Category Archives: politics

Questioning the benefits of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general

When I first learned how Bitcoin worked, I thought it was a marvelous technology. Today, I am growing increasingly pessimistic about Bitcoin. The environmental costs of Bitcoin mining are very high when we consider the resources to fabricate millions of specialized chips and circuit boards and energy to run them. Moreover, Bitcoin can’t adjust its money supply, so it is highly prone to inflation. Although the number of Bitcoin transactions has stayed the same over the last year, the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed, which makes it an unacceptable currency in my opinion.

Like many new technologies, it takes a while to find all the potential problems and design a blockchain technology that is capable of serving as a stable, widely-accepted cryptocurrency. Unfortunately, Bitcoin is stuck in the first iteration of the technology and it can’t evolve. I have no doubt that it will continue being used, but better cryptocurrencies are being designed and one of them will eventually take Bitcoin’s place as the premier cryptocurrency. Continue reading


Overreaction to sexist blog posts destroys the Justice Democrats

It looks like the Justice Democrats just imploded as a viable group capable of effecting political change, which leaves me very despondent. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, who was one of the founders of the Justice Democrats, wrote some sexist blog posts between 1999 and 2005, and the staff of the Justice Democrats demanded that he resign. Uygur has resigned from the group and has avoided saying anything negative about the Justice Democrat’s staff in public. Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk, however, was so outraged by the behavior of the staff, that he then also resigned from the board of the Justice Democrats in protest.

Without the media support of either the Young Turks or Secular Talk, I can’t see how the Justice Democrats will have any public traction. Most of the people who joined the Justice Democrats first heard about the group by watching the Young Turks or Secular Talk on Youtube and the media coverage of the group would be essentially nil without those two Youtube channels. Judging from the comments posted on Kulinski’s video announcing his resignation, many of his viewers are outraged that Uygur was forced to resign.

Most of the criticism of Uygur focuses on a 1999 post. After reading the post, I can understand why the JD staff found it offensive, but they also seem to be incapable of interpreting the situation in its proper context. Uygur essentially complained that he was surrounded by many beautiful women in Miami, yet he wasn’t getting laid. He then said that women are genetically inferior because they don’t want to have sex enough. Yes, the general tone of the post was sexist, but the JD staff are being purposely blind to the lame humor of a guy who is making up sarcastic excuses why he can’t get laid. It was a poor attempt at humor and an effort to be an edgy, politically-incorrect right-wing blogger.

I don’t think that Uygur truly believed that women are genetically inferior at the time that he wrote it, and he certainly doesn’t believe it now.  He has run a progressive media company since 2002 where he promotes women’s rights and female hosts clearly play an important role in deciding on the content and presentation of the shows. It is hard to believe that strong women like Anna Kasparian, Hannah Cranston, Aida Rodriguez, Grace Baldridge and Kim Horcher would continue to work at the Young Turks if it was a pit of sexism and they weren’t treated as equals in the company. I find it hard to believe that these female hosts would keep working part time at low salaries at the Young Turks if it was a place that tolerated sexism. Many of the female hosts of the Young Turks shows also have their own separate shows which they built up independently from the Young Turks, so I doubt they would stay if Uygur displayed sexist attitudes toward them. Anna Kasparian frequently argues with Cenk Uygur about why he is wrong about a particular issue and challenges his authority on air.

If Uygur had written those comments last year and stood proudly by them, then the reaction of the JD staff might be justifiable, but Uygur deleted most of the offensive posts over a dozen years ago and has apologized, saying that people are right to criticize the sexism in the posts.

The JD staff seemed determined to smear Uygur in ways that he didn’t deserve, by saying that he was “contributing to rape culture.” I’m guessing that they wrote that because in a 2003 post Uygur wrote:

I had one of the best nights of my life at Mardi Gras. I kissed over 23 different women, saw and felt countless breasts, and was in a wonderful drunken stupor thanks to my friend John Daniels.

Yes, the whole Marti Gras tradition of men kissing women and women flashing their breasts and men touching them is sexist and does objectify women, but there is no indication that Uygur was talking about non-consensual activities.

The staff of the Justice Democrats seems to have lost sight of the larger objectives of their organization in making their decision to kick out Uygur. Without an effective media arm, the organization is essentially dead, because it won’t be able to recruit many new members and it just alienated many of its existing members who are fans of the Young Turks and Secular Talk. Maybe some of the members of the Justice Democrats will applaud the action as taking a principled stand against sexism, but it appears that the group will also loose many members, judging from the online comments on Kulinski’s video announcing his resignation. Many of the comments on the video also criticize social justice warriors in general as intolerant extremists. The left appears to be needlessly attacking itself and eating its own.

Some of Uygur’s harshest critics like Sargon of Akkad are now defending him and saying that he did “nothing wrong”. Unfortunately, tarring and feathering Uygur in this way allows right-wing critics to dismiss the #metoo movement as a witchhunt and an overreaction. Just like some people dismissed feminism in general when Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused Bernie Sanders of promoting sexism, some people will be inclined to disregard sexual harassment as not being a serious problem when they see progressives like Uygur being attacked for old blog posts. At the end of the day, I’m not sure if denouncing Uygur for sexism really helps the cause of women’s rights. What I am sure is that it helps to fracture the movement to elect politicians who aren’t corrupted by corporate money, and that is an outcome that we should all mourn.

Whither American Democracy: FDR-style reform, revolution or slide into populist dictatorship?

Three people, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, together own $248.5 billion which is as much wealth as 56% of Americans. This level of inequality is unsustainable and I often wonder when the American political system will implode. In other countries, other political parties would have arisen long ago to replace the Republicans and Democrats, but the rules of the US political system make it virtually impossible for an effective third party to come to the fore.

At this point, it is increasingly pointless to call the Republican Party a political party in the traditional sense. A party is supposed to represent the interests of a significant block of voters, but the Republican Party increasingly only represents a tiny percentage of Americans when it comes to economic issues. The new tax bill is a shameless give-away to rich donors, while raising taxes on households making under $75,000 or less over the next decade, raising the national deficit by $1.45 trillion, and taking away the health care of 13 million Americans. Basically it raises taxes by $4.5 trillion over the next decade on the lower and middle classes, in order to give $6 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy, of which 62% of those tax cuts go to the top 1%. One analysis found that 71.6% of Americans would be worse off, while 5% would benefit from the bill. This is basically a tax bill which says let’s rob from society in general to give to those who already have too much.
Continue reading

Can the US become a democracy that governs in the public interest?

At some point there is no longer any point in pretending that the US is a democracy. Yes, it has elections and institutions which take democratic forms, but for all practical purposes, the state no longer functions as a democracy, in the sense that elected officials and bureaucrats no longer create public policy which corresponds to the public interest.

Only 6% of Americans supported a bill passed by the US congress that allows internet service providers to sell people’s internet usage information to third parties without their consent. Basically, the US government ignored public opinion entirely when giving away the people’s right to internet privacy. Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Ajit Pai on the FCC just took away net neutrality, despite polls finding that 83% of Americans want to keep net neutrality. The FCC received 22 million comments from the public which were overwhelmingly against repealing net neutrality and the FCC commissioners decided to basically ignore the comments. A tax bill is currently being passed that raises taxes on households making less than $75,000 in order to give a $4.5 trillion tax cut to the wealthy and increase the national deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. 62% of the proposed tax cuts will go to the top 1%.
Continue reading

Being willing to evaluate information which contradicts our world view

Every couple weeks I stumble across an article about climate change, and I look in the comments and see that the climate change deniers are out in full force. A rational person would not waste her time, but it annoys me that nobody contests them when they spread misinformation on the internet.

Here is how it typically goes:

Denier: The 97% climate-change consensus is a myth. Emily here is incredibly poorly informed for a TED presenter. Thought this talk was on “I don’t do math” but it’s just another “climate deniers are morons” indoctrination.

Me: No, you are the one that is poorly informed. Read Cook et al. (2013):…/024024
If you still insist that those 2.9% of peer reviewed articles are correct and the 97.1% are incorrect, then read Benestad et al. (2016):
If you are going to keep insisting that the 97% climate-change consensus is a myth, then you are a scientific illiterate, who has no idea how to evaluate scientific evidence.

Continue reading

Obama’s mediocre record on the environment

Obama was both good and bad on the environment, and we should be honest about his record, rather than mindlessly praising him, since he appears so much better than the Republican administration that followed him.

On the one hand, Obama did some good things:

  1. Got additional funding for renewables and clean tech in the 2009 stimulus bill,
  2. Talked a lot about a Green Jobs program at beginning of his term, but only got it partially funded by the stimulus, because Republicans blocked it afterwards, so he gave up on it after 2 years.
  3. Worked hard to extend the incentives for renewables and had to negotiate with intransigent Republicans to do it,
  4. Dramatically increased the fleet fuel efficiency standards,
  5. Drafted the Clean Power Plan and tried to get it implemented despite Republican obstructionism,
  6. Implemented a hiatus on leasing coal on federal lands,
  7. Drafted new rules to prevent contamination of streams by coal mining,
  8. Negotiated bilateral deals with China and Canada/Mexico to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  9. Signed the Paris Agreement and did not work behind the scenes to block it.
  10. Appointed smart Secretaries of Energy and other administrators, who helped promote alternative energy, clean transport and clean tech and approve the infrastructure for clean tech.
    Continue reading

My struggle for an adequate ideology

I often struggle to name a political or economic philosophy which defines my beliefs. In Bolivia, where I reside, I don’t like to call myself a “socialist,” because that would align me with the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party and I strongly disagree with a number of their policies. I agree in some concepts of anarchism on a local level, especially the anarcho-syndicalism of Latin America a century ago, but I see anarchism as a hopeless ideology for governing. Anarchists essentially assume that humans are good by nature and will do the right thing if freed from the coercive power of the state. I don’t see this as a viable philosophy for confronting the concentration of wealth and power that governs today’s society. Noam Chomsky, who is probably the world’s most renowned anarchist, observes that dismantling the state in the face of concentrated corporate power is suicide and we currently need an organization like the state to protect against organized corporate interests.
Continue reading