Saturday, February 10, 2018

Have we no sanity? At long last, have we no sanity?

In hindsight we've seen it building for years, how for one did reality television ever became a thing?It became a thing, because networks were tired of paying actual actors and actual musicians and the light bulb went off - people are willing to sell their souls for 15 minutes of fame... and we'll have to pay them nothing.  There is a sad figure of a reality star that wanders around the town I live, no money, little to grasp hold of but his lost few minutes.  TV implied importance, logic, reason, it was the good housekeeping seal of approval, you had been recognized and were clearly important.  As a people we aspired to be on television.

We wanted on TV, that implied success, but closely related was that success was further defined as having money.  We knew who was successful in their life by the car they drove and the house they lived in... 

If then you had a reality show AND you had a gold toilet in your fancy New York home, well you were important, successful, and everyone aspired to be you.

During this same time, illustrated in the above but also independent of it, facts simply began not to matter.  Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have convinced 35% of the United States population that the only truth is what they say.

Here are the headlines at yesterday, 2/9/2018:

Obama State Dept. official admits exchange of reports with author of Trump dossier
Democratic Sen. Warner texted with Russian oligarch lobbyist in effort to contact dossier author Steele
'Game of Corruption': Hannity says forthcoming evidence 'will rock foundations' of DC
Sen. Graham: FBI and DOJ's conduct with 'garbage' Trump dossier is 'Chilling'
Judge Pirro: 'We're on the brink of indictments' over FBI's misconduct
It is an absolute certainty that of these five things, zero are fundamentally accurate/true and/or will matter.   As this CNN piece pointed out just a few days ago and Fox News nor Limbaugh, Hannity, et. al. will every admit - Right-wing media obsesses over FBI text message story; hours later it's debunked - These demagogues lie.

And I don't think we need to add, so does our Reality Star turned President of the United States.

What a miserable little man is the Donald.  I have a nine year old son.  He was bullied at school last week and I talked with him about empathy - "son, you know what was said was not true.  Imagine how sad and miserable that little boy must have been to be that mad and say those mean things, imagine how his life must be so sad that he must try and make others feel bad to make himself feel better".  And as I did it occurred to me - could there be a sadder more pitiful human in existence than our President?   Nothing he says is true, he believes nothing, every action and reaction is in answer to the miserable voices he hears in his head.

And this is the person who we have elected.  This is the person 30+ percent of our population put their faith in... because Fox News and Rush Limbaugh wanted tax cuts yes, but one has to assume also that they are just as psychologically damaged as our President.  A simple, pitiful example, Fox had to get rid of their primary executive and most successful on air personality for sexual harassment, the President has been accused by 15 women of sexual harassment and admitted on tape of doing so, he also hired sexual harassers, actual wife beaters, and senior executives who have pled guilty in a probe of illegal activities - but the fact Hillary Clinton, a former politician who has no power, no elected office, and no voice, didn't distance herself quick enough from someone accused of such behavior on her staff years ago is a lead story in the RightWing Media for a week?

At long last, we really do have no sanity.

All of which brings me to the great Neil Postman: the age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.”
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Our Broken Contract

In the not too distance past, we were born into a community and the struggle was to find out who you were as an individual, beyond that of the people and the place where you grew up.  Today, we are born individuals and we seek communities and tribes where we can belong.

Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. 'Tis profitable for us both, that I should labour with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains upon your account; and should I labour with you upon my own account, in expectation of a return, I know I should be disappointed, and that I should in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone; You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.--David Hume
In successful places where we were born into a community there was an implicit contract meant to address the challenges in Hume's Farmer's Dilemma.  We agreed as a community to work together and pool our resources to benefit the community.  This contract is broken.  When you don't believe you are born into a community worth participating in and select a community worth your time and effort based on what you as an individual want and value, this contract becomes unraveled. 

I've written before about Peter Temin, author of The Vanishing Middle Class ... Temin argues very clearly that going forward 30% of the population will thrive and 70% will struggle to make ends meet. 

Billionaire Chris Sacca, argued on the Tim Ferriss podcast it is worse that Temin suggests -

One of you asked a question somewhere postulated that it would be something like in the future, 30% of us would have it good and 70% of us will have it bad. I actually think in this current path it’s going to be way worse than that. There were way fewer people who have it good and the rest will struggle. In the old economy where people used to have careers and pensions, and benefits, that doesn’t exit anymore. It’s been replaced by people who are called associates who work hourly, who don’t really qualify for benefits, who don’t have a safety net. There’s scary implications to that. I saw a comment recently on Twitter about how the future will basically be 10 trillionaires and the rest of us will be taking trends serving Venti espressos to each other and driving around in each other’s Ubers. Obviously, that’s intensely dystopian, but there’s a trend line pointed in that direction.
Another billionaire Ray Dalio wrote a piece for LinkedIn in October - Our Biggest Economic, Social, and Political Issue - where he argues that averages mask the consequences of our increasing inequity.  He analyzes the differences in savings, education, and other factors in the top 40% and the bottom 60% of the population and concludes as Temin and Sacca have that the trend lines are more than a little challenging.

Dalio has a new book out called Principles, which is a NYT's best seller, interestingly enough because individuals are trying to learn the principles by which they too, like Dalio, can become a billionaire.

We're selecting our tribes now based on our individualism.  The wealthy are in their own private enclaves, children in private schools, with private tutors, and friends that look and act like them. Poor kids don't get support at home, at their lousy schools, and clearly not their community.  The only support poor kids get is from other poor kids who look and act like they do.

Our President really only knows a few things - he knows how to be a rich kid who never had to grow up, he knows how to manipulate people, and he knows how to make money, or at least not squander everything daddy gave him.  He doesn't understand big economic trends or trends related to individualism.  But, those are the things that led to his emergence and his ability to manipulate people fueled it.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Disruptions Are Us

In seasons 9 and 10, the 6 primary members of the Friends cast were making $1M per episode.

Then, the networks figured that EVERYBODY wants fame and notoriety and people are willing to do anything for it and anything included little or no compensation.

Reality TV was born.  Regular folks were willing to lick whipped cream out of someone else's armpit on TV and people were willing to watch it primarily so they could say, "my life sucks, but at least I ain't licking whipped cream out of that arm pit."

Watching the tribalism on Survivor, watching people embarrass themselves on the singing shows, watching the alpha male billionaire tell other pseudo celebrities they were fired.

Then fast forward a few years and add the exponential growth of internet based platforms like netflix, youtube, facebook, and my favorite amazon prime, as well as others, and the television industry is in complete disarray and is completely disrupted.

Add in this disruption of the broader television industryan equally disrupted news print industry and it begins to get easier to see how we end up with a know nothing, sad, hateful, comic book character as President of the United States.

The differences in the media that led to Gary Hart being disqualified as Presidential because he had an affair and Bill Clinton's impeachment versus a media that wouldn't have dreamed of doing a piece about JFK's multiple affairs or Eisenhower and the wheelchair was an incremental one.  Piece by piece, drip by drip, there were incremental changes in the institutions that led to these changes in their behavior.

But, it took an exponential disruption to lead to the election of a pathological mid-level celebrity with daddy issues to a position most agreed was 'the leader of the free world'.   That will not be a honorary title Trump holds to be sure and his policies and actions make it increasingly likely that no US President will ever again be called, 'leader of the free world'.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

It's not just reporting the other side, it's lying

When I first saved these headlines, I saved the headlines to CNN/NPR/ABC/NBC and others as well, thinking the importance was the difference.  I was wrong.  The importance is how factually wrong FOX news is, how they seek not to educate but to inflame and distract.  It's not that they just differ, it's that their motives are different.  At it's best main stream news seeks to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, it seeks to hold those in authority accountable, it seeks to educate and illuminate.  Fox News doesn't do any of those, it's is the propaganda machine for the power elite, led by nothing more than a desire to lower taxes on the rich and manipulate people and the electorate for their own gains. And they, like Rush Limbaugh, etc., are trained entertainers so they lie with passion, vigor, and the unwarranted confidence and self-righteousness that can only come from the pathological.

The recent Uranium piece is clearly meant to distract from the fact Mueller is growing near his first indictment.  If you look, not even that closely, you can see this in the headlines below throughout this past year.

(For more on this, see these two videos - Stelter @ CNN - Fox News changes the subject and Joy Reid explaining the Uranium story - Joy Reid Debunks Fake News Targeting Clinton)

Fox - 10/18/2017

RALLYING CRY: DNC plans 50-state 'Resistance Summer' tour in hopes
of harnessing Trump opposition

- Omaha misstep costs Democrats a mayoral seat and perhaps more
- Sanders ally seeks upset in race shaped by guns, money problems and nudist gigs
- Sanders-inspired Dem aims to hand Pelosi a ‘spectacular upset’
- DNC chair at May Day March: 'No human being is illegal'
- VIDEO: DNC chair Tom Perez slams President Trump
- Dems' new message: Republicans 'don’t give a sh-t’
- OPINION: Liberals and media finally getting the violence they wanted


Slain DNC staffer was WikiLeaks’ source, say investigators

- VIDEO: Slain DNC staffer was in contact with WikiLeaks, reports say
- FLASHBACK: Assange implies murdered DNC staffer was WikiLeaks' source
- FLASHBACK VIDEO: Assange implies slain DNC staffer was leak source

- Trump, Russians dispute report of classified info
  - VIDEO: Napolitano says president can declassify anything under the law

  -  - Trump meets with Erdogan amid friction between US, Turkey

  -  - WH denies report Trump revealed classified info to Russians

  -  - NEWT GINGRICH: Trump owes the news media nothing


Report: Investigator Says Evidence Showing Murdered DNC Staffer Was Emailing With WikiLeaks
Monday during the 10 p.m. ET news broadcast of Fox’s Washington, D.C. affiliate WTTG, correspondent Marina Marraco revealed an investigation by former D.C. homicide detective Rod Wheeler found now-deceased Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich had been emailing with WikiLeaks.

3/30/17 10:48 a.m.
'DEVASTATING ADMISSION': Obama official should face subpoena over intel-gathering claim, says Trump ally

- SEAN HANNITY: Farkas' admission not last shoe to drop in saga of Obama spying on Trump
- MEDIA BUZZ: In a sharp contrast to Trump, press goes positive on Pence
- Anti-Trump vocab test for middle schoolers provokes parental outrage
- Trump, China's Xi to meet next week
- Putin ready to meet Trump in Finland if it hosts summit
- EU, Russia tensions rise after Putin agrees to sell fighter jets to Serbia
- Comey reportedly tried to expose Russia interference
- VIDEO: FBI director was allegedly blocked from revealing info

News Headlines 3/15 12:34
Fox -
HAND OF SOROS: Lawmakers push Tillerson to investigate US funding
of billionaire's political meddling

FoxNews -
FBI No. 2 did not disclose wife's ties to Hillary Clinton ally, records show

- Inspector general to review DOJ, FBI handling of Clinton case
- FLASHBACK: Clinton ally helped fund campaign of key FBI official’s wife
- BELLWETHER: Macedonia's ethnic tensions near the boiling point (and Soros is stirring the pot)
- TONIGHT ON FOX NEWS: Tucker interviews Pres. Trump, Bret sits down with Schumer

Monday, September 4, 2017

To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected -

In a NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof tweet this morning, he retweeted this:
 @NickKristof  12h12 hours ago
Nicholas Kristof Retweeted Maggie Haberman
Alonso died while trying to save the lives of other Texans. But, Mr. President, because he's a dreamer, he's not American enough for you?
This is, I think illustrative of part of the media's lack of understanding of Trump and those like him... It's not just that Trump doesn't think Alonso isn't American enough, Trump thinks Alonso is a loser for risking his life to save others.   Also, if Alonso isn't rich, then by Trump's definition, Alonso is also a loser.   So, if Alonso isn't rich AND if he risk his life saving others, he's a double loser and we don't need his type in the good ole' USA.

Remember - John McCain, in Trumps mind, was a loser because he got caught.  Real hero's don't get captured.

No, it's not logical, it's not reasonable, it's not even near a sane argument.  But, that is the world our President lives in.  If he had just taken all the money Daddy gave him and invested it in a mutual fund he'd have a lot more money than he has now, but, in his world he earned everything he has and he is special/privileged, and deserving of everyone's praise.  He's built his own fictional world with Daddy's money and the rest of us will suffer because of it.

Now, if there is one thing I hope for out of this disastrous Presidency it is this - the realization that the accumulation of money implies no ability to do anything else.  It implies nothing as far as morals, it implies nothing as far as being smart, it implies NOTHING.  Being able to accumulate money is a nice parlor trick, but that's about it.  One's ability to do so is almost always tied to being in the right place at the right time, some lucky freaking happenstance, or winning the DNA lottery and having folks with money or some personal characteristic that helps one accumulate it.   That we'll stop worshiping at the altar of money and those who have accumulated it, that's my one hope.

Which brings me to the title of this blog post - To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected - to those who have money for whatever reason, to whom much is given, much is expected.  The President has used his money to try and make himself feel better and it apparently hasn't worked.  When terrorist hit the World Trade Towers in the city where he grew up, Trump the billionaire didn't do one single thing to help anybody.  He didn't donate money, nothing.  If you have resources are you saving them? if you have talents, are you hoarding them?  Is buying that $200,000 car, that 3rd vacation house, that hobby farm filling a void you need filled, or is filling a void the world needs filled?  Is it helping your elderly neighbor or family member?  Is it making an impact on your community that others wouldn't be able to fill?  I want to emphasize this last point - that others wouldn't be able to fill.  This is how many successful people justify their lives, they are filling a void in the market by providing fancy wrapping paper, expensive jewelry, selling car's, loaning money, etc. that is their contribution to the world.  Bullshit.  Double Bullshit.  If it's such a need the market would fill it.  What difference are you making with the generous talents and resources you have?  To whom much is given, much is expected.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

What the Trump nationalist/protectionist don't get...

Some of the Nationalist/Alt-Right supporters for Trump are clearly racist.  They want to shut the borders because of their racist attitudes.  As the saying goes, if rational thought didn't form someone's opinion, it's probably not going to persuade them to change their opinion.  So, I don't really know that there is much that can said to persuade the racist that they are wrong.  Almost by definition they are irrational and logic will not persuade them otherwise.

However, there are other nationalist making, I think, a series of really illogical conclusions.

How many times have you heard your conservative uncle, who is generally an o.k. guy not a racist, talk about all the money the government spends on foreign aid.  If they wouldn't spend all that money, uncle argues, then his taxes could be lower.

From wikipedia -
"Wallerstein characterises the world system as a set of mechanisms, which redistributes surplus value from the periphery to the core. In his terminology, the core is the developed, industrialized part of the world, and the periphery is the "underdeveloped", typically raw materials-exporting, poor part of the world; the market being the means by which the core exploits the periphery."
We, the United States, have exploited poor countries to our benefit for hundreds and hundreds of years.  Every trade deal and every aid package had strings attached that benefited us and our interest.

And Trump, Bannon, and laid off factory workers around the U.S. are morons for not realizing this... in a classic 'bless their hearts' moment they are too stupid to know what chaos they wish for...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

On Stupidity

‘Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use  of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings  at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from ‘After Ten Years’ in Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works/English, vol. 8) Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.

"The surge in global populism is not reducible to economics. It is about racism, sexism, homophobia, and cultural backwardness. It is revenge—not of the economically insecure, but of the cultural left-behinds. The solutions that progressives and pundits are fixated on, such as reducing inequality or creating more middle-class jobs, will be insufficient to stem its rising tide.
Political attitudes are shaped by more than people’s pocketbooks—groups and places voting to restore a fading social order will vote against their future economic interests precisely because they’re looking backwards."
 What Is Really Behind the Populist Surge? - Richard Florida

Building the realm of alternative facts: Trump’s lies are enabled by years of right-wing media
After decades of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and Breitbart, conservatives can no longer tell fact from fiction
"Many in the conservative base are no longer capable of knowing truth from fiction. They have been fed BS for so long and with such relentless purpose that they no longer have BS detectors at all.
Sykes pointed out that White House press secretary Sean Spicer took this phenomenon to a new level when he said that Trump’s belief that the unfounded charges of voter fraud was evidence that the voter fraud happened, which is mind-boggling. He also noted that Spicer refused to answer a question about the unemployment rate, which suggests the administration will have no problem making up numbers to back up claims that Trump is massively improving the economy.
Furthermore, administration officials can do this in full confidence that right-wing media outlets will provide cover for their claims. "