Archives for posts with tag: Donald Trump
Fake news

“Federal lawmakers on Wednesday released samples of 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads conveyed the wide range of influence Russian-linked groups tried to enact on Americans…”

Let’s zoom out in order to gain some perspective over all this.

Fake news are defined by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries as “false reports of events, written and read on websites“.

The way I see it, “fake news” have a lot in common with counterfeit currency.
In more ways than one!

First of all, most money in current use is ‘fiat money’.
We are dealing with either printed pieces of paper or otherwise useless pieces of metal.
We ‘trust’ them for trading purposes simply because we are convinced that the institution which stand behind them – Central Banks, free(ish) markets and law enforcement, will do what they are meant to do. We trust that the Central Banks will not print too many of those pieces of paper, that the free(ish) markets will set a reasonable price to everything and that the police will manage to weed out (most of) those who try to circulate fake money.
Not even a return to ‘real’ money – a.k.a. gold,  wouldn’t insulate us from crooks. Gold coins can be, and had been, tampered with in so many ways. Human greed is a very powerful motivator but not necessarily a good mentor.

Which brings us to the reason for why fake money came to be.
Simply because some ‘industrious’ people ‘make’ them and some other, equally greedy, people knowingly distribute them.

In conclusion, we wouldn’t have to deal with fake money if money wasn’t essential for an efficient free market and we would have a lot less of it if greed were not such a widespread attitude. And no, a cash-less economy would not solve the problem. A printing press is no longer essential for faking money. Hacking skills have become  a good enough substitute.

Let’s translate this rationale to (fake) news.

We need to know what’s going on around us so we’ve developed an equivalent to the financial system. The mass media.
Which has a more or less equivalent set of ‘guardians’.
The ‘printers’ are responsible for the equivalence between their ‘product’ and the reality it represents while the market (readers, that is) is responsible for ‘setting the price’.

Of course, there are also differences.
‘Law enforcement’ has indeed a role to play in the news industry but its scope is a lot narrower than in the first case. And rightfully so. The ‘information’ market needs to be a lot more ‘flexible’ than the one dealing in ‘economic goods’. There’s a lot to discuss on this subject, I’ll leave it here.
There’s also no Central Bank to ‘tug at the sleeves’ of those who ‘jump the shark’.

As a consequence of these two differences, the ‘counterfeiters’ have an easier life and the consumers/victims a far greater responsibility for what’s going on. Simply because the consumers/potential victims cannot rely on any third party to do their job. To sniff out the ‘bad thing’.

But what if ‘it’s the thief who plays the victim’?
That very much depends on who the ‘thief’ is!

Let’s go back in time for a short while.
First to the American Revolutionary War. During which the British attempted to crash the American economy by injecting in it enough counterfeit money to cause hyperinflation. “No economy, no more war.” The British did manage to produce and distribute a huge amount of fake money yet the outcome was not the intended one. “Even when at one point the amount of counterfeit currency in circulation may have exceed the amount of legitimate currency, the economy hung on by its eye teeth and never fully collapsed.”
One and a half centuries later, the British had found themselves at the receiving end of the same game. “…during World War II the Nazis almost destroyed the credibility of the British pound sterling by producing near-perfect forgeries, The Telegraph reports. By the end of the war the forgeries were so rife that Bank of England notes would not be accepted by any neutral country on the Continent “except at a very large discount…”.
Hitler was even less successful than the British had been but the inflicted injuries were huge nonetheless.
Now, would Hitler have attempted this on his own, without the British establishing a precedent?
We’ll never know… Sufficient to say that the US has also used fake money, obviously fake this time. For propaganda reasons and not as an attempt to ‘crash the economies’ of the countries they were fighting.

To close the circle, we must ask ourselves how successful would Putin’s trolls have been if Trump wouldn’t have beaten so hard the ‘birther’ drum…

Seriously now, propaganda is a very efficient weapon. Maybe more efficient than guns.
But, and in total contrast with a gun, propaganda is useless against really determined people.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me” is true. But only as long as those being called names are in the right state of mind. As soon as they start feeling hurt, all hell comes loose.

If you think of it, Trump’s birther campaign, fake as it was – he had admitted that much, eventually, was a very successful ‘fake news campaign’. It had established Donald Trump as  shrewd  media manipulator.
Unfortunately, it had an even worse outcome. It had very much helped those who wanted the American public split into warring parties.

And who are now pushing these parties further and further apart.

PS. While researching for this post, I found out that “fake news” has been declared ‘word of the year’ for 2017. A fitting development… last year’s ‘champion’ was “post truth”…
What next? Doublethink?

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trump on corker

 

corker on WH

OK, let me wrap my head around this.

So Corker doesn’t have enough guts to run for re-election without Trump’s blessing but has enough to openly tweet his mind about what’s going on in the White House?!?
A reality show run by the supposedly most powerful man on Earth?
Who’s about to transform the “Great” America into the biggest laughing stock of the world?

Am I the only one wondering whether any of these can be described as “adult” behavior?

There’s a glimmer of hope though.

401K is way bigger than 65K. And big enough to rise above 65K+57K+62K… I know, adding this numbers up doesn’t make much sense – there is a strong possibility that many individual readers may have liked more than one of these tweets, but still…

For some people the fog may have started to rise.

The fog generated by the fake news manipulated by the ‘Great Deal Maker’, that is.
Compare the comments which accompany those tweets.

 

 

A whole century has passed since the events described in Erich Maria Remarque’s Nothing New on the Western Front/Im Westen nichts Neues.

Not that we’ve learned much during this time…

1968

Brezhnev sends Russian troops to freeze back the Prague Spring.
Ceausescu, the communist dictator who ruled Romania at that time, refused to take part. He had even summoned enough courage to chastise the ‘outside intervention’.

Ceausescu praga

“No excuse can be found for…”

1978

Ten years later he was driven around London in a state carriage by Queen Elizabeth.
As a pat on the the back for his apparent independence from Moscow, as an attempt to weaken the communist ‘camp’ … both at the same time…
Never mind… We, Romanians, were very proud at that time while Elizabeth – and her advisers, must have had quite a heart-burn… specially later, after Ceausescu had started flying his true colors…

Ceausescu cu Lizica

1989

Romania’s was the second to last European communist regime to disintegrate and the only one which had ended in a self inflicted blood bath.  Ceausescu, and his wife – ‘the Presidential Couple’!, were shot at the end of a very short trial during which both had been found guilty of genocide, treason and subversion.

1989 Cu excavatorul la revolutie2005 Niagara

2014

Twenty five years later, Russia’s rising star was lionized by some in the European media.

the emperors clothes

Hungary’s Prime Minister was jokingly hailed as “the dictator” by the President of the European Commission.

Orban the dictator

 

Currently the Americans are trying to determine whether Putin has somehow influenced their last electoral process,

Putin Trump Hamburg

while Orban continues to build walls around Hungary.

hungary wall

Small wonder then for these two to become bosom buddies, regardless of what drives each of them…

Putin honorary

“Putin will receive the honor in the Parliament during his visit to the 2017 World Judo Championships in Budapest on Monday.”
“Putin will attend the judo by invitation of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. It will be Putin’s second visit to Hungary this year.”

 

 

Seven years ago somebody was elected to the Senate of the United States.

Despite

“Candidate’s Words on Vietnam Service Differ From History”

Six years later, another guy became POTUS despite the newspaper who published the article above having mounted quite a vigorous campaign against him.

The really interesting thing is that the second guy uses the information published in the newspaper seven years ago to smear the first guy while constantly accusing the same newspaper of being a relentless purveyor of fake news…

trump blumenthal

Now, which is stranger?

That two guys had managed to muster enough public support to get elected into public office, despite their shoddy relationships with the truth?

Or that newspapers continue to bother themselves?

“Fabrications have long been a part of American politics. Politicians lie to puff themselves up, to burnish their résumés and to cover up misdeeds, including sexual affairs. (See: Bill Clinton.) Sometimes they cite false information for what they believe are justifiable policy reasons. (See: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam.)

But President Trump, historians and consultants in both political parties agree, appears to have taken what the writer Hannah Arendt once called “the conflict between truth and politics” to an entirely new level.

From his days peddling the false notion that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, to his inflated claims about how many people attended his inaugural, to his description just last week of receiving two phone calls — one from the president of Mexico and another from the head of the Boy Scouts — that never happened, Mr. Trump is trafficking in hyperbole, distortion and fabrication on practically a daily basis.”

a goal-oriented person or team works hard to achieve good results in the tasks that they have been given”

For the purpose of this post it doesn’t matter whether the goal has been assigned by somebody else or has been chosen by the  would be goal-achiever itself.

The problem, as I see it, is that those who focus too much on achieving a specific goal usually fail.

For at least two reasons.

First of all the goal itself might not be appropriate. Never was or something had changed.
For example, I had learned hard to become a mechanical engineer. Worked as one for 5 years and enjoyed every minute of it. I still love to fix things around the house.
But I gave it up when I realized I couldn’t feed myself in post communist Romania.

We consider ourselves to be rational. If this were true, all human goals would have been both appropriate and achievable.
How many of them really are?
Then why are so many of us willing to go to extreme lengths in order to achieve certain goals, against all signals suggesting that they should desist?

Even if the goal is reasonable, for instance to loose 20 pounds in a certain situation, if the would be achiever is excessively focused on that single goal it may try to reach it too soon, be unhappy during the entire duration of the process or even both at the same time.

So, should we give up all our goals?

That would be a goal too… so… no, obviously!

What I’m trying to say is that goals should be our stepping stones instead of being considered, any of them, ultimate pinnacles.

Before going any further I’d like to discuss the alternative suggested by Shane Parrish in at least two different articles.

Goal-oriented people usually fail, and other things I’ve learned about succeeding at work 2015 in BusinessInsider.com and

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, 2013 in Farnamstreetblog.com

There’s no real alternative? He is still focused on a specific goal, “success”, only he is wise enough to consider it in a reasonable way – as in ‘create as little disturbance as possible during the process of achieving it’?

Well, this is indeed a very important step forward.

Yes, forward!

I never said I was willing to give up goals altogether so I (think I) know where I’m headed!
The point is, and here I agree completely with Shane Parrish, that we should try to achieve our goals WITH at least some of those around us instead of being ready to reach them by CRUSHING, one way or another, everybody who might dare to even utter the smallest dissent.

In other words, there is only one legitimate goal that each of us is entitled to pursue at any length. Survival. All others are figments of our imagination and should be followed with discretion. Otherwise our actions might turn against us. And hamper our own survival.

Let me give you a very hot example.

Last year the American People had chosen their President.
This is a two step process. In the first one the parties nominate their candidate and then the entire people is asked to pick one of them for the job.

Almost the entire world knows that the American political scene is divided between the Democrats and the Republicans and that having your man at the helm is a big bonus for any party – the latter being valid in almost all countries, not only in America.

During the first of the two electoral steps, the Democrats have nominated Hillary Clinton while the Republicans have chosen Donald Trump. Apparently two completely different individuals.
A consummate ‘political insider’  versus a successful business man with a history of getting things done, seemingly at all odds.

Lets see how differently these two guys really are.

Hillary Clinton had identified, correctly, a huge number of issues and and formulated reasonable promises about each and every one of them.
Donald Trump had identified a huge pool of discontent and energized those who were waddling in there aimlessly.
Different indeed but only the opposite sides of the same coin. Political marketing at its  best. Or worse?

Hillary Clinton was a person who had no problem in using her, and her husband’s, official position and authority to achieve her goals, even if that meant bending the rules. Using a personal e-mail server, installed in a private setting, wasn’t a proper thing to do for a Secretary of State, was it?
Donald Trump is indeed a very successful entrepreneur. Only he did his ‘thing’ in a very ‘special’ domain. One subjected to various zoning laws and other heavy rules imposed by the ‘all powerful’ government.
I’m also going to remind you of the fortune he had inherited from his father – made using comprehensive political connections – and that Trump had used part of his money to curry favors with various political figures.

“Trump later told Politico, “As a contributor, I demanded that they be there—they had no choice and that’s what’s wrong with our country. Our country is run by and for donors, special interests and lobbyists, and that is not a good formula for our country’s success. With me, there are no lobbyists and special interests. My only special interest is the United States of America.”

And it’s not only that he had no qualms in using his money to convince politicians to do what he wanted them to do, he also tried to use governmental power to ‘convince’ an old lady, under the pretext of ’eminent domain’, to sell her house, at half price, so that he could build a limousine parking lot for a casino in Atlantic City.

These two candidates no longer seem to be so different anymore, do they?
Both equally ‘goal oriented’ – a.k.a. power hungry – and equally determined to use whatever ‘energy’ they could concentrate in that direction, including governmental power.

Then how come each of them had been nominated by their respective parties?
Considering that both parties paid lip service to the need to simplify the government…

Could it be that the real goal of both parties was to gain the Oval Office?
At all costs to the country at large?

I’m not going to pretend now that the survival of the US is in danger, just because Trump, currently acting like an elephant in a China shop, is the perfect opportunity for Putin to inflict as much damage to the US as he possibly can.

You see, Putin didn’t meddle into the election process because he had any hopes that he would be able to influence any of Trump’s decisions. Putin simply knew that Trump, once elected, will, in a ‘natural manner’, wreak havoc in Washington. What else could he have asked for?

Well, this may prove to be yet another ‘goal oriented’ failure… Had Clinton become President she would have probably continued to encourage the malignant growth of an already humongous government… this way the American People has the chance to wake up. Because of the tantrum Trump is throwing around…

And, maybe, the parties will also learn something.
Democratic government means governing for the country as a whole, not for the group which happens to control the power.
Real democracy is about honestly discussing the issues before the elections, so that as many as possible of the potential problems to become evident before the people having to choose a direction or other. Whenever the parties try to lure the population towards a particular ‘goal’, using any of the various tools devised by the political marketeers, the electoral process is no longer democratic.
In that case the whole thing has been demoted to ‘mob rule’. Which is dangerous.

Over reliance in our ability to choose a goal or to devise/run a system (government) is the deepest pitfall ever dug by humankind. For ourselves.

donald-trump-grab-them-by-the-pussy-cartoon

Or is it the (unforeseen?) consequence of some very ‘intelligent design‘?

Most of my right wing friends – and some from the left, are fretting about taxes and angry about the fact that they, the taxes, are ‘forcefully’ collected by the democratically elected government.

In their interpretation, the majority dictates, by the power of their numbers, the amount of taxes that the ‘fretters’ have to pay. The rationale being that ‘the poor’ help themselves, ‘democratically’, to the hard-worked, or other-wise rightfully owned, private property of the wealthy.
This rationale is a little fallacious – I see taxes as a form of ‘protection fee’, received by the state/government for maintaining a functional environment where everybody, including the wealthy, can take care of their lives and businesses – but this is a different subject.

Others warn us that “The Most Intolerant Wins” and that we must not, in the name of tolerance, tolerate any form of intolerance.

Isn’t it funny that under the current law a minority of Americans, composed significantly of ‘less educated, lower middle class people’, have imposed, upon themselves but also to the entire planet, a right wing President who has wowed, among others, to lower the taxes?

popular-vote

education-and-income

Any complaints?

PS.
Even stranger is the fact that 18% of Trump’s supporters said they didn’t thought he was qualified for the job but that they had ‘nonetheless voted for him, as did 20% of those who felt he did not have the necessary temperament.‘.

Further more “Of people who gave their opinion of the candidate they voted for, 41% strongly favoured them, 32% had reservations and 25% said they disliked the opponents.”

 

What can we make of it?

Momentous as it was the result was no landslide.
Only a little less than 120 million people bothered to vote – out of the 250 million or so who are old enough to do it – and most of them, 47.7% vs 47.5, have chosen the ‘looser’.

Actually I don’t like the notion of anybody winning – or loosing, for that matter, a democratic election but that’s a different subject. Stay tuned, I’ll probably cover it soon.

Then Trump is no Hitler, as some have feared.
Even if he is riding a similar wave of popular discontent like the one used by Hitler to rise to power, and uses the same political tricks, Trump is nothing more than the ultimate opportunist.
Check his body language.Turn off the sound and just watch him.

the-most-corrupt
While Hitler was a mad ideologue absolutely convinced of his own righteousness Trump’s only conviction is that he ‘deserves’ as much as he can ‘grab’.
Now, that I’ve mentioned ‘ideology’, in this respect it is Clinton who belongs to this category – people who conscientiously use an elaborated ideology as a compass to find their bearings and as a ‘looking glass’ to read the fine print on the maps they try to navigate. But this is a subject I’ll have to come back to at a little later.

No landslide but still momentous.

A lot of people who had not bothered to vote before have come out in droves.

Trump, the business man, and the Republican Party – which now controls both Houses of the Congress, cannot afford to forget this.
Also, they must not forget about the other half, the one which had chosen to remain silent, on Tuesday, of the electorate.
The fact that they didn’t vote, then, doesn’t mean that they didn’t have any opinion.
And they are simply too many to be discarded.

“How come we haven’t seen this coming?”

I keep hearing these laments from my fellow sociologists.

Well, the raw data was all there. Compiled in the opinion polls result sheets, only that we could not interpret them right.
Trump had felt it in his gut – and acted on this hunch, but we had not been able to see it coming despite our ‘scientific’ methods and hugely accurate number crunching machines.

Which brings me to the main topic of this post.

What happened these days is yet another proof that the math used by the number-crunchers is nothing but a (very accurate) language and that ‘science’ is nothing but a (meta) tool that can be used to make sense of various aspects of the surrounding reality.
The results obtained, by us, through the use of this tool and expressed with the help of that language depend primarily on our skills and intelligence and only secondarily on the quality of the tools used in the process and on the precision of the language used to present them.
Not to mention the fact that it was us who developed the tool and formulated the language…

I ‘warned’ you I’ll come back to ‘ideology’.
This is yet another tool. As I mentioned before, we, all of us, use it as a compass with which we try to find our way through the world and as a magnifying glass with which we try to make sense of what’s happening to us.

‘But you just said we’re using science ‘to make sense of various aspects of the surrounding reality’?!?’

Well… we’re using both.
Whenever confronted with anything new we have to make a snap decision. Try to assimilate it with something we already know or investigate it.
It is our personal ideology which kicks in first and tells us what to do. And each time that we choose to look in our mental drawers for something that might fit in the new situation we remain in the ideological realm and continue to use ideology as a light beacon – what happens to be inside that beacon is brought to our attention while everything else doesn’t exist for us.
Only if we choose to investigate, science kicks in. But not even then we are not entirely free from ideology. Each time that the investigative process leads us to anything which contradicts something that had been already ‘filed’ in our ideological cupboards we find ourselves in a huge dilemma. How to proceed from there on. Continue to trust the scientific method or revert to the safety of the already settled?

This is why individual responsibility is hugely important.
And why no one should ever consider that he is the sole repository of the entire truth.

This is why we need to be constantly reminded about the limited nature of our understanding.
And the democratic process has been proven, time and time again, invaluable in this respect.
As long as it was allowed to proceed freely and it was conducted with respect towards all members of the community involved.

 

trump-nbc-favorability-trump

trump-temperament-nbc

1478656414_trump_treatment_of_women

womens-votes

evangelicals-votes

white_catholics-votes

clinton-honesty-nbc

whether-to-continue

direction-of-the-country

trump-wins

New York Times, Elections 2016

Like always, the dispirited enough to stay at home have given a carte blanche to the  desperate enough to ‘jump into the unknown’!

And no, this is not exclusively about the ordinary voters!
They’ve already sent plenty messages stating clearly that they’ve had enough.
But those whose job was to make things work had chosen not to hear.
Then, when it had become plenty obvious that the boil had been festering for long enough, most of them had stepped aside – leaving at the forefront of the ‘operating table’ a ‘surgeon’ whose long resume was anything but capable of generating trust and a ‘willing’ and ‘enthusiastic’ ‘wannabe’ with no experience.

And now they are trying desperately to find an ‘honorable way out’…

 

the-final-countdown

 

“We’re leaving together,
But still it’s farewell.
And maybe we’ll come back
To earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We’re leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?

It’s the final countdown.
The final countdown.”

the-final-countdown-2

the-most-corrupt

“Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the Presidency… she is protected by a rigged system” said the paragon of free trade who attempted to use eminent domain in order to evict an old lady from her house so that he could spare a few hundred thousand bucks… and who later bragged about ‘women allowing him to “grab them by the pussy” simply because of his status’.

His competitor, whose slogan reads “Stronger Together”, is a former Secretary of State who has been accused  by both the State Department and the FBI of ‘gross negligence’ and ‘extreme carelessness’ towards important matters of national interest.

89797467_emailclinton

“Mrs Clinton failed to comply with rules on record-keeping, the inspector general found, and used private email for official business without approval.”

So, one of them thinks the system is rigged only when it cannot be twisted to suit his own interests while the other believes ‘togetherness’ can be build around someone who completely disregards the existing rules…

I’ve been asking myself, for some time now, ‘what’s going on there‘?
How come so many intelligent people have allowed themselves to be sucked in this extremely dirty game of deception?

In fact the answers are so obvious that I’ve lost interest in them.
(“The 2016 presidential election has seen a strange flip-flop with respect to conservative and liberal voters. In many ways, even though Trump is the nominee on the right, he is running to the left of Hillary on many issues. Hillary represents the status quo mainstream, usually denoted as the Republican nominee position, while Trump is the obvious “change agent” of the election. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have been seen by many government officials as being more conservative than liberal, even though they use the Democratic platform to advance their hold on power.”)

But what consequences will arise from this mess?

Is Putin going to be the sole real beneficiary of this electoral process?
Because, regardless of the outcome of the vote, America has made such a fool of herself that she has already lost much of the huge respect the rest of the world had for her?

But what if, again regardless of the immediate outcome, enough Americans will eventually wake up from their slumber and bring things back on their right track?

Don’t count America out just yet.
Hitler and the Japanese militarists  have been only a few of those who had fallen into this trap…

On the other hand too many trips to ‘the brink’ are not ‘good for your health’. The Western part of the Roman Empire had fallen apart in almost similar conditions while its Eastern half had been able to post-pone  its own agony only by becoming a dictatorship.

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