Author Archive

Contemporary Elite Support for Transgender Rights and Neoliberalism

March 10, 2017 16 comments

Note: Once again, please read this post in its entirety before you comment on it.

Here are my definitions for terms used in this post: Elite = people who are rich and powerful because they (or their parents) got lucky; “e-Liberals” = credentialed people who are part of the establishment; Neoliberalism = relentless exploitation of the majority dressed up with pretty sounding but empty words and ideas; identity-based politics = exploiting social issues to facilitate “legal” exploitation of people on both sides of those issues.

Before we start, a quick clarification. I strongly believe that no person or institution has any right to tell or enforce how another person should live their life or who they should have sex with- as long as it does not involve animals or children. Also, it is abundantly clear that sexual orientation and attraction are based in biology. In other words, what occurs between two or more sexually mature people is their own damn business.

Having said that, let us turn to the topic of this post. So what inspired me to write this post in the first place? The short answer is- a set of observations about the nature of public discourse in USA over the last few years. The somewhat longer answer is that I have noticed a peculiar trend among the supposedly “liberal” establishment class (both elites and their cronies) in many western countries, especially the USA over the previous 15 or so years.

As many of you know- for a few decades after ww2, liberalism (in the west) was associated with changes and movements meant to improve the economic and social conditions of everyone in those countries. But somewhere along the way (between 1970s-1990s depending on the country) liberalism stopped being associated with improvements in economic conditions for the majority. Instead it became an ideology devoted to retaining power, for its own sake, through the division of people along various lines of their identity- racial, sexual, educational etc.

To be fair, living in the pre-1990 era as an openly gay or non-white person (in the west) meant that you were always seen and treated as a second-class citizen or worse. Therefore any elite or institutional support for movements which strove to improve the treatment of sexual and racial minorities in those countries should be seen as a good thing. Except that it seldom occurred during that era.

A bit confused by what I just said? Let me explain it in a bit more detail. See.. prior to the late-1990s or even the very early-2000s, movements dedicated to improving the status of sexual and racial minorities had basically no elite or institutional support. Indeed, elites and “e-liberals” in those eras saw such movements and the people they represented with disdain and contempt. As late as the mid-1990s, these supposed “pillars of western society” still openly talked about gay or non-white people as if they were second-class human beings.

So what changed? How come the elite and “e-liberals” of today cannot stop talking about how much they like people who are gay or of alternative sexual orientation? Why can’t they stop talking about how much they love non-whites and promoting diversity? What accounts for their fairly abrupt shift in public attitudes towards groups they were previously complicit in marginalizing? And what does any of this have to do with neoliberalism?

Let me explain..

1] Contemporary elite and “e-liberal” support for a number of progressive causes has almost nothing to do with the extent of their belief in those causes. A significant part of their motivation for doing so comes down to virtue signalling to themselves, their peers and all those underneath them. Such signalling serves many purposes- from feeling good about themselves and making sure that they fit in with their peers to feeling morally superior than those underneath them. Therefore, their support of certain socially progressive causes is not dissimilar from some of them adopting a token Chinese or African orphan. It is about the public optics and gaining small temporary status increases in their circle of peers.

2] Perhaps more relevantly, it serves to perpetuate the idea (at least in their minds) that they are somehow more moral and deserving of their ill-gotten wealth and power. Supporting such social issues also enables the elites and “e-liberals” to partially deflect attention from how they keep on exploiting and robbing everybody else. You may have noticed that elites and “e-liberals” go to considerable lengths to avoid talking about socio-economic issues that affect the majority. However they never tire of telling everybody within earshot about how they like gays, lesbians, non-whites and pretty much every social minority identity that they can invent.

3] Which brings me to why so many elites and “e-liberals”, nowadays, take every opportunity to express their support for people who are, or feel, transgender. Newsflash- It has nothing to do with elites and “e-liberals” feeling any real solidarity with people in those social groups. But it has a lot to do with signalling that they are morally superior to ‘all those other people below us’. Therefore, all of their current support for legislation to improve the legal status of that group is largely self-serving. As far as the elite and “e-liberals” are concerned, expressing public support for transgender people is just the latest cause to become fashionable. Sorta like supporting gay rights was during the early 2000s or adopting non-white babies was during the late-2000s.

4] It should be noted that the hard work on securing equal legal rights for gay people was largely done by gays themselves. Similarly adopting non-white children from non-western countries became mainstream because of ordinary people who wanted to adopt children. However, in both cases the elite and “e-liberals” adopted what was becoming mainstream and promoted it as if they came up with the ideas and did all the hard work. Luckily, both those ideas had become mainstream enough to not be tarnished by their association with the elites and “e-liberals”. The same is not true with transgender rights and the way it is being supported by elites and “e-liberals”. They got on this cause at a much earlier stage and have rightly or wrongly become associated with that movement in the public mind- to its detriment.

There is, therefore, a real risk that their association with that cause will damage its public image. This is especially so in an era where the general public is fed up with the abuse, exploitation and hypocrisy heaped upon them by elites and “e-liberals”. Of course, this is not going to stop those morons from using that cause as another example of their moral superiority and indirect justification for their ill-gotten wealth.

What do you think? Comments?

Why was the Slave Trade More Prevalent in Africa than Other Regions?

March 7, 2017 17 comments

Note: Please read this post in its entirety before you comment on it.

Though I am writing up this post in early-2017, the question posed in the title first occurred to me a long time ago. So here is the context for it..

Most Americans (white, black and others) associate the African Slave trade with all of the morally and ethically repugnant behavior by whites towards people of African descent in USA starting with the importation of the first African slaves to work on plantations in what later became the ‘south’ starting in the 1600s. However, the transport of enslaved Africans to USA during those centuries is a piece within a much larger bigger story. The mass transport of enslaved people from Africa to the USA during the 17-19th century was a small part of a much larger slave trade known as the Atlantic Slave Trade. Curiously, the majority of enslaved Africans who were victimized by this trade ended up in places other than USA.

But a little further research into the issue of slave trade in the African continent reveals an odd and disturbing fact. The Atlantic Slave Trade, though the best known of all slave trades originating from the African continent, was not the only instance of long-term and systematic slave trade in that part of the world. There was the Arab Slave Trade, the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade and the Indian Ocean Slave Trade. I will try to find better links for the later two. Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is that systematic and organized slave trading has an unusually long history in the African continent. But why?

Why was long-term and systematic Slave Trade much more prevalent in the African continent than other places with lots of poor people? Why don’t you hear about long-term Slave Trade in other regions of the world such as the Indian subcontinent, East Asia or Europe? While slavery, of one form or the other, has been part of the history of all pre-industrial societies it seems to be an intermittent phenomenon (especially on a large scale)- usually in the wake of some large war or population displacement. However it seems that Slave Trade in the African continent has a far longer and continuous history than other parts of the world. But, once again, why?

Moreover, there is a pretty large body of evidence to suggest that being kidnapped or tricked by a relative or friend was the largest single mode of capture for the purposes of enslavement. If we add it in the percentages of those seized in minor wars or by some sort of judicial process, it seems that pretty much all of the work of enslavement was done by people who knew those who were enslaved. To be clear- something similar did occur in other parts of the world- notably eastern Europe during parts of the first millennium AD. However it never occurred over a period of time as long as in the African continent.

So here are my real questions- Why was systematic and organized slave trade a feature of many societies in that continent over a period of many centuries? Why don’t we find anything on that scale (length of time as well as sheer numbers) in other parts of the world? Does it have something to do with constant low-level warfare? lack of large-scale agriculture? lack of large centralized states? or something else? The thing is.. I have yet to find rational answers to these questions.

What do you think? Comments?

Comparing Income across Countries in USD is Detached from Reality: 3

March 4, 2017 6 comments

In the second post of this series, I wrote about how rapid improvements in living standards of the upper-middle and middle class in India have changed how they view USA and the west in general. The central point, in my post, was that such changes in living standards and general quality of life are far more obvious if you look at changing patterns of consumption for goods and services than gross reported income in USD or other western currencies. In other words, the commonly held assumption about income (and spending) in USD having a global correlation with quality of life has ceased to be true for over a decade or two by now.

However, the lack of a strong correlation between improvements in quality of life for upper-middle and middle class in India and income as measured in USD is only one example of a much larger and global phenomenon. The rest of this post will talk about how that change has affected formerly communist east-European countries.. from the Czech Republic to Russia.

So let me begin with a few observations I made between 1995-2002. During that time-span, and probably a few years prior to it, USA and the west was the destination of choice for many people from formerly communist east-European countries. At that time, many people from those countries (from academics and scientists to criminals and pretty women) wanted to move to USA or somewhere else in the west. Indeed, many of those who came over prior to 2000-2002 ended up staying for good. But then something started to change..

I first noticed this change because of a sharp and persistent drop in number of academics and scientists from those countries who were interested in moving to USA starting around 2001-2002. Prior to that, the majority of academics and scientists from those countries who were visiting the USA very frequently expressed a strong interest in moving there for good- and many followed up on it. However by 2002-2003 there was a sharp and persistent drop (among them) in the degree of interest in moving west. Curiously, there was no significant change in the numbers of those who visited USA (from those countries) for a few months to a couple of years.

So I started inquiring about the reasons behind this change. Curiously, I kept on getting different versions of the same answer. Basically, they all told me that the differences in quality of life and living standards between those countries and USA had now shrunk down to a point where it was simply not worth immigrating to USA unless there was a very specific reason to do so. I was initially puzzled by this explanation since it was clear that they were making significantly less in those countries- as measured in USD. Some internet research revealed that the cost of many goods and services in those countries was significantly lower than their equivalents in USA- when priced in USD.

The difference in cost (as measured in USD) was most obvious in areas such as housing, education, food, drink, entertainment and healthcare. Furthermore, the quality of these less expensive goods and services was functionally equivalent to their equivalents in USA. It also became clear that a person with a reasonable job in those countries could actually live a far more stable and financially secure lifestyle than somebody in USA- even prior to 2008. It was this realization which first led me to openly question comparing incomes across countries in USD or other western currencies.

The increasing lack of interest by people from those countries in moving to USA the rest of the west on a long-term basis is also obvious in other ways. Some of you might recall that the phenomenon of mail order brides and similar marriage arrangements by women from those countries was a well-known trope in popular culture during the 1990s and early 2000s. Today.. you don’t hear much about that sort of stuff anymore. Similarly, rich people from those countries no longer see USA as a highly regarded tourist destination.

So why did this change occur and why was it so fast? Well.. in my opinion, many formerly communist east-European countries already had most of the ingredients (levels of education, infrastructure, natural resources) necessary to provide a high standard of living for their people. Once the burden of ideological top-down control on them was lifted after 1989, it took most of those countries a decade or so to catch up with the west- as far as actual quality of life was concerned. Widespread international travel and ubiquitous internet access also showed a lot of them that difference in quality of life in USA vs their countries was simply not enough to make moving to the former worth it.

Today, only people from some the poorest sub-regions in those countries still harbor any worthwhile interest in moving to the USA- and even that is changing. To summarize, many formerly communist east-European countries are now good examples of places with a high standard of living but with supposedly lower income- as measured in USD. In the upcoming post of this series, I will write about how the living standard in east-Asian countries is also now no longer connected to average local income as measured in USD.

What do you think? Comments?

Comparing Income across Countries in USD is Detached from Reality: 2

February 28, 2017 11 comments

In the previous post of this series, I pointed out that comparing total or per-capita GDP or GNP of countries in USD (or any other west-european currency) is now an exercise in stupidity and self-delusion. Using healthcare as an example, I showed readers that countries with per-capita healthcare as little as 1/10th of the USA (after adjustment for purchasing power) have higher average life-expectancy and better health outcomes than the USA. In fact, it looks even worse for USA if you don’t adjust for purchasing power.

One of the most fundamental and direct measures for quality of life in the world is now, therefore, irreversibly divorced from spending in USD another west-European currencies. Towards the end of that post, I also made commented that many other basic and direct measures of life quality such as quality of education, housing and general standard of living around the world are increasingly, and now very visibly, not linked to their price in USD.

In other words, the most important proxy measure of power that western countries (especially the USA) use to gauge their relative power and dominance in the world is now worse than useless. But how did we reach the tipping point and when.. at least approximately? Let me explain that through one example in this post.. will talk about more in subsequent post of this series.

For a long time, even small triumphs and success of Indians living in the west (especially the USA) were widely celebrated in Indian media and society. This occurred in spite of many of the later denying or obfuscating their ancestry. Similarly, Indians who lived in the west (especially the USA) were treated with a certain degree of respect when they visited India- which they did largely to feel better about their second-class status in the west. In my opinion, the peak of real-life adulation for Indians living in the west occurred during the late 1990s-very early 2000s. But then something changed.. irreversibly.

Sometime around the mid-2000s, I noticed a change in the way people in India started seeing those living in the west and perhaps more importantly- themselves. This change first manifested itself as a far more critical look at Indians living in the west and was more pronounced in the younger generations. Basically, people in India gradually stopped celebrating the achievements of Indians in the west and started being more critical about the attitudes exhibited by those people towards themselves. But it did not stop there..

Increasingly, educated and affluent Indians stopped seeing residency in the west (especially the USA) as a goal to be reached under any circumstances. It was, more and more, a conditional thing- based on them having a decent job and working conditions. Also, moving back and forth between two (or more countries) based on the best deal available to them became the default mode of operation. To put it another way, having a good career and making money had replaced moving to the west as the main goal of many upper-middle class Indians.

But why did that happen? and what changed?

The short answer is that the quality of life possible in India changed a lot between the late-1990s and today. The slightly longer answer is that a large part of the respect and adoration of people in India for their relatives living in the west was linked to their superior material possessions. As some of you might know, a number of stupid and paternalistic government policies prevalent in India between 1947 and late-1980s had stunted the quality of life possible in that country. That changed dramatically after 1989.. and the result (so far) has been beneficial to most people in that country, but especially to its upper-middle class and increasingly its middle-class.

Therefore, the kind of people who might otherwise want to immigrate to the west can now enjoy all the material goods and services enjoyed by their counterparts in the west- and then some more. This prosperity and equal (or superior) access to material goods and services is also why they no longer look up to or celebrate Indians in the west. I mean.. ask yourself, would you tolerate a self-hating asshole if you had nothing to gain from doing so? But what does this have to do with comparing income across countries in USD? As it turns out.. a lot!

See.. the income of Indians with an upper-middle class lifestyle might seem more comparable to the working class in USA if you measure it in USD. However, it is very clear that their lifestyle and access to material goods and services is identical or better than those defined as upper-middle class in USA. But why is that so? and why was that not the case in the past?

Well.. it comes to who makes things and provides services. Comparing quality of life and power in the world in USD (or other west-European currencies) was feasible only as long as they were the sole providers of such material goods and services. As you know, that is simply not the case today. Most of what you consider high-tech and necessary for a high quality of life (from computers and smart phones to chemicals for making drugs and other useful stuff) is no longer made exclusively in the west- IF they were made there in the first place.

Consequently, the cost of many material goods (and services) that define a high quality of life are often far less expensive in the rest of the world. Moreover, the price of other essentials such as quality healthcare, quality medications, quality food, quality shelter is much lower in non-wetsern countries. The net result of these changes is that the upper-middle class, and increasingly middle-class, in non-western countries enjoys a quality of life that is equivalent to those the west. Did I mention that their disposable income and net worth (even when measured in USD) now often surpasses those of their supposed equivalents in the west?

To summarize this post- most of the existing delusions.. I mean beliefs prevalent in USA (and the west) about its relative power and dominance vis-a-vis the rest of the world are based on a metric that is now worse than useless.

What do you think? Comments?

Kim Jong-Nam was Assassinated with a Binary Version of VX

February 23, 2017 10 comments

As many of you must have heard by now, Kim Jong-Nam (the elder brother of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-Um) was assassinated about 10 days (on 13 February 2017) by two women spraying something toxic on his face. Since that day, there has been much speculation about the identity of the toxic substance in the sprays which killed him. This was especially so because the two women who were paid to spray him were themselves unskilled locals who were unaffected by whatever they used on him. However that very fact that two sprays were used seemed to suggest that the toxic compound was a binary chemical agent- most likely a never gas.

It seems that this particular theory has now been confirmed. Earlier today, the Malaysian police announced that preliminary tests show that Kim Jong-Nam was killed by a potent nerve gas known as VX. So why does the use of VX suggest that it was generated in situ by a binary chemical reaction– apart from two women spraying him with stuff that did not kill them? Well.. because VX is highly toxic and has certain physical properties (high viscosity and low volatility) which make its use as a gas or spray really problematic- especially if an actual human being is doing the spraying. However it is far easier to use as binary chemical weapon because both components of the binary mix (QL and Sulfur) are fairly safe by themselves.

The structure of VX and QL as well as the general schematics of the chemical reaction which generates VX from QL and Sulfur are shown below. The short version of the story is that QL reacts with Sulfur to generate an intermediate compound which then undergoes a slight chemical rearrangement to form VX.


As you can see, the reaction is fairly simple and the two components which generate VX in situ are themselves fairly non-toxic. While there have a few isolated incidents in the past 2-3 decades (link 1, link 2, link 3) of people using weaponized organophosphate compounds aka ‘nerve gases’ to kill a few people- this incident is perhaps the first the first one to use a binary chemical agent for assassinating a public figure of any significance.

Update: It is possible that the North Koreans might have used the binary version of another structurally similar compound or a different organophosphate ‘nerve gas’ such as Sarin.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting YouTube Sub-Channel: The Empire Files with Abby Martin

February 19, 2017 1 comment

Here is another interesting YouTube channel, or sub-channel, I came across a few months ago. It is basically a series of interviews and short documentaries hosted by Abby Martin on teleSUR English. She largely covers issues which the MSM either does not report or lies about such as interference by USA in the affairs of other countries, serious systemic problems in USA, abuses perpetrated by USA-based multinational companies etc.

Link for sub-channel: The Empire Files with Abby Martin

Here is one recent and relevant clip containing an interview with Mark Ames about the massive and destructive interference by USA in Russia from 1991 to the election of Putin in late 1999. It is a useful summary of all the reasons why Russians grew to hate the USA (especially its establishment) and support Putin.

Enjoy! Comments?

Spoof on Silicon Valley and Internet of Things from 2014 : Smart Pipe

February 18, 2017 6 comments

While writing an upcoming post about why the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) is a terrible idea on multiple levels, it occurred to me that I had not yet posted one of the best and smartest YouTube spoofs about that subject. FYI, I first came across this spoof in late-2014 and thought it was hilarious enough to post on many places other than this blog. In case you are wondering, the imaginary IoT product mentioned in that spoof is scarily close to some products that have actually received venture capital funding in Silly Valley.

Enjoy! Comments?