Our society in America is broken. You can see this everywhere in any number of ways, but one of the most obvious ones is in the area of Politics. Our government is formed on the idea of representational democracy where we the people elect congresspeople to discuss and enact laws that (for the most part) reflect what we Americans want. As we all know this isn’t happening. I can point to many examples and I’m sure you can as well.

The overall idea is that in this nation of free people with free speech, we the people can achieve almost anything. But in practice, that’s not working out very well. I frequently point to the fact that money has corrupted government but at a more fundamental level, the real issue is that we the people are not exercising our free speech. We are not communicating well at all. Large media and tech companies are stifling our ability to organize and communicate and effect change.

Please take a few moments to read this article in Wired Magazine titled “It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech” by Zeynep Tufekci. The central argument here is that Facebook, Twitter, etc. with their super algorithmic feeds do a disservice to gathering attention and consensus. I believe that It’s actually even harder now for people to discuss things then it was 15-20 years ago.

This is a solvable problem. Its my view that we simply need to make a tool that will enable and foster quality conversation and debate in our society. I alluded to this in my last post when I talked about “Conversation Rank”. It’s an idea that has stuck with me for many years and one I can’t shake.

I haven’t started building this yet, but I plan to very soon. I don’t claim to have it all figured out. My hope is that it will grow and crystalize as I make more and more progress. And I also hope that others will help me by commenting or contributing effort to building it with me.

Here are some general ideas (note that I’ve changed the name of the CR to “Reputation Level”)

Reputation Level

  • Your reputation level is everything
  • You can tie one reputation to one email address. I’m not sure how to make it so that one person is forever tied to one RL but it’s something I plan to build out more.
  • Levels are incrementally harder to achieve.. Each should be one order of magnitude harder than the last
  • You can go up and down in reputation
  • People with higher reputations carry more weight when determining ‘quality’ of posts
  • Any user can set their ‘read level’ to whatever they would like and the site will filter out all content by people of levels below that ‘read level’ thus the site won’t become cluttered with crap for users who care about serious things


  • Posts are collected in topics (like sub-reddits) which are created by users. Every topic has a ‘write level’ and the topic creator (who becomes the topic ‘owner’) can decide the minimum write level. It can’t be higher than his/her reputation level. Not sure if this level should be allowed to change
  • Posts can contain any content (scripts, binary data, text, etc)
  • Posts can be upvoted/downvoted by all users with reputation weighting the power of their votes

Gaining Reputation

  • People can upvote/downvote any post (like reddit). Their weighted votes have an effect on your reputation
  • We publicize how we compute reputation so people can hopefully act the way we want them to
  • One shouldn’t be able to gain a lot of reputation from just one super popular post. We need to make a formula that takes into account the quality of all of their posts.

The Resistance

When George Bush was president and was faced with accusations about warrantless wiretapping, he was faced with a sick amount of resistance and outcry. I remember this. I was one of them. On that and many other issues, we were out in the street protesting. And we changed things. Maybe not directly, but we affected decisions, we made our leaders think about what they were doing. Resistance is super good for our Democracy. It’s a very vital check on the power of our government.

Which is why I was so upset when that resistance dried up once Barack Obama took over the white house. He took Bush policies like domestic spying, and the drone wars, and others.. and ramped them up 10 fold. And yet, not many people complained. In fact, we all rallied behind him and elected him for a second term.

But now it’s clear that The Resistance is back with a vengeance. And I’m pretty happy to see that. I think it’s important for us to pay attention to the minutia of politics. It’s important for us to care who leads the Interior Department (here’s an old post of mine about Obamas). I encourage all of you to push back on our new president. I think we should push back on all presidents when they do things we disagree with.

Right now I think a huge amount of our pushback is not coming from the right place. I think we are kind of like sheep, following the Democratic/Liberal media machine in just resisting the Donald on general principal. This, I think, is wrong. Very wrong. What I want to see is people getting upset about specific issues. Right now, that’s hardly how it is. We have blanket hatred of the president.

Take for example his order regarding the TPP. The TPP was a really, really bad deal for non oligarchs. We all (hopefully) know this by now. The Donald put an axe into it yesterday and everyone started saying stuff along the lines of “Oh, well that was dead already, it’s not significant that he signed that order.”. Nope, what if he signed an order saying he wanted to be part of it instead? We are giving the man hate 100%. I’m not sure that’s the right way to do this. I don’t think we can sustain it either.

Another example is his abortion related order yesterday. This is something that isn’t specific to Donald Trump. This bounces back and forth with every administration when they change parties:

The policy has been enforced off and on since it first took effect in 1985. Democratic administrations have traditionally rescinded the policy, while Republican administrations have reinstated it.

Even during the Obama years, US law banned direct funding for abortion services.

(from here)

Is it a big deal? Sorry, no it’s not. Is it because DT is evil? Again, no. Any Republican president would have done the same thing.

In my opinion we need to pay attention to whats going on and stay focused. When we see things we disagree with we should stand up and fight like crazy but lets not simply be one mindless group of protesters. Lets choose our battles carefully.

“Fake News” is a propaganda term. Don’t buy into it!

Be careful in todays world when you use (and buy into) terms like “fake news” or “echo chamber” and “conspiracy theory”. While there is some truth to the meaning and usage these terms as they are defined, there is also a lot of harm. Because, remember that all of these terms serve to stifle people asking questions and coming up with alternative viewpoints and subverting the status quo.

It’s easy for me to be skeptical when I hear “beware of fake news”, because I immediately hear something different : “Only listen to the respected, mainstream news sources”. If we are being kept in line by the media, this is one very effective way to keep us hooked into the message the elite ruling class is trying to sell us. Personally I have always been skeptical of everything I’ve read and I’ve taken time to either second source things I take as fact or defer to others who I trust to do that diligence on my behalf. Just because someone is a blogger or just because an article doesn’t come from the New York Times doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Same with “echo chamber”. In many ways this feels to me like an attack on us sharing things that we feel are important or that we feel needs to be read by others. If we are fearful of sharing things because it will make us seem like lemmings then things don’t spread and it’s very possible that our public becomes less informed.

I strongly believe that while there is no overt conspiracy to control us as a people, there are subtle biases by our media that naturally conspire to sell us ‘the story’. I have often complained about how I feel the media has let us down and I still very much believe that. Because of that, I feel obligated to fight that erosion of the truth by posting (and reposting and sharing) things that I feel are relevant. If you choose to label me as a conspiracist or as an echo-chamberist or a fake news/propiganda passer onner, that’s your decision. But I’m a very smart and aware human being. I am not a sheep. So follow me knowing that or be led by the elites. Cause we know how well that’s been working out.

homes underwater

Lets talk a second about sea level rise with climate change and how many homes ($800 Billion worth) are literally going to be under water by the turn of the century.

I remember reading an article a year or two ago about a town in North Carolina where politics deep-sixed a study that showed that all of their homes would be under water by the end of the century. After they killed the report, all future studies were limited to only 30 years. So for now, their real estate is A-Ok.

But, if you think about it, there are two organizations that don’t care about real estate holdings in the same way : insurance companies and banks. They can’t doubt science, they need to account for it and their risk analysis departments need to consider flooding in coastal areas. And the insurance industry seem to be taking flooding very seriously, you can easily see that it’s almost impossible to get flood insurance now. How much longer do you think it will take for the banks to stop giving 30 year mortgages?

And it will only take one or two banks to start this process. Once the idea gets out that financing these properties over long periods of time is too risky all the other banks will most likely follow along because banks are very risk averse.

As more and more banks decline to loan for beachfront properties over long periods it’s going to be a very quick domino effect and soon nobody will do it. And then real estate that at one point was valued in the millions immediately goes to almost 0 as nobody can get a loan to buy it.

But even if this doesn’t happen as I’m imagining it, how long do you think it will take people who own coastal property to lose confidence in the coming market and sell before its too late? All it will take is one nice storm and some serious flooding. Or one report from someone saying that flooding is inevitable. And then the bottom of the market is going to drop. And it will drop fast and far.

When will the tipping point occur?

We the People (only when its convenient for the white house)

Interesting news today. But first a little background. The White House and our wonderful president had started this wonderful new website section where anyone could propose something and if they got enough signatures (25,000) the White House would publicly respond to the ‘petition’ from the people. It is called We The People and one would think this would be a great policy.

But, you see, its not going to be trusted by anyone if the White House pulls down petitions as they approach the 25,000 signature mark. In fact one would be really upset with their president if this happened on his watch.

Well, it did of course. There was a petition asking for the TSA to take public comments on their Full Body Scanners (those insane contraptions that I am proud to say I have never been in). This was court ordered over a year ago and the TSA has simply ignored the order. It was then re-ordered.. still nothing. Well, apparently the White House pulled it down after some ‘site maintenance’ . The petition was publically suppored by Bruce Schneier and Wired Magazine among others.

Really sad. Nice work Barack.

If the president wants you dead, you’re dead.

“‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” – Eric Holder, March 5.

Lets just start right here. This speech (please read it) reminds me about everything I hated about the Bush White House. Remember John Yoo? He was the attorney in the Bush White House who came up with some insane legal arguments that allowed waterboarding. Remember the ‘Torture Memos‘? Holder has taken it a bit farther by aiding and abetting murder.

What he is talking about in his speech is the new executive privilege and law that allows Barack (and any future president) to decree you as a terrorist and have you (and anyone near you) blown to bits by a drone or a hit squad. This can happen overseas or here on American soil. This can even happen to American citizens too. The same ones who are ostensibly protected by the 5th Amendment. Remember that one? Here’s the relevant text : “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”

Holders argument is that the president and his ‘death panel’ deciding you are a terrorist is due process.

Are you kidding me?

Ok.. don’t take my word for it. I want you to read this wonderful piece by Glenn Greenwald which, among other things, goes over the hypocrisy of Democrats to go along with this nonsense. He brings up a wonderful point about how we were up in arms (I sure was) when Bush tried to illegally wiretap ‘terrorists’ without court oversight. Barak is now killing them! The most amazing part of that article? Barack Obama himself spoke out against this kind of stuff when he was in the senate! (Please read this article. It sums up my point way better than I ever could hope to).

Plain and simple. I will not support a president who has decided that he is able to actively kill Americans without any judicial oversight. And you shouldn’t either!


The financial criminals benefit from you choosing to not understand what is happening.

I love Matt Taibbi. For those of you who never heard of him, he’s a political writer for Rolling Stone and he’s been focusing mostly on the financial sector for the past few years (wall street, mortgage crisis, crooked bankers, etc). I like him cause he really seems to be the kind of person that doesn’t care what people think when he writes. He is pissed and it shows in his incredibly researched and detailed articles.

Yes, for the most part the public is of the belief that financial news is boring but he writes about it anyway. Somebody needs to and he does it quite well.

No article he has ever written does it better than the one in the current issue of RS (1160). The article is called “The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia” and I urge you to give it 30 minutes of your time. It is an amazing read about something that is esoteric and yet totally accessible. It’s about bond interest rates.

Before you complain, let me explain. This article talks about a specific case where the feds went after and won a case against 3 traders who were caught participating in a fraud to fix interest rates on big municipal bond deals. The technicalities are not important here. What is important is how these guys were ripping off cities around the country and then using their profits to go on trips to Las Vegas and such. These kinds of guys are those douchie rich guys in the bar that you hate and you wonder : What makes them so special that they deserve to be so rich? Well guess what? It’s not due to skill or brains, it’s due to a willingness to rip people off.

As I read this I was just so mad at these fuckers. And these are just the 3 that the government went after. There are hundreds more and there are many more even bigger executives that are part of this fraud as well. It’s sickening. There is even a connection to Bill Richardson who I thought was a good guy when he was running for president:

Even more startling was the way that a notorious incident involving former New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson resurfaced during the trial. Barack Obama, you may recall, had nominated Richardson to be commerce secretary – only to have the move blow up in his face when tales of Richardson accepting bribes began to make the rounds. Federal prosecutors never brought a case against Richardson: In 2009, an inside source told the AP that the investigation had been “killed in Washington.” Obama himself, after Richardson bowed out, praised the former governor as an “outstanding public servant.”

Now, in the Carollo trial, defense counsel got Doug Goldberg, the CDR broker, to admit that his boss, Stewart Wolmark, had handed him an envelope containing a check for $25,000. The check was payable to none other than Moving America Forward – Bill Richardson’s political action committee. Goldberg then went to a Richardson fundraiser and handed the politician the envelope. Richardson, pleased, told Goldberg, “Tell the big guy I’m going to hire you guys.”

Goldberg admitted on the stand that he understood “the big guy” to mean Wolmark. After that came this amazing testimony:

Q: Soon after that, New Mexico hired CDR as its swap and GIC adviser on a $400 million deal, right?
A: Yes.
Q: You learned later that that check in that envelope was a check for $25,000, right?
A: Yes. I learned it later.
Q: You also learned later that CDR gave another $75,000 to Gov. Richardson, right?
A: Yes.
Q: CDR ended up making about a million dollars on this deal for those two checks?
A: Yes.
Q: In fact, New Mexico not only hired CDR, they hired another firm to do the actual work that they needed done?
A: For the fixed-income stuff, yes.

What we get from this is that CDR paid Bill Richardson $100,000 in contributions and got $1.5 million in public money in return. And not just $1.5 million, but $1.5 million for work they didn’t even do – the state still had to hire another firm to do the actual job. Nice non-work, if you can get it.

In case you are still skeptical about the complex subject, I will explain it to you here : Cities borrow money to build bridges and hospitals and rec centers. When they make the loan they usually get the whole amount at once (say $25M) and they pay construction guys and other vendors out of that account as they go on with the project. What this means is that for the duration of the project, the majority of that $25M is sitting in some bank so to make some money with it, the cities can lend it out to borrowers and charge a fair interest rate for it. This is where these guys ripped off the cities. There is supposed to be a public bid from borrowers on that rate (say a fair rate is 5.00%) but these guys fixed the auction to maybe only give 4.95%. That .05% on $25M is real money. Multiply that by 100s of deals a year and you have a motive to keep ripping off the cities.

This is a great read and it is representative of what is really going on in this country. The sad part is that this isn’t capitalism. The heart of capitalism is the free market. Without that, we have nothing and colluding on a price at auction is exactly what we don’t want but yet it is everywhere.

Some more thoughts on NDAA

Remember the wonderful bill that our wonderful president signed into law a few months back called the “National Defense Authorization Act”? This was the defense spending bill that included that nice part about how the president can decide unilaterally that you are a ‘terrorist’ or doing something that ‘promotes terrorism’ and then have you either killed on the spot or hauled off to prison with no legal recourse (you know.. like due process). It’s a wonderful law and one that is most likely unconstitutional but who’s going to be able to challenge it?

Anyway, I read a great editorial in a game development magazine that had some musings about the bill that I found interesting. I tried to find a digital copy with no luck so I scanned it and have it here. I urge you read it. It’s a quick read. But one of the things he talks about is how the govt. can now go after game companies for content and worse.

Also, laws like this stifle dissent and conversation. What if, as a thought exercise, or to prove a point I decided to post some ideas for terrorist plots. Would I be supporting terrorism? Would a death squad come visit me in the night? Far fetched? All it takes is the will of a president. The law is in place. The trigger just needs to be pulled. We let it happen

You can do it

Is this where we are headed?
I am discouraged today. I’ve actually felt this way for a number of years now. It’s been so long I can’t even remember when it began, but that’s not really important. What is important if for you to know why I feel this way. It’s important to me that you read this and think about what I’ve said and do something, anything, as a result. Comment, pass this along, tell others in person… I don’t care, just do something. Because the lack of anyone doing anything is what has me so discouraged.

If you look back at this blog and other places where I post things (facebook, my news feed, twitter, etc.) you will see that the majority of things I post about are things that are wrong with the world (particularly America) politically and socially. I know ‘wrong’ here is biased towards my own beliefs but I really feel that my perspective is general enough that any reasonable person exposed to the things I post would feel similar to how I do. But in all this time I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt that anyone has responded in a serious way to anything I’ve posted.

And this is what discourages me. Every day I read or learn something new that makes me want to scream out in anger or frustration. Every day I have to take a moment and ask myself, what can I do to make the world a place where things like this don’t happen again? So I post, and I donate to causes and I participate in politics by voting, and I genuinely think about how things affect the greater good. But it doesn’t change anything. And that inertia tends to make me more depressed. So I start to just give up and say ‘fuck it, if people would rather care more about mindless shit, then they deserve to get what they get’. We deserve the America we live in right now. The one where our liberties have been eroded in the name of security. The one where we can’t afford to educate our children because of wars we’re fighting for possibly flimsy reasons. The one where we have floods and tornados and odd weather every day and yet we deny that global warming is real. And on and on.

But I can’t sit back and do that anymore. In the last 2 years myself and many of my close friends have had their first children. So now instead of just saying “I’m dead in 60 years, it can’t get that bad”, we’re all now forced to say “what kind of world will our children inherit? And what about their children?”. Now things matter even more, and yet, I can see no change at all.

So what do I want? What would a perfect world be like from my perspective? What would I want you to do? It’s simple really. I want two things. First I want many people (many of the people I know) to take 10-15 minutes a day to read things that I (and other trusted friends) post and talk about. I want this because I don’t post things that are time-wasters. In my perfect world you all would trust that. Second I want you all to be motivated by the things I post to actually do something on your own. Maybe write about what you read, or talk to friends and family, or vote for candidates that support views that coincide with positions you read about, or maybe even debate with me the merits of what I post. In short I want you to take some time to react to what I post.

I can see why you don’t. We are constantly barraged with stimulus. And most of it has the effect of making us feel ok. Why allow ourselves to willingly feel bad about our world when we can so easily feel good about it? We are wired to suppress bad feelings and our media, our very lifestyle enables us to follow that path so easily. So I know it’s hard. But it’s so important to fight that urge to take the ‘soma’ and take a look at the world without our rose colored glasses. You don’t need to do it all the time, just once and a while. Please, I am literally begging you. We as a society are already failing because of ambivalence. Don’t let us fail completely!

Why Try?

So I’m really depressed today after listening (and thinking about) the latest “Common Sense” podcast ( # 192 ). Dan talks about how the FBI surveilled MLK and how they found some stuff about him and used it to try to blackmail him into killing himself ( Yes, I know this sounds crazy, but it’s all true ). He makes the point that today all the govt. would have to do is plant something onto someone’s computer ( child porn, bomb making plans, etc. ) to discredit someone. It’s for this reason that we probably don’t have anyone who is able to rise far enough to actually lead us out of the place we’re in today. With the FBI survailing so many people already ( small protest groups, militias, etc. ) they are able to nip things in the bud way before they grow enough to ‘be a problem’.

The system is so in control in this way, there is almost no way for us to generate enough energy to stand up and make change. Even our ‘change’ candidates we elected have failed to do anything of any consequence. As if they were just fake from the start.

But I’m free right? I can do pretty much anything I want to do in the world. I can vote, I can write letters, I can blog, I can travel anywhere I want, etc. But freedom is more than individual isn’t it? We need to have the ability to rise up in groups and be heard. One would think the media would help here but the interests controlling the US have found ways to counter media as well.

Why try? Who listens anymore? Who cares enough to do anything? It’s just so easy to take our Soma and tune out until we go to work the next day.