"Progressives" blind hatred on billionaires

The Presidential candidates from the Democratic party are spending thousands of dollars on ads and hours on television to tell the public how much they abhor millionaires and billionaires, and why such rich folks shouldn’t exist. Here is an example from AOC

This kind of logic and blind hatred doesn’t make sense to me. Who ever got rich by only trading time for money, by not making money while sleeping or by not having additional income outside the usual salary?

Working harder or working long hours isn’t the only ingredient in the recipe to get rich. In my opinion, there are a few factors:

  • Luck! Name me one rich person who sincerely wouldn’t admit that he or she hit one lucky break before
  • Working hard. If being rich were easy, everybody would be rich by now. If being a billionaire were easy, we would all be Bezoses, Zuckerbergs, Gateses now. Since everyone wants to get ahead in life, anyone who wants to get rich has to pay their dues and work hard
  • Offering values to the society. Realistically, compensation climbs up with the values delivered to the society. The more value is delivered to a bigger audience, the more valuable the value creator is and the richer he or she will get. Building an application that connects 2.5 billion people on Earth and allows advertisers to reach millions of people delivers far more value than packaging goods in a factory. Don’t get me wrong. I respect people’s occupations. I am merely talking about how compensation reflects a value proposition. That’s why an experienced executive who is perceived as much valuable than an entry-level staffer gets paid more. Of course, the executive is expected to shoulder immensely bigger responsibilities and results.
  • Work smart. This is tied up to the point right above. Working smarter enables one person to be more productive and become more valuable faster. The number of hours doesn’t necessarily reflect the production.

Going back to the topic at hand, reaching a millionaire or billionaire status isn’t easy. Like I mentioned, it’s not easy. In fact, it’s exceedingly difficult. That’s why only a minority of people achieved the status. Hating on billionaires who made their fortune by working hard and smart and delivering value to millions of people is just disrespectful to them. I am sure that there are cases where folks created a fortune with questionable legalities or through inheritance. Nonetheless, that’s why making a generalizing unfavorable comment on billionaires who legitimately reaped the fruits of their work is misleading at best and irresponsible at worst, in my opinion.

Plus, if these Democratic politicians hate millionaires and billionaires that much, would they give away their fortune or not act on a lucrative opportunity if they had it? I remember Bernie Sanders used to mention “millionaires” in his speeches until he became one after his book. Now, he solely rages on billionaires. Just an observation.

Don’t get me wrong. I am against almost every thing GOP politicians (not the conservative ideologies, they are two very different things) represent now. However, at the same, I lament the myopic talking points, the blind hatred and the misleading statements that come from “progressive” Democrats.

When we really want to dig deeper, the reason why income inequality is appalling in America is because the laws allow it. If it weren’t legally possible, it wouldn’t happen. The millionaires and billionaires just play the game better than others. It is the politicians who are the law-makers that allow it. If they want to look for anyone to blame, well, start by looking into the mirror.

The cost of bad reputation

I came across this article on the fact that Japan is imposing stricter visa process for individuals from certain countries, including Vietnam

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Japan will also expand its list of countries subject to stricter visa checks. Currently, only students from seven countries, including China (excluding Hong Kong and other regions), Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Mongolia are under strict visa screening processes. Vietnam currently has the highest number of people overstaying their student visas, 3,065 in total.

It is really shameful to see my country included in such a list. Nonetheless, as I have lived abroad and seen actions by my fellow Vietnamese overseas, I am not surprised at all by the new policy from the Japanese government. I saw Vietnamese students take advantage of the trust by Finnish to avoid paying metro tickets. I heard about the distasteful actions by Vietnamese community in Prague and saw first hand how unfriendly a Vietnamese market was in the city. Hell, there is a lot of ambiguity on how much it costs for a citizen like myself to renew my passport. The fees will depend on one’s occupation and income.

The misdemeanor by a few tarnishes the reputation of a whole people. There is a certain degree of unfairness that some have to suffer by the actions of a few, but that’s just how it works. And Vietnamese people do suffer from having a bad reputation. We essentially need visas to travel anywhere except to a few countries in South East Asia, Africa and South America. My H1B is valid for 3 years, but the maximum length given to a Vietnamese passport is just one year. I do know that my Chinese colleagues get 5-year visas. The lack of credibility creates a great deal of inconvenience, time consumption and trouble. We, as a people, would save a lot of time and money on all the visa paperwork if we had better credibility and if our citizens thought about the overall impact of our actions.

My thought on Mitt Romney's decision

The impeachment hearing is over. The result is exactly what many who had been following this saga and I expected. The defendant was acquitted along the party line. Much of the noise that came out of the hearing was Mitt Romney’s decision to join Democrat senators to vote in favor of the article(s) of impeachment. Ever since, the former presidential candidate has received plenty of praise for the act.

I wouldn’t particularly get on that train and give him total credit. To be clear, I am in no position to speculate what was behind Senator Romney’s decision to support the impeachment. His coming out to support the Democrats was at the end of the hearing when it was mathematically impossible to remove the President from office. His decision came already too late and looked suspiciously a bit self-serving.

The main reason why I suspected the Senator’s motive was that he didn’t vote to subpoena evidence and witnesses. He already swore his oath at the beginning of the hearing and I believe in my heart, regardless of how I would have preferred the trial to turn out, that his duty was to be as impartial and fair as possible. Impartiality would involve getting as much information and truth to light as possible and that meant calling for evidence and witnesses. Had he come out in support of the subpoenas, other Republican senators on the fence would have had more leverage and support. Democrats would have had more momentum. THAT would have been a true and undisputed example of courage and upholding the faith that he talked about.

I believe that Senator Romney’s character played a role in his decision. I am not that paranoid or cynical. However, I would have believed him more if he had come out in the end and said: sorry everybody, I messed up on the subpoena votes, I am sorry and I now support the article(s) of impeachment. Or if he had voted on the call for witnesses or evidence. It’s exceedingly tough for me to overlook the fact that he went along with his party at the expense of the oath that he took.

Kindle App vs iBooks on iOS 13

Amazon isn’t exactly known for its design capability, yet I am relatively pleased with the Kindle App on iOS 13. Below is a brief comparison between the two apps in terms of features and UX.

Appearance

The Kindle app offers different options to adjust the font, the theme, the spacing between rows, the brightness and the view.

With the exception of the ability to change spacing between rows, all the other features are very similar to what iBooks provides. Personally, I appreciate the green theme available on Kindle.

Looking up and translating words

Additionally, readers can translate, look up unknown words and learn more about them via Wikipedia inside the Kindle app handily. All readers need to do is to select the word and the features are automatically presented.

On iBooks, it’s a little bit different. After clicking on a word and choosing “Look up”, readers will be taken to a page that includes various options related to the word in question

Taking notes

It’s a little bit frustrating to take and copy notes on iOS. As the short video shows, users have to select a block of text manually again for any use.

If users want to use the copied text somewhere, iOS has a default footnote that comes with every single copy. The note itself reminds users of the title and author at hand, but it creates another step that becomes annoying if repeated.

On Kindle, taking notes is a bit easier. A whole block of text can be chosen and copied with only a touch of your fingertip. Additionally, there is no default footnote as in the case of iBooks.

Flashcard

Kindle has one feature that is absent on iBooks: Flash Cards. It’s pretty handy for those that like to take notes and come back later to test their memory.

In short, the two apps provide very similar core functionalities. The difference comes, I suspect, mainly from special use cases. Personally, because I often copy quotes and notes from books to this blog in my book review entries, I prefer Kindle to iBooks.

My failures in the last year

Holidays are the time for reflection and thinking forward. I have had some ups and downs over the past year. While it is tempting to write about what I achieve, which is by no means numerous, I prefer writing about what I failed at and what I can improve on in the near future.

Insufficient focus

Like many others, I succumbed to the constant distractions in our daily life. News, friends, entertainment, TV shows, sports, music, you name it. I wasn’t as focused as I should be. The amount of deep work time wasn’t as much as I would like it to be. It definitely sits at the top of my personal to-do list this year and moving forward.

Gained weight

When do you think you would spend more time in the gym: while working 20 hours at school, 20 hours as an intern at work and taking a Dual Master’s degree or after you graduate and have only your full-time position? For me, it’s the former! I know, shame on me. I did manage to spend less time in the gym for the past year than when I was still in school. The consequence? 12 more pounds was gained. Clothes became tighter. Confidence was sapped.

Lost control of expenses

The second half of 2019 witnessed arguably my wort self in terms of personal finance. Some expenses were inevitable such as learning to drive, buying a car and paying for accompanying costs such as insurance, car washes and maintenance. What worried me was my reckless spending on booze, unnecessary dining and excessively expensive coffee while I could have free coffee from work and my own building. Since my H1B status limits what I can earn in addition to my full time job, the failure to save money effectively was pretty embarrassing on my part.

Missed calls on the stock market

Apple stock stood at $142 on 3rd January 2019 after Tim Cook’s letter to announce a revised guidance. I didn’t load up on the stock. 12 months later, the stock is around $290 today. It’s just one of the few examples of how my indecision hurt me financially. I did have some stocks in my portfolio that didn’ perform as expected. However, the disappointment with such stocks didn’t eat me up as much as the regret over indecision. Lesson learned.

Lack of sales skills

I am not good at sales. Emphatically not good enough. I ought to be better at selling my ideas, my opinions, my work and myself. At the end of the day, we humans interact with one another and having decent sales skills can be helpful in my career and personal life.

Dearth of volunteering work

I need to start involving in the local community more. It’s not a high bar when the total number of volunteering hours l accrued this year is a grand zero.

I may sit here at this time next year and write about the same failures again. I do plan to work on some, if not all, of them in the next 366 days. Regardless, I do want to keep myself honest and accountable.

Connecting the dots looking backward

“You can only connect the dots looking backward” – I think those words or something along that line came from Steve Jobs.

When I was 15, I joined High School for the Gifted, a high school that was 20 mins from my home. I was the first person in the family that went to a high school outside of a 10-min radius from my place. All the years studying maths in secondary school led me to sign up for the entrance exam to the maths class at that high school. I failed by 0.5 points. I thought that was it, but I was offered a second chance to join either the IT, Chemistry or Physics class. I chose the latter despite knowing almost zero about physics. When I graduated, I didn’t know much either. Back then, I didn’t even know what a USB was and I was certainly clueless about A LOT of things. But my friends and peers saved me. Their wanting to go overseas motivated me to follow suit and enabled me to dare to dream. The seed was planted in those days and I started to plot my way to go overseas.

After high school, I took on the SAT mission. I couldn’t remember the score anymore, but it wasn’t high enough to secure a scholarship. Two months after the SAT test, I passed the entrance exam to a polytechnic university in Finland. Back in the day, education was free in Finland, even for foreigners. My family’s finance wasn’t great. As a result, I took that chance to go and study in Finland. A few months after coming to Finland, I used my SAT to get into Aalto University, the best university in Finland. That turn of events opened the doors for me later which led me to the University of Nebraska at Omaha and America several years after.

Around 2015, I was working in the Marketing department for a small hotel in Hoi An, Vietnam. Being small and lacking personnel, our hotel didn’t have a designated person to take care of revenue management. I volunteered to assume such responsibility since I was eager to learn and felt comfortable with numbers. Little did I know that the experience was the answer in the interview 4 years later that landed me my current job.

It has been 10 years since the first date I went overseas for the first time. A little more than that since the day I walked into my high school. A lot of things happened and even though it felt insignificant at the time, the events usually took place for a reason and led to bigger consequences later in my life. Like Steve said, we can only connect the dots looking backward. My point is that if you stumble upon this post and read this humble account of a Vietnamese stranger, keep in mind that whatever you go through may pay dividends later. Well, it may also bring about consequences, but a Friday night does call for a little extra optimism, doesn’t it?

We are prone to simplifying a complicated world

As human-beings, we are all entitled to freedom of speech. Everybody should be able to voice his or her opinion, but the right isn’t absolute. When one person dishes out lies about others, the lies strip the victim of the right to be perceived truthfully. The problem is that who will decide whether the culprit should be punished, what punishment there should be and who will be the judge. Nobody can have an answer that satisfies everybody, whether the answer is governments or corporations such as Facebook, Twitter or Google. Defining the limits of free speech while preserving such a right is a highly complex question.

A big topic that receives a lot of attention and debates is socialism and capitalism. Each social system has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each only works with a certain set of conditions. It’s similar to our personal life. What we think at 16 doesn’t work when we reach 25 or 40. Conditions evolve and systems need to evolve to adapt too. Yet, what happens is that folks tend to swing to an extreme end to advocate for his or her belief, neglecting the complexity of a social system and what is required to make it work.

I believe that it is possible to evaluate the performance of a government. It’s fair to say that the Singaporean government did an exceptional job in bringing a country with few natural resources to where it is today. Or it is fair to say that the Japanese government did a great job in elevating the country after World War II. What I don’t believe is that one metric in a snapshot can be telling of a government’s performance. We often see in the media politicians take credit for unemployment rate or a number of jobs created. Well, we have to ask questions, including but not limited to 1) what kind of jobs were created 2) do we have a growth in wages? 3) how is it compared YoY and 4) at what cost? Let’s say that the government increased spending in order to generate jobs but received little in revenue in return. It means that it’s true that there are jobs created, but at the same time the federal deficit increased. The government or the nation sank deeper in debt. Therefore, it’s not easy at all to say with certainty how well a government performs, especially only over a short period of time. But do we see that sentiment on the news?

Another polarizing debate is climate change. Both the doubters and proponents of climate change present their respective scientic studies and data to back up their case. The problem is which side is correct. We generate a lot of data that can be sliced and interpreted in different ways in order to create various narratives. Some politicians or celebrities call “climate change” the defining problem of our time or something along that line. They may be right, but it’s not easy to know the answer to that.

The older I get, the more I realize how complicated and complex the world is. Yet, folks tend to make definitive statements on highly complex issues for various reasons, myself included to be frank. We are all prone to simplifying a complex world more than we should. Perhaps, a little reservation, a little prudence, a little thinking it through, a little humility, a little self-honesty will make the world a better place.