Archive for the ‘Skepticism’ Category

First Thoughts on Aziz Ansari “Sexual Assault” Scandal: Jan 16, 2018

January 16, 2018 14 comments

By now, most of you might have come across one or more articles on the Aziz Ansari “sexual assault” scandal. In case you have not, here are a few takes- Aziz Ansari Is Guilty Of Not Being a Mind Reader; Before We Burn Aziz Ansari Perhaps Some Self-Reflection Is in Order and The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari. Of course, there are also the white feminist moron types pushing this incident as yet another opportunity to push their agenda even further- #MeToo hasn’t gone too far—it’s just getting started; Aziz Ansari Is The Creep Every Woman Deals With; No, the woman’s story about a night with Aziz Ansari isn’t the worst thing to happen to #MeToo and How the Aziz Ansari Allegations Opened Up a New Frontier in the #MeToo Conversation. To put it another way, every mediocre female journalist with an opinion, or axe to grind, is writing about this news item.

There seem to be two distinct types of reaction to this story- even within the supposedly “liberal” media-sphere. On one side, you have the more pragmatic people who see that retrospective classification of bad or awkward sex into sexual assault would be disastrous for the long-term success of any worthwhile ‘MeToo’ type moment. On the other side you have more than a few young women fame-seekers.. I mean ‘third-wave feminists’ who are trying to use this incident to get their 15 minutes of fame and perhaps a career upgrade. The second group is, of course, willfully oblivious to the fact almost all male support for any ‘MeToo’ type moment would evaporate very quickly once they see other guys being accused of sexual assault for merely having less than stellar sexual chemistry- especially in the internet age.

What do I think about all this? And why did I wait for a couple of days before writting on a topic which I could have posted about within an hour of that story spreading on Twitter? To make a long story short, I have been through a similar situation many years ago- and yes, everything turned out well for me. But before we go there, let us talk about how the strategies which worked for me then can still be used, perhaps even more effectively, by somebody in Aziz Ansari’s situation. The very short version of what worked for me in such situation is as follows: a] extremely aggressive but plausible counter-allegations against the accuser invoking inherent white racism; b] making anybody involved in adjudicating such a situation tread very lightly for the fear of being exposed as a racist and c] researching and exposing anything said, written or implied by people adjudicating such a matter that shows evidence of even a slight racial bias.

So, here are my thoughts on this alleged scandal. Firstly, I think there is a strong racial component to this story. Some of you might disagree, but my considerable experience over all the years suggests that this particular incident would never have been publicized the way it was if Aziz Ansari was white. Some might say.. ” but, haven’t most of the celebrities shamed by the #MeToo movement been white?”. And my answer to that is- White celebrities exposed by this movement so far like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose etc did things which are either clearly criminal or were gross abuses of their power to employ the people they are accused of assaulting. Aziz Ansari’s “crime” was that the delusional white girl he hooked up with was not impressed enough by the sexual encounter- though she did (by her own admission) blow him a couple of times on her own free will.

Now tell me, how many white celebrities have been recently accused of sexual assault because the sexual experience was less than stellar (according to the woman). Now I am not saying that such a thing won’t occur in the future, but let us face the obvious.. what are the chances that one of the few semi-famous non-white people in the entertainment industry just so happened to be the first semi-famous person in USA accused of sexual assault by a white women because the sexual experience was not stellar- according to her. While I can certainly go into the theories put forth by other people, as well as my own, on why this delusional racist white women accused Aziz Anasri of sexual assault- let us instead focus on the far more important question. How did we reach the point where a woman can accuse a guy (even if he is non-white) of sexual assault just because the consensual sex was mediocre or awkward?

A simpler way to understand this issue is to consider the conditions under which people will provide false testimony. While some people might lie under oath to escape prosecution, others do it because they think or feel that doing so carries little to no personal downside. For example, accounts of medieval trials of witches and ‘secret jews’ by local authorities or the church are rife with blindingly obvious examples of ludicrous exaggeration, pile-ons by multiple witnesses, exhortations to protect the virtues of white christian women and an otherwise lack of anything which looks like due legal process. Paradoxically, accounts of common civil and criminal trials from the same era or even the same set of judges show far more consideration being given to contemporary evidentiary standards, detailed testimony, punishment for perjury and far greater adherence to something approaching due process. But why? Why were some perpetrators treated so differently from others?

In my opinion, it comes down to who is being accused and who is doing the accusing. To put it another way, an accuser who is a relatively higher position in that society as compared to the accused can typically get way with perjury, lies, bullshit, exaggerations beyond what he or she could get away if the accused was of a higher social station than her. Some of you might protest.. “but Aziz Ansari is a multi-millionaire semi-famous person in the entertainment industry”. And to that, my answer is- the delusional racist woman who accused him of sexual assault is white and still thinks that her relative social station is higher than that of a non-white man such as Ansari- as was the case twenty years ago. As it turns out, she miscalculated badly and her relative social position in relation to someone like Ansari is rather different in 2018 than 1998. But racist idiots will learn no other way.

I will probably write a second post on this topic based on future developments in that story and reader comments.

What do you think? Comments?

Could Oprah Winfrey Win Against Donald Trump in 2020 Election: 2

January 14, 2018 6 comments

In the previous post of this series, I wrote about why Oprah Winfrey might be a much better presidential candidate for the democratic party that most of it current slate of generic neoliberal candidates. Some readers appeared to think that I was endorsing such an action. The truth is a bit different. The point I was trying to make was that somebody like Oprah was far more likely to win a presidential election against Trump or any other republican than somebody like Booker, Gillibrand, Harris or any other talentless neoliberal fraud.

Having said that, let us now try to answer some of the potential objections raised in the comment section of that post..

1] More than one person (1, 2) noted that Oprah does not seem to have any overall principle and that she is just a far more successful main-stream female version of Alex Jones. You know what.. I can certainly agree with both those points. But then ask yourself- what was the guiding principle behind Clinton, Bush43, Obama, Trump and pretty much every person elected to that office? Were they in it for anything beyond gaining power, becoming famous and using it to make money in their later years.Can you think of a single president who ran for office for reasons that were not completely selfish and self-serving?

Also, when did people who pushed scams and lies become ineligible for that office to date? Do you remember Bush41 and his infamous pledge on taxes and lies about Iraqi atrocities in Kuwait? What about the many lies, scams and neoliberal deregulations pushed by Clinton42? What about Bush43 and his extremely expensive lies about Iraqi WMDs? What about Obama44 and his many lies about standing up for the average person? To make a long story short, most people elected to be president have always been greedy, vain and amoral hucksters. An Oprah presidency would not represent a deviation from this established norm.

2] One comment (3) suggested that white and latino men would not vote for a black woman. But would that matter? You see, the majority of white men have voted for the republican presidential candidate for the last 20-30 years. Guess what, we still had Clinton42, Obama44 and almost had Gore and Kerry. To put it another way, the vote of white men is not that important for democratic candidates in the presidential election. In fact, HRC could have won in 2016 if the number of blacks voting for her was similar to Obama in 2012. Democrats know that they will not get the majority of blue-collar white male votes.

One of the more interesting effects of Trump’s presidency has been the extent to which it has resulted in increased support for democrats among Hispanics, especially the younger ones. In other words, it would be extremely easy for democrats to gain new Hispanic voters and increase turnout even if their candidate was a black woman. While latino men may not like voting for a black woman, the other option (a republican presidency and congress) is far worse. So, ya, I do not foresee much of a problem with getting latino men to vote for a black woman.

3] I also think that her lack of professional political experience is no barrier to people voting for her, largely because so many “professional” politicians at both the national and state level have not delivered for anybody other than themselves and their rich donors. Also, that is the reason Trump won the republican nomination and the presidency. In other words, her lack of political experience is actually a plus if she decides to run for the presidency. Furthermore, even a brief overview of her interviews over the years suggests that she is a very smart woman- even if she has used that talent mainly to enrich herself.

The election of Trump in 2016 has also changed public expectations of who is seen as electable and what speech or behavior such a person can get away with. Even a series of major scandal concocted by right-wing media types about Oprah is unlikely to affect her chances of winning the democratic candidacy or presidency, largely because democratic and, increasingly, unaffiliated voters simply do not care as long as the person in question was seen as an improvement over Trump. Also, the negative effects of ‘tax reforms’ and other neoliberal policies passed by the republicans will be too evident in 2020 for people to care about some right-wing media inspired personal gossip about the democratic candidate.

4] We also cannot discount the possibility that Oprah might decide that promising single payer health care, inexpensive university education etc is a far better strategy than just sticking to the tired and discredited neoliberal line. She has, in the past, repeatedly shown a talent for picking up emerging trends which turned out to be highly profitable for her later. You should not, therefore, be surprised if she decides to go ‘full Bernie’. I should add that doing so would be quite easy for her since she has never been publicly associated with neoliberal policy positions in the past. Moreover, she could use her new public positions on those issues as a brand differentiator between her and other establishment democrats in the primaries.

Such a strategy would be particularly devastating against establishment democrats such as Booker, Harris and Gillibrand who are little better than third-rate actors spouting neoliberal “commonsense” bullshit. I mean.. why would consumers prefer third-rate imitators when they can get the first-class professional, especially if she goes full-bore populist. I should also point out that her long and generally well-liked tenure as a TV show host makes her far less likely to face the kind of public distrust and voter apathy that plagued HRCs campaign in 2016.

To be clear, I am not saying she would make a good, let alone great, president. My point is that she would be an almost unstoppable candidate in the current political environment and would likely win in a general election against Trump or any other republican candidate.

What do you think? Comments?

Could Oprah Winfrey Win Against Donald Trump in 2020 Election: 1

January 10, 2018 10 comments

By now, everyone on the internet must have read about rumors that the famous talk-show host and billionaire, Oprah Winfrey, is considering a run for the presidency in 2020. The public and media reaction thus far be divided into broad categories. Some see it as a bad idea and yet another sign at continued american decline into becoming an internationally irrelevant country. Others see it a good thing and believe she has a high chance of success. Here is my take on it..

1] First, let us start by looking at a list of democrats who might run for the party presidential ticket in 2020. With the notable exception of Bernie Sanders, other democratic candidates are simply incapable of inspiring enough non-voters and independents to go out and vote for them on election day. Even worse, many supposed rising “stars” such as Corey Booker, Joe Biden, Deval Patrick, Kamala Harris, Martin O’Malley, Kirsten Gillibrand etc are neoliberal clones who simply do not have the appeal such candidates used to have in the pre-2008 era.

In other words, with the exception of Bernie Sanders the democratic party simply does not have a possible 2020 presidential candidate who can inspire non-partisan voters to vote for him or her. As we saw in the 2016 election, the ability to inspire your own voters to come out and vote for you made all the difference between victory and defeat. Furthermore, the almost certain lack of improvement in condition for most people between now the 2020 election makes it highly likely that candidates who try to run as the harbingers of the old status quo will not win that election.

2] The democratic party’s pathetic and sad obsession with Trump’s alleged “collusion with Putin” and his mental health is unlikely to make any difference in the end. As I have said in previous posts, the obsession of establishment democrats and corporate media with the “russia collusion story” is increasingly seen by average people as signs of their desperation and frustration, rather than evidence of any real crime. I mean.. if democrats they had evidence for anything close to what they claim, Trump would have been impeached or jailed by now.

Most people outside of partisan democratic voters see all investigations into, and leaks about, “Trump-Russia” and “Trump-Putin” connections as little more than an attempt at witch-hunting by deep-state and establishment types. Most relevantly for 2020, almost a year of investigations and leaks have not improved the ratings of the democratic party and its electoral candidates beyond a level of statistical significance. Remember that the vaguely centrist democratic candidate for the recent Alabama senate election won by less than 2% even though the republican candidate was an alleged child molester and batshit crazy.

3] The election of Trump in 2016 has made every public figure of some fame and wealth start considering a run for some sort of electoral office. Why bribe.. I mean ‘lobby’ elected officials when you can just become one and pass laws and rules to benefit yourself? That is why people such as the rich aspie known as Mark Zuckerberg have demonstrated interest in running for public office- in his case, by pretending to act like a human being. And he is not alone. More than a few famous actors, rich public loudmouths and other assorted insufferables will seriously consider running for the 2020 democratic ticket, a seat in the house or governorship.

But why is this happening now? Why did it not occur in the past? Well.. the short answer is that most people have lost faith in experts or professionals, largely because they have been exposed as posturing incompetents and two-faced liars. In the case of democratic party, the two presidential terms of Obama were nothing more than an 8-year long neoliberal disaster for the 99%. That is why the democrats lost so many governorships and seats in state legislatures to republicans during that period. To put it another way, trying to win elections by invoking your ivy-league education, credentials or soaring rhetoric is no longer a viable strategy outside a few coastal states.

But what does any of this have to do with Oprah’s chances of winning as a democratic party candidate in 2020? What makes her more or less likely to win against Trump or any other republican candidate than your generic establishment democratic politician.

4] Oprah, in my opinion, is a far better presidential candidate for democrats than their stable of generic neoliberal types for the following reasons. a] She has massive name recognition and is seen as a political outsider, both of which helped Trump win the presidency in 2016. b] Having a connection with the democratic party but no strong positions on most major issues allows her to craft her positions on them in ways that are not possible for most other democratic candidates, and that again is similar to what helped Trump in 2016. c] She has very good media presence and the ability to play the media far better than so-called “professional” politicians, which is once again like Trump in 2016. d] She is a far smarter self-promoter and has a much better grasp of audience dynamics than “professional” politicians and Trump.

Now that I have told you how Oprah is like Trump, let me tell you about areas in which she is much better than him- starting with her life story. Unlike Trump, she can make the claim that she her success and wealth came from her own abilities, rather than inherited wealth. Also, she does not appear to have career-ending skeletons in her closet of the kind which might sink her presidential campaign. Furthermore, it would be very hard to successfully level personal criticism at her because she is a woman and black, both of which matter far more now and in 2020 than they did a decade or two ago. Now combine this with a way of disgust and dismay among democratic voters and independents towards Trump and republican politicians by 2020, and it is easy to see why somebody like Oprah could win a presidential election against Trump, or pretty much any establishment republican candidate, in 2020.

Will write the next part of this short series based on further developments in this area and reader comments to this post.

What do you think? Comments?

On Long Term Social, Economic and Cultural Effects of Job Insecurity: 3

January 7, 2018 10 comments

In the previous part of this series, I talked about how the upper-middle class and the aspirational types (the main lay supporters of neoliberalism) are now getting screwed over by the very ideology they enthusiastically supported. Now some of you might say.. “I have not seen that yet” or “I still see people in STEM getting good jobs, marrying, having kids” etc. To which I say, enjoy that delusion while you can still afford to bask in its fake promise of maintaining the status quo.

While believers in the old status quo might wish to continue in their belief that not much has changed, the reality is far different. There are however a couple of caveats we need to address. Firstly, the effects of job and career insecurity are not obvious if you look at the 65-and-over group within the upper-middle class. Most people in this group have good pensions, fully paid-off houses (often more than one) and other investments as they were the main beneficiaries of income and asset inflation which we saw until 2008.

The second group which has still not experienced the full assault of neoliberalism are credentialed professionals in certain areas such as medicine, older upper and middle management types etc. They have so far been partially protected from income and career instability because of their cartel-type behavior or residual usefulness to super-rich. The most important words in the previous sentence are “so far”. This will almost certainly change for credentialed professionals and many older management-types within the next decade for reasons beyond their control.

Of course, as many of you realize, the upper-middle class is larger than licensed doctors and the alumni of 10-15 business and law schools. Which brings us to other previously upper-middle class or inspirational type careers. Let us start by talking about professors (of all types) who work and teach at universities or colleges. Have you ever wondered how many of those who perform the jobs of professors (research or teaching) in such institutions are permanent employees and how many are casual or contract employees? And why does that matter?

The simple answer to that question is that between 70-90 % of those who perform that tasks traditionally associated with being a professor in post-secondary educational institutions are underpaid and overworked temporary employees. In teaching, this takes the form of ‘adjuncts’ who are hired each term and paid wages typically associated with janitorial staff. In research, this takes the form of post-docs, graduate students and research associates who have a slightly more secure income stream than adjuncts but almost no real chance for the promised upward career (and income) mobility.

But the ‘work’ is getting done.. right? Well.. not quite. Academic areas which have the worst degree of such neoliberal exploitation, such as biomedical research, also have the most amount of unreproducible research. As I might have mentioned in the past, the vast majority of biomedical research produced today is either the result of extreme cherry-picking, outright fraud, pedantry or clever rewriting of the obvious. There is a very good reason that progress in the sciences, as measured by products or services that improve the quality of your life, has gone down to almost zero over the last two decades- inspite of breathless fake press releases which suggest otherwise.

Ask yourself.. which great breakthrough benefiting the lives of more than a handful has come about from all the money ‘invested’ in biomedical scientific research over the last two decades?

Do you see any radically new or better drugs for diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, pain, alzheimers, schizophrenia, depression, various types of kidney failure, coronary and cerebrovascular disease.. you know, the sort of diseases that affect and kill most people. The conventional ‘explanation’ for this state of affairs is that all the ‘low lying fruit have been picked’. But is that really so? And how did people in previous decades go about finding effective treatments for diseases when they often “knew” much less about those diseases than we do today?

For all the hype about targeted genetic engineering through zinc finger nucleases, CRISPR/Cas9, TALEN, Gene Drive etc- how many people have been successfully cured of any disease with such methods? Now some of you might say.. “it is because of excessive regulatory or ethical considerations”. Sadly, that is not the case. Most human diseases (by number of affected people) with known genetic predispositions are not single or even ‘few’ gene diseases. To make a long story short, most disease conditions with a hereditary component are basically impossible to treat without highly risky large-scale genetic tinkering.

And this brings me to the issue of income and career security in the pharmaceutical industry. As some of you might remember, many hundreds of thousands in that corporate sector have lost their jobs and often their careers over the last decade. Even the most optimistic propaganda about the fate of these people has to acknowledge that things have been pretty bad for most people laid off during those years. But why did that happen in the first place? Why were there very few large layoffs in that sector for almost 50-60 years and why did so many of them occur between 2005-2013?

How could a corporate sector legendary for providing stable and well-paying jobs and careers for many decades start to resemble the american manufacturing sector after “free trade agreements” within less than eight years? Interestingly, I tackled this particular issue in one of my earliest posts on this blog. The short version of the story is the financialization, “new” management techniques and the obsession with productivity and metrics killed the proverbial goose who laid golden eggs. Nowadays pharma makes money by yearly increases on drug prices, stopping or co-opting generics after patents run out and a whole host of other “legal” shenanigans.

Who needs to develop new drugs when you can sell old stuff at increasingly higher prices. Also selling expensive niche and often barely effective drugs (aka most newer anti-cancer drugs) is another way to pad the financial spreadsheet. But have you ever wondered what happened to the lives and mental world of the couple hundred thousand people who got have had to abandon that field or even worse, swing from one insecure job in that area to the next? Before this happened, they used to be solidly upper-middle class and often spouted distinctly neoliberal beliefs about “competition”, “meritocracy” and other assorted BS.

Nowadays, the general sentiment among that group is that they were scammed. Some are more forgiving than others, but the dominant feeling among most of them is that they were exploited and abused. Oddly enough, you never heard sentiments like these from them before 2005-2008. I wonder why.. Even the ones who are still employed in that area after going through multiple layoff cycles have become extremely cynical people who now are more focused on pretending to work as expected than do anything innovative or profitable for their employers. It will be a long time, if ever, before the pharma sector recovers its ability to develop truly revolutionary new drugs.

Did I also mention that the demographic profile of western countries is also highly unfavorable for any spontaneous recovery in that area. The point I am trying to make here is that the two areas which I am most familiar with have undergone highly damaging and essentially irreversible changes with regards to income and career security. In the next part of this series, I will talk about the deleterious effects of neoliberalism on the income and career prospects of people in the area of general areas of information technologies and computer programming.

What do you think? Comments?

On Long Term Social, Economic and Cultural Effects of Job Insecurity: 2

January 1, 2018 2 comments

In the previous post of this series, I wrote about one of the many reasons why neoliberalism-fueled capitalism lacks the ability to survive past a decade or so. The main point made, in that post, was that embrace of the neoliberal ideology causes extremely low, to zero, fertility in its most devout foot-soldiers (the credentialed classes, professionals and aspiring types). In other words, those most likely to explicitly, or implicitly, support neoliberalism do not produce enough offspring to continue their parent’s ideological belief system.

But why should that matter in the first place? Isn’t neoliberalism attractive enough to gain new followers? Didn’t neoliberal political leaders such as Reagan, Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, Bush43, Obama etc once win elections in western countries? Why were people once enthusiastic about neoliberal ideas such as “efficiency”, “reform”, “innovation” and “free trade” in the 1980-2008 timespan? Well.. the simple answer to that question is that most people are willing to go along with bad ideas as long as they are not personally hurt by it and receive a few trinkets in exchange for support.

People kept on electing neoliberal politicians for a couple of decades as there was no immediate downside for doing so in that timespan. Some also did so because they thought it would hurt racial minorities and poor people. In exchange for that support, they saw their house prices go up, the “stock market” boom etc. They were also able to buy inexpensive stuff manufactured in other countries and for a time, things looked good. It should also be noted that neoliberalism did not initially “disrupt” things such as healthcare, education, housing, pensions or affect job security to anywhere near the levels seen today.

And this brings us to focus of this post, namely the issue of job and career security (or the lack thereof) under neoliberalism. One of the major, if not main, factor responsible for the extremely low fertility rates among neoliberal-ideology worshiping classes is the lack of job and career insecurity. Now some of you might find this a bit puzzling. Shouldn’t job and career insecurity cause fewer poor people to have children than the upper-middle class and aspiring types? Others might also point out to anecdotal examples of upper-middle class types having more than one or two kids.

Anecdotes and exceptions do not negate an obvious statistical trend. The simple fact is that upper-middle class (or aspirational types) under 45-50 with few exceptions have no kids, one token kid or less frequently two kids. Contrast this to the rest of the population which seems to be doing noticeably better in that regard. But why? A simplified answer is as follows: People with mediocre job or career prospects are mentally prepared for more of the same in the future, and therefore keep on living out the rest of their lives. People from the upper-middle class (or aspirational types) recognize the instability of their currently well-paying jobs and careers and are far more obsessed with maintaining what they ‘have’ than living out the rest of their lives.

But just how stable (or unstable) are the jobs and careers which provide income levels or a social standing typically associated with the upper-middle class? The answer to that question partially depends on which country you live in, but in the case of USA the vast majority of such jobs and careers are now highly unstable. But how do you define who is an upper-middle class or an aspirational type in 2017, especially since the definition of that term has changed over the decades? So let us talk about a bit about the role of class as opposed to income in determining who is upper-middle class.

Social class has far more to do with factors beyond income. For example- certain occupations such as police, prison guards or people who work in other unionized, well paid but manual jobs will never be part of the upper-middle class. On the other hand, even an associate professor at some poorly known university will always be part of the upper-middle class or at least credibly aspire to belong to that class. To put it another way, social class is about a combination of education, lifestyle, mores and aspirations rather than just income. But what does any of this have to with the long-term social, economic and cultural effects of job and career insecurity?

Part of the answer to that question lies in one of my older posts- The Upper Middle Class will be the Big Losers in Class Warfare. The main point I made in that post was that class warfare would be far more disastrous for the top 2-10% of society largely because they are the public face of rent seeking behavior, inequality, elitism, snobbery and fraud. While they might justify their behavior by saying that they were “just doing their job” or “following orders”, the rest simply don’t care for those explanations. Whichever way you look at it, the upper-middle class types are the enablers and enforcers of all abuses perpetrated by elites.

So why do they do it? Well.. there are many reasons but it mostly comes down to an expectation of reciprocity from the elites. The ‘deal’ as seen by most upper-middle class and aspirational types is as follows: they do the dirty and disgusting work of maintaining the position of elites in society for which they are rewarded with better paying and significantly more secure jobs and careers. Now, this ‘deal’ worked out pretty well in USA from the mid-1940s to somewhere between 2005-2008 (though the cracks were obvious as far back as the mid-to-late 1990s). But then it fell apart and has since shown no signs of even partial revival.

We are now in an era where a smart person with a degree or two in subjects such engineering, chemistry, or any other area of science or technology has the same job stability as a person working at Wal-Mart for a year or two. And this problem extends well beyond STEM. Consider the fact that programmers making 200-500k a year in any given corporation in Silly Valley dread turning 40 years old because of age discrimination. Or consider the fact that most law graduates from universities that are not in the ‘Top 10’ or 15 have career prospects only marginally better than paralegals.

Even a degree which require more “soft skills” and once promised decent jobs such as an MBA is no longer a guarantee of getting a decent and relatively stable job unless you graduate from one the ‘Top 8’ or 10 programs. I could write entire books on the situation of those who were planning for a career in academia or even teaching in schools. To make a long story short, most jobs which require a degree or two (or more) have become as insecure, unpleasant and unstable as poorly paid jobs which require a high school diploma.

And then there is the issue of career stability. A lot of people who fall out of one of these higher paying jobs never seem to get a better or equivalent one in their area of competence. Many have to eventually abandon the field they spent half their lives working to get inside, in the first place. Some of you might, quite justifiably, see the plight of these people as an example of ‘the chickens coming home to roost’. But we also have to consider that this state of affairs is a marked and highly destabilizing shift in the relationship between elites and upper-middle class as it has existed for most of post-WW2 era.

In the next post in this series, I will try to explore how these destabilizing changes are manifesting themselves in various corporate and industrial sectors- especially as it concerns age related differences in attitudes towards the status quo.

What do you think? Comments?

On Long Term Social, Economic and Cultural Effects of Job Insecurity: 1

December 26, 2017 30 comments

A couple of weeks ago, an older acquaintance casually asked me about whether I intended to “settle down” someday soon. While that question was not unusual coming from somebody of her generation, it got me thinking about what it means to be able to “settle down” in the current era. I have a feeling that many, if not all, of you have been in a similar conversation with somebody a few decades older than yourself. As some of you might also know, well-paying and stable jobs with nice pensions used to be the norm in western countries since the end of WW2 till sometime in the mid-1980s. However the old ways continued for white-collar jobs, such as the one she had, right until the late 1990s-early 2000s.

In other words, career and income stability was the default state of affairs for most of the time since 1945. Now some of you might say that things used to be bad in even earlier eras such as the 1880s-1920s etc. My counterpoint is that there is a reason why life in those eras was so unstable and uncertain for everybody and is ultimately the reason why we had two world wars, multiple bloody revolutions and civil wars in the half century before WW2 ended. That is also why people like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco etc ascended to power and why right-wing militarism was ascendant in countries such as Japan during that era. Let us just say that there is as reason why so many developed countries implement sweeping socialist reforms in the aftermath of WW2.

The point I am trying to make is that previous experiments with laissez-faire capitalism have reproducibly lead to similar results across a number of countries and cultures. To put this in a contemporary perspective, there is a reason why Trump won the presidential election in 2016, the ‘leave’ side won in the 2015 Brexit referendum and so many European countries have seen the resurgence of right-wing nationalist parties. Anybody with more than half a brain can now see that Fukuyama’s “End of History” was just another example of the delusional ivy-league fantasy of power and control. All these warning signs have, however, not had much of an impact on those who are pushing for more neoliberalism. All these visible signs of public dislike for their policies, has if anything, increased their enthusiasm for furthering them.

But how does any of this play out at the level of the individual, family, society, nation-state etc? As many of you know, I have written many posts in the past about issues related to these changes such as spread of social atomization (link 1, link 2), collapse of normal relations between the sexes (link 3), loss of the normal life cycle of people and families (link 4), widespread mercenary attitudes among people (link 5, link 6), loss of public faith in institutions (link 7) etc. Most of what I have written on this topic thus far is, however, mostly about how people react to neoliberalism as state policy and some short and medium scale social changes. What about long-term changes? What would be the potential long-term social, economic and cultural effects of income and career insecurity?

Well.. as you must have realized by now, this is a large topic which cannot be adequately addressed in two or three posts, let alone a single one. Furthermore many potential long-term effects cannot be neatly characterized into distinct categories, since there is a lot of feedback and cross-talk among various aspects of these effects. So let me start by making the most obvious observation about the future of neoliberalism. Based on what I have seen to date, it is unlikely that neoliberalism (in any of its flavors) can be reformed into something gentler and less rapacious. The biggest beneficiaries and supporters of neoliberalism will keep on pushing it till they cease to exist- and you can read that statement in more than one way.

As a corollary, neoliberalism (in any form) is not sustainable beyond the next decade (at most)- but not because of its negative effects on the environment or some similar delusional reason. The real reason behind the unsustainability of that ideology has to do with its effect on society aka the host. Neoliberalism, you see, is a lot like a parasite or cancer in that it requires a host or system which operate on very different principles than itself. However every increase in its numbers and extent of spread compromises the normal functioning of the very system and environment which make its “success” possible.

Let us start by talking about one of the most obvious effects of neoliberalism, but one that is seldom connected to it- extreme sub-replacement fertility. While there has been a consistent worldwide reduction in rates of fertility over the last few decades, even in traditionally high fertility countries, the sub-replacement and still dropping rates of fertility in “developed” countries stand apart from the rest due to a number of factors. Firstly, the rate drop in those countries is due to factors beyond elimination of excessive childhood mortality. To be more precise, financial and career costs of having children combined with negative utility of having them are, by far, the main reasons for persistently sub-replacement fertility rates seen in “developed” countries.

Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, the most significant drops are seen in those who are actively engaged in neoliberal “competition”- either for jobs and career or money. While people with this profile were once the minority, the increase in neoliberal-style “competition” for things as basic as jobs which pay a decent wage and are fairly stable has made this particular type of childlessness very common in younger sections of the population. There is of course, the irony, that those who are most invested in furthering their career through the neoliberal paradigm (and thus its most loyal foot soldiers) often have no children or one token child conceived when they are in their 40s.

While my views on having or not having children are neutral, it is worthwhile to note that part of reason neoliberalism will fail is that its most devout foot-soldiers (credentialed classes, professionals, aspiring types) will be neither truly rich nor capable of producing enough devout new worshipers of that ideology. To put it another way- even without other factors, neoliberalism as an ideology will decline as the number and influence of its most devout followers falls with every passing year. In contrast to this, blue-collar workers and not-so-connected white-collar types have no vested interest in supporting neoliberalism- irrespective of their fertility rates. To make a long story short, neoliberalism (like parasites and other ideologies) cannot survive the demise of their vectors.

In the next part of this series, I will try to focus on a related problem- namely, the fact that all those aspiring and credentialed/professional types who worship neoliberalism will themselves never have a secure livelihood or become truly rich.

What do you think? Comments?

Establishment Democrats and their Obsession with ‘Bipartisanship’

December 21, 2017 9 comments

As some of you might know- I am not a big fan of Christmas, and the holiday season in general, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I find this whole thing to be highly disingenuous given that it is clearly a consumerist holiday which pretends to be about something “higher”. Other holidays such as Halloween are far more honest about what they are, namely crass consumerism and drunk girls dressed like whores. Secondly, I detest any holiday which requires stores and restaurants to be closed for even a single day of the week. What is the whole point of a celebration if you cannot get a nice lunch or dinner at the restaurant of your choice?

Also, most public places seem to be filled with too many screaming kids during the holiday season. Then there is the issue of office buildings being subject to yet another round of poorly thought “upgrades” and “repairs” during this season. All in all, this is why I have not written posts on any profound topics within the last couple of days. And today will be no different, as this post is about a fairly mediocre topic that I had considered writing about a couple of times in the last few years. I decided to finally write about it because of the supposed opposition by establishment democrats to the blatant corporate giveaway aka the Republican Tax Reforms of 2017.

Some of you might say- “but, isn’t it good that establishment democrats were finally united in their opposition to this corporate giveaway by the republicans?” Well.. that is a superficial way of seeing things. A little digging under the surface reveals that more than a few democrats opposed corporate giveaways for reasons other than it being a bad idea. Rather, they seemed to be more upset that the bill passed today did not care about their input. In other words, more than a few establishment democrats would have been perfectly happy with supporting a similar corporate giveaway as long it was not that obvious and blatant. And this brings me to why establishment democrats are so obsessed with ‘bipartisanship’ for the passage of major legislation.

Conventional “wisdom”, aka bullshit spewed by paid shills in the mass media, suggests that establishment democrats care about ‘bipartisanship’ because they are “good and decent” human beings who care about maintaining the “civility” of discourse, due “process” and “dignity” of institutions. But is that really the case? Establishment democrats had no problem passing multiple rounds of corporate deregulation in 1980s and 1990s, welfare “reform” in the 1990s, opposing single payer healthcare in 1990s and 2000s, cheerleading for many “free trade” treaties and agreements, supporting the endless losing war on “terror” since 2001 and voting for any defense budget regardless of cost.

In other words, establishment democrats have been consistent and enthusiastic supporters of policies and institutions which immiserate the bulk of their voters. But what does this have to do with their obsession with ‘bipartisanship’? Well.. think about all the legislation and policies which the democrats did not pass because it supposedly lacked “bipartisan” support. Do you see a common theme running through such legislation and policies? In case you did not, establishment democrats most often talk about ‘bipartisanship’ as an excuse to not pass legislation or policies which would benefit the majority of their voters. A smaller, but still significant, percentage of ‘bipartisanship’ talk is also used to justify their support for pro-corporate legislation and policies.

But why is that so? Why do establishment democrats pretend to care so much about maintaining “bipartisanship”? What do they get from attempting to keeping up that charade? Who are they trying to deceive? The answers to this question start become obvious once you start looking the how the two main political parties in USA are funded. To make a long story short, there is almost complete overlap between the list of major financial contributors to both the republican and democratic party. While there a few standout exceptions, it is fair to say that both parties and their elected representatives are beholden to corporate and non-corporate financial backers who also provide cushy post-political jobs to legislators who further their interests.

While this explains why democrats are so willing to work with republicans on legislation and policies that screw over almost everybody else who voted for them, how does it explain them invoking ‘bipartisanship’ far more often than republicans? To understand that, we have to consider another factor- namely, the profile of those who vote for each party. Since the passage of civil-right regulations by democrats in the mid-1960s, they have not been able to win the majority of white voters in almost every national election and most regional ones. Now, we can spend thousands of words trying to explain the stupidity of many classes of white voters voting for republicans- but that is not the focus of this post. Instead, let us focus on who votes for democrats, especially establishment democrats.

To make a long story short, establishment democrats get most of their votes from the following constituencies: non-whites, poorer whites especially women, younger whites, whites with professional degrees and university education- especially women and truly well-off whites. As you might have noticed, the bulk of their voting constituencies stand to benefit from progressive legislation such as raising the minimum wage, single payer government healthcare, inexpensive tax-funded higher education, rules against corporate monopolies etc. Establishment democrats therefore have to at least put up a facade of being devoted to the causes of the so-called 99%. But how can they put up that facade and then weasel away from those promises- one election after the other?

This is where the concept of “bipartisanship” becomes so central for establishment democrats. They can use that concept, again and again, to explain to their voter-base why they are incapable of passing legislation which would improve their lives. Increase in minimum wage.. sorry, we could not reach a bipartisan agreement on it, Medicare for all.. sorry, there was not bipartisan support for that idea, taxpayer funded university education.. sorry, there was too much opposition from republicans and so on. On the other hand, they can still participate in republican initiated gutting of the social safety net, repealing regulations and rules that hinder corporate excess and pretty much anything demanded by their corporate backers- because they are “common sense reforms” and the results of “bipartisanship”.

Readers might have noticed that this particular scam by the democratic establishment is not working as well as it used to, especially after 2008. A significant percentage of their voter-base now sees through this bullshit and has stopped voting in elections or switched their vote in protest. That is why the democratic party lost so many state level seats, governorships, house, senate and presidency since their last high-point in 2008. That is why a Jewish guy in his mid-70s came so close to beating the anointed democratic candidate of the establishment in 2016 democratic primaries. A similar process among the republican voterbase is key to understanding why Trump won the republican primaries and then the presidency in the 2016 elections.

So let us call ‘bipartisanship’ by its real name- collusion against the interests of the majority of their respective voterbases.

What do you think? Comments?