2016 Charity Drive

EDIT: The original drive has been filled. Thanks to a super generous donation by Martin Crowley, a modified drive towards

  1. Against Malaria Foundation
  2. Give Directly
  3. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI)

PLEASE SEE MORE RECENT POSTS FOR DETAILS. 

 

Last year, Dan Colman and I organized a very successful charity drive, so I wanted to do it again, this time on a larger scale. Between now and the end of the year, I am matching charity donations up to $175,000 to the following charities which I’ve separated into 3 groups:

GROUP ONE – The first two charities are the most efficient. If you want your money to go as far as possible, these are your best bet.

1.  The Against  Malaria Foundation 

Over 1 million people – mostly children – die from malaria each year. The foundation provides insecticide-treated bed nets, which prevent deaths and many other non-fatal cases of malaria. They are inexpensive – about $2.50/bed. Rated the #1 charity by givewell.org

2.  Give Directly

Another top Givewell.org charity, they focus on giving money to those who need it most. The money appears to be very efficiently spent, recently focusing on improving many villages in Kenya and Uganda.

GROUP TWO –

The second group of charities are designed to help those involved in the prison system. The system seemed to be so fucked that any donation felt futile. I asked a friend who’s a public defender for his opinion, and he recommended donating to a Bail fund.

The basic idea is that there are a lot of people held on bail in misdemeanor cases where if they were out they could fight the case, but to get out of jail they take pleas and get criminal records. This can have all sort of collateral consequences on jobs, school, housing, etc and thus contributes to the widening socioeconomic gap in the U.S.

A fund that posts these people’s bail would have very slow attrition. According to The Bronx Freedom Fund, 97% of clients attend all scheduled court dates.  This would save lot of people from criminal records and jail time. The Massachusetts Bail Fund only posts bail that is $500 or less.  No one should have to sit in jail because they don’t have $200.

To anyone interested in donating to a Bail Fund here are two great ones:

Massachusetts Bail Fund or Just City (based out of Memphis).

The third charity in this category is Liberation Prison Yoga. They organize yoga and meditation classes for prisoners. I think these kind of programs have the power to reduce a lot of suffering in a cost effective manner. Yoga and meditation have been great for my mental health. Despite all the advantages in the world, I still have bouts with depression. I couldn’t imagine dealing with it under prison conditions.

I want to add the statistic that the market cap for the biggest for-profit prison company, Corrections Corp of America, went up 60% to $2.4 Billion in the first ~12 hours after Trump won. This terrifies me.

GROUP THREE –

Last year, Dan Colman told me that he views charity like putting on a band aid. Sometimes we simply need a bandaid, but in an ideal world, you wouldn’t be bleeding in the first place. I love the idea of trying to fix the core of certain problems. Here a few charities that I believe attempt to get to the core of certain issues.

Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS): They are doing some great government-funded research on PTSD and anxiety. I definitely think that psychedelics are capable of having a positive impact on someone’s life, and that their possible link to PTSD/anxiety treatment is worth researching. To my knowledge, it appears that clinical depression research has not progressed nearly as much as other similar fields. Prozac was released 30 years ago, and medication has not changed significantly since then.

Zendo Project: another project from MAPS that has trained professionals available for those having difficult psychedelic trips. At Burning Man, they have two locations. I think that the general awareness that this safety net exists makes people more likely to have a positive experience. I think that promoting responsible psychedelic experiences is a great cause.

Open Philanthropy:  I really like this meta charity. They are trying to stop the bleeding, rather than just put band aids on. They are collaborating with givewell, which is all the support I need.

Edit: Someone from givewell reached out to me. She said “I’d also like to clarify one point in the blog post: The Open Philanthropy Project is a collaboration between GiveWell and Good Ventures. Good Ventures currently plans to cover 100% of the Open Philanthropy Project’s operating expenses, so there’s no need for donations.”

It’s going to be a very busy couple of weeks with Thanksgiving, DFS, and poker for me, but I am looking into a replacement charity.
350.org A charity trying to fight global warming. Received a 91 on charity navigator Donald Trump appointed Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency, which is also terrifying. Ebell has called concerns over climate change silly. In 2007, he said to Vanity Fair “There has been a little bit of warming … but it’s been very modest and well within the range for natural variability, and whether it’s caused by human beings or not, it’s nothing to worry about.”

How will this work?

You will (hopefully) pick out a charity that you find satisfactory. Each charity is tax deductible in the US, and likely many other countries. If you are from a different country and have a tax question, I am happy to research it for you. Email a receipt to receiptsforcharity@gmail.com , I will update my spreadsheet and match your donation! I am going to give myself some creative liberties. For instance, if the Massachusetts Bail Fund had $50,000 and Just City had $0, I would personally donate to Just City.  Each charity has been great about responding to my calls/emails/questions in a timely manner and each one will receive at least a few thousand dollars. Everything will be in good faith, but if anyone wants to discuss specifics, feel free to email me.

I tried giving lots of choices to ensure that there is something for everyone. I have, however, read that too many choices can sometimes freeze someone into not making a decision.

I am hoping that you guys are all too smart for that, but if you find yourself stuck…

Go to Random.org ; enter numbers 1-9 . Whichever number comes out, go with it!

  1. Against Malaria
  2. Give Directly
  3. Massachusetts Bail Fund
  4. Just City
  5. Liberation Prison Yoga
  6. MAPS
  7. Zendo
  8. Open Philanthropy
  9. 350.org

Or feel free to email me receiptsforcharity@gmail.com and I will set you up with whichever charity has the least donations, or work something else out.

Thanks for the consideration.

Edit: I might be able to accept cash or chips in Vegas. I will look to see if I can find someone to accept cryptocurrencies. If there are other ways you would like to donate, send me an email and we can try to work it out.

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2016 Charity Drive

BurningMan #2 in the Books

Last year, I had hands down the best week of my life at my first Burning Man. Hype can be a dangerous thing, where was I supposed to go? I just re-read what I wrote about it, and there are a few things I felt like should clarify.

I never really touched on how difficult the conditions were, even in a pampered camp with an air conditioned RV and a shower. It slipped my mind. This year, I was surprised on the first day when my hands were so dry they bled. I forgot that when you blow your nose, dust and blood were going to come out. I didn’t remember what dehydration felt like. That you might not eat for many hours in a row. That you might  attempt to take off your camelback, fanny-pack, and dinosaur onesie, while trying to figure out why you are dressed like a dinosaur in the first place, all so that you can try to poop in a port-a-potty while tripping.

I also didn’t really mention many of the ridiculously awesome things. First off, the spectacle is enormous. When you are on the esplanade at night, in every direction you are entirely surrounded by art cars, exhibits, bikes and humans lit up with LED flashing lights, and  fire breathing octopi. The 360 degree view out there is unparalleled. Aside from getting to experience some of the overwhelmingly positive people, my favorite thing to do at BM is to stop, pick a bright light in the distance that is calling you, and bike towards it. And the sheer number of these completely outstanding exhibits is mind blowing.

There are 70,000 people, the overwhelmingly majority are trying hard to be the best version of themselves. In two years, I came across only one person who was being a true asshole. And as far as assholes go, he wasn’t so bad.

Even for someone not interested in a psychedelic experience, getting to see one of the more outrageous things in the world gets my full endorsement. And who knows, you might accidentally learn something profound about yourself.

I hadn’t planned on doing a big write up this year, but I  still need to include an answer to “How was Burning Man” rather than link this youtube video.

On Monday evening, a group of us went out and took mushrooms. Eventually, our group was at a crossroads. Some wanted to keep admiring the illumicone while I had the strong urge to explore. 2 of the 7 team members decided to continue on with me.

 We stopped to dance at an art car. Nibbles and I start dancing as crazy as possible, while Mrs. Nibbles laid down and watched. Dancing turns into pure euphoria. I grab a beer out of his bag, shake it up, and it make it foam all over both of us and pour it on both of our heads. It doesn’t sound like much but this moment was the highlight of my burn this year. Goddamn, we were both so happy.

Tuesday

The next morning, I think about the experience. While it was cool that I was able to experience such bliss, I wanted to be able to have myself in such a positive state without the aid of any performance enhancers. A very large group went out intending on taking MDMA, I decided to try to put what I learned on mushrooms to use and stay sober.

 I was failing spectacularly. We go to the lighthouse to see live music, and an hour after they were scheduled to play, no one had shown up.  My attempt to mobilize failed because our group was too big. A didn’t want to leave without B. B couldn’t leave without C. C needs to tell A how special he is. All I can fixate on is how much more fun everyone is having than me.

A meetup is scheduled at 1am outside of the temple. I head there a bit early and try to meditate. After a few minutes, I feel a bit better. Since I am already at the temple, and sober, it seems like a good time to check it out. I go in hoping for an emotional reaction. I’m inside for 90 seconds, don’t feel anything, and walk out.

A friend walks up to me and tells me, “Hey, if you ever wanted to talk about your Dad, I’m always here.” “I really appreciate that, but it was 9 years ago. What’s there to say at this point? I’m good.”

About 20 seconds later, I start crying. A lot. It was the first time since last year’s Burn. It was surprisingly refreshing. [1]

I had been on the fence about going to PCA this year. Obviously avoiding the resort where your dad passed away seems obvious, but given the high opportunity cost, the idea of skipping it caused some guilt. If you can save a life for ~$3200 and I can play a bunch of high stakes poker tournaments, how do I not withstand the mental anguish to literally save multiple lives. It felt unbelievably selfish, almost immoral, to me.The experience at the temple made it very obvious to me that I had no obligation to attend to try to make money.

We finally break into smaller groups. My group starts biking towards one of my favorite exhibits, the sonic runway A friend asks to stop, and is talking about having a bit of a come-down from the MDMA. We stop in the middle of deep playa. Now in a blissful mood, I cheer him up. We all hang out for a bit until the rest of the gang decides to go to sleep. I decide to stay up until sunrise.

I check out the Catacomb of Veils. Having all the time you could want to investigate art was incredibly nice. I tried to figure out why the artist would have holes on some of the walls. [2] Why the number 12 kept appearing in various paintings. [3]I keep exploring until the sun looks ready to come up, and I bike out to Robot Heart. I watch the sunrise with a Wandering Bear and recapped our nights.

Wednesday

I’m riding my bike around for some casual day time exploration  and I feel something wrong with my bike. As I pull over, the entire front wheel falls off from the bike. Somehow I land on my feet, completely unharmed. I am outside of “We-Scream” camp, who was hosting a make your own ice cream party. I decide to make some coffee flavoured nitrogen ice cream while I think about what to do with the bike situation. I don’t have to think very long, someone on the line saw what happened, had an RV across the street, and put the wheel back on for me. We have a good conversation, he invites me to an espresso martini party that night, and I continue on my way.

I end up at a naked foam party which unsurprisingly was super fun. I met a girl there, and I asked her if this was the craziest event of her Burn. She responded by laughing; clearly she meant business. She invited me to one of their parties, “If I could handle it.” Challenge accepted.

On the way to the party, I ran into a friend telling me about a massive group meditation going during the same time as the party. It kind of felt like a test from the universe. Do I go chase the girl, or do I follow my lessons from the night before and seek enlightenment? I must have been leaning the wrong way, because the Gods of the Playa smited me with a 90 minute dust storm and I missed both events.

We waited out the storm. At 9pm, there was a plan to watch a documentary premiere. The group is going slow, so one friend and I rush ahead to make sure we get there on time. We don’t find the tent, and miss it. Oops.

Missed documentary turns into some 1 on 1 adventuring. One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting lots of time in with two people whom I previously did not know very well. After this trip, they went from acquaintance I would be happy to hang out with in a group to good friend who I would encourage to stay at my apartment for a couple days any time we were in the same part of the country.

Here are some of my favorite exhibits from the night

  1. Shortly after smoking a joint and getting the munchies, in deep playa we stumbled upon an Australian diner that served grilled cheese and vegemite sandwiches. [4]
  2. Hiding out in a giant ball pit and ambushing the first person who came in
  3. I don’t want to spoil details, but this may have been my favorite exhibit. If you ever come across it, it’s worth the wait.
  4. Elite steamed dumplings at Bao chicka wow wow, every day from midnight to 4am.
  5. Had a conversation with a professional musician. Even though things had been going very well for him, he has always felt a bit insecure for not going to college. He wondered what could have been. He says he had a mushroom trip where he finally was able to put that feeling behind him. Those kind of experiences seem to be uncannily common at Burning Man.

Thursday

A group of us waited for the sun to go down and decided we were going to take acid. The plan was to explore for a bit and stop by a party at around 10pm. I took half of a tab. We stumbled upon the Black Rock Observatory.  There’s a line to go in, so we just lie down and stare at the stars. In the darkness, some guy jumps out. He tells us all that he has a PHD in astrophysics and wanted to talk to us about the universe. [5]

He starts going off about the big bang. How collisions happened. Something about elements. I start tripping balls. One of his assistants comes up to me and hands me a rock. He tells me it a 4.5 billion year old meteor (!!!!!). In a good way, I am totally flipping out. We listen for a bit and start heading towards the party, stopping at various colorful lights.

We get  there and to me it immediately feels wrong. Socializing for me is just strictly less fun than riding your bike and looking at trippy light shit. I also was self conscious of people seeing me while I trip my balls off.  I recruit two buds to leave the party and head back out into deep playa to look at cool things.

I start thinking about the astrophysicists. 6.5 billion years old is a long time. And 7 billion humans in the world. In a completely non depressing way, I am thinking about how insignificant my life is. A debate breaks out involving whether or not we are in a computer simulation, [6] and whether or not we have free will. [7]

About 5 hours after taking the acid, we smoke a joint. Just for reference, goddamn I was tripping way harder after hitting the joint than a couple hours earlier when I thought I was peaking.

We are 11 minutes away from the meetup time, so we start biking towards the temple. I forget to take off my bike lock, gets all tangled up. My chain becomes loose. I try to fix it, but this would be a difficult task for me sober. On acid, LOL no chance. Fortunately one of the other team members was somehow functional enough to fix it. We make it to the meetup spot at the temple, relatively on time.

The group aspect is still slightly overwhelming.  People start talking about what a dumb meetup spot the temple is. “It would be so easy to get negative ideas.” I think about my experience at the temple the other night. “DON’T HAVE A BAD TRIP DAN.” I lie, down, focus on my breathing. The feeling is intense, but I get through it. The rest of the gang finds the meets up, everyone heads on to the next stop. Our smaller team breaks off again.

We continue to explore for a few hours until we finally meet up with the rest of the gang. We share stories of our wild night. We catch the burning of the catacombs and a great sunrise. Finally, it’s time for sleep and I take 1/4th of a Xanax to help me pass out.My head was still spinning over the fact that life has no meaning. That free will isn’t real.

Friday

Lola ate my journal pages on Friday afternoon[8], but as usual I explored and saw some cool shit. The general highlights 1) roller blading on a rink 2) attempting to do those circus-y rings at Swing City Camp 3) crazy dance party to some mashup DJ

 Saturday

All 70,000 people and every art car circle the Man while we wait for him to Burn. This year the act of burning went much better than last year. This man was smaller than last year’s, so the act of it Burning went more smoothly and quickly. After the man Burns, it becomes pure pandemonium. All the street signs get ripped down. And because it’s the last party night, no one holds anything back.

Around midnight, I take 150 milligrams of Molly and we party until party sunrise, with some really great bonding along the way.  I take advantage of a few friends on drugs and make them promise to come visit me while I’m in San Diego this fall . I meet Tim Urban from waitbutwhy and try to pick his brain for a little bit on the meaning of life.[9]

My brain still felt like the pieces hadn’t been put all together from acid; the combined aspect of life is meaningless and yourconsciousness is literally everything to you, is a total mind fuck. At some point during the night I decide the point of life is to just be the best version of yourself you can be, and that allows me to sit a bit more comfortably. We catch one last sunrise together.

Sunday

I chat for a while with someone who I developed a moderate man crush on. We have some ideas for a charity project. On paper, I feel like we have a slam dunk idea. Currently, I am in the process of running it by accountants and lawyers to determine if this is something that is actually feasible.

I have some time before the Temple burn, and I happened to ride my bike past Zendo. Zendo is a project run by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies to try to help people having difficult trips. I am intrigued, and was considering MAPS as a charity source. I have a feeling that even though most people never go to Zendo, the fact that it is around helps people have a more positive experience.

I end up chatting to a very impressive psychologist. I had recently been dealing with an old friend who I found stealing from me. When I uncovered that story, I realize that it was not  an isolated lie, and that my dear friend could be a pathological liar. I try to understand more how his brain works so that I can relate to it.

She asks what I wanted to do, and I explain how I want to generally get him on the right path. She points out that I can’t force someone to change. “Of course I can. I will send him an outline of things to do. I will set him up with a good therapist. I will get him on a meditation routine. Exercise, eating well.” I kept listing off things to do, and she points out that I can’t make him change. Writing this out, it feels obvious, but it was something I needed to hear. I wanted to make a plan, and fix the problem. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done.

She turns the tables on me, and asks why I am so committed to helping this person who wronged me. She suggests that I have the typical fear of dying alone. I look at my watch and realize that I am late for the Temple Burn. I missed both groups who left, so I go on my own. It felt symbolic.

The man Burning is a rowdy affair, but the temple Burning is very solemn, and signifies the end of Burning Man.

What did I get out of Burning Man 2016?

  • That I want to get more out of meditation. Push my comfort level. Look into retreats
  •  I have been less motivated by poker as of late and was looking for another project. I might have found it. Even if it falls through, I feel like I have a better idea of my personal 5 and 10 year plan, which I find very comforting
  • Unbelievable bonding experiences with old friends and new friends
  • The opportunity to see the best version of so many people. It’s amazing that Burning Man works. Social pressure convinces people to be nice to each other. People buy into the idea of leave no trace and carry their MOOP [10] with them.
  • Most importantly, that I desperately need to get a spray tan.

IMG_4716.JPG

Thanks for reading. I would appreciate any feedback, even if it were just on technical things in my writing to focus on improving. I enjoyed writing this both years, and would be open to suggestions on future blog topics.  I would also be very interested to hear about any experiences people had on a meditation retreat, 10 days of silence feels like a very long time.


[1] Like a junior mint

[2] It wasn’t anything artistic, people just climbed the walls and damaged the sides. Derp.

[3] Burningman’s theme this year was Da Vinci’s Workshop, so I assume Da Vinci had something important with the number 12, but I never figured it out

[4] I thought I disliked vegemite but apparently Americans put way too much on.

[5] I believe him, but I am slightly concerned some Burner was playing a prank on us. He claimed to have an east coast – west coast rivalry with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

[6] I am now officially on team simulation

[7] nope

[8] What a bitch

[9] I was probably too high to articulate my point.

[10] Matter out of Place. AKA garbage

BurningMan #2 in the Books

Charity Drive Success!

Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for all your support.

Here are the final tallies.

Against Malaria: 30,108
MIRI: 32,320

Massachusetts Bail Fund: 3000
Deworm the World: 7980

Total: $70,408

After the drive ended, another $4000 has been pledged towards http://www.reg-dfs.org/donate/ , and $17,452 came in for Against Malaria on the day after the drive, which REG DFS has agreed to triple.

 

This would bring the final totals

$70,000 donated

$70,000 matched by Dan and I

$5230 doubled by https://doublethedonation.com/miri

$4408 to be tripled by Reg

$17,452 towards AF which will be tripled by Reg

 

Including all the matching, this is a total of $210,854 raised for charity. If I were taxed at 40%, my $35,000 donation only costs me $21,000, and went very, very far. Matching can be a incredibly effective tool.  Even without running a drive, there are usually some great options available on the internet, if you were to look. Taking advantage of the tax write off can also make a very large difference.

Thanks again!

Charity Drive Success!

Charity Drive Over

Wanted to clarify the charity drive is over. I will do a proper write up when less hungover, but we cleared the goal by a sizeable margin. Happy New Year.

There is a great tripling challenge going on here http://www.reg-dfs.org/donate/ for those interested. Even if you don’t believe in the idea of a meta charity, every dollar donated still leads to $1.5 going to Against Malaria, and then the additional freeroll over $1.50 going to REG.

 

Charity Drive Over

Mid December Charity Update

EDIT: CHARITY DRIVE OVER. 

We more than reached our goals, thanks for participating.

 

Mid December charity update.

We are more than halfway to the goal with 38781 donated. An additional 5320 for MIRI has been matched by Double your Donation

Against Malaria 5401
Evidence Action 650
MIRI 32,330
Massachusetts Bail Fund 400

I wanted to clarify that Dan and I might take mild creative liberties but everything would be in good faith. We want to ensure that each charity receives at least $4000. Another example of a possible adjustment would be if someone where to donate the full $32219 to the Massachusetts Bail Fund. That would be great, but I would want to match to a different Bail fund. I think two funds having $32k would do more good than one having $64k.

Some of the donation receipts (I think just the ones from paypal?) have personal information. I wanted to clarify that of course editing out anything along those lines from the email is totally fine.

Dan and I decided we are going to stop matching MIRI donations at this point. We think they are doing great work (and when smart people like Elon Musk suggest something, I’m pretty inclined to blindly follow them). But from a feel good standpoint, we were hoping to spread out the donations a bit more.

Lastly I wanted to thank everyone for the donations. A donation of any size makes a real difference and is greatly appreciated.

Mid December Charity Update

December Charity Drive

Edit: We have maxed out our donations for MIRI. Details here

 

Dan Colman and I have decided to do a charity drive until the end of the year. We are matching all donations, up to a total of $70,000, to any of the charities below.

Pick a charity, and email your receipt to receiptsforcharity@gmail.com

If you end up using double your donation, or another matching service, please include that in the email. I am interested to see how successful this drive will be.

I can also accept some donations via pokerstars, bank transfer, Venmo, etc, if that is easier for people.

1) The Against  Malaria Foundation: Over 1 million people – mostly children – die from malaria each year. Insecticide-treated bed nets prevent deaths and many other non-fatal cases of malaria and are inexpensive – about $2.50 per. Rated the #1 charity  by http://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities

Tax deductible in US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, and the following countries

https://www.againstmalaria.com/CharityStatus.aspx

2) Deworm The World led by Evidence Action: Around the world, hundreds of millions of people, mostly children, are infected with parasitic diseases that are extremely inexpensive to treat…50 to 81 cents per child depending on how the cost is calculated.

According to http://www.evidenceaction.org/impact-first-report/#impact-report , 200 million children were dewormed in 2015. #3 ranked charity on givewell.

Donate through givewell here  http://www.givewell.org/international/top-charities/deworm-world-initiative/donate

or directly to evidence action here
https://give.evidenceaction.org

Tax deductible in the US. Other countries can donate through http://www.charityscience.com/donate-givewell.html

  • “for donations greater than $1,000, can contact Charity Science at joey@charityscience.com for more information about giving by check or bank transfer (low or no fees). Note that there is an aggregate limit to how much Charity Science can give to charities that are not registered in Canada, so donors considering giving a gift of $5,000 or more for GiveWell, GiveDirectly, Deworm the World Initiative, GAIN, DMI, or Living Goods should contact Charity Science or GiveWell before donating”

3) Machine Intelligence Research Institute: Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking have all spoke out about the risks of artificial intelligence.  Waitbutwhy piece did a great, but super long piece explaining how this could become an issue http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html I admit this felt a little ambitious relative to other ways one could impact the world, but on the other hand, if you consider even a remote possibility of saving the world from some massive society collapsing  technological disaster, the “implied odds” might be there.

Many employers are matching donations, you can check here https://doublethedonation.com/miri

or donate here https://intelligence.org/donate/

Tax exempt in the USA

4) The Massachusetts Bail Fund: I had wanted to help make a change in the prison system, and really wasn’t sure how. The system seemed to be so fucked that any donation felt futile. I asked a friend who’s a public defender for his opinion, and he recommended donating to a Bail fund.

The basic idea is that there are a lot of people are held in on bail in misdemeanor cases where if they were out they could fight the case, but to get out of jail they take pleas and get criminal records. This can have all sort of collateral consequences on jobs, school, housing, etc.
 A bail fund that posts these people’s bail would have very slow attrition. According to The Bronx Freedom Fund, 97%  of clients return to all scheduled court dates.  Source This would save lot of people from criminal records and jail time. The Massachussets Bail Fund only posts bails that are $500 or less. No one should have to sit in jail because they don’t have $200.

The Massachussets Bail Fund is tax deductible in the US,  donate here.

http://www.massbailfund.org/donate.html

 

I brought up the tax exemption multiple times.  If anyone doesn’t understand how that works, I will explain it here and why it’s important.

If you itemize your deductions, and are dealing with a charity that is an  IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organization, then your donation is tax deductible. Obligatory disclaimer: Everyone’s tax situation is different.  You should check with your own tax advisor on your ability to make tax deductible charitable contributions

Suppose you were in the 40% tax bracket, and wanted to donate $100 to a good cause.  If you just handed someone $100 and forgot about it; you have $100 less than you started with. If you donated $167 to a tax exempt charity, you wouldn’t pay your 40% income tax on that money, and you will still end up with $100 less than you started with, with an additional $67 going to the charity.

 

Now if someone were to match your donations, your initial investment is now $334 compared to $200. If you were to use double your donation your initial $100 investment is now $501(!).

If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me. I would like to thank Ruari Donnelly and Adriano Mannino of REG charity for taking the time to answer all my questions, and helping me choose charities.

 

December Charity Drive

DFS thoughts

I just watched Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq785nJ0FXQ on DFS. While I think he is technically right about the fact that these sites have to prance around “is it gambling or skill” I think he is missing the bigger story about the UIGEA.

 

Using the definition “to lay a bet on something,” of course DFS is gambling. But I think gambling is a vague term. We gamble each and every day of our lives. We assess the risk, and make educated decisions. Sometimes, these things are very safe. We consider the very low risk of getting into a car accident on the 20 minute drive to work, and decide that is acceptable. We convince millions of teenagers that going to college is a good investment. Students can take in hundreds of thousands of unforgivable student loan, in the hope that some day in the future, he or she will have a successful career. This is a massive gamble, that I’m sure does not work out for many people . Pursuing your dream, in many cases, is going to be a huge gamble. But isn’t that our right?

 

The idea that the government has the basis to decide which gambles we do and don’t take is ridiculous. And the rules aren’t even morally consistent! Gambling is bad. Except in the cases of the lottery and horse racing, which are somehow acceptable?.Statistically, these are much worse than any casino game, because they take out ~27-40% in rake  [1]

 

Oliver quotes a statistic saying 1.2% of people win 91% of the money at DFS. I have not examined that study, but if I had to guess it’s somewhat misleading. Sample size here is tricky to consider, and I imagine a lot of players might just deposit $20 once time and lose it. I imagine it wouldn’t sound so extreme if it were changed  people who have played at least 10 times. Also realize, in Draft Kings’s most popular tournament, you can literally turn $20 into a $1,000,000, so people will be losing more often than that.

 

Oliver also brings up that DFS was only able to get off the ground as a bit of a legal workaround. While that might be true, I’m not sure that is necessarily a strike against it. Isn’t that just how the system works? The UIGEA was passed when it was hastily added onto a bill on port security, which made it close to impossible for politicans to oppose. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAFE_Port_Act

 

I think it is a dangerous precedent if the government is allowed to decide which risks we are, and are not, allowed to take. It is surprisingly easy to get your entire life savings trading options in the stock market. And there are definitely traders with advantages similar to DFS players who are doing more research or have opportunities for information or the ability to trade in such volume that casual investors just don’t have. But does that mean people should not be allowed to trade? I could make a similar argument with real estate, it is very easy to buy a home that you cannot afford that may or may not be a good investment.

 

1. I am not an expert on scratch offs, but I am confident they are designed to make you feel like you are very close to winning, much more often than you are. This is turn will trick many people into playing more than if they had used more honest methods. There are also advertisements for the lottery trying to appeal to the very people who have the least spare income to gamble with! And as an additional kick in the balls, if you are one of the lucky, lucky few, the US can tax you again on the winnings

DFS thoughts