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?
These links are NSFW.
Artsy Nubiles: Feb 15, 2014 – Artsy nubile cuties.
More Artsy Nubile Cuties : Feb 15, 2014 – More artsy nubile cuties
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?
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?
These links are NSFW.
Healthy Behinds: Feb 4, 2014 – Curvy chicks with full behinds.
3D Cuties: Feb 4, 2014 – Some examples of contemporary 3D renderings.
More 3D Cuties: Feb 4, 2014 – More examples of 3D renderings.
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?
These links are NSFW.
Nubile Cuties: Jan 28, 2014 – Slim, pretty and inviting cuties.
More Nubile Cuties: Jan 28, 2014 – More slim, pretty and inviting cuties.
Even More Nubile Cuties: Jan 28, 2014 – Even more slim, cute and inviting cuties.