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Only Idiots Compete in Earnest Against their Peers

April 18, 2014 1 comment

In the last few weeks, I have been working on a bunch of posts that deal with how the upper-middle class mindset is one of (if not) the biggest hindrances to any gradual and useful change in the current system. Though most of these specific example driven posts are still not complete, it occurred to me that many of them have similar underlying themes. The current post explores one of those themes. For the purposes of this post “white-collar” is used to denote people who either have, or aspire for, desk jobs with some petty power. They include middle-level managers, executives, doctors, lawyers, academics, engineers, scientists and pretty much anyone who gets credit and a little extra money for the work of people under them.

One of the important, but rarely discussed, differences in attitude between blue-collar and white-collar workers concerns how they related to their peers. While the typical interactions of blue-collar workers with their peers are far from good, let alone ideal- they seem to generally have significantly better inter-personal relations with their peers than white-collar workers. You might have also noticed that blue-collar labor unions have been far more common and numerous than white-collar unions. But why would that be the case? Why are blue-collar workers more likely to participate in groups which also limit their maximal potential in exchange for more security and better working conditions? More importantly, why are white-collar types so averse to labor unions?

In my opinion, it comes down to recognizing something that is obvious- but which most white-collar (and upper middle-class) types deliberately avoid thinking about. Indeed, they spend all their lives trying to do the exact opposite.

Only an idiot would deliberately and earnestly compete against his or her peers.

The most important difference between blue-collar and white-collar workers is not about differences in levels of formal education, artistic tastes or social attitudes. It is bout how they see their peers. Blue-collar types tend see their peers as colleagues (good or bad) who are in the same boat they are in. White-collar types see their peers as life-long adversaries who do not belong in the same boat they are in. Some also believe that they “really” belong to a much more exclusive boat and were just plain unlucky to land in their one they are in.

Almost every white-collar type sees his peers as his or her biggest enemy. His (or hers) biggest ambition in life is to somehow triumph over them and move to a “better” place. This is also why white-collar types are so readily seduced by ideas such as “IQ”, prestigious educational institutions, meritocracy, work ethic, thrift, hard work and all those other beliefs used by the rich parasites to exploit them for their own ends. That is also why they, more so than the parasitic rich, exhibit NIMBY tendencies.

The white-collar types live in a world of perpetual covert strife and intrigue; a world in which all human relationships carry a precise (and often very low) monetary value. They live and thrive by gaming the system. These scams range from entrance exams to certain high income (by middle-class standards) professions, choosing the right social circle, the right zip code, the right school district, the right hobbies, the right vacations, the right causes and professed beliefs.

They will invest years of their lives in “education” also known as credentialing and compete with each other to attend supposedly prestigious institutions. They will work extra hard against each other to make their already rich parasitic employers richer and become their loyal dogs and enforcers. They will almost never question prevalent beliefs and try to assert their superiority by trying to mock those who point out the obvious. They will always spend more time detailing their life choices to assert their superiority even if they seldom enjoy what they are doing- kinda like talking about diverse sexual positions without actually enjoying any of them.

They will spend every waking moment trying to rise above and screw over their peers.

And this brings us to the obvious followup question- Why don’t the blue-collar types generally exhibit this level of peer hate and contempt? I believe that this to do with a different worldview. White-collar, and other semi-autistic types, can only see what they want to see and yes.. “education” plays an important role in this creating this highly filtered world view. The blue-collar types, not possessing the mental filters of their white-collar counterparts, can see much more- including stuff that clearly contradicts official dogma. They are also far more willing to call out the obvious lies rather than politely tow the official line. Consequently they make bad managers, henchmen and flunkies for the parasitic rich.

What do you think? comments?

Thomas Hobbes was a House Slave, Not a Great Philosopher

April 12, 2014 7 comments

The name of a 16th century “philosopher” known as Thomas Hobbes frequently pops up in discussions on a range of topics ranging from the best type of governance to whether a state is necessary for reasonably stable societies to exist. He is best known for writing a book known as Leviathan in which he argues for of a system in which a very small group of “special” people have a monopoly on violence. In his opinion only such a system could guarantee social stability and economic prosperity.One of his most famous quotes is about the state of human society without a top-down repressive regime.

In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

So why am I choosing him as the target of this post? Well.. there are two reasons. Firstly, he is a good example of the prototypical academic who will suck cock and write pretty lies for his paymasters. Secondly, his reputation needs to be demolished to the point where nobody wants to remember him, quote him or even try to recycle any of his ideas.

Many of you might wonder how something like this can be done. Wouldn’t irreversibly tarnishing the image of a long dead, semi-famous, white intellectual be hard. My answer is- not really. Think of all the famous white people who stood behind the idea of eugenics in the early 20th century. How many can you name or, more importantly even want to remember? Similarly the memories of even more famous people like Hitler, who was once widely admired in pre-WW2 UK and USA, are now irreversibly associated with evil. To put it another way, engineering large changes in the public images of famous (or semi-famous) people is actually quite easy.

Moving back to the topic at hand, let us start by looking at his early life and see if it provides any obvious clues as to why Hobbes became a servile cocksucker for the elites of his era.

Born prematurely when his mother heard of the coming invasion of the Spanish Armada, Hobbes later reported that “my mother gave birth to twins: myself and fear.” His childhood is almost a complete blank, and his mother’s name is unknown. His father, also named Thomas, was the vicar of Charlton and Westport. Thomas Hobbes Sr. had an older brother, Francis Hobbes, who was a wealthy merchant with no family of his own. Thomas Hobbes, the younger, had one brother Edmund who was about two years older than he. Thomas Sr. abandoned his wife, two sons and a daughter, leaving them in the care of his brother, Francis, when he was forced to flee to London after being involved in a fight with a clergyman outside his own church. Hobbes was educated at Westport church from the age of four, passed to the Malmesbury school and then to a private school kept by a young man named Robert Latimer, a graduate of the University of Oxford. Hobbes was a good pupil, and around 1603 he went up to Magdalen Hall, which is most closely related to Hertford College, Oxford.

Hobbes was not born into a rich family and his early life was somewhat precarious. However, like many of the middle and upper-middle class of today, he had access to centers of credentialism and sophistry aka universities. It is therefore very likely that Hobbes always saw the attainment of elite-approved credentials and subservience to their power as the only realistic way to maintain a somewhat nice and stable lifestyle.

Everything that Hobbes ever said, wrote or argued about must therefore be seen through the lens of his own timid, conformist and sophistic persona. To put it another way, he was an enthusiastic mercenary for anybody who held out the promise of a bit more money, social status and a nice sinecure.

Now let us move on to a critical analysis of the validity of his writings. But before we do that, let me quickly talk about why destroying his reputation is necessary- even 300 years after his death. The arguments put forth in the writings of Hobbes are one of the foundations of modern CONservativism and many other -isms. They, in both their original as well as recycled forms, have been used to justify a variety of socio-economic systems that have brought nothing but impoverishment, extreme misery, starvation and disease to the vast majority of people while greatly enriching a few lucky sociopaths.

One the central arguments in his writings is the idea that all people are highly immoral and only an absolute monopoly of violent force in the hands of a few chosen ones can keep society stable. In some respects his ideas are remarkably similar to those used to justify Chinese-style Legalism. But are most people highly immoral and does monopolizing violent force in the hands of a chosen few really improve the living standards of most people in that society?

While I am certainly not a believer in the myth of noble savages, there is a large body of evidence that hunter-gatherers living in non-precarious environments were not especially avaricious, inhospitable or murderous. Indeed, the lack of centralized authority in such systems makes peaceful inter-group cooperation, diplomacy and exchanges more necessary than it would otherwise be. So the idea that most people will trick, steal from and murder each other without someone in charge is a sophistic lie, projection of the thinker’s own mindset or likely both.

And this brings us to the second part of that particular argument- namely that giving the monopoly of violence to a few “especially suitable” people will make somehow society more stable and better. But how can we decide who is suitable to wield such power and how do we know they are competent? Is there any evidence that supposedly “legitimate” kings are any more competent that those who became kings through less “legitimate” means? How can we define the competence to “rule” when most societies with kings or their secular equivalents (dictators and leaders of one-party systems) are really bad places to be born, or live, in- at least for the vast majority of people?

I am sure that most of you are aware that the material living standards of “civilized” people have been consistently and significantly lower than their hunter-gatherer counterparts except for the last 100-odd years. Moreover the general rise of living standards over the last hundred years are linked to the rise of technology and simultaneous decline of outright autocracy.

The two central foundations of Hobbes worldview therefore have no basis in reality. They do however tell us a lot about his worldview and those of his paymasters.

But why would Hobbes spend so much time and effort on creating this myth? There are those who would like to believe that his worldview was simply a product of the environment he grew up in. I am not so sure and here is why. His early life history suggests that Hobbes had no useful skills beyond learning, conforming and pleasing his superiors. It is also obvious that he always wanted a comfortable and stable lifestyle. So how does a reasonably clever and timid man make a stable and comfortable living in the pre-industrial era?

Obtaining royal (or elite patronage) was the only realistic and feasible occupational choice for a person of Hobbes ability, temperament and desires. In other words, he had to choice to suck elite cock and live reasonably well or not do so and live like an average (poor) person.

Now.. I am not criticizing his decision to suck elite cock to make a stable, decent and trouble-free living. Pretty much anybody in his situation would have done the same. My real problem with Hobbes is that his works are still seen as serious and objective philosophical insights rather than as literary blowjobs to his masters. Doing so is the equivalent of using the collected reminiscences of a house slave as a defense and justification for the institution of slavery.

Hobbes was essentially a clever house slave who got better food, clothing and living quarters because of his ability to flatter his master, justify his brutality and constantly tell him how all those other “lazy and evil” slaves would be lost without the “benevolent guidance” of his master.

What do you think? Comments?

The Generic 21st Century Mass Media Ad

April 9, 2014 1 comment

Here is an amazing spoof of your generic mass media ad on YouTube. Seldom have I seen a spoof capture the essence of its target so perfectly. It also shows the very american emptiness, superficial cheerfulness, misdirection, other assorted lies and pretty presentation that attempts to hide the banality of evil.

What do you think? Comments?

Brendan Eich Got What He Deserved

April 5, 2014 13 comments

I am sure that most of you heard about how Brendan Eich had to resign as the CEO of Mozilla because of a thousand dollar donation to supporters of an anti-gay constitutional amendment aka Prop 8 in California. Some in the “mainstream” media and reactionary blogosphere see his forced resignation as a symptom of political correctness run amok. I see it very differently.

In my opinion, Brendan Eich got what he deserved.

First, let us be clear about what Proposition 8 (2008) was really about. It was about denying the right of adult persons to marry somebody of the same sex AND effectively nullifying all the gay marriages that had occurred in California since June 16, 2008. Prop 8 was about denying basic civil rights to a category of people in the 21st century based on one popular interpretation of a committee-approved compilation of a set of books allegedly written by some guys 2-3 centuries prior to that meeting and containing what some believe to be factually accurate accounts of the life and times of a reformist Rabbi who supposedly lived in 1st century Judea.

Prop 8 was about treating someone as a second- or third-class human based on one particular interpretation of an adult fairy tale.

Now some of you might say- but isn’t democracy about the opinions of the numerical majority. Well.. if we had used majority opinion to guide the creation and implementation of laws and rules, slavery would still be legal in the USA. Laws and rules in modern nation states are about keeping society functional and preventing tyranny of the majority or powerful minority. They are not supposed to stroke the egos of zealots who believe in their special connection to imaginary sky-dudes or the voices in their heads. Laws and rules are about maintaining a degree of fairness and rationality in society, or at least the illusion of their existence.

And there is one more little known, but important, fact about this particular case. People inside and outside Mozilla knew that Eich had donated money to support Prop 8 since 2012. So his resignation in 2014 was not the result of somebody leaking a closely guarded secret or a hatchet job by “gay activists”. His views on gay marriage and gays in general became relevant only after he became CEO and, therefore, the public face of Mozilla.

The combination of enhanced public visibility and additional administrative power made people take a second (and much longer) look at his personal views and convictions.

Some CONservatives say that his forced resignation is a sign of the decline of power of the 1st amendment to protect free speech. Oddly, these same people have no issues with corporations firing employees for publicly expressing their desire to form worker unions. CONservatives also believe that unlimited and secret financial contributions to political parties is an expression of free speech rather than open subversion of the democratic process. They also have no problems with the government violating the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th amendments as long as those affected are either non-white or poor whites.

Brendan Eich, like all CONservatives, wanted to deny legal equality to a subgroup of people based on his personal religious beliefs. He just chose the wrong group and wrong time in history to get away with it and consequently got thrown under the metaphorical bus.

What do you think? Comments?

The Inner World of Massey Sahibs: 2

April 3, 2014 3 comments

In my previous post in this series, I had said:

The massey sahib mindset is not restricted to Indians and milder forms of this mindset are actually quite common in many developed countries- especially in people of the upper-middle class persuasion.

I shall now explain what was implied in that statement. But before we go further, let me clarify something. While you can readily find critiques of the Indian mindset and behavior patterns on the intertubes, or in “real” life, almost all of those making them share one common delusion- namely, that the pathology they are talking about is somehow uniquely Indian. However that is not true and every pathology you can see in Indians is also present in other racial and ethnic groups- albeit with different external manifestations. The converse is also true and I have no illusions about the inherent “goodness” of Indians. However a lot of people are unable (or unwilling) to see things for what they really are.

Here are a few brief examples to illustrate that point. We associate genocide with the regimes of people like Hitler and Stalin, when the biggest (number, percentage and impact) genocides in human history were committed by the Spanish in South and Central America and the Anglos in North America. Similarly the Irish Famine (which was actually a genocide) was no different in relative size and scope from what occurred in Ukraine under Stalin. Then there is the issue of the late Victorian holocausts. Did I mention Slavery, Jim Crow and the Ongoing War on Drugs?

The idea that one group of human beings is “better” than others is therefore extremely delusional and not supported by even a cursory reading of historical evidence.

But what does this insight have to do with the subject of this post? Well.. a lot! Massey sahibs and their white counterparts (upper-middle class types) clearly have the resources and mental apparatus to read and understand history. They also have the mental ability to understand how the world around them works, so far as to realize that many of the people who employ them are mentally inferior to them and highly dependent on their abilities. Yet the majority of Massey sahibs and upper-middle class whites are happy to be house slaves and mercenaries for their “masters”.

But why? Why would any half-intelligent person enthusiastically slave away for less competent idiots- who in many cases gained wealth by an accident of birth?

Conventional explanations for this phenomena range from the fear of losing what little they already posses to competition from other brown-nosers. While such “common sense” explanations might sound rational at first glance, they are just clever ways to avoid the central question- Why would a smart person enthusiastically slave for somebody who could throw them on the street on a whim?

Here is my theory- It is really about what their jobs and vocations allow them to do or get away with.

The job functions of Massey sahibs and upper-middle class types almost always involve abusing, exploiting and impoverishing the masses on behalf of their “masters”. They are in it for the power to abuse, exploit and degrade other human beings. Employment by a rich person to do so allows them to indulge their deepest and darkest desires while being able to maintain a ‘normal’ self-image. They have no interest in the truth, reality or anything else that could spoil the party. They choose to believe what they believe because it allows them to go home after a long day of fucking over other people and still feel ‘normal’. Some even fantasize that such displays of loyalty to their “masters” might one day make them more equal to their “masters”. In many respects, this mindset is not too different from the one exhibited by working class whites.

What do you think? Comments?

Profit, unlike Gain, is a Measure of Theft from the System

March 24, 2014 4 comments

The idea that profit-driven capitalism is the only system capable of delivering sustained improvement in living standards is a deeply cherished belief of many Americans, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. Some of you might even argue that the dissolution of the Soviet Union is definitive evidence of that ‘there is not other way’. Of course, doing so would require us to ignore that state communism did take Russia from a chaotic 19th century society to a superpower within 30 years, inspite of the massive damages inflicted by Stalin’s paranoia and WW2.

We would also have to ignore that the massive and unprecedented increase in the standard of living in the USA from the mid-1930s to mid-1980s was largely financed by direct and indirect government spending. Imagine an American middle-class without the New Deal, WW2-related spending, GI Bill, Space Race and all other Cold War related spending. But this is not a post about which flavor of capitalism is better than which flavor of state communism. Instead I will try to show how one of the fundamental proxy measures of success in capitalism (and state communism) eventually up destroying them.

I am certainly not the first to point out that monetary profit is fundamentally a measure of theft from other people or groups. However unlike many others, I am more interested in its downstream and knockon effects than the morality and mindset of those who benefit from it. There is also the interesting issue of why capitalism seems to “work” as long as it is kept under control, but becomes destructive to almost everybody once it is unregulated. In my opinion, all of this comes down to difference between profit and gain.

Some of you will counter by saying that “but aren’t profit and gain two words for the same thing”. Well.. not quite and let me explain. We use the word profit to denote a situation where one party benefits at the expense of another party. It is fundamentally impossible for all the parties involved in a profitable transaction to gain from it and is therefore a zero-sum interaction. Now contrast that an interaction where some parties gain more than others but pretty much everybody gets a pretty good and fair deal. Still confused? Let us look at some examples.

Consider the case of a generic multinational corporation which has managed to increase its reported profit by off-shoring its manufacturing base to a low-income country. So who are the winners and losers in this type of scenario? The biggest winners in this scenario are almost always the top-level management, large stockholders and those involved in the financial (and other) intermediation necessary to make it happen. Minor winners include the poorly paid workers in the low-income countries now working at a slightly better paying job and the consumers who benefit from a slightly cheaper product. So who are the big losers in this transaction? Well.. everybody else- starting from the unemployed workers to local business who depended on those workers and the local governments who depended on tax revenue from those workers, business and the corporation.

Now consider the case of a company, business or an institution developing a new way to fulfill some human need or desire. How many people were negatively affected by the development of computer technology? What about antibiotic drugs? What about better automobiles or airplanes? What about effective vaccines for diseases like polio? In each of the above examples, pretty much everybody benefited (or gained) far more than they lost. Moreover each of these products increased the size of the economy without a significant increase in income inequality. That is the important, and crucial difference, between profit and gain. You might also notice that my description of gain is pretty close to most peoples mental image of functional capitalism.

So why is gain-based capitalism in full retreat and why has its profit-based form taken over?

It comes down to concentration of power in the hands of a few large players or oligopolization. Capitalism, or indeed any other system, works best when there are many and almost equally capable competing players in the system. That is also why capitalism seems to function pretty well when a new area opens up for business. But sooner or later you will end up with a handful of major players who will dominate the new area.

But why would narrowing the list of players favor profit over gain. Well.. once again there are many interrelated reasons but they all arise from one characteristic common to all large human organisations- who runs them. The higher levels of large and established organisations are almost always dominated by sociopaths who have learned to climb the pyramid by stepping on others. These climbers often have no understanding of what it takes to make the enterprises they are leading function properly, nor are they interested in making them function properly.

The mindset of these sociopaths is dominated by two interlinked desires. Firstly, they want to subjugate and impoverish everyone else. Secondly, they want to do so while basking in material comfort. They have no interest, desire or even the mental ability to be anything else. These billionaires, “business leaders”, CEOs, board members, banksters, head honchos etc are functionally identical to parasites or viruses in that they both lack a purpose for existence and an internal ability to restrain themselves. They survive and thrive by exploiting the structure of the system and eluding systemic attempts to destroy them. But why are they so interested in generating more profit and suppressing gain? The answer to that question lies in what happens to monetary profit once it is generated.

Monetary profit, unlike gain, is almost never reinvested back into the system. In other words, all money made as profit exits the functional economy and impoverishes everybody else.

Only sovereign governments can replenish this supply of money. It is therefore not surprising that billionaires and other rich people spend lots of their time making sure that the government does not replenish this supply or that they get most of that replenishment. It is not about more money for them, as much as it is about less money for everybody else. Of course, it certainly helps that they have a whole bunch of morons to do their dirty work.

What do you think? Comments?

The Inner World of Massey Sahibs : An Introduction

March 19, 2014 9 comments

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the questionable treatment of an Indian diplomat in the USA with special reference to the public reaction of certain people of Indian descent to that event. In that post, I also talked a bit about concepts such as ‘gungadin’ and ‘sepoy’- and the key difference between them. This post goes into a bit more depth on the phenomena of ‘gungadins’ and one of its more common subtypes – the ‘massey sahib’.

But before we go further, let us quickly define both concepts and highlight the slight (but important) differences between them. A ‘gungadin’ is somebody who is servile to anyone with a white skin under the expectation that doing so will somehow get him a vaguely promised reward or acceptance as an equal in the distant future. A ‘massey sahib’ is basically similar to a ‘gungadin’, but has a few extra distinguishing characteristics. For one, a ‘massey sahib’ fancies himself as white-’lite’ and will go to considerable and often comical lengths to demonstrate his white cultural credentials. Secondly, a ‘massey sahib’ is almost always fairly well-educated and well read, but is unable or unwilling to think critically. He will always support the view of “famous” white men even if they themselves make a 180 turn away from their old views.

So why do whites like to keep ‘massey sahibs’ around- at least until they become too inconvenient? It comes down to the utility of ‘massey sahibs’ as tools. In case you are still wondering about my choice of the name for this class of “individuals”, here is the wiki link: Massey Sahib

Set in pre-independence India, Massey sahib is an Indian who converts to Christianity for the sole purpose of becoming white-’lite’. To that end, he works hard to do fulfill the ambition of his white boss even if that means breaking the laws he is supposed to uphold. The white boss knows about his double dealings but ignores them in a manner that affords him (but not Massey) plausible deniability. Towards the end of the story, the scams are exposed and Massey becomes the scapegoat and is cast aside by his white boss who acts surprised and disappointed. The effects of the investigation disrupt Massey’s life and lead him to kill another Indian in a fit of rage. This only worsens Masseys situation and inspite of the advice of his now ex- white boss, he chooses not to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter since he expects his white boss and white “friends” to magically intervene and set him free. I guess you can figure out how the story ends.

So what does this story have to do with people of Indian descent who live, or were born, in western countries today? Well.. a significant number and percentage of Indians, especially those who came to north america before the mid 1990s, are (for all practical purposes) ‘massey sahibs’. Now some of you might try to defend them by saying that they became ‘massey sahibs’ for purely economic reasons- but I disagree.

People who crawl and grovel when you ask them to bend a little are motivated by far more than simple economic calculations. This is doubly true when they did not have to bend in the first place.

Let me show you what I am talking about with a real-life example of one. I found this interview on the ‘Chemical and Engineering News’ website – Link. Excerpts from this interview will be quoted to illustrate my points.

First the extended title..

Sunil Kumar, Chemical Industry Medalist, Chemistry and opportunity in the U.S. aided his climb from poverty to executive suite

Altruistic white man gave poverty-stricken brown guy a chance out of the goodness of his heart. *sarcasm*

Although trained as a mechanical engineer, Kumar found that he liked the products of chemistry and had a knack for translating them into marketing successes. That talent, over the course of a 41-year career, helped India-born Kumar rise from near penniless immigrant to the U.S. to high-level executive at the tire maker Firestone (and later Bridgestone), the roofing supplier GAF, and ISP.

This is a repetition of the point made in the extended title, but with more biographical details.

Kumar, 64, continues his love affair with chemistry today through Wembly Enterprises, a family investment vehicle that acquires chemistry-based businesses. His is a rags-to-riches story that could only have happened in America.

Actually that is not true for reasons we will get into in a moment, but why let facts get in the way of feel good propaganda.

He headed for the U.S. right after graduating from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), in Madras, with a degree in mechanical engineering. “In the early 1970s, India was a bad place to be,” Kumar recalls. “There was not much encouragement for private enterprise, and most people got jobs with government entities. That was not my cup of tea at all.”

So let us be clear about one thing. This guy was educated at a pretty elite institution in India and was certainly not from some poverty-stricken or uneducated family. While it is true that India in the 1970s was not a great place for anybody with ambition, the idea that he would have lived in poverty if he had not moved to the USA is false.

Kumar was then and still is a passionate admirer of what he calls “the American civilization.” He defines that civilization as a place where government mostly works and people who work hard can do well.

In the 1970s and perhaps the 1980s, the USA was still a reasonably meritocratic place- especially if you were not Black or Mexican. But that still true? In the 1970s the USA also had far fewer people (by number and percentage) in jail than the USSR (Russia)- but is that still true? Things change..

But the more important question is- Did he have to profess that belief to succeed in a meritocracy? A system that is highly meritocratic would not require you to be a congenital brown noser- which he clearly is, and we will see more evidence of that in a moment.

He secured a spot in the M.B.A. program at the University of Louisiana, Monroe. Key to his decision to go there was the financial support he got from the university. “Graduate assistantships are typical in science but rare in business school. They made an exception for me; it was the break I needed,” Kumar says. Separately, he snagged a job at the 7-Eleven near the campus to earn the money he needed to repay his father for the plane ticket. Working at 7-Eleven taught him how to relate to people. The blue-collar workers who came into the store “were fabulous, down-to-earth people with no pretensions,” Kumar recalls. Working at the store also taught him that management systems often function better in the U.S. than in India. “At the store, there was a system for inventory, pricing, and handling customers. The reason 7-Eleven worked well is that it had a way to get products and customers in and out.”

Isn’t it odd that a guy whose entire existence in India revolved around getting away from the teeming brown masses was so willing to kiss the average white guys ass? Why? More importantly, how many of his current acquaintances are blue-collar white guys? Guess how that changed.. But the best part is towards the end of that interview piece.

Although India also offers better business opportunities than when he left it, they still can’t compare with the opportunities available in the U.S., Kumar maintains. He spends part of his time as an adviser to the Indian energy and chemical giant Reliance Industries, providing advice on elastomers plants now under construction in India.

Fair enough.. he prefers to live in the USA where he spent most of his life.

And although India graduates large numbers of engineers, most, Kumar contends, aren’t well-trained. “There must be something wrong when a country that graduates 300,000 engineers per year gets no Nobel Prizes, gets few patents, and has only a $1.8 trillion economy,” Kumar says. He sees no need for the U.S. to churn out engineers to better compete with India. Although the U.S. can always stand to improve its educational system, Kumar says, the country already “has more than enough brilliant scientists, inventors, and chemists.”

Now wait a minute.. if Indian engineers and chemists are not well trained or incompetent – what about him? I mean.. the interview does state that he came from India. Was he somehow special or is he seeing himself as white-’lite’? And if the american system has always been good at producing enough brilliant scientists, inventors, and chemists- why did they want him in the first place? Something does not add up. But we still have not reached the best bit of his brown nosing.

He also continues to be a huge believer in America. “I wouldn’t say that a person born in America is superior to a person not born in America. God creates everyone equal,” Kumar says. But a person who is born in the U.S., or grows up, lives, and works in the country, “becomes superior after a number of years because America’s system is exceptional.” As Kumar sees it, America “is a new civilization, and it is more than just immigrants coming here and finding jobs.” The country, he declares, “creates spectacular successes.”

Here is my problem with this shill. Does his mental model hold true if you are an enterprising Black, Mexican or even a working class white guy? While the last class did somewhat OK will the mid-1980s, their fortunes have progressively deteriorated to the point where they are not much better than the other two? So what changed and why?

While the american system does manage to make its 1% (or more precisely its 0.1%) richer with every passing day, it has clearly failed the other 99%. Sunil Kumar’s strategy for success is based on kissing the behind of every rich white guy he came across and then slaving away for them, in exchange for a few bones and being treated as white-’lite’ until he becomes inconvenient for his white superiors. He went so far only because the real decline of american chemical manufacturing started towards the end of his corporate career allowing him to escape with a measure of dignity and money. His early career shift into the management side of that sector also partially protected him from career ending job loss.

In the upcoming part of this series, I will try to explore the mindset and world view that creates massey sahibs. As you will see, the massey sahib mindset is not restricted to Indians and milder forms of this mindset are actually quite common in many developed countries- especially in people of the upper-middle class persuasion.

What do you think? Comments?

Did the USA Accidentally Shoot Down MH370 off Diego Garcia?

March 18, 2014 18 comments

The final fate of flight MH370 is still a mystery. So far, we have not been able to locate either the wreckage or landing site of that Malaysia airlines Boeing 777 airliner. Since my previous post on this topic, two interesting facts have come to light.

1. Somebody in the cockpit of that airplane altered the flight path program after the aircraft took off from Kuala Lumpur.

2. Some residents on Kuda Huvadhoo island in the Dhaalu atoll group of the Maldives reported seeing a large low flying jet at around 6:15 am on March 8.

Both new pieces of information got me thinking about an unfortunate, but likely, explanation for the final fate of flight MH370 which can also explain some of the peculiar circumstances surrounding that its disappearance. As many of you know, my previous post had postulated that MH370 flew through the outlying islands of the Maldive island chain.

A route from the last known radar contact of that airplane to the outlying islands of the Maldives would keep the aircraft out of the airspace of nations such as India and Sri Lanka. It helps that most of airspace over the Maldivian island chain is free of radars- civilian or military. The time when that large low flying airliner appeared over the Dhaalu atoll group in the Maldives also matches the expected ETA of a low and slow flying 777 airliner.

But what was the final destination of those in control of that airplane?

According to link # 2- “Eyewitnesses from the Kuda Huvadhoo concurred that the aeroplane was travelling North to South-East, towards the Southern tip of the Maldives”. Where could a pilot travelling South-East of that island land, especially given that he has less than 2 hours of fuel on board at that time? Well.. he could have always turned north and landed in Male or on any of the major airstrips in the Maldives- but it is rather clear from his flight path that he was not interested in doing that.

We are now left with only a few possibilities such as the american base on Diego Garcia, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles or some airstrip in Madagascar. But why would someone who hates attention want to land on tourist heavy compact islands like Mauritius, Reunion or Seychelles. While parts of Madagascar are remote, what would motivate somebody to land on that impoverished island?

And this brings us to the possibility that the person flying that airplane might have attempted to land on one of the long airstrips at the secretive US navy facility on Diego Garcia. Remember- “attempted” not “succeeded”. But why do I believe that MH370 did not succeed landing on that island?

Let me put it this way- we would have heard about it a week ago. Since Malaysia is a friendly (or at least non-adversarial) country, the US navy would have almost certainly let a damaged or otherwise stricken airliner land on that island. Nor was that aircraft carrying anything valuable or secretive enough to merit keeping its landing secret.

So why did that aircraft not land on Diego Garcia?

Here is my theory. The people on Diego Garcia were spooked by a large, low flying, unidentified (and likely) hijacked aircraft approaching the island. They might have tried to contact it a few times and either failed or become more fearful with each response. Perhaps they thought that they were in the midst of a mini-9/11. At some moment in time, somebody made a decision to launch SAMs at that aircraft to bring it down. You can guess what happened next..

But why would the USA try to cover up such an incident?

Well.. there are two reasons. Firstly- that base is remote enough to allow the USA to cover up an airliner shootdown over water for some time. Secondly- they probably realized within a few hours that most passengers on that airplane were Chinese nationals. It does not take much imagination to realize the very real diplomatic consequences of shooting down a plane full of Chinese nationals, especially if the circumstances surrounding that shooting are nebulous.

Here is a similar incident from over two decades ago – Iran Air Flight 655

What do you think? Comments?

On the Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

March 14, 2014 9 comments

The mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has become one of the most closely followed news stories of the last few days. While plane disappearances are not unheard of, even in the post-WW2 era, they have become increasingly rare and almost never occur to aircraft as large as the Boeing-777.

I have been meaning to publish an article on this bizarre incident for the last 2-3 days, but was unable to do so because of the constant (and often contradictory) bits of news coming out of multiple “unnamed” sources. Well, things have changed in the last 12-odd hours and we now have a somewhat coherent (but still unclear) picture of what might have happened to that flight. So here is a list of what we know, or don’t know, with a high degree of certainty.

1] The communication gear in that aircraft was able to return a satellite ping as late as 8:11 am Malaysian time on the day it disappeared, or about 7 hours after its transponder stopped broadcasting. This implies that the aircraft was structurally intact and likely flying for about 7 hours after its transponder signal disappeared.

This bit of evidence immediately suggest two things. Firstly, the aircraft in question was being deliberately flown either by a human or computer for an extended period of time. Secondly, whoever was flying that aircraft was not interested in definitely not interested in crashing it and killing everyone on it, as they could have done that almost instantly. Nor were they interested in crashing that aircraft into some building or structure, as that would also have occurred within a few hours. Whoever pulled it off had a well thought out plan.

2] The ACARS system was disabled minutes before the transponder went off air and just before the plane was supposed to enter Vietnamese airspace. This chain of events and the timeline also suggests that the diversion of MH370 was deliberate. The last routine sounding verbal communication from MH370 occurred after the ACARS was disabled but before the transponder went dark. It is also worth noting that the pilot of another commercial plane who was trying to contact that flight half an hour after it “disappeared” claims to have heard some mumbling before the transmission cut.

This suggests that conscious humans were present in the cockpit for at least thirty minutes after the transponder went blank. If the plane was malfunctioning, either of the two pilots in the cockpit could have easily contacted nearby airports or aircraft through one of the many redundant communication systems on that airplane and requested assistance. But they did not do so. Why not?

3] The most mysterious part of the MH370 story is the motive, or to be more accurate- the lack of one to date. If the pilots or whoever was flying that plane was simply interested in killing people by either simply crashing it or crashing it into something, we would have heard about it by now. Similarly the idea that somebody stole an airplane as large and specialized as the 777 for selling its parts on the black market does not make sense, as they are far less riskier ways to steal from your employers inventory.

It is also very odd that no organisation, group or individuals has come forward and taken credit for this disappearance. We have not heard about any list of demands or proof of life for the passengers on that airplane. This is especially odd since we live in an era where the ubiquity of the internet, social media and smartphones make it incredibly easy for any moron with half a brain could have easily done so.

4] The current location of that airliner is the final part of this mystery. But before we go there, let us be clear about one thing- whoever was flying that airplane had thought this out in some detail and intended to survive the landing. With that in mind, let us look at the two (or three) possible parts of the world it could have landed in. The cropped graphic (below) from WaPo is especially good for illustrating what I am going to talk about.

MalaysiaRange_graphic-01

The southern Indian ocean is remarkably lacking in both islands and lightly guarded airstrips. The only islands, or island groups, with a functional airstrips are Christmas island, Cocos (Keeling) island, the american base at Diego Garcia, a few airstrips in the Maldives and a few more in Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion island. We can also add Madagascar to that list- but my point is that pretty much every airstrip in any of those islands is highly commercial and landing on them would attract a lot of “unwanted” attention. It is possible that to land in some remote part of the Western Australian Outback, but even that would attract lots of attention from locals.

The second, and somewhat more plausible, flight path takes the airplane over countries such as Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, India, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc. But that route requires the plane to cross many highly surveilled national boundaries and would attract tons of unwanted attention by the military assets stationed near those borders. To put it another way, keeping that flight path secret would require the implicit or accidental cooperation of people in many different countries.

There is however a third, and so far largely ignored, flight path. What if whoever was flying that plane wanted to land it somewhere in east-Africa or the Arabian peninsula? They could have chosen a route that went south of Sri Lanka but north of Diego Garcia- perhaps through a sparsely populated part of the Maldive island chain. From there they could reach an airstrip in the horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti South Sudan, Sudan etc) or a nearby part of the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen, the interior of Oman or Saudi Arabia). Perhaps they could have even flown as far as the southern parts of Iran or Pakistan.

What do you think? Comments?

Southern Working Class Whites and the Real “Problem” with Kansas

March 5, 2014 35 comments

One idea that has gained popularity among american intellectuals of the liberal persuasion within the last 10-15 years goes something like this:

The dominance of conservatives politicians in southern (and some non-southern flyover) states is due to their success at conning working class whites into voting against their own economic interest.

To put it another way, liberals believe that working class whites are decent human beings who are repeatedly tricked into voting against their best economic interests. This belief is the basis of books such as What’s the Matter with Kansas?. Many liberals believe that the white working class of southern (and some flyover) states left democrats because the later became too “culturally distant” and have not been able to provide enough decent jobs in those states. But do those explanations stand up to rational scrutiny? Or is there another far more obvious, but unmentionable, reason behind the rightward shifts in southern states?

Let us first examine the soundness of cultural explanations for the ascendancy of conservatives in the post-1980 (actually post-1968) south. The conventional explanations for this phenomena invoke public reactions to a series of socio-legal changes that occurred between 1955-1980. These include civil rights legislation, legalized abortion, sexual revolution and mass entry of women in the work force. Liberals want to believe that these changes somehow alienated a majority of “good” Americans living in those states.

While I do agree that these changes were large and controversial, it is worth noting that the end results of their implementation has been fairly uniform across the USA. The percentages and incidences of single motherhood in Kansas or Alabama are not that different those in Washington or Oregon. Similarly the percentages of blacks who vote in southern states today are not much different from those who live in the much less shitty coastal ones. Nor are fat white working class women in Alabama or Mississippi any less sexually promiscuous than their counterparts in Massachusetts or Maine. My point is- the progressive socio-legal changes which started in the 1960s have been far more uniform in their effect across the USA than most people realize or want to believe.

The idea that working class whites in the south are trying to preserve the old ways does not hold water simply because those ways no longer exist, except perhaps in the fringes, of those societies.

So why do these morons keep on voting people who promise to brings back things that are dead and beyond any hope of resurrection? Let us consider another angle, namely that the rightward drift of the south is a reaction to the loss of traditional blue-collar jobs. While there is some validity to the idea that people who lose their previously stable and well-paying livelihoods might turn to anti-establishment ideologies, it does not two aspects of the rightward movements of southern states. Firstly- why don’t north-eastern and mid-western states, who also lost a lot of blue-collar jobs, elect the same kind of people as those below the Mason-Dixon line? Secondly- why do southerners keep on electing politicians who actively undermine their economic interests?

Therefore the argument that southern working class whites drifted to right-wing politicians because of economic neglect by more left-wing ones also does not hold much water, unless we assume they are mentally retarded.

While it is certainly plausible that southern working-class whites are intellectually inferior to their counterparts in other parts of the country, it is also highly unlikely that most are mentally retarded. And this brings me to the history of their voting patterns- specifically how they switched their voting patterns after 1968. As many of you know, prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the democratic party had no problem getting the votes of working-class whites in southern states. Of course, that was also the era when the Democrats (and not the Republicans) were the party of American Apartheid. The passage of the Civil Rights Act under LBJ changed that forever and permanently antagonized the southern white working-class voter.

But why would simply giving equal rights to blacks cause such a large negative reaction among working-class whites in the south?

It is not as if equality is a finite resource whose distribution makes it scarcer. So what is going on? Why would legal remedies to end racial discrimination evoke such strong reactions among southern working-class whites? Is there a better explanation this seemingly irrational behavior.

Well.. there is, but that explanation requires the observer to abandon certain preconceptions about what working-class whites are and are not. Too often, polite public discourse tries to portray working-class whites as honest and decent human beings who just happen to be gullible enough to fall for racist demagogues. But what if that is not true? What if opportunist politicians are merely saying out what their constituents really believe? What if the identity and self-image of those subhumans is principally based on the constant abuse of blacks and the zeros-um exploitation of each other? What if all of the attempts by those subhumans to justify conservative beliefs through selective readings of religious scriptures are based on their true desires? What if all of their pathetic attempts to fellate the rich, even if they crap on them, are based in their world view?

My point is that the behavior of southern working-class whites is far easier to understand (and model) if we assume that it is the external manifestations of their mental world.

And this brings us to the question about how to fix that problem. The conventional liberal view is that more education and exposure to a more cosmopolitan world will somehow make those subhumans less so. However many real world indices suggest that education or exposure to a better way does not make them less subhuman. There is however another path to achieve a final and lasting solution to this problem, especially if we are willing to consider the possibility that these subhumans (or their progeny) are functionally incapable of ever being human.

What do you think? Comments?

Film Remakes, Sequels, Prequels and the True Nature of Capitalism

March 1, 2014 8 comments

Have you ever wondered why mainstream movie-making in the last twenty years has gravitated towards remakes, sequels and prequels of previously successful movies? Why do movie studios keep on making newer version of old hits? What is purpose of making progressively inferior sequels or prequels of questionable quality? Now there are some who would say that all literature, theater and cinema is derivative (cleverly plagiarized and recycled) and there is some truth to that. But that is not what I am talking about. Let me explain my point with a few examples.

The original Star Wars and lords of the rings franchises are indeed clever rehashes of epics centered around reluctant hero trope. Furthermore, such epic stories are found across diverse cultures and eras. However reading the Odyssey, Scandinavian sagas or even the much earlier Epic of Gilgamesh does not diminish the enjoyment of watching the original star wars films or the LOTR trilogy because while they all have the same basic story structure, each one takes great effort to create and populate its own unique and self-consistent universe. Similarly modern superhero characters have more than a passing resemblance to the trans-human/semi-divine characters that populate ancient myths and stories. Yet once again, the creators of most modern superhero characters took considerable effort to make them and the worlds they inhabit as unique and richly detailed as possible.

Now contrast this level of creativity and effort to that seen (or not seen) in the Star Wars and LOTR “prequels”. Or take movie remakes- Why do most modern movie remakes and sequels suck so badly? Compare the original Robocop movie to its recent remake. Or compare the remake of Total recall to its far more innovative original version. This is not to say that every remake, prequel or sequel sucks. There are examples where the reboot was as good or better than the original such as Scarface (1983 vs 1932) or the Mummy (1999 vs 1932). Note that both examples of successful remakes mentioned in the previous sentence were quite different from the original versions. Having said that movies in which the remake, sequel or prequel are better than the original are exceptions and not the rule.

But why is that so and what does it have to do with the true nature of capitalism?

The short answer to that question is as follows- trying to relentlessly increase and optimize monetary profits from any new source of income will always kill the proverbial golden egg laying goose. The somewhat longer answer to that question requires us to first take an honest look at what capitalism (or any other materialism based -ism) is really about.

In the preceding paragraph, I hinted that the tendency of capitalism to kill golden egg laying geese is shared by other material-based ideologies (such as state communism). But why would that be so? Aren’t materialism based ideologies more “scientific” and therefore superior to other ways of looking at the world? Well.. it depends and here is why.

Materialism based (reductionist) models work best when the systems are small in size, fundamental in nature and/or tractable. So materialism based models are perfect for doing things such as predicting the motion of planets, understanding the physical nature of matter, launching artificial satellites, synthesizing some new chemical compound or designing a new engine or vehicle. Their predictive value starts to decrease as the systems become more complex or chaotic- yet they are still quite useful for understanding phenomena as diverse as biological evolution, speciation or weather systems. Reductionist models however reach the end of their usefulness when we enter the realms of complex, fundamentally unstable and adaptive systems such as human societies.

Models based in reductionism work well only as long as the fundamental components of the system and interactions between are constant, predictable and measurable. We simply cannot do that with human societies of even basic complexity. This is where reductionist thinkers make two fundamental errors.

Firstly, they try to use an external and artificial standard unit (money) to keep track of exchanges in the system. While the amounts of money exchanged might initially have some correlation to the actual value of most interactions in the system- it always reaches a point where the amounts exchanged between components in the system has little (or no) correlation to the actual value of the interactions. However the quantity and flow of money in the system are now increasingly seen as the only legitimate measure of value of anything or any person in the system. Money becomes a proxy measure for something it can no longer be accurately used to measure.

The triumph of money as the only way to measure the worth of anything results in the second type of reductionist error. The quest for more money results in the ever-increasing use of reductionist models (and thinking) to optimize interactions and actions. It is this mindset that leads to mediocre, insipid or just plain shitty movie remakes, sequels and prequels- while simultaneously starving truly innovative ideas and concepts. The people who make decisions about movie funding therefore have little interest in the quality or craft of the final product. They are principally motivated by the predicted monetary returns on their ill-gained money.

That is why capitalism, communism and all other reductionist -isms, which use artificial gameable proxy units, to model the real world ultimately end up destroying the very things that make their existence possible.

What do you think? Comments?

Why the Snowden Leaks Matter: Evidence vs Assumptions

February 21, 2014 5 comments

It has been over 7 months since the first excerpts from the Snowden document haul were published in the some mainstream media outlets. Since then, many document excerpts and summaries detailing the tools, capacity and ambition of the NSA (and its collaborators) have been published. As some of you may also know, all of the leaks published to date account for less than 2-3% of what Snowden gave to Greenwald and others- which themselves are a subset of all the documents he took with him in the first place.

So far the reaction from the majority of mainstream media outlets has ranged from condemnation to deliberate ignorance and dismissiveness. While this course of action might have been effective at suppressing information about those leaks in the pre-internet world, we live in a very connected world where non-mainstream media is now far more influential than its mainstream counterpart. But do these leaks matter? and will they have any long-term effects on public policy and perhaps more importantly the perception of people about their governments?

One of the favorite technique of mainstream media ‘journalists’ to try and minimize the impact of each new leak involves saying- “But we already knew that.” But is that really true? To put it another way- is hard and objective evidence about the existence of something really the same as speculative assumptions about its existence? Let us look at a few examples in recent history to try and answer that question.

Let us start by comparing the impact of genocides committed under Hitler to the one(s) committed under Stalin. Why do we hear so much about the former while the later is comparatively obscure, even though more people died in the later. Some say that the notoriety of genocide(s) under Hitler is linked to the fact that Jews were disproportionately represented in the body count- and there is some truth to that statement. However the religious and ethnic identity of the victims is secondary to the main reason we know so much the Nazi genocide.

It comes down to how well each one was documented.

The Holocaust was very well documented- both by its perpetrators and those who eventually stopped it. We have hundreds of thousands of graphic photographs, thousands of hours of movie footage, extensive document archives and a mountain of eyewitness testimony about what really happened during the Holocaust. The same is not true about the genocide(s) under Stalin. While we do have some documents, photographs and eye witness testimony about the events that occurred during those genocides- the total amount of such evidence is a very small fraction of what we have about the Holocaust.

The lack of extensive evidence makes the genocide(s) under Stalin feel substantially less “real” than the very well documented Holocaust- even though more people died in the former.

The “realness” of something we do not have personal knowledge or experience about is directly proportional to the amount of available first, and third, party evidence. This is also why the Armenian Genocide, Japanese war crimes and Mao’s great famine are not as well known as they otherwise would have been.

My point is that definitive evidence of something matters far more than vague assumptions about its existence, especially when such knowledge or information guides an appropriate response.

What do you think? Comments?

Why has Social Pressure not Increased Fertility Rates in Asian Countries?

February 12, 2014 20 comments

Few will dispute the idea that Asian societies and cultures have always used high levels of social pressure to sustain themselves even if doing so resulted in high levels of poverty, unhappiness, misery and early death for most of their members. Before we go further, let me remind you that I am not claiming other cultures and civilizations were (or are) significantly better in that respect. Indeed, I have noted in numerous previous posts that all cultures, nations and civilizations are ponzi schemes. Having said that, it is rather obvious that east-asian cultures are (and always have been) especially good at being ponzi schemes.

Between their worship of, and deference to, “tradition” and a profound unwillingness to change unless such change is forced upon them- it is clear that those cultures are interested in perpetuating bad dynamic equilibriums rather than move to better ones. Yet for thousands of years they were able to sustain this self-inflicted hell largely because of high rates of fertility (aka disposable suckers). And once again, non-asian cultures and societies were not much better in that regard.

A lot have changed in the last hundred, and especially the last sixty, years. For one, we have seen voluntary global reductions in fertility rates to the extent that many countries now have barely replacement to below replacement rates of fertility. While the growth and spread of education, mores and technology had their role in this change, we have still largely ignored one of the most important questions surrounding this change. Why are so many people not interested in having kids at all or just having one or two? I believe that the answer lies in the fact that human existence under the prevailing socio-economic systems is (and always has been) highly dystopic. But that is a topic for another post or discussion.

There is however a related question that is fairly specific to east-asian cultures and countries. As I have said before- the ponzi scheme of “civilization” requires a naive and youth heavy demographic profile to persist for extended periods of time. This is especially true of the societies that systemically enforce cultural autism to survive. Now factor in the effect of a sharp reduction in the number of naive suckers caused by a serious and persistent global decline in rates of east-asian fertility. How would systems whose very existence depended on a constant and large supply of naive suckers react to a serious shortfall in fuel?

Let me pose that question in another way- Why are asian societies and cultures who are so good at enforcing self-destructive behavior among their members through social pressure unable to make them provide more fuel.. I mean kids.. for the ponzi scheme? Why is social pressure to enforce self-destructive behavior incapable of making them breed more?

There are those who will say that the large and sustained decline in east-asian fertility is a logical response to overcrowding or poverty. Some will say that it has to do with living in high stress societies which may be partially true. But none of that stopped them from having tons of kids in previous eras, did it? So why now? What changed? Some readers might say that westernization or feminism has made women less willing to have kids and there is something to that argument. However the fertility rates in east-asian countries are low even in those countries where women are not expected to work after marriage- such as Japan.

So what is going on? Why are countries with huge levels of social group-think and pressure unable to make their subjects.. I mean members.. have more kids? Why can’t societies who can browbeat their members in doing anything else not make them have more kids? It is certainly not for lack of trying.

What do you think? Comments?

Two Proxies for Determining the Actual Level of Knowledge

February 9, 2014 3 comments

We have all seen and heard tons of “experts” engage in public demonstrations of their supposed deep understanding about some area of knowledge. We have also seen many examples where the subsequent course of events have clearly demonstrated that they were wrong. Indeed, many “experts” try to normalize their past blunders by claiming that making mistakes is the only way science and knowledge can progress. While that may be partially true, these “experts” almost always forget that concept when criticizing the ideas of those who are not part of their social circle, academic “pedigree” or skin color. My point is that any person who is called, or considered to be, an “expert” is almost always a con-artist who has been especially successful in evading scrutiny.

But that leaves us with a peculiar problem. How do we separate quality knowledge from speculation, lies and bullshit. This is especially problematic as many “experts” hide their incompetence behind degrees from supposedly “prestigious” institutions, social positions, supposed hyper-specialization, arcane language and sophistry. So how do we know who is lying and how much? Well, I have given this issue some thought and come up with two easy to use, fast and highly accurate proxies to help you cut through the web of lies, sophistry, deceit and bullshit.

Proxy 1: The number of plausible theories about something is inversely proportional to the actual understanding about that thing or phenomena.

Prior to the microbial theory of infectious diseases, people believed that such illnesses were caused by everything from divine wrath, evil spirits, bad karma, poisonous air to laziness and insolence. It did not help that all of those theories did sound equally plausible as none of them was capable of explaining observable reality. Contrast that situation to the present day, when pretty much everybody understands that infectious diseases are caused by microbes. Moreover, the association between a particular type of pathogenic microorganism and an illness can always be verified by a variety of experimental techniques that stand up to scrutiny.

The same cannot however be said about many chronic non-infectious diseases. It is therefore no surprise that “experts” routinely come up with new, recycled and mutually contradictory theories about the etiology of diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Coronary Artery Disease. Even worse, the most widespread theories about the etiology of such diseases do not stand up to reality. For example- of all the cholesterol lowering medications approved to date, only the ‘statins’ demonstrate decent (but not great) efficacy at lowering mortality and morbidity from Coronary Artery Disease. Then there is the issue of why no approved drug for Type 2 diabetes has any significant positive effect on the excess risk of Myocardial Infarctions (heart attacks)- which is the single biggest cause of premature death in people with that disease.

And this brings us to the second proxy for determining the actual level of knowledge about a thing, phenomena or process.

Proxy 2: A good understanding of a thing, phenomena or process will quickly leads to multiple, robust and viable strategies for utilizing that knowledge.

Today new cars are not hard to design, build or repair because the principles and factors that govern their performance have been understood for over a century. Similarly complex new airlines can be designed and partially tested on computers because we have very good mathematical models and a solid theoretical understanding of the engineering (and other) principles behind each and every part that is used to build them. Nor are we surprised when companies like Intel or Samsung can keep on building every smaller, faster and better CPUs for personal computers and smartphones. The same is true about large-scale and important chemical process for synthesizing compounds like ammonia or plastics and polymers. Similarly even complex and finicky chemical process such as fractionating various varieties of crude oil have been mastered to the point where the biggest challenges with building new refineries are related to environmental concerns.

Now compare this level of competence and confidence to the hype surrounding high-efficiency “organic” solar cells, exotic “high-capacity” rechargeable batteries, controlled and energy positive nuclear fusion or new therapies based on human genomics. Or take all those breathless reports about exciting cancer therapies. Have there really been any new “paradigm-changing” shifts in that area of medicine for the last thirty years? Look at the survival rates for all types of cancers. Sure things are better than they were thirty years ago- but most of the changes have come from non-invasive diagnostic methods, less-horrible surgical interventions and more thoughtful use of older drug in combination.

In summary, the two best proxies for determining the actual level of knowledge come down to how well we can explain observable reality and use that knowledge for our benefit. Anything else is lies, scams and sophistry.

What do you think? Comments?

Why Jimmy Fallon will Not be a Successful Replacement for Jay Leno

February 1, 2014 13 comments

Many of my recent posts have been a bit too abstract, and therefore I am going to write one about something a bit more frivolous and contemporary. As most of you must have heard for a few months, Jimmy Fallon is going to replace Jay Leno as the host of ‘The Tonight Show‘ in the later half of February 2014. As most of you also know, this is not the first time NBC tried to replace Jay Leno as the host of that late night variety entertainment program.

I predict that this attempt to replace Jay Leno will also fail in stabilizing, let alone increasing, the viewership of that show over more than a few months.

But before telling you my hypothesis about why Jimmy Fallon will not succeed, let us take a quick look at the mindset behind this decision. The upper executive ranks of NBC, like almost every other large corporation in the western world, are populated by a very specific subcategory of people. They are, by and large, people who got into their current positions via some combination of luck, connections and bull-shitting. The vast majority of senior executives in large corporations have no interest or stake in the future of the institutions they control beyond the next quarterly financial report.

These executives will always receive excellent compensation- whether the corporation they run succeeds or fails. Nor is their incompetence a barrier to a similar or better job at another large corporation. They will also never enjoy the public recognition and popularity of the actors and other celebrities who are the public face of their corporation. The confluence of these conditions ensures that most of their professional decisions are rooted in personal likes, dislikes, fashions, power plays and other petty considerations typically associated with the inter-personal behavior of adolescent girls.

So what does any of this mean for the decision to get a new host for a late-night TV program?

Well.. it comes down to their justification for that action. The official version of the story is that Jay Leno’s tenure as the host of that show was just not giving them the kind of ratings they had once hoped for. They were also “concerned” that the median age of the average regular viewer of that show was in the mid- to late- 50s. But can either issue be fixed by replacing him with Jimmy Fallon or anybody else?

Let me ask you a simple question- When was the last time you sat through the majority, let alone an entire episode, of a late night talk show on one of the big networks? I have not done that in almost ten years and I can bet that many of you are in the same boat. The growing popularity of programs on non-basic cable channels, the astronomical increase of searchable media on the internet, YouTube and its clones, NetFlix and other subscription services, mobile internet devices and social media platforms have pulled (and fragmented) the 40- and under crowd away from traditional TV programming. Consequently the only people regularly watching traditional TV programming are in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

Changing the host of a late night show to someone who is younger, “hipper” or more “web-savvy” does not address the fundamental limitations and handicaps of network TV programming. The big networks simply cannot keep up with their much faster and nimbler competitors in the great race for an ever-increasing number of eyeballs. This is not to say that network TV will die out anytime soon, but it is obvious that they will have to cater to an increasingly older and slowly shrinking audience. And this brings me to the main reason why Fallon will not be a successful replacement for Leno as the new host of ‘The Tonight Show’.

Jimmy Fallon simply has the wrong demographic and stylistic profile for most regular viewers of that show.

Jay Leno, at 63, is in the middle of the demographic that regularly watches his show. He is very relateable to most of his audience at multiple levels- from his physical appearance, comedic style, world view to the content of his program. Jimmy Fallon, at 39, is a full generation younger than Leno and has to try hard to be someone he is clearly not- and it shows!

A secondary factor working against Fallon is the strong desire of NBC to attract a younger crowd. I can bet that this desire will somehow translate into some focus-group and consultant driven alterations to the show format that will alienate the core viewership while failing to attract enough younger replacements- resulting in yet more of the same till the downward cycle eventually killing the show. Meanwhile the executives who made these disastrous decisions will have moved on to another corporation where they will do more of the same.

What do you think? Comments?

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