I’m ready for another 4 years of more of the same

After 5 years of constant exposure, I think I’ve developed a tolerance for the hyper-sensationalized BS that passes for news now. Even with everything that’s going on this year, it doesn’t seem as bad as 2016 and I started wondering why. This year, we’ve had a global pandemic, an economic crash, and riots, but in a way it just feels like normal. And I wonder if it’s because I’ve just stopped trusting the news and I’ve stopped taking things at face value?

In the run-up to the election in 2016, the media crafted a narrative out of whole cloth and sold the idea that Trump was a walking catastrophe that would fundamentally alter the nation. When he won despite these dire and apocalyptic predictions, it was shocking because it was so contrary to the reality that had been constructed by the media and social elites. It really felt like something meaningful had happened and like something terrible was going to befall us all.

Four years later, the US really hasn’t altered course in any dramatic way. In fact, I imagine that Trump is more establishment than even the establishment could have predicted. He went pro-Israel in a decisive way by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. He’s stayed strong on stopping illegal immigration at the southern US border. He has been pro-military, but has also done troop draw-downs when it made sense. He put real effort into solving the North Korea problem. Everything we would expect from a US administration.

I personally don’t give AF that he’s in tight with Putin. To me, it makes sense to let go of the Cold War McCarthyism and shore up our relationship with Russia, especially considering China’s rise as a global superpower. It would be great if Russia didn’t interfere with our elections, but I see that more as a failing of Obama’s administration in terms of not putting measures in place to hold companies like Facebook and Twitter accountable for the ads they run.

I also don’t see Trump as completely responsible for the number of COVID-19 deaths. The biggest reason we’re seeing this many deaths is because Obama and the Democrats (when they had a majority in both houses of Congress) failed to pass real universal healthcare. Additionally, the Federal government only has so much power over the States and when States do something stupid, like not enforcing social distancing, that’s on the States, not the President. If the President rolled in with Federal troops unasked on US soil, that would be a bigger problem. So, blame where blame is due. That being said, Trump isn’t exactly out there promoting the benefits of a hyuge, beautiful, universal healthcare system, either.

I’m not really a Trump fan. I’d like to see universal healthcare and a UBI (or some law that limits the income inequality between corporate and actual workers). I’m not in favor of open borders or the lawlessness that Democrats are allowing and promoting either though. Or in paying reparations for something that I had no part in. Even more so than in 2016, there are no good choices when it comes to voting in 2020, but somehow I think things will be worse if Biden and Harris win.

Things really aren’t as bad this year as the media and Twitter would have people believe. Events are being overly sensationalized in the run-up to an election to try to unseat the incumbent. The amount of drama being concocted to try to get Biden in the White House is sort of worrying. It makes me want to reconsider conspiracy theories surrounding Hillary. To be clear, I’m not downplaying the wrongness of shooting unarmed people. I’m just thinking about how these events are suddenly being played up now, in 2020, an election year.

Trump is a blabber mouth on Twitter, but in reality he’s doing more of the same in terms of US policy. What the Democrats want to do is extremely radical. I just can’t get on board with open borders or reparations. I don’t believe in holding someone accountable for someone else’s actions. I just can’t see myself voting for Biden. I almost don’t even care.

Maybe I’d feel more strongly if I was still swallowing the media narrative, but I’ve gotten so tired of wading through heavy political bias that I’ve really slowed down the amount of news I watch. I’d rather read a good book or watch a fun show than tune in to get my outrage forecast for the day. When I can find a good show that isn’t making overt US political statements, anyway.

Anyway, November will be here before I know it. Unlike 2016, when I was madly posting on social media about how terrible things were going to be, I’m staying distanced from here on in. It’s not worth the stress. I’m working. I’m exercising. I’m gaming. I’m getting satisfaction from learning Japanese and Spanish and how to set up a web server. Maybe I just don’t care as much because I’m comfortable? Maybe. But I’d like to think that it’s because I learned from 2016, when I worked myself up just to see 4 years of more of the same.

Trying to Approach the Day with the Right Mindset

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.

Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”

Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, ~170 – 180 CE

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Stoicism and came across this quote by Marcus Aurelius. It’s a very grounding message.

We should understand people’s bad behavior to be a normal, inherent part of life and living in a society. Rather than be affected, we should make sure that we continue to do the right thing and press on, understanding that people who behave badly are coming from a place of ignorance. And rather than retaliating or getting into a confrontation, we should continue to do our best because it is in the best interest of all involved, including ourselves.

Or at least, that’s what I understood from the quote. I’m not there yet, but it seems like a nice goal to work towards. Basically, not letting other people’s BS affect me and continuing to strive for excellence.

Thoughts on the 2020 Census Low Response Rate

Let me ask you this: if someone walked up to you in the street and offered you $1,091, would you say “No thanks”? According to a George Washington University report, every person that failed to respond to the 2010 Census cost their state an average of $1,091 dollars.

People complain about their communities all the time, especially in the Bronx. The Bronx is one of the worst off areas in the entire country. But people also don’t want to do anything to improve their situation, even when doing it is free.

You use public transportation, the school systems, the hospitals, the roads. Maybe you get EBT (food stamps). Maybe your Mom is elderly and gets some sort of medical assistance. You get a lot of services, but those services don’t just appear from thin air. Someone has to pay for that, right? They’re all partially funded by the federal government.

How does the federal government determine how much money to send to each community? The Census! The Census Bureau counts people, removes personal details, and releases statistics to the rest of the government for the purposes of allocating funding and determining representation in the House of Representatives.

Tables source: Census.gov

It’s pretty simple. The more people that get counted, the more federal funding your community gets relative to the rest of the country. So if you don’t complete the census, you’re cheating yourself and your community out of essential services. You’re cheating your parents. You’re cheating your children.

It takes 5-10 minutes to complete the Census online. You can call someone to get the Census done if you don’t understand the questions. There’s really no excuse.

It doesn’t matter if the government has your social security number. It doesn’t matter if you’re on welfare and they “already know where you at”. That’s not how the government works.

If you want that money, if you want your neighborhood to improve, then you have to respond to the census. If you don’t, then funding for services and/or programs that you use could get cut and/or run out before funding is reallocated after the 2030 Census. This only happens once every 10 years.

Completing the census is more important than voting. When you vote, the politician that gets in office does whatever they want regardless of what they promised during their campaign, but when you complete the census, the government has no choice but to allocate funds according to the count and give your area more seats in the House of Representatives if that’s how the numbers play out. That’s just how it works.

Why do I care so much? Because people being willfully stupid bothers me. Because when I hear someone say, “No thanks” when a census taker asks them to complete the Census, that response is so stupid that it just stays with me. They’re not selling you something. They’re trying to give you something that you need. All you have to do is spend 5-7 minutes and take it.

Only 55% of New Yorkers have responded to the census, but guaranteed next year someone who didn’t bother to respond will be complaining about how the federal government doesn’t do enough to help poor communities like the Bronx.

The Myth of Police Protection & the Importance of Gun Ownership

The riots clearly showed that the police cannot protect you. I don’t say that to demean the police in any way. It’s just a numbers thing. There aren’t enough police to deal with the mob if the mob decides they want to attack.

The mob did attack here in New York City. They looted and burned and destroyed. They set a building on fire next to where I live. Multiple police vehicles drove right past them as they looted. I can’t imagine they didn’t see the hordes of people. They didn’t try to stop it. Not because they didn’t want to, but because they had other issues they were trying to deal with already. They were overwhelmed. I’m just glad the FDNY showed up in time to put out the fire before it took the whole building or jumped to our building.

In the news there were plenty of videos of store owners standing guard with guns, both black and white. There were also videos (mostly mocking) of white people with guns standing guard around their neighborhoods. People were mocking them (especially the white people with guns) as if they were stupid or doing something wrong or borderline illegal, but they protected themselves and their property. They still have homes and businesses while others do not. Why? Because the police can’t respond to every call when the mob starts to riot and those business owners and homeowners ensured their own safety with their own guns.

The Left wants to take away people’s guns. The Left wants to riot. The Left doesn’t want people to be able to defend themselves against roaming mobs. The Left wants to defund police departments. The Left wants to be able to attack people with impunity and also be the ones to dole out their own brand of justice through “community enforcement teams”.

These riots showed that gun ownership isn’t just a Constitutional right, it’s a necessity.

We need more of this:

Signal to Noise Ratio Online

This week was much quieter than previous weeks. It’s not that there isn’t as much going on. I suppose it’s just that I’m tuning it out more and focusing on my own issues. Caring about other people’s problems is a luxury and a burden, and sometimes that burden just gets tiring.

What I mean is that there are people on social media platforms that are constantly whining about the plight of some particular group of people or vociferously advocating some political agenda. There’s so much spin online that it’s a chore to try to find content that doesn’t suck and to sort through the noise in the responses to see if there’s anything meaningful.

I’d like to think that there was some magical era in the Internet’s past when this type of behavior didn’t exist. I remember trash talking in AOL chat rooms in the late 90’s. I remember griefing in MMO chats in games like Ultima Online and World of Warcraft. But it wasn’t this widespread and pernicious. It was localized. It was something you could turn off and walk away from and it was separate from your real life. Or at least that’s how it felt.

Probably three things led to the escalation and spread of the problem: smartphones, more widespread social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and the idea that you should use your real name online and “put yourself out there”, which later evolved into the idea of building your “personal brand” online.

The idea that you could turn yourself into a “brand” and attract attention led to polarization to gain and influence people politically, which fueled the spread of conspiracy theories and crackpot ideas on all ends of the political spectrum. And of course there are all the idiots eating tide pods and creating challenges to monetize their notoriety.

I had this idea when I was a kid that the Internet was going to help me learn things and that I would meet interesting people from all over the world that could teach me how to be a better person. In some cases that’s true, but there’s a lot more chaff than wheat in the field.

I guess I need to put more effort into curating the content that I look at, but the Internet seems geared towards overcoming people’s personal preferences to push sensationalized content for ad revenue. I would like to believe that if the barrier for self-hosting content (like, on a server in your house) were lowered both in terms of education and hardware/access costs (some ISPs charge extra to open the ports necessary for a home server to connect to the Internet) then we could overcome a lot of this BS, but I also feel like this somehow ties in to larger issues of wealth disparity and that some people are willing to push anything online if it’s going to make them money.

Maybe I’m just getting old and this is the equivalent of wanting young people to stop playing their boomboxes so loud, but I hope that one day the Internet is more than it is today in terms of quality.