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Why Trump’s Comments about 2nd Amendment & HRC Won’t Hurt Him

August 9, 2016 5 comments

As many of you might have heard earlier today, Donald Trump made a speech in Wilmington, NC where he said (among many other statements) the following.

Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick… If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know. But — but I’ll tell you what. That will be a horrible day. If — if Hillary gets to put her judges — right now, we’re tied. You see what’s going on.

As you also might have heard by now, every mainstream media outlet and “liberal” blogger/ tweeter/ presstitute is busy spinning this statement as an incitement to assassinate HRC if she wins the presidential election in November 2016. But is that really the case? And perhaps more importantly- will this help or hurt Trump’s chances of winning the presidential election in November? Note that I said- “winning the presidential election” and not “winning the next round of supposedly objective 3rd party polls based on curated information given over the phone by people who chose to answer them after being randomly dialed”. As you will see, this distinction is far more important than it seems.

On the question of whether that statement is evidence (beyond reasonable doubt) of Trump trying to incite others to assassinate HRC- I have to say, based on available information, there is no evidence that he was trying to do what his detractors have accused him of doing. At best, he was hinting to the well-known fact that any legislative measure to severely curtail legal gun ownership in USA might face significant pushback from those who believed in the commonly accepted and legally supported frameworks surrounding gun ownership today. He was also quite correct in pointing out that stacking the Supreme Court with judges known to oppose the current legal framework on that issue would result in erosion of 2nd amendment rights at the federal level.

In other words- nothing he said in that speech actually rises to the logical level of encouraging assassination of one or more public figure. But what about the alleged public perception of those remarks?

Well.. let me begin this part by restating that HRC is the least popular and most negatively perceived career politician ever to run for the american presidency as a candidate of a major political party. Many of you might remember that almost half of those who cast ballots in the democratic party primary voted for her opponent- Bernie Sanders, a hitherto unknown independent senator from Vermont. It is also no secret, now, that she “won” the democratic primary through large-scale direct and indirect electoral fraud. In other words, a lot of people in her own party hate her guts even though she has been in the national spotlight for over two decades. Therefore the idea that she is deeply disliked only by gun right advocates and hardcore republicans is simply untrue.

And this brings up the next question. Would a careful and oblique suggestion by Trump that HRC is a tyrant worthy of assassination actually hurt his chances with either his supporters or those who might potentially vote for him in November?

As far Trump’s supporters are concerned, HRC always has been the globalist tyrant she-devil who wants to take away their guns while impoverishing and destroying them. For them, Trump’s remarks are just more proof that he is the guy who will battle the evil witch and her army of flying monkeys. While some of Trump’s non-hardcore supporters might initially balk (at least publicly) at this particular statement- the reality is that many of them hate HRC far more than they are willing to admit in public. His latest statements about her will therefore almost certainly end up bolstering their support for him- especially since he alone seems to have the backbone and balls to stand up to the establishment.

It is also no secret that previous milquetoast republican presidential candidates such as McCain and Romney had major problems creating enough voter enthusiasm largely because their potential voterbase perceived them to be working against their interests and in league with establishment democrats. As I have said in previous posts on this blog, Trump’s strategy for winning the general election relies on increasing voter polarization to levels that would bring out those who would have voted republican if they felt their vote made a difference. He is fully aware that he (nor any other republican candidate) can win the presidency without a significant increase in voter turnout among republican voters who have given up on voting.

Therefore, in my opinion, Trump’s remarks about the 2nd amendment and HRC are very unlikely to hurt his chances of winning the actual presidential election. They will, if anything, help him win by further polarizing the electorate and increasing republican voter turnout in November 2016.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: July 25, 2016

July 25, 2016 12 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They contain a few articles about the general unraveling of society in USA (and other “developed” countries to a lesser extent) by Chris Arnade on Medium.

Link 1: Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots”

Trump voters may not vote the way I want them to, but after having spent the last five years working in (and having grown up in) parts of the US few visit, they are not dumb. They are doing whatever any other voter does: Trying to use their vote to better their particular situation (however they define that). Labeling them dumb is simply a way of not trying to understand their situation, or what they value. In choosing a candidate, a voter is buying into that candidate. It is, in an oversimplified way, like buying a stock. In that sense, it is helpful to use some basic analysis from finance, to look at how/why voters make the choices they do.

Link 2: Granted, however….

There is a growing move to blame Brexit, or Trump, on voters just not trusting experts. Or being too uneducated to understand experts. This is wrong for two big reasons beyond being contemptuous, beyond having the goal to demean those who you disagree. Reason 1: It creates an unnecessary laziness in political discourse. Rather than really working at explaining a position, you default to the much simpler, “Well the experts say.” So when I hear arguments like, “The voters didn’t understand the consequences of Brexit,” I am also hearing, “I didn’t explain my positions very well.” Reason 2: It ignores the huge mistakes experts have made. Like the Iraq war and the aftermath of the global financial crisis (TARP anyone!) At the risk of borrowing from David Brooks (!), let me get a bit pop-sociology/ psychology.

The “expert class” are very slow to admit they are wrong which is a direct result of our system that rewards the most educated, and the cleverest. Rising to the top now means being clever as fuck, knowing how to game rules, and most important, being able to always argue your case. It is almost like we now reward that kid on the playground who when tagged during recess, replies, “You didn’t ACTUALLY tag me. You only tagged my clothes. Which isn’t technically me…..” Or the person who when they lose a bet for 100 dollars, says, “I didn’t say dollars, I said, Doll Hairs.” or responds, “We never actually signed a contract.”

Link 3: Rationality, anxiety, and meaninglessness

In all of these places people are turning more and more to drugs to combat a growing sense of hopelessness, meaninglessness, and anxiety. Some are also turning to angry and disruptive politics. Why? Over the last fifty years we have pursued a political and cultural agenda shaped around rationality and efficiency. We worship free markets and have maximized the power of capital while rendering labor only a cost to be minimized. We now define success through simple numbers — rising GDP, rising income, and rising profits. Our economic policy, driven by this rationalism, has morphed into a national version of the Hunger Games, pitting every worker against each other. We sort by education and by wealth, giving the winners a larger share than they need or deserve. It has created anxiety, one especially acute in lower income neighborhoods.

Now the poor are seen as losers and failures, increasing their anxiety. They are told they have failed to pull themselves up, failed to educate themselves, failed at a system that rewards the advantaged and the aggressively clever. We have also completely changed our culture in other ways, devaluing what once gave people meaning: A sense of community. It is easy to ignore these changes because community is a hard to measure metric. What once defined many neighborhoods —a tight social structure focused on community — is giving way to the ordinariness of strip malls, franchises, and disposable jobs. It is a deadening banality of both style and purpose.

What do you think? Comments?

“Family Guy” Predicted the Truck Attack in Nice, France

July 16, 2016 14 comments

Here is a short YouTube clip from an older episode of the cartoon show ‘Family Guy’ depicting a scenario rather similar to the July 14 Truck Attack in Nice, France. I will write my thoughts about that incident and the unsuccessful alleged “coup” in Turkey in the near future.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts about the Recent Shooting of Cops in Dallas: 2

July 10, 2016 11 comments

In the previous post of this series, I pointed out that Micah Xavier Johnson’s (MXJ) profile was remarkable for being unremarkable. In other words, there is nothing about him which would predict that he was going to shoot up a dozen cops on July 7. In my opinion, the plainness of his profile is by far the most problematic part of that shooting since it raises the possibility that many (potentially millions of) other people in USA are capable of doing similar things.

As many of you know, the difference between fringe rebellions and full-blown insurrections is that those who do the former are far more ideologically driven than the later- which is a fancy way of saying that insurrections are usually done by people who are average in every sense of that word. The profile of MXJ strongly suggests that what he did is better categorized as part of a wider decentralized insurrection than due to membership of fringe group or belief in a fringe ideology.

And this brings me to the use of a bomb disposal robot by the police to kill MXJ. In my opinion, it was a terribly stupid idea to kill him with an explosive carrying robot. My objections to that action by the police are based in long-term consequences of such an action- both intended and unintended.

It does not take a genius to figure out that use of such technology, primitive as it is, in the USA opens the door to its use in far more routine circumstances. What is going to stop local police departments, filled as they are with “people” who feel they are above the law, to start bombing people in far more mundane situations? What about bombing innocent people living in some house that was incorrectly identified as the hiding place of some “suspect”? What about due legal process? Well.. you get the picture. However, cops killing people in USA is by the far the least problematic aspect of using bomb carrying robots.

The far more problematic aspect of legitimizing and normalizing such behavior by cops is the potential for serious and unending blowback. Do you think that people who are being killed by bomb carrying robots will not use similar devices and methods against cops? I mean.. what is now going to stop some black or brown guy from using an improvised robot bomb, remote-controlled device or even the suicide vests you see in the middle-east against them or their families? Think that is too far-fetched? Look what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan after the USA unsuccessfully tried and failed to occupy them. Do you really think it cannot happen here? How much money would bet on there not being a similar blowback in the USA?

It is well-known that people in Iraq and Afghanistan had no worthwhile history of using IEDs and suicide bombs against “soft” targets (non-active combatants and supporting civilians) prior to the invasion and failed occupation of their countries by the USA. As many of you might also remember, all that changed very quickly after the invasions and explosive devices (IEDS and suicide bombs) eventually caused more casualties among american soldiers and their civilian supporters/ helpers than pretty much any other weapon system. Then, as now, the american response was to increase harassment and murder of potential terrorist sympathizers and try to find technological fixes. We all know how that worked out or not. In any case, both occupations ended in american defeat- despite massive technological and material superiority.

Will write about some other aspects of this incident (especially the tone-deaf response of politicians and cops) in future posts on this topic.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts about the Recent Shooting of Cops in Dallas: 1

July 9, 2016 11 comments

I am sure that all of you have seen, heard and read a lot about the July 7 shootings that killed a few cops in Dallas. It is also not exactly a secret that this shooting has a peculiar linkage to a couple of extensively documented extrajucidial killings of two black men (Alton Sterling, Philando Castile) in the previous two days. As some of you know, more than a few of my previous posts have been about how the hubris associated with unaccountable power (or perception thereof) ultimately creates the conditions for the rise of its nemesis.

It does not take a genius to see that, throughout human history, institutions and systems that seem invulnerable at their peak inevitably implode under the strain of their hubris- which principally manifests itself through unaccountability, overreach and inability to adjust to the changing reality. Even systems capable of incredible levels of repression and surveillance over decades fail- frequently because of doing exactly that. It is also no secret that the status quo in the USA (especially since 2008) has more in common with a slowly imploding system than one with any chance of a better future.

Having said that, I will now make some brief observations about the July 7 incident.

1] The shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, was a black veteran. It is noteworthy that he had no worthwhile criminal record and grew up in a middle-class family. There is also no evidence to suggest that he was particularly shy, angry or had an otherwise unusual personality. In other words, there is nothing to suggest that he was destined to do what he did on July 7.

2] Ideologically, he did not seem to be especially partisan or religious. He certainly had an interest in black nationalist groups and was not exactly enamored by the behavior of white people (especially cops) towards blacks. Then again.. it is hard to blame him for having a fairly negative view of white cops in USA. However none of this rises to a level which would foreshadow what he did on July 7.

3] It is now obvious (based on his journal entries) that he was planning to go on a shooting spree for some time. However, it is not clear why he chose to do it on July 7. While he was fairly systematic in planning the shooing, the motive is unclear. I mean, we know he hated white cops.. but why now? What was the final event which pushed him into action?

4] Unlike most spree shooters who prefer venues where people are unarmed, he chose to shoot up an area with hundreds of cops. Also he was pretty accurate for a spree shooter as only two protesters were hit by stray bullets and neither died. In contrast, he was able to shoot 12 cops killing 5 of them. Perhaps most interestingly, all 5 dead cops were white men- which is pretty impressive when you consider that particular police department has many non-white cops.

5] One of peculiarities of the July 7 shooting was his choice of weapons. Why would he use a SKS carbine as his main weapon? As some of you know, the SKS is an older, but rugged, semi-auto carbine chambered for the same cartridge (7.62×39mm) as the AK-47. This is especially odd since a person who was in the US army would be more familiar with using an AR-15 derived semi-auto carbine.

6] He knew how to milk the fear of potential IEDs to cause maximal disruption and fear among his opponents. I mean.. think about it- one determined guy with a SKS, handgun and basic bullet-proof jacket was able to make hundreds of armed cops take shelter behind cars, garbage cans and pretty much anything they could find. Even if you do not agree with his actions- that is a pretty impressive result.

I will write about other aspects of this incident in future posts on this topic.

What do you think? comments?

Interesting Links: June 13, 2016

June 13, 2016 3 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are all about a still little talked about angle of the Omar Mateen story. To make a long story short- it appears that Omar was deeply in the closet. Will write a longer piece about that incident soon.

Link 1: Orlando Shooter Was Reportedly a Regular at Pulse and Had a Profile on Gay Dating App

But according to witnesses, Mateen was also a regular at the club and exchanged messages with at least one gay man on a gay dating app. “It’s the same guy,” Chris Callen, who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian Press. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.” Ty Smith, who also goes by the name Aries, also said he’d seen Mateen being escorted drunk from the club, Pulse, on multiple occasions. “(He’d get) really, really drunk… He couldn’t drink when he was at home—around his wife, or family. His father was really strict… He used to bitch about it,” Smith told the Canadian Press. “Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” Smith also explained to the Orlando Sentinel, which spoke with at least four clubgoers who remembered seeing Mateen at Pulse at least a dozen times. “We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times… He told us he had a wife and child.”

Link 2: Reports: Ex-Wife and Classmate Say Orlando Killer Was Gay

Mateen’s former classmate, who was not named in the story, tells the paper Mateen asked him on a date when they were both students at the Indian River Community College police academy in 2006. His account, via the Palm Beach Post: He said Mateen asked him out romantically. “We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” he said. He believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it. Mateen was awkward, and for a while the classmate and the rest in the group of friends felt sorry for him. “He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” he said. “He was always socially awkward.” Mateen was married at least once, to a woman named Sitora Yusufiy, who said Sunday that he was unstable and abusive during their brief marriage. Yusufiy, who is now dating a Brazilian man, also sat for an interview with Brazilian TV Monday. Speaking in Portuguese, her boyfriend said in the interview that she had described Mateen as having “gay tendencies” and said his dad had called him gay in front of her on several occasions.

Link 3: Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was gay, former classmate says

A former classmate of Omar Mateen’s 2006 police academy class said he believed Mateen was gay, saying Mateen once asked him out. Officials say Mateen shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 others at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning. The classmate said that he, Mateen and other classmates would hang out, sometimes going to gay nightclubs, after classes at the Indian River Community College police academy. He said Mateen asked him out romantically. “We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate said. He asked that his name not be used. He believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it. Mateen was awkward, and for a while the classmate and the rest in the group of friends felt sorry for him. In Orlando, the Los Angeles Times reported that Mateen attended the Pulse nightclub possibly as many as a dozen times before the rampage. Kevin West said he had messaged Mateen back and forth over a year’s time on the gay dating app Jack’d but never met him until he saw Mateen crossing the street about 1 a.m. Sunday. “He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’” and nodded his head, West said. “I could tell by the eyes.”

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 3 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are about the close linkage of prolonged economic downturns, widespread disillusionment with the ‘system’ and rise of populist politicians. As usual, note that you should not believe any author just because you agree with one or two of their opinions.

Link 1: An entire class of Americans misunderstood and rejected: Dismissing white workers is profoundly reactionary

The white working class is under the microscope. Facing bleak economic prospects and opioid overdose, wage-labor rage is alternatively credited and blamed for propelling the Sanders and Trump insurgencies. But a growing number of dissident analyses contend that this new conventional wisdom rests on lazy assumptions: Trump supporters are well to do, Sanders’ advantage is based on age rather than income, and whites aren’t really that poor anyhow compared to black and Latino people. The debate is an empirical one but emerges from general elite agita over just what to think of these people who many comprehend with the nuance that generally pertains to cartoon characters. From the liberal establishment, it’s about painting Sanders as a phenomenon rooted in white college students. On the right, it’s a plain meltdown over Trump’s usurpation. But whether it be derision or dismissal coming from liberals or conservatives the upshot is diminishing the import and possibility of class politics in the United States.

One finding that’s hard to ignore: Trump support is highly correlated to areas where the death rates of middle-aged white people, fueled by opioid overdoses, are spiking. No doubt xenophobia and white nationalism is driving Trump’s rise. But its the admixture of economic populism, however phony, that makes him so potent. Not only are people in the bottom and middle getting squeezed, many in the middle are falling into the bottom or fear that they will. Wages have been stagnant. Median household income and wealth plummeted during the Great Recession. At the same time, healthcare, childcare, higher education, housing and retirement costs have risen. Since 1979, the share of working-age American households making within 50-percent of the median has steadily declined. Importantly, class self-perception has shifted too, with many fewer Americans identifying as middle class and many more identifying as lower class. In particular, the number of young people identifying as lower or lower-middle class has skyrocketed. It should be expected that voter incomes exceed those of larger populations including non-voters. Missing that distorts analyses of any given candidates’ class appeal.

Link 2: The Elites and the Rise of Donald Trump

The “privilege” that these working class whites are looking to defend is middle class factory jobs paying between $15 and $30 an hour. These jobs generally came with decent health care benefits and often a traditional defined benefit pension, although that has become increasingly rare over the last two decades. This is certainly a privileged position compared to billions of people in the developing world who would be happy to make $15 a day. It is also privileged compared to women, whose pay still averages less than 80 percent of their male counterparts. And, it is privileged compared to the situation of African Americans, Hispanics, and other racial and ethnic minorities who have frequently been trapped in the least desirable and lowest paying jobs. But these factory jobs and other blue collar occupations are hardly privileged when compared to the high flyers in the financial industry, the CEOs and other top level managers, or even professionals like doctors and dentists. These groups have all seen substantial increases in their pay and living standards over the last four decades.

To start with the simplest case, the pundits, who are all free traders, get really blank faced when the topic of protectionism for doctors, dentists, lawyers and other highly paid professionals comes up. Just as there are hundreds of millions of people in the developing world who are prepared to do factory labor for a fraction of the pay of our manufacturing workers, there are tens of millions of really smart ambitious people in the developing world (and Europe) who would happily train to U.S. standards and work as professionals here for a fraction of the pay of our doctors and lawyers. The difference is that we have designed our trade deals to subject our manufacturing workers to competition, while we have maintained or increased the protection for our doctors and lawyers. Then we have our financial sector where the bankers benefit from “too big to fail” insurance from the government. We also exempt trades of stocks, bonds, and derivatives from the same sort of sales tax that applies to clothes, cars, and most other products.

Link 3: Ascended Economy?

The part about replacing workers with robots isn’t too weird; lots of industries have already done that. There’s a whole big debate over to what degree that will intensify, and whether unemployed humans will find jobs somewhere else, or whether there will only be jobs for creative people with a certain education level or IQ. This part is well-discussed and I don’t have much to add. But lately there’s also been discussion of automating corporations themselves. I don’t know much about Ethereum (and I probably shouldn’t guess since I think the inventor reads this blog and could call me on it) but as I understand it they aim to replace corporate governance with algorithms. For example, the DAO is a leaderless investment fund that allocates money according to member votes. Right now this isn’t super interesting; algorithms can’t make too many difficult business decisions so it’s limited to corporations that just do a couple of primitive actions (and why would anyone want a democratic venture fund?). But once we get closer to true AI, they might be able to make the sort of business decisions that a CEO does today. The end goal is intelligent corporations controlled by nobody but themselves.

The more ascended corporations there are trying to maximize shareholder value, the more chance there is some will cause negative externalities. But there’s a limited amount we would be able to do about them. This is true today too, but at least today we maintain the illusion that if we just elected Bernie Sanders we could reverse the ravages of capitalism and get an economy that cares about the environment and the family and the common man. An Ascended Economy would destroy that illusion. How bad would it get? Once ascended corporations reach human or superhuman level intelligences, we run into the same AI goal-alignment problems as anywhere else. Would an ascended corporation pave over the Amazon to make a buck? Of course it would; even human corporations today do that, and an ascended corporation that didn’t have all human ethics programmed in might not even get that it was wrong. What if we programmed the corporation to follow local regulations, and Brazil banned paving over the Amazon? This is an example of trying to control AIs through goals plus injunctions – a tactic Bostrom finds very dubious. It’s essentially challenging a superintelligence to a battle of wits – “here’s something you want, and here are some rules telling you that you can’t get it, can you find a loophole in the rules?” If the superintelligence is super enough, the answer will always be yes.

What do you think? Comments?

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