The SCOTUS “Leak”

By now, if you haven’t heard about the SCOTUS leak of the draft documents of the majority opinion of a recent court case…. You really need to at least read/listen the news on a daily basis. The consensus from various news pundits say that the DRAFT MAJORITY OPINION as it stands now would OVERTURN Roe v Wade. If nothing changes to the current draft, this ruling is extremely consequential and devastating.

Three thoughts come to mind….
1) What happened to the separation of Church and State?
2) The ruling calls into question our freedoms…. so then where are these “freedoms” that the “Land of the Free” claims to have?
3) What is happening to this country?

Separation of Church and State: A draft opinion comes out and suddenly all the high profile religious leaders start saying things like “our prayers have been asnwered” or “praising god“. How is this not religiously motivated? Would you expect this kind of reaction from religious leaders if we were talking about banning guns used in dometic terrorist mass shootings? Clearly the religious leaders “thoughts and prayers” have been shit for mass shootings and I think I now know why… these “thoughts and prayers” were all focused on creating political miracles that allowed the Republicans to shit on the Constitution in order to retain the power and advantages they need. Technically… McConnell for cockblocking Obama’s nominee (Gorsuch) because it was an election year and then fast tracking Trump’s nominee (Barrett) also during an election year. Egads… What is happening to this country?

I also don’t understand religions. They have an inherent double standard that they seem to ignore. Many say they follow the bible… yet it seems like they only cherry pick the passages of the bible that suits them AND ignore other inconvenient passages. Is that really “FOLLOWING THE BIBLE” or is it more like “taking inspration from the bible”? During the pandemic, Sure you don’t want to wear a mask, get a vaccine shot, whatever… because your religion/bible/pastor says its a sin (or whatever stupid reason). The government made exceptions for your religious values. YET, you expect the government to also support your religious values and impede on a person’s choice to get an abortion or not? Egads… What is happening to this country?

Land of the Free? For a country that claims “to have various freedoms”, specifically which freedoms are talked about? Freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? Freedom of fair trials? Freedom to bear arms? The founders/writers of the Constitution clearly couldn’t list all the enumerated rights (Ninth Amendment) but these rights do exist ie… the Right to privacy, the Right to Vote. Do these unenumerated rights follow the basic human rights list? Perhaps? From the 30 basic human rights, one of the rights advocates “to marry and have a family.” It should also be assumed that the converse is also a right (to marry but not have a family) or any variation of marriage and family to also be held as a right. Or perhaps the unenumerated rights follow the “natural right.” Regardless of which unenumerated rights are being defined, what is absolutely clear is that religion is actively violating these rights because religion says it can. Furthermore, why must someone who is NOT religious comply with the religious words/beliefs that are being written into law across various states? For American’s who “scoff at the Middle East and the Sharia Law“, I find that these abortion laws are strangely Sharia-like.

What is happening to this country? Whenever I read/listen to the news, I ask this as well. I think there are two major issues. First it’s the Republicans. They are disregarding any semblance of bi-partisanship. They are seeking to just destroy whatever the Democrats propose instead of offering a counter proposal. Remember the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare”? Many of their constituents were given healthcare probably for the first time through ACA and liked it. Yet Republicans denigrated Obamacare causing such a fury repealing the ACA would have negatively impacted their constituents. Another despicable Republican act is their opposition to the infrastructure bill. Yet, these Republicans are going back to their constituents claiming victory for something they voted against. The US Government should be reformed. Opposition to a bill should result in zero distributed funds. It’s all or nothing since that’s what Republicans are doing with the government.

Second, its the current duopoly party system. Both parties are heavily influenced by MONEY. The current system requires candidates to establish a large war chest in order to fund their campaigns. Funding campaigns requires meetings with rich individuals/corporations hoping to influence the candidate. Sure candidates can say they are not influenced by big money… but seriously…. Money buys influence. The government needs to transition away from dark money and lobbyists circling around the candidates and government officials. The government should abolish rules that support the two party system and seek ways where a 3rd/4th/multi party candidates can also succeed. Yes a parliamentary congressional system is possible requiring bipartisanship and coalition building. The current two party system are such broad based coalitions that effectively there are already multiple parties. But the government rules prevent 3rd party candidates from standing out.

Feeling disgruntled and hopeless? To be honest, I feel the same too. But I still believe if we continue to vote on what matters to us in 2022.


The Democratic Party Social Media Dilemma?

The Democrats have a media problem. They need to have a “Fox News/Tucker Carlson or OAN” equivalent in mainstream media. The goal of this new media organization is to counter, satirize, discuss and question the conservative agenda. Questions need to be asked to promote discussion and promote reality check.

Here are some questions to ask:
1) What was the real extent of Marina Butina’s infiltration of the Republican party?
2) Has the impartiality / non-political nature of SCOTUS been contaminated knowing that Justice Thomas’ wife has been privately supporting the lies of electrion irregularities even going so far as to encourage Mark Meadows to do “something”?
3) Why are Republicans openly hostile against COVID19 policies like mask wearing and vaccinations claiming these policies infringe on their freedoms yet brazenly implement laws like Texas’ SB8 that infringe on a woman’s freedom of choice and body?

Robert Reich’s Wealth & Poverty Class

I recently stumbled upon Robert Reich’s (link 1, link 2) Poverty and Wealth YouTube lectures. It’s only up to episode 5. I’ve already watched the first 4 episodes. In these first 4 episodes, Reich sums up some of the current social, political and economic ailments that are affecting the US and the world at large. I expect him to explore different facets of these topics over the next few weeks.

So far, he’s has so far talked about income equality, investor’s perspective, globalization and housing inequalities. He does a good job discussing the history of how the situation came to be by engaging listeners to think about these issues while also providing possible avenues of solutions.

I really recommend any of my readers to listen him.

More Thoughts on Russia’s invasion

With all the reading I’ve been doing on the invasion, the gods of algorithm showed two interesting viewpoints of why Russia is invading Ukraine.

1) It’s for the resources. Apparently, there are huge deposits of resources in the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine/Crimea as well as natural gas deposits under Ukrain.

2) It’s historical. The birthplace of Soviet Russia originated from Ukraine and are thus “one people” with Russians.

Again, I absolutely believe the western democracies HAVE to retaliate in force. It’s democracy at stake. Where are all the Republican hawks who are spouting how great US democracy is and how great freedom is?

My thoughts on Russia Invading Ukraine

In the past 48 hours, Russia is invading Ukraine.

Let’s think about it… a soveriegn nation is actively attacking and invading another sovereign nation. The last time this happened might be when Iraq invaded Kuwait (I think?). The rest of the world MUST respond by sending troops to defend and free Ukraine. It is the ONLY ACTION to take. If the world doesn’t commit any military action, it sends a signal that any nation who has a large military can attack and invade a smaller weaker neighboring nation while only suffiner “sanctions.”

The current sanctions will not do any good now that the fighting has started. Sanctions probably would never have worked against Russia. Russia doesn’t care about the money. It has enough resources and neutral parties (namely China) to trade with. What Russia wants is to annex Ukraine via puppet government similar to the old Soviet Union/USSR days. Russia is actively calling out Western democracies bluff on the use of force and the world needs to come together to show Russia cannot bully the world.

What can the world do? Here are my thoughts:

1) The United Nations should also seek to remove Russia from the Big 5. It should be replaced by another country (India? maybe an African country? a vote from the remaining assembly members?). There should be some sort of bullshit rule the UN assembly makes that specifically amends the UN rules that kicks out Big 5 members by a vote… maybe a majority of Big 5 + majority (or 60%, 65%, 75%?) of the assembly members. Russia after all has to be punished.

2) The democracies of the world MUST react with force to defend the principle of democracies.

3) China… yes China… if they want to take an active role as the 3rd super power… China should actually be leading the charge and be the first to put ground troops in Ukraine. Why? In the weeks leading up to this invasion, Russian “rhetoric” to justify invasion was centered around “freeing/liberating” the breakaway Ukrainian provinces. Or “supporting the breakaway provinces” plea to free themselves from “Ukrainian tyranny.” US intelligence apparently debunked most of these stories. Does any of these “free from tyranny” language sound familiar? Tibet? Xinjiang? What if a neighboring country decides to “Free Tibet” like how Russia is “freeing these breakaway provinces”? China absolutely needs to take a stand against Russia if anything to protect it’s own borders but more importantly shift the focus away/out of the bad parts of China and brand itself as Ukrainian liberators against Russian hegemony. China is probably in the best global position to act. They either need to stand up and become the 3rd super power or remain as a lackey to the Russians.

The Ocean Cleanup

Readers of this blog may have heard of this “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It’s actually two regions in the Pacific Ocean where the ocean currents are collect and “round up” so to speak the various floating plastics and other man-made debris gets washed off, tossed off, drained away, and generally discarded on land and somehow makes their way into the ocean and ocean currents.

ALmost 10 years ago, I heard a Ted Talk of a young environmentalist seeking to change and clean up the oceans. From time to time in the past 10 years, I heard about his successes and failures in the news but much of that news was drowned out by COVID19. Late last year, I read an article that demonstrated the successes of one of his systems. After many years of not seeing/reading updates, I read through and watched quite a few of the Ocean Cleanup YouTube videos. It turns out the Ocean Cleanup has been busy not only developing more efficient systems to clean up the garbage but also on ways to recycle and reuse the recovered plastic into more interesting things. One of these reuses is to make sunglasses and sunglass container.

This effort to clean up the garbage is admirable. To support this project, I paid and recieved these $199 sunglasses. Are they expensive? Yes… but instead of thinking how expensive it is… I’d like to frame it as paying to clean up the plastics in the ocean while also paying to fund alternative methods to resuse the plastics collected. These sunglasses show that the technology exists to reuse discarded plastics. The biggest issue now is to be able to scale up the process enough so that this Ocean Cleanup is self-sustaining to support itself. I bet the founders would love to tell people that they have recycled/reused all the plastics in the world and there is no longer any more plastics to recycle and reuse.

One man’s trash is another man’s $199 treasure….

Overdraft Fees

I recently heard The Indicator from Planet Money’s Overdraft Fees podcast episode. Two statistics immediately jumped out at me.
1) Banks made $15.5 BILLION dollars on the fees in 2019 (CFPB Link).
2) Less than 10% of the banking population generated approximately 80% of the fees.

HOLY CRAP… #2 surprises me the most yet at the same time doesn’t really surprise me at all. Given the income wealth inequality… many people on the lower end of the income distribution are literally cash strapped and living paycheck to paycheck. I’ve heard instances when banks charge a set fee for every transaction that’s overdrawn. That’s fucking ridiculous. Why doesn’t the consumer opt out of this predatory behaviour? Apparently the consumer was under the impression that they HAD to sign up for overdraft fees without realizing that they can opt out. EGADS!!!

I will say that early in my career, I also got hit with overdraft fees. I learned two valuable lessons at that time. First, the ACH transfer delay is a fucking joke since the ACH transfers now could be same day if the banks wanted it so. Also, why use ACH when payments can be electronically delivered immediately through other applications like the bank supported Zelle, Venmo, and Paypal? Second, pending transactions by the bank doesn’t work in your favor and acts as if money is not there. I got hit a few times mainly because I didn’t plan ahead to transfer the money I needed.

I wonder though… if this issue masks a much larger issue of the lack of financial literacy in the US population.

The Dems f-cking it up!! >[

The fact that Sinema and Manchin were “holding out” from joining the Democratic causes that propelled the Dems into the congressional majorities should have been the FIRST warning sign that neither of these senators are going to give a shit about the Democratic causes in Build Back Better. What’s in Build Back Better? The White House website (wiki, link 1, link 2) has a fairly good synopsis. After also reading the other links, here’s my interpretation of it…

Build Back Better (BBB) will probably help families with kids through tax credits, childcare subsidies, universal pre-school programs and probably most importantly paid family leave (link). In US laws, there currenlty is 12 weeks of UNPAID leave (60 working days or 240 hours). Some states have added exceptions and require paid family leave.

BBB also has a concerted effort in pushing US towards a green infrastructure platform to combat climate change and hopefully establishing a future clean energy technology growth. Climate change needs to be enacted at the governmental/federal level. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists (97%) believe there’s climate change (link 1, link 2, the 3%?, another 3%?).

BBB is also trying to bring affordable healthcare to everyone. Although short of providing single payer healthcare to everyone, it will at least try to shore up some of the deficiencies from the ACA (Obamacare). The US healthcare is horribly inefficient at receiving healthcare based on how much it pays (link 1). Spending nearly 20% of annual GDP and with citizens one medical emergency away from bankruptcy, the US’s laissez faire approach to healthcare needs to change.

BBB will try to help the middle income families through affordable housing and affordable college education. The average student loan debt of a graduating senior has been increasing and for 2021 sits at $30,600! There are a number of different options you can use with that amount. A college graduate could buy a reliable Japanese car like Honda/Toyota and drive 10 years before it breaks. And to be realistic, a college graduate doesn’t neccessarily need to drive a high end luxury car like BMW, Mercedes or Lexus straight out of college unless they’re in a customer facing job like sales. Or alternatively, the 30,600 could fund a 10 year passive investment account with a 5% rate of return and $200 monthly contributions which would yield nearly 80K at the end of 10 years. Or, if there’s affordable housing, the graduate could use the money on a down payment for a condo/house which leads to real estate investment wealth.

BBB says it’s “fully paid for” which I highly doubt (confirmed). However, these kinds of programs are meant to be investments in the future. And even if the future is unknown, the US government needs to act quickly because not doing anything might be worse thing to do. Unfortunately, the US government is anything but fast.

OKLO Aurora Nuclear Reactor

I saw this video on YouTube about a new kind of nuclear reactor called Oklo’s Aurora (wiki). To be fair, I have heard of companies pursuing the niche space of making “clean/safe mini-nuclear reactors” in order to generate eletricity for 1000-10000 households. I even read that Bill Gates is also working towards a small reactor (link 1, link 2)!!

Listening to her talk about the technology and reading (link 1, link 2, link 3) a little more about it… this is much smaller than what Bill Gates is working towards. What is awesome about the reactors is the intent to use “spent nuclear fuel” to power the reactor and generate even more energy from the spent fuel. You’re literally using waste no one wants to touch in order to generate power shaving off the half-life of the fuel from potentially millions of years to something at least manageable. What I find also interesting are the concerns related to theft of spent fuel. I do suppose consequences are severe if the radioactive fuel was stolen and/or misused for evil deeds.

The Debt Limit again!?

Seriously… can we as a nation start to hold both Democrats AND Republicans accountable? Back in 2017, the Republicans believed in raising the debt ceiling. When Republicans had the House, Senate and the White House to pass spending bills, of course the debt ceiling will be raised. But god forbid… when Republicans do not control the White House, they are absolutely against raising the debt ceiling.

This political bickering between Dems and Reps is hurting the country. The cyncism behind such flip-flops by both parties is why there’s such low voter turnout.