Dear Donald

Dear Donald Trump,

Congratulations on winning the election! It must be such a relief. Now that it’s over you don’t have to pretend you’re pro-life or religious or that you give a damn about building a wall at the Mexican border.

Maybe you can get the religious Republicans who voted for you to be pro-choice too! Here’s how. You tell them that when abortions are illegal, more unwanted children get born. And unwanted children end up being costly to the taxpayer. Most of the time, their parents can’t afford them. They’re a burden on welfare, food stamps, the school system. Then by the time they’re old enough to be productive members of society, they’re more likely than wanted children to be committing crimes instead. That means they’re costing the taxpayer in cop salaries, court time, prison accommodations. None of your base likes to pay for welfare, food stamps, schools, public housing or prison. All of that is costlier than just offering free and widely available contraception / abortion services.

It goes against their morality? Well, you tell them that these folks don’t live by the same set of moral standards they do anyway. Why would they want their tax dollars to go towards services for these people to continue reproducing? Why fund their immorality?

Speaking of religious convictions, you’re secretly an atheist, aren’t you? Oh, all right. You’re not. I’ve known people like you. You don’t even think about all of that spiritual, metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. Waste of your time. Maybe that’s something you can spread to your voter base too! Here’s how. Show them all your glorious business winnings. Your apartment in NYC, your piles of money, your illustrious orange.. err.. I mean… golden hotels soaring skyward. You’re a winner. Everyone wants to be a winner like you. They want to be just like you and guess what? You’re too smart to believe in god. You have better things to do. You got this far without a god — maybe they could get where they want to go too if they’d ditch that dead weight. What a waste of time, religion. Right?

Because once you’ve gotten them to let go of their Christian god, you know what? You can be their god. I’ll say it again. You, dear Donald, can be their GOD. It’s one thing to be a winner. That’s cool and that’s great, but lots of people are winners. How many people are gods? Just think of the glory. You’ll be the bigliest, winningest winner of them all.

Oh, but if you’re they’re god then you have to take care of them. They’re like your little children. And I know you love children, you have so many and they’re great. I heard that you liked some parts of Obamacare: that’s a great start! Also, did you know that the United States government currently pays 2nd most per capita in the entire world for health care? That’s not including what companies pay for their employees or out of pocket costs for individuals. Just government spending. That’s a terrible deal. We are getting a terrible deal on health care. It’s because we aren’t bargaining with drug manufacturers, care providers, hospitals. But when you’re the god of all your voters and you want to take care of them and make sure they’re in good health, you can change all that. You can do all the negotiating and make sure our government doesn’t get ripped off. You’ll make the best deal. We’ll get health care like Sweden has for a fraction of the cost. Everyone will have health care. I have faith in you.

Okay, that’s enough talking, you’ve done a good job reading all this. Have you a nice Big Mac now. And remember: you’re gonna be these people’s god. You have to take care of them.

In defense of harsher sentencing for crack

(versus powder cocaine)

It isn’t the least bit about race. Crack cocaine dealers have the same access to information about mandatory minimum sentences as anyone else, and if they choose to pursue a life of drug dealing, they can just as well switch to dealing powder cocaine. If a disproportionate number of blacks happen to continue choosing to deal one over the other, we’ll have to conclude either ignorance or stupidity.

Here’s why longer sentences for crack dealers is good: they deal in public. On street corners. Probably on the corner of a street where I used to live. One day I actually exited my building to see a body — someone who had been shot in the head on the (suspected) drug corner. That could’ve been anyone. In fact, it’s much more likely to be someone completely uninvolved because it’s in public.

I don’t really care if a drug dealer is going to someone’s upper east side apartment to deliver powder cocaine. Or their high rise office building. That’s a private transaction that has no bearing on me, and even if that drug user loses his job, his children probably won’t be the state’s problem. He’s probably not going to rob anyone. All that will happen is that he’ll get to go to an expensive rehab a few times. Not the same as when a highly addictive drug is popular among the poor: that increases everyone’s problems — the taxpayer (in the form of welfare, emergency room fees for the uninsured, food stamps, extra policing), the neighbor (armed robbery, burglaries), and even the random person walking in the street (muggings, gun violence/turf wars).

Mostly, I’m just tired of hearing this differential in sentencing trotted out as an example of racism in the legal system. Even if we ignore every point I just made, it still remains true that there was significant support from black leadership to enact these stricter sentencing laws.

Propositions H and I

Edit: if you read just one article about these two propositions, don’t waste your time on mine. Read this one.

In the upcoming Nov. 4th election, Proposition H is to keep natural grass and prohibit artificial lighting in the western part of Golden Gate park (near the Beach Chalet and Ocean Beach). Proposition I would nullify Proposition H.

The main supporters of Proposition H (and opponents of Prop I) are the Fisher brothers, who run Gap. They fund a couple of PACs with names like “Let SF Kids Play” and a foundation called “City Fields Foundation.” Their argument is that artificial turf (made out of ground up tires) and stadium lights help extend the number of hours that kids can play in the fields.

On the other side, educators, environmentalists and parents seem to be speaking out against Prop H and for Prop I. It’s almost enough to see who pays for advertisements in the voter information booklet for each side. If the field renovations would really benefit children (as all of the Let SF Kids Play ads imply), then one would expect to see more support from parents and educators. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Anyway, reservations start at $28/hr. If you’re not able to prove residency with a utility bill (because you are perhaps a child who has no utilities billed to you), then rates start at $78/hr, which I’d guess is a little high for most children.

Then who does benefit? City Fields Foundation is pouring millions into the renovations and the Fisher brothers who are behind it all are businessmen. When do businessmen get involved in projects? The partnership between the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department and City Fields Foundation probably means that CFF gets lucrative contracts for field installation and maintenance.

Here’s an extensive list of reasons to vote yes on H and no on I, including research and links from Jason Jungreis:

Continue reading

Prop E

It’s a proposed tax of 2 cents per oz on sugary beverages (25 calories or more from sugars per 12 oz serving). Who’s in favor? Sounds like the entire medical community. Dentists, pediatricians, nurses, even hospitals.

Who is opposed? Of the 13 paid arguments against in my trusty voter guide, 11 were paid for by the American Beverage Association California PAC. If you can, I highly recommend that you read the arguments against. They’re droll. Things that I assure you the ABA doesn’t care about at all, but that they’re hoping you will. They argue all of the following:

  • The tax is regressive
  • Parents should decide what their kids eat and drink, not the government
  • Cost of living is already high in San Francisco
  • Obesity is a complex issue that requires a more complex solution
  • The tax hurts small businesses
  • Everyone’s grocery costs will increase

But they remain completely silent about what I’m guessing is the true reason they’ve spent almost $8 million on ads against Prop E: that it might hurt their bottom line. I guess the truth didn’t sound like a winning argument. Does anyone honestly believe that the beverage industry cares about any of the above points? No. The beverage industry is panicking over the tax because they think it will be effective in lowering soda consumption.

If there are any San Francisco voters reading this and you haven’t decided on Prop E, consider who has your best interests at heart. The entire medical community? Or the industry that sell drinks containing the equivalent of 10 tablespoons of sugar per can?

In defense of Abercrombie & Fitch

The internet was outraged at a few comments the CEO of A&F made in 2007 about wanting to sell his clothes to thin people. His comments fall under the category of things which are logical to think and act on, but taboo to say. Of course he wants the thin/popular kids to wear his clothes: that’s basically free marketing. But America is currently on a “love your body” and “fat acceptance” kick (understandable, given that 70% of American adults are overweight or obese) so he should’ve known it’d be naughty to say it.

Me? I’m not thin. I’m not tall. I do not, in any way, resemble an A&F model and I never have. Except maybe the hair. But still, A&F has been one of my favorite clothing brands for more than 10 years. Here’s why:

1. Soft — whatever their ethics or lack of them, the clothes they make are soft. I like the feel of their fabrics against my skin. Sometimes, they sell cashmere. And it was some of the best cashmere available at that price point.

2. Fit — I’m Asian. I don’t really have breasts. A&F makes clothes for people without breasts. Most of their tops look downright pornographic if you’re larger than a B cup.

3. Attention to detail — It isn’t only the fabric and the cut, but even the tiniest details like the ribbon lining the collar on the inside look like they’ve been carefully considered. And the buttons and ribbons. And the colors. The colors are divine. No one does pastels like A&F.

But even the rest. A fat blogger (I think she identifies herself as such) did a photoshoot of herself in the style of A&F ads [linked below]. It was meant to show that fat people are attractive too, but I don’t see why this assertion matters. Some brands do target fat people. Others don’t. It seems like a deep insecurity that fat people, especially fat bloggers have. They bristle at the thought that anyone might find them unattractive. Rather than trying to contradict, it seems better to just accept that some people don’t think they’re attractive and it doesn’t matter.

You tell me — do her photos ‘prove’ that fat people are attractive too?

‘Fat’ Abercrombie Ads

Chik-fil-A

The recent hullabaloo embroiling Chik-fil-A and its president, Dan Cathy, has been interesting to watch. One point that seems confused in the press and in common discussions is whether the boycott and letters from various pro-gay-rights city leaders are about the personal beliefs of a corporation’s president. This is a misconception. The problem is that over $2 million in Chik-fil-A profits have been donated to anti-gay groups.

Now legal experts are chiming in about Cathy’s constitutional rights. I must have overlooked the constitutional right to build restaurants wherever one pleases. I’ve seen businesses banned from neighborhoods, and even cities for reasons like “it’s a chain” or “it serves unhealthy fast food” or “it would divert profits from existing businesses.” Certainly “its profits fund hate groups” is as valid a reason. Those donations have the potential to affect policy and to be at least as damaging to a community as other businesses that are blocked from moving in.

More generally, this is my problem with the “you’re not so tolerant of views different from yours” standpoint. It doesn’t matter to me that someone thinks my views are wrong. I am perfectly tolerant of their beliefs, and fully support their right to hold them and to live their lives in accordance to them. What I strongly disagree with is any attempt to encode these beliefs into laws which affect those who may not share the same beliefs. When “I believe X is morally wrong” implies “I will put money towards making X illegal” I think we can fairly call that intolerance. Can’t we agree that no one should stand for this kind of intolerance?

Is anything necessary?

(In response to the NYT article “Is Algebra Necessary“)

I am disturbed by how frequently I see opinion pieces advocating that we teach different “useful” math in school, or teach less math, or just not make math a requirement at all. I want to figure out the objection to having math requirements.

1. It is not useful

But a definitive analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that in the decade ahead a mere 5 percent of entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra or above.

Do they also have an analysis about what percent of entry-level workers will need to know who won which battle in the Civil War? Or how many will need to know how to play volleyball or run a mile? How about the percent that need to know the plot of Of Mice and Men? Ah, that’s right. Probably nothing learned in high school is exactly useful.

2. It is hard
The argument is that many drop out of high school and college because* they have difficulty fulfilling math requirements. So, the answer is to either get rid of such requirements, or replace the difficult math requirements with “useful” math. But the reason we require algebra isn’t to ensure that the workforce knows the quadratic equation. While knowing algebra doesn’t necessarily prove that a person is capable of abstract, logical thought, a complete inability to do algebra probably screens out people who do not belong in college. Why not find out sooner than later that you are not college material? It is hard, but that’s why we require it.

3. Teach something else
There’s a suggestion about teaching an alternative, easier math called “citizen statistics.” This more practical math would be easier and more generally useful. Trouble is, the one example given, “teach students how the Consumer Price Index is computed” involves algebra. In general, it is not clear whether other math courses would actually be easier for students and also confer the same filtering benefits mentioned in 2.

This continual questioning of whether we should teach math and have math requirements in higher education is a result of our society’s allergy to math. What needs to change is the attitude that “I’m really bad at math” is an acceptable quirk for a well-educated person. We need to be as ashamed to announce that as we would be to say “I am barely literate.”

* It is not clear that this is a causal relationship