Archives for category: Choices we make

George Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump are going for a job interview with God.

 

It so happens that I’m old enough to remember the original version of this joke…

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore were in an airplane that crashed. In heaven, they found God sitting on the great, white throne. He addressed Al first. “Al, what do you believe in?” Al replied, “Well, I believe I won the election in 2000, but it was your will that I did not serve. I’ve come to understand that now.” God thought for a second and said, “Very good. Come and sit at my left.” God then addressed Bill. “Bill, what do you believe in?” Bill replied, “I believe in forgiveness. I’ve sinned, but I’ve never held a grudge against my fellow man, and I hope no grudges are held against me.” Again, God thought for a second and then said, “You are forgiven, my son. Come and sit at my right.” God then turned to Hillary and asked, “Hillary, what do you believe in?” She replied, “I believe you’re sitting in my chair.

Old enough to remember the political jokes Romanians shared among themselves before Ceausescu, the communist dictator, was toppled during a bloody uprising…

Can’t stop wondering about why so many people continue to make the same mistakes all over the planet…
And how come ordinary people’s initial reaction to arrogance always consists in jokes being thrown at the guy who proudly wears that arrogance!

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I keep hearing about this issue and I can’t stop wondering about how parallel to each other are those defending this idea with those denying its merits.

Pro:

-Robots are eating more and more jobs so more and more people will end up hungry.
-AI will make robots so productive that it will be far more efficient to use robots than human workers.
-A decent income is a human right.

Con:

-This is a socialist move, hence it will end up in failure – no other reason offered.

As it is obvious to all, both sides score big.

Yes, including ‘a decent income is a human right’ and ‘all socialist ideas end up in failure’.

Then what are they fighting about?!?

Let me rephrase that.
WHY are they fighting, in the first place?

Because neither listen to what the other has to say… as simple as that…

Let me discuss some of the practicalities involved.

Robots eating up jobs and AI being able to continually increase financial efficiency are so evident that they do not deserve much consideration.

‘All socialist moves ended up in failure’.
We need to define socialism in order to make sense of this sentence.
Mainly because ‘socialism’ is one of the most abused words nowadays, on a par with liberalism. Sometimes they are even considered synonyms…
Well, ‘liberalism’ comes from liberty and  bona fide liberalism is concerned with individual freedom.
Socialism, on the other hand, comes from social. And is concerned with the the workings of the entire society.
The point being that there are two types of socialism. One which is ‘somewhat’ synonym with liberalism – the ‘reverse’ side of liberalism, actually, while the latter is the exact opposite.

I’m not making any sense?

Let me start from the other side.
All forms of socialism which have failed have been excessively centralized forms of government. And it was because of that excessive centralism that they had failed, not because of being ‘socialist’. The evident proof being that the same thing has happened with all right-wing dictatorships, which had used the very same excessively centralized decision making mechanism – the totalitarian government …

Which brings us back to the problem at hand.

For Universal Basic Income to work – or Guaranteed Basic Income, as some insist on calling it, it has to be financed.
Through taxes, right? Which means that those owning the robots would have to be somehow convinced to give up a huge proportion of their profits… Then why bother in the first place…? Why start any businesses, at all?
We’ll have the government run the whole show? Remember what history teaches us about centralized decision making?

So?!?

Well, not all is lost while there’s still hope!

Let me rearrange the arguments.

We not only live in an inherently limited space, with inherently limited resources, but we’ve also finally started to understand our predicament. Which calls for as much efficiency as possible.
Only for a different kind of efficiency than that we’ve accustomed ourselves to.

Until recently, we’ve been trying to get as much money under our belts as possible. Without much regard for anything else.
That’s why we’ve been cutting down secular forests, feeding almost all the fish we’ve been pulling from the oceans to the domestic animals we were raising for their meat, polluting our breathing air, selling our fellow humans which happened to had a different skin color than ours into slavery… As if there was no tomorrow…

Slowly, we’ve started to realize that this won’t work for very much longer.

That no matter whether we’re responsible for the global warming – or if it’s real at all, sooner or later we’ll exhaust the planet.
OK, it is highly plausible that we’ll discover/learn to use new classes of resources.
But this eventuality doesn’t constitute, in any way, a valid reason for us to continue squandering the meager resources we have at our disposal.

Hence the need for increased efficiency.

Only this has to be a different kind of efficiency. The kind that focuses on minimizing waste instead of maximizing profits. The kind that recycles because it makes obvious sense, not because it is cheaper.

Along the same path we’ll discover that it would make a lot of sense to help the less developed nations to catch up with the most advanced ones.
For starters, because the ‘advanced economies’ no longer need cheap workers. They use robots instead.
Secondly, because better living people tend to have less children than those struggling to survive. And we’ve already agreed about the planet being rather limited…

Nothing too fancy… until now, right?

Well, the next item will be trickier..

Remember that Ford had raised dramatically the wages he paid to his workers?
With tremendous results?

OK, his reasons were not the ones, generally but erroneously, attributed to him.
He didn’t do it to ‘encourage’ his workers to buy cars from him… or because of philanthropy…

Actually, it was the turnover of his staff.

At the time, workers could count on about $2.25 per day, for which they worked nine-hour shifts. It was pretty good money in those days, but the toll was too much for many to bear. Ford’s turnover rate was very high. In 1913, Ford hired more than 52,000 men to keep a workforce of only 14,000. New workers required a costly break-in period, making matters worse for the company. Also, some men simply walked away from the line to quit and look for a job elsewhere. Then the line stopped and production of cars halted. The increased cost and delayed production kept Ford from selling his cars at the low price he wanted. Drastic measures were necessary if he was to keep up this production.”

But, whatever Ford’s reasons were, the long term results have been abundantly clear.
Nowadays people who build cars are being paid well enough to afford buying the same kind of cars they are building. At least in the advanced economies…

What happened was that Ford, in order to keep the assembly line going, paid his workers as much as he afforded to. With spectacular results.
While nowadays most employers tend to ‘compensate’ their employees with as little as possible. Which makes perfect economic sense… doesn’t it?

The same economic sense which used to drive us into “cutting down secular forests, feeding almost all the fish we’ve been able to pull from the oceans to the domestic animals we were raising for their meat, polluting our breathing air, selling our fellow humans which happened to had a different skin color than ours into slavery… As if there was no tomorrow…”

See what I mean?
Instead of attempting to mandate a ‘Guaranteed Basic Income’, calculated by the central government and financed through forcefully levied taxes, how about paying our employees as much as we can afford instead of as little as we possibly can?
Not only that this is would be a considerably shorter way to get more people out of poverty than any scheme concocted by any government, it would also have the same snow-ball effect as Ford’s wage increase had.

Economists describe this as Rostow’s ‘take off effect’.

 

For attaining adequate finance for take off it is necessary that:

(a) The community’s surplus over consumption does not flow into the hands of those who will utilize it by hoarding, luxury consumption or low productivity investment out-lays;

(b) Institution for providing cheap and adequate working capital be developed;

(c) One or more sectors of the economy must grow rapidly and the entrepreneurs in these sectors must plough back a substantial portion of their profits to productive investment; and

(d) Foreign capital can profitably be utilized for building up social and economic overheads.”

 

Obviously, any attempt to instate a guaranteed basic income, (except for those too young, too old or otherwise un-able to pull their weight, of course) would grind any ‘take-off’ to a stand-still.

I'm not a racist

And you know what?

I believe him!

‘Cause racism is much more than meets the eye at first glance…

Dictionaries teach us that a racist is “a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
But there’s a problem with this definition.
When was the last time when you’ve met a self proclaimed ‘racist’?

‘Racist’ is label. Affixed by others, on people they do not agree with.

Meanwhile, those who entertain, or just display, such sentiments see, or just describe, themselves as ‘defenders of their own kin’.
As ‘fighters for justice’ while those belonging to ‘the other side’ see them as villainous oppressors.

In fact, there are two kind of ‘racists’. The bona fide and the con-artists. Oftentimes both inhabiting the same persona….
The bona fide are ‘somewhat scared’ about what’s going on around them and in dire need of social support – the reason for them huddling together with like-minded people while giving up a sizeable portion of their free will/intellectual autonomy.
The con-artists are those who mimic the fears experienced by the bona-fide in order to gain control over them. Or to otherwise exploit the situation. Oftentimes the con-artists interpret their roles with so much passion that they end up convincing themselves…

Donald Trump is neither.

He has convinced himself that he is so above everything and everybody that nothing will ever hurt him.
He’s not afraid of anything. He cannot, ever, be a bona-fide racist.

Neither is he a ‘fake’ one. He’s simply too smart for that. He actually knows that pretending such things would be bad for business.

Then why did he say something so awful?

It was a Freudian slip…

Back in the 1980s, psychologist Daniel Wegner suggested that the very system which aims to prevent Freudian slips may be to blame. According to his theory, subconscious processes are continuously scouring our thoughts to keep our innermost desires locked away. When such a thought occurs, instead of remaining quiet – ironically – the thought may be announced to the conscious brain, causing you to think it.

Then it’s only a matter of time before the truth slips out. “When we’re thinking about something we’re priming the relevant words, they’re being prepared to be spoken in case we need them,” says Motley. With so many options, the word we end up choosing can be revealing.

s---house

“$hithouse, not $hithole”

Spoken words have three dimensions.

Their ‘intrinsic’ meaning, the context where the speaker ‘introduces’ them and the manner in which they are received by those who hear them.

Evaluating ‘words’ along these three dimensions offers us the opportunity to gouge not only what the speaker wanted to say but also his general attitude towards the subject/audience and what the audience feels about the whole thing.

‘I could shoot someone!’

US Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is so confident in his support base that he said he could stand on New York’s Fifth Avenue “and shoot somebody” and still not lose voters.

Donald Trump is just trying to build up the audience for Thursday’s debate, for which we thank him,” said a Fox News spokesman.

‘I tried to get that house!’

I wanted to get that house to build a building that would have employed tremendous numbers of people. But when the woman didn’t want to sell, ultimately I said forget about it.”

Well… not exactly…
First of all, he wasn’t trying to build anything bigger than a parking lot.
Secondly, he didn’t say anything like ‘forget about it’. He had been taken to court by the owner of the building – a widowed lady in her 70’s, where he was told by the judge that eminent domain was not intended for that kind of situations.

Despite these two incidents he had been nominated by the Republican National Convention to run for US President in 2016.

That bad was the Republican’s need to win those elections.

‘Grab them by the pussy!’

I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

(Billy) Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.

Trump later brushed aside this incident as “locker room banter” while his “former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN that the American people would appreciate that Mr Trump “talked from the heart. We’re electing a leader, not a sunday school teacher”“.

Eventually, enough of the ‘American People’ obliged for ‘the Donald’ to become the 45th President of the US.
Proving:
1. How desperate those Americans  were to elect a Republican to the White House and
2. How despondent the rest of the American People were at the thought of Hillary Clinton manning the office where her husband had ‘not had sex with that woman’.

‘Sh- – hole.’

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, after being presented with a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from those countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” said Raj Shah, a White House spokesman. “Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” said Raj Shah, a White House spokesman. “Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”

The difference being that this was President Trump speaking, not the candidate…

Yet while a biased media hyperventilating is no virtue, Trump’s great flaw is that he keeps giving them ammunition. One minute he’s riding high, the next he’s running for his life.

The “s—hole” storm is a perfect case in point.

Still basking in the afterglow of getting tax reform passed, Trump confidently convened a bipartisan group of congressional members for a televised meeting Wednesday on the “Dreamers” and related ­immigration issues.

The president presided in such CEO fashion that even CNN — yes, CNN — declared the meeting remarkable and Trump’s leadership commendable.

The next day, the president boasted about the compliments — and then acted as if he were ­beloved from sea to shining sea. At a follow-up meeting, he unleashed the furies with his derogatory ­remarks.

Did he forget that Democrats are out for his blood? Didn’t he learn anything from the torrent of White House leaks that bedeviled his early months?

Considering that the last excerpt comes from an article authored by Michael Goodwin and  published by Fox News, is it possible that at least some of Trump’s followers have had enough?
Will he be able to oblige them?

‘I have two leftovers. I call them leftovers. They haven’t been very nice to me. I will beat them. After I beat them I will be so presidential,’ Trump told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, referring to Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the other two GOP candidates in the presidential race.

‘You’re going to be so bored, you’re going to say this is the most boring human being I’ve ever interviewed,’ Trump continued. 

‘I think if I act very presidential I’ll be dull, but that will be fine,’ he added.

Let me first clear up something.
I’m an engineer. Converted to sociology, indeed, but still an engineer.
So don’t expect any fancy wording or very sophisticated philosophical considerations!

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that we’ve just arrived on this planet. Just ‘you and me’, not ‘us humans’.
Being sent by some alien civilization to see what’s going on here.
Like we, ‘the civilized people’, study the natives still living in the Amazonian forest – minimum contact and so on, no intention what-so-ever to invade the territory or any other-way purposely intervene in the natural evolution of things.

I don’t know about you, but my report would be something like this:

The most interesting aspect of the planet is the manner in which the intelligent inhabitants have evolved.
Those living in a relatively small and isolated corner of the landmass have somehow developed the most consequential culture and then imposed some very important aspects of it on most of the rest.

Even more baffling is the fact that all major religions observed on this planet start from the same tenet.

the golden rule

The only thing which singles out those who had managed to impose their culture on most the rest being that they apply the rule in a ‘pro-active’ manner.
‘Do unto others what you wish others to do unto you’ versus ‘do not do unto others what you don’t like being done unto you’. ‘Normative’ versus ‘preemptive’.

– Why are you so baffled about any of this? The universal law of evolution maintains that things which are not suitable enough for the environment where they happen to exist will eventually disappear… Each culture produces a certain civilization – modifies the environment according to its wishes/as a consequence of its mistakes, and the other cultures have to adapt/evolve to the new situation… nothing new or peculiar here…

– Nothing new, indeed, except for the fact that while most of the cultures on this planet learned to ‘live and let live’ – “do not do unto others…”, while the two most successful ones have adopted the slightly but very consequentially different “do unto others…”, a.k.a. ‘who’s not like us is against us’….

– Is there any explanation for the most aggressive attitude being the most successful one?
Until now, at least… considering that the two cultures which share the ‘do unto others what you wish to be done unto you’ attitude seem to ‘have worked themselves up’ into a rather ‘confrontational situation’… both intra and inter culturally…

– The only putative explanation I can come up with for such a divergent evolution is that Plato, the seminal intellectual figure of the ‘doers’, taught his followers not only that the world is knowable but also that he who has reached a learned state must, forcefully if necessary, lead his peers to the ‘light’ he had found while the ‘significant others’ believe that the learned ones should speak out, at their discretion, only when somebody asks them to.

.

.

– One more thing.
The immediate consequence of Plato’s teachings was that Alexander – an emperor who was tutored by Plato’s eminent student, Aristotle, had conquered most of the then civilized world only to die, untimely, a drunkard’s death… intoxicated by booze, intoxicated by power… who cares?

The current President of the United States describes himself as a man always making good use – as a manner of speaking, anyway, of all opportunities he ever identifies.

grab them by the pussy

Erotically as well as financially.

trump eminent domain

“Trump turned to a government agency – the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) – to take Coking’s property. CRDA offered her $250,000 for the property – one-fourth of what another hotel builder had offered her a decade earlier. When she turned that down, the agency went into court to claim her property under eminent domain so that Trump could pave it and put up a parking lot.

Peter Banin and his brother owned another building on the block. A few months after they paid $500,000 to purchase the building for a pawn shop, CRDA offered them $174,000 and told them to leave the property. A Russian immigrant, Banin said: “I knew they could do this in Russia, but not here. I would understand if they needed it for an airport runway, but for a casino?” “

Now, after climbing a new pinnacle of popularity, he has become, himself, a very lucrative opportunity.

donations for coming out

“The Hill reported Friday that Bloom worked with campaign donors and tabloid media outlets to arrange compensation for the alleged victims and a commission for herself, offering to sell their stories. In one case, Bloom reportedly arranged for a donor to pay off one Trump accuser’s mortgage and attempted to score a six-figure payment for another woman. The former ultimately declined to come forward after being offered $750,000, the clients told The Hill.”

The first question which crossed my mind after reading this was:
‘OK, so why would any one bring all this up? What difference does it make if those women get some money for telling their stories? It’s the facts themselves which are really important here, right?

‘But what if?’ was the second one…
What if, after seeding enough ‘oblique doubt’ into people’s minds, facts start to look rather different than at ‘face value’?

I told you so

Remember that XX-th century aphorism, “The best defense is a good offense”?
And the smoke screen tactics pioneered by the military but also very important to those who study the Bible?

“When studying the Bible with teens, the term “smoke screen” refers to a commonly deployed tactic designed to avoid exposure of the heart. Smoke screens, though not unique to teens, are important to understand and overcome.

Each of us have areas in our lives and places in our hearts we do not want exposed. Sometimes we are afraid of what others may feel about us; sometimes we realize these areas in our lives and places in our hearts need to change, but we don’t want to change them or even believe that we can.

Practically, smoke screens are often the emotion we express, the issue we lead with, or the confusion we claim, in order to deflect what is really going on in the heart. When emotions are present, the words that are flowing out of a teenager’s mouth are rarely communicating what is actually driving them.

Getting past a smoke screen takes understanding and the willingness to go deep. It takes understanding and depth to remain calm when our teen is using emotions to derail a conversation that might be getting to the heart of the matter at hand. We learn depth when we are willing to look into our own hearts and be honest about the smoke screens we use.”

ignoramus

Imagine now that Reagan, or his speech writer, would have used a single different word …

It isn’t that people are ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

Cambridge Dictionary lists ‘riddle’ as being “a type of question that describes something in a difficult and confusing way and has a clever or funny answer, often asked as a game

What if there’s way lot more than this, hidden ‘in plain sight’ under the ‘difficult and confusing’ cloak draped over each of them?

“Black sheep on a white field;
He who knows them, leads them.”

“My father, the son of a subsistence farmer and his barely literate wife, used riddles to try to foster critical thinking in his daughters.”

This particular one is a classic in Eastern Europe and I stumbled on this version while Googling for an English translation. The quote belongs to Daiva Markelis, a Lithuanian American Professor with a PhD in linguistics… go figure… I included the part about the father because it illustrates perfectly the point I’m trying to make with this post.

That words, and letters, mean nothing by themselves.
We are the ones who attach meaning to each of them.
We are the ones who ‘lead’ them… even if sometimes unknowingly…

And precisely this is what riddles are for!
To tell us that languages, and letters, can and have to be mastered.
That unless we get to really know them, we’ll never be able to lead them where we want them.

But there’s an even deeper reason for riddles enjoying so much popularity.
Knowingly or unknowingly we somehow ‘feel’ that being familiar with letters and able to speak is not enough. That no matter how well we ‘know’ a language we’ll never grasp the full intended meaning of what is being spoken around/to us.

Yes, when speaking we should be forthcoming… to the tune of not becoming self detrimental, of course… and when listening we must remember to look for the intended meaning, not jump to conclusions according to our own opinion on the matter…

From the airlift which kept the flame of liberty alight in West Berlin to “Trump’s decision (to stop supplying arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria) appeared to catch both the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department off guard. Officials at both agencies, who would normally be informed of changes in U.S. policy toward arming the Syrian Kurds, said they were unaware of any changes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity. It was unclear whether the Trump administration notified the Kurds of the move before telling the Turks. Nor was it how much significance the change would have on the ground, considering the fight against Islamic State is almost over.

Ich bin ein Berliner

What happened to “Ich bin ein Berliner”?!?

I’m afraid that  too many people continue to not understand what’s ‘the big issue between the free world’ and the authoritarianism which still encroaches it. They should indeed ‘go to Berlin’!

What would you prefer?

Long and thin or short and thick?

How about long AND thick?
How about REASONABLY long and thick?
Who cares about how long or thick it is IF it stays stiff for long enough?

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