Dual Political Monopoly

Readers of this blog probably know Freakonomics is one of the podcasts that I listen to.  They recently released a new podcast that touches on politics… specifically, the duopoly (dual monopoly) in politics between the Republicans and Democrats.  Everyone should have an interest in politics since the government can directly influence the daily lives of each citizen both positively as well as negatively.

This podcast makes the case of why this duopoly needs to be broken up.  From collusion  to keep other 3rd party candidates out of elections to partisan legislation through Congress and the White House, I hope all the readers of this blog seriously listens to this Freakonomics podcast.


A New Trevor Noah Stand Up

Readers of this blog are probably aware that I’m a big fan of Trevor Noah. He’s a master at embedding relevant social commentary into his jokes.  His “immigrant experience” routines are hilarious and accurate in his observations.  His past Netflix specials (You Laugh But It’s True, Afraid of the Dark) and his continued presence as The Daily Show host show how he views many social and political issues through a different viewpoints.  His commentary makes me think about the actual issue even if I don’t have a particular position to the issue.

Netflix recently released a new stand up “Son of Patricia” shortly before Thanksgiving.  Watch it. It’s great.

In other news, The Daily Show has had a podcast since the start of the year.  Since I watch his show on Youtube, this podcast is actually pretty awesome.  It summarizes the 30 minute TV episode into shorter 20 minutes segments.  It’s great for listening on short drives.


Jeremy Lin Interview

Freakonomics recently had an interview featuring the Asian American NBA point guard Jeremy Lin.  It’s a pretty fascinating interview to listen to.  While listening, Lin remarked on two different topics that struck me as pretty insightful.

  1. He’s not recognized for his athletic ability.  He gave an example of… even though he’s as fast as a fellow NBA player (tied for 1st in the combine), he was only known for being “deceptively” fast.  Being considered “deceptive” is pretty insulting.   I haven’t fact check this but the other player was a black player named John Wall who was probably younger than Lin at the time of the combine.
  2. From his experience so far, he’s learned that purpose and communication are two key lessons he’s learned.


Three Wealth Levels

I heard this on a recent podcast of “How I Built This.”  According to Butterfield, there’s three levels of wealth.

  • First Level = Not have to worry about debt (credit card/student loans).
  • Second Level = Not have to worry about how much a restaurant costs.
  • Third Level = Not have to worry about how much a vacation will cost.

I have to say this is an interesting way to look at wealth.

Making Obama Podcast

Yes We Can!

I don’t recall when I first heard about Obama.  I have vague recollections of his 2004 keynote Democratic National Convention speech.  However, I distinctly remember buying his book “The Audacity of Hope” and reading it on a family trip to Taiwan on the airplane.  I remember finishing the book and thinking that Obama’s message of hope, togetherness and change was a very good message for the future of politics.  At the time, I had thought the partisan bickering was pretty bad but compared to 2018, the mid-2000s is nothing!

Anyways, I heard through one of the political podcasts that I listen to that there was a new podcast by WBEZ called “Making Obama” that talked about the rise of Obama from his time as a community organizer to that 2004 keynote speech.  Hearing WBEZ’s podcast is pretty amazing.  There are quite a few things the podcast discussed that details what could only be described as the fortunate circumstances of how Obama won his state senate seat as well as the US Senate seat.

This podcast is well worth listening to.

Clicker Training

This Hidden Brain podcast is amazing.  The fundamental message of re-thinking how a person is trained is to essentially remove judgement from the training process.  It’s simple yet sometimes very hard to accomplish.

As the podcasts points out, some trainers have a tendency to:

  1. interject with short phrases like “good job” or “great” or “excellent”
  2. criticize if the process wasn’t done correctly
  3. be unable to breakdown the process step by step into even smaller processes
  4. become frustrated because it was natural or easy for them to pick up the steps.


Thinking back about how I was trained, the best kind of training I had was when I was learning to play a new piano composition.  There was no feedback/commentary yet I knew that I played it wrong because what I heard sounded wrong.  Sometimes, it sounded wrong yet the composition shows that’s how it was played.  Ultimately this feedback was neutral since a piano can’t judge you for playing a composition incorrectly.  When I trained others, I found that the best way for training was to have the trainee perform the task.  If they didn’t do it correctly, I’d show them how it was done again. If they couldn’t do the task correctly, I would try to break it the task down into smaller tasks.  This “breaking down the tasks into smaller tasks” was something that I had intrinsically understood and now after hearing this podcast I realized it was from when I was learning new piano compositions.

Understanding the psychology behind this behavior is extremely eye opening.  This understanding ties into quite a few insights about myself as well too.  Seriously… everyone should listen to the podcast.


Planet Money’s The Indicator

Planet Money is one of my favorite podcasts that I listen to.  They talk about money, economics and financial related news tidbits.  They recently spun off a mini-podcast called The Indicator which does a deep dive into one particular aspect in Planet Money that they think deserves a more thorough analysis.  Recently they put out a podcast talking about the Beige Report (wiki).  I had no idea there was such a report that is put out by the Federal Reserve.  Nonetheless, the reporters at Planet Money did their best to humor and enlighten the significance of the report with three snippets.  The full transcript of the snippet can be found here.  Below is the snippet that I found most interesting.

SMITH: And Boston had this great aha moment for us that they wrote about in “The Beige Book” which might explain why wages have been rising so slowly even though unemployment is so low across the nation and in Boston.

VANEK SMITH: And this is a big economic mystery that everybody’s talking about right now. I mean, unemployment’s so low people are trying to hire like crazy, and that could help be explained by this moment in “The Beige Book.” They’re talking about a manufacturing company. And they say, quote, “another industrial firm had 20 unfilled openings in a plant with a hundred employees and said they were making up for it with significant overtime. When asked why they didn’t increase wages to fill the openings, the contact said they would have to pay all the existing workers more, which would be uneconomic.”

SMITH: So they’re making everybody work overtime…


SMITH: …Because they’re afraid of giving everyone a raise. So they can’t raise wages on just the new people that they desperately need.

VANEK SMITH: Yes, exactly.

SMITH: Which is fascinating because, I mean, this is something that data doesn’t often capture. We like to think that there’s this direct relationship between wages and employment. But of course there’s all these weird things in the economy – contracts and special cases…

VANEK SMITH: And office politics.

SMITH: …And office politics that just makes it hard to give new people raises.




After hearing the episode, I’m a bit shocked at the rationale.  Why would hiring new workers who would have higher wages force a company to give everyone a raise?  That reasoning doesn’t make sense to me.  And more importantly, wouldn’t that just mean the wages you’re paying now are actually not high enough?