Luck, the Butterfly Effect, Capitalism, & Taxes

It’s always strange to realize how much a small instant can change our lives.
I think of many famous actors, and they probably don’t know the junior casting agent that advocated for them to be auditioned which lead to super stardom.

So many people’s life have been incredibly influenced by small actions of someone they may not even know.

I remember applying to Shopify in 2011. I was working in politics at the time so my LinkedIn was as plain and boring as possible. You don’t want to attract the attention of the other party’s “Opposition research” team. (Most “scandals” or most weird news you hear about a politicians past on the news was most likely fed to the media by someone’s Opposition research group).

At the time in my application I told them how they needed to integrate shopify with WordPress. I got an email back telling me they looked at my Linkedin and didn’t think I was a good fit. I hadn’t even thought of my LinkedIn when I applied. I focused on my cover letter and answering their questions. I didn’t even reply back challenging that either. A year later I was at WordPress VIP and was tasked with reviewing the new Shopify WordPress plugin for security and performance concerns. The very one I had essentially been told I was not good enough to write.

It’s strange because that tiny thing, my linkedIn profile has in a way had a huge impact. If I had been a Shopify employee at that time, I would have had stock options that would be worth millions. It’s interesting how tiny decisions can have huge impact. I know it’s the butterfly effect and it’s been “proven”, but still, thinking about it in actions in ourselves and for others makes it so mesmerizing. And just so we’re clear, I’m not hung up about not having gone to Shopify. I have had a great career and I’m financially comfortable.

Now, let’s imagine the flip side of this. A small action by someone else, or by ourselves could have incredibly negative impacts on our lives or the lives of others.

The wheel of chance is not just one of fortune. A chance encounter at a store can catch you COVID no matter how diligent you may try to be. A missed appointment for sickness can cause a spiral of debt.

This is something I’ve mentioned often, what chance has made yours is not really yours. But also, it’s all just chance. Sure the actions we do can help us spin the wheel more or fewer times. But it’s still chance.

As much as we as a society see folks like Gates, Bezos, Buffet, as smart folks. They aren’t really. There are thousands, if not millions of people who are smarter. What those people were was lucky.

You perhaps don’t believe me, so read this article. tl ;dr if 90% of an outcome is skill and 10% chance. If you have 10 000 people applying for 10 positions, on average only 8 of the 10 most skilled people will make it. If something is, more realistically ratio of 75%-25% then, the top 10 in terms of skill only have a 50-50 chance of getting picked. That’a not to say they aren’t skilled, just that their luck is what tipped the scale.

The ramifications of this are wide and should lead to far less inequity in the world. I’m not saying everyone should have exactly the same things and work shouldn’t be rewarded. But let’s face it, after 100 million in the bank….. you’ve received more than enough for your skills. The rest was just chance, OR, even more likely chance, skill, and taking advantage of others.

Now that I’m not in gov I can say random things like, The tax rate on capital gains should be the same as work income (I know I probably could of said stuff like this because of the way the policies are written, but I’d rather not).

It’s insane to be that someone making $500 000 from investments gets taxed only 1.5% more than someone making $45 000 from working (Federally [15% vs 33% / 2]).(1)Okay, it’s slightly more complex than that because it’s the income that is calculated at 1/2 and not the tax rate, but that should mean that it’s usually less than 1.5%. But again individual situations will vary. https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/frequently-asked-questions-individuals/canadian-income-tax-rates-individuals-current-previous-years.html

The investment is really just a bonus for having money. It’s a luxury of having been able to have early lucky breaks. I know all the alleged economics thinking behind this, but if there’s something that’s been proven true in the last 100 years is that economists don’t really know what’s going on.

Now after raising capital gains taxes and instituting a wealth tax for fortunes over 10 million (2)Yes yes, I know all about the alleged risks of people just moving money offshore, etc etc, we should just do something similar to the Americans and if you want a Canadian citizenship, you need to file Canadian taxes and you’ll pay a certain minimum % (over a certain amount, let’s say 250 000 a year) to keep that Canadian citizenship
If you don’t want to pay those taxes, you’re welcome to renounce your citizenship.

Of course, this wouldn’t be one of my blog posts with a sort of tie in to basic income. A guaranteed basic income (not universal) would enable people to weather those bumps and would help make it so people can keep spinning that wheel of chance. We need to decide what our values are as a country. I think the Pandemic has made it clear that not everyone starts on the same footing and not everyone has the same privileges, and we should greatly question the reasons behind that while still rewarding top talent.(3)Also, yes I know I only have enough Economics knowledge to be dangerous and just like folks who have no background in Computer Science shouldn’t opine on the future of AI I should probably stfu. But you know…. I’m human

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Okay, it’s slightly more complex than that because it’s the income that is calculated at 1/2 and not the tax rate, but that should mean that it’s usually less than 1.5%. But again individual situations will vary. https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/frequently-asked-questions-individuals/canadian-income-tax-rates-individuals-current-previous-years.html
2. Yes yes, I know all about the alleged risks of people just moving money offshore, etc etc, we should just do something similar to the Americans and if you want a Canadian citizenship, you need to file Canadian taxes and you’ll pay a certain minimum % (over a certain amount, let’s say 250 000 a year) to keep that Canadian citizenship
3. Also, yes I know I only have enough Economics knowledge to be dangerous and just like folks who have no background in Computer Science shouldn’t opine on the future of AI I should probably stfu. But you know…. I’m human

How Much is a Headache / Migraine Worth to You?

I get migraines, regularly. I have one right now since mid-morning and I’m just now feeling better enough to use a screen(1)as in it’s now more like a headache than a migraine. Still painful but I can read stuff Recently the Botox has been working pretty well at keeping them more in the “headache” range in terms of pain and greatly reducing the frequency as well, often down to less than one a week(2)From 3-4 a week.

COVID has thrown many things up in the air and has made getting Botox from my Neurologist more challenging to schedule. I’m currently about 6 weeks past due for my most recent treatment and the last 2 weeks have been painful. I thankfully have an appointment in 9 days, but I suspect the next 14 days will be challenging.

Apart from Botox I also have meds for my migraines. After a lot of trial and error and many many rebound headaches(3) A shitty side-effect of many 5-HT meds (triptans) is that it’ll cure your headache, but cause another in ~24h I use Frova. I only get about a 50% success rate when using Frova, but it’s the only one of the Triptans that didn’t consistently create rebound headaches.

Frovatriptan(4)the generic name of Frova costs just under 20CAD a pill in Canada, in the US, a quick google seems to indicate that it should cost about $30USD without insurance.

So on average, it costs $40 to stop a migraine. Thankfully my insurance covers 80% of this(5)As much as people say the benefits at the government are good, the health plan isn’t that great, my previous plan covered 100%, but that means it’s still $8 per migraine.

As I’m sure you can guess, Botox ain’t cheap either. It’s basically $900CAD for the medication itself, and then another $150CAD injection fee. 80% of the 900 is covered, but no part of the injection fee is covered.(6)Now there’s some fun stuff that happens here where sometimes you can qualify for a rebate from the manufacturer of the name brand, where they pay part of your portion. I’m not sure how they position this, but basically they get the insurance to pay more than the generic would cost but re-imburse part of it to the patient. All that to say, it’s usually around $100 that I pay instead of the $180 that would be the 20% So basically it’s 250$(7)see calculations in previous footnotes for why it’s not $330) every 3 months.

Again, this is with insurance. I also take 2 other medications for the migraines as daily preventative, but those cost less((“Only” about $60 a month.

For some reason we still don’t have a national pharmacare plan.

I don’t know how much is should cost to fix a migraine, but it probably shouldn’t be close to $8 000 a year. There should never be a $8 000 barrier stopping you from being able to participate in society.

Canada is the only country in the world with a universal health care system that excludes prescription drugs. It’s time to fix that.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. as in it’s now more like a headache than a migraine. Still painful but I can read stuff
2. From 3-4 a week
3. A shitty side-effect of many 5-HT meds (triptans) is that it’ll cure your headache, but cause another in ~24h
4. the generic name of Frova
5. As much as people say the benefits at the government are good, the health plan isn’t that great, my previous plan covered 100%
6. Now there’s some fun stuff that happens here where sometimes you can qualify for a rebate from the manufacturer of the name brand, where they pay part of your portion. I’m not sure how they position this, but basically they get the insurance to pay more than the generic would cost but re-imburse part of it to the patient. All that to say, it’s usually around $100 that I pay instead of the $180 that would be the 20%
7. see calculations in previous footnotes for why it’s not $330) every 3 months.

Again, this is with insurance. I also take 2 other medications for the migraines as daily preventative, but those cost less((“Only” about $60 a month

Killing in the name of

This last month I’ve been listening to Killing in the name of regularly.

While I had an understanding from the lyrics that it was an anthem against white supremacy, I didn’t know it’s full history. It’s sad how 28 years after it’s release, it’s still relevant.

For non-Black Canadian folks, here’s a list of ressources that I found useful (with thanks for my coworkers).

Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses
Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses
Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses
Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses
Huh!

Killing in the name of!
Killing in the name of!

And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya

Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites

Some of those that hold office are the same that burn crosses
Some of those that hold office are the same that burn crosses
Some of those up in congress are the same that burn crosses
Some of those up in congress are the same that burn crosses
Uggh!

Killing in the name of!
Killing in the name of

And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
(Control!)
Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
Come on!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Motherfucker!

Warren needs to drop out

You probably know that I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Warren and think she’d be the best president of the USA from the list of contenders. And while I’m a bit late to this but I think she should of dropped out when Amy & Pete dropped out to support Biden.

Having Sanders there is more important than holding on to hope that you’ll come back from 4th place in the rankings. Since it’s not ranked ballot (which every vote should be) it’s not worth the chance of it splitting the progressive vote. The best thing to do for progressive politics in the USA would be for her to drop out. Hopefully Bloomberg siphons off the same amount of votes so that Sanders can still pull thru against Biden.

(Also, I know this is useless armchair politics and totally useless [that link is well worth the read])

Hypocrisy is the worst sin

Hypocrisy has been on my mind recently. Both in how it impacts my perception of others and how I try to recognize it more in myself.

When I think of fall from graces (mostly in politics) it’s not actually the action that person did. It’s how that action clashes with how they’ve presented themselves. The “locker room” talk from Donald Trump is a good example. It would of sunk many candidates, but it didn’t clash with what he said. In that respect, he wasn’t a hypocrite.

I think about this often. I worry that I’m a hypocrite in many respects. For example, I worry that I’m a hypocrite on climate change. I don’t do as much as many folks. I’m not saying I’m just going out there burning oil or anything. Oh wait, yes, I literally am. We use home heating oil to heat our house. Out where we live it’s almost the only option. We have plans to change to an electric heat pump, but that’s likely to be in 2021. So until then, we’re burning oil.

I also fly to the south every year. Yes, it’s for my health, and taking the train, or bus, down to Mexico isn’t really feasible, but still, the carbon cost is high. All that to say, there are many things that would make me a green hypocrite.

Another instance I’ve been noticing is in terms of others who either share some of my flaws or share some of my past flaws (in action or in thought).

I seem to have a very hard time having compassion for people who act or think just like my 25 year old self acted or thought. Not to mention people who, like my current self, are disorganized, not always on time, get distracted by shiny things, take on too much, are too hard on themselves etc etc.

I think that last one is particularly painful because of how much it exposes my current hypocrisy. I don’t have a fix for this. Yes, I’m trying to be more aware of it, catch it sooner and faster and “redress” as quickly as possible, but I think I’m far from where I could be.

All I can do is to try to make the feedback look of action to realization to change in behaviour faster every time.

Think Globally, Act Locally

I’ve been thinking about this duality for a while, many years in fact. But for some reason, it showed up in multiple ways today.

I have a tendency to be a big picture person, I see it, and I want to get us there. The problem is that along that road there are a lot of small victories that need to be had. It’s often demoralizing if you know where you should be, and know how far ahead it still is.

Oddly enough, today’s letter of Seneca I read (#7) had these choice quotes:

“One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man.”

Democritus

“I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all.”

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”

Epicurus

My take away for today is that while there are many big picture items I will strive towards, it’s only by taking small steps, by helping one person, improving one tool, that I’ll be able to achieve them.

The public service is non partisan

As you may know I’ve recently started at CDS. CDS is part of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, making me a civil servant. While I’ve had some fun blogging random, not really useful, thoughts about the current going-ons in politics I’m going to stop. While I don’t think they were partisan in nature ( since they were pretty much all over the place ), the default go to for civil servants is to stay quiet publicly about their personal thoughts on politics. I actually think this is a good, and a very important thing. I think Canadians needs to know that the folks in the civil service are working for the country ( technically the Queen ) and not working for a political party.

When joining the public service you take an oath. Part of it reads:

I solemnly affirm that I will faithfully and honestly fulfil the duties that devolve on me by reason of my employment in the public service of Canada

That oath is no matter what the government of the day is. And I intent to uphold that oath, no matter what the government of the day is. That’s why I won’t be posting any more musings on politics for the foreseeable future.

Belonging to political tribes

As you can see, my frequency of posts on the SNC Lavalin matter has declined. A bit because it seems like it’s not really that big of a deal. Ya it’s probably not the best thing to have done, especially moving Wilson Raybould out of that position, but in the scheme of things… shrug.

I’m concerned that perhaps my thoughts on it as biased because it’s “my tribe” and I’m just making excuses but I’m not sure. It does seem a bit overblown. I mean, would I of preferred if it hadn’t happened, yes. Do I think it’s sub-optimal and reflective of politics in general, yup. Will this change how I vote, probably not.

The “tribes” aspect is an interesting one. It reminded me of a blog post by Vincent St. Pierre about how you shouldn’t be a blogger. The problem is that many people, especially in politics assume that if you blog or tell thoughts that are not towing the party line, you’re not loyal and don’t deserve a job in politics. I understand the appeal of having folks who will toe the party line all the time even when not employed. You see it in many op eds written by consultants/lobbyists (which are often former staffers) who will probably go back to the ranks of political staff after making good money for a bit.

I’ve had a few people who mentioned to me that my analysis is interesting, but they don’t understand why I’d “burn bridges”. I understand the concern. I guess I don’t feel I’m burning bridges, I’m just talking about what I feel and how I understand things to be.

If someone doesn’t want me as part of their team because I speak my mind (publicly when not part of an organization, privately when part of an organization), then perhaps I’m not right for that job/organization.

I prefer having a nuanced conversation about topics instead of just hurling talking points to others. I understand that’s not something you can do when you’re working for a party, but as individuals, we should acknowledge when things are or were sub-optimal and really try to find common ground. We should dig into the root causes of issues and how we can fix them together.

As a friend recently said, “Elevate your discourse, you piece of shit”

La CAQ au Québec

La CAQ viens de gagner les élections au Québec. Il sont de droite et je me demande si c’est juste de la chance ou si quand le fédérale est plus de gauche les provinces change plus a droite et vice versa.

En tout les cas je suis d’une manière soulagé de ne pu vivre au Québec par ce que je n’aurais pas été sur pour qui voter. Les Libéraux au Québec sont un peu plus a la droite que je l’aimerais mais l’autre option, Québec Solidaire,  avec lequel je partage quand même assez d’opinion est super souverainiste.

Ya aussi un échange en particulier qui m’aurais probablement faite voter Libéral et c’est celui-ci:

La chose intéressante c’est que tous les parti sauf les Libéraux sont en accord. Je trouve sa troublant….