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?

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?

Reference Guide to Vanguard Domestic Mutual Funds

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a financial planner. The opinions stated in this blog post are my opinions based on my current financial portfolio. I suggest to also do your own research as your financial portfolio may be different from mine. If you are interested reassessing your finances, please seek professional advice from a Certified Financial Advisor that charges based on a flat fee (not commission based).

A few weeks ago, I talked about a 2021 financial portfolio re-assessment. As a result of that post, I looked into the various domestic Vanguard mutual funds that would be good long term investment. This table below lists these mutual funds divided by market capitalization and stock types. I included a dividend option for those investors that are looking for companies that consistently pay dividends to shareholders. In addition, I found this “Total Market” fund which exposes investors to the market including large, mid and small cap stocks. Even though these are Vanguard stocks, other financial institutions like Fidelity/Schwab/Etrade will also offer similar mutual funds. As an investor, more research is needed to find the equivalent non-Vanguard fund at these intuitions.

Here’s the table:

Market CapGrowthValueBlendDividendTotal Market
Large CapVIGAX (Admiral)
VUG (ETF)
VVIAX (Admiral)
VTV (ETF)
VFIAX (Admiral)
VOO (ETF)
VHYAX (Admiral)
VEIPX (Admiral)
VYM (ETF)
VTSAX (Admiral)
VTI (ETF)
Mid CapVMGMX (Admiral)
VOT (ETF)
VMVAX (Admiral)
VOE (ETF)
VIMAX (Admiral)
VO (ETF)
VEXEX (Admiral)
VXF (ETF)
*No S&P 500 stocks
Small CapVSGAX (Admiral)
VBK (ETF)
VSIAX (Admiral)
VBR (ETF)
VSMAX (Admiral)
VB (ETF)

After making this table, the distribution of my retirement accounts are much clearer to me now. I have adjusted my portfolio to invest in large, mid and small cap mutual funds focused around growth, blend and dividend.

Kickstarter Successes

With my most recent Kickstarter (KS) pledge to support this coffee campaign, I started wondering how many of my pledges were successful, how many of the pledges were cancelled, how many of the success eventually released product, and how many of the pledges were unsuccessful (for whatever reason).

KS Categories# of KS campaigns Notes
Participated135
Pledged, and received product11145 pledges for wallets
Pledged, but did not receive11Of the 11…
7 campaigns will probably send their product.
2 are computer games that are still in beta stage.
1 campaign just gave up.
1 campaign is having production issues and I’m pretty sure will not be able to fulfill their pledge
Pledged, but did not reach goal 9All 9 of these either failed to reach their funding goal or were cancelled by the creator.
5 of these were for wallets
Pledged, and I cancelled later2Of these 2, one ended up successfully pledged with product.
The other was a wallet that failed to reach the funding goal

I started Kickstarting campaigns back in 2012. Looking back at my pledging habits, I’ve concluded that around 75% of the products I’ve received have either been donated away, broken or are currently taking up space in a storage box somewhere. The other 25% have been either consumables (4 coffee campaigns), items that I am actively using at least once a week, or items where there is a specific use for. The one item that I use the most are titanium chopsticks.

Looking closer at my history, many of the pledges were focused on finding “perfect wallet” replacement. Of the 45 successful pledges, I ended up using only 4 of the wallets on any consistent basis. Through constant pledging and receiving wallets, I’ve come to realize what features that I like in a wallet: slim (10 bills max), max 3-4 card slots, no wider than a phone width for easy one hand transport phone/wallet bundle. To be clear, the perfect wallet does exist. It’s a magic wallet that I had purchased over 20 years ago from one of those credit card promotions. The ribbons that held the magic wallet together were taut and slowly loosened over time allowing the wallet to effectively hold the cash. The construction of this wallet was also extremely good. Over a 20 year period, I used 2 of these wallets to a point where the stitching started to fray and fall off. Looking at magic wallets on the market, I find that many of these contemporary wallets were made out of elastic bands which is not sufficient to hold cash in and are horribly constructed that they break after 1-2 months of usage. Currently, I’ve settled on my current slim bifold wallet.

I think overall I’ve become much more selective on campaigns that I support. Many of the recent campaigns have rewards where I have a clear picture of how I would use the product. Looking at the five most recent products received, they consisted of Columbian coffee beans, valet tray box, travel mugs, wallet and Purto Rican coffee beans. Of the campaigns where I’m waiting receipt of products, they will be Nicaragua coffee beans, hand sanitizer, calf stretching tool, pocket knife and eco-friendly hairbrush.

Nowadays, I try to be more mindful of the items that I have and look to only buy items where I know there will be an immediate use for. I’ve been downsizing significantly where I’ve ended up with a collection of empty storage boxes that used to store some of the junk I kept.

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....

Terms of Service

Holy crap… this pic is from the article (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/terms-of-service-visualizing-the-length-of-internet-agreements/) and it’s been zoomed out to 25% on Google Chrome.  And it still doesn’t doesn’t see the bottom of Spotify, Apple, TikTok and Microsoft.  Why can’t Terms of Service (TOS) be shorter and simpler to read?  Who actually reads the TOS?  No one because it’s too fucking long and moderately complex enough to discourage reading.

Ultimately, you(me) are the product for all these services.

 

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