Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye is harder when it isn't permanent.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shut the hell up, already

Q: Why are so many specialists Idiots?

A: The more you know of one subject, the less you know of others.  There is only so much time in the day.  The problem is most specialists don't seem to know this limitation, and spew on and on and on as if it were not so.  Their egos are inflated by achievement in direct proportion to its irrelevance in the greater world.  Shut the hell up, already.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ambition

Ambition is for people with too much time on their hands.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Expectations

Expectations are not always what you expect.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winning

Winning only matters to losers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lies

If a comforting lie seems better than harsh reality, it may seek to supplant reality.  It will fail.  The damage done as it seeks the bottom can often be more extreme than what it seeks to replace.  Addiction comes in many forms.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Technology will save us?

How the Internet will save civilization?  (see Also.)  I suppose it depends on your definition of civilization.  The author of the text under discussion lists 6 factors:
1. Disease Epidemics--(can isolate during pandemics)
2. Availability of Knowledge
3. Speed by Decentralization
4. Minimization of censorship
5. Democratization of Education
6. Energy Savings
1. Although I can certainly see his point with #1, this same strength also helps destroy social cohesion by promulgating anti-social behavior.  For instance, people will often have more friends on-line, yet not know any of there neighbors.  This is not very useful if the power goes out...
2. Knowledge might be available, but it often lacks context or citation.  It is very rarely peer reviewed.  Data is not knowledge.
3. Decentralization can mean a faster response, but can also uncoordinated in a disaster situation. Remember Hurricane Katrina? The Internet sure didn't do much there.
4. Minimization of censorship? Perhaps for now, but as the Wikileaks Cablegate affair show, this might not be the case for not much longer. Internet censorship appears to be relatively effective in China.
5. Democratization of Education does lead to better access. However, as most people seem more interested in the piece of paper than what they get out of it, it also leads to the lowest common denominator as less rigorous courses lose out to those that are harder.
6. Energy may be saved by minimizing travel for meetings.  The Internet sure doesn't build things. However, Internet facilities do use a large amount of energy. Also, energy savings do not mean much if the lights are not on.

Also, the Internet won't grow your food for you...

So in closing, the author seems more like a technophile cheerleader than someone presenting an objective analysis.  He knows where his bread is buttered.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bringing Attention

The better path for maintaining silence is not bringing attention to the subject in the first place.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shared Values

A civilization that loses its shared values will soon decay from within.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Suckers Multiply

Sucker's multiply; Chumps dissemble.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wishful Thinking

Wishful thinking only works in fantasy.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lies

Lies can be more instructive than truth.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rational Ideas

Rational ideas only provide useful models for systems that can be broken.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interchangeable

An authoritarian may always be spotted by looking for interchangeable opinions.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Secrecy

Secrecy should only be sought for those things that really need to remain so.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Writing about Propaganda (Advertising)

As I've stated before, it's pretty much impossible to wrote about propaganda (or in this case advertising) without writing propaganda.  An example of this observation is given in Bombing the Senses:
The right wing mouthpieces for the “business community” that fired these once industrious workers now labels them lazy welfare cheats while marketers still try to figure out how to sell them the latest sugar-coated turds — excuse me, vital products with healthy chemical preservatives and taste additives.
After all, Americans, conditioned through decades of sensory bombardment, expect buying new products will bring happiness on earth. They can also purchase salvation in the hereafter
My wife’s grandmother donated money to a TV preacher – dressed in a garish pimp-like suit. Elmer Gantry of the tube assured Granny God would reward her contribution to His cause.
Secular pitchers entice us: buy this IPhone; enrich your life. Focus groups and consumer surveys marketers once tested merchandise, to discover what colored dye made toothpaste most palatable, or the proper wording to transform Ex-Lax into something soft and cozy. As if!
Companies like Google, GM, CBS and Campbell Soups biw invest in science and technology that manipulate brains to send messages to hands -- to sign credit card slips.
Sounds like Pavlov's Dog.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Memory

i. The past is memory.
ii. Memory fades.
iii. Does the past fade as well?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

US Politics

Ignoring something doesn't make it go away, but you would sure think so looking at US politics.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Deflation

Deflation is akin to a popped ego.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Medocrity

Mediocrity is the life blood of American economics.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Paper

Paper is only worth what's printed on it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is it bad?

On Paving:

Is it a bad thing when the vibratory compactor can be felt in the building you are sitting in 300 yards away?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Up is Down

For someone on the other side of the globe, your up is his down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Buying Crap

The difference between advertising and propaganda: Advertising sells you something you don't need; Propaganda sells you something you don't want.  See 5 Ways Stores Use Science to Trick You Into Buying Crap.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Flaws

When flaws become virtues, we all lose.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cowardice

Cowardice is a way of life for many stuck in their own feedback loops.

(Just read the comments section of MSM and other sites.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Fine Minds Wallowing

i. "Being an expert in one's field does not necessarily mean said expertise is transferable."
- attributed to A Real Windbag

ii. Obsession is boring.

iii. Fine minds are perfectly capable of wallowing in pedantic philosophy.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Wallow

Those doomed to follow need not wallow.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Economics

The Marxist economic block failed.  Now capitalism is in crisis.  Elections cannot change the historical momentum.  Things won't be the same.  Only mitigation is possible, but products are generally poor at such approaches.  For them, the system must be preserved.  No alternative is possible.  Desperation sets in.  They will try anything.  Quantitative easements have no utility.  Something cannot come from nothing.  Who would trade concrete for worthless paper?  It amazing that one could think otherwise.

See Also.

Hype

Hype creates meaning out of nothingness.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Voids

In US politics, voids have a way of expanding.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ill Wind

An ill wind blows in circles.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Sky

Saying the sky isn't blue doesn't make it so.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Infidels & Heretics

The only thing worse than an infidel is a heretic.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Challenges

Too often a challenge is ignored until it becomes too large to solve.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Comparisons

Historical comparisons are only valid for simplistic situations.  All else is propaganda or ignorance: which is it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fred Says

Fred says:
[D]emocracy works best when the population consists of near-catatonic morons drifting in a dense Prozac-induced fog, preferably in drumming circles where they process their issues—boomathump, bongeddybongo. Hypnotic video games like Sergeant Hemorrhage the Avenging Splattermeister help. These keep the public from interfering in public policy. The schools produce these cretins with the profusion of breeding oysters.

Surveys show that half the public never reads a book, and probably wouldn’t recognize one. If you ask these mouth-breathing suet globules “What are the three departments of government?” they say, Uh, JC Penneys, Monkey Wards, and, well, I think, Office Depot. The whole ingenious machinery of democracy aims at keeping them calm, calm, calm, since cattle, even Elsie the Borden Moo-cow, can fall into an uproar, or perhaps climb into a downroar—these are mysterious matters—and trample their trainers.
Bloat is control.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Waste

Waste may be squandered.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

On Voting

“It’s painful to submit to our bosses; it’s even more stupid to choose them!”
-May 1968 graffiti

Beyond Voting by Ken Knabb succinctly describes the degrees of freedom with respect to governments:
Roughly speaking we can distinguish five degrees of “government”:

(1) Unrestricted freedom
(2) Direct democracy
(3) Delegate democracy
(4) Representative democracy
(5) Overt minority dictatorship

The present society oscillates between (4) and (5), i.e. between overt minority rule and covert minority rule camouflaged by a facade of token democracy. A liberated society would eliminate (4) and (5) and would progressively reduce the need for (2) and (3). . . .
In representative democracy people abdicate their power to elected officials. The candidates’ stated policies are limited to a few vague generalities, and once they are elected there is little control over their actual decisions on hundreds of issues — apart from the feeble threat of changing one’s vote, a few years later, to some equally uncontrollable rival politician. Representatives are dependent on the wealthy for bribes and campaign contributions; they are subordinate to the owners of the mass media, who decide which issues get the publicity; and they are almost as ignorant and powerless as the general public regarding many important matters that are determined by unelected bureaucrats and independent secret agencies. Overt dictators may sometimes be overthrown, but the real rulers in “democratic” regimes, the tiny minority who own or control virtually everything, are never voted in and never voted out. Most people don’t even know who they are. . .
I've always gotten a chuckle when a politician or some some other invested interest describes the current system as the pinnacle of the possible.  Maybe for them.  For the rest of us, it isn't even close.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Water

Something clear may still contain impurities.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Something

i. If something is not seen, it still may still be present.
ii. If something is small, it may not be detected.
iii. If something is large, it may be incomprehensible.
iv. If something is outside, it may be ignored.
v. If something is inside, it may be denied.
vi. If something is down, it may be up.
vii. If something is right, it may be left.
viii. If something is stupid, it may be embraced.
ix. If something is smart, it may still be unintelligent.
x. If something is ignorant, it may be normal.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maximum Advantage: Global Codes of Conduct

On Global Guerrillas, John Robb points out the following:
Globalization has brought about an age when the only tests used to judge anyone's behavior are:
  • Does it make you money or its equivalent? The corollary is that the greater the amount of money acquired, the better the behavior is.
  • Did you get away with it? This test is merely based on legal enforceability (were you caught in a place that matters) and the degree of punishment (will the punishment negate or exceed the benefit of the behavior). Morality, virtue, ethics, shame, actual legality, etc. aren't considered factors. 
Why is this so? It's the only set of behavioral tests that are globally portable. As in, we can't agree on anything at a global level except the minimal rules needed to interconnect (which is similar to how the Internet and the Web spread).
This is another example of the impact of the Technical Morality, where efficiency becomes the only consideration for guiding human behavior.  It may be explained by "global portability," but that says nothing about why it is considered acceptable in the first place.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Propaganda of the Deed

PROPAGANDA OF THE DEEDS AND DON’TS is an interesting post regarding early anarchists attempts at "Propaganda of the Deed," and its implications for anarchism. It also compares and contrasts anarchist terrorism and AL-Qaida. It some regards this comparison is valid, but for others the difference is stark. For instance, anarchists were mainly atheistic, therefore their ideology and self-sacrifices were directed (in many cases naively) for a better world on Earth. They also did not believe in ruling others, unlike those seeking to establish an Islamic Caliphate. Islamic terrorists have earthly aims, but their inspiration is religious and therefore not entirely of this world.  Religion also has far more staying power than ideology, which is more like a flavor of the month in comparison.  Also, strangely enough but obvious when one considers the historical epoch, the anarchists believed in more concrete organizing. therefore they were easier to break.  As a result, I believe that militant Islam will outlast its anarchist counterpart in terms of half-life.  If anarchy (meaning the absence of rulers) ever comes about it will be due to the disintegration of the nation state, and not something brought about by any flavor of anarchism as an ideology.  If Al-Qaida's aims become reality (which I hope not to be the case) it will be due to armed struggle and nothing else.  4GW is not just ideological terrorism.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rock

Sometimes a rock is just a rock.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Deficiencies

Deficiencies are relative to the overall level of incompetency.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

School Reform = Nothing

When it comes to talk of educational reform (or any other for that matter), it pretty much is meaningless.  As pointed out in School reform's meager results:
The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation. Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren't motivated, even capable teachers may fail.

Motivation comes from many sources: curiosity and ambition; parental expectations; the desire to get into a "good" college; inspiring or intimidating teachers; peer pressure. The unstated assumption of much school "reform" is that if students aren't motivated, it's mainly the fault of schools and teachers. The reality is that, as high schools have become more inclusive (in 1950, 40 percent of 17-year-olds had dropped out, compared with about 25 percent today) and adolescent culture has strengthened, the authority of teachers and schools has eroded. That applies more to high schools than to elementary schools, helping explain why early achievement gains evaporate.

Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don't like school, don't work hard and don't do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited "student apathy." The goal of expanding "access" -- giving more students more years of schooling -- tends to lower educational standards. Michael Kirst, an emeritus education professor at Stanford, estimates that 60 percent of incoming community college students and 30 percent of freshmen at four-year colleges need remedial reading and math courses.

Against these realities, school "reform" rhetoric is blissfully evasive. It is often an exercise in extravagant expectations. Even if George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind program had been phenomenally successful (it wasn't), many thousands of children would have been left behind. Now Duncan routinely urges "a great teacher" in every classroom. That would be about 3.7 million "great" teachers -- a feat akin to having every college football team composed of all-Americans. With this sort of intellectual rigor, what school "reform" promises is more disillusion.
This ultimately stems from the fact that too many parents except the school systems to raise their kids for them.   There are other reasons beyond parental laziness.  For one thing, too many parents are forced to work rather than raise their kids.  It's difficult to motivate kids when both parents are exhausted from work.  (True, they could chose not to have kids but the world does not work that way.)  In addition, the U.S. as a whole has come to expect something for nothing, and education is no different.  In addition, due to the Technical Morality pervading every aspect of society, the only conceivable solutions are punishing teachers and principals, and/or throwing money at the problem in hopes it will go away.  No other way is conceivable.  As public policy dulls to the point where nonsense like the "great teacher" drivel quoted above actually is given credence, it's not surprising that school standards remain stagnant.  In other countries, where education is considered a privilege rather than a right, anyone spewing such garbage would not be taken seriously--even to mock.

For any so-called reform to work, what is needed is a reevaluation of values concerning eduction (and economics as well for that matter), and that is most certainly not going to take place in this Age of Mediocrity.  Like suicide, the "Something for Nothing" mentality is so much easier.  Actually attempting anything requiring intellectual rigor is beyond the products some call leaders and academicians.  A toxic environment nurtures stupidity at all levels.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Stumble Toward Totalitarianism Continues

The Government Can Use GPS to Track Your Moves:
Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements.
That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant.
It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich.
Fortunately, even as it stumbles toward outright totalitarianism, the government continues to destroy its legitimacy.  Baring an outright revolution, which can probably never happen due to the fact that the population is fundamentally divided, its authority will just erode over time as its actions become ever more paranoid.  However, even through the age where classic totalitarianism is over (as governments cannot control information and even their own borders as was once the case), they can still do a lot of damage to those caught in the middle.

Even as they fade way, the mediocre are still dangerous.  It's also not surprising that these judges would rule that such actions of the government are perfectly legal.  As pointed out by the dissenting judge:
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who dissented from this month's decision refusing to reconsider the case, pointed out whose homes are not open to strangers: rich people's. The court's ruling, he said, means that people who protect their homes with electric gates, fences and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes. People who cannot afford such barriers have to put up with the government sneaking around at night.
Judge Kozinski is a leading conservative, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, but in his dissent he came across as a raging liberal. "There's been much talk about diversity on the bench, but there's one kind of diversity that doesn't exist," he wrote. "No truly poor people are appointed as federal judges, or as state judges for that matter." The judges in the majority, he charged, were guilty of "cultural elitism."
At least some people in authority understand the score.  (Although the final result will be far different than Orwell's 1984.)  There may not be a revolution, but in this age Things are much more likely to just Fall Apart.  When (sooner or later) this occurs, those understanding the situation may be able to weather the storm.  The rest won't.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Stalemate

i. Decentralization is not well grasped by centralized institutions.
ii. Centralization is not well appreciated by decentralized organizations.
iii. Hence, centralized and decentralized power structures are less of a mutual threat than would otherwise be the case.
iv.  Result: stalemate.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Waste of Time

As anyone who has had to suffer through a pointless meeting, political pontification or religious ceremony can attest, in general, the more something wastes time, the more importance is attached to it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

American Middle Class (2010)

American Middle Class (2010): the more you earn, the less you save.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Intelligence

Intelligence does not necessarily confer wisdom.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Six Years and Counting

Maximum Advantage in all Things is six years old today!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hezbollah, Radical but Rational

In Hezbollah, Radical but Rational Stratfor analyzes the group's capability and motivation for conducting a terrorist attack in the U.S.:
Hezbollah’s global commercial network transports and sells counterfeit consumer goods and electronics and pirated movies, music and software. In West Africa, the network also deals in “blood diamonds” from places like Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and fences illegally bunkered oil from the Niger Delta. Cells in Asia procure and ship much of the counterfeit material sold elsewhere; nodes in North America deal in smuggled cigarettes, baby formula and counterfeit designer goods, among other things. In the United States, Hezbollah also has been involved in smuggling pseudoephedrine and selling counterfeit Viagra, and it has had a significant role in the production and worldwide propagation of counterfeit currencies. Hezbollah also has a long-standing and well-known presence in the tri-border region of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, where it earns tens of millions of dollars annually from legal and illegal commercial activities, according to U.S. government estimates.

The Hezbollah business empire also extends into the drug trade. The Bekaa Valley, Lebanon’s central agricultural heartland, is controlled by Hezbollah and serves as a major center for growing poppies and cannabis and for producing heroin from raw materials arriving from places like Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia. Indeed, Hezbollah controls a commanding percentage of the estimated $1 billion drug trade flowing out of the Bekaa. Much of the hashish and heroin emanating from there eventually arrives in Europe, where Hezbollah members also are involved in smuggling, car theft and the distribution of counterfeit goods and currency. Hezbollah operatives in the Western Hemisphere work with Latin American drug cartels to traffic cocaine into the lucrative markets of Europe, and there have been reports of Hezbollah members dealing drugs in the United States.
[...]
Hezbollah has a group of operatives capable of undertaking terrorist missions that is larger and better-trained than any group al Qaeda has ever had. Hezbollah (and its Iranian patrons) have also established a solid foothold in the Americas, and they have demonstrated a capability to use their global logistics network to move operatives and conduct attacks should they so choose. This is what U.S. government officials fear, and what the Iranians want them to fear. The threat posed by Hezbollah’s militant apparatus has always been a serious one, and Hezbollah has long had a significant presence inside the United States. The threat it poses today is not some new, growing phenomenon, as some reports in the press would suggest.

But despite Hezbollah’s transnational terrorism capabilities, it has not chosen to exercise them outside of its home region for many years now. This is due in large part to the way Hezbollah has matured as an organization. It is no longer the new, shadowy organization it was in 1983 but a large global organization with an address. Its assets and personnel can be identified and seized or attacked. Hezbollah understands that a serious terrorist attack or series of attacks on U.S. soil could result in the type of American reaction that followed the 9/11 attack and that the organization would likely end up on the receiving end of the type of campaign that the United States launched against al Qaeda (and Lebanon is far easier to strike than Afghanistan). In the past, Hezbollah (and its Iranian patrons) have worked hard to sow ambiguity and hide responsibility for terrorist attacks, but as Hezbollah matured as an organization, such subterfuge became more difficult.

There is also international public opinion to consider. Hezbollah is a political organization seeking political legitimacy, and it is one thing for it to be seen as a victim of Israeli aggression when standing up to Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and quite another to be seen killing innocent civilians on the other side of the globe.

Hezbollah also sees the United States (and the rest of the Western Hemisphere) as a wonderful place to make money through its array of legal and illegal enterprises. If it angered the United States, its business interests in the Western Hemisphere would be severely impacted. Hezbollah could conduct attacks in the United States, but it would pay a terrible price for doing so, and it does not appear that it is willing to pay that price. The Hezbollah leadership may be radical, but it is not irrational. Many of the senior Hezbollah leaders have matured since the group was founded and have become influential politicians and wealthy businessmen. This older cadre tends to be more moderate than some of the younger firebrands in the organization.

So, while Hezbollah has the capability to attack U.S. interests, it does not currently possess the intent to do so. Its terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the 1980s, like the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks and the two attacks against the U.S. Embassy, were intended to drive U.S. influence out of Lebanon, and the attacks largely succeeded. An attack by Hezbollah inside the United States today would result in the return of U.S. attention to, and perhaps even a presence in, Lebanon, something that is clearly not in Hezbollah’s interests.

Then why the recurring rumors of impending Hezbollah terrorist attacks? For several years now, every time there has been talk of a possible attack on Iran there has been a corresponding threat by Iran that it will use its proxy groups in response to such an attack. Iran has also been busy pushing intelligence reports to anybody who will listen, including STRATFOR, that it will activate its militant proxy groups if attacked and, to back up that threat, will periodically send IRGC-QF, MOIS or Hezbollah operatives out to conduct not-so-subtle surveillance of potential targets. (They clearly want to be seen undertaking such activity.)

In many ways, the Hezbollah threat is being played up in order to provide the type of deterrent that mutually assured destruction did during the Cold War. The threats of unleashing Hezbollah terrorist attacks and closing the Strait of Hormuz are the most potent deterrents Iran has to being attacked. Since Iran does not yet possess a nuclear arsenal, these threats are the closest thing it has to a “real nuclear option.” As such, they are threats that Iran will make good on only as a last resort.
So it would appear that the threat of a terrorist attack by Hezbollah is
mostly propaganda, by both the U.S. and Iran (provided the U.S. stays out of Lebanon), than any real wish to do so by the group's leadership.  They could do so, but it would not be worth the price.  Like other international drug dealers, like MS-13 and other 4GW entities, they simply have too much to lose if they chose to stray off the path of their profitable business ventures.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

P.R. Failures

In P.R., like other forms of propaganda, believing your own B.S. is done at your peril as described In Case of Emergency: What Not to Do regarding recent failures by Toyota, P.B. and Goldman Sachs:
WHOEVER suggested that all publicity is good publicity clearly never envisioned the wave of catastrophe engulfing high-profile corporations over the last year, laying waste to some of the most meticulously tailored reputations on earth.
Toyota, celebrated for engineering cars so utterly reliable that they seemed boring, endured revelations that its most popular models sometimes accelerated for mysterious reasons. The energy giant BP, which once packaged itself as an environmental visionary, now confronts the future with a new identity: progenitor of the worst oil spill in American history. And the Wall Street icon Goldman Sachs, an elite player in the white-collar-and-suspenders set, found itself derided in Rolling Stone as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Last month, Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle federal securities fraud charges. 
“These were real reputational implosions,” says Howard Rubinstein, the public relations luminary who represents the New York Yankees and the News Corporation. “In all three cases, the companies found themselves under attack over the very traits that were central to their strong global brands and corporate identities.”
In other words, there comes a point where spin will not be swallowed any longer. Real world actions have a way of superseding Verbal Worlds.  When one cheats, steals, lies, builds defective products, destroys the environment or the economy propaganda just can't compete.  Politically, the U.S.S.R. learned this lessons when internal conditions came to light.  It seemed it was less a worker's paradise than had been previously believed, and much of its left wing support world wide was lost.  Perhaps, corporations (whose modern in incarnations are as much a product of right wing capitalist ideology as the U.S.S.R. was Marxist-Leninist) should take a closer look at history before their marketing departments lay the groundwork to destroy what little credibility they have...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Level

Level is relative.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Default

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to pay.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do You Like Plunder?

Do you like plunder?  If so, maybe living in an empire would have some appeal.  In the US, based solely on the level of military expenditures (greater than the rest of the world combined), we live in an empire.  The politicians just do not call it that.  The result is a mediocre empire.  Therein lies the problem: where's my share?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Project Management

"Plan the work then work the plan."

-Project Management (PMI) truism.

This approach works fine if something has never been done before (or long term where the project team may change over time), but for something short term and having been done before it is a complete waste of time and money.  If you know what you're doing, there is generally less need for formalism.  For instance, I recently completed the design of a $1.6M paving project, in a location I had done two others, for 2% of the cost of construction: on time and way under budget.The tax payers were saved about $125K.    (Of course, I already had the surfacing recommendations in hand, which would have added about $20k to the cost due to the high expense of sending out a drill crew for coring.)  A Project Management Plan (PMP), which would typically have been required had we not been able to talk management into waiving it, would have cost more about 1.5 times more money than we spent (albeit still under budget) and delayed the project (which may have over-ran the construction budget as it would have been too late in the season thus requiring the contractor to mobilize twice the crews to complete the work in the time stipulated by the contract).

The construction phase should be even more fun: now I get to verbally abuse the contractor.  Fun times.  Fun times. ..

(And all this time you just thought I was a cranky philosopher with a physics degree...)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Propaganda Studies: "Terrorism"

Terrorism can mean just about anything as pointed out by Glenn Greenwald in Manipulative use of the term "Terrorism":
There's a great paradox in the American political landscape:  the word that is used most frequently to justify everything from invasions and bombings to torture, indefinite detention, and the sprawling Surveillance State -- Terrorism -- is also the most ill-defined and manipulated word.  It has no fixed meaning, and thus applies to virtually anything the user wishes to demonize, while excluding the user's own behavior and other acts one seeks to justify.  All of this would be an interesting though largely academic, semantic matter if not for the central political significance with which this term is vested:  both formally (in our law) and informally (in our political debates and rhetoric). 
Remi Brulin, who teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at NYU, has spent many years -- as part of his PhD dissertation at the Sorbonne in Paris -- examining the use of the word Terrorism in international relations, the law, and the media (particularly as used by The New York Times).  The history of this term -- how and why it came to be such a politically prominent and consequential label, the radically inconsistent meaning it has based on who is wielding it, the failure to create a universally or even widely recognized definition -- reveals how long it has been manipulated as a propagandistic tool. 
The word "terrorism" and "terrorist" is probably one of the longest applications of exploiting a word for Maximum Advantage in All Things.  indeed, it is far older than the Technical Morality, and as such will outlast it.  As a consequence, the label is very difficult to negate, but can become meaningless.  As it is presently overused, "terrorism" and "terrorist" are largely losing impact as overexposure tends to blunt impact.  Hence, as it becomes widely ignored, propagandists will need to start looking around for another phrase in the next few years.  What will it be?  I would bet that another fall back, namely "anarchist" or something more specific like "Islamo-anarchist" or right/left wing-anarchist labels will make a comeback.  The peasants need to be kept in line somehow and old bogeymen are an easy means to that end.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Twenty Feet Tall

A man ten feet tall is dwarfed by the S.W.A.T.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ten Feet Tall

A man three foot tall walks ten feet tall with a gun.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Atrocities Committed by Intellectuals

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard agrees with my pronouncements that economics is not a real science:
The 20th Century was a horrible litany of absurd experiments and atrocities committed by intellectuals, or by elite groupings that claimed a higher knowledge. Simple folk usually have enough common sense to avoid the worst errors. Sometimes they need to take very stern action to stop intellectuals leading us to ruin.

The root error of the modern academy is to pretend (and perhaps believe, which is even less forgiveable), that economics is a science and answers to Newtonian laws.

In any case, Newton was wrong. He neglected the fourth dimension of time, as Einstein called it, and that is exactly what the new classical school of economics has done by failing to take into account the intertemporal effects of debt – now 360pc of GDP across the OECD bloc, if properly counted.

There has been a cosy self-delusion that rising debt is largely benign because it is merely money that society owes to itself. This is a bad error of judgement, one that the intuitive man in the street can see through immediately.

Debt draws forward prosperity, which leads to powerful overhang effects that are not properly incorporated into Fed models. That is the key reason why Ben Bernanke’s Fed was caught flat-footed when the crisis hit, and kept misjudging it until the events started to spin out of control.

Economics should never be treated as a science. Its claims are not falsifiable, which is why economists can disagree so violently among themselves: a rarer spectacle in science, where disputes are usually resolved one way or another by hard data.

It is a branch of anthropology and psychology, a moral discipline if you like. Anybody who loses sight of this is a public nuisance, starting with [Fed member] Dr Athreya.
I frankly think he is being kind.  However, economics is an ideology, and lumping it with the so-called soft sciences is also insulting.  Lying with statistics is just another form of propaganda.  Otherwise, I agree with the author.  (Whereas the soft sciences are just tools of propaganda.)  Idiot intellectuals are a menace.  Their feedback loops, employed when attempting to prove their idiotic scientific pretensions, are among the most destructive.  Remember the dialectic?  It was inevitable, only it wasn't.  Western capitalist economic is the same.  Their commonality is manifest. The "people" and the "free market" are the same means to their ends.   Twentieth century ideologies need to die.

Happy 4th.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Competency

Competency never goes unpunished.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bliss

1. Bliss is the grave.
2. The grave is fear.
3. Happiness is something to be feared?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the insincerest form of laziness.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Is Life Necessary

Is life necessary for the perception of time?

Does entropy happen?

Is entropy experienced?

Will a rock know itself?

Can concrete be abstract?

Discovery may abound, but do you really want to know?

Did you really think it would not be exploited?

Are the depths really worth the price?

Do all great things have a hollow core?

Sometimes a revolution is not worth the price?

Then again, what is?

Unity?  Please.

(I'll be moving and without internet for a time.)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Dangers of Believing Your Own Propaganda

As I've stressed repeatedly for years, there is a great danger in believing your own propaganda (or if I'm feeling a little earthier I might say "Don't believe your own bullshit").  Patrick Cockburn recently wrote a short piece about this truism with respect to the government of Israel:
An old Israeli saying describing various less-than-esteemed military leaders says: "He was so stupid that even the other generals noticed." The same derisive remark could be applied almost without exception to the present generation of Israeli politicians.

Such healthy skepticism among Israelis about the abilities of their military and political leaders has unfortunately ebbed in recent decades. As a result, Israelis are left perplexed as to why their wars, military interventions and armed actions have so often ended in failure since the 1973 war, despite the superiority of their armed forces

The latest example of this is the assault on the Gaza aid convoy by naval commandos, a confrontation initiated by Israel which thereby ensured that the convoy's organizers achieved their objectives to a degree beyond their wildest dreams. By using assault troops in a police action against civilians with predictably bloody results Israel managed to focus international attention on its blockade of Gaza, which the world had hitherto largely ignored. The Israeli action infuriated Turkey, once its strongest ally in the region, and strengthened the claim of Hamas to Palestinian leadership.
The capacity of Israel to shoot itself in the foot needs explanation. From the beginning the operation was idiotic, since Israel was always likely to look bad after any confrontation between élite troops and civilian protesters. Even more ludicrous is the Israeli explanation that their élite and heavily armed soldiers were at risk of their lives because they had to use thick gloves to protect their hands when sliding down cables from a helicopter and therefore could not use their weapons.

[...]
The problem is that nobody believes Israeli propaganda as much as Israelis. Pro-Palestinian activists often lament the fluency and mendacity of Israeli spokesmen on the airwaves and the pervasive influence of Israel's supporters abroad. But, in reality, these PR campaigns are Israel's greatest weakness, because they distort Israelis' sense of reality. Defeats and failures are portrayed as victories and successes.
The slaughter of civilians is justified as a military necessity or somehow the fault of the other side. Opponents are demonized as bloodthirsty terrorists. Comforted by such benign accounts of their activities, Israeli leaders are consumed by arrogance because they come to believe they have never made a mistake. Denial that errors have occurred makes it extremely difficult to sack generals or ministers, however gross their incompetence or record of failure.
Many Israelis privately take their own propaganda with a pinch of salt, though the number is diminishing. But abroad, the most third-rate Israeli politicians strut before fawning audiences as heroic defenders of the state. Not surprisingly they return home with a dangerously inflated idea of their own abilities and in a perilously self-important mood.
The Israeli propaganda machine, official and private, has been running full throttle in the last few days justifying the assault on the aid convoy to Gaza. Probably spokesmen feel they are performing well given the weakness of their case. In fact, they do nothing but harm to Israel. The greater their success in denying gross and culpable mistakes, the more likely it is that the perpetrators will hold their jobs – and the more likely it is that the mistakes will be endlessly repeated.
 And as a result, the US is beginning to re-evaluate it's relationship with this tiny little country that, beyond feelings of a moral obligation to support, has no real strategic significance and is becoming more of a liability with each passing day.  (The moral obligation will fade as new generations, which have never seen a death camp tattoo, ceases to care about the history.  In the West, a short attention span is the norm.)  Hence, the Israelis would do well to replace their leaders with those whom realize the danger (of course, they won't).  See Also.

Link.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Business

Anyone you are doing business with is not your friend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Unpleasantness

Unpleasantness is something that happens to other people, except when it happens to you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Altered State

If an altered state of consciousness is a normal condition, then it is no longer altered.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who Cares?

Who cares whether or not God exists?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Creativity = Insanity?

Dopamine System in Highly Creative People Similar to That Seen in Schizophrenics, Study Finds:
High creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. Creativity is also linked to a slightly higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual pr bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. And now the correlation between creativity and mental health has scientific backing.

"We have studied the brain and the dopamine D2 receptors, and have shown that the dopamine system of healthy, highly creative people is similar to that found in people with schizophrenia," says associate professor Fredrik Ullén from Karolinska Institutet's Department of Women's and Children's Health, co-author of the study that appears in the journal PLoS ONE.
 This explains a great deal about certain people: They're only "healthy" because they're functional.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fear 2

Fear is a weapon for denial.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fear

1. Few wish to face their fear.
2. Fear is power.
3. Putting a face on fear can ensure anonymity.
4. Few wish to face their fear.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Money

Money is a solid illusion.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The New American Dream

"The new American Dream is to get very rich and still be regarded as a victim."
                              - Charles Simic

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hate

Where there's nothing to love, there's always something to hate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gold

Gold may not always be worth having, but it's always worth stealing.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Technological Mesmerization

Technological mesmerization is a useful tool for occultation of economic reality.  It can be especially useful in the generation of spectacle at the expense of those believing themselves to be a majority.  A minority within a minority may always focused upon in an effort to delegitimize the  offending cause or movement.  Kooks love the camera.  You can always find enough of some objectionable idiot to focus upon.  The news comment sections abound with it.  Laziness is easy.

Although often successful, and for that very reason is always exploited to Maximum Advantage in all Things, this approach degrades national cohesion by sowing long term divisiveness for long term gain.  As an end product, something is objectionable to someone, and society therefore writes itself off.  Fragmentation is a failed identity.  Even as it isolates further, people will try otherwise.  Crisis may create real change, but nothing else will.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Motivation

Motivation is for those with nothing better to do.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Can't Count

It's interesting how many accountants can't count.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Calm

The calm after the storm is a sign of exhaustion.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Question 6

Why bother raising a finger when you can raise an eyebrow instead?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Revolves

If the world revolves around everyone then it revolves around nothing.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Maximum Advantage is...

Maximum Advantage is doing everything the same.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hunger

Hunger is not a dream.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

King (or Queen)

In a land of Idiots, the moron is king (or queen).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Question 5

Why is an answer almost always required?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Question 4

Can meaning be defined by fiat?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Question 3

Why are all lies not statistics?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Off the Cliff

As some were gushing over a new nuclear arms reductions treaty,* the Obama Administration admitted that the U.S. Approves Targeted Killing of American Cleric:
The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.

Even Bush never went so far:
It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.
 Three thoughts:
  1. Who is next?
  2. Doubtless some future targets are currently cheering this action on.
  3. For his apologists: how, again, is Obama any better than Bush?
* Reducing nuclear weapons is a good thing.  How many of those warheads slated to be decommissioned are functional?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Question 2

What does agitprop seem to always influence everyone but oneself?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Question 1

Why is the opposite of that which is hated deemed to be good?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fools

A fool is easily made a tool.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Water

When it rains, it pours, but at least you have water.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fascinating

"We declare the person fascinating who listens to us longest."

- Gregory Norminton

Friday, March 19, 2010

Civilization 6

Civilization is like a balloon: as it expands, its points move farther away.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Civilization 5

What looks inviting is not necessarily so.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Civilization 4

Civilization divides even as it fuses.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Civilization 3: Sanitation

  1. Masses were not meant for close quarters.
  2. Modern sanitation, in large part, extended the average life expectancy about 30 years since the 1800s (see Here).
  3. Hunter gathers lived as long if not longer (See Here.)
  4. Bad hygiene is a product of civilization mitigated by a product of civilization (sanitation).
  5. Was it really worth it?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Monday, March 08, 2010

Civilization 1

Civilization, as something made for women by men, satisfies none.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Apathy

Apathy is isolation.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lies Can be Saved

Lies can be saved.  Just ask any investment banker...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Desperation

Desperation is form of stupidity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mitigation

Mitigation is not always worth the cost.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cultural Diseases

Cultural diseases have subjective severity.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Pages

Blogger has added a page feature which can be accessed from the menu at the top of the page.  For the benefit of feed readers:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Down is Up

Constant repetition is a means to ensure down is up.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Re: The Baffler Vol. 2 #1

The Baffler is back with Volume 2 No. 1.  I've been a fan of The Baffler, "the journal that blunts the cutting edge," since I first discovered issue #6.  (I even sent them a hard copy of Neither the Government Nor the Population - 6th Draft as I felt that they did not understand propaganda as well as they might.) It was never published with any regularity, but was printed even more sporadically their Chicago office was destroyed in a fire in 2001.  It was co-founded by Thomas Frank, who now writes for the Wall Street Journal and Harper's.  His writings in The Baffler have always been far more cynical than later efforts aimed at a mass audience, but what the hell.  He needs to make a living, and a PhD in history isn't worth much when you've spent a great deal of effort pissing off the academy.  Although he edits this issue, this may be why there are no essays by Frank.  He wants to keep his paying gigs.  (It makes me glad I'm an Engineer by trade.  I don't have to care about what others think.)

The style of The Baffler is heavily influenced by the early Populists and Mencken.

Anyway, the re-birth of The Baffler was worth the wait, and would be worth the $12 cover price if I wasn't a subscriber (which means it would cost about $5 if you should so choose).  I have only one complaint: P. 149 and P. 150 were switched in a printing SNFU.

Samples from the Issue:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Unexpressed

Unexpressed is out of mind.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Talent Redirected

Talent redirected is squandered by mediocre means.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dead Thoughts

"I prefer the living thoughts of the dead as opposed to the dead thoughts of the living."

-Patricie Holečková

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Determined to be Wrong

Are Mathematical Models the Cause for Financial Crisis in the Global Economy? It's funny how a deterministic model creates a deterministic outcome.  Randomness is not always random.  It can be constrained, and thus determined to be wrong.  In the short term, the scam works fine and makes everyone involved rich.  In the long run, it makes everyone else a little poorer.  The whole covers sucker bets.  Yet, individuals are manipulated and cast aside by powerful business entities that no longer have any interest.  Leaving ruins, these machines then move on to greener pastures.  Yet economic devastation does bring a certain freedom.  Some liberties can kill.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Next Crisis

TARP Panel: Small Banks Are Facing Loan Woe:
Nearly 3,000 small U.S. banks could be forced to dramatically curtail their lending because of losses on commercial real-estate loans, a congressional inquiry concluded.


The findings, set to be released Thursday by the Congressional Oversight Panel as part of its scrutiny of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, point to yet another obstacle for the slow-moving economic recovery. The small banks being threatened by loans they made for shopping centers, offices, hotels and apartments represent a major cog in the U.S. credit system, especially to entrepreneurs.

"The banks that are on the front lines of small-business lending are about to get hit by a tidal wave of commercial-loan failures," said Elizabeth Warren, a law professor at Harvard University who heads the TARP oversight panel.
Someone might want to live in a house, but who needs an empty strip mall?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Art Dies

Art dies when there is no longer any reason for it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Maximum Advantage: Exploiting Shame

The world is full of Chumps ripe for the picking...

I recently happened upon an Arizona Legal Studies discussion paper called Underwater and Not Walking Away: Shame, Fear and the Social Management of the Housing Crisis.  These emotional states are clearly being exploited to Maximum Advantage.   The Technical Morality manages crisis through reinforcement.  Being technical, its tools are inherently limited.  Efficiency is never total.  There is always some loss.

For managing crisis, simple themes are propagated.  Examples include:
  • Things aren't really all that bad.  There are a lot worse places to live.  (Hence, we fall farther.)
  • The economy has been bad before, but it will get better again.  It always does.  House prices will rise again.  Just stick it out.  You won't lose money if you don't sell.  (Even though you may not be able to maintain it.)
  • We (whomever) are in control.  Everything is normal.  Do not panic.
  • If you don't pay you bills your friends and neighbors won't be able to get a loan.
  • Interest rates will go up if you don't pay your bills.*
  • Capitalism is wonderful.**
Instilled notions may promote systemic stability, for a time, but repeated use blunts the effect.  Eventually even the dimmest will stop buying it.  Jobless and living on the street trumps the virtual world any day.  What will be the final crisis?

* Yes, I wrote this after paying my bills.
** Only communism is worse.  It was a feat, but they managed...

Monday, February 08, 2010

On Singularities #6

Political convergence is a singularity.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Last Ten Years

1. Sometimes the "correct" decision is the decision to do nothing.  Keep your mouth shut else distortion reign.

2. Politicians must always do something.  They like the sound of their own voices.  They cannot keep their mouths shut.  Constant motion is exhausting.  It dulls the brain.

3. Only the brainless or inept (take your pick) remain.

4. Something becomes nothing.  Nothing becomes something.   The soundbite is everything.  Deliberation is absent.

5. Politicians will always say something which is nothing but do nothing when something is the wrong "correct" action.  It may be nonsense but it means something to someone somewhere.

6. Affirmation says nothing.  Who cares?  It's just talk.  Politicians will always do the wrong thing.  Bets are thus won.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dignity is a hunger.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

In The World of Work...

1. Demotion is sometimes better than a promotion.
2. Progress is not always worth the cost.
3. Stress is usually not worth the extra pittance in compensation.
4. Never do anything for free.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Falls Are Harder

In a technological society, efficiency is a threat to freedom, whereas inefficiency is a threat to stability.  In combination, as control tightens whilst it becomes less possible to do so, the result can be a devastating squandering of resources.  Some falls are harder than others.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wisdom is knowing which limits to ignore.
Dignity is the delusion that a light rain washes away sewage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Self defined ethics is a perk of political office.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A sense of entitlement is usually a sign of it being undeserved.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ideas are often mistaken for something real.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Re: Respect

1. Why are those whom demand respect the least worthy of it?
2. Why would someone whom you do not respect be surprised when you do not show it?
3. Why would they think you care?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A weak foundation may be undermined by erosion.