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.