Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category

On Donald Trump’s Campaign for the Republican Nomination: 5

September 29, 2015 4 comments

In the previous post of this series, I put forth the theory that Trump’s primary goal is to win the republican nomination with the presidency being a distant secondary one. Having said that, it is clear that he would have a pretty decent chance at winning the presidency if he were to be the republican nominee.

But why do I think that Trump has a decent chance of winning the presidency? I mean.. he has still not put forth a single coherent plan for achieving anything he supposedly wants to achieve. Why do I think that his total lack of serious policy positions and commissioning of “studies” about the viability of his plans not affect his electability? How would he be able to win against supposedly “serious” and “competent” politicians such as Hillary Clinton?

Well.. it comes down to reality. In another previous post of this series, I pointed out that the terms of almost every single presidents in living memory have invariably turned out to be disastrous for everyone but the top 1% (or more precisely the top 0.1%). The ones that turned out less disastrous (2nd term of both Reagan and Clinton) did so because of factors beyond their control. In other words, there is no correlation between the supposed “experience” or “capability” of professional politicians and their actual performance- as far as the 99% or 99.9% are concerned.

But it gets worse. See.. Lyndon B. Johnson (or LBJ) was the last american president who was actually able to implement a significant percentage of his election promises- and his presidency ended in early 1969, which is now almost half a century ago. Since then, no president has been able (or willing) to fulfill even a significant percentage of their pre-election promises to the electorate. Think about it.. did Richard Nixon fulfill even a small minority of his pre-election promises? What about Jimmy Carter? What about Reagan? What about Bush 41? What about Bill Clinton? What about Bush 43? What about Obama?

My point is that, based on their post-election performance, every single president since LBJ could be considered an incompetent liar. Even worse.. they have shown themselves to be incapable of implementing even their most feasible and rational-sounding plans. A significant part of the electorate has therefore learnt to tune out anything that sounds like carefully written pre-election promises or plans. The ongoing loss of public faith in credentialed “experts” consequent to their exposure as greedy charlatans further potentiates the general loss of faith in political promises.

Trump seems to have grasped this dissonance and its peculiar correlation to authenticity. It is therefore very likely that his unwillingness to put forth detailed pre-election plans and proposals is part of a general strategy of appearing more authentic than his rivals. Even his very brief and sketchy public papers on issues such as immigration, guns and taxes are part of this strategy. The guy has a pretty good feel for how much (or how little) most voters actually care about the actual contents of long policy papers.

Trump is simply using the massive political dissonance that has built up over the last half century against the very type of people who created, and have benefited from, it by turning their own bullshit and lies against themselves.

What do you think? Comments?

On Donald Trump’s Campaign for the Republican Nomination: 4

September 26, 2015 3 comments

In the previous post of this series, I wrote about how Trump is successfully using generalized public distrust for carefully manufactured and manicured personas such as those of his competitors for the republican candidacy against them. So far he has been to knock two mainstream career politicians, Rick Perry and Scott Walker, out of the race- with very minimal effort. There is a high probability (over 90%) that Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich and Chris Christie will have to drop out within the next 2-3 months because of their incredibly poor poll numbers.

Did you notice an interesting pattern here?

Trump’s candidacy is destroying the hopes of potential republican candidates who were, or still are, governors of states. In most cases, they were able to win the gubernatorial elections more than once. Furthermore, almost every single one of them is a professional politician. Isn’t that odd? Here is another way to think about it- since 1980, only Bush 41 (one term) and Obama 44 (two terms) have won the presidential elections without being a state governor first. The first (Bush 41) was however a two-term vice-president and the later (Obama 44) won because nobody wanted to elect another republican president after Bush 43.

More curiously, republican candidates who are or have been senators such as Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are also doing poorly in polls. Remember that even Obama 44 was a first-term senator when he successfully ran for the democratic candidacy. The failure of previously successful professional politicians with significant prior national or regional stature to even dent the persona of an outsider candidate such as Donald Trump is rather unprecedented in american politics. Why are the two major purported “talent pools” for potential presidential candidates on the republican side so very dry?

Why can’t outspoken conservative politicians win over their own, admittedly semi-retarded, base?

Even somebody like Jeb Bush, who has been a long-time professional politician (and two-term governor) in addition to being the son of Bush 41 and brother of Bush 43 just can’t seem to ‘win’ over the base of his own party. While Jeb(!) might hang around in the candidacy race for longer than his less-fortunate and less-connected colleagues, it is clear that the general damage to his image is now severe enough to make his attempt at winning the presidential election unsuccessful- even if he were to somehow end up as the republican candidate.

The two supposed competitors for Trump who the media love to talk about, aka ‘Scammy’ Fiorina and ‘token black guy’ Carson, are outsiders with a big red marks in their pasts. In the case of Fiorina, her checkered past career in business (if you can call it that) has made her many enemies- and they have tons of insider dirt on her. Her public persona, beyond being a woman, also makes her a very unsympathetic person- even to white women. In the case of ‘token black guy’ Carson, his past utterances now a part of the public memory because of the ubiquity of cameras and the internet make him basically undetectable at the national level. If you don’t believe me, a simple google search for “ben carson craziest beliefs” will guide you a multitude of listicles containing his most “interesting” beliefs including the source material they were derived from.

The point I am trying to make is that Trump could potentially win the Republican nomination by simply remaining over 25 % in multiple polls for the next 3-4 months while simultaneously starving his competitors of main-stream media exposure. It is therefore no surprise that he is constantly making outrageous statements about his competitors while simultaneously picking up fights with the supposedly “objective” presstitutes who critique his every move. It is amazing what independent financial capability and the ability to manipulate the media can achieve in the age of fragmented main-stream media and the internet.

Perhaps Trump is more interested in winning the republican candidacy than the presidency. Think about it.. the former is far more likely than the latter. Regardless out the outcome of either race, he does not really have that much to lose. Either way, Trump will still remain a world-famous billionaire and real estate developer. The same cannot, however, be said for many of his competitors for the republican candidacy who will be relegated to the trash bin of history- as far as their future political ambitions are concerned.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Sep 23, 2015

September 23, 2015 2 comments

Here are links to a few interesting news articles I came across recently. They are about the underlying issues that allow parasitic douchebags like Martin Shkreli to increase the price of 60-year old drugs by 5000%. Also read the comment sections for linked articles.

Link 1: Shkreli, Turing, and PhRMA

PhRMA still needs to make the case for why Turing is not just some bad little company that went a little too far. As it stands, people will look at them, look at the rest of the drug industry, and then decide that the difference is one of degree, not of kind. That, though, is why I think that PhRMA (and individual companies) have been so quiet during this fiasco. They don’t like the questions that would come up. Think about it – you come out and say that a fifty-fold price increase is completely out of line, and the follow-up question is (naturally) what sorts of price increases you think are in line. And nobody wants to talk about that. You come out and say that a company that buys into an old drug that it had not the slightest part in developing shouldn’t suddenly inherit the ability to ram its price through the roof, and the follow-up question is which drugs in your own portfolio were acquired from someone else, and how you’re pricing them. Finally, you come out and say that Turing’s rationale (R&D spending) is ridiculous, and the follow-up is how much you’re spending on your own R&D and how your prices relate to that.

By wrapping ourselves in statements of purpose and noble intentions, we in the R&D-driven part of the drug industry are doing ourselves a disservice. It leaves us unable to distinguish ourselves from obnoxious parasites, outfits like Turing that can, with a straight face, recite the same rationales. We’re going to have to be more forthcoming about how much money we spend, where it goes, and display our expensive failures to make the point that a lot of money has to come in, because a lot of money is also going out. If only one out of every ten cars that Ford developed – assembly lines and all – ever made it to the showrooms, cars would be more expensive. If only one out of every ten movies – after shooting, production, and editing – ever made it to theaters, ticket prices would go up. We get one of out of every ten drugs in the clinic to market, and we’ve got to pay for it somehow. We’re in the position of Adam Smith’s butcher, brewer, and baker: people don’t expect us to provide useful drugs sheerly out of the goodness of our hearts, good though some of them may be. But they shouldn’t be expecting us to skin them alive just because we might be able to get away with it, either.

Link 2: Should Martin Shkreli be allowed to play the Good Samaritan defense?

In a moment of candor no doubt brought on by some personal animosity, Martin Shkreli let down his guard on Sunday and told me exactly why he hiked the price of a 62-year-old drug by more than 5000%. “It’s a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders,” Shkreli told me on Twitter. “I don’t expect the likes of you to process that.” He then called me a moron, and later bragged about flipping off the media. So there you have it. The unvarnished truth. It was a business decision. It was about money. And screw you.

It’s time for the industry to come up with a better reason for why we get up in the morning, and a more credible approach for dealing with controversies. Real innovation costs a lot of money and deserves to be well compensated. That model has created an industry which is seeing tens of billions of dollars being pumped into new product development. It has provided the world with a painless cure for hep C and huge advances in oncology in just the last few years. And much, much more. It’s OK to do good work for money. You also don’t have to play the Good Samaritan defense in the wake of a blunder. And it shouldn’t be allowed for execs like Shkreli, who is using the country’s no-holds-barred policy on drug prices to generate some fast cash. If you make a mistake, don’t play the same weak card. Not unless you want to find Martin Shkreli standing right beside you, shoulder to shoulder. That’s the kind of public relations disaster that this industry can no longer afford.

Link 3: Turing Pharma price hike debacle tars entire pharma industry’s reputation

Unfortunately for pharma and its already bottom-of-the-industry-polls reputation, the damage was already done. If Shkreli is, as the Daily Beast called him, “pharma’s biggest a**hole,” the problem is still bigger than one greedy and egocentric profiteer. The ongoing collateral tarnish of pricing issues on the entire industry’s reputation is one it can’t afford if it expects to maintain trusting relationships with physicians and consumers. “The problem is that Martin Shkreli is not the drug industry, but it would be easy for someone on the outside to mistake him for the drug industry. Particularly if you’re not overly fond of the drug industry to start with, as many people aren’t,” said Derek Lowe, a medicinal chemist and author of the blog In the Pipeline, in an interview. Frank David, founder and managing partner at Pharmagellan, blogging on Forbes, agreed. “The risk to all pharma companies is that this could become a story not about a single biotech, but about the industry as a whole and its insensitive, unethical pricing practices,” he said.

And that was about it–executives from the rest of the industry stayed publicly mum. TheStreet’s reporter Adam Feuerstein noted he couldn’t get any pharma CEOs to comment on the record. Execs commented privately to FierceBiotech as well, but didn’t take their arguments public. “The problem is that silence gives consent. People will say ‘well, they’re not saying anything against him, so they must be with him,'” Lowe said. “Staying silent looks like you’re OK with it.” And as David wrote, “We’ve seen this movie before – and we’re about to see it again, this time in drug pricing. Although Turing’s hefty hike may fail the red-faced test, no bright line divides it from what has become standard industry practice: annual double-digit percentage price increases on marketed drugs, year after year. Yes, 15% is less than 5,000% – but they both lie on a spectrum, and if pharma’s dismal approval rating continues to lie just below that of insurance companies, it’s hard to imagine much public sympathy materializing when companies try to explain the difference.

What do you think? Comments?

On Donald Trump’s Campaign for the Republican Nomination: 3

September 13, 2015 3 comments

In the previous two posts of this series, I talked about why the current success of Trump’s campaign for the republican nomination is an almost inevitable consequence of voters seeing that professional politicians are not especially qualified for their jobs. It is also quite obvious to most voters that professional politicians are pretty incompetent at doing their jobs. It is therefore not surprising that most voters see professional politicians as marginally clever professional liars whose actions principally benefit the very wealthy minority who in turn pay to have them elected and also create cushy post-politics positions and sinecures for them.

In other words, the median person in developed countries now see professional politicians as little more than the marginally attractive mistress of rich older men who will say and do everything to keep the money flowing in their direction. It is therefore no surprise that so many have a far higher opinion of independent politicians like Trump than establishment loyalists such as Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

But this, by itself, does not explain why Trump can get away with saying almost anything about anybody. Many presstitutes, pundits and politicians cannot seem to figure out why insulting a supposed war hero turned politician like John McCain, a pretty white blond talking head (and body) like Megyn Kelly and pretty much anybody else who antagonizes him has no effect whatsoever on his rapidly rising public popularity. How can a politician who does not play by the rules of fake niceness and propriety so thoroughly trounce those who spent a lifetime studying and practicing those rules?

Presstitutes have put forth a variety of clever-sounding explanations to explain Trump’s ability to remain unscathed by whatever public outrage is generated by his criticism of his opponents- political or otherwise. Some attribute it to his extensive experience in reality TV. Others attribute it to his business acumen. Still others attribute it to his intuitive understanding of human psychology. But is that really the case? Can any of these theories really explain the continuous increase in public support for his candidacy?

Why doesn’t his ever-increasing support base care about the continuous stream of negative articles about him, his speeches or his tweets? Why has the progress of his campaign been so unusually gaffe-proof?

I have an explanation for this phenomena that is both rational and somewhat depressing for the perpetually positive types. It is based on a realistic look at the dynamics of contemporary human society, especially the version prevalent in USA and similar countries. A little over two years ago, I had written a post about how the dominance of an anodyne style of communication has played a major role in destroying societal trust. In that post I had said the following:

The nature of corporate communication has now become disturbingly similar to the fake biochemical signals used by metastasizing cancerous cells and viruses to use, abuse and subvert the host. But there is another dimension to this issue which makes it far more problematic in human societies. People, unlike cells, emulate and imitate strategies which are seen as successful for the individual, even if doing so destroys the social system that keeps things going. Consequently the ‘corporatese’ lies and selective truths that permeate large institutions and organisations seep into smaller versions of them and ultimately into general society. Soon almost everyone is communicating to each other with the same attitudes, mindsets and expectations as impersonal sociopathic corporations.

Another way of reading that paragraph is that we live in a society where anyone who appears to be unusually friendly, excessively polite and willing to help for “free” in the beginning is often (almost always correctly) seen as a crook, scam artist or inveterate liar or worse who is using his relative position or some aspect of the legal system to rob, scam, abuse or kill his or her unsuspecting victims. It goes without saying that societies with such high level of systemic mistrust are very brittle, unstable and well.. unlikely to last for any significant length of time (more than a few decades)- but that is a topic for another post.

Coming back to the topic at hand, it is common knowledge that the public persona of professional politicians are basically identical to those projected by corporations. Both try to portray themselves as being moral and upright persons with high ethical standards- basically an antithesis of their real selves. Both spend an unusual amount of time, effort and money in appearing professional, knowledgeable, competent, caring, altruistic and otherwise deserving of unquestioning obedience. Of course, even a cursory look at the world around you exposes these pretensions for what they really are.. clever-sounding lies to perpetuate continued exploitation.

But what does any of this have to do with Trump’s campaign being so successful and gaffe proof?

Well.. a lot. A society where almost every single conman, fraud and parasite is projecting a carefully put together persona tends to see people who don’t have such personas as being especially honest, authentic and trustworthy. This is doubly so if that person is willing to talk about issues and subjects that the “put together”-types deflect or avoid altogether. In other words, the societies in countries such as the USA are so screwed up that Trump is correctly seen as being less dishonest that somebody like Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton. It certainly helps that he was already rich enough to never have entered politics to make a living. Now contrast that to almost every single politician who is completely dependent on continued presence in the political arena for making a living. Even extremely rich and famous politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney owe almost all of their considerable wealth to being in, or around, the political arena.

The nature of contemporary society is such that an overtly arrogant, reasonably intelligent and independently rich guy trolling the easily offended will be (correctly) seen as being far more honest and competent than people with carefully manufactured and manicured personas whose livelihood is intimately connected to continued presence in the political arena.

Will write more about this topic in upcoming posts.

What do you think? Comments?

On Donald Trump’s Campaign for the Republican Nomination: 2

September 6, 2015 3 comments

In my previous post on this topic, I had suggested that the success of Trump’s campaign so far is a symptom of a far deeper issue- namely the ongoing falling apart of the modern nation-state. Basically, the irrational and hierarchical nature of modern nation states requires the general populace to delude themselves about the actual level of competence of those who occupy its commanding heights. In other words, the modern nation state starts falling apart once people can no longer fool themselves about the actual level of competence of those in positions of power- be they “professionals” such as doctors, scientists and or pretty much any other type of credentialed “experts”.

Belief in the competence of “professional” politician-types, which seems to infest all levels of governance in modern nation states, has taken an unusually large hit within the last two decades. Some of you might say that politicians (amateur or professional) were, historically, never widely seen as honest or trustworthy- and that is true. However politicians in modern nation states, especially those that were reasonably functional, were often seen as reasonably competent and capable of making fairly rational (if often self-serving) decisions. Now, whether this apparent competence in politicians of previous generations was real or not is controversial.

There are those who point out to past politicians who were instrumental in pushing positive socio-economic changes and then there are others who see it as some combination of a rapidly growing economy and selective memory about the past. In any case, my point about the popular perception that politicians from previous eras were more competent than their present day counterparts still holds. But what does any of this have to do with the Trump campaign- beyond the obvious fact that many voters do not hold his lack of “experience” in politics against him?

Well.. as it turns out, a lot.

The largely negative reaction by main stream media, especially its talking-/writing- heads, to his campaign cannot be explained unless you start understanding the real source of their dismay. This is especially true for the figuring out why the traditionally LIEbral media outlets are more critical of his campaign than their CONservative equivalents. How do you explain the endless stream of media hit pieces about that guy by supposedly LIEbral outlets such as NYT, WP, Bloomberg or their internet equivalents such as Salon, Slate, Dailykos etc?

It just does not make sense, at least if you believe that the people behind those media pieces want a democrat candidate to win in the 2016 presidential election. The Trump campaign has, till now, done far more damage to the presidential aspirations of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker.. and pretty much every other declared and undeclared republican candidate than it has to the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or anyone running for the democrat candidacy. The LIEbral media outlets should, if anything, be cheering him on as he gleefully destroys the public personas of an entire generation of politicians created by the post-1980s republican political machine.

And yet, oddly enough, the strongest and most persistent criticism of his campaign comes from LIEbral presstitutes, “experts” and talking heads. So, what is going on?

There are those who believe that the LIEbral media’s strong distaste for a Trump candidacy (or presidency) has to do avoiding embarrassment on the international stage or in their daily conversations. But, is that really the case? Here is some historical perspective.. More than half of all american soldiers who died (or were severely injured) in the failed attempt at colonizing Vietnam did so after Richard Milhous Nixon became the 37th president in January 1969. However he is most remembered and despised for his role in the Watergate scandal. Similarly the main stream media still portrays the Reagan presidency in a largely positive manner though it was the starting point for many of our current problems- from growing income inequality, the “War on Drugs”, exorbitant spending on futuristic weapon systems with poor real life performance to persistent large-scale dabbling in Middle-Eastern politics.

The mainstream media is also largely silent on the role of Bill Clinton’s presidency on levels of mass incarceration, militarization of the police and financial deregulation. They are now similarly accepting of the 2000 presidential election, the invasion of Iraq, the “War on Terror”, decisions that lead to the housing bubble and financial crash of 2008. Today the mass media image of George W Bush has been normalized to that of a slightly eccentric grand-father who lives in the country, rather than as the stupid and incompetent asshole whose decisions (and indecisions) resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens to hundreds of thousands of people. I could go about the current guy occupying that office, but you get my point. The mainstream media has been remarkably quiet about the horrendous incompetence of professional politicians who were elected to the presidential office.

So why would a Trump presidency be any worse for the USA than those of Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 or Obama? And what makes somebody like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker any more qualified to be the official republican candidates or get elected to office?

The answer to that question is as follows: there is no reason to suggest that a Trump presidency would be any more disastrous to the USA than any of his predecessors, or competitors for the party nomination. The other side of this answer is that lifelong “professional” politicians such as Hillary Clinton and her type on the democrat side are rather similar to their republican counterparts such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker. Consequently, a candidate who can defeat Bush, Rubio or Walker in the race for republican candidacy can do the same in the presidential race against a “professional” politician such as Hillary Clinton. As many of you know, her high unfavorability ratings make it hard for her to win against someone who is seen as a likable “outsider”.. you know like Obama in 2008.

The LIEbral media’s strong distaste for a Trump candidacy or presidency is, therefore, largely about trying to ensure a win for their “professional” politician patrons such as Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush. Those who write or make those media hit pieces have a lot to lose if their old patronage networks stop working like they used to. Presstitutes, “experts” and other assorted talking heads are primarily interested in maintaining the stability of their own income stream- preferably with the minimum of effort. They are not interested in the effects of their actions on the welfare on the general populace, who are seen as all gullible outsiders ripe for manipulation. Unfortunately for them, the combination of factors which made that a viable lifestyle in the past has largely and irreversibly dissipated.

Will write more about this topic in upcoming posts.

What do you think? Comments?

On Donald Trump’s Campaign for the Republican Nomination: 1

August 31, 2015 18 comments

The decision by Donald Trump, a few weeks ago, to enter the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination was initially seen by many as just another short-lived publicity stunt to drum up ratings for the 15th season of his reality show or perhaps a future replacement for that show. This particular assessment was largely based on his rather long and extensive history of using declarations of intent to run for political office to get tons of free publicity. It is also no secret that he has always loved public attention and consequently has been involved in the promotion of various sport competitions and beauty pageants.

As many of you know- there is no shortage of opinions, articles and posts about his campaign for getting the republican nomination. Some say that his campaign is a plant by the Clintons to derail the process of choosing an electable republican candidate, and that might be true. In any case, his entry in the race has certainly sucked the oxygen out of the competing campaign of many republican contenders such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. His posturing on issues such as illegal immigration has also made many of his republican competitors try to adopt similar postures- something they will regret if they ever have to actually run against any democratic candidate for president.

But there is one aspect of his campaign that has puzzled many observers- from republican and democrat insiders to presstitues. How can a guy who has insulted almost every republican holy cow from John McCain (veterans), Megyn Kelly (photogenic white women), Jeb Bush and other “serious” contenders (insiders in the republican insiders) and Fox News (right-wing mass media) still be a viable candidate, let alone possess a commanding lead, for the republican nomination? Why have all those negative articles and hit pieces by main stream media pundits (in print, television and on the internet) had no worthwhile impact on his ascendancy?

There are those who ascribe this apparent invulnerability to his past experience in business negotiations and reality television shows. Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) has recently written a few posts about how Trump is using language tricks to get his way-Link 1, Link 2, Link 3 and Link 4. While I certainly don’t deny that he has far more experience with being in the media’s spotlight and dealing with them than his competitors, it cannot explain his remarkable ascendancy for reasons I will explain now.

So, here is the question you should ask yourself.. Given that rich people with Trump’s personality and media savvy have always existed in the USA, why weren’t they ever serious front-runners for the presidential nomination in either party? Sure, we have had many memorable third-part candidates (especially in the 19th century) and who can forget the impact of Ross Perot on the result of the 1992 election. But that still does not answer the question- How could somebody with the background and personality of Donald Trump be a serious contender for the presidential nomination for one of the two major political parties in USA?

I believe that the answer to that particular question lies in something far deeper than open demagoguery and being especially adept at handling presstitutes. In my opinion, the ability of Trump to dominate the process for presidential nomination by one of the two main parties in USA is a symptom of an ongoing slow-motion failure of the modern nation-state.

To comprehend what I am talking about, you have to first understand the concept of a ‘modern nation state’ and why this type of institution was so successful for over a hundred years. Modern nation states are a product of the 2nd wave of the industrial revolution and it is no coincidence that many of them came into existence at about the same time (mid-1800s- early 1900s) as the areas they are situated in starting industrializing on a large scale. While they differed from previous kingdoms and nations in many ways, the most important (and relevant) difference between them and their predecessors arises from one specific arrangement between the government and people of such entities.

Modern nation states, unlike any of their predecessors, explicitly promised and largely delivered a very significant increase in the living standards of their general populace. In return for this prosperity (often gained through war and hard or soft colonialism) the average person living in such political entities was expected to be unquestioningly loyal towards the “nation” and do whatever he or she was told to do. While this bargain did result in some of the most horrific wars in history (various late 19th century colonial wars, WW1 and WW2) it worked pretty well for most people living in modern nation states.

The modern nation state model did, however, have a series of systemic structural flaws- many of which took decades (and a series of technological advances) to fully manifest themselves. Principal among this series of inter-linked flaws was the problem of maintaining an image of governmental authority and competence. But why would that be a problem? Aren’t people selected, elected or promoted to high offices of governance in modern nation states supposed to be very competent at their jobs?

Well.. not really.

See, here is the problem. The actual difference in mental capacity and competence between those who are supposed to be the “best and brightest” and the “rest” is, in reality, rather insignificant. Furthermore opaque hierarchical systems that protect insiders from the consequences of their actions tend to select and promote people who are good at lying, stealing, scamming and generally playing politics. Simply put, members of the ruling class of modern nation states are not particularly competent at their supposed jobs. Their lack of competence was, however, not that obvious in previous eras for two reasons. Firstly, the ability to steal resources from other parts of the world, often without serious opposition, made it easy for the ruling class to throw a few extra crumbs at the proles who did their dirty work. Secondly, the ability to control the flow of information via control of the mass media in the pre-internet era meant that it was actually possible to cover up many of the otherwise obvious failings (personal and professional) of members of the ruling class.

Sadly for them, both avenues for maintaining that facade of competence and authority have now disappeared. Politicians throughout the world now have a public image that has more in common with that of a used-car salesman than anything remotely suggestive of actual competence. While this process has been going on since the 1970s, the political class as a whole was able to retain their grasp on power by forming an ever closer (and subservient alliance) with rich people. The campaign of Donald Trump should therefore be seen as an attempt by a rich person to just get rid of the middleman (professional politician) who no longer commands public respect or authority.

Will write more about this topic in upcoming posts.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Aug 20, 2015

August 20, 2015 5 comments

Here are links to a few interesting news articles I came across recently. They are about preliminary revelations from analyzing the first two data dumps from the Ashley Madison site hack.

Link 1: Ashley Madison subscribers include hundreds of government workers

The latest face-palm-worthy revelation from the Ashley Maddison hack comes courtesy of the Associated Press, which is reporting that hundreds of government employees—some with sensitive jobs in the White House, Congress, and law enforcement agencies—used Internet connections in their federal offices to pay membership fees for and use the dating website for cheating. The news organization pored over a massive trove of data the hackers made available earlier this week. By tracing the IP addresses of people who visited the site over more than five years, AP reporters determined the visitors included two assistant U.S. attorneys; an information technology administrator in the Executive Office of the President; a division chief, an investigator, and a trial attorney in the Justice Department; a government hacker at the Homeland Security Department; and another DHS employee who indicated he worked on an US counterterrorism response team.

Many federal customers appeared to use non-government email addresses with handles such as “sexlessmarriage,” ”soontobesingle” or “latinlovers.” Some Justice Department employees appeared to use pre-paid credit cards to help preserve their anonymity but connected to the service from their office computers. “I was doing some things I shouldn’t have been doing,” a Justice Department investigator told the AP. Asked about the threat of blackmail, the investigator said if prompted he would reveal his actions to his family and employer to prevent it. “I’ve worked too hard all my life to be a victim of blackmail. That wouldn’t happen,” he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was deeply embarrassed and not authorized by the government to speak to reporters using his name. The AP’s analysis also found hundreds of transactions associated with Department of Defense networks, either at the Pentagon or from armed services connections elsewhere.

Link 2: Who Are The Lawyers, Law Profs, And Judges That Were Revealed In The Ashley Madison Hack?

Without further ado, here is a list of users who appear to be prestigious legal professionals:

At least 10 clerks and/or judges of federal district courts;
At least one federal appellate judge;
At least 10 Department of Justice employees;
At least three V10 partners, including one Cravath partner;
At least 10 Biglaw associates, including multiple attorneys at Baker & McKenzie; and
At least one law professor at an elite T14 law school.

Link 3: Family Values Activist Josh Duggar Had a Paid Ashley Madison Account

But data released online in the wake of the hack on Ashley Madison’s servers certainly seems to show otherwise. Someone using a credit card belonging to a Joshua J. Duggar, with a billing address that matches the home in Fayetteville, Arkansas owned by his grandmother Mary—a home that was consistently shown on their now-cancelled TV show, and in which Anna Duggar gave birth to her first child—paid a total of $986.76 for two different monthly Ashley Madison subscriptions from February of 2013 until May of 2015.

In July 2014*, he seems to have started a second account that was linked to his home in Oxon Hill, Maryland, where he spent his time lobbying against causes like same-sex marriage. The birthday listed in the data for Duggar’s first account is February 3, 1988, one month off Duggar’s actual birthday of March 3, 1988. The birthday listed for the second account is March 2, 1988. The two accounts overlap by a period of a few months. When he launched the second account, Duggar paid an initial fee of $250 that appears to have gone toward the purchase of an “affair guarantee”:Customers who buy 1,000 credits for $250 receive a money-back “affair guarantee,” if they don’t have an affair within three months. The second account, which was registered in July of 2014, was paid on a monthly basis until May of 2015. We’ve reached out to TLC, the Family Research Council, and a spokesman for the Duggar family for comment and will update if we hear back.

Link 4: Josh Duggar’s Apology: “I Have Been the Biggest Hypocrite Ever” [Updated]

The Duggar family just released a statement from Josh on their personal website in which Josh not only confirms the fact that he has been “unfaithful” to his wife, but he also confesses to having developed a “secret addiction” to pornography over the past several years. We already had evidence that Josh had at least been seeking out some sort of extramarital affair, but this is the first time we’ve head any mention of Josh’s porn habit.

Update 2:57 p.m.: Looks like Josh Duggar may have been a little hasty in his apology. The general idea is still there, but the letter itself has gone through several revisions since going up less than two hours ago. The first instance, as mentioned above, removed a reference to Satan, while the second revision removed any mention of pornography altogether. It’s hard to imagine that the letter wasn’t vetted by anyone before the Duggars put it up on their website—but given the few typos in the original, it’s certainly possible. Either way, Josh of all people should know by now that the internet never forgets. You can see all the changes made to the apology thus far below.

What do you think? Comments?


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