My US Political Candidate Rubric

I have decided that I will now judge US political candidates on a pre-set rubric of 34 specific items. The rubric is given in full, below, and is in total out of 200 points.

Scoring guide:
[ stance against / stance unclear or neutral / stance for ]
[ false / true ]
[ quantitatively evaluated or judged…scale ]

Climate Change and Science [ /48 ]
[ 0 / 1 / 6 ] I consider climate change a serious problem, that must be acted on immediately.
[ 0 / 3 / 11 ] I will work to end subsidization of fossil fuel companies.
[ 0 / 2 / 8 ] I support taxes or other disincentivizations of greenhouse gas emissions.
[ 0 / 3 / 11 ] I recognize and will work to promote nuclear energy as the best way to quickly shift our energy dependence to renewables.
[ 0 / 1 / 6 ] I support taxes or other disincentivizations on emissions-intensive livestock farming.
[ 0 / 6 ] I have experience in professional science or in science education.

Geopolitics [ /36 ]
[ 0 / 3…7 ] I will work to end as many relations with Saudi Arabia as possible.
[ 0 / 2…6 ] I will work to end as many relations with Japan as possible.
[ 0 / 2 / 4 ] As for political leaders who knowingly lied to bring the United States to war or knowingly failed to prevent the death of civilians, I will support trying them for war crimes.
[ 0 / 2 / 9 ] I will refuse to support initiating new wars.
[ 0 / 1 / 3 ] I choose to refer to Taiwan as the “Republic of China” or “Taiwan”, not “Chinese Taipei” or “Taiwan, Province of China”.
[ 0 / 1 / 3 ] I affirm the rights of both Israel and Palestine to be sovereign nations.
[ 0 / 1 / 4 ] I will oversee that the US is responsible for taking care of refugees caused by actions the United States took.

Fair Meritocracy [ /62 ]
[ 0 / 8 ] I refuse campaign contributions from billionaires.
[ 0 / 1 / 3 ] I will work to cause capital gains to be not taxed less than income.
[ 0…6 ] I advocate a wealth tax of at least 6% on billionaires or an effectively equivalent tax.
[ 0…6 ] I advocate an estate tax of at least 60% on estates in excess of $10 million.
[ 0 / 1 / 9 ] I will work to eliminate the privilege of religions to tax breaks.
[ 0 / 1 / 9 ] I will work to eliminate public funding of sports teams whose owners are multimillionaires.
[ 0 / 2 / 6 ] I recognize the formation of a universal basic income, not the raising of the minimum wage, as the right solution to financial ills in an increasingly automated society.
[ 0 / 3 / 6 ] I will work towards replacing property taxes with land value taxes.
[ 0 / 1 / 6 ] I will work to block corporations from becoming mass landlords.
[ 0 / 1 / 3 ] I will work to fund public transportation.

Implicit Values in Recognition [ /18 ]
[ 0 / 1 / 6 ] I will work to either eliminate Columbus Day as a federal holiday or to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day instead.
[ 0 / 1 / 6 ] I will work to eliminate Christmas as a federal holiday, and to prevent other religion-specific holidays from becoming federal holidays.
[ 0 / 1 / 3 ] I will work towards removing “IN GOD WE TRUST” from all American currency.
[ 0 / 1 / 3 ] I will work towards removing “under God” from the official Pledge of Allegiance.

Health, Family, and Society [ /18 ]
[ 0 / 2 / 8 ] I will work towards the implementation of an affordable universal healthcare system.
[ 0 / 1 / 4 ] I will work towards universal availability of birth control.
[ 0 / 1 / 3 ] I support the right of same-sex couples to adopt children.
[ 0 / 1 / 3 ] I support tax credits towards people who take care of children.

Exclusivity and Accessibility of Politics [ /18 ]
[ 0 / 6 / 8 ] I will work to expand free speech to limit the restricting powers of not just the government but also of sufficiently large corporations.
[ 0 / 1 / 4 ] I recognize cancel culture as a real and serious problem.
[ 0 / 2 / 6 ] I reject the idea that appearing with or being casual friends with people of substantially different political views in non-political contexts or oppositional political contexts is socially irresponsible.

Twitter

Here’s an observation:

The most convincing experience against any ideology is a conversation with people espousing that ideology on Twitter.

The best part of this is that this even works with ideologies one oneself believes in. (As a personal note, I myself am well aware that I am much more invested in atheism than most atheists I know, and Twitter manages to throw me people that I think have over-consumed atheist kool-aid, which ought to be an oxymoron.) Which leads to a corollary:

To test whether you are too deeply committed to an ideology, check whether no one on Twitter espousing that ideology makes you uncomfortable.

A Thought Experiment

Two nations of people, A and B, are at peace with each other. They both believe that long ago their ancestors signed a treaty that they both consider fair, and thus that they are on fair footing with each other and should maintain peace.

One day, a researcher decides to study this treaty and finds out it never really existed, and that the respective ancestors of these nations have actually declared the other nation to have inflicted unforgiven injustice. The researcher publishes these findings. The nations both realize that the treaty they believed in was fabricated, and begin violent conflict against each other.

Was the act taken by the researcher of publishing these findings morally good, immoral, or morally neutral?

I am not exactly sure where I stand on this. I am, however, quite certain about my view of the opposite process with respect to the publishing: if two nations were in violent conflict, and a researcher publishes fabricated findings that such a peace treaty existed in the past, then I would judge the researcher’s action as immoral despite the two nations consequently reaching peace, so it appears my judgment has a broken symmetry with regards to this axis.

I am inclined to say that the researcher’s choice to publish these findings is morally good, and say that it is rather the moral failing of the nations to choose to escalate the situation to violent conflict. I am not fully convinced, though, that this isn’t actually an excuse my judgment came up with to appease my strong convictions to noninterference to the delivery of knowledge. This forward situation does feel more morally ambiguous to me.

US Healthcare Spending

The US spends more on healthcare than the entire economies of all countries in red in the map below, combined.

US healthcare spending is for the year 74 CL. GDP figures are from the World Bank for the year 74 CL where applicable, and from the IMF for the year 76 CL for the small handful of countries whose economies are not listed by the World Bank.

Alternatively, in comparison to single economies, if the US’s healthcare spending was an economy, it would be the 5th largest in the world, after the United States, China, Japan, and Germany.

Fire’s Quite Out

Quite a lot of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is items for which the only thing I know about them is being listed in “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.

  • Doris Day
  • Johnnie Ray
  • South Pacific
  • Walter Winchell
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Studebaker
  • Sugar Ray
  • The King and I
  • Marciano
  • Rockefeller (the specific one referenced here)
  • Campanella
  • Toscanini
  • Dacron
  • “Rock Around the Clock”
  • James Dean
  • Brooklyn’s got a winning team
  • Bardot
  • Princess Grace
  • Peyton Place
  • Pasternak
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Kerouac
  • California baseball
  • Starkweather homicide
  • Ben-Hur
  • Mafia (the specific event referenced)
  • Edsel is a no-go
  • Payola
  • Chubby Checker
  • Psycho
  • Liston beats Patterson
  • Pope Paul
  • British politician sex
  • Birth control (the specific event referenced)
  • Moonshot (I didn’t know that this term referred to that; well, now I do)
  • Punk rock
  • Bernie Goetz
  • Hypodermics on the shore

That’s 38 items in a song of 118 items.

Palo Alto: an Unhypotenuse

Here is a segment of Palo Alto.

Notice that the three major roadways Oregon Expressway, El Camino Real, and Embarcadero Rd. approximately form a right triangle. Thus, if you were traveling from the upper-right vertex of this triangle (at US-101) to the upper-left vertex (at Stanford University), the short path would be to take the hypotenuse, Embarcadero Rd.

But what if you were driving? Suppose you were driving northbound on US-101, and wanted to end up at the vertex at Stanford’s campus. The speed limit on Embarcadero Rd. is 25 mph, whereas the speed limits on both Oregon Expressway and El Camino Real are 35 mph. Measuring from the northbound exit, Embarcadero Rd. is 2.7 miles, whereas the Oregon Expressway and El Camino Real segments together measure 3.7 miles, so by time elapsed, driving the legs of the right triangle is actually faster than driving the hypotenuse.

This observation would, of course, be more pertinent to the real world if anyone actually obeyed speed limits while driving on Embarcadero Rd. And I haven’t counted traffic lights either, so there’s that.

Atheism and the Natural World

There’s a way in which I see the world that’s very different from what I observe to be the way most other atheists seem to see the world.

Many atheists like to celebrate the natural world the way it is and the way it operates. That is, many will highlight that in the absence of gods the world is actually more awesome the way it is. Two example lines of thought: it’s much nicer that the world turned out the way it is through natural processes, and we have the wonderfulness of a world where people can decide for themselves what the meaning of life is.

In contrast to this, I view atheism more as a courage of accepting a harsh reality, rather than celebrating a beautiful reality. Personally, I find the idea of a world designed for purpose by a higher being substantially less desolate than the one we find ourselves in. Given a substantially benevolent creator (say, unlike those in Abrahamic religions), such a world would have far fewer faults than ours is riddled with. And regardless of the level of benevolence or malevolence of a god, a universe with one would feature much less the background existential dread of being inconsequential in a vast, uncaring, sentience-ambivalent cosmos.

As it turns out, all the evidence we see with our eyes says that such gods do not exist, and to me, atheism is centrally the acceptance that this is the unfortunate nature of our world. Atheism is about the vigilant resistance of delusion, in the face of the siren’s call to our hearts to steer towards a much more emotionally comforting fantasy, a reverence for the pursuit of truth, no matter how much it hurts. I seek to build upon the acknowledgment that our universe is frightening, and believe this to be a necessary step to properly obtain motivation for making the universe better, even if probably only by an infinitesimal bit.

This is not to say that I think the occurrence of processes like evolution can’t be aesthetically beautiful despite being cruel. There’s much to find beautiful anywhere where a simple kernel of ideas leads to an explosion of possibilities. It’s just that to me, the cruelty of natural selection is much more salient, and overshadows the beauty of the process in my default mental conception. And centrally, I find this dissatisfaction to be the most fitting cradle of progress, one that a belief that the world is wonderful, whether by design or happenstance, would less be able to provide.

Nothing From Japan Day

Prior to and during World War II, Japan committed numerous crimes against humanity very comparable to those committed by Nazi Germany. These offenses are often omitted in Western education, in part because its downplay is convenient to the justification of postwar alliances between Japan and the West helpful for containing communism. If you’re unaware of the crimes perpetrated by Japan, here’s a few articles to start with.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_women
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanjing_Massacre
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manila_massacre
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Alls_Policy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataan_Death_March
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalagong_massacre
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontianak_incidents

After World War II, Germany underwent great efforts to denazify, set up reparations to the victims of Nazi Germany, and took extra steps to enshrine the Nazi era in infamy in the German memory. The Germany that exists today is very clearly not the Germany under Hitler, and actively disavows that Germany.

The same is very much not true of Japan. While Japan has set up reparations to some of its victims, they are highly incomplete. The honoring of Imperial Japan is still pervasive today. Postwar Japan elected a Class A War Criminal to Prime Minister, people high up in Japanese government honor its past war criminals, and many of them deny Japan’s role in crimes during World War II or fund history textbooks minimizing the scale of Japan’s committed atrocities. The imperial family of Japan is preserved, despite the fact that members of the imperial family personally ordered war crimes, and many of them were never held accountable for their atrocities.

December 13 was the first day of the Nanjing Massacre 83 years ago, one of several atrocities for which denial is still very common in mainstream Japanese politics. Because the Japan today clearly has no intentions of making amends and disavowing the Japan of World War II, please join me in partaking in nothing produced in Japan on this day, in honor of the Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Malay, Indonesian, Burmese, Laotian, Cambodian, and many other victims of Japanese war crimes that never got to see justice. Don’t buy anything from Japan, don’t use anything made in Japan, and don’t consume any media produced in Japan. If you wish to take this more seriously, expand this to 35 days (ending January 17), in honor of the 35 years Korea was subject to Japanese rule, longer than any of the other above people had to suffer from Japanese imperialism. (I personally refuse to buy anything made in Japan year round.) And repeat Nothing From Japan Day each year until Japan concedes what they should have conceded decades ago:

  1. Formal apologies for Japan’s role in World War II, not apologies that blame “misunderstandings”
  2. Reparations to all victims of Japanese war crimes
  3. The ending of honoring of war criminals in the Yasukuni shrine
  4. The ending of the royal house of Yamato that partook in Japan’s war crimes

‘Did not vote’ would’ve only won about a dozen states this time

Last election Reddit user u/taillesskangaru made this map showing that ‘Did not vote’ would have won the Clinton-Trump election by a landslide if its portion of eligible voters was counted.

Since the Trump-Biden election had the highest percentagewise turnout of any US presidential election in 120 years, I decided to crunch the numbers for it as well. ‘Did not vote’ actually loses to Biden this time!

The darker colors indicate that the result is mathematically certain even if all the rest of the eligible voters voted for the opposition. This isn’t just the District of Columbia this time!

Note that there are a significant number of New York ballots still not counted, and that with them counted it could well be that New York actually goes to Biden under this scheme (and thus ‘Did not vote’ would also lose to Trump).

I made this map using 270towin.com and data from electproject.org.

The Biden-Trump Election: Minimal-Effort Watching Flowchart

Due to a certain virus that you may have heard of, this upcoming US presidential election will be…special. It may take quite a while for all the results to come in. If you want to watch the election with minimal attention to a high degree of certainty of the result, just focus on these 8 states.

1. On Election Day, wait for results from Florida.
If Biden wins Florida, then Biden wins the election with near certainty.
If Trump wins Florida, wait a few days, and proceed to 2.

2. Look for results from Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia.
If Biden wins Ohio, then Biden wins the election with near certainty.
If Trump wins Michigan and Wisconsin, then Trump wins the election with near certainty.
If Trump wins Michigan and Minnesota, then Trump wins the election with near certainty.
If Biden wins Georgia and Arizona, then Biden wins the election with near certainty.
If Biden wins Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, then Biden wins the election with near certainty.
If none of these are true, wait about half a month, and proceed to 3.

3. Look for results from Pennsylvania.
Whoever wins Pennsylvania wins the election with high probability.

If you want to abbreviate this process even further at the cost of a modest amount of accuracy, remove step 2 and just stick step 3 after the second case of step 1.