Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for December, 2020

Trump the Election Troll

with 5 comments

An online troll attacks people to evoke emotional responses; activity that is considered online harassment. I’ve never taken trolling seriously; I’ve always shrugged it off and dismissed it. In observing Trump’s behavior since loosing the elections, I identify it as trolling. He uses Twitter to make false claims and to threaten other officials (the example below concerns the Georgia run-off, not Trump’s own loss):

What a fool Governor @BrianKempGA of Georgia is. Could have been so easy, but now we have to do it the hard way. Demand this clown call a Special Session and open up signature verification, NOW. Otherwise, could be a bad day for two GREAT Senators on January 5th.
12:03 AM · Dec 14, 2020·Twitter for iPhone

He lost the elections and has turned to trolling to evoke his following to be up in arms. Unfortunately, the effect of online trolling may lead to physical altercation and harm. Of course, beyond trolling the elections, Trump has his personal lawyer attempting a reversal of a democratic procedure. But at the moment, I’m more concerned about the trolling and the continued divisiveness that his online and media trolling is having upon the nation.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to merely dismiss Trump’s trolling as I do with other trolls. Yesterday morning an old friend and journalist txt’d me “did you see how trump is sending alternate electors to Congress? He is now full fledged working on a coup. No respect for our constitution or democracy.” Having woken up concerned that the final Electoral College count would not reflecting the states won by Biden – 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 and worried that Biden’s win would not be certified, this txt increased my anxiety. In response to my anxious questioning, she wrote “No. It will fail. But it’s just so disgusting.” So I relaxed, but I was feeling the effects of a troll and I was annoyed at being susceptible to Trumps trolling the 2020 Elections.

Today, Mitch McConnell finally acknowledged Biden’s win and even congratulated Vice President Elect Kamala Harris which helps me put anxieties induced by Trump’s trolling further to rest.

However, what is most worrying about Trump’s election trolling is the gathering of many hundred Trump supporters in DC this past Saturday. Watching the video of that gathering and the way these people applauded a helicopter that took Trump to the Army Navy Game reminded me of images of black and red clad Nicaraguans cheering Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. It is a confounding cult of personality.

The last +4 years, I have been dumbfounded at the spell that this egomaniacal liar has upon a large number of U.S. citizens. I find him so disgusting and yet over 70 million people voted for him. And now his trolling activity only continues the divide in this country.

I expect that Trump will be historicized amongst the most wretched presidents of this nation state, but meanwhile, I have be part of a country divided; division that could begin to calm if the trolling stopped.

Some ten years ago when my ex-spouse was trolled by someone in the midwest (we are based in Brooklyn), because he felt that her research and creative work was his domain and was essentially jealous of all the attention she was getting, she felt threatened and forced us to set up an alarm system. This was an alarm system more commonly found in a home, not really necessary in a fifth floor apartment of a Brooklyn coop. However, his messages were so menacing that my arguing against the necessity of an alarm system was ignored. The alarm system was only a costly nuisance, but this is an example of the power that internet trolls can wield. This is nothing compared to when the troll is the president.

Written by ricardo

December 15th, 2020 at 2:36 pm

The Deficit Myth 001

with 7 comments

I recently finished Stephanie Kelton’s book The Deficit Myth and I’m going to create a series of blog entries considering the material of the book. In doing so, I will liberally be quoting the book as part of my goal is to consider and digest my highlights from the text.

Kelton’s goal is to have us understand Modern Monetary Theory and how if embraced, it can help us create a better society. Kelton asks “What would it look like if the government overcame the deficit myths [the concept of having to maintain a household budget] and started budgeting like a currency issuer instead of pretending that it needs to pay for its spending just like the rest of us?” (pg. 42)

Although I think that we should all read this book (though it can be a bit repetitive), I’m going to copy the main points of the United States federal deficit myths that need to be debunked. These points are in the introduction and are given a chapter each:

First Myth:
The idea that the United States federal government needs to budget like a household is pernicious… “MMT demonstrates that the federal government is not dependent on revenue form taxes or borrowing to finance its spending and that the most important constraint on government spending is inflation.” pg. 9

Second Myth:
“It is possible for the government to spend too much. Deficits can be too big. But evidence of overspending is inflation, and most of the time deficits are too small, not too big.” pg.9

Third Myth:
Deficits will burden the next generation. Ronald Reagan was one of the wort perpetrators of the myth that we would saddle our children with too much debt, because it’s powerful political rhetoric. “As a share of gross domestic product (GDP), the national debt was at its highest – 120% – in the period immediately following WWII. Yet, this was the same period during which the middle class was built, real media family income soared, and the next generation enjoyed a higher standard of living without the added burden of higher tax rates… Increasing the deficit doesn’t make future generations poorer, and reducing the deficit won’t make them any richer.” pg.9

Fourth Myth:
“…deficits are harmful because the crowd out private investment and undermine long-term investment… government deficits eat up some of the dollars that would otherwise have been invested in private sector endeavors that promote long-term prosperity. We will see why the reverse is true – fiscal deficits actually increase private savings – and can easily crowd-in private investments.” pg. 10

Fifth Myth:
“Deficits make the United States dependent on foreigners [China and Japan as they hold large quantities of U.S. debt]… this is a fiction that politicians wittingly or unwittingly propagate, often as an excuse to ignore social programs desperate need of funding. Sometimes this myth has used the metaphor of irresponsibly taken out a foreign credit card. This misses the fact that the dollars aren’t originating from China. They’re coming from the U.S. We’re not borrowing from China so much as we’re supplying China with dollars and then allowing them to trade those dollars in for a safe, interest-bearing asset called a U.S. treasury. There is absolutely nothing risky or pernicious about this. If we wanted to, we could pay off the debt immediately with a simple keystroke.” pg.10

Sixth Myth:
“Entitlements are propelling us toward a long-term fiscal crisis. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the supposed culprits… Our government will always be able to meet future obligations because it can never run out of money. The money can always be there. The question is, What will that money buy? Changing demographics and the impacts of climate change are real challenges that could put stress on available resources.” pg.11

Kelton ends the introduction with a call to arms:

“The fact that 21 percent of all children in the United States live in poverty- that’s a crisis. The fact that our infrastructure is graded at a D+ is a crisis. The fact that inequality today stands at levels last seen during America’s Gilded Age is a crisis. The fact that the typical American worker has seen virtually no real wage growth since the 1970s is a crisis. The fact that forty-four million Americans are saddled with $1.7 trillion in student loans debt is a crisis. And the fact that we ultimately won’t be able to ‘afford’ anything at all if we end up exacerbating climate change and destroy the life on this planet is perhaps the biggest crisis of them all.” pg.11

“These are real crises. The national deficit is not a crisis.” pg.12

“THE CRIME OF the tax bill signed by Trump in 2017 is not that it added to the deficit but that it used the deficit to provide help to those who needed it least. It has widened inequality, putting more political and economic power into the hands of the few… We should tax billionaires to rebalance the distribution of wealth and income and to protect the health of our democracy.” pg. 12

As the many citizens of the United States need a financial lifeline from the federal government to help make it through this pandemic, Kelton foresees the stalling of a second stimulus:

“The federal deficit, which was expected to top $1 trillion before the virus became a threat, will likely skyrocket beyond $3 trillion in the months ahead. If history is any lesson, anxiety over rising budget deficits will lead to pressure to reduce fiscal support in order to wrestle deficits lower. That would be an unmitigated disaster. Right now, and in the months ahead, the most fiscally responsible way to manage the crisis is with higher deficit spending.” pg. 13

My Wild Ride with NVAX

with 2 comments

NVAX on December 1st 2020 from Yahoo Finance

Yesterday, November 30th 2020, I sold my remaining shares of the biotech Novavax Stock at $143.53. I had previously sold shares of the stock in July at $98.29 and then regretted that sell when the stock rose to over $170 a month later. Although I expect the stock to once again rise, I decided that I was satisfied with the gains and did not want to monitor a company that had never brought a vaccine to market in its 33 year history, but received $1.6 billion dollars from the Trump Administration’s shady Operation Warp Speed.

In 2018, fresh from a divorce and having to meet new financial responsibilities of child support and thinking ahead about my son’s college fund, I opened an account with Robinhood. After all, the trading app allowed me to open an account with next to no money, unlike my experience with Vanguard with which I needed a base $3k to start investing. So I needed to generate more money and felt it was time to learn about the stock market beyond the safety of Vanguard indices.

Amongst my most speculative investments was Novavax as I know nothing about biotech, but the stock was a penny stock and I figured, why not take a small gamble. Of course, I considered the company’s long history dating back to 1995 and looked at the rise and falls of the stock. I thought to myself – it’s been around a long time, it has 500 employees, I’ll buy over hundred shares at an average of .56 cents and see what happens. Again, I was new to investing and did not have substantial funds to gamble with so I only buy small amounts, hoping that little by little, I can buy more.

On May 10th 2019, NVAX had a 1 for 20 reverse split, so for each 20 shares of NVAX that I owned pre-split, suddenly became 1. I watched my 120 shares that I had spent $72.21 become 10 stocks (yes not a 1 to 20 and I don’t understand this). Although the dollar amount remained the same, I hated seeing my over a hundred shares become 10. I was so annoyed with the stock, but oh well, nothing to do but let it sit. (The math here doesn’t add up, according to my Robinhood history, I bought 100 shares at .62 cents and then 20 shares at .51 cents and then those 120 shares became 10 following the reverse split. However, the dollar amounts below are correct.)

In the end, I spent $72.21 and sold for $1344.84 for at total gain of $1272.89. Now, I’ll take that gain and buy perhaps Apple or Google or Amazon – a stock that I expect will be around for at least ten years – this is my friend Greg’s advice – buy shares of companies that will stick around. (I’ve already bought Tesla and have only gained, but keep expecting that to entirely disappear at any moment.)

I understand that I’ll never become wealthy at this rate of playing it safe, but I elected to not be greedy and instead to be happy with this gamble, while walking away from Operation Warp Speed nonsense. By the way, yesterday, I sold NVAX at $143.53 and today it is at $125.32; after today, I’m not looking at this stock again. After spending way too much time looking at stocks over the last two years, I’m ready to stop speculating, hang up my dreams of getting rich quick and just invest in relatively safe companies, while also getting back to more meaningful use of my time.

My take away: It took a pandemic and a dirty president to turn my $72 into $1200. The money is dirty and we need to be transparent about how stocks rise and fall to help reign in financial disparity.

Written by ricardo

December 1st, 2020 at 9:39 am