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On the Obsession of Corporate Media with “Trump-Russia” Fairy Tales

December 11, 2017 11 comments

Almost eleven months ago, I wrote a post about how the then new obsession of establishment democrats and mainstream corporate media with alleged “Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election” was a sign of intellectual bankruptcy. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that it was the first in what was supposed to be a short series on how this manufactured “scandal” was another symptom of the general disconnect between establishment types and everybody else. At that time, I had hoped that this particular establishment brainfart would be temporary and most people in it would eventually regain their tenuous connection with reality.

Of course, even then I knew that this manufactured “scandal” was going to last for a long time- largely because establishment democrats and their neoliberal media allies and donors had no interest in a genuinely populist counter-platform to Trump and the republicans. To make a long story short, I could not find enough motivation to write the next part of that series because Russia-hysteria by establishment democrats kept reaching increasingly ridiculous levels with each passing day. A couple of months after that, I tried writing another series on the reasons behind the promotion of anti-Russian hysteria by the establishment. Once again, I could not get myself to write a second part because.. the hysteria kept on getting worse, if that is even possible.

I did, however, write a standalone article later that month about why establishment democrats are desperate to believe in the myth of Russian interference in 2016 elections. To make a long story short, democrats are still unable to accept that their 30-year old neoliberalism-lite formula has no realistic future. They can’t believe that paid endorsements by various celebrities and “intellectuals”, lots of advertisements on old mass media platforms, carefully written but utterly dishonest speeches and party platforms and tons of ivy-league consultants could not defeat a mediocre reality-TV star.

So where do establishment democrats and their mainstream corporate media operatives go from here? Or are we stuck in an endless stream of ineffectual “leaks” and “scoops” about ongoing investigations (real or imagined) into the ‘Trump-Putin’ or ‘Trump-Russia’ connection until Hell freezes over for them?

While I try to be optimistic, past experience has shown that my pessimistic.. I mean realistic.. assumptions are usually correct. IMHO, we have gone past the point where establishment types could make a graceful exit from this carnival freak-show. Expressing steadfast belief in the validity of a ‘Trump-Putin’ or ‘Trump-Russia’ scandal is now a required part of the democratic party belief system, not unlike how devout Christians are expected to believe in the resurrection of Christ or devout Muslims are supposed to believe that their Prophet ascended to heaven on a winged horse.

Now, you might ask, how can I be so certain about this particular outcome? Let us start by talking about Louise Mensch. In case you wondering what I referring to, here is a little primer on her. To make another long and convoluted story short, this woman is a life-long attention whore with a talent for inserting herself into controversies. Let latest vehicle to fame (or infamy) has been a constant stream of increasingly laughable confabulations about Trump being in imminent danger of being arrested and impeachment through some fanciful ‘double secret’ investigation.

But why talk about a two-bit attention-whore with no real understanding or insight into whatever she is tweeting about? Well.. as it turns out, there is a huge market for her laughably ridiculous tweets, and not just from partisan democratic party supporters or brain-damaged rubes. This serial confabulator has been enthusiastically retweeted by supposedly respectable establishment types such as Laurence Tribe, a bunch of famous journalists, many senior democratic party operatives and many more supposedly “serious” and “intelligent” people. Her scam even got her published in the NYT and she appeared on multiple allegedly respectable talk shows.

And this brings us the inevitable question: Why were so many supposedly “intelligent” people so willing and eager to believe such utter bullshit? Why were they so enthusiastic about trying to get rid of Donald Trump through such highly questionable legal maneuvers than by simply pointing out his numerous and massive shortcomings while offering a plausible and comprehensive counter-platform? I think it comes down the simple fact that neoliberal establishment types cannot even bear the thought of offering a true populist alternative to Trump.

They still believe that Trump’s victory is a temporary aberration and they can go back to their old neoliberal ways once he steps down or is impeached. They still believe that the world hasn’t changed since 2006-2007 and that the neoliberal consensus can go on till the end of time. While this might seem highly delusional to people with some connection to reality, establishment types (democrat and republican) and their media stooges live in a world where they nobody they interact with contradicts their belief system. They literally cannot imagine a world different from the one responsible for their ill-gotten wealth and position in society.

To give you an idea about the depth of wishful thinking prevalent in democratic establishment types, let us talk about the Steele dossier. I am sure that many of you might about that secret report containing information about an older incident in a Russian hotel involving Trump, local escorts and ‘golden showers’. Have you ever wondered by the democratic establishment and their media operatives were so willing to uncritically believe the veracity of an incident so odd and contrary to Trump’s persona?

I mean.. most people would totally believe a story that Trump had a thing for escorts who looked like his oldest daughter, Ivanka. They would even believe a story about him demanding beauty pageant participants give him oral sex in exchange for promotion deals. And yet the dimwitted confabulator who wrote that dossier, paid in part by the democratic party establishment, came up with a story that was so obviously and laughably improbable. But the bigger issue here is that the democratic establishment and their media operatives were very enthusiastic and willing to propagate something that was poorly researched and hard to believe.

So.. why could establishment types and their media flunkies not come up with better material for smear jobs aimed at Trump? Why have all their attempts, to date, been so laughably ineffective and amateurish. Aren’t these people supposed to the cream of american intelligentsia, educated at ivy-league universities and apparently “succeeding” a series of important-sounding and highly paid careers. Or maybe, they are not. Maybe, they are just mediocre parasites who were born to the rich parents or got a few random lucky breaks. Maybe, they are helpless and incompetent in an environment which is different from the one that facilitated their parasitism.

And that is why the title of this post suggests that corporate media flunkies of the democratic party are obsessed with fairy tales about Trump. As all of you know, people above a certain age and commensurate mental faculties are incapable of believing in such stories even if they tell them to entertain younger children. The democratic party establishment and their media flunkies appear to be so out of touch with reality and how other people view them that they are relentlessly peddling ludicrous stories to discredit Trump while totally ignoring his many broken electoral promises and highly unpopular decisions he made since he assuming office.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Initial Thoughts on Jordan Peterson: Dec 6, 2017

December 6, 2017 10 comments

About three weeks ago, the blogger more commonly known as Rollo Tomassi asked me about my thoughts on Jordan Peterson. In case some of you don’t know much about this person, just google his name or search Twitter for posts by him or about him. To make a long story short, Jordan Peterson is currently a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto who has reached a level of fame (or notoriety) on some parts of the internet because of his allegedly non-establishmentarian views on topical issues such as postmodernism, political correctness, white privilege and cultural appropriation.

So what do I think about this guy and his views and positions? Are they genuine or based in a desire for fame and money? Well.. what I am going to say about all that in the rest of this post (and maybe a future one) is not going to be liked by either his supporters or detractors. My analysis of other people tends to be a bit more complex than saying that they are irredeemably bad or unremittingly good. I like to understand the environment which they grew up in and how they achieved, or fell into,their current position.

So let us start with how Jordan Peterson reached where he is today.

1] According to Wikipedia, he grew up in a small town (Fairview) somewhere in the middle of the province of Alberta in Canada. Basically that is the Canadian equivalent of growing up in some one horse town in west Texas or the deep south. In other words, he grew up in an environment that was socially conservative, quite racist and not progressive- to put it mildly. It is therefore not surprising that many of his current publicly held viewpoints are somewhat CONservative. The fact that he now often glosses over his early background tells you something about how he sees unpolished CONservatism.

2] It seems he got into the big university in that province, moved on to a more prestigious one in the east, then went on to Harvard and came back to Canada after a few years. This is a very common pattern for career climber types in Canadian universities and provides an interesting insight into what he wants in life. In case you are wondering, many Canadian universities prefer to recruit people who have spent some time at ivy-league universities because it looks good for the university- regardless of whether the person in question was the best candidate for that position.

3] He attempted to get into the media spotlight since the early 2000s. While his early attempts were not very successful, they did get him onto what is basically the Canadian version of a PBS type channel. It is noteworthy that these attempts at media exposure steered clear of the type of subjects and issues for which he is now famous. For many years after his initial forays into media exposure he was basically a TED-talker type who offered his “insights” into hard to define topics- which is another way of saying that his act involved appearing to provide erudite answers for deliberately vague topics.

4] His break into semi-fame came when he started to upload his lectures to YouTube in 2013. That is also when I first came across his name on various blogs- especially in their comment sections. As many of you also know, the ‘alt-right’ movement also took off at around that time. However the action which contributed most to his public persona involves his public position on the C-16 bill (in 2016), which he correctly pointed out could be used to severely restrict freedom of speech. It also helped that the bill in question was being pushed through parliament in a pretty heavy-handed manner.

And this brings us to the question as to how this small-town raised prof with CONservative leanings became an internet celebrity. Alternatively, why didn’t other far more well-known academics step into the public discussion about those topics. Surely, there is no shortage of academics in Canadian and American universities who will go on record for their support of a variety of other social and political causes- from talking about ‘climate change’, rights of transgender people etc. Why are so many academics unwilling to support ideas such as free speech, even at the level they used to a couple of decades ago? What has changed?

5] In my opinion, the most important change in academia and pretty much every other large institution in western societies over the last 20-30 years has been their capitulation to the ideology of neoliberalism. But what does an ideology such as neoliberalism have to do with the silence of entire institutions on issues such as free speech? Well.. a lot, but it basically comes down to two types of effects.

6] Firstly, neoliberal institutions tend to hire and promote only certain types of people.You have to be consistently pleasant-acting, spineless, middle-manager type to reach even the middle-levels of these institutions. There is zero tolerance for dissent, independent thinking or opinion. In neoliberal institutions, everything is about money and appearances. Also, expressing opinions that are not approved by higher-ups or not ‘fashionable’ is severely discouraged. It is therefore not surprising that almost no other academic of any public stature in Canada has expressed views that are even marginally similar to Peterson.

7] Secondly, embracing neoliberal ideology results in concentration of power- specifically of the institutional type. What was once a dynamic and flourishing eco-system of small, medium and large institutions decays into a mono-culture full of monopolies and oligopolies. The people who reach the highest level of power in these institutions are cut from the same proverbial cloth and run those institutions solely to maximize their personal profit and power. Consequently, they try to minimize any appearance of dissent and try to force their beliefs (in reality, what they want others to believe) upon their employees.

8] The net result of this institutional governance shift has been that any idea, cause or belief which runs contrary to the neoliberal goal of making maximal amounts of money for a select few is ignored, suppressed or ridiculed. In other words, ideas such as freedom of speech or even suggestions of ideological non-conformity are now perceived as too risky and potentially career-ending by many people in the system. That is also why these issues were raised by somebody like Peterson, rather than by somebody who was far more “famous” than him.

I should also point out that the neoliberal elite like to be seen as enlightened, just and deserving of their ill-gotten gains. That is why they are quite happy to support various “social justice” movements as long as those movements do not question the socio-economic status quo. To summarize this post, Jordan Peterson’s ascent to fame has more to do with numerous failures and dysfunctions within the current socio-economic-cultural setup (aka ‘the zeitgeist’) than innate ability or belief in the causes he is promoting. He just saw an under-served market and rode that opportunity to fame.

What do you think? Comments?

Thoughts on Official and Media Silence about 2017 Las Vegas Shooting

December 4, 2017 5 comments

About two months ago, Stephen Paddock committed the largest solo mass shooting (so far) in the history of USA. While there is no doubt that some other guy will, in the near future, break Paddock’s record of 58 deaths and 546 injuries- it is still worth talking about certain peculiar aspects of this event and its aftermath. As some of you know, I did write a few posts (Link 1, Link 2 and Link 3) about that event in the first few days after it occurred.

To make a long story short, nothing about Stephen Paddock’s known behavior in the previous 60-something years of his life marks him out as someone who would end up as a mass shooter. The guy was very smart, had tons of money, no known terminal illness and no criminal record of any significance. He also had a non-ugly girlfriend and apparently also paid for sex on the side. In other words, he had no conventional reason to do what he did- but he did it, nevertheless.

However this post is not about further speculation on what less-than-conventional reasons drove him to commit that act. Instead, I will focus on the rather odd behavior of “law enforcement” officials and the MSM in the aftermath of that shooting. Specifically, let us talk about why news about further investigations into that incident seems to have largely vanished from the public sphere- at least on the national level. I am certainly not the only person to find the almost total absence of more recent reports on the investigation a bit odd.

As is usually the case, there are a number of explanations for the troubling lack of followup on this story floating around the internet. They range from allegations that it was an elaborate setup by the PTB for swaying public opinion towards gun control or the accidental unraveling of a complex government-sanctioned gun running operation to the result of secret mind-control experiments by the government. It is noteworthy that all these explanations rely on the government and “elite” being highly competent, professional and organised.

Let put forth an alternative explanation- one that is far more plausible and a better fit for available data. The short version of my explanation is as follows: The LVPD and other law enforcement personnel who responded to that incident made a series of bad and amateurish mistakes and decisions, revelations of which would be highly embarrassing and likely result in costly lawsuits from the family of those who were killed or injured. But why is a series of screwups a better explanation for the glacial pace of that investigation than say.. it being a large ‘double-secret’ conspiracy.

Well.. for one, gross incompetence is far more likely to cause bad outcomes than careful malice because the former is simply much more common, especially in larger organisations. Malice requires a lot of planning, effort and luck to succeed while incompetence grows wild and requires little deliberate effort to manifest itself. This is especially true when organisations with large budgets and little accountability respond to situations that are beyond their abilities.

We have seen this time and again, all over the world and in USA. Remember how average Americans believed that they would win the Korean war in 1951, or how they thought they would win the Vietnam war in the late-1960s, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the early-2000s. You get my point. Less well-known is that the american establishment, including the agencies implementing these ideas, also believed that those outcomes were inevitable.

But what does any of this have to do with the oddly slow investigation into the 2017 Lag Vegas shooting?

As it turns out a lot. Agencies with large budgets and zero accountability keep things that way by making outrageous public claims about their utility and necessity. That is why the military-industrial complex USA is always trying to start new ‘wars’ against ridiculously hyped enemies. That is also why the incarceration-policing complex is so eager to hype every small incident of crime and “crime”. People employed in these industries would be perpetually jobless if it became obvious that they are just incompetent parasites.

The main function of the police and “law enforcement” apparatus in USA is to harass, imprison and killing non-whites and poorer white people. They do all of this under the garb of protecting the “public” from “criminals” and other “evil-doers”. They justify public support for their continued funding by trying to provide a facade of competence, professionalism and readiness. While the normal course of events does not tear large holes in that facade, less common events such as the 2017 LV mass shooting expose the rather limited nature of their abilities.

I am sure many of you remember how the official timelines for the police response to that incident kept on changing and changing. Then there is a question about which sequence of events is accurate. Oddly enough, this lack of certainty about the exact sequence of events and response occurred in one of the most surveilled cities and locations in USA. Some of you might see all of this as a dark conspiracy. I just see a lot of the involved and liable parties (hotels, police etc) trying to cover up their incompetence.

What do you think? Comments?

Propaganda and Advertising have Poor Real-Life Efficacy: 1

December 2, 2017 4 comments

The title of this post might, at first glance, seem almost counter-intuitive to whatever most of you desire to believe about the efficacy of advertising and propaganda. After all, why would all those super rich and therefore allegedly “smart” people spend tens of billions on advertising if it was largely futile? Or why would various governments spend even more money and devote a lot of personnel to create and disseminate propaganda. Surely, even semi-competent people would not spend that much money and effort on something of negligible efficacy. Or would they?

Let us start by talking about all the disastrous, expensive and ultimately ruinous wars initiated by “great leaders” and “highly trained generals” throughout human history, such as WW1 and WW2 and the present. Or think about all the giant multi-national corporations (Xerox, Kodak, Motorola, Blockbuster etc) that have failed because their leadership kept on making bad and ultimately disastrous decisions. My point is that there is no evidence that all those supposedly “smart” leaders of large corporations and nations (and their underlings) are even reasonably good at their jobs- in spite of being paid a lot of money and wielding much power.

If all that evidence doesn’t satisfy you, ponder a bit about how a mediocre reality TV star such as Trump won the republican nomination by steamrolling 16 “professional” life-long politicians and then defeated the darling of the neoliberal establishment, aka HRC, in the 2016 presidential general election. My point is that people who are supposed to be “elite” are, for all practical purposes, incompetent posers who just happened to get a lucky break or hit a lucky streak in their past. Their choices and decisions should not, therefore, be interpreted as evidence of deep thought, competence or efficacy.

But what about all those books you have read touting the amazing effectiveness of propaganda and adverting? What about all those documentaries made by Adam Curtis? What about all those books written by Noam Chomsky, especially this one? Surely, all these supposedly brilliant left-leaning “intellectuals” must have some wondrous insight into the power of propaganda and advertising that is not obvious to “non-experts”. Or maybe they want to pretend to believe in something which can explain their own impotence while simultaneously making a decent amount of money and fame?

To make a very long story a bit shorter, I shall now talk about a few examples of what are often considered to be best examples of success for propaganda and advertising to show you that the real reason why most people appear to go along with that crap is very different from what you are willing to accept.

Example 1: Propaganda in World War I

The attempts by all belligerent European governments to sell the idea of fighting WW1 to their subjects.. I mean citizens.. is sometimes seen as the first instance of governments deploying mass propaganda on a large and systematic scale. But was it really effective? Or were the other reasons behind the public support for war? Have you ever considered that the real reasons for public support for that war might have something to do with the expectations and mindset of people in that era?

Ok, let me ask you a question. What percentage of the population, including the “elites”, of that era could even imagine a war on such a gigantic scale going on for four years? If you don’t believe me.. read the correspondences of both soldiers and generals who fought in that war. It quickly becomes obvious that even 2-3 years into WW1, most of those involved in the actual fighting and planning believed that some new military tactic, weapons system or strategy would somehow magically translate into a swift and decisive victory.

Furthermore, the general public in European countries had not lived through such a large war on their soil, let alone one that could last more than a few weeks. Perhaps most importantly, the very high number of deaths and casualties in each participating nation, within even the first few months of that war, made it basically impossible for either the people of those nations or their leaders to settle for anything short of “total victory”. It was really about an uncontrollable and escalating cycle of vengeance at a time when contemporary culture was characterized by social darwinist thinking.

I would go so far as to suggest that the total absence of propaganda during that time would have no worthwhile effect on the conduct, length or outcome of that war. The sheer amount of wishful thinking based on past experiences in pre-modern societies based on social darwinism combined with the high number of children per woman and the second stage of the industrial revolution made every single aspect of that war pretty much inevitable. The government support of propaganda and advertising were, at best, avenues for creating patriotic sounding jobs for the sons of rich and connected people who did not want to risk their lives at the front.

Example 2: Militaristic Nationalism in Japan between 1920 and 1946.

Another important, though less commonly discussed, alleged example for success of propaganda concerns the rise of extreme militaristic nationalism between 1920 and 1946. It is, for example, common knowledge, that the Japanese armed forces fought bravely and often to the last man even in seemingly futile battles such those for Iwo Jima and Okhinawa. Then there are all those accounts of Kamikaze plane attacks and Banzai charges. By any measure, the soldiers and other personnel of the Imperial Japanese forces during WW2 were highly driven and ideologically motivated. But was it due to propaganda?

Many conventional historical accounts of 1920s-1930s era Japan strongly suggest, or just outright say, that the government- especially factions controlled by the military establishment put in a lot of effort and resources to inculcate a certain nationalistic ideology among the Japanese people. This extended from simple censorship of media to elaborate mock training of schoolchildren to fight in wars. But how much effect did any of these traditional and non-traditional avenues of propaganda have on the type of nation that Japan became in the late 1930s and really 1940s?

In my opinion- very little and here is why. Understanding the reasons which led to the Japanese people embracing an extreme right-wing nationalistic ideology predicated in their racial superiority requires us to put ourselves in the world as seen by the average Japanese person in the that era. Japan, you see, went from a medieval feudal society to a modern industrialized one within less than 50 years from the beginning of the Meiji period. By the beginning of WW1, and certainly by its end in 1918, its industrial, academic and engineering achievements had surpassed almost every other country but a few (USA, UK, France and Germany).

All these achievements and competencies had, however, not been helped it increase its global prestige, power or access to raw materials. In contrast, even third-rate European powers like Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium had large colonies in Asia and Africa. The treaty of Versailles simply confirmed that Japan, as an Asian country, would never be welcome as an equal in the imperialist white man’s club. At that time, Korea was the only real overseas colonial possession of the Japanese empire- and it was hardly a desirable one.

But it was a much bigger problem than diplomatic slights at the hands of white European nations. Japan had a large population but only a small part of it was arable or inhabitable. One unintentional, but somewhat welcome, consequences of the industrial revolution in Japan was that many millions of newly educated and skilled Japanese started moving to Korea, China and other East-Asian countries to make a living. There they encountered nation after nation of subjugated Asian people living in a pre-industrial era.

It is therefore not surprising that the idea of racial superiority was so readily accepted by Japanese people in that era. They could see that their country was the most developed and powerful country for thousands of miles in any direction. And yet, this did not translate into any material advantage for them. It is therefore not surprising that leaders spouting right-wing militaristic ideas about conquering and exploiting the resources of surrounding countries became popular in Japan. They were just saying out loud what everyone else was thinking.

In the upcoming part of this series, I intend to talk about why Nazi propaganda appeared to be so effective until the final year of WW2, why soviet propaganda appeared to succeed until the early 1970s and why american propaganda appeared to succeed for decades before entering its death spiral after 2008. Here is a hint.. in all three cases, people appeared to go along with the propaganda only as long as the underlying system provided at least part of what it had promised.

What do you think? Comments?

On Moves to Brand Masculinity of Men in West as ‘Toxic’: Nov 26, 2017

November 26, 2017 23 comments

Many readers of my blog might have noticed a recent rash of articles, in both traditional and online media, about how masculinity is somehow inherently ‘toxic’. In case you haven’t seen them, here is very short list of these hilarious opinion pieces: Funny Link 1, Funny Link 2 and Funny Link 3. I am sure that most have also seen links to other similar and equally hilarious write-ups on that topic in their FaceBook and Twitter newsfeeds. But poking fun at unintentionally comic articles is not the main focus of this post, though many are highly entertaining to read.

Let me, instead, begin by asking you a simple question: since when has masculinity been seen as ‘toxic’ in western countries? Most of you might select a time between say.. 1968 to sometime within the last few years. However, as I shall shortly demonstrate, those dates and the thinking behind selecting them is not based in reality. Masculinity, you see, has always been toxic in the ‘west’ as long as it was the masculinity of non-white men. In case you don’t believe it, have a look at the disproportionate number of black men lynched for alleged sexual ‘crimes’ against white women in the pre-WW2 USA. Or look at how the behavior (sexual and otherwise) of black men is viewed and treated in USA.

You could also look at how the sexuality of men from other non-white groups has been traditionally depicted in books, films, TV shows and other forms of popular entertainment. I mean.. can you think of even one semi-well known film or TV show that depicts east-Asian men as attractive or desirable? What about non-white Mexican men? Or what about men of Indian descent? I can reel of a list of characters within american popular media based around negative stereotypes of non-white men. Somehow, all of these negative stereotypes which border on dehumanization and demonization never caused anything more than a few polite disagreements… because, doing so was considered perfectly acceptable for the previous and now rapidly waning majority- especially white men.

But reality, you see, often displays a sense of bitter irony. Many of the same tropes used to dehumanize non-white men and demonize their sexuality have in recent years been turned at full blast towards white men. Then again, attempts to nurture proverbial poisonous snakes in the hopes that they will bite only ‘other’ people always ends the same way. This process is also generally similar to how western attempts to create civil and ethnic strife in other countries ultimately cause the same within their own borders. Or how the ‘War on Terror’ in other countries becomes the incarceration-surveillance state for those idiots who supported the former. Or how welfare, free trade and free-market “reforms” meant to hurt black people have now fucked over lots of white people too.

Some of you might say that what I written until now is too non-specific. I mean.. which tropes am I talking about? and how do they apply to the current situation?

So here it goes. Consider how ‘non-alpha’ white men (aka the majority) risk getting accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault and even rape if the women in question either does not find them attractive, thinks they are “creepy” or has regrets after the fact. That particular type of demonizing male sexuality in USA started with black men- for reasons that are too obvious to anyone with a passing knowledge of american history. As some of you know, talking and flirting with white women and having sex with them resulted in black men being accused of identical ‘crimes’- even if nothing non-consensual had occurred. The fact that most white men are now treated that way is both funny and richly deserved.

Or consider how mere accusations of sexual impropriety are now enough to destroy careers of white men. Or how white women are supposed to be always truthful when they make such accusations. Both tropes trace their origins to what occurred to black and other non-white men in previous eras. It is darkly funny to watch most white men get railroaded the same way as they once did to others. It is also hard to feel sympathy for those who cheered on and participated in such mob behavior under the mistaken belief that they would be never affected by such injustices. I mean.. if public trials based on one-sided accounts were ok when the accused were non-white men, what is wrong with continuing that ‘tradition’ when the accused are white men?

Then there is the issue of many white men now being seen as less than worthy for having sex with women. And once again, this is the extension of a trope which was previously applied to non-white men (especially east-Asian and Indian). Of course, almost everybody else in the ‘west’ was perfectly fine when the men not deemed worthy of having female sexual partners were non-white. As it turns out, that trope also spread far beyond the groups it was originally meant to marginalize. And that is why it is amusing to watch all those mediocre (white) men complaining about being treated as undesirable and less-than-human by white women. Then again, thinking beyond the short-term is rather uncommon in human beings- irrespective of race and ethnicity.

What do you think? Comments?

Monopolies, Managerialism and the Downfall of State Communism: 1

November 23, 2017 4 comments

As regular readers of my blog are well aware of, I do not believe in ideologies of any kind since all ideologies are by definition highly compromised and simplified mental models of “reality”. These pathetic human attempts to model reality are as similar to the real thing as a photograph of a clock is to the passage of time. But perhaps the biggest reason to oppose any ideology is that every single one of them comes with its own unique baggage of unnecessary tragedies and a priestly class and elite who benefits from all that unnecessary suffering.

What I have said above holds true for every single ideology which has ever been proposed or pushed as the “only right way”. And this includes everything from polytheistic and monotheistic religions, older modes of social organization to all forms of capitalism, socialism and communism. The study of ideologies is however interesting because it provides a very useful, if cynicism inducing, insight into the nature of human self-delusion. One of the more interesting observation I have made is that ideologies created under similar conditions are more similar to each other than they are dissimilar.

The similarity between ideologies created under similar conditions also extends to their modes of failure. As I have mentioned in more than one of my older posts, capitalism and communism are far more similar to each other than is commonly understood since both are based in a particular version of post-industrial revolution social and economic organization. In other words, they are just two slightly distinct attempts to solve the same “problem”. This similarity is more obvious once you start looking at how the two types of systems work in reality, as opposed to how they are represented in literature.

But what does any of this have to do with the topic of this post? Well.. as you will soon see, a lot.

Have you ever wondered why state communism (especially in Russia) was able to survive the post-ww1 civil wars, Stalin’s despotism, ww2 and still keep making impressive gains till the 1970s- only to fall in the early 1990s? Why could a system that handily survived tons of adverse conditions which included the deaths of tens of millions start losing public support in an era of relative peace and prosperity? As I have said in older posts, there were many reasons- from ideological rigidity, institutional inertia to the apparent inability to deliver on some of the promised improvements in general quality of life.

Let us focus on the last one, because it has a lot of commonality to what we are seeing in western capitalist societies in the post-2008 era. So.. why were countries run according to the ideology of state communism unable to provide a high standard of living and comfort for most of their citizens? Why were the cars made in those countries so ugly and often hard to get? Why was the toilet paper so coarse? Why was the quality of TVs often so bad? Why was everything that most people used in their daily lives so mediocre or shoddy?

The conventional explanation for this phenomena involves some hand-waving about “capitalism being better” and “market economy”. But is that really true? Think about it this way.. the soviet union had no problem building excellent rocket launchers, spacecraft, aircraft, ICBMS, tanks and weapons of pretty much every other kind. They were very clearly capable of manufacturing high quality items on very large scales- if doing so was deemed necessary. So why did that ability not translate into the manufacture of high-quality cars, TVs, toilet paper and other consumer goods? And why did they experience chronic shortages of even those consumer goods?

The answer, in my opinion, comes down to the downstream effects of what were essentially monopolies run by incestuous cabals of power-hungry professional “managers”. To appreciate what I am saying, ask yourself the following question- How would the process of buying a car and the choices differ between a person in USA and USSR in 1970? Let us start by considering the issue surrounding the ability to buy one in both situations. For starters, average wages in 1970-era USA were high enough to make it possible for almost anyone to buy a half-decent new car.

But do wages really matter? I mean, it was perfectly feasible for a nation as big as Soviet Russia to create a different currency for internal use only. In other words, if they wanted to make sure that every adult in that country could buy a car- they could just pay part of the wages in such a restricted currency or just distribute one car to every adult once every few years. It is important to note that every material and labor input (plus fuel) to create something as technologically simple as automobiles was present within in large quantities within that country. So why did that not occur?

Once again, there a bunch of closely related reasons but it mostly comes down to availability of manufactured cars. As many of you know, state communism was a top-down system of governance in which most consumer products were produced by companies that were, for all practical purposes, monopolies. Consider the sheer number of car models from competing corporations vying for the money of a car buyer in USA in 1970. Now compare that situation to a person in a similar position in 1970-era Russia. I should also point out the system in 1970-era USA tried to prevent the formation of monopolies and oligopolies.

To make a long story short, people involved with the production of cars (or other consumer goods) under state communism did not have to worry about whether consumers liked their products or whether they made enough of them. It simply did not matter because they were the only game in town and they had the full backing of the government behind them. They could produce ugly and often crappy cars, unreliable TVs and toilet paper full of wooden splinters and guess what.. the people who has to use them had no option.

In contrast to this state of affairs, failure to make decent ICBMs, airplanes, spacecraft, tanks, guns etc was severely punished by the state. Also, unlike for consumer goods- different companies, design bureaus and groups competed against other to develop and manufacture excellent products. It was as if the mechanisms to ensure effective innovation and production were present for products required by the state but absent for those required by the average person. But why does any of this matter to us in 2017, except perhaps as a historical curiosity?

Well.. because post-2000 era USA has undergone a similar change in almost every sector of the economy. The buzzword and operative principle of most businesses in USA today is profit through consolidation leading to what is basically monopolization and monopolization. Compare the number of department stores in 1980 with 2017 (including their relative market shares). Do the same exercise for for banks, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, newspapers, TV and radio station ownership, internet providers etc. I could go on and on.. My point is that consolidation of smaller corporations into ever larger oligopolies and monopolies have resulted in a concurrent deterioration of product quality, demise of real innovation in addition to an increasingly poor consumer experience.

The oligopolies and monopolies which increasingly dominate the commercial landscape in USA have far more in common with state-sanctioned monopolies in communist countries that their predecessors from the era when anti-trust laws and regulations were actually enforced. It is likely that the outcome will be the same and USA will be known as the land of shittier, costlier and scarer products. In case you haven’t noticed- it is already happening in sectors as diverse as banking, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and household appliances. Then again.. similar systems reach similar end points, even if some may reach it faster that others.

In the upcoming part of this series, I will talk about the remarkable similarity between the type of people (under capitalism and communism) who end up in important positions in state-sanctioned monopolies and oligopolies- and how they speed up rate of overall crapification and hollowing out of the system.

What do you think? Comments?

People Age Slower Today Than They Did 50 Years Ago: Nov 19, 2017

November 19, 2017 5 comments

As I once mentioned in an older post, one of my favorite pastimes involving searching for photos and videos for anything which might catch my fancy. Because of this habit, I have spent many thousands of hours learning about stuff which I would not have otherwise encountered. A side effect of this habit is the ability to discern patterns of human activity and behavior that are not otherwise not readily obvious- including insights into what people are thinking.

For example, no west-european backpackers trip to India is complete without dozens of photos of garbage, stray cows and beggars. What makes this a bit odd is that it is obvious that they went to considerable lengths to find the right spot and angle to take those photos. So why go to such lengths just to get those photos? Especially when they take care to not take or post such photos from their trips to African countries.

But this post isn’t about insights gleaned from looking at a shitload of photos from white west-european backpackers. It is about something far more substantive and supported by other independent lines of evidence. I am sure that many of you might have also noticed that people look younger in photos from the last 15 (or so) years than their similarly aged counterparts from 50 or even 30 years ago. Why is that so? And, is this effect illusory or real?

I first noticed this effect when looking at unretouched photos of famous older actors and musicians taken when they were much younger (often in their late teens, 20s or 30s). In almost every single case, celebrities who were in that age group during the 1960s-1980s timespan looked about a decade older than their equivalents today. Initially, I thought that it might be linked to how people dressed or styled their hair during that era as compared to today.

However this effect is also apparent, to the same extent, in photos of non-celebrities from that era. While certain styles of dress and makeup do accentuate it, it is hard to deny that people born after 1970 do look about a decade younger at the same chronological age as their parents. I mean, it is obvious when I look at photos of my parents and their cousins versus myself and my cousins. But is that enough to make the case that people age about a decade slower than 50 or even 30 years ago?

For this, we have to start looking at the incidence of aging-related diseases- specifically outcomes rather than by some vague criteria as defined by “experts”. We can also look at career longevity of athletes in physically demanding sports at international levels. While I do not have the time or motivation to post the statistics, it is clear that the careers of athletes in a range of sports such as basketball, tennis and swimming are noticeably longer than in the past.

While some of this increase can be attributed to improvements in sports medicine, the effect is spread across a wide number of sports rather than being concentrated in those which provide huge monetary rewards to players. So clearly, something else is at work. And coming back to the issue of aging-related diseases in non-athletes, they too tend to be noticeably lower in the younger cohort than their parent’s generation at the same age. Is it just a “healthier” lifestyle or something else?

While people will try to make the case that it is about a “healthier lifestyle” or “healthier choices”, I think it has something to do with the lack of certain things rather than following any guidelines. For example- the rates of cigarette smoking, exposure to lead and other heavy metals, exposure to other hazardous chemicals, poor working conditions etc are far lower for those born after 1970 than those born before that date. The same is true of many other sources of chronic stress such as extreme poverty, periods of material deprivation etc.

Maybe part of aging is due to chronic exposure to adverse conditions and less than optimal nutrition and medical care. Note that I am not claiming that aging is mostly due to external factors- but it is pretty clear to me that a decade or two of supposedly “normal” aging comes down to less than optimal living conditions. This is especially obvious when you compare people who are biologically related but then end up living in different countries and environments.

There is also the other issue of jobs becoming less physically demanding and damaging over that time period. We cannot also forget that women who have few or no kids tend to age at a noticeably slower rate than those with many kids. But my general observation and theory still holds. The slower aging of people born after 1970 is real and has something to do with experiencing significantly fewer stressors and noxious insults to their body in comparison to previous generations.

What do they think? Comments?