Monday, December 18, 2017

DuPont AMTRAK Cascades Train crash

This morning in my home state of Washington, an AMTRAK Cascades train crashed on the new line between DuPont and Olympia. This is a route I frequently take to get between my home of Bellingham and Olympia, where my parents live.

This lies on the most important rail route in the Northwest, and one of the most important in the country. 6.3 million people live on the AMTRAK Cascades route, a not insignificant sum, and we are growing quickly. We need to have alternatives to driving and flying in this part of the country, and AMTRAK offers us the ability to do this.

Every day, there are over 300 AMTRAK trains making their normal routes every day in the United States, or about 110,000 per year. This is the 2nd accident this year on AMTRAK. 99.9982% of AMTRAK trains this year have gone without incident.

It is important to understand also how this happened. First of all, the section of track is between two tight bends as the new track crosses I-5. The speed limit here is 64 km/hr, but the train was going 130 km/hr. This is why the train crash occurred. As a consequence of a windy section, this means the train cannot go even at highway speed until it is past the second bend, but the conductor on this train did not follow the rules.

This was absolutely avoidable. Positive Train Control is a method which monitors a train's speed and automatically slows a train down when it goes through a dangerous section, to avoid driver error. On the vast majority of train rides, 99.999% this year, trains have successfully avoided this type of accident by the conductor slowing the train down on their own accord, and there is no problem. However, in this particular situation the conductor didn't, which is why we saw a disaster on the first higher-speed trip in Washington State history.

We need to keep higher-speed rail in my home state, and use this to implement and require Positive Train Control nationwide to prevent future accidents. These are extremely rare, and thousands of Americans over the next week are going to use AMTRAK to go to their family for Christmas, and they should. This accident is notable because it is rare.

Don't let one accident by one fool damn an entire region to traffic.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Most American Candidate, part 2, 2017 edition

If we were to design a candidate who could speak to the majority of Americans today, an interesting intellectual exercise could determine the political positions of a presidential candidate who could win their first election with ease. This candidate would not be a centrist but would adopt policy positions which the majority of Americans agree with. These are based on the most recent poll on the issues I can find.

Here is the platform:

  • Employers must provide health insurance which covers birth control regardless of personal beliefs. Pew
  • Transgender people should be required to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Pew
  • Homosexual behavior, Same-Sex Marriage, abortion, and condoms are all appropriate. Pew
  • Partisan Gerrymandering should be restricted. 71% of Americans agree


  • Implement a $15 minimum wage. Pew
  • We should increase spending for veterans benefits, education, and health care, we shouldn't reduce spending on anything. Pew
  • The rich do not pay their fair share, and should see an increase in their tax rates. Pew
  • Light Rail is essential to the building of a modern city. SJSU
  • Global Warming is real and we need policies to reverse it. People say this in every single state. NY Times

  • ISIS is a major concern. Pew
This is a winning platform. What is most striking about this is that it is not "moderate", halfway between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, most Americans agree with several of the core policies of the Democratic Party and none of the policies of the Republican Party.

This says a few things,
  1. The Republican Party is in danger if it is to survive as a party, with its main positions being unpopular when polled.
  2. The Democratic Party needs to focus not on moving to the center (which is the effect of Median Voter Theorem) but to increase turnout among its natural voter base, which involves the majority of Americans.
The Democratic Strategy for 2018 needs to be to fight in every single district for every legislative and congressional seat. A winning candidate is going to be clear about their values and represent the majority of people, falling neatly in the progressive camp.

I do not know how many progressives are going to win next year, hopefully many. But if candidates stay reasonable, science focused, and honest to their values, they can win elections nationwide. The particular emphasis candidates have on their campaigns will change, but I do believe that with Congress sitting at 13% right now, Trump sitting at 40% approval, and both parties having less than 50% approval, our country needs some major political changes.

We have seen multiple elections in my life time where the Democratic Party running on the values most Americans share will win the majority of the vote, but still lose the House and Presidency. It is not because Americans are not voting or caring, its because we have a rigged election system. Gerrymandering combined with first past the post for the House and the Electoral College prevent us from having policies which the majority of us want.

This is where ranked voting comes in. We need to fight from the grassroots to help break the two party system. We need new voices which represent Americans accurately and have more incentives to be bold, or be forced to leave. Neither the Green Party or Libertarian Party fill this role. We need more candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren running for office nationwide. We need people like Kamala Harris and Martin O'Malley to rise as high as they can go, and we need these people in local politics right now.

Breaking the partisan duopoly will offer candidates the ability to be more true to their values and more responsive to voters. Ending single member districts and first past the post will allow more voices to be heard nationally, which will be a more healthy politic. Ending the presidential primary system and electing the President using IRV is the eventual goal.

I have been thinking about this issue for years (as this blog shows), and the only way I can see to break the partisan duopoly is to reform our entire election system. Getting money out of politics is more tricky because you have to be clear about the relationship between money and speech, but changing our election system is relatively easy. Washington State has already done it, though top two primaries do not allow third parties to have a real chance to form, neither does it guarantee results which represents the views of the majority. The top two primary in Seattle this year and Attorney General's race last year have made that abundantly obvious. It has not broken the toxic two party system in our state because it can't.

This is how we are going to get the most American candidate who represents the people elected. Right now it is clear to me that candidates who follow this message precisely still don't necessarily win because people have to be strategic about their voting, especially in crowded elections.

Some will say this is impossible to do, but I refer those people to the 12th amendment which radically changed how the Electoral College works. Most Americans do not remember this today, but before 1913 Senators were not elected by the people but appointed by State Legislatures. The 17th Amendment changed this completely, making the Senators directly elected by the people. Let us not also forget that Slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person in the House of Representatives until the 13th amendment. The Senate is directly elected by the people, The Electoral College works differently, the calculation method for how many representatives each states gets in the House of Representatives has changed as well. None of our original election system survives today.

Abolishing the Electoral College is no more radical than directly voting for Senators. We have already completely eliminated one indirect election method our government.

Ranked voting is a far simpler system to understand than what is written in the 12th amendment today.

Having multiple representatives in a district has historical precedence. We once had them in my home, Washington State.

For those places which require districting due to their size (looking at you, California) we should use algorithmic districting to prevent Gerrymandering. The Shortest splitline method combined with STV would be an unhackable system.

We need to do this work now, and then we can get the candidates we deserve, and the politics which the vast majority of Americans desire.

Together, we can do this.

Please get connected with Fairvote today. We deserve better elections.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Swing States

A series of maps to illustrate swing states, defined as states which have not voted for the same party for the preceding 4 Presidential elections.

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Swing States, 2016

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Swing States, 2012

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Swing States, 2008

Another way to look at it, if you gradually turn states into swing states the further back you go:

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2016 results

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Since 2012

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Since 2008

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Since 2004

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Since 2000 (repeat)

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Since 1996

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Since 1992

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Since 1988

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Since 1984 and 1980

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Since 1976

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Since 1972 and 1968

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Since 1964

1964 was the first election where DC was allowed to vote, so every state has voted for both parties except for DC over the last 50 years.

If I were hired by the DNC to ensure Trump is a one term president, I would ensure to put resources everywhere I can. The first step is to fight against voter discrimination laws which should have started several years ago. It doesn't matter if you are polling 10 points ahead of the other major party if your voters cannot vote for you.

While fighting those laws in the courts and ensuring people have the right to vote, we need to also fight gerrymandering. If the Supreme Court rules that partisan gerrymandering is illegal than there will be many more cases to ensure fair districting. This will mean that we will have many more competitive districts.

Getting a great candidate in 2020, such as Kamala Harris, would help a lot to win the Presidency, and ending the super-delegates to have the primary done with a straight popular vote would be a very easy way to increase legitimacy of the Democratic Nominee. That wouldn't take any laws to change, only some rules. It would also improve the image of the Democratic Party in the eyes of Millennials. If the primary is open and ranked then we will have the best candidate possible with no question of their legitimacy.

That will be enough to win the 2020 election. Campaign everywhere and have the first national primary in America's history. Supporting local candidates, and have every Presidential rally be with a local politician to get them name recognition will help the Democratic Party more accurately match its vote share in its success.

In the long run, implementing ranked voting and ideally ending the electoral college are the only ways I know of to make a truly fair election system where voters have the ability to kick out members of congress and legislatures who don't speak for them. After that, there will be no single Democratic Party because it will split into multiple parties at various levels of liberalism which will be good for America and voters by getting more viewpoints into the national debate.

The best we can do in 2018 is get good strong candidates nationwide running for every single seat in every legislature and support them so they can win.

I know this is a big change and a big dream, but that's the only way this crazy world has ever improved. Fight for the ideal system and get as much as you can. Hopefully someone at the DNC will read this.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2017 Election summary


The Democrats could hardly have hoped for a better possible result than what we saw last night. From Federal to State to Local, this as a victory for America, and a strong hinting against Donald Trump in one swing state.
  1. The most important election of the night was the Democratic Party picked up the New Jersey Governorship, gaining a Trifecta (control of the Governorship and both houses of the Legislature)
  2. In Washington State the Republicans had a one seat lead in the Senate, but once Manka Dhingra won the seat in the 45th legislative district last night the Democratic Party gained the Senate, and another Trifecta.
  3. In Virginia, Democrats held onto the Governorship, preventing a Republican Trifecta.
  4. 4 Virginia House races are still too close to call, and it could fall into Democratic Hands, Republicans have already lost 15% of the House. This happened with 40% of the House with no opposition candidates.
These are the three most important pickups of last night along with one that could be a massive shift. Seattle elected its first Lesbian Mayor, who didn't impress me personally with her ideas (or lack thereof) on her website when I read them, and we got the most moderate mayor we could get in our city.

In other (underreported) news we saw more Americans use ranked voting this year versus any other point in history. This saw an increase in turnout. Hopefully more cities will adopt ranked voting soon to increase democratic legitimacy. Fairvote Star Tribune

Another big lesson tonight is to compete everywhere. The Virginia House of Delegates is within 4 seats of either party taking control. We have seen one of the biggest switches in history with Virginia moving from being a solid Republican state to a competitive state which leans blue. Democrats could form a trifecta in the near future in Virginia if they tried.

The question remaining is if this success will continue next year. This will depend highly on Trump's popularity, as unpopular presidents tend to do very poorly in their midterm elections, and I expect it could be a big gain for the Democratic Party if they try.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

PutinTrump Communications Director

Richard Nixon, sellout to the North Vietnamese and indirect killer of thousands of American soldiers, had fewer communications directors than the current White House occupant. When Reagan was undergoing the Iran Contra Scandal coming out, he had only three communications directors. We are about to see the 5th Communication Director in 8 months. Something big is going to break if even negotiating with North Vietnamese, Watergate, Iran Hostage Crisis negotiations by Reagan, and Iran-Contra Scandal (where Reagan was selling drugs to Central American terrorists and weapons to the Iranian regime) were not enough to create such turmoil with White House Public Relations.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

When liberals fight, liberals win

When liberals go to court, liberals usually win. That is a large chunk of the history of the civil rights movement, for some reason today it is in vogue to disparage the work of lawyers (many of whom were POC) who eliminate legal barriers. If we had been more vicious while Obama was President at fighting gerrymandering we could have had a competitive election in 2014 and 2016, which would have made it so the laws which prevented people of color from voting would have never been proposed or passed, but oh well, at least we waved some signs. We need a lot more of this and to pool our resources to hire the lawyers to get this work done.

This legal fight against Dakota XL should have happened as soon as the pipeline was proposed, but it was the failure of liberal environmental organizations and the President to not press for this as soon as the illegal pipeline was proposed. This is part of a general trend which includes Democrats not fighting gerrymandering and many other weak aspects of the modern Democratic Party which makes them irrelevant to modern American politics.

The only way out of our current predicament is through ranked voting and a breaking down of the big tents.

Friday, June 16, 2017

RIP Helmut Kohl

On the same day that Helmut Kohl dies, the principal architect of the EU and Schengen Treaty which protects Western Europe from war, he who must not be named makes no public statement about his passing while making a major move to antagonize Cuba and alienate us from our allies. I am not surprised, only finster. I have a large amount of family who have benefitted greatly from this great work.

Es ist ein dunkel Tag für der Welt. Ich hoffe Kohls Arbeit wird überleben.

I hope that with the next president we have will move closer to a better relationship with Cuba and become even closer to our Canadian and Mexican friends. If we are to learn anything from Kohl's Chancellorship it is that we are more prosperous when we work together, and we are more free when we talk with each other. We need to reach out to others and build up a more peaceful world, tear down borders, and love each other no matter what language we speak or no matter what atrocities may have been committed. It is up to us to be that generation which expands this work to every continent in order to expand freedom to those who have famine, build bridges between our divisions, and defeat nationalism. Only when we see the humanity in each other's eyes and open our hearts to those who speak different tongues and worship differently will we be truly free.

That is the lesson we need to learn from Helmut Kohl tonight, may he rest in peace.

He was a true friend to all, and enemy of none. Today we have seen Die Linke, SPD, CDU, and Putin all have nice things to say about a man who truly made the world a better place.

Danke Kanzler.

Image result for helmut kohl

Thursday, June 8, 2017

United Kingdom General Election, 2017

If the projections are correct, then we are going to see a hung parliament this year. There are a couple possibilities which are based off of history:
1. Conservative/Liberal Democratic coalition as existed under Cameron's first ministry. I think this is unlikely since the Conservatives are in favor of a return to a Pre-World War I European Order which is what Brexit would bring, and the LibDems are the most opposed to a hard Brexit of the three major parties. They are also completely at odds with each other on environmental policy, making such an arrangement completely ridiculous and unsustainable.
2. Conservative/Labour. Labour is in favor of a soft Brexit and less strong on the environment as the LibDems, making them significantly closer to the hardline conservative policies of the Conservative Party which are very similar to the Republican party of the USA before Drumpf cheated his way into the White House. This would be very similar to the current arrangement in Germany between SPD (think centrist) and the CDU (drifts between very liberal and paleo-conservative on social policy, combined with the most conservative economic policy in all of Europe of the major parties I have studied) and should not be ruled out for Britain. It would be far more sustainable than a CLD coalition in my observation of their platforms.
3. Labour/Liberal Democratic/Scottish National Party would be the only stable coalition which could be formed with the current political arrangement. The Liberal Democrats have a more moderate although still ardently Keynesian economic policy from the results I got with iSidewith, are in line with Labour on social policies, and when it comes to Environmental and foreign policy will make Labour more liberal (in the International Relations part of the ideology). I think this coalition would destory Brexit (hallelujah) and will not end up with the writs being called early (aka a new election), given how their differences I can find are more or less regarding minutia, and will make the Labour Party policies which are more on the loony side under their current leader less likely to pass, while very important legislation which they agree on, such as killing Brexit, will be able to bypass the inevitable conservative opposition. SNP and Labour are very similar on most issues, I got the same score for each on the iSidewith quiz I took. This would mean stable and reasonable policy for Britain for the next 5 years.
4. The most likely of them all, and a win for the Brexit camp, would be a Conservative/Democratic Unionist alliance. This would ensure Brexit happens, and a ridiculous economic policy in line with Thatcherism. This is very unfortunate for Britain.

I hope for this reason that we see an LLD government in the coming years. I think it would be best for Britain economically, socially, preserve the European Union, and govern them as best as possible until the next election comes (whenever that will be). Unfortunately, this will likely not happen with the Conservatives and Democratic Unionists making a coalition with barely enough votes to have more than 50% of the seats.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Oldspeak, Newspeak, alternative facts, and mind control

George Orwell's point is that the changing of the definitions of words changes how we think about such concepts. Capitalism originally was a revolutionary ideology saying that the big government firms of the European empires were not just bad for the people but also bad for the economy as a whole. Instead, we should have an economy where the means of production are owned by diverse interests not concentrated whenever possible. This exists in Europe today. The word has been evolved to mean a system very similar to the mercantilism the early capitalists oppposed, and day to day indistinguishable from the mercantilism of old. This is the same tool used by Oceania in 1984 to control the thoughts of the people, and is effective by cutting people off from their philosophical ancestors. Propaganda has become fake news, making it seem more like the onion than Pravda. Alternative facts are lies, another Orwellian trick.

History of Newspeak

We have seen this reversal of definitions to the point where they are the opposite of what they originally mean, when white is black and socialism is capitalism. The complete reversal of the definition of capitalism, (which I'm not sure exactly how it evolved over the last 50 years) has been far too quick to have happened organically. Roosevelt was lauded as "saving capitalism" for the new deal and banking regulation, meaning the reversal has happened since 1945, so we are down to a maximum of 70 years. Chomsky refers to the US and Western European nations (which are frequently called "socialist" today) as "capitalist democracies" in the 1970s ( so assuming Chomsky was using vernacular it would then be within the last 40 years. If we look at Germany the SPD was fairly radical before the 1970s when Willi Brandt and Helmut Schmidt transformed the party into the Keynesian capitalist party (sorry for the redundancy) it is today. I expect the transformation of the word from meaning a free market to a corporatocracy/mercantilist system then would have happened under Reagan in the US, Thatcher in Britain, and other leaders during the 1980s, meaning a 180 degree turn around in its meaning over no more than 30 years in how the media talks about "capitalism".

The word socialism does extend further back in time, to Louis Blanc who founded the school of "state socialism", defined as being the government controlling some industries. The issue with this is that capitalist philosophers also think that the government had a role in natural monopolies. The difference from limited government intervention from capitalism is indistinguishable, because a government involved in the economy is part of all capitalist thought. A government which controls all the means of production is also indistinguishable from Marxism. State socialism can mean either term, making the term meaningless. Bismarck's policies in Germany were derided as "state socialism" by opponents, as were the policies of the Soviet Union. These two systems are similar in almost no way at all in reality, making the term almost useless.

Anarchism as well is often described as being "socialist". Marx of course believed that the final stage of his theory would be anarchism. He also believed that it doesn't matter if government is democratic or a dictatorship, because the "capitalists" would control society either way. (1848 Papers)

This is the inherent problem with the word socialism. Someone who believes in no government or a dictatorship can be called a socialist. Someone who believes in a mixed economy with limited government intervention and someone who believes in a command economy like North Korea are both socialist. A Democrat and Dictator, both socialist. A person who believes the government needs limited government intervention is often described as being a socialist and agrees with every capitalist philospher. Someone who believes in the eventual monopolization of all unions (syndicalism) is a socialist, but one doesn't have to believe in that to be a socialist. Socialists argue that accumulation of capital is bad, but this was one of the major goals of early capitalist thought. The definitions of state socialism and state capitalism are poorly distinguished in economic thought.

Capitalism on the other hand agrees on some very basic concepts. 1. Free markets are generally good, but not always in the case of absolute monopolies. 2. Private property is important for growth. Capitalism is an anti-slavery ideology. 3. Democracy is good. 4. When people are left to make their own decisions they generally will make the right decision as a group, with some exceptions when it comes to externalities. The recognition of a government role in infrastructure and health care which do not work in an unregulated framework has been recognized by capitalism since the early 1800s if not earlier. Adam Smith said the state should exist to "administer justice, enforce private property rights, and defending the nation against aggression" which are not specific in what particular actions government can take. This view is still held by all capitalists. Capitalism has expanded to counter-cyclical policy, which is often described as socialist, and our understanding of how and when markets fail has expanded over 200 years leading capitalism to be more specific on what "administering justice" means. That is an important reality of the early capitalist philosophers in they were clear about their goals, leaving room for interpretation on how exactly government should administer justice. The end goals however, liberty for all, and competitive markets among others, are still the end goals of capitalism. In this sense capitalism is and has always been a consequentialist school of thought. A dictator can not be described as a capitalist because there isn't the free movement of capital under dictatorships. All capitalists agree that there is a role for government in achieving a competitive free economy where all can compete fairly. This is NOT the policy of the Republican Party and right wing democrats like Nancy Pelosi which is much more in line with a variation of the Mercantilism of old.

History of Alternative Facts

Lies and the belief in there being alternate realities has become mainstream in American politics. I have known Fox viewers insisting on how everything I say is "from my point of view" for years now, which stops all further investigation into the reality of what is happening, because they believe that reality is whatever they perceive. This hasn't always been mainstream in American philosophy, when back in the day we would turn to Walter Cronkite and other more or less non-partisan journalists who reported the reality of what is happening. The 1990s we see the beginning of this, with the formation of Fox News which has spearheaded this alternative reality, from their lies of how Obamacare failed, the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and how crime in the 1990s effected African American communities, among so many other lies.

This is why I speak oldspeak, and insist that activists speak oldspeak, because newspeak is a form of mind control.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How to defeat terrorism

The 9/11 report is a famous document of course, which claimed it wanted to improve "security" in the United States and prevent terrorism coming into America.the problem with this is that its recommendations are absolutely ineffective in actually fighting terrorism.

The reality of terrorism in the United States is that:
  • White Americans are the largest perpetrator of hate crimes in America, targeted against people of color. Even when the evidence is obvious, these people sometimes don't go to prison, such as with the case of Trayvon Martin's murder. FBI Non-Hispanic Whites are underrepresented however, representing only 57% of hate crime perpetrators for which race was known, despite being 63% of the population according to the Census Bureau. African Americans were overrepresented according to the data from 2015. Despite being 10% of the population over 50% of assaults motivated by race were against African Americans as well. Assault was the most common type of hate crime in America. Murder was the least common of all. The FBI does not carry information on the income levels of perpetrators and victims unfortunately, which I wish was there. This topic deserves a full post on its own. Most terrorism in the United States is labeled as a hate crime, the differences between them are vague, and it makes sense to see them lumped together.
  • The individuals who attacked us in 2001 are not covered by the ESTA, they all had applied for and received visas. They were also mostly Saudi, a country which stands idly by as their wealthy citizens support ISIS. There was also one Egyptian, two Emiratis, and one Lebanese man. These countries all require visas to the United States, and all of these individuals had received visas from the embassy. The Atlantic shows that the total number of Americans killed on American soil by Europeans remains at 0.
  • The ESTA does not stop terrorism, it only decreases tourism. Reducing the people to people contacts between the United States and the rest of the world isolates us from our allies and hurts our image abroad. Having fewer people to people contacts with the rest of the world means that the only thing that people see on the news is drone bombing, police shooting, terrorist attack, and more nonsense. The news tends to blow situations out of proportion, as it did during the Köln bombings a few years ago. I was fortunate to be able to contact my friend who lives in Köln, a city I have personally traveled to and learned that what the media was portraying was extremely inaccurate. There were protests but the city was far from being shut down. Reducing the number of people who know Americans will make us see each other as dangerous places to travel, when in reality we are both generally safe, especially Europe. Proof which includes regressional analysis.
  • No Canadian has ever committed a terrorist attack in the United States. No individual born in Europe has ever attacked the United States.
If we were serious about fighting terrorism we would do the following:
  • Nation build in the Middle East and increase the number of people from those countries who study in the USA. Increasing people to people links foster communication and dialogue.
  • End the ESTA program, replacing it with 90 day visa-free travel for its current members and expand visa-free travel to all of Europe except Russia and Belarus, along with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, Botswana, most of East Africa, Thailand, and more countries. If an individual overstays their visa-free period we can bar that individual from coming, but not as a mass punishment. This will increase tourism and people-to-people contacts around the world.
  • Stop the drone bombings. They are counter productive by serving as a recruitment tool.
  • Pressure countries around the world to increase economic mobility. Most suicide bombers are in poverty.
  • Pressure Saudi Arabia to stop sheltering extremists. King Fahd spent at least $75 billion during his reign to spread terrorism across the world, making Saudi Arabia the number one sponsor of Terrorism across the world, and the number one killer of American citizens besides ourselves. This is not money from Saudi nationals, this is money from the crown, which is indistinguishalbe from the government. Despite this, Saudi Arabia was not on the list of countries which Trump banned tourism from and continue to import their oil which funds the government, which is a known state sponsor of terrorism. Wikipedia They now take an approach of not cracking down on the plutocrats who fund ISIS while being militarily involved in fighting ISIS as well. This is a perfect example of the military industrial complex at work reaping billions off the suffering of Syrians. This is evil and must be stopped.

We have been lucky to not have a major terrorist attack like 9/11 since 2001, but the real reasons why 9/11 happened have not been targeted by our government effectively. We continue to do drone bombings instead of nation building in countries which have the lowest approval rating of Americans in the world, and refuse to do the necessary measures to stem the flow of money from our so-called military allies to terrorist groups. These action would actually improve our image and standing in the world, stemming the conversion of people to terrorist ideologies. Terrorism is not the root cause, it is a disease of a much larger problem. Fighting terrorism the way we do would be like trying to fight obesity only by taking care of children once they become obese while still serving McDonald's quality food in school cafeterias. This wouldn't make sense to most people, but is the same approach that the United States government has taken to fighting terrorism.

Our current policies to fight terrorism would be like fighting obesity by limiting access to uncooked vegetables in school cafeterias. Our current policies to fight terrorism only make the problem worse, as the research has shown.

If I were hired with my international politics education to design a policy plan in order to increase terrorism across the world based on the research I would do the following:
  1. Increase barriers to travel globally, to make people see only  the bad things in other countries.
  2. Increase support for state sponsors of terrorism.
  3. Create a culture of fear and intimidation in the media that everyone is trying to attack everyone else.
  4. Purposefully and indiscriminately bomb third world countries and support allies which create proxy wars in third world countries.
  5. When we are done invading countries and bombing the bloody shit out of their civilians, do not build infrastructure or set up economic systems to give people a path to stability. This will increase the number of suicide bombers. Leave the people poor and angry, and they will want to kill you for destabilizing their home.
This is the ongoing policy of the US government and powerful interest groups.

We need to fight the root causes of terrorism if we are ever to increase peace and prosperity across the world, and ensure that the policies we have in place which we claim are there to reduce terrorist attacks actually work. The current policy of the United States government only increases terrorism globally and must be reversed as soon as possible.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Smoking, must accept, disabled, denied

This is a short post, but the premise is simple. If you are disabled in the United States there's no state in the country which protects your ability to get health care is the affordable health care act is repealed.

On the otherhand, if you smoke then there are several states which allow them to charge you more than average, but you cannot be denied health insurance in any state.
Thus is the reality of America without the Affordable Care Act, children born with down syndrome or cerebral palsy once were denied health insurance, and if their family makes more than a certain amount they will not have access to Medicaid. On the other hand someone who chooses to ingest poison into their lungs putting them at risk for dozens of symptoms cannot be denied health insurance and in some states cannot even be charged extra for it.

The Republican health care plan is cruel and makes no sense.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Swastikas and Hammer and Sickles

While getting a glass of water at school today a schoolmate walked over. His shirt was colorful and it looked like it might have been from Firefly, so I looked at it.

It was a communist shirt.

After spending years of my life studying political economy at school and reading all of the great political philosophers I have come up with two major points on communism.

  1. The only major issue Lenin and Marx disagreed on was whether communism would evolve naturally from society or whether it could be sped up and skip over the capitalist stage. Everything else is identical and the Soviet Union was an accurate implementation of Marxist thought.
  2. The Communists and Fascists have one big difference between them in terms of how their countries function. Communists are more likely to kill you. (based on the death tolls of the Holocaust vs. Holodomor, Great Chinese Famine, Gulags, and multiple other artificial famines across the Eastern Bloc in the 20th century)
This is why when I see someone wearing a hammer and sickle I feel deeply offended. I have friends in the Soviet Union, and my older friends there were close to people who were murdered by the Soviet despots. The other thing is that the Soviet Union would have stayed allied with Hitler to the end of World War II if Hitler hadn't been the biggest tactical idiot of the 20th century with his decision to invade. They had no problem with the Holocaust and had a record of antisemitism themselves. That is why the Jewish Autonomous Oblast exists today. It is a legacy of extreme anti-semitism. Yet another similarity between Communism and Fascism.

The worst part of all is that this fool decided to wear a hammer and sickle on 4/20, the biggest holiday for Fascists.

Please don't wear Hammer and sickle shirts. This German American whose family lived through the Third Reich has friends in the Republic of Georgia and Russia. I find them highly offensive and just DON'T DO IT. Just throw on your Iron Cross and Swastika over your hood while brandishing the flag of ISIS if you feel like you have to display offensive imagery. Just DON'T DO IT without understanding the history of the imagery you are displaying in public.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

3 years in advance, 2020 prospects

Trump's first 100 days have been relatively uneventful compared to what it looked like 3 months ago. He failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has reduced his plans for the border wall. On the downside he has approved more pipelines, implemented a hiring freeze for the government, and slashed funding for services we rely on, like the EPA, FDA, and many other agencies we depend on. Some decisions are more nuanced, such as the actions in Syria, and it remains to be seen whether our increased involvement in Syria will defeat ISIS. He banned refugees which hurts the fight against international terrorism. His protectionist policies threaten our economy. He praises Putin will claiming NATO allies need to pay up. Officials from multiple intelligence agencies expect meddling by Russia in our election. We have seen more nepotism in this administration than any other in living memory. He removed environmental reviews for many infrastructure projects, putting our health at risk. Despite critizing Obama for vacation he already has spent more on vacation than Obama did per year on average. The very fact that he tried to repeal health care without a reasonable approval shows he does not care about the average American and is just looking for

In 2020 we are going to need a change of pace to reinstate the services he has already cut. The next president of the United States is probably in office already, and is likely either a governor or senator currently. Trump is the first president to not be a sitting Senator or governor since Eisenhower, and most Presidents in history have been one or the other. In order to be an effective candidate the Democratic nominee will need to be:

  1. Someone who understands science and listens to professionals in order to make the right decision.
  2. Someone without a history of corruption. I will only consider governors from the top half of states because of this.
  3. Someone with a good media presence and excellent speaking skills.
  4. A strong progressive background
  5. Popular
The first metric I think we should examine are the most popular politicians in America. On this metric Bernie Sanders stands out as the most popular politician in America. People know who he is and his policies are popular enough for him to get +29 points (favorable - unfavorable) in a Fox News poll. The other polled was for Elizabeth Warren who also polled positively, despite only 70% of respondents knowing who she is (a massive improvement from previous polls). A Sanders-Warren or Warren-Sanders ticket would blow Trump out of the water in 2020 if they chose to run. Bernie Sanders is doing the best in primary polls right now, although it is certainly too early to call. Sanders and Warren match all 5 requirements I can think of in order to be a successful president. O'Malley also won a poll in Iowa, and he would be a fantastic president.

When it comes to governors, the following are at the top of the list:
  1. Former Delaware governor Jack Markell was the most popular Democratic governor in the nation with 66% approval, 5% more than Bernie Sanders. He has been a leader on lgbt rights and the environment, and has improved state campaign finance laws. He would be a great President if he chose to run. Delaware scores well on corruption rankings.
  2. Mark Dayton of Minnesota is the second most popular Democratic governor in America currently at 61% percent approval, but he doesn't have the strong anti-corruption record of Markell. Minnesota scores very well on corruption rankings.
  3. John Hickenlooper already can't walk into a room without people asking him to run for president, like when he was on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me a few weeks ago.  He has an amazing economic policy, strong on gun control,  and is in favor of marijuana legalization. He would be a fantastic president. Colorado scores very well on corruption convictions.
  4. Kate Brown of Oregon is enjoying 58% approval and is strong on all metrics. Oregon is the least corrupt state in the nation.
  5. Jay Inslee of Washington is at 56% approval and a strong progressive on most issues, despite opposing Initiative 732. Washington is the second least corrupt state in the nation.

So, my ideal primary would see Bernie Sanders (who will likely win) on the stage with Kate Brown, John Hickenlooper, Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee, and Mark Dayton. These are 6 individuals who do the best they can given their available information and we would be lucky to have any of these individuals as our next president.

More details:
Candidate Age on 20 January 2021 State
Kate Brown 60Oregon
Jay Inslee 69 Washington
Elizabeth Warren 71Massachusetts
Bernie Sanders 79 Vermont
John Hickenlooper 68 Colorado
Mark Dayton 73 Minnesota

The first thing about these heavy hitters is that they are all fairly old to be President. Most Presidents have usually been in their 50s with an ordinary bell curve with the median at 55. Obama was 48 when he became President, Clinton was 46. All other Presidents since Kennedy have been older. Trump is the oldest President ever at 70 years old upon inauguration. These 6 candidates are all very good people but also would continue to be yet another baby boomer President. It would be ideal in my opinion to have a younger President (like Obama, the most successful since LBJ by a wide margin). All of these candidates had the opportunity to run in 2016 and only one of them did.

For younger politicians, the following spark my interest:

  1. Senator Tammy Duckworth is a veteran from Illinois with an excellent record.
  2. Keith Ellison is a representative (the only President elected from the House so far has been Lincoln) but a strong progressive voice for our country.
  3. Kamala Harris of California has a fantastic record as a prosecutor in California and I expect great things from her.

There are not very many ideal presidential candidates in America today. The Democratic Party has failed  to get a pipeline of candidates from the local level to be a dominant force in politics like the Republican Party has done. They need to fight gerrymandering and voter discrimination now in order to be a competitive party nationally. Until this happens we will continue to see the Republicans rule the country at all levels of government. But, we have 9 great choices for President, hopefully one will win the election in 2020 and make Donald Trump the first one term president in a generation. We can do it, if we choose to.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Seattle vs. Munich

Seattle has twice the population of Munich, less than 10% of the light rail, and the train (singular) has 1/3 The frequency of the Munich system. It also costs more.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Peace in the Middle East

The current situation in the Middle East is caused by numerous factors which make war almost inevitable without serious changes in the reality of the region.

  1. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, driven partially by religion with both countries supporting terrorist groups abroad. (sources)
  2. Rivalry between the United States and Russia supporting and opposing governments in the region. The United States is allied with Saudi Arabia and Israel, and Russia is allied with Iran.
  3. There is very little trade between Sunni and Shiite states, making war far more likely.
  4. Colonialism created boundaries which do not take into account the ethnic and religious diversity of the region. Iraq, Yemen, and Syria are the most seriously harmed by this policy. They are multi-ethnic states (which can sometimes work) but lack the institutions to govern a diverse people effectively. Turkey used to be a major player in the region and they were able to keep the Kurdish regions, historically harming the Kurds creating rebel groups which were supported by Russia.
We see today the invasion of Syria by the United States, a historic moment where we have transitioned from supplying the rebels to actively bombing ISIS. ISIS is a terrorist organization which needs to be eliminated, but terrorism in the middle east will continue until we target the causes of terrorism. The root of this is the Sunni-Shiite divide. The majority of attacks by terrorist groups are done in more multi-ethnic states and non-Muslim states. You do not find many attacks in Riyadh or Tehran. Partially this has to do with the stability of those regions, causing fewer potential recruits and also because Al Qaeda has its historic roots in Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah has support from Iran. All of this combined means they are far safer. Oman which is neither Sunni nor Shiite also has almost no terrorist attacks, being Ibadi, another branch of Islam. They maintain good relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. This, combined with their wealth, helps explain why terrorist attacks in Oman are rare.

If we want to fix the mess in Syria we will need to start by having Saudi Arabia and Iran talk with one another and have better relations. Trade between the two countries and cooperation for a more prosperous Middle East will quickly reduce the terrorism the countries finance bringing stability to the region. Countries increasing their trade and improving relations with both regional powers will also help those individual countries avoid future conflict. There are definitely other factors but I believe these two will make the largest effect.

My heart aches for Syria and I wish that the people had the government they deserve.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Better Budget Process

If I were to design the budget of a country I would do it completely differently from how any country in the world does it. I would throw out the opinion polls (which can easily be manipulated) and close the doors to lobbyists and interest groups for the drafting process, in order to prevent corrupting the entire system. A group of economists would then be tasked with estimating the multiplier effects of every government program and modeling how the multipliers decline following the law of diminishing marginal utility as you get more of a good, the amount of added benefit declines. This is how we determine whether the government should spend $1 million or $1 trillion on education, whether we should give a universal basic income of $0, $1000, or $5000 per capita to maximize the well being of our country.

The computer model would then list the multipliers of every government program. This is different based on different government programs, food stamps have a multiplier of 179% while the military has a multiplier of around 50%, every type of spending has this metric which is one way we should guide how we design our budgets. We would start off with estimates of how much the multiplier is for every dollar and then claculate the budget increasing spending until the marginal benefit of the last dollar spent is equal to the marginal cost of the different types of taxes and government borrowing to finance the government spending. The computer would keep increasing spending in one program until the multiplier is equal to the expenditure of the next valuable program and keep increasing spending until the marginal benefit of government spending is equal to the marginal cost of taxes and borrowing. This will help money move to more productive uses and grow our economy as much as possible. Every year we would get a better understanding of how different forms of government spending and taxes behave in the real world and adjust spending accordingly. During a recession we would likely continue to practice counter cyclical fiscal policy to make our economy run smoothly.

Another guiding principle to government spending will also be to reduce risk for the economy as whole so that the decisions people make will take in externalities as much as possible. We will almost certainly have a carbon tax with such a plan, as well as a rule of no bailouts under any circumstance with this guiding principle of people seeing the consequences of their actions.

After the model budget is proposed it would then go to a vote in Congress and be available for public comment, but such a budget would be better for the economy as a whole, and if we have a good Congress working for the benefit of the country would hopefully vote for such a budget. Some programs for public safety might be implemented on top of the budget if they are not covered by the number crunching computer, it is hard to tell without building the model. It is likely the media would manipulate public opinion against such a plan, meaning the enacted budget would probably be worse than our optimum budget. At the end of the day however, it is better to start with the best plan possible to get our most optimal final result.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Accurate world maps

I've been into geography longer than I can remember. I have enjoyed reading maps since I was a child and have a large personal map collection. In 5th grade I won my homeschool geography bee and after taking the test was one of the 100 children in Washington State selected for the State Geography Bee. It is rare for me to meet someone as good as me in geography and direction.

Boston Public Schools has chosen to select the Galls-Peter projection as its projection of choice for its school as opposed to Mercator because it is an equal area projection which shows Africa as a massively huge continent relative to others.  They are doing this as a way to emphasize the size of Africa, but there are many better ways to accurately display the size of Africa (over 3 times the size of the US) without stretching the shapes of landmasses to the point of being useless. It is true that the size of Africa is massive, and while Gall-Peters accurately displays the relative sizes it is hard to actually understand the meaning of this the way the map is drawn. While Mercator emphasizes relative shapes while making relative sizes absolutely distorted.


Gall-Peters and Mercator inversely ruin the polar regions and equatorial regions so the only areas which are somewhat accurate are the temperate zones. I do not recommend either projection for this major reason. Mercator is good for drawing distances when you cross the sea, which is why it is so popular, but for someone learning geography neither projection is accurate enough. I would not put either one on the wall of a child's bedroom.

When choosing a world map which is accurate in size and useful, it is important to understand there is no one perfect way to represent the world except as a globe. This however means you can only really see about one third of the world at a time, making it useless for many purposes, so an accurate flat map is necessary.

This is the biggest challenge of cartography. It is physically impossible to accurately represent the world as a flat map. There are a few good examples, and none of them are perfect squares because it is literally impossible to make a decent map of a globe as a rectangle. Any map showing the world as a rectangle will be significantly distorted in one way or another to the point of being a poor representation of the world.

Some projections get size as close as possible, the best way to do this is a sinusodial projection the disadvantage is that the shapes of continents are almost worthless:

I am fond of the Robinson projection which the National Geographic Society uses because it has a nice balance between relative sizes and maintaining the shapes of continents. There is distortion near the poles, but this is easily supplemented by using the corners of the map to show polar regions, which National Geographic has done in many of their maps I have.

I really like a recent projection from Japan called Authagraph because it accurately shows relative shapes of continents in a way which is particularly useful for mapping the movement of people around the world. The advantage to this map is that it keeps both shapes and sizes very accurate. The areas which are distorted are now areas of the ocean which for most mapping purposes are not useful (unless you are an oceanographer, in which case it would be a terrible choice). I particularly like how every continent is shown in full, helping people understand why Antarctica is a continent and Greenland is an island (another good way to illustrate this point is a Robinson projection which focuses on elevation and ocean depths, which makes it clear where plate boundaries are).

For most purposes the AuthaGraph or Robinson projections are two excellent ways to accurately describe the world preserving both size and shape as accurately as possible. Authagraph has the advantage that it can literally be folded into a globe it is so accurate, which you cannot even do with Robinson. If I were designing the walls of a 3 or 4 year old I would likely put an Authagraph projection on the wall, and have a Robinson projection somewhere else in the house.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

CBO has too narrow a focus on health care

On the CBO's front page and all the headlines are about reducing the deficit. The talk about the health care law is only focused on how it will reduce the federal deficit, not how it will effect the actual amount Americans spend on health care. Here is the thing, like most reasonable people, if someone said that I can either see the cost of my health care go up by $1000 in my private spending or see my taxes go up by $500 I would rather see my taxes go up by $500 because I am better off. This perception people have which overemphasizes small increases in government spending while ignoring massive costs at the rest of our pocket books is going to ruin our nation, and I am not exaggerating, this has been the result of many well designed studies. We need to see a dollar as a dollar no matter where it enters or leaves our pocket books, to do otherwise is folly.

The CBO leaves out the big issue in this report which is overall health care spending for the country. Read it here: even though they leave out the most important part of any health care legislation in this country.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Women in Washington State Politics

Ok, so I am doing some research right now on the 2016 legislative election in Washington. It's been my research forcus for two days now. There were 302 candidates for all legislative races in 2016, 99 (32%) of which were women, 203 (67%) of which were men. Of these candidates 85 women continued to the general election, or 85.9% of all candidates while only 67.5% of men continued. In the general election female candidates won 51% of all their races and men won 59% of all races (due to there being f-f and m-m races). This further points out that being female does not hurt your chances of winning, in fact with a 20% lead on men in the primaries it might actually improve your chances, with a 6% gain in the percentage of women in the general election versus the primary. The problem lies in the field of candidates and getting women to file to run for public office. I have as many ideas in how to fix that problem as I do in how to get more women studying economics, finance, computer science, and other male dominated professions, none. Merely implementing a quota won't get individuals to file their candidacy.

Primary data

Gender Candidate Candidate Continue Continue Percent continue
Female 99 32.8% 84 38.0% 84.8%
Male 203 67.2% 137 62.0% 67.5%

General Election data:

Gender Candidates Candidates Positions Positions Percent won
Female 84 38% 44 35% 52%
Male 137 62% 80 65% 58%

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Almost Done with The Nation

The Nation is claiming that Hamilton's views were more like Pence, oh, like diversifying the ownership of wealth from the state (classic mercantilism) to an economy where anyone can move forward, or opening up finance to the average person which allowed inventions which created the industrial revolution, maybe they are referring to his record as an abolitionist, or his writing in favor of women's rights (compared to the rest of his 18th century male colleagues with the exceptions of Ben Franklin and John Adams). Or, maybe the Nation is yet another right-wing rag masquerading to confuse and convince progressives to look up to slave owning rapists like Jefferson and Washington who share none of our most important values. They have become yet another venue for "alternative facts" turning themselves into a magazine more like the Breitbart of the left where facts don't matter. I am going to stick with the Economist and NPR which don't make such damning lies.

They also claim that Hamilton was opposed to the constitution, when in fact he was its main proponent writing most of the Federalist Papers which were written for the very purpose of convincing states to sign on to America's current constitution which has survived for over 200 years.

Their claim that Hamilton was in favor of slavery, when the opposite is true.

This is particularly frustrating because I have read great muckracking articles they have published regarding voter discrimination, which means I need it to stay up to date on imporant, and easily verifiable, news which does not get as much press coverage as it deserves. I find it frustrating.

If I see more unresearched tripe in the magazine I will unsubscribe for them as I have with the Russian propaganda sheet Harper's, but I will give them a few more weeks before I tell them to take a hike to Pyongyang.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The end of the Grand old party

Today is the age where the Republican party which was founded as the party of abolitionists will will end its time as the party of Anti-Semitism. This is the biggest question that Paul Ryan must answer in the coming months.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trump the mercantilist, part 1

Trump is currently working on making America a manufacturing based economy again, focused on oil drilling. Manufacturing based economies are called secondary economies and petroleum drilling is an example of a resource extraction economy,  or primary economy. These terms are useful because they are now precise. The problem is that America has become a service based economy with much higher productivity than secondary economies like India. A programmer producing a program is more productive (as in the product creates more value pet hour worked) than someone sitting at a spinning wheel. This is reflected in the persons wages. Countries with secondary economies want to be tertiary with a better quality of life for themselves. Moving backwards doesn't make any sense and will hurt everyone in America.

We have seen politicians move backwards before, particularly in Canada when Stephen Harper moved Canada to become one of the biggest oil producers in the world. As a result the Canadian dollar has depressed in value. This meant Canadian oil is now cheaper abroad, but also that imports to Canada cost more, making Canadian workers have to spend more on imported goods. A few oil executives benefited substantially while everyone else has been harmed.

We are now looking at the same policy in the United States. Reducing free trade and imposing tariffs on other countries in an attempt to increase our exports will force our currency to be devalued in the market. Interest rates on borrowing will increase until the market clears. This means the dollar will crash and he will make our economy go back 100 years as he promised to where we are once again a manufacturing hub, this time with tens of millions of highly trained professionals struggling to make ends meet with the rampant inflation which is necessary for us to become a secondary economy again.

This scenario if everything goes through as he campaigned is also called a recession.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Washington State Legislature Party Breakdown

While looking for maps of the current legislative session by party I came up blank, so I made them myself. Feel free to use and distribute. The map I used as my base is in the public domain. The colors are fairly obvious, with blue being a Democrat controlled district, red being a Republican controlled district, and Purple meaning that the two representatives are from different parties.