Saturday, November 12, 2016

Triumph of Evil

Apologies...

Many apologies to my loyal readers. I have neglected to bless/curse you with my wisdom/rants during the craziest election that the world have ever seen. You have been forced to subsist on mediocre memes ... and precious few of those. I have developed severe case of a personal life which has cut into my writing. I promise to return soon with some political insights/insanity.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Lexit: A Modest Proposal

In case you've been hiding under a rock, you should know that the United Kingdom voted last week to leave the European Union (said leaving is colloquially referred to as Brexit). 17.4 million Britons voted to leave. 16.4 million voted to stay. Now it is on the verge of falling apart. I say, as long as we are breaking up political unions, let's fucking do it. Balls to the wall. London ought to leave England.

Assuming that the Parliament actually petitions the E.U. to leave, Scotland will almost certainly leave the U.K. As the Scottish MP, Angus Robertson informs us, 62% of Scots voted to remain in the E.U. and they don't want to leave. The Scots voted down a referendum to leave Great Britain in 2014, but now they have an economic incentive to leave and rejoin the E.U. As part of the E.U. Scotland can be part of a $14 trillion free trade zone. As part of the a lonely United Kingdom, Scotland would only be part of a $2.6 trillion nation.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the E.U. by but substantial majority of 57%. Now they will likely leave and rejoin the E.U. as well. There is even talk of Wales leaving the U.K. (even though Wales voted to leave). The United Kingdom will be neither United nor a Kingdom. It will just be sad little England and Wales (maybe) and some small scattered islands. Some of those islands might also leave.

London voted to remain by a hefty 60% to 40% margin. So why should the voters of London be penalized for having been born in London and not in Glasgow? The Scottish voters will get their way. The Scots will choose whether or not to leave the U.K. and rejoin the E.U. Why shouldn't Londoners have the same choice? If the Britons can Brexit, then London can Lexit.

At its heart, the Brexit vote is about direct democracy and self-determination. David Cameron promised to "give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice to stay in the European Union ... or to come out altogether." Why stop there? London should have a choice. I think they should leave and rejoin the E.U. for the same reason that the Scots should. But at least give them a bloody choice.

London is certainly large enough to be its own city state. 8.6 million of England's 53 million people live in London . London has a GDP of approximately $572 billion. London would do better as part of the E.U. than as part of a neutered England.

London is the largest port in England and its financial capital. English importers and exporters finance their business in London and then ship goods through London. London is a transportation hub for the rest of England and provides a cosmopolitan venue in which to conduct business for England as a whole.

Of course, the rest of the English would be horribly harmed by the loss of London. But fuck them. London should enact high tariffs on English goods. It won't hurt Londoners much. They'll be able to buy cheap goods from the E.U. Most importantly, London should enact strict immigration controls. England's economy will certainly go straight into the toilet post Lexit. Londoners can't have filthy Englishmen coming in and undercutting the local wages, begging for handouts of the street. Even worse, some of the English could be terrorists bent on destroying the Londoner's way of life.

The English and the Welsh have shown that they are petty, small-minded, xenophobic fools. London cannot be saddled with such bumpkins. London is better off part of Europe than part of England. Lexit is the clear choice.

Note that some of these financial figures have likely changed due to the financial chaos in the wake of the Brexit vote. They are still more accurate than the Leave campaign's figures.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Real Tragedy of Brexit

Last week, British voters voted to leave the European Union (referred to by the rather too catchy term Brexit). Since that time, the FTSE 350 (Britain's largest stock index, similar to the S&P 500) lost £140 billion of value. Britain's currency, the Pound Sterling dropped 11% against the dollar (and dropped a similar amount against every other world currency). The OECD predicts that British households will earn between £3,000 and £5,000 less per year in 2030 if Britain actually does leave the E.U. Every major organization that has examined the problem has predicted that Brexit will hurt Britain.

Namely these:

Despite that, the Britains voted to leave the E.U. The leave campaign was a mixture of scaremongering, xenophobia, misinformation, and flat lies. But I'm not going to talk about that. Jon Oliver does it better:

But the financial costs aren't the true tragedy of Brexit.

Now, the Scots are planning a new referendum on leaving the United Kingdom. Likewise, the Northern Irish will have theirs. Of course, this all makes sense, the Scots and the Irish voted overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U. They'll choose to leave Britain and rejoin the E.U. Strangely, the Welsh, who voted to leave the E.U., are now planning to have a referendum to leave Britain. Secession is contagious. Subdivisions continue.

Brexit will drive people apart.

Every boarder erected adds more distance between the people on either side. Expenses are higher. Profits are lower. Border guards must be paid. Families, friends, and lovers are separated by red tape.

We are hairless apes living on a tiny blue speck in a vast blackness. We are illuminated by a small star at just the right distance not to cook us or freeze us. A large rock from space could end the human race at any moment. We could end ourselves with nuclear weapons. We are in the process of ending ourselves with pollution. Truly, humanity is a delicate thing.

In the next fifty years, we must adopt sustainable energy and agriculture. In the next hundred years, we must reach an equilibrium with the rest of the Earth's ecosystem. In the next several hundred years, we must learn to deflect asteroids headed for the Earth. In the next billion years, we will need to find another planet to live on.

The E.U. benefits humanity.

We must all work together to solve the huge problems facing humanity. To this date, no two European Union members have fought a war. Instead, the nations of the E.U. have traded with each other. Citizens of member states have moved freely in order to make their lives better. Europe has welcomed refugees and participated in international space exploration. Most importantly, the E.U. has pushed hard for reducing CO2 emissions to address climate change. The only truly effective carbon market is a cap and trade system that the E.U. has proposed.

Britain's exit from the European Union puts all that at risk. Britain is the third largest country in the E.U. by population and the second largest economy. It remains to be seen if Britain's exit presages the exits of other nations, but the E.U. is undoubtedly weaker. Britain is undoubtedly weaker. It's unlikely Britain will remain one nation.

When will we stop dividing?

There will always be those who wish to leave any political union, but when are such claims valid? Can ten men on ten acres declare independence from their nation? Can 10,000 men on 10,000 acres?

The human race needs to join together. Not split apart. Until leaving the Earth is an option, leaving political unions should not be.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Breaking: Britain Changes National Anthem

In a surprising move, Great Britain's House of Lords voted to change the country's National Anthem from God Save the Queen, a traditional hymn celebrating the Crown to Those Damned Blue Collared Tweakers, a hit by the 1990's alternative rock band, Primus, celebrating the rich tapestry of manual laborers who use methamphetamines.

The Crown issued a press release saying:

"Although God Save the Queen has served the empire for centuries, the empire is gone. Those Damned Blue Collared Tweakers better represents the new Britain and its strengths and challenges. Plus Primus is a bitchin' band and Les [Claypool] just shreds that bass."

Les Claypool, bass player and the composer of Britain's new anthem, said:

"Well fuckit. That's cool. I never wrote a national anthem before, but why not? Now we're negotiating with the French on the rights to Wynona's Big Brown Beaver."

Post Brexit Exclusive: May to become PM, England to Join New Free Trade Area

On Thursday, May 23rd, British voters voted 52%-48% to leave the European Union. The vote was derided in financial and political circles around the world. But what does it really mean? Yet Another Political Rant is pleased to publish an interview that sheds some light onto the future direction of the United Kingdom. Yesterday, I sat down with a Conservative member of parliament from England. He spoke with us on condition of anonymity.

YAPR: Many have suggested that another referendum will be held that could overturn the results of the last one. Or that perhaps parliament might not honor the referendum and instead choose to remain part of the EU. Do you think there is any way that the United Kingdom might decided to remain even still?

MP: Yeah, well, maybe. Everyone knows we fucked up, but it's too goddamned late. Merkel would have us back if we crawled to her on hands and knees and asked to toss her salad. We're out. That's it. Done.

YAPR: Do you have any inside information as to who might become the next prime minister?

MP: Yes. Theresa May will be the next prime minister of England.

YAPR: Excuse me, you mean, prime minister of the United Kingdom?

MP: Well, for a minute, maybe, but we jolly well pissed away the kingdom then didn't we? Scotland will hold another referendum and leave before you can wipe your ass. They'll join back up with the EU of course. Northern Ireland will probably join up with the rest of Ireland. I expect the Shetlands will join up with Norway and take all the North Sea oilfields with them. Of course the Falklands will be wanting to join with Argentina. Hell the Taffies might even leave and join up with the other sheep shaggers in the North.

YAPR: Is the situation really so grave for England?

MP: It sure as fuck is. Everyone knows the English are a bunch of racist arseholes who are too stupid to bother with. This Brexit vote is the most embarrassing thing since the Munich Agreement.

YAPR: So does England have a plan? How will England address the loss of such a large market for its goods and services.

MP: Oh there's a plan. I've been discussing this with Theresa. Everyone regrets pissing away our sweet trade situation, so we need to build another free trade zone.

YAPR: If England is so reviled how will you be able to sign trade deals?

MP: Well, we have to start at the bottom. To that end, I am working on a deal to for a free trade zone with North Korea, Myanmar, and the Central African Republic. We hope to add countries such as Sudan and Somalia soon.

YAPR: Do you have an other inside news to share with us?

MP: Sure. I need a dirty whore and some nose candy. Sod off.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Cost of Getting Rid of Fossil Fuels

The climate change narrative goes something like this:

The burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil emits large quantities of CO2. That CO2 traps heat from the sun that would otherwise be radiated into space. The trapped heat is causing higher temperatures on average as well as more intense droughts and storms. The changing climate is causing extinctions, diseases, and deaths. Glaciers and polar ice caps are melting and will flood our coastal cities unless we do something. We have to stop burning fossil fuels in order to avoid flooded cities, huge storms, terrible droughts, and other terrifying consequences. The economic costs of changing our energy infrastructure will be huge, but we have to save our coastal cities and ecosystems.

This climate change narrative is wrong.

Melting icecaps and droughts are predicted by the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report. This report is based on sophisticated computer models which use more than a century of weather data. It was extremely thoroughly peer-reviewed and vetted. I'm not arguing with that.

We should stop burning fossil fuels because it will help the economy.

A revenue neutral carbon tax would both help stop global warming and improve the economy. A carbon tax is a tax on CO2 emissions. Those are the emissions that cause global warming. A revenue neutral tax is a new tax which is offset by a decrease in other taxes. In the case of a revenue neutral carbon tax, the government would refund an equal share of the tax revenue to each American.

Coal miners and S.U.V. mechanics would lose their jobs, but solar technicians would gain jobs. So where does that leave us economically? According to Keynesian fiscal multiplier theory (review your macroeconomics 102 here), right back where we started. The carbon tax would depress economic output (lost jobs in the coal industry). Americans would spend their carbon tax refund checks disproportionately on solar and wind power (more jobs in those industries). Because the amount of the tax is equals to the amount of the refund, the effect on economic output (GDP) is neutral.

The carbon tax and tax refund puts money into the pockets of Americans who produce less CO2 than average (those who consume fewer carbon intensive goods and services) and takes money from those who produce more CO2. On average, the wealthy produce more CO2 than the poor (when is the last time you saw a poor man with a private jet). The poor spend more of their income than the wealthy who save more. The monetary redistribution of the carbon tax and refund would stimulate the economy, increasing GDP and with it employment.

But we can do better. There will need to be improved energy infrastructure necessary to support the changes in energy production. Someone will have to build a new energy grid. Because the grid will support the new power sources that will sustain everyone, it makes sense that the government should pay for it. And low and behold, the government has a great source of revenue in the form of the carbon tax. It could take a portion of that tax and use it to build an improved grid. The increased spending would stimulate the economy even more than refunding the entire carbon tax. (Some percentage of the refunded tax is saved. That saved portion does not stimulate the economy.)

Have you seen the flaw in my argument yet? On its own, a carbon tax would make American industry less competitive. A factory in India would be able get its energy from the cheapest source possible (assuming India does not also implement a carbon tax) whereas a factory in Ohio would have to pay a carbon tax or buy more expensive clean energy. Companies would move production overseas. The carbon tax would be exporting both jobs AND pollution. Bad news. But it's easily fixed. The U.S. could simply slap onerous tariffs on goods from countries whose carbon emissions policy was not at least as progressive. As the largest consumer market in the world, every country will fall in line and adopt a carbon tax or something similar.

So there you have it. Of course, climate change is a great reason to implement a carbon tax. The scientific consensus is clear. Humans are causing the climate to warm and that warming will have dire consequences. We will have to address climate change in order to preserve our way of life. But if you don't believe that, fine. No problem. We should tax carbon emissions anyway. It will help the economy. The climate skeptic's economic argument falls flat on its face. Getting rid of fossil fuels won't cost us money. It will be a huge boost to the economy.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hillary's Clinton and the Labor Market

Hillary Clinton has had a rough time so far. Trump has accused her husband of being a rapist and said that she's an "enabler." Berners have accused her of everything from the genocide to sticking chewing gum to the underside of the table.

In the past, I've explained why I was supporting Hillary. I've ripped on Bernie (he deserves more criticism). I've eulogized Ted Cruz. Donald Trump makes fun of himself.

But I haven't praised Hillary Clinton. She deserves more praise. And a foot rub. I'll leave the foot rub to Bill.

The Labor Market

Unemployment is at 5%, the lowest rate we have seen since the recession. Wage growth is improving but lackluster. Recently Business Insider published an interesting piece on the labor market. The number of unemployed people in the U.S. per job opening is down to pre-recession levels (about 1.5 workers per job). The average time to fill a vacancy is up to 26 days. That's the longest it has been this century. Notably the number of job openings per hire has skyrocketed.

hires vs openings

So what to make of this? Either employers are being overly selective, or there aren't enough workers with the skills that employers want. Actually, those are two ways of looking at the same problem. There are enough un/underemployed people to file the job openings, but the job-seekers don't match the job openings. In short, there is a skills gap.

So how should we bridge the skills gap?

Hillary Clinton plans to give a tax credit to companies that employ apprentices. The tax credit will incentivize companies to create apprenticeship programs where they otherwise wouldn't. Companies will only hire apprentices for jobs where they have a need. The company hiring the apprentice has a need, it means there is a skill shortage in that area. Other companies are likely to have such a need. I.e. the skills the apprentice gains will likely be transferrable. The apprentice will contribute to bridging the skills gap.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Climate Change? An Easy Solution!

Okay a Relatively Easy Solution

Okay an Incredibly Hard Solution That's Better Than All the Alternatives

Recently I posted some simple math showing why we need to address climate change. But how, you ask? Big thorny problem, right? Well, yes and no. The solution looks like this:

STEP 1: Move to a carbon neutral economy

STEP 2: Remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere

STEP 3: (Maybe) employ other cooling mechanisms

As usual if you want to skip to the to TL;DR Summary, I won't begrudge you your sloth.

A Carbon Neutral Energy Economy

Step 1 is the easy part. Humans emit lots of greenhouse gases, primarily as a result of food and energy production and transportation. We need to move to carbon neutral ways to heat our homes, commute to work, and grow our food. All of human activity should produce little to no greenhouse gases. We will likely have to use solar power, nuclear power, electric cars, non-traditional fertilizers, and many other technologies. In fact, we don't know what technologies will advance fastest or if there will be new technologies that we can't imagine. The government could subsidize these technologies, but it might choose the wrong technologies or the wrong companies.

A Carbon Market

We should let the market choose the technologies that will save the planet. Friedrich Hayek showed that markets (usually) allocate resouces and set prices more efficiently than central authorities, so we'll let the a market save the planet.

Hippies may claim we can save the planet by sitting in unheated mud huts and adopting a diet of grubs and grass, but they can fuck off. No one will do that. The politics of asceticism are a dead-end. The market has been an amazing driver of technological advancement, but those advances aren't guaranteed to be green. Government can fix that by providing the right incentive: a carbon tax.

Tax carbon dioxide emissions and net carbon emissions will decrease. People will find less carbon intensive ways to do whatever they need to do: light their homes, power their cars, grow their food. It really is that simple. Of course you'll need to tax equivalent activities as well (emitting a ton of methane is equivalent to emitting 25 tons of CO2). There's a downside of course, climate deniers say. A new tax would severely stunt our economy and a lot of people would lose their jobs, right? Not if the carbon is offset with tax credits. At a macroscopic level, an increase in tax receipts decreases economic output, but we won't increase tax receipts. Instead, we will refund every American an equal share of the carbon tax collected. As an added bonus, this will be welcome relief for the poor who (for the most part) are engaging in less carbon intensive activities. Carbon intensive economic industries will suffer. However, the tax used to discourage the activity will be refunded, so low carbon industries will make up the difference. Simultaneously, firms that pollute less will prosper. Firms that pollute more will change their ways or go out of business.

Much of the world already puts a price on carbon emissions either through the carbon tax I just described or through more complex cap and trade system (which works more like the stock market of pollution). I prefer a carbon tax, but a properly implemented cap and trade schema can also work. Skip to the end for more discussion.

What would the tax rate be? It should start low and increase. Not too slowly, but not too quickly. This will give industry time to develop innovative energy solutions. Politicians should NOT be given control over the rate. That would be a recipe for disaster. If Congress ever grows big enough balls to implement a plan like this, they should protect it from future politicians by creating an independent council of economists and climatologists.

Atoning For Our Past Sins

Temperature increases lag CO2 increases, so stopping CO2 emissions isn't enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change. We must also remove CO2 from the air. There are a number of possibilities for doing this. We could bury caron underground in the form of biochar. We could capture it from the air and convert it to methanol. We could fertilize the oceans and let algae do the storage for us. Here's the scary part. We need to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by 592 trillion kg (592,000,000,000 kg) to get back to pre-industrial levels. Current carbon capture and storage costs are around $40 per metric ton (1,000 kg). This would give us a cost of $23.7 trillion to return to pre-industrial levels of CO2. However, that price is likely low for three reasons. First, current carbon capture technology is designed for power plant. Essentially, it's a fitting on a smokestack. Filtering carbon dioxide from the air would be much harder. Second, current carbon storage technology injects CO2 gas deep underground. There's no way we could inject trillions of pounds of gas underground. We'll likely have to pull the carbon out of the CO2 and use it for something or bury it. Third, as we suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, the ocean will start to give off CO2 gas. This is a good thing. There's too much of it there and it's causing ocean acidification, but we don't know how much is there and we'll have to capture and store a lot of that, too. We can only hope that technology will make it cheaper to deal with our CO2 problem, but we can assume that the cost will be on the order of worldwide GDPs.

Unfortunately, bringing down the CO2 levels might not be enough! Temperature changes lag CO2 changes. We will likely have to employ additional cooling methods. We could seed clouds or stimulate volcanic eruptions to reflect more sunlight. Or we could do something even more creative. These are drastic actions not to be undertaken lightly, but we probably won't have much choice. It is going to be expensive, but I'm not even going to venture a guess how expensive.

Of course, we will have transitioned to an economy based on clean, renewable energy, so these global scale projects will benefit from extremely cheap energy, but they will still be expensive. The sooner we stop spewing CO2, the less CO2 we will have to remove and the less the greenhouse effect will heat the Earth. Thus, the sooner we move to a carbon neutral economy (we can do this for free), the cheaper it will be to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere and cool the planet (if need be). Let's save ourselves some pain and adopt a carbon tax now.

TL;DR Summary

  1. Transitioning to a carbon neutral economy can be done for free
  2. Sucking the CO2 out of the air and cooling the Earth will be VERY expensive
  3. The sooner we transition to a carbon neutral economy, the cheaper it will be to fix the CO2 balance and fix the climate

Cap and Trade Vs. Carbon Tax

In a carbon cap and trade scheme, a governmental body allocates or sells a limited number of permits to emit certain quantities of CO2 (or equivalent polluting activity) per year. Polluters are required to hold permits in amount equal to their emissions. Polluters that want to increase their emissions must buy permits from others willing to sell them.

There are several problems with such schemes. First, during recessions, demand for goods and services decreases. This decreases the price of permits and polluters can pollute cheaply. This increases the competitiveness (such as coal fired power plants) of polluters against non-polluters (such as wind-power farms). Secondly, it is easier to set up a carbon tax. Any given activity (emitting methane, cutting down a tree of a given size, tilling an acre of silage) can be taxed at a rate equivalent to emission of a given amount of CO2. It would be much more complicated to set up a comprehensive exchange. It would require farmers, brewers, power plants and many, many other businesses predict their expected carbon output and trade permits with each other. A carbon tax also has the advantage that it allows polluters to pollute above the level that they predict. Put another way, in a cap and trade scheme, there are a fixed number of permits, so the power plant that exceeds its demand late in the year is screwed. There may be no permits left. In a carbon tax system, that power plant simply pays the tax. Of course, the government directly control the amount of pollution under cap and trade, but I feel that it is better to provide economic flexibility (you wouldn't want your mom's pacemaker to shut off because all the permits were used). The tax can always be raised next year if industry exceeds a given level of pollution.

Quantity of CO2 to Remove

The Earth's atmosphere is 5.15×1018 kg of gas. Presently 0.04% of the atmosphere is CO2. In 1850, the atmosphere was 0.0285% CO2. Thus we need to remove 5.9225×1015≈592 trillion kg CO2 to return to pre-industrial levels.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Climate Change Since 1850

Today I came across a most excellent visualization of our changing climate. Ed Hawkins, professor of meteorology at the University of Reading, put it together. The animation below shows the change in temperature above pre-industrial (1850) levels. Every frame is one year.

Scary looking, no? Notice how much faster the temperature is increasing as time goes on? We can expect even more increases. We are remarkably close to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. At 2 degrees, large parts of Manhattan will flood:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Climate Change: The Math

Many people deny humans are causing climate change, but few of them are climate scientists. 97% of climate scientists agree that anthropogenic climate change is really happening. There's tons of evidence.

I'm inclined to agree with the 97% of climate scientists who agree humans are causing global warming, but what if they're wrong? Nothing is certain in life but death. The climate change debate is not as settled as the Nickelback debate. They suck and no one is arguing the point—not even them:

Should we address climate change?

I won't refute all of climate deniers' arguments here. In fact, I don't have to. We can decide whether or not to do something about climate change without being 100% sure that it's happening. Sounds crazy, huh? It isn't. People make decisions with imperfect information about the future all the time. Parents save for toddlers' college education knowing full well that the rugrats might swallow a lego and kick the bucket. Frat boys buy roofies even though their jealous girlfriends might cut off their dicks at any moment.

It Is or It Isn't

Climate change is real or it isn't. The most ardent denier (skeptic) or proponent can agree on that. It sounds simple, but it's an important point. We can't CHOOSE whether or not climate change is real. Hopefully, the scientific consensus is wrong and climate change isn't real. Our temperature measurements are off. But it isn't our choice. It's physics. Humans are causing the Earth to heat up or they aren't.

What's in it for us?

Should we do something about climate change? Let's consider the four scenarios:

  1. Climate change is real and we address it
  2. Climate change is real and we ignore it
  3. Climate change is not real and we address it
  4. Climate change is not real and we ignore it

What would happen in each scenario?

Remember that we can't CHOOSE whether or not climate change is real, but we CAN choose whether to do something about it. Here the doing something about it means spending money to transform our energy infrastructure from a fossil fuels based infrastructure to a renewable energy based infrastructure. We get to choose the top row (do something about climate change) or the bottom row (do nothing).

We can use the model to avoid the worst outcome. That outcome happens if climate change is real and we do nothing. We don't need to put numeric values to the outcomes to know that.

Let's go ahead and put dollar values on the scenarios anyway. For penny pinchers, this is about to get grim. The model below uses some very conservative assumptions about the impacts of climate change. The numbers represent the economic costs to the U.S. this century. They don't take into account any human costs such as injury, loss of life, or extinction of species.

We can also calculate the average outcome (or expected value) of each action. Using gambling terminology, we consider the expected "payout" of various possible "wagers". We calculate the expected value of an action by multiplying the probability of a scenario occurring by the payout (how nice is the outcome). We then do that for each action. So how likely is it that climate change is real? I think 97% certain is a reasonable number, but we can examine multiple scenarios.

Note that it doesn't much matter how certain we are that climate change is real. Even if we are only 30% sure that climate change is real, it is still worthwhile to address the problem. The impacts are so incredibly bad that they far outweigh any costs we take to address the problem. Using this model, we have to be 90% certain that climate change ISN'T real for it to be worthwhile to NOT address it. Even then, we might want to hedge our bets in order to avoid

If climate change is real and we choose to do nothing, we are fucked. F-U-C-T. FUCT! Our way of life will cease to exist. Refugees will flee flooded and scorching hot areas. Tropical diseases will make their way into temperate areas. Wildfires will rage. It will basically be the apocalypse.

If climate change is not real and we choose to address it anyway, we will unnecessarily spend a few trillion dollars on some cool new technology.

TL;DR Summary

  1. Climate change is real and humans are causing it
  2. The worst impacts of climate change are apocalyptic
  3. Even if we aren't certain climate change is real, it is still in our economic interest to address it
  4. We can't risk doing nothing

The Denier's Rebuttal

Many deniers acknowledge that the Earth is getting warmer. It's pretty hard to deny given the temperature data. The 3% of climate scientists that refuse to acknowledge humans are causing climate change. Many of those still acknowledge the temperature data. The Earth is still heating up, they believe, but we can't be confident that humans are causing it yet.

This scenario is a red herring advanced by climate change deniers. Let's consider it anyway.

If we assume global warming is occurring but is not caused by humans, my analysis still holds! Any NATURAL warming that is disrupting human life and the broader ecology, we still need to address the issue!

So what would we do? Well, it isn't clear. If it isn't humans causing climate change, we don't know what is. In order to address, it we need to figure out what is going on and fast! In this case, we need to increase climate research funding. Of course, we need to do that anyway.

Model Assumptions

The estimated economic impact of climate change is estimated conservatively at $3.8 trillion per year by the end of this century if we do nothing. That number includes financial losses from flooded coastlines, higher energy costs, bigger hurricanes, and higher water and agriculture costs. It does NOT include the deaths from storms or heat. It does NOT include any of the costs of the wars that will ravage the earth. But let's roll with $3.8 trillion per year. Now the total cost this century would be $160 trillion.

This model assumes that the costs to convert the American economy to clean, renewable energy would be 1/2 2016 GDP or $8.5 trillion. That number is rather high. In fact, I believe that we can convert the economy for free or close to it. Crucially, if climate change is real, we will have to convert the economy to clean, renewable energy, anyway. We can do it now or later, so that cost has been added to $160 trillion cost of climate change for a total do-nothing-and-climate-change-is-real of $168.5 trillion.

This model assumes that we will only be able to avert half the cost of climate change if we start tomorrow. This is the most uncertain part of this model.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Plight of the Trump Supporter

This blog has spent many words demeaning and dismissing Donald Trump and his supporters. Trump is a reprehensible megalomaniac worth no sympathy, but his supporters are real people. They are numerous enough that it would be foolhardy to dismiss them all as lunatics or idiots (although some of them surely are). So let us examine the plight of the Trump electorate.

Feel free to skip to the TL;DR Summary if you like.

Economic Plight of a Trump Supporter

Much has been made of the racism and xenophobia of Trump's base, but they have real economic grievances. They are disproportionately uneducated and poor in an age of rapid globalization, technological advancement, and increasing inequality. They are also largely white and male—two classes which confer some privilege, but much less than in the past. In short, they are doing badly and wish for a time when they did better. Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again" appeals to them on a personal level (whereas it insults those who never had such privileges).

Immigration

Donald Trump and his base are staunchly anti-immigrant. This is often attributed to racism. That a factor, but it isn't the only factor. Lower skilled individuals are likely to oppose immigration especially in high-GDP countries. Labor mobility may help the broader economy, but lower skilled people compete more directly with immigrants for jobs. Trump's anti-immigrant stance resonates with these people.

Other impacts of immigration are more positive. Immigrants consume goods and services just like those born in the U.S. This consumption boosts the economy and job growth. Immigrants keep the U.S. younger, helping it avoid the demographic cliff.

The flow of illegal immigration has declined significantly. In fact, many illegal immigrants have gone home. The cost of building Trump's wall would likely be around $20 billion with around $750 million annual maintenance costs. It wouldn't slow down illegal immigration much. It would be a nuisance locals. Trump's wall is a pointless boondoggle. If he makes good on blackmailing Mexico to pay for the wall, it will only serve to piss off our neighbor to the South.

Trump has said he'd deport all of the illegal immigrants already here. The cost of said deportation would be $114 billion. Of course, most of that cost would be in feeding and housing immigrants while giving them due-process. Trump might be able to reduce the cost, by denying immigrants due process, but I doubt the judiciary would allow that.

Trade

During the Republican primary, Donald Trump mouthed the standard party lines ("stop abortion", "lower taxes", "legalize assault weapons", etc). Trump did manage to distinguish himself in one area: Trade. Trump opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal negotiated between many Pacific rim nations that would lower trade barriers such as tarrifs among the signatories. The TPP is one of the few bills Barack Obama supports that has more support among Republicans than among Democrats. Trump has even threatened to end NAFTA. (Interestingly enough, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both oppose the TPP and question want to renegotiate NAFTA.)

The simplest effect of trade is that provides American consumers a greater selection of goods at lower prices. After that it gets complicated. The country gains some jobs (in export industries) and loses others (when imports replace domestic production). There is some evidence, that it may help other industries by driving down interest rates. It increases employment and income for those involved in the import/export business. Wages may be depressed beyond the industries directly affected (by affecting the supply of labor at a given skill level).

The effects of trade are complex, but we can be confident of three things:

  1. Trade increases the output of the American economy-it makes us richer in the aggregate
  2. There are winners and loses when trade increases
  3. Lower skilled workers are more likely to lose

The majority of jobs lost are manufacturing jobs. China has been a primary beneficiary, but there are others. Here's the thing: those jobs aren't coming back-at least not all that were lost. Trade has increased employment, wages, and costs for manufacturing firms there and some production has returned to the America, but it has returned in a higher tech form. More machines, more computers, fewer workers. Technology has likely killed more manufacturing jobs than trade, but you can't ban automation as easily as imposing a tariff.

Trade deals are not necessarily a good deal across the board. There are severe problems with the TPP (most notably, its intellectual property provisions). However, Trump's claims that he will bring back manufacturing jobs is bullshit. Trump will more likely start a trade war which will hurt all countries involved.

What to do?

Trump's supporters have legitimate economic concerns that should be addressed. However, we shouldn't just deport 3.5% of the American public or enact illegal tariffs. Rather we should take advantage of the positive economic effects of both trade and immigration while helping out those at a disadvantage. Bernie Sanders has things partially right. Single payer healthcare would help (even if Bernie's plan is flawed). A layoff shouldn't mean loss of health care. Bernie is also partially correct on the education issue. However, four year college wouldn't help most of the victims of globalization and increased automation. Vocational training would help more. Most importantly, we need a more progressive tax structure. The biggest winners from globalization are wealthy people who own corporations that reap the revenues from increased trade. We need to increase tax rates and close loopholes so that the wealthy pay their fair share. That includes TV preachers.

Of course, Trump's message resonates with these people more than a balanced progressive message. Why? It's a simple message. "US vs. THEM" is easier to understand than "globalization is an unstoppable force and that we simply need to adapt". "I'm a great businessman, I've made billions of dollars, and I can fix the economy" is easier to understand than "no you're not, you under-performed financially, and anyway managing an economy is different than branding golf courses".

So how do we tailor a message that the Trump demographic can understand? Bernie Sanders has done that better than nearly anyone else Bernie has said that Wall Street has been preying on the working class for years, that the system is rigged against common people, and the wealthy and corrupt politicians keep the system rigged. Bernie leaves out the racism, hatred, and war-mongering that Trump brings. Hopefully, future candidates will adopt much of Bernie's narrative. Of course, they give us a plan where the math works.

TL;DR Summary

  • Trump supporters tend to be poor and uneducated
  • They are at an disadvantage in the modern job market
  • They oppose immigration (partly) because they compete with immigrants for jobs
  • They oppose trade because they have disproportionately lost jobs as trade has increased
  • Social welfare policies can help to bring up the poor and uneducated
  • Prospective leaders should adopt a populist narrative similar to those espoused by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Man Who Would Be Emperor

Donald Trump knows words. He has the best words.

Yes, Donald. I'm sure that you do. You can't shut up. Now I don't have words. Your de facto nomination has left me speechless.

Donald Trump has been panned by the political establishment ever since he declared his candidacy for President. No more. Senator Ted and Governor Kasich dropped out of the race this week. And now we have this:

It doesn't get much more establishment than the chairman of the Republican Party.

As you well know, my loyal readers, I chose to register as a Republican because I thought my vote would mean more in the Republican primary than in the Democratic one. I chose wrong. I'll be writing in Dwight Eisenhower. I like Ike.

I'm honestly in shock. I didn't think Senator Ted would give up so easily. He might have been able to deny Trump the necessary votes to win on a first ballot at the convention. Of course, when Senator Ted dropped out, Kasich had to do the same. Kasich was drafting behind Senator Ted the way crazy motorists draft big rigs.

I have mocked Donald Trump. I hoped he'd win the nomination. He'd have no chance, I thought. Of course, the American public will see through this pompous, unqualified ass. People wouldn't vote for this blowhard. He's racist. He's elitist.

Now I just feel sick. It isn't that Trump won the nomination. Republican politicians have been cultivating credulity and innate distrust of reason and intellect among their voters for almost fifty years.

George W. Bush proved that lying to Republicans could be fun and profitable, that saying stupid things could be overlooked. But baby Bush colored within the lines. He was G.O.P. royalty. Very different situation.

Or is it?

Actually, this feels a lot like the campaign in 2000. After eight years of good Democratic rule, the Democrats nominate a weak candidate (both Democratic candidates are weak, only in different ways) to run against a clearly unorthodox Republican.

Hillary is weak. As of this writing, her unfavorability rating is 54%. Why don't people like Hillary? I suspect that sexism plays a role but can't prove it. Certainly, the right wing attacks haven't helped. Benghazi wasn't her fault. The private email server wasn't a great idea, but she wasn't the first Secretary of State to have one.

Many progressives don't like her because she isn't progressive enough. She wants to raise the minimum wage to $12/hour rather than $15 (and supports localities that want to raise it higher). She wants to improve the Affordable Care Act rather than start over with a single payer plan. (Bernie's plan is economically infeasible.)

More than anything, I believe it is the an anti-establishment tenor of this campaign that is her undoing. Her long and distinguished record in public service may be her undoing. People are mad as hell and want a revolution. Bernie's revolution will only lead to more political gridlock and a Republican President in 2020. And Trump's revolution will lead to ... who fuck knows? A huge boondoggle of a wall? Racist federal immigration policies? Nuclear armageddon?

And so I ask you all, to support whomever you like in the primary. Just vote for the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Senator Ted We Hardly Knew Ye

Today Ted Cruz suspended his campaign for President of the United States. The world is poorer for it.

Early Life and Education

Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz was born December 22nd, 1970 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. As a child of a Cuban immigrant and an American immigrant, Ted knew what it was like to be different from the time he was a small child. Ted graduated as valedictorian from Second Baptist High School in Houston Texas. In his valedictory speech Ted said:

Jesus said "judge not lest ye be judged" and we should take those words to heart. Just the other day, I heard a classmate belittling a homosexual. He was trying to explain to the poor queen that buttholes weren't for genital penetration. But I say to you, use your butthole however you want and let your neighbor use his butthole however he wants. My classmate argued with me. "But Jesus never got buttfucked." But you don't know that I replied. I asked if Jesus ate oranges. He replied that he didn't know. "The Bible never said one way or another, did it?" I replied. "And you don't know whether Jesus took the dick either."

Ted graduated cum laude from Princeton University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts and majors in public policy and gender studies. He then attended Law School at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1995. He interned at the ACLU and clerked for Ruth Bader Ginsburg who had this to say about Ted:

Ted is one of the kindest, most empathetic individuals I have had the pleasure to work with. He has always been ahead of his time on such important issues as gay rights, the environment, and net neutrality.

Early Career

After law school, Ted took advantage of a Fellowship from the Lambda Foundation to work as an advocate for homeless, transgender youth. He worked briefly for Bill Clinton during the impeachment proceedings. When asked about the case, Cruz had this to say:

This witch hunt is crazy. If the president needs his pipes cleaned, who are we to judge? That man is doing a fabulous job, and he's under a lot of pressure. And I hear he has a huge, delicious cock. Anyway, Hillary doesn't care. In fact, she and Monica used to take care of Bill together. They liked to play a little game called six holes, no waiting.

Ted was appointed Solicitor General of Texas in 2003, a post where he served until 2008. Cruz was the model of discretion as Solicitor General. Whereas most Solicitor Generals have acted as attack dogs for the government, Cruz chose not to argue Texas' side in cases where the state was unjust. Ted has saved many lives of death row inmates, including those of the underaged and mentally ill simply by refusing to respond to appeals. Ted even allowed a ban on dildo sales to expire saying: To be penetrated is a fundamental right right guaranteed by the dildo protection clause. Besides, who doesn't love a nice hard one in the ass?

Senator Ted

In 2012, Cruz ran for Senate. He beat then Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst in the Republican primary and Democrat Paul Sadler in the general election. Cruz ran on a platform of love and compassion, advocating equality for all people regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference. Cruz even called for many immigrants from dangerous Central American nations to be given special immigration status as refugees.

True to his word, Cruz continued his humanitarian mission in Congress. Cruz was one of the few senators to vote for President Obama's Affordable Care Act, saying that the act "is better than no health care reform but [that] we have to do better for our most vulnerable citizens." Cruz introduced several revolutionary pieces of legislation including:

  • An increase in the federal minimum wage
  • Allowing same sex marriage
  • Subsidized sex toys for the handicapped
  • A ban on male genital mutilation

But Ted isn't just a social justice warrior. Ted is a great human being. hen in a radical faction in Congress threatened to shutdown the government, Ted talked sense into them. House Speaker, John Boehner recently lavished praise on Senator Ted:

Without Ted, the U.S. would have lost all credibility in the world. Ted is the nicest, smartest, most genuine human that I have ever met. He used his charm and grace to talk sense into those crazy teabaggers who want the U.S. to default on its debts. We all owe Ted Cruz a debt of gratitude.

Presidential Candidate

Ted is truly out of place in a Presidential election. He has a regal bearing and quiet dignity that doesn't fit in the corruption and filth of a presidential campaign. A presidential election is a far cry from the honorable, non-contact sport of Texas electoral politics.

But Ted has kept himself above the fray. While Ben Carson and Donald Trump called each other names, Ted called for the dignity of all people. When Jeb Bush and John Kasich nearly got into a fist fight, Ted was there to break it up and offer soothing words. He promised them both backrubs if they would just "cool off." And no one knows a good back rub like Ted Cruz.

As always, Ted has called for dignity, equality, and a minimum living standard for all people. Of course, Ted Cruz is out of place or maybe just ahead of his time. Someday, all people will enjoy a living wage and a right to be respected regardless of gender identity. Someday, all children, rich or poor, English or Spanish speaking, will enjoy the right to a good education. Someday, all races will be treated equally by schools, employers, and public officials. Someday, this nation will truly know justice. On that day, I hope we can all look back at Ted Cruz and praise him as a man ahead of his time.

Disclaimer: None of this is true. Ted Cruz is a vicious bigot of the highest order. He's a scumbag who'd let a pack of wild dogs rape his own mother if it would help win an election. He has no friends not even his family.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism

I don't support Bernie Sanders for president. As I have said before, I prefer Hillary (for strategic reasons). Actually, I'm in the anybody but a Republican camp. There may be a lot of great third party, independent, or write-in candidates (I would be a good choice), but don't be naïve. Vote for the Democratic nominee.

You might be surprised to hear that I've given money to Bernie. Early in the campaign, I wanted to support the underdog candidate. I liked Bernie's Democratic Socialist platform (or at least most of it) and I wanted him to get his message out. We need national politicians calling for universal health care and Wall Street reform. Thank you, Bernie for doing so.

Many Bernie fans think the man walks on water. He doesn't. His plans sound good to the most thoughtful people, but they wouldn't work.

Of course, Bernie's plans would be D.O.A. in a Republican controlled Congress. His plans are likely to be too liberal for many Democratic Congressmen from moderate districts. But even if Bernie, could enact his proposals by fiat, they still wouldn't work.

The truly socialist thing about Mr Sanders’s admirably detailed economic plan is not its goals. It is that it is completely unworkable.
-The Economist
A vote for what?, February 13th, 2016

For example, the top marginal tax rate for the highest income earners would rise to 67%. That would discourage those earners from earning more. (Many liberals poo-poo that logic, but it's rock solid. Many of the rich would simply retire early or work less.) Furthermore, many of the rich would emigrate to other countries in order to keep their tax bills low or change investment patterns to avoid other taxes.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has concluded Bernie has highballed his revenue estimates by $3 trillion over a decade. Three trillion dollars. That puts a big dent in Bernie's plans.

Independent analysts assessments of Bernie's healthcare plan have differed. Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University, a well-respected healthcare policy researcher, has concluded that the plan over-estimates cost savings by $1.1 trillion (and that payroll taxes and income tax increases would need to double to cover the difference). Gerald Friedman, a respected economist from Umass believes that the actual cost savings would be more in line with the Bernie estimates. I would be inclined to side with Thorpe. Not because I have run the numbers, but simply because the U.S. Government is a behemoth that tends to run over budget.

It's a crying shame that the media ignores the financial accuracy of candidates proposals in favor of debates on penis size:

Bernie's plans are too Unicorns and Rainbows. I'd like to see an America that looks more like Denmark, too. In some ways, I'm more liberal than Senator Sanders. For example, I support universal healthcare and Draconian carbon taxes. I even support a universal basic income. That's right, free money for everyone. It doesn't get much more pinko than that, right? I'll post more details on these crazy ideas later...

Congress refuses to do its job working with the President to enact meaningful reforms that improved citizens lives whilst avoiding fiscal calamity. If it did, then I'd be happy to have President Sanders elected. Until then, I have to think strategically.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The NFL, Marijuana, and Cyber Security

Don't worry, this isn't about to devolve into a sports blog...

Here look at a picture of dank weed. That will make you feel better. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

For those of you who aren't football fans, the annual NFL Draft took place from Thursday to Saturday this past week. Basically, NFL teams pick college football players. In all, 253 players were selected. The top players sign contracts in excess of $20 million with huge signing bonuses. The players drafted last earn $420,000 per year, but none of that is guaranteed and many are cut before the season even begins. Big money is on the line.

This year, before the draft began, one top pick lost millions. Laremy Tunsil was one of the best offensive tackle prospects in more than a decade. (Offensive tackle the second or third most important positions on the field.) He may have been the best player in the draft. He was projected to be selected somewhere between the third and sixth pick. (As expected, QBs were drafted first because of the importance of the position rather than the talents of the players.) Then this video was posted from his Twitter account:

That's right. That's Tunsil smoking pot from a gas mask bong. Wow. Apparently, some hacked Tunsil's Twitter account. Tunsil fell all the way to thirteen. He was picked by the Miami Dolphins who claimed that they knew of its existence prior to the tweet. This begs the question: did the Dolphins hack Tunsil's twitter account in order to spook other teams so that a great prospect would fall to them? The video was from Tunsil's freshman year. He has apparently been clean since then. He's passed drug tests administered by the NCAA and the NFL.

Shortly after Tunsil was drafted, someone posted to Tunsil's Instagram account screenshots of text messages between Tunsil and an Ole Miss football coach where Tunsil asks the coach for money-a clear violation of NCAA rules. The Dolphins had no reason to post that conversation. They had already drafted him.

Tunsil lost between $8 million and $13 million because of the hacking incident. He lost more money in about half an hour than I'm likely to make in my whole life. Fuck. There are many ways the hack may have occurred. Given that he had multiple accounts hacked, he most likely chose a really shitty password. Let this be a lesson. Choose a good password.

What about Marijuana?

Tunsil got dinged hard for smoking weed ... and he most likely hadn't smoked it in a couple of years.

But seriously, marijuana? Why do teams give a shit if their plays smoke marijuana? One simple reason. It's banned. Not as a performance enhancing drug, but as a drug of abuse. Hypocrisy. Oxycodone is perfectly legal to prescribe, and team physicians do. According to one anonymous player the sport is so violent that players can't play without painkillers.

Many players use marijuana to deal with concussions and general pain from the brutality of the sport. According to one former player, at least 60% of players smoke weed. Players are tested once a year-usually during training camp in August. They can abstain for a month prior to the test and then get high until the following year. But if a player tests positive, he'll be subjected to further testing.

It would be nice if the NFL adopted a more reasonable drug policy. Players can legally get high in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Washington D.C. without a prescription. Players can get medical marijuana is a dozen more states. Every NFL player should be entitled to treat his pain with marijuana.

So why doesn't the NFL change its policy? NFL owners are nearly all old, white men, who fear change. And what's in it for them to change the rule? If they allow weed, they won't gain any new fans, but they might lose advertisers (large corporations run by old, white, men who fear change).

Of course, the forces of legalization are on the march. Twenty five states allow medical marijuana. Bernie Sanders favors legalized weed. As always, Hillary Clinton is more coy. She has referred to states with legal weed as "laboratories of democracy." I.e. she wants to see what happens. Donald Trump unequivocally supports medicinal marijuana, but he isn't sure about recreational weed. And Ted Cruz thinks ... wait ... why do we give a shit about that guy?

Until next time, stoners, I leave you with this video of a MASSIVE gravity bong rip. Oh and don't forget to change those passwords!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

My Ballot Arrived

As I wrote in a previous post, I decided to register as a Republican this year.

When I registered, I felt a sting of shame. I was officially associating myself with a party that opposes equal pay for women, that started the calamitous Second Iraq War under bogus pretenses, that opposes universal healthcare, and that attempted to default on U.S. government debt (an act that would have thrown the entire world economy into chaos).

Of course as you know, lovely, loyal reader, I am only registered as a Republican for strategic purposes. I am voting in the Republican primary in order to hurt the GOP chances come November. Still, I felt ashamed to be officially a Republican.

Yesterday, my ballot arrived and I'm excited!

Sure I always feel good about participating in the democratic process (imperfect though it might be). But there's something extra cool about voting Republican. It feels devious and underhanded. I feel ... naughty. As if I was a high schooler stealing beer from my parents. LOL

Of course, I registered Republican to vote in the presidential race:

But in doing so, I have deprived myself of having a larger say in local and state races. Oregon is pretty fucking blue. The Portland area is an even deeper shade of blue (cobalt blue or ultramarine or some shit). Republican candidates for mayor of Portland? Bahahahahaha. Seriously guys. Republicans ain't gonna win shit locally.

For example, Republicans aren't even competing in the race for House seat for Oregon's third district:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bahahahahaha

Update

I thought my audience would get the above reference but apparently not.

The 1988 Presidential contest pitted George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle vs. Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen. During the V.P. debate, Quayle attempted to dismiss criticisms of his weak presidential qualifications thusly:

Quayle: I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.

Bentsen replied with one of the great lines in modern American politics:

Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

Epic takedown. Watch it here:

Recently, John Boehner has referred to Ted Cruz as "Lucifer in the Flesh". Satanists were not pleased with the comparison. It certainly reflects poorly on Lucifer.

I believe he meant to refer to Ted Cruz as the devil. In fact, Lucifer means bringer of light or morning star ... of course very few modern Americans use the term correctly. Boehner was no exception.

So, interpret the meme as you will. It's pretty hard to argue, Ted Cruz is a piece of shit:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Last Minute Decision

As I sit writing this, I have two hours and four minutes to register to vote ... rather to change my registration. I registered last year at my current address as a Democrat (of course). Then last month, I did something rather curious. I switched my registration to Republican. Republicans are like ISIS supporters. They are either stupid brainwashed creatures, evil brainwashing creatures, or some combination that involves a lot of self-deception. And now I am one. Fear not dear reader. I haven't gone to the dark side. I am more of a sheep-dog in wolf's clothing. I'm planning on voting strategically. As I said before, I have chosen Hillary for complicated reasons.

At first, I planned to vote for Trump. He's so vile and disgusting. He says horrible things about women and brags about the size of his cock on national TV. He has switched sides on nearly every position he ever held. Sometimes, it only takes him a day to change course. He flip-flopped on accepting White Supremacists' endorsements within one day. He changed his mind similarly quickly as to whether women who have abortions out to be punished. He blatantly panders to the prejudices and the short attention spans of average Republican voters. Surely such a vile, shallow, creature could not win a general election against either of the rather well-spoken and thoughtful Democratic candidates? So I decided to vote for Trump.

Then I thought that it would be better if Ted Cruz were nominated. Cruz is the most evil Republican this side of Dennis Hastert. His campaign is similar ISIS' jihad. They are fighting to restore the Islamic caliphate. He is campaigning to restore the Christian caliphate. Cruz is a bit cagier than Trump, though. Or at least more subtle. He doesn't talk about his dick on national TV and more subtly demeans women. I don't trust the (non-Republican) American voter to see through Cruz as easily as Trump. However, Cruz's only path to the nomination is a contested convention. He must stop Trump from winning the nomination on the first ballot and then make a crooked deals with Republican delegates and other candidates to steal the nomination. Trump's supporters will feel cheated and stay home. Many independent voters will vote Democratic in disgust. Bernie or Hillary would certainly be able to beat such a compromised candidate.

Trump needs 1237 delegates vote to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot of the convention. If he garners that number of pledged delegates (who are bound by rule to vote for him on the first ballot), then there shall be no crooked deal in any smoke filled room. Trump will be the nominee. He'll have a clear party mandate. The nominating process will be seen as clear and transparent. Before today's sweeping victories, it looked as if he would fall short. Then John Kasich and Ted Cruz made the disastrous public agreement to cede states to each other. They look weak. Now Trump has taken 105 out of 118 delegates awarded today. (Pennsylvania will award 54 at large delegates through Byzantine procedures and Cruz is likely to get many of them). Trump sits at 950 delegates and needs only 46% of the 622 remaining delegates.

Now Trump is echoing the complaints of many Bernie Sanders supporters who believe that Bernie is being screwed, that Bernie supporters are being prevented from voting, that their votes haven't been counted. Of course, this is rubbish, but the seeds of discord are sprouting and Trump is fertilizing them with bullshit. He's calling for Bernie to run as an independent. Of course, such an action would guarantee a Republican victory in November. (Remember 2000? Fuck off, Ralph Nader.) Will Bernie run as an independent? I doubt it, but it could happen. More likely, the close fought Democratic primary and rumors of voter fraud and disenfranchisement will cause many Bernie supporters to stay home in November.

Oh, wait. I just made an assumption, didn't I? I made the assumption that Hillary will win the Democratic nomination. Well, bank on it. If you don't believe me, go look at the polls again, you filthy Berner. Still don't believe me? Comment below and we can arrange a wager.

Now, I'm considering re-registering (in the next hour and eleven minutes) as a Democrat, so that I can vote for Hillary in order to make clear her mandate...

But I won't.

I won't waste my vote like that. I live in Oregon's 3rd Congressional district. The last time it elected a Republican was 1952. Of course, there will be many more Democratic ballots cast than Republican ballots. My vote will count much more on the Republican side ... however I decide to cast it. Furthermore, this district is very safe Bernie Sanders territory. His brand of Democratic Socialism (which I don't disagree with by the way) speaks loudly to the proletariat here in the People's Republic of Portland.

So I still haven't decided for whom to vote. Only that my registration shall stay Republican. Circumstances may change before I must cast my vote. There are also other considerations than keeping the Presidency blue. There are down ballot races to consider. The top of the ticket has huge influence on lower races. I'll keep you guys posted on my decision process. Stay tuned!

Oh, and if you live in Oregon and read this in the next 55 minutes, don't forget to register to vote!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bernie vs. Hillary

The time is on us again, dear reader! It is election time. Nothing makes me more tumescent than a closely fought, knock down, drag out presidential election. Let's dig in no the Democratic side!

As always, If you are too lazy to read this whole rant, check out TL;DR.

Tommy Carcetti

Tommy Carcetti got knocked out in the early going. I guess that hole in the school budget was too much for the voters to overlook. I realize that I lost have of you guys with that reference, so let me explain. (Skip ahead of you got it.) The Wire was the best show in the history of television. If you haven't seen it, shame on you. Tommy Carcetti gets elected mayor of the majority black city of Baltimore on a in Season 4. His platform is cleaning up the crime in that filthy shithole of a city. Carcetti was based largely on Martin O'Malley who went on to become governor of Maryland and ran a slightly successful campaign. "Slightly" in that his campaign was more successful than those of Lincoln Chafee, Lawrence Lessig, or Jim Webb. Speaking of Jim Webb, wasn't it bizarre when he talked about killing a man on national TV?

I liked Carcetti ... I mean O'Malley. Why? Well he had the best climate policy. His plan would have the US build a zero carbon emission grid by 2050. He kept bringing climate change up during the debates ... even when he wasn't asked. As we all know, climate change is the biggest threat to humanity, so it's kind of an important issue. Bernie and Hillary both have climate change policies that sound pretty good, but they talk more about financial regulation, healthcare, and jobs for the middle class. Don't get me wrong, those things are important, but climate change will cause flooding, droughts, storms, fires, mass extinctions, wars, and disease. Yes, that's right. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are coming riding a wave of coal-fired exhaust. Bernie's climate plan is better than Hillary's in that he advocates putting a price on carbon (maybe a carbon tax even), but he also wants to do away with nuclear power. Decommissioning carbon neutral power plants is crazy. Neither Bernie nor Hillary has talked about climate change as much as other issues. Reducing carbon emissions would have to wait in line behind other plans.

Bernie

Bernie's vision of single payer healthcare is fantastic. He says it would say American families between $3K and $5K. Do his numbers add up? According to Politifact, maybe. He's likely overestimating cost savings and underestimating the necessary payroll taxes. His accounting neglects to consider that payroll taxes are paid by workers NOT by corporations (even if corporations write the checks, the money comes out of paychecks). I have a plan that would address a lot of these issues, but I don't get to be president.

There's another problem with Bernie's plan: implementation. We can't go 0-60 on healthcare. We have too many people working in insurance (approximately 600K). More importantly, there aren't enough doctors and nurses out there. Implementing a single payer plan overnight would be too disruptive. How about we phase it in?

Bernie also wants to let anyone in the US go to a public University for free. That's just a bad idea. Last I checked, public Universities offered art history and Latin and Dance. Taxpayers don't need to be paying for that kind of thing. How about a plan for subsidizing nursing and environmental engineering degrees-degrees in fields with under-supplied labor markets or which contribute positively to social well-being?

Bernie has a bunch of other grand plans. He wants to turn the U.S. into a democratic socialist paradise. Broadly, I support that. I've often advocated that the U.S. ought to see what other countries do well and follow suit.

Bernie wants to break up the biggest banks, but he won't give us details how.

Hillary

She's boring. She's basically the same as any other politician (aside from being wicked smart with an incredible resume for the job of president). She takes money from the rich, from the finance industry, from other nasty people. She got paid LOTS of money to give speeches on Wall Street.

Hillary voted for the Iraq War in 2002. (Bernie voted against it.) This was disastrous. As we all know, Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and the U.S. case for war was built on bad information, bad intentions, and outright lies. On the other hand, lots of people believed the case for war. 77 out of 100 Senators voted for it. 29 out of 50 Democratic Senators voted for it. The Bush Administration's case for war was fairly convincing. I wasn't convinced, but then I've never believed anything those lying pieces of shit have said.

Hillary's health care plan isn't single payer (which would eliminate a lot of overhead). Bernie's is broadly single payer (although he unwisely would allow states to administer much of the plan). Hillary would offer a few more tax incentives to help people to join the government health insurance exchanges-a pittance really. On balance, Bernie's health care plan is much better.

Despite what your liberal pundits tell you, raising the minimum wage will cause job losses. We still need to raise the minimum wage, but it would help lower skilled workers more to give them benefits aside from their pay so that their pay will stretch farther. For example, if a minimum wage worker doesn't have to pay for health insurance or childcare, that $7.25/hour might be able to cover rent and food. Bernie supports a $15 minimum wage nationwide. Hillary supports a $15 minimum wage with caveats-that it should be phased in gradually and not apply to areas of the country with lower costs of living. Hillary's plan would certainly cause fewer job losses.

The 2020 Election

But wait? Aren't I skipping ahead? What about the 2016 election? Sure. The 2016 election is happening right now, but the choices we make have implications for 2020 and to really understand those implications, we have to go back to the 2010 election.

The 2010 Election

The 2010 election came on the heels of the passage of the Affordable Care Act a.k.a. Obamacare. Obama had swept change into office in 2008 and the democrats held majorities in the House and Senate allowing him to pass this landmark piece of legislation. Republicans and conservatives were raging pissed. Democrats and liberals were fat and happy. Republicans demolished Democrats in those elections. Republicans gained 63 seats in the House of Representatives and flipped that chamber. This was the largest seat change since 1948 and the largest midterm seat change since 1938. They also gained six seats in the Senate (seven if you include Scott Brown's victory in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy who had died earlier that year), nearly flipping that chamber. Twenty state house chambers flipped from Democratic to Republican control leaving Republicans in full control of 26 state legislatures.

Because of that strong performance in the 2010 state legislature races, Republicans controlled redistricting in 17 states and 173 congressional districts whereas Democrats controlled redistricting in only six states and 44 congressional districts. The Republicans pressed their advantage by gerrymandering those districts thus securing a huge electoral advantage. This gerrymandering has effectively disenfranchised the American electorate. Nor was this outcome happenstance or merely the end result of many different political efforts. The Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based political group founder in 2002 dedicated to electing Republicans to state offices put together a two stage plan: take over as many state-houses as possible, and redraw districts to favor Republicans. Because most states allow state legislatures to redraw their own districts, this is a self-perpetuating phenomenon. Republican state legislators have redrawn their own districts to their own benefit so that the next time districts are redrawn, they will have an even tighter control on the process. Of course, a huge prize, control of the House of Representatives hangs in the balance. In 2012, Democrat house contestants collected 1.4 million MORE votes than Republicans. Yet Republicans won 234 seats to Democrats' 201.

Needless to say, gerrymandering is a huge threat to fair and reasonable government.

The 2020 Election

Redistricting will occur again in 2021 following the 2020 election. This election is hugely important. Of course, we can't predict what will happen in the next four years. Most of us have little control of our state legislative races. Some may live in swing districts. But what about the Presidential race? Certainly, strong presidential candidates provide support for down ballot candidates of the same party (the Coattail Effect). There also exists a "negative coattail effect" whereby a weak candidate exerts negative influence on his party's other candidates.

We must elect state legislators in 2020 that will de-gerrymander the U.S. House districts and their own state legislative districts. No fuck that. Let's gerrymander the fuck out of them. Let's gerrymander them in favor of Democratic candidates. It may not be fair, but we know that Republicans will gerrymander those states where they have the advantage and the only way to combat that is for Democrats to gerrymander those states where they control the statehouses.

So Hillary or Bernie?

Barrack Obama ran on ambitious platform of "Hope and Change". He actually delivered A LOT including health care reform, multiple treaties on nuclear weapons and nuclear material, and oversaw the distribution of a huge federal stimulus that helped the U.S. recover from the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Still, he got remarkably little credit for it. During the election year of 2012, his approval ratings average below 50%. American voters were simply not satisfied.

Bernie promises a Kuhnian shift in politics. He says that he will break up big banks, enact single payer healthcare, raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, and provide a free college education to all who want it. A rainbow in every garage and a unicorn on every plate. Whatever you think of his platform, it ain't gonna happen. Congress won't pass all of it. They probably won't pass much. Bernie will probably generate more enthusiasm and turnout than Hillary and may end up working with a smaller Republican majority than she would, but the country is too far gerrymandered to win the house and the Democrats' chances at picking up the Senate are middling.

Fair or not, voters have refused to accept an obstructionist Congress as an excuse from Obama (not that he needs one) and they are unlikely to accept it from Bernie either. In 2020, Bernie will have to run on that excuse. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he can accomplish some meaningful yet incremental reforms, but that will be the limit. The revolution will not be televised because it won't happen.

Meanwhile, Hillary is running on a platform of pragmatism, incrementalism, and good government. It isn't clear to me whether she will be able to accomplish more or less than Bernie, but she has promised only incremental reform. Bernie is destined to fall short. Hillary might meet expectations.

Therefore, I endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States of America. I also think she is extremely intelligent, hardworking, personable, and incredibly experienced. I don't want to sell short her virtues, but I am endorsing Hillary because of Bernie's weakness: unrealistic promises and expectations.

But Hillary is such a ________

I have heard a lot of bad things said about Hillary. I chalk a lot of it up to sexism. For instance, she has been criticized for shouting or frowning even though Bernie shouts and frowns more than she does. I'll refer you to the Daily Kos for an interesting breakdown of Hillary criticisms, but I'll steal one infographic from the article. Both Hillary and Bernie are remarkably honest by political standards:

TL;DR Summary

  1. Republicans are evil and must be stopped
  2. Republicans maintain power through gerrymandering (unfair drawing of legislative districts)
  3. The next redistricting occurs in 2020
  4. The 2020 election is of outsized importance
  5. A strong Democratic candidate can help elect state legislators through the coattail effect
  6. Bernie Sanders makes unrealistic promises and has outlandish proposals
  7. Republicans will continue to control congress, so Bernie won't be able to deliver
  8. Hillary supports incrementalism. She might be able to deliver.
  9. Support Hillary!!!