Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Ultimate Conspiracy

Donald Trump's problematic relationship with facts and the truth has been well documented. But of the analysis I have read, each assumes Donald knows he is lying. I don't agree with that. It doesn't quite match the behaviour we have observed. A consummate liar familiar with the facts skillfully distorts and dodges. Donald shows no such skill. He's a bull in the China shop of facts. He doesn't consider which lie would better convince his opponents, he says whatever makes him look good (in his own mind.) As outside observers, we just see a bull in the middle of a hell of broken mess. There's no skill, no art, no evil genius at work.

So I asked myself, what kind of person believes any distortion, any lie and selectively picks any tidbit, no matter how reliable the source?

A conspiracy theorist.

You can't argue facts with a conspiracy theorist. They actively refuse to believe anything that contradicts their personal agenda of belief. They have a deep seated need to believe the lie they tell themselves. It's not a lie to them. It is the truth, the only truth that matters.

So what is the core conspiracy that Donald Trump believes in? That he is the single greatest man that has ever lived. He is the handsomest, the smartest, the strongest leader, the best at everything that make up the core of his self-identity. He is never wrong, because he cannot be wrong. To admit that means shattering the conspiracy that he is the ultimate alpha male.

His notable flip-flops, none apologies, retaliatory threats of lawsuit and other attacks all serve to protect the conspiracy most important to him.

He is the next best thing to being a god, and everyone should be in awe if him.

We know a Trump presidency will be erratic, but I think I now know why. Conspiracies never make sense and are always erratic, and now the embodiment of a conspiracy theory is in charge of the most powerful nation on earth.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Yes, as a Matter of Fact, I do Blame You!

The problem created by the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States of America, is not the fault of the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, the Democrats or Jon Stewart.
It is the fault of the electorate.

It is not the fault of neo-liberalism, political correctness or the news media.
It is the fault of the electorate.

Yes Hillary Clinton received a larger share of the vote. In an alternate system where that matters, she would have won. But we don’t have that alternate system, and that alternate system does not solve the problem. The problem is the electorate that voted for Donald Trump.

47% of the votes cast (as counted so far) are for Donald Trump. 47% is a lot closer to 50% than it is to 0%. And 0% is where that tally should be. In a rational, perfect democracy, Donald Trump’s vote share should be below Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Donald Trump is the most manifestly unfit candidate for president that the US has ever seen.

Yes, a lot of people distrusted Hillary Clinton. Fine then, Hillary Clinton is the Coors Light of alcohol. Donald Trump is a bottle of antifreeze. Hillary Clinton is a loaf of moldy bread; Donald Trump is a bucket of rusty nails. The electorate chose to drink the antifreeze and eat the bucket of nails.

That is a problem. That is a major problem. The threat that Donald Trump now poses to the health and safety of every American, and quite possibly the rest of the world is real. Donald Trump only wants to be president because it brings him glory. He wants the crown, but none of the responsibilities. Combine that with his casual racism, bigotry, misogyny, bullying, narcissism and every other negative personality trait and we have the world’s the most volatile mixture in one person, set to go off at any time. He now has the most powerful office in the world and is surrounded with worshipful toadies with their own agendas and questionable personalities. How is that not a disaster of unprecedented proportions, waiting to go off?

And 47% of the people that voted did not recognize that threat. The 43% of the electorate that did not vote, did not recognize that threat. That is the cause that resulted in the problem of President Donald Trump.
Yes people had concerns and worries. Yes they weighed and measured other factors. None of those factors, absolutely none of them, outweighed the simple fact that Donald Trump is unfit for office. Is even unfit to run a Kwik-E-Mart in the fictional Simpson’s universe.

If we want to solve the Donald Trumps of the future, we have to solve the problem of a dangerously uninformed electorate. Start there. If we are going to rely on the wisdom of the crowd to pick our leaders, we better make sure that the crowd is wise enough to begin with.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Emperor has no Clothes

How does one process the 2016 US Presidential Election? For those that saw Donald Trump for the narcissistic, misogynistic, racist, thin-skinned bully he is, the fact that he is the President of the United States is logic defying.

Those that supported Donald Trump were somehow willfully blind to the fact that there is not one single redeeming personality trait or feature to that man. There is no THERE there. When you listen to and read the logic Trump supporters use to justify their support, you realize that each supporter has manufactured their own idealized version of Trump. An idealized version that quite frankly, does not exist.

His platform for all intents and purposes also did not exist. There was no plan, no details, no path forward. Just vague empty promises. And that was when he wasn't mangling English like a 2 yr old with a birthday cake. Honestly, how anyone interpreted the word spew his speeches were is beyond my ken. The one consistent theme was, your problems weren't your own fault, they were someone else's. And from that single slender thread, his entire campaign hung.

And yet, despite the total vacuum of a plan, and maybe because of it, people poured in their own ideas for how Donald Trump would make their dreams reality. Donald Trump somehow ran a campaign with a blank slate, and people filled it in for him. And people voted for what they thought he would do.

But the problem for those supporters is, Donald Trump did not read what they wrote. Even David Duke of the KKK is projecting and trumpeting? his own idealized version of Trump. These people are in for some major disappointment. The man without a plan is not going to follow yours, even if you ask nicely. He's going to wing the whole damned thing and make it up as he goes along.

It's a fools errand to try and figure out what Trump's presidency will accomplish over the next 4 years. Our ability to predict that future is as opaque as his campaign. All we have to work on is the personality he's shown us through this campaign and in his previous public life. That is the one thing that has been constant.

Oh USA. You and the rest of us are sooo screwed.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Pinky is the Brain

The craziness of the Trump candidacy has prompted no end of analysis, trying to understand the motivations and thought processes of the weirdest major candidate to ever run for office in the US. And perhaps anywhere.

One constant analytical theme is of the “he’s so crazy, he must be a genius” type; that there must be some sort of coldly calculated end-game that we just haven’t figured out yet. More than one analysis has proposed that Trump’s goal is create a media empire, and that his run for the Presidency is a means to that end. This  is an analysis that is closest to my own thinking on the matter, especially the last paragraph:

“ is highly plausible that these moves make no sense at all, that Trump is simply an uncontrollable madman lashing around, and perhaps the gestures toward creating a media empire reflect Kushner’s strategy rather than his own. The “Trump TV” hypothesis is the foundational question that ultimately answers the truly-crazy-or-just-acting-crazy mystery surrounding the Republican nominee.”

The trouble with looking for a rationale is that we tend to overthink it, and create order where there is none. And with Donald Trump, this impulse to apply order is almost a reflexive need to salve our own sanity.

I agree that it is very likely that if Trump loses the election, that he will try to build a media empire based on his brand. But I believe that this will happen for the same reason that he ran for president. For his own ego.

Donald Trump is the world’s greatest narcissist. He wants to be President for the title. He doesn’t actually want the job. Can you picture that man sitting quietly in a situation room being briefed for hours on end? I sure can’t. Donald Trump would not survive the tediousness of the Presidential routine. He wants the glory, the acclaim, that stature. In short, he wants to be King. He doesn’t really want the responsibilities of being President. We wants the stage, not the office.

So why the media empire? At some level, the Trump campaign, and probably Trump himself have acknowledged he could lose the election. And I would bet that the media option was brought up as a retaliation or revenge play. Something mentioned in passing that appealed to Trumps narcissism. And so the media empire play is simply keeping options open. It's another way of staying on the stage, staying in the spotlight.

If Donald Trump is good at one thing, it’s promoting his own sense of self-importance. Options that serve that end are options to keep on the table.

It likely isn’t any more coldly calculated than that. Donald Trump wants to be in our faces forever.

And that’s a depressing enough of a thought without ascribing any genius to it.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Donald Trump, the Antifreeze Candidate

There are despicable criminals that deserve capital punishment. But I do not support capital punishment because no system can guarantee that only the truly deserving criminals die. If one innocent dies for every 100 or 1,000 criminals, then I cannot support or endorse capital punishment.

What does this have to do with Donald Trump?

Imagine a society that locks up citizens for holding dangerous ideas. In reality this is not possible for a myriad of reasons without defending the principles of free speech. Thought policing just doesn't work. But in such a society, I would maintain that being a Donald Trump supporter would qualify a citizen for holding dangerous ideals. This is where we are at, and have been at for a while, in the 2016 US Presidential election. Locking up citizens for dangerous thoughts is in no way realistic or supportable, but being a Donald Trump supporter definitely qualifies a person in such a society. I'm using this example to make a point. I'm not calling for the literal mass incarceration of American citizens, I'm using this analogy to point out how much of a danger Trump supporters are to the American people as a whole.

Donald Trump has absolutely zero redeeming qualities. There is nothing about that man that makes even a minute amount of sense for him to be president. It is this central fact that Donald Trump supporters and apologizers completely ignore. I understand not liking Hillary Clinton very much. I will even agree that she will not make a great president. But she is by a million miles a better candidate than Donald Trump. The gulf between the two candidates defies description. Just because Trump says some things that people want to hear, that does not qualify him for the presidency.

Hillary Clinton is the Coors Light of beers. You need to damn near freeze that shit to hide its disgusting flavour and make it palatable. But drinking Coors Light won't kill you. Donald Trump on the other hand, is ethylene glycol. It's sweet and tasty, but that shit will kill you. If I had only two choices, Coors Light and ethylene glycol, I would choose Coors Light every single time. And to stretch this metaphor past its breaking point, if drinking Coors Light meant preventing people from ingesting and dying from ethylene glycol, I would order Coors Light by the pallet load, I would not opt out.

This is the stark choice facing the American people. Choose the Coors Light candidate. The other candidate is nothing more than a threat to the American way of life. There is nothing there that justifies supporting him, and the fact that anyone supports him is a direct threat to all of us.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Pilot Episode: Harper Knows Best

The Canadian summer has long been known as our political silly season. Which may explain why Election 42 is proving to be so bizarre already.

"Harper promises to a tax credit for businesses on wages paid to apprentices"
No, not that one.

"Stephen Harper unveils home renovation tax credit"
No, not that one either.

"Stephen Harper’s vow against a Netflix tax"
Almost there!

"Stephen Harper vows to outlaw travel to 'places that are ground zero for terrorist activity'"

There we go!

Before I get into it, I am reminded of the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle and note that it applies here.
I may not be up to the task of achieving the required magnitude to refute Harper's Travel Ban.

To properly deconstruct this, we need to understand the motivation behind the reasoning so far:

1) "[Canadians] are going to terrorist training"
2) "There is no human right to travel and visit ISIS. That is not a human right in this country"
3) "necessary to fight jihadist terrorism"

One thing I've learned about Harper, is that he loves to make sweeping statements and use them as certifiable facts. His statements are like his omnibus legislation. So vast in scope, yet so devoid of rational analysis.

So I am going to attack this from another angle, by analyzing another threat to Canadians the Government likes to warn us about. Organized Crime. Remember when that was the biggest threat we faced?

"it is estimated that organized crime costs Canadians $5 billion every year"
"In 2010, police reported 94 homicides as being gang-related, compared to 72 in 2000"

Islamic Terrorism on Canadian soil has resulted in (arguably at most) 2 deaths and 5 injuries. Source. Costs to society? Can't find any Government numbers but the fight against it has cost us $122 million?

So to summarize: Organized crime costs us 70-90 lives per year and $5 Billion per year. Jihadist Terrorism has cost us 2 lives total and next to no social costs. It is reasonable to conclude we have this terrorism issue beat and need to step up our efforts to fight organized crime. Or at least use the same tools where applicable.

If people visiting Jihadist countries are going for the express purposes of being trained, and we need to stop that, does it not follow that we should stop people from visiting and being funded and trained by organized crime groups? After all, we know who the top 5 organized criminal groups are.

Using Harper's own logic of "There is no human right to travel and visit an organized criminal group" and banning such travel "is necessary to fight the global scourge of organized crime" I await Harper's announcement that travel to Japan, Russia, Italy and Mexico is hereby banned without express permission for legitimate travel.

Have to do what it takes. "There's no more importance than ensuring the safety of Canadians" after all.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mob Justice Rules

It was with some qualms that I joined in the social media hunt to name and shame the men that had verbally harassed CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt. I'm not supportive of the social justice mob and it's desire for vengeance. It's never clear if the mob is interested in punishment or reform.

It was beyond any doubt that what these men had done was reprehensible. But when one was fired from his job, my fears crystallized and came into focus.

Justine Sacco
Adria Richards
Lindsey Stone
Chad Shanks
Alicia Lynch
Matt Bowman
Lawaun Edwards
Sierra Mccurdy
Remington Allen Geisler
Anthony Federico
Shawn Simoes

These are all people that have lost their jobs over some public statement or another. Enough people thought that each one had done something offensive enough to warrant pressuring their employer (overtly or otherwise) into firing them. That is what all these people have in common. One mob or another wanted retribution, and it was delivered.

Even if we grant that some of these actions were so egregious as to justify the loss of employment, it is apparent that it is not true for all of them. And that is the crux of the problem we face. Because if you cannot agree that everyone in that list deserved to lose that job, why do you get to decide that some of them do?

This is the problem with mob justice. There are no rules or controls that can be relied on to apply an equal sense of justice. There are no appeals, no impartial trials, no weighing of the facts or the reliance on precedence. When it comes to our civil and criminal courts, we emphasise due process. For good reason. It is due process that mob justice lacks; and it is a problem and a threat.

It is true that speech is not consequence free, but that does not mean all consequences are appropriate. When seeking justice, society must temper vengeance with reform. But the mob has downloaded that responsibility to those that employ us. Not the most trustworthy allies. If a company is threatened, they will act to protect their brand.

I will repeat myself on this point:

Consider for a moment the repercussions of threatening a company's brand over something an employee says. This notion therefore means that a company must police all employee online communications; whether at work or in private and shutdown any behaviour that threatens the company's reputation. The best defense is a good offense, so every organization should monitor and control what employees are allowed to say or access online while in the office. Not only that, but they probably should put in their employment contracts that employees must allow the company to monitor all personal devices for any activity that could harm the company. This is the logical conclusion. If the mob threatens a company over an employee's actions, then that company has a right to prevent those actions from happening. And before hiring an employee, it is only right and just that all online communications be handed over to be judged by HR for troubling commentary. Why hire potential trouble?
By threatening corporate brands, the mob citizenry is giving the very power to corporations that they most loathe corporations for using. Not only giving them that power, demanding and pleading that corporations take it and use it.

This is a volatile mixture. A mob can decide our fate, and a financially self-interested organisation is the arbiter of that fate. There is no recourse for anyone that has been judged and found wanting.

Just because the mob might be right in a particular case does not mean it is always right. I submit it hasn't been right in the majority of cases it has tried and judged individuals. It cannot be trusted, and it should not be celebrated. We can do better.