Category Archives: Political

Posts that relate to politics, government policy or society.

The Big Five

I recently heard these five companies referred to as “The Big Five.” You have heard of each of these companies. You have done business with at least one of them (or you are in a coma of course).

If you are a person who considers single entities that are too powerful to be a threat, then these collectors of our information would be a threat. How do they compare in size to the US government?

Apple

$220.46 billion = annual revenue

Amazon

$142.57 billion = annual revenue

Google (Alphabet, Inc.)

$94.76 billion = annual revenue

Microsoft

$87.25 billion = annual revenue

Facebook

$30.29 billion = annual revenue

US Government

$3,200 billion = annual tax revenue

Comparison

The total revenue of the five companies combined equals just under 18% of the US government’s tax revenue. Apple’s revenue by itself is 6.9% of the US government’s revenue. They have not passed the government, but they are starting to be in the ballpark.

What They Know, Snapshot

Apple and Microsoft’s operating systems account for most of our computers. Google controls our internet searches, and Android, and YouTube, and many of our e-mails. Amazon knows what we buy. Facebook knows the rest.

What They Don’t Control

ICANN

Others

America’s Energy Infrastructure

Dear Mr. Trump,

I was a US Marine from 2007 to 2015. I flew CH-53E helicopters in the Marine Corps and completed two tours to Afghanistan. I completed my service as a Captain. I graduated from Ohio State with an electrical engineering degree in 2006. I am a civilian now, and I am happy that I will be starting a business in Columbus, Ohio in your de-regulated America.

I am a life-time Republican and I still find myself cheering for Republicans like I cheer for Cleveland sports teams. I just do. It’s in my blood. I especially relished your victory because of the brash exposure of phony politicians, and insidious media bias. Unlike a cheering fan, however, I no longer align with Republicans on every issue.

I read your two-page 100-day action plan as well as The Art of the Deal. I agree with almost everything on the action plan and I am encouraged that it will be executed by the competent team that you are assembling.

The one item that sticks out like a sore thumb, however, is your energy policy. Putting Americans to work producing $50 trillion worth of domestic energy reserves like shale, oil, natural gas, and “clean” coal would be like spending millions of dollars to refurbish the brick façade of the Commodore Hotel. It is uninspiring, unimaginitive, and small-thinking. This stated initiative is especially disappointing because of the contrast with what could be. A state-of-the-art energy infrastructure that favors renewable sources and efficiency is the modern-day equivalent of having the world’s tallest building, which as I’m sure you are painfully aware, we no longer possess.

We could build the world’s tallest building, but we don’t because it is not worth doing. Creating an energy infrastructure in America that wins in measures like efficiency, per-capita consumption, and reduced reliance on limited natural resources, especially foreign sources, is worth doing. Energy acquisition and production is not just an environmental issue. It is an important economic, national defense, and national security issue. We spend trillions, and commit forces around the world to secure trade routes to attain energy from countries with whom we would otherwise rather not deal at all. Energy is an issue that every country in the world faces, and it is not going away.

This would require challenging the very American voters who elected you as president. Some of the policies would be controversial and potentially unpopular. However, to your credit in my opinion, this has never stopped you. Leading the world with the truly best energy infrastructure would require cultural buy-in at the most basic level. Such a cultural shift would have to be led by an independent initiator with a grass-roots following and credibility on the issue. Politicians quoting scientists telling us that melting ice and arguably-measurable increases in storm intensity will never assign the imporance that it deserves. The various other reasons to undertake these projects are more directly visible and more important anyway.

This would require innovation. I hardly have to say that America is great and always has been because of our ability to innovate. We are up to it if anybody is up to it.

This would be difficult. We fought a civil war to save the union and end the evils of slavery—difficult, but the right thing to do. We were the deciding factor in both world wars—difficult, but the right thing to do. President Kennedy challenged America in 1961 to reach the moon by the end of the decade—difficult, but we got there first, and on time. Opening the floodgates to easy energy would be predictable, boring, and easy. All three of those things are un-Trump and un-American.

We need new energy infrastructure projects, but we shouldn’t be dusting off the old brick façades from 1970. Our infrastructure is already big. It should be innovative, efficient, shiny, and new. It should win in every category and by every measure. It can and should be built by competent American private businesses with leaders like yourself, incentivized by natural market forces. We can. It is worth doing, and it is the right thing to do.

Nathan Ruffing

President Trump’s First 100 Days

Donald Trump is (or will be on 20 January) the most powerful man on the planet. He released two pages outlining what actions he is going to take in his first 100 days in office, his 100-Day Action Plan to Make America Great Again on his website in late October. Let’s see how he does.

Here is a link to the pdf that I downloaded around the time of the election.

Here is a link to where you can download it directly from his site. (same document, different place)

8 November 2016: Trump elected.

15 Nov 2016: President-elect Trump announces presidential inaugural committee leadership. Unrelated to the plan, just preparing for the inauguration.

21 Nov 2016: President-elect Trump releases video message. The video is just over 2 minutes. He reiterates items directly from the plan.

18 Jan 2017: two days before the inauguration, Trump does an interview with Fox News. Most of the talk was about the inauguration. From the election through today, there were 3 main focuses in the media and from Trump:

  1. Trump selecting cabinet members
  2. The media trying to make stories out of very little actually happening
  3. Trump tweeting and responding to the media on Twitter.

23 Jan 2017: Sean Spicer’s first White House press briefing, work day one.

  • Trump has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • He has revived two proposed oil pipelines, the Keystone and Dakota. (I don’t personally support this, but he signed something that allowed them to go forward).
  • He reiterated his intention to withdraw from NAFTA, but that there is a procedure that has to be followed in accordance with the deal.
  • He reiterated his intent to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • There were no specifics yet, but he reiterated his intent to make deals that allow businesses to create jobs.
  • He still intends to build a wall on the Mexican border. Sean Spicer continued the focus on illegal immigrants who have committed crimes per the 100-day plan.

Many of the questions at the briefing sound stupid. Initially, I hesitated to make that judgement because the reporters must be well-vetted to even be in the room. Then one of the reporters (named “Shane,” no further ID stated) referred to the “First Day Action Plan,” and asked why Trump didn’t address everything on the plan on the first day. That subject I am familiar with and I am 100% sure it’s an incredibly stupid question. It’s a 100-day plan, not a 1-day plan. I’m really surprised they don’t suspend reporters’ privilege of being in that room sometimes and replace them with competent people.

Trump still believes there were millions of illegal voters in the election.

28 Jan 2017: I am not going to continue to follow this contract. It just takes too much time. In attempting to follow, I have heard various reporters say that it is difficult and it is their full-time job. I will return to the subject on 30 Apr to check the results.

In searching for the truth on this subject, the best source I found was to search “Sean Spicer” on YouTube. A good portion of what the media talks about comes from the White House spokesman. I am certainly not suggesting agree with everything that he says, but if you get the information second-hand it is often not even recognizable from what Sean Spicer actually said.

Another source, and I know this hurts, is to follow Trump on Twitter. Like it or not, fact: the president of the United States tweets daily. The media talks about it. If you’re going to hear them talk about it, you should know what they’re talking about.

That is obviously only one side. For dissenting opinions, I look for Trump’s own people because they don’t have ulterior motives to dissent. Secretary of Defense General Mad Dog Mattis’ dissenting opinion on the use of torture is a good example so far.

Two other sources from the past that appear genuine are his former employees Louise Sunshine and Hayley Strozier. They tell unflattering stories that appear to be true while they don’t appear to be gaining personally from it.

What I believe are unifying truths in this situation are that we don’t have a unifying purpose. Had Obama succeeded at his agenda, half the country didn’t want it. He talked smoothly of unification and “crossing the aisle,” but to me and many people, he was divisive in his own way. Trump is openly hostile, and I thought that, counter-intuitively, maybe this approach would have the opposite effect by making it a badge of honor to get along with the big bad Trump. That is a stretch I know! So far, that does not appear to be the result.

What are we doing? What is success?

So we lack a unifying purpose at the national level: we need to invest personally in our local communities! People are already doing this. You probably already are. Turn off the TV, and feel good about it! Embrace your sense of purpose!

30 April 2017: His first 100 days are complete.

Global Warming: Some Numbers, and My Opinion

Below are some numbers to put our effect as humans in perspective. I have heard both sides of this polarizing issue for a long time, and have been meaning to put some numbers to my own intuition. I chose numbers that can be intuitively understood and, though they are estimates, can be measured fairly directly. As far as I know, the following is not seriously in dispute.

5.15 x 1018 Kg = total mass of the atmosphere.

3.0 x 1015 Kg = total mass of CO2 in the atmosphere.

0.0582% = CO2 in the atmosphere by weight.

https://micpohling.wordpress.com/2007/03/30/math-how-much-co2-by-weight-in-the-atmosphere/

35.9 x 1012 Kg = annual CO2 released by human activity, 2014.

Annual CO2 released by humans as a fraction of total = [35.9 x 1012 Kg] / [3.0 x 1015 Kg] = 1.2% of the total CO2 in the atmosphere.

2.0 x 1015 Kg of CO2 = total CO2 released from 1870-2014.

[2.0 x 1015 Kg] / [3.0 x 1015 Kg] = CO2 released from 1870-2014 equals 67% of total CO2 in the atmosphere.

https://www.co2.earth/global-co2-emissions

The amount of CO2 released by humans can be measured fairly accurately. Annually, it equals ~1.2% of the total weight of CO2 in the atmosphere*.

*This is not to be confused with a ratio comparing to the amount released naturally annually. We are one source of many in an equilibrium. The amount released and consumed naturally cannot be measured as directly.

The amount released by humans since the beginning of the industrial revolution can also be estimated. This equals ~67% of the total CO2 in the atmosphere. However, the total we have poured in over that amount of time is like measuring the amount of water you put into a bucket with a big leak. How much is still in the bucket? It depends on the leak!
My conclusion: the amount that humans release is not massively alarming in proportion. However, it certainly cannot  be dismissed as irrelevant.

The Volcano Effect

~200 x 109 Kg = mass of CO2 that volcanoes release annually on average. This number is widely disputed, and is known to be not well measured.

http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/archive/2007/07_02_15.html

[200 x 109 Kg] / [35.9 x 1012 Kg of CO2] = .56%,

The CO2 released by volcanoes continuously is less than 1% of the amount released by humans continuously, based on this estimate. How much does a big eruption produce? …

The Tambora Eruption of 1815

Regardless of what you believe, you have to read about this! The magnitude is unbelievable. Fun to read about.

https://www.wired.com/2015/04/tambora-1815-just-big-eruption/

The Tambora eruption was possibly the largest in the last 10,000 years: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1815_eruption_of_Mount_Tambora

Tambora released up to 120 x 109 Kg of SO2 and likely caused the “Year Without a Summer” of 1816: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer

What is the long-term effect of one huge volcano? How does that compare to our human effect? I do not know.

My Opinion

I personally believe that yes, the earth is warming because we continuously release significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. It makes common sense. Almost everything we do releases CO2. More CO2 changes the reflective properties of the atmosphere. The greenhouse effect as a concept is a proven fact. If it is possible to change the temperature by adding CO2, we are doing everything we can to make it happen.

What do I think we should do? What do I think government policy should be? Regardless of climate change, I believe that reducing dependency on carbon-based fuels is a worthy challenge. Regardless of climate change! Even though I believe global warming is happening, I can’t prove it. Nobody can. Even if it can be proven, can we stop it or reverse it? Well, who cares? Alternatives are cleaner, more renewable, and we could use a good challenge anyway! I think the government should set policy–yes including raising taxes on carbon-based fuels–such that the price is at a level where people have to make significant life choices to economize, but can still live comfortably. For example, car pooling and public transportation are a lot more attractive at $5 / gallon than at $2 / gallon. This simultaneously buys time to find alternate solutions, spurs market ingenuity, provides a meaningful challenge that encourages people to work together, and even supports national security by reducing dependency.

Thanks, but No Thanks

Dear Federal Government,

This just doesn’t feel right. I’ve seen your balance sheet and you can’t afford to send me this “disability” check. I’m not cashing it.

If I’m not taking the money, then why did I submit a claim? I submitted a claim because it is the only way to not be forced to pay for medical coverage that is falsely expensive because of your, the government’s, involvement.

For the record, I did not lie on my claim. I listed all my aches and pains–which thankfully are minor–and let the system decide. I got 10%. I really don’t know all the politics behind this issue, and I’m not a health care professional, but there is no way that I should be receiving free money.

I will be at my first annual check-up at the VA medical center, where the nurses and doctors have been very accommodating and professional, on the 16th because that is what I need. I will continue to live a healthy lifestyle for myself, and to fulfill my responsibility to not be a drain on the system.

I will continue to save my money when I can. I hope you can do the same. You can start with my two hundred some dollars a month. It would be nice to cash the check and throw it on the giant pile that I’ve saved by not buying into the American consumer society that you’ve promoted, but I really don’t need it.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Statue of Responsibility

In January 2015, while on military assignment to Okinawa, Japan, I read the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I had read it once before, but this time when I read in the book Frankl’s suggestion of a Statue of Responsibility on the west coast to compliment the Statue of Liberty on the east coast, it really struck a chord with me. I believe it is a great idea, I believe in the concept, and most of all, I believe in the movement behind it. I have since become involved with the movement. Click here for more information. The following is what it means to me:

As a service member and now as a veteran, when people thank me for my service, I appreciate it, but I want to tell them that while our freedom was won in the past by fighting wars, it is secured now by acting responsibly. If we want to thank our veterans, we can do so by doing our part to keep our country great. Let’s show our ancestors, who fought much more difficult wars than we do, that their sacrifice was for long-term good. I’m not talking about what we say, or who we support, or how we vote. I’m talking about what we do, and about how we live our life, because individuals’ actions affect our country as a whole. What we do as individuals affects who we are as a country and whether we will continue to be great.

In the United States, we have great freedom, wealth, and opportunities. With all this, we are presented with many options. Options are good, but they are simultaneously our downfall. We as individuals have to say “no” to many of the spoils of wealth and freedom that are available to us. We have to say “no” to credit cards and loans that overextend us financially, whether the lender is willing or not. We have to turn off our TVs and allow the resulting uncomfortable silence to motivate us to do something greater with our spare time. We have to say “no” to all the cheap, fatty foods that permeate our restaurants and stores. We have to say “no” to drugs, whether we are allowed to use them legally or not. We have to say “no” to all those things that squander our opportunities.

What can we accomplish as a country right now if we really try? I don’t know. If I ventured to guess, I would probably fall short of what is actually possible. We will only find out if we stop doing all the wasteful things that are holding us back. Free up our time, energy, and resources and fill it in with something productive. Volunteer. Become active in our neighborhoods and churches. Research charity organizations and make a contribution. Take a small leadership position in the community and make decisions for the greater good. I believe we can transform our culture. Let’s find out what is possible!

Nielsen Survey

I was recently solicited to participate in a Nielsen household TV survey. They have a unique way of enticing participation. The first envelope has a lot of explanatory material and a request to participate, as well as–without explanation–$5 cash, a single five-dollar bill. I agreed to participate, so after a few weeks they sent me a second envelope with a “TV Viewing Diary” to be filled out in detail for two weeks; and again the cash–this time the envelope contained six five-dollar bills, $30 cash! I spent the fives on groceries, filled out the TV viewing diary (blank because I don’t watch), and took their TV survey. Now, like Pavlov’s dogs, I am expecting a thank you letter with more cash. I can’t wait to hear from Nielsen again!

At the end of the diary, Nielsen leaves space and asks you to “comment on TV in general.” This is my response:

Except for about two years in the middle, I haven’t had TV in my house since 2003 (for two years my roommates had one). At first I felt like I was missing something and like I didn’t know what was going on. After a few months, I no longer missed it and I gathered from conversations at work and with friends what was in the news and what was going on in various shows. After a few years, I started having the opinion that TV actually prevents people from really knowing what’s going on. I hear conversations about current shows and it’s all sensationalized fantasy.  People’s world view from the news is this chaotic, scary place, when really the world, for the most part, is fairly well-off, happy, and stable. When I see TV now, much of it is shocking and some of it is offensive. I do miss sports and ESPN. I watch ESPN
whenever I can! -Nathan Ruffing