So the cable company called me…

So I just got a called by my cable company inquiring if I wanted to decrease my Internet bill. The fact that my cable company has continually increased it’s prices year over year should be regulated. If the pandemic has taught the world anything, the Internet is a critical part of a nation’s infrastructure. The call went something like this:

CC: Am I speaking to <my name>
Me: Yes
CC: OK. Great. I am from <cable company>, do you have a few minutes to chat and answer some questions.
Me: Yes
CC: Thank you. So, do you want to decrease your Internet bill?
Me: Yes
CC: OK. Now, if you could answer a few questions for me, I can help you decrease your bill.
Me: OK
CC: Do you watch any TV?
Me: Nope.
CC: Do you subscribe to any streaming services?
Me: Nope. (I lied)
CC: How do you watch TV shows and news?
Me: I don’t.
CC: *flustered* So you don’t subscribe to Netflix or Hulu?
Me: Nope. I cancelled them.
CC: *silence and then speaking very quickly* Well if you have any questions or support please call <phone number>. *And she hangs up on me.*

She hung up fast. I didn’t even say good bye!!

Vox on Taiwan’s early COVID-19 response

So… basically, a Taiwanese (TW) government agency empowered to utilize resources across multiple agencies and integrate information into a clear coherent public strategy. This government agency shifted from a risk-by-country assessment for travelers to a general mandatory quarantine of any entering individuals. In retrospect, any traveler entering Taiwan gave up their personal privacy and freedoms for 14 days. They were quarantined in a hotel room and monitored by phone daily. Furthermore, a nationalized and digitized healthcare system also helped these agencies monitor individuals including anyone who had to interact with the quarantined travelers.

This video also didn’t recognize the government’s power to implement such a tracking system. Not only that, the video glossed over the fact that citizens also knew the risks and outcomes of a deadly virus outbreak. These two details allowed the government to set strict policies that were generally followed by the population. Even now as TW is going controlling their most recent outbreak in May, most citizens that are able to stay at home have done so with relatively little opposition.

Contrast that to just asking citizens of a certain country to stay at home and wear a mask when going outside, the conversation immediately becomes an “individual rights” issue and violation of their rights despite the fact that:
1) people are getting sick and dying.
2) healthcare is being pushed to the limit.
3) it’s the single most effective means to limit transmission and infection.

When did this “me first” attitude creep into society? And where does the balance between public safety/public health concerns outweigh the individual rights?

Last Week Tonight: Asian Americans

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight talked about Asian Americans. This 30 minutes of discourse is not enough.

After watching this video….

  • Can we all agree… White America has a history of pitting various ethnic groups against each other. Even John Oliver calls it out.
  • Asian Americans are come from 20+? countries in Asia ranging from India, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. We probably speak well over 20+ dialects/languages. We have different cultures, eat different foods, practice different religions, and have different customs. AND YET… the only thing that ties us together is this term. We should use this to our advantage.
    • As Asian Americans, we have to pursue positive change.
    • As Asian Americans, we absolutely need to leave America better for our grand kids.
    • As Asian Americans, we must demand for a country that doesn’t discriminate people of different skin color, heritage, sexual orientation, religion and socio economic status.
    • As Asian Americans, we have to help other minorities as much as possible.
  • The only thing White America fears is when we minorities call out the racism that exists. You know you’ve hit a sensitive topic when attempts to deflect the conversation involves “what about-ism”.
  • And finally… As Americans, can we strive to follow the Golden Rule? Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

Trump’s Facebook Ban

By now, the news of Trump’s 2 year ban from Facebook has been widely circulated. I actually disagree with Facebook’s decision of a 2 year ban. Trump should be allowed the opportunity to take back his Facebook (FB) profile. However, FB should strip his history of posts and interactions as if it were a new account. Then, Trump would be subjected to these “more stringent rules” in place for politicians and face the penalties of violating it.

One has to wonder what these new rules are and how many other rules are there. FB explicitly has said it will ban hate speech and abuse. What about lies and fake news? Does FB have an example of what FB considers as hate speech and abuse? What does FB consider as “newsworthy”? There’s so many questions that I think FB is just playing into the Republican’s hand of “censorship.” Let’s take the current Trump talking point about the “stolen” election. Where does it rank amongst FB’s new rules? FB… how about some transparency?

What about the other social media platforms like Twitter (another Trump favorite). Trump looks like it’s still banned from Twitter. But will Twitter also apply the same rules to other politicians as it did to Trump?

Let’s start understanding each other…

With all the recent issues going on in the US from BLM to the current Anti-Asian sentiment, I stumbled across this short (too short in my opinion) YouTube video that brought three Asian-Americans and three Black Americans to discuss some statements regarding both racial identities in America. I think this type of discussion is needed more amongst the American minorities. I believe that EVERY PERSON has a degree of RACIAL BIAS that might not be readily apparent but it exists as a product of culture, family, “group expectations” or personal experience. The video posed 6 different question for discussions that I think tell a pretty good story for anyone who answers them honestly. In the video, the participants are asked whether or not they agree/disagree with the statement. Those that agree would first sit and speak their mind followed by the ones who disagree.


Questions asked:

  • I care about being accepted by white America.
  • I have stereotyped the other side (Black Americans or Asian Americans).
  • COVID-19 has hit my community harder.
  • I face more racism from the opposite side (Black Americans or Asian Americans) than I do from white people.
  • Asian Americans are more advantaged than Black Americans.
  • Black and Asian Americans co-exist peacefully.

Here are my answers:

I care about being accepted by white America. I agree. I’ve come to recognize that not being in power is the worst position to be in. A person is unable to establish any basic self survival when constantly bullied by the ones “in power.” Animal nature has shown that the most basic instinctive behavior is to survive. When constantly under threat of being pulled over/killed by cops, under threat of being homeless for not having enough money to rent, under threat of starvation… being “under threat” is not the best place to be at. Unfortunately the ones currently “in power” happen to be white, old America accustomed to the prejudicial era of the 1940s to the modern age. If you think about it, people who are now in their 70s were born in 1950s. Many witnessed the Civil Rights movements and were probably influenced by the parties promoting equality and racism. If you think about even more, there are still people alive who may have marched with Martin Luther King and even participated in the racial upheaval of the 50s and 60s! US hasn’t even gone through a full cycle of where people living today can only read about historical events instead of hearing stories from their grand parents. So yes… being accepted by white America is very important.

I have stereotyped the other side (Black Americans or Asian Americans). I probably have. I remember my parents saying something negative about Black Americans in response to the rioters breaking and taking items during the 1992 LA riots. It stuck with me for awhile to always have to be careful around Black Americans (lock the door, make sure you’re in a well lit place, don’t talk balk, be polite, be prepared for anything bad, etc…). As a kid, I barely interacted with blacks. I knew a few only by name because they were superstar athletes in high school (1 got a scholarship to play football in college) which also kind of matched the stereotype of blacks being better athletes. It wasn’t until the workplace environment did I have a black coworker. However by then, I had adopted a mantra “to strive to follow the golden rule” which meant that I treated the coworker like any other coworker.

COVID-19 has hit my community harder. I don’t think COVID-19 discriminates. One thing about Asians though… they are used to wearing a mask. So the community spread was much slower overall once it was known that this is as easily transmissible like the 2002 SAR outbreak in Hong Kong. The usage of masks slowed the outbreak significantly.

I face more racism from the opposite side (Black Americans or Asian Americans) than I do from white people. I think at a population level or community level, Asians are as racists as Whites are. I suspect most of the racism though comes from the media manipulation portraying Blacks in a negative light (ie lazy, welfare, thieves, gansters, etc). How many of the early Hollywood shows/movies depicted Blacks as respectable upper income families? I can recall at The Cosby Show portraying Black Americans as normal as possible where almost all the other shows/movies show Blacks as thugs, gangsters and other negative stereotypes. This media portrayal definitely brain-washed the older generational Asians and probably new Asian immigrants too. The irony of this is that Asians probably experienced the same racist behavior as Blacks did. But being Asian, they put their head down, bore the pain/humiliation, and moved on. This act of submission contributed to the “model minority myth.”

Asian Americans are more advantaged than Black Americans. I have mixed feelings about this statement. I think for the most part this is true. Collectively, Asian Americans tend to be more advantaged. However, I’ve noticed that Black Americans might actually be more advantaged than immigrants that are fleeing their Asian country due to war, political unrest, religious persecution, etc.

Black and Asian Americans co-exist peacefully. I agree with this statement. However it’s not because of mutual respect but more that each community prefers to mingle amongst their own people. They are peaceful because both groups prefer to not get involved in each other’s “business.” When they need to interact, they act with caution to minimize antagonizing the other group.


So… What are your thoughts to these questions?

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.