respect and tradition of the Presidency and America’s democratic ideals. Are Americans not ashamed of these actions? Are Americans not worried about this abuse? If you aren’t ashamed or worried about the un-democratic abuse of presidential powers, then you are absolutely an un-American citizen.

For you… the un-American, go back and learn about US history but from an immigrant’s or a minority’s perspective.

For you… the un-American, go back and learn about the US government and what the founding father’s tried to imagine.

For you… the un-American, go back an learn about Constitution, the rights of citizens and civic duty.

For you… the un-American, go back and learn the true value of freedom.

Go. Reflect. And. Transform.

The Economic Term of Rent Seeking

I recently learned of a new economics term of “Rent Seeking.” Searching on Wikipedia or Investopedia will give you an pretty detailed definition. For the common person, think of rent seeking as the ability to maintain (or even increase wealth) through existing methods of obtaining wealth while not providing others the ability to obtain wealth.

I realized that the rent seeking concept is more widespread and commonly practiced outside of economics. If the term is generalized even further to situations where person will “protect” what they have by implementing rules. Using the generalized term, situations related to condos and home owner associations could also be classified as rent seeking. Listening to the rationales of condo owners arguing in favor of rental unit restriction is pretty infuriating. Some of the reasoning were related to their current experience of renters, the apparent drop in property value due to renters, and potential future inability to refinance. That sounds like rent seeking to me. I never understood why some people are very adamant about issues that limit others but after learning this term it makes perfect sense to me now.

Another area I see generalized rent seeking is in these voter suppression laws. With voter suppression, politicians create superfluous rules and processes that generally makes it harder for ordinary citizens to vote. Rules such as ID laws or voter purges or even mail-in ballot restrictions further discourages voters who already may have a difficult time getting to the polls due to socio-economic reasons. In the end, the rules benefit a small population of voters relatively easy access and a lower level of entry to voting. These rules end up benefitting the politician such that the politician only needs to “please” these small voter blocs. How is this democratic if only a small voter bloc can dictate the rules to govern and affect the lives of the general population? Because it’s not.

Possible song?

So my last post had me humming “The Adams Administration

Welcome folks to the Biden Administration
The AP has projected Biden as the Pennsylvania winner
Now it's time for a new age of decency, conciliation
Yet why is Trump still whining about fake election results?
And why aren't Republicans repudiating such shameful theatrics?
"Shut up Trump. Go back to playing golf." is all his allies needs to say....

Welcome to the Biden Administration

At 8:30am PST on 07NOV2020, the Associated Press (AP) officially declared Biden is projected to win for Pennsylvania and the state’s 20 electoral votes. With those 20 votes, the AP is also projecting Biden to be the 46th President of the United States of America as PA pushes Biden past the required 270 electoral votes. It’s now a 230pm PST.

The Next President…

As of 04NOV2020 11pm Pacific, the electoral map of who wins the US Presidency is still unknown. Neither Trump nor Biden has reached the magical 270 electoral votes.

I’ve been thinking if Biden were to win the presidency, he’s going to faced with a number of difficult issues… controlling COVID-19, appeasing racial inequality, combating climate change, equalizing economic and wealth inequality, updating healthcare for all, and reconciling the partisanship (if that’s even possible). And with the divisiveness of America, he’ll be met with extreme opposition with every national decision. With the Senate majority potentially still being retained by the Republicans, the Senate could easily slow any progress similar to how McConnell’s strategy played out in the last two years of Obama’s presidency. Furthermore, if the Democrats do manage to flip the Senate, a conservative court and very litigious Republicans lawyers could also complicate any potential progress to correct these issues. These issues are just some national issues plaguing America!!

From a foreign policy perspective, there’s also the ongoing trade disputes with China as well as the repairing not only the relationships that the current administration have destroyed. Many foreign nations look at US with a sense of uncertainty and view the US presidency as a with little confidence especially compared to the previous administration. Rebuilding the reputation of US as a world leader as a confident, committed, dependable ally is just as important for the future of US.

Biden is right. The 2020 election is an election for the “Soul of the Nation.” It’s an election that determines the course of the American future. It’s an election that hopefully starts the process of bringing back the civility and decency of the American people.

  • I am tired of living in a nation where I wake up to news about how the current administration is offering lies related to COVID19.
  • I am tired of living in a nation where I wake up to news about Trump spouting face and misleading information.
  • I am tired of living in a nation where I wake up to Trump tweeting about racism and fomenting violence between people.
  • I am just tired of Trump, his lies, his temper tantrums, his inability to lead, his pettiness, his racist views, and his moral character.