I’d rather have a border wall than the Green New Deal

Let me be clear: I think the border wall is a terrible idea. It is a huge waste of money and has become symbolic of values which completely contravene American ideals. It even contravenes “conservative ideals”. Do you think Ronald Reagan would have liked a border wall? I strongly doubt it.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called fighting climate change her generation’s “WWII”. I agree. In part. If we don’t prevent catastrophic climate change, our way of life could cease to exist. Which would be bad. Note however that a potentially mortal condition says nothing about the effort needed to cure the problem. If you get rabies and don’t treat it, you will die. 100%. The cure, however, is a few shots and then problem solved.

Preventing catastrophic climate change is obviously gonna take a bit more than a rabies shot, but a WWII style mobilization? This is what Green New Deal (GND) supporters want you to swallow whole, but is their solution the best, or even a credible, way to solve the problem?

If we want to save the planet, first we should get the objective straight. The strict version of the GND espoused by the Sunrise Group states: “We’re fighting for a just transition to 100% renewable energy within 12 years — the time frame set by the world’s leading climate scientists”. 12 years (ie 2030) is indeed the time frame set out by scientists in a UN report. But not for 100% renewable energy. It’s the time frame to cut emissions by 45% from 2010 levels. It does not say our energy sources need to be renewable. If someone developed a cheap way to reduce 95% of coal and tailpipe emissions, then 2030 deadline solved. But if you’re a hardcore GNDers: not renewable, verboten! It is likely that renewable sources like wind and solar are among our best options to solve climate change. But it is also likely that some forms of pollution reduction or a 5% dirty fuel could help. If you truly fighting a war, you do not remove these options for fixations on some airy ideal.

But it gets worse (the GND that is). Even if we don’t limit our choice of technologies, getting emissions down by 45% in 12 years is going to be a formidable task on a tight schedule. It would make sense to concentrate our efforts on the goal and not waste energy on other things. Like jobs. Should we, as a society, try to make sure people have means of support? Yes absolutely. But that has nothing to do with climate change. If the best way to solve climate change involves creating jobs, great. If it involves job destruction, then…let’s worry about jobs in 2031. Or in separate legislation. Because if we don’t solve the climate problem and fry the planet, jobs really aren’t gonna matter. Ditto for “to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of……….”. An admirable goal which we should be thinking about as a society. But separately, in a way which doesn’t distract from the climate goal. When we fought WWII we devoted all our efforts to solving the problem, defeating Germany and Japan. We did not say hmm Stalin’s gonna be a problem down the line, so we might as well go after him too. And Franco. Had we done so, it would have been catastrophic. The full-fledged GND runs the same risk.

It gets even worse. War sometimes requires questionable weapons and in times of great peril, foregoing them is a very difficult decision — think the bomb. The GNDers go one step further, however, and want to marginalize very effective, very non-WMD type pollution control mechanisms, i.e. prices and markets. The latest from AOC softens the stance and allows for a small, non-central role to carbon taxes. But as detailed here, it should be front and center.

What little progress we have made on controlling emissions to date has been driven ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY by markets and prices. This has been lucky: the cost of wind, solar and gas has gone down, while the cost of coal has stayed stagnant. Had this been reversed, we would be polluting more. However there’s a very easy way to make markets work: add the cost of pollution back into the price. This can be in the form of tradable emissions permits (cap and trade) or carbon taxes. Both work and the nice thing is that you can set them to levels consistent with the 45% goal and just let the (much maligned) human self-interest work. Uneconomic polluting energy sources become unprofitable so self-interested corporations shut them down. Conversely, technologies which can cut emissions become very profitable, so greedy corporations rush to invest in them.

Don’t believe prices work? Think back to 2008. Gas prices skyrocketed. Consumers responded by foregoing SUVs and moving closer to work. US consumption of petroleum products dropped by 5.8%, the largest annual decline since 1980 (any guesses what happened then?). And because prices work, carbon taxes work. And cap and trade works.

The real elephant in the room — which would ground the GND even were it at all realistic — is that the US is becoming less of the emissions elephant in the room. That would be China, India and the developing world. It will be difficult to get them to get their emissions down. But not impossible. Rising middle classes are clamoring for less pollution and governments are at least paying lip service to cuts.. An efficient market solution in the US could serve as a beacon. A hugely expensive set of bloated blathering policies at cross-purposes to the actual solution will just create confusion.

Silver bullet efficient clean technologies would make the task of climate control much eaiser. It has been suggested that the real spending should not be on jobs etc, but on researching the type of cheap clean technologies which would lessen the burden on the third-world. While some of the large dollops of government spending might end up like Solyndra, given the seriousness of the problem that’s probably an acceptable cost (as mentioned before, setting the cost of pollution high enough through market mechanisms will also have this positive effect on research).

Which leads us to the Real Green Deal:

  1. Enact robust carbon taxes and/or a cap and trade system without loopholes
  2. Get rid of dirty energy subsidies (these do the exact opposite of what carbon taxes do) and other regulations/barriers which entrench traditional energy sources
  3. Use some of the carbon tax/cap and trade revenue on clean technology research (yes revenue not huge bloated costs we need a class war to fund)
  4. Share technology and create incentives for the developing world to join a system of carbon taxes/tradable emissions permits

Simple. Efficient. No class war needed.

Not the stuff to inspire gaggles of hyperventilating volunteers to support your next campaign. But it’s a plan that actually might work. 3) will be the hardest and not under our control. But without 1) and 2) to set an example, 3) will be much less likely.

That Silly Wall

In the hopefully unlikely case that the border wall does get built, I expect a wiser future generation (or the next administration) to tear it down and the history books will record how silly it was. Silly, but correctable. If, however, we let the GND misdirect our climate efforts and fry the planet, we may not have the luxury of history books anymore.

The importance of being Leftest

Photo by Pabak Sarkar (CC)

Newspapers issues fade quite quickly out of memory — there are probably archives online, but nobody cares about them unless they are conducting some movie-like investigation.

I would like, then, to draw everyone’s attention to Rosa Gilbert’s article on The Independent from yesterday (How Jeremy Corbin etc.). It struck me because it is not very common for my newspaper of choice featuring a “Voice” piece on Italian politics, and I can easily forgive the titolista (the editor choosing the titles in a newspaper, as we say in Italian) for trying and tricking people to believe that it is relevant for Britons.

However, I felt compelled to react and send a letter (hoping not to turn myself into the famous lunatic old man yelling at clouds, as the letters section of a newspaper often looks like), that against my expectations has been published.

I cannot blame who decided to abridge it altering my sarcastic conclusion, but for the benefit of the public I am posting the full version.

Reading Rosa Gilbert’s piece about the Italian “grassroots” movement Potere al Popolo was fairly surprising to me (How Corbyn’s grassroots movement has inspired a Momentum for Italian youth, yesterday) as an Italian citizen working in the UK and with quite a taste for politics. Despite understanding why it could be of interest for The Independent’s readers, who are probably still baffled — as I am — by Momentum’s momentum, I am afraid that they would be severely misled if they didn’t take the article with a pinch of salt.

Since I was a young high schooler, I have lost track of the number of left and hard-left movements and parties that have sprung up in the attempt to be the best, the toughest, and the most in touch with the real people leftists, usually — as in this case, judging by the Italian media’s coverage — being completely overlooked by the public and ultimately forgotten.

In the past, they have always favoured the right wing parties, but I suppose that this is not a real problem if the center-left is allegedly harsher than parties that go hand in hand with Ms Le Pen and Mr Farage, and, besides, this can be their lucky time, can’t it?

Weekly Wrap-up

This week, House Democrats passed H.R. 1, the For The People Act, which limits the corrupting power of lobbyists and special interests and restores power to the people we represent and who we fight for every single day. This historic package ends the dominance of big money in politics, ensures clean and fair elections, and ensures public officials work for the public interest.

House Democrats also united, in this week to vote to condemn anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination, and bigotry in of its all forms.

This Week’s Votes

This week, House Democrats passed:

  • H.R. 1 — Strengthens American democracy and returns political power to the people.
  • Protects voters by ensuring clean and fair elections through improved access, integrity and security.
  • Expresses Congress’ intent to reform our campaign finance system by guaranteeing disclosure of online political ads, banning foreign money, requiring large organizations to disclose large donors, and prohibiting big-money contributors.
  • Empowers citizens by establishing a matching system for small donations, funded by corporate lawbreakers.
  • Heightens enforcement of campaign finance laws and restructures the Federal Election Commission.
  • Requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions to draw congressional districts.
  • Promotes accountability by prohibiting Members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and using taxpayer dollars to settle any cases of employment discrimination, requiring presidents to disclose ten years of federal tax returns, and addressing conflicts of interest in the Executive Branch.
  • Imposes greater ethics enforcement by strengthening the Office of Government Ethics and instituting a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.
  • Enhances public disclosure requirements for lobbyists and foreign agents.
  • H. Res. 183— Condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination, and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance which are contrary to the values and aspirations of our country.

What made you believe that most people hate Donald Trump?

Loathe Trump?

But now, he’s at the helm. What can you do?

Remember the days before the 2016 elections?

We witnessed an apocalypse of hateful articles about the man who likes to “grab ’em by the pussy.” Our social media feeds were filled with them.

He part-took in numerous adverse events to weaken his candidature. His speeches were full of errors and racial undertones.

The only great aspect of Trump?

His communication skills (yeah, he’s a great salesman).

Donald Trump is a terrific salesman. Here’s a Nerdwriter analysis of how he answers a question.

Now let me tell you a weird thing about the internet –

If you are a hardcore Trump hater, then you might not have come across a single article in his favor.

That’s not because everyone hates him (as you’d want).

It’s because social media algorithms feed you what you want to hear.

Facebook wants you to spend more time on its platform. It can’t afford to turn you off with a pro-Trump article. So it will only show stories that conform to your ideologies.

The cognitive bias you’re made to fall into is called the confirmation bias.

Indeed, this bias is the reason that you:

  • hang out with peeps that like the same kind of shit as you,
  • visit websites that conform to your thinking and perspectives.

So when will this bias appear as a significant stumbling block for you?

It gets triggered during discussions around your core beliefs, life philosophies, and political affiliations. Even when it’s a discussion on your favorite movie.

Sensible counter facts and rational arguments won’t matter.

It’s difficult to accept the limitations, weaknesses, and loopholes around your lovelies (they are fuckin’ close to your heart).

But wait a second…

Why does our brain behave in such a weird way? Doesn’t it limit our thinking?

What’s surprising is that these cognitive biases are meant to safeguard our brain.

So how do these mental shortcuts affect your everyday behavior?

Well, they can lead you astray. They prevent you from acting in your own best interest or even have intelligent conversations.

Now let me throw in two similar biases (to confirmation bias) that prevent you from making accurate judgments —

The in-group bias and the conservatism bias

Did you overestimate the abilities and values of your team? Maybe, you also deem people outside your team as less competent.

That’s in-group bias — when you favor the people who are a part of your group over people that you don’t know.

Remember how our scholars in middle ages had problems dealing with the fact that earth isn’t flat?

Okay, I get it. You’re a new-age, intelligent fellow.

Let me give another example.

Suppose you’re a trader, working in a swanky office at Wall Street. Trading XYZ company shares made you a goddamn millionaire.

The next month’s forecast of XYZ’s earnings showed great signs — so you put more money on the table.

Then, a new report negatively contradicts the information. It’s likely that the company will lose money.

Given your attachment to XYZ, you can’t digest the latest report findings, and hold on to the earlier report.

You, my friend, are breeding conservatism bias.

Put plainly:

It is when you under-appreciate new information (that contradicts your present world-view) and hold onto your old beliefs.

I’ll share a few more biases in the coming biases.

Meanwhile, beware of Trump.

No, he isn’t an everyday problem.

Your social media feeds definitely are. Keep a check of the content they feed you.

Read the entire article on cognitive biases at Chintanzalani.com.

If you liked the article, you should check out my 5-lesson email masterclass to break conventions. It’s FREE!

For more ass-rollicking content, you can visit ChintanZalani.com.

I also share cool stuff on social media — follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Hey sweetfuck, one last request. You can click on the 👏 up to 50 times — it will spread the content across Medium, and let more fuckers enjoy it.

Dave Rubin Interviews the Ghost of Heinrich Himmler

Dave Rubin, briefly startled by the disembodied spirit of the Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel, Heinrich Himmler.

Dave Rubin: Welcome to the latest installment of The Rubin Report. Today we have the ghost of one of the titans of 20th century history. He’s pretty much been vilified by historians and the snowflake culture at our nation’s most prestigious universities — the same ivory tower eggheads who promote all kinds of SJW nonsense. And The left will certainly “freak out” and become unhinged at the very idea that I would do an interview with him, but, you know, it’s what I do. So I’d like to welcome the ghost of Heinrich Himmler to the Rubin Report.

Heinrich Himmler: Thanks, Dave. Good to be out here in sunny California.

DR: Yeah, and before we get to the intolerance of the left, let me ask you about being a ghost. Is that cool? It seems like you could have some fun with it.

HH: You know, I’ve been a ghost for so long that I’m used to it. Passing through walls is still such a shock, though. It’s second nature.

DR: But you just said you liked the sun, so do you feel it? You enjoy sunny days?

HH: I mean, maybe I feel it, a little. But mostly it’s just the idea and the outdoors in general. I’ve always been a fan. A lot of ghosts hang out in dank basements and attics. They like having their pity parties. Stalin’s ghost is a huge fucking downer, man.

DR: You don’t get along with him?

HH: No, not at all. He’s a communist degenerate.

DR: I bet he won’t even listen to you.

HH: Of course not. Typical leftist.

DR: That’s why I left the left. No dialogue.

HH: Oh, I don’t blame you.

DR: So, anyone who knows history knows that you committed suicide.

HH: Yes.

DR: But what people may not remember is that the left drove you to take that drastic step. Isn’t that true?

HH: [sighing] Yes, unfortunately.

DR: Do you just want to take some time and talk about how out of control the left is?

HH: It was crazy! First they had this awful rhetoric. They actually called it “D-Day” and they advocated punching Nazis even back then, if you can believe that.

DR: Wow.

HH: They made fun of us all the time. Hollywood was relentless. In cartoons, we were bested by feminine house cats. And the FDR-worshipping liberals BURNED OUR CITIES! And today it’s even worse. They don’t believe in free speech. If I came to speak at Berkeley — can you imagine?

DR: The illiberal left would probably riot at the idea. They are so, so regressive and against free speech that they would probably do anything to try and stop your speaking engagement. They’d riot and burn cars over a harmless ghost!

HH: I have no physical substance at all!

DR: I know. The totalitarian left just doesn’t want to hear the other side. And if the disembodied spirit of Heinrich Himmler isn’t welcome to give a speech to young men and women at an institution of higher learning, I have to wonder if the very concept of freedom even means anything to the left anymore.

HH: Exactly, Dave. You know, you really have a way of diving down into the heart of the issue.

DR: And despite all the bad things FDR did to you, the illiberal regressive left — that, to be very, very clear, I am no longer associated with — these illiberal liberals actually look up to FDR as a hero.

HH: It’s unbelievable, Dave.

Himmler while alive: a fine example of the “superior race.”

DR: Look, I’m a gay man. I believe in universal health care and all this other liberal stuff that I never have any actual time to talk about on this program, but it is still extremely important to me. But that’s not good enough for them. They say “Dave’s interviewing poltergeists again!” as if sage spirits from the past have nothing to teach us. There is no middle ground for liberals. They think that just because people tried to exterminate an entire race decades ago that they have nothing valuable to contribute. And that is a prejudice I just cannot condone. It’s atrocious.

HH: You’re preaching to the choir, Dave. I also agree with universal health care and I think Plan B should be available without a prescription, but somehow I’m only defined by my opinion on the Final Solution. I’m sorry that I’m not a lockstep liberal. I’m a classical liberal, the way liberalism was meant to be.

DR: I LOVE the term “classical liberal.” It describes me perfectly. But I’m not welcome on the left. I’m already in deep trouble with the people in the Oppression Olympics, so I’ll go ahead and ask what’s on everyone’s mind: have to talked to the big guy recently?

HH: I speak to him every now and then. But he’s so busy running the country, that —

DR: Oh, no, I actually meant the other big guy — the one who used to be your boss.

HH: Oh…I — yes, that actually happens a lot. You’d be surprised. But, anyway, Adolf is doing well. As you know the left is STILL going on about him. They are snowflakes who never get over anything.

DR: They certainly are. Well, we’re running out of time here, but I hope everything works out for him.

HH: Oh, yes. I’ll tell him you said so. He’s a big fan of the show.

DR: We do have a lot of subscribers, and speaking of subscribers don’t forget that you can donate to my Patreon. And if you like interviews like this one that the left would never allow on their snowflake media then I hope you’ll consider donating. Mr. Himmler, thank you so much for stopping by.

HH: Thanks for having me, Dave.

DR: And that wraps up another Rubin Report. I’ll see you all again real soon.

Cherian George’s “Singapore, Incomplete” Book Launch

Dr. Cherian George’s book “Singapore, Incomplete” launched at Grassroots Book Room on December 10. Image: Terry Tan

Dr. Cherian George, an outspoken critic of the Singapore government, does not subscribe to the idea of the People’s Action Party being ousted from its one-party dominance of the city-state.

Instead, the former Straits Times journalist believes that, despite an increasingly unhappy citizenry in recent years, the progress of the nation is more plausible with a reformed PAP.

“Even if the opposition (parties) remain weak, isn’t it possible that openness towards political competition, to alternate ways of thinks, will come from within the (PAP)? I think, given the state of affairs in Singapore now, there’s no running away from this,” Dr. George says during the launch of his book, Singapore, Incomplete, at the Grassroots Book Room on December 10.

The book, a collection of essays focusing on Singapore’s arrested democracy, serves as the academic’s personal intellectual challenge and “responsibility as a citizen” to explore this controversial topic.

Before his current post at the Hong Kong Baptist University, Dr. George had his continuing tenure at the Nanyang Technological University denied — a decision which observers suggest was politically motivated over his remarks about the government. With Singapore, Incomplete, he hopes specifically to get his message across to young, future leaders of the PAP.

“I’m doing something that does not come naturally to me, which is to reach out to people who think rather differently from me,” Dr. George reveals, identifying conservative PAP supporters and party members as the people he wishes to address to. “At the end of the day, if (the PAP) is going to be dictating the pace of change and the way Singapore is going to evolve in the short to medium term, shouldn’t we engage them? And so that’s how I approach this book.”

Dr. Cherian George speaks at the launch of his book “Singapore, Incomplete” at Grassroots Book Room. Image: Terry Tan

PAP suffers a 2011 “shock therapy”

As Dr. George observes, the PAP had learned its lesson from the 2011 election — an event marking a historic first when the opposition Worker’s Party won the control of Aljunied GRC from the incumbent PAP — by addressing longstanding problems it could have dealt with years ago. In fact, its once unrestrained immigration policy frustrated Singaporeans for two decades prior to 2011. Dr. George recalls his Straits Times colleagues uncovering dissensions from the ground in the early 1990s as people expressed unhappiness over bond-free university scholarships being freely given to non-citizens as well as employers’ preferences to hire expats over locals.

“(My journalist friends) never got to write about it because of the government’s control of mainstream media… So those grievances remain suppressed,” Dr. George says. He adds that the public grievances over government policies which would haunt the PAP in the 2011 election should not come as a surprise as “they have been simmering for years.”

Eventually, the PAP began to tackle seriously the key concerns of housing, healthcare and transport. It may be a little too late for a more reasonable public discourse of immigration, which, although the government started to control tightly, had devolved into a contentious and “toxic” debate.

“Wouldn’t it be better if, at the very early stage, the Singaporeans who are very unhappy about certain policies did have their say published (by the press),” Dr. George ponders. “It would be better if those early hints of unhappiness (were made known) 10, 20 years earlier and that would have forced the PAP to respond much earlier to this unhappiness, rather than (let) it to grow to a much more unmanageable degree.”

Nevertheless, having recovered sufficiently from its 2011 “shock therapy”, the PAP did well enough in the following years to gather 69.86% of the popular vote in the 2015 election, a better result perhaps bolstered by the death of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, and the SG50 celebrations in that year.

Getting tougher on government critics

But what especially troubles Dr. George is the way the Singapore government calibrates its national posture in the aftermath of the 2011 election.

“(The PAP) did enough between 2011 to 2015 to convince voters that it was listening to people… and enough voters felt that the PAP has learned its lesson so we can now cut it some slack. It seems to be what happened in (the 2015 election),” Dr. George points out.

The government, however, had “largely decided there’s simply no pleasing bloggers” and other establishment critics and proceeded to deal with them harshly. This would lead to defamation lawsuits, a notorious tool wielded by the PAP to bring down foreign media and opposition politicians, being employed against “relatively unknown bloggers and treating them as serious opponents.”

In addition, the government acted to increasingly restrict academia and civil society activism as part of the “other side” of its post-2011 response.

“The first side was, yes, a positive response to grievances on the ground. (But) if you look at (the PAP’s) actions, it is quite clear that they decided after 2011, “Let’s assume (the critics) are not representative (of the mainstream). If we look after the interests of the majority, we can, in fact, be even harsher to our critics than we used to”,” Dr. George explains.

“2015 actually proved to them that this is a gamble that worked. There was indeed no need to pander to the critics as long as it got its basic policies right. Since (then), there is an even greater hardening of its posture towards critics.”

It does not help that 2017 saw a rather rocky year for the PAP in light of the Lee family feud, MRT breakdowns and the reserved presidential election. “You see the Singapore government losing a bit of its old aura of policy infallibility. It now looks like a government that is capable of making mistakes, alongside its other capabilities,” Dr. George opines.

Singapore’s democratic inertia

Yet, despite the rise of negative sentiments towards the PAP in recent years, critics have resigned to the fact that nothing will change since the election system is widely perceived to be “tilted in the PAP’s favour.”

“The typical conversation in Singapore now goes something like this: grumblings, complaining about the government’s mistakes, but usually, someone at the end of the conversation will say, “But you know what? Singaporeans are still gonna vote for PAP in the next election”,” Dr. George says.

Other factors contribute to the inertia of democracy in Singapore: weak opposition parties and swing voters who are risk-averse and “quite easily pacified by a government that performs well.”

Furthermore, the government had started developing its capability of “sentiment analysis”, which is the use of digital technology and big data to study public sentiments over government policies in real-time, Dr. George claims.

“My guess is that its capacity to do so is quite large. That would be, they will no longer be caught napping the way it did in 2011. That it will know, for example, (whether) the talk of raising the GST rates will be costly in an election. And it will be able to track when the unhappiness will peak and die down, in time for the next election.”

Such an Orwellian use of digital technology hardly impresses Dr. George who thinks it may run against the PAP’s philosophy of not overstating elections or placing a government in power through referendum.

“Yes, elections are necessary but you also need to, for example, protect the rule of law and minority rights from majoritarianism. We shouldn’t just decide to go ahead or not go ahead with something based on what the majority wants because what the majority wants may violate minority rights,” Dr. George states. “You also need to preserve spaces for expert decision-making. Not all decisions should be made according to public opinion.”

He further argues that sentiment analysis is “a refinement of top-down mode of government” and does little to improve decision-making at highest level of governance.

Dr. Cherian George signs books at his “Singapore, Incomplete” book launch. Image: Terry Tan

The government going forward

Change should most fundamentally begin at the heart of the ruling party, according to Dr. George. He is concerned that the PAP’s 2011 post-mortem is inadequate as well as the lack of talents — who have experiences in private corporate sectors — within the present Cabinet. Most ministers hail from the higher echelons of the military and civil service, and closed-shop professions like medicine and law.

“Try to look for someone with the kind of experience that one would assume will be extremely relevant for Singapore, which is, say, a minister with 20 years of experience in a globally exposed industry, who throughout his working life has had to confront the challenge of creating jobs, creating wealth and face intense competition from multiple players and in the context of constant change,” Dr. George says.

“This is the reality facing most businesses in Singapore. As a country, this is surely the reality faced by Singapore now and into the future. Intense competition where you do not get to control what people say about you, where you have to take it for granted that you are operating with open flows of information and constant change… If (the government) is interested in preserving PAP dominance, shouldn’t you want people with that kind of experience at the center of the government?”

Ultimately, Dr. George blames groupthink which might prevent the government from realising its full potential as it helps shield “top policymakers from ideas that are inconvenient (and) too uncomfortable.” An open democracy may hamper the government’s implementation of its policies but Dr. George thinks that the trade-off of slow and inefficient governance is that the PAP doesn’t end up making wrong decisions for moving ahead too fast.

He remains hopeful that Singapore’s democracy could blossom beyond its current state. While Singaporeans tend to discuss this subject in terms of the success of opposition parties, Dr. George believes there is another way to look at it.

“I think there are some avenues that we have not explored sufficiently. And one particular avenue is the possibility of an internal reform within the PAP,” he remarks.

Of course, more work needs to be done in that area. Pointing to the government’s reliance on sentiment analysis to manage the expectations of the populace, Dr. George says that “there is no alternative but to open up (the government’s) decision-making to internal competition as well as to external scrutiny.”

“…we are talking about more freedom of speech, more freedom of expression, more critics from the outside, as well as a more competitive and open approach to government, valuing dissenting voices from within, rather than treating establishment critics or critics from within the cabinet or civil service as necessarily enemies of the state,” Dr. George summarises.

Why Some People Aren’t Shocked About Manafort’s Light Sentence

Paul Manafort was finally sentenced in a Washington D.C. Federal Court after being found guilty on eight counts of tax fraud, banking fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent. He was originally tried on 18 separate counts, but there was a mistrial on ten of those counts where one juror held out on those charges. Manafort later admitted guilt on those charges in another courtroom. Manafort showed no remorse at his sentencing, which the judge remarked on, yet Judge T.S. Ellis still saw fit to ignore the sentencing guidelines which recommended a sentence of 19–24 years, instead, giving him 47 months, before being credited for time served and the equivalent of good behavior.

When his sentence was announced, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth by people, particularly the media, who expected a much harsher sentence. They were shocked, that a rich white man, who stole tens of millions of dollars from the public in terms of unpaid taxes. Who lied to prosecutors while pretending to cooperate, who tampered with witnesses, gave confidential polling data to a Russian oligarch, and aided dictators and murderers for the last twenty years of his life. Shocked that he got away with what amounts to a slap on the wrist.

For all the dismay of the newscasters across the media. Black people who just watched the police officers that shot an unarmed man in his grandmother’s back yard and never went to trial were not surprised. The rape victims that discovered their rapists were given a sweetheart deal by a U.S. Attorney, illegally without their knowledge while labeling the underage victims as prostitutes were not surprised. Crystal Mason, a black woman who just started serving a five-year sentence for voting, not realizing her voting rights had not been restored after serving time for a felony charge, she’s not surprised. The Ohio State wrestlers who were molested while one of their former coaches knew and said nothing, watch as their story blew over and that coach is a prominent member of Congress; not surprised.

Justice is a wonderful notion, however flexible in its application. The best way to avoid it is to be rich, white and powerful. In the Manafort case, Judge Ellis claimed Manafort had led, “an otherwise blameless life.” This while Manafort was awaiting sentencing for other crimes in a different jurisdiction. Judge Ellis has a reputation for being notoriously soft on “white-collar crime.” Why not be clear, there are whole categories of crime generally associated with rich white people, for whom justice is rarely meted out fairly. The Manafort case was no exception.

Manafort appeared in court in a wheelchair, green jumpsuit, claiming a litany of medical ailments. Were it not for his remaining sentencing next week, he might have hopped out of his chair and thanked his lawyers. He acknowledged being, “embarrassed and sad,” which apparently was penalty enough when you’re white, male, and rich.

Lying will become more normative in 2018

In the last 5–10 years, it feels like terms such as “strategy and planning” became buzzwords. That’s sad. But if anyone had a “strategy” in 2016 aside from “hope another musician doesn’t die,” it would probably be: tell a lie.

Obvious example here would be the U.S. Presidential election. Trump lied left and right, and Clinton wasn’t far behind. You could argue one of the big knocks on Clinton was the email server stuff — seemed like she was hiding a bunch of things, i.e. telling lies. Trump was maybe the best “tell a lie” candidate in U.S. history, and possibly even the world (if you exclude dictators and all that).

The “tell a lie” culture isn’t just in politics. Heck, politics is what we’ve come to associate lying with — but business and management ain’t far behind. Look at hiring as an example. For years we had this fear that candidates were lying — overstating their credentials, essentially. Now there’s a legit fear that employers are lying more. To wit: ever been on a job interview and they tell you they “don’t have a range” for that position? That is tell a lie time, baby! Of course they have a range, or otherwise their CFO/accounting people are miserable morons.

Has lying become a social norm for business and politics now?

Beyond just hiring, we’ve got a decline in workplace ethics. That’s led to an erosion of trust between managers and employees. We’ve all had the boss who assigns you 73,191 “urgent projects” per quarter, takes a fat bonus for himself, and gives you a raise slightly below inflation. “I’ll get you next year, Mike!” No he won’t. He’s in tell a lie mode. Many are.

Don’t even get me going on fake news.

What does this all mean for us? Let’s explore.

Nice article here called “The Year Of The Lie.” Very detailed with a lot of studies, so give it a read. This part probably pops more than most:

The reason the onslaught of fake news is particularly important to consider is because “we’d like to believe there is a marketplace of ideas and that the truth will win out. It’s not true; that’s not how the world works,” says Maurice Schweitzer, Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions. “It is not the case that the truth always wins out. In extreme cases, it can be a very long and torturous process.”

There’s an article recently from The Atlantic called “It’s Not The Economy,” and you’ve got a similar quote therein:

“People’s predispositions affect their factual beliefs about the world,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College who has researched why people believe what they do about politics. “What we want to be true influences what we believe to be true.”

Two Ivy League-level professors straight up telling it like it is.

Everyone lies — but how people tell a lie is usually based on social class. Here’s the money quote from another top professor, this time out of Northwestern:

“Why does this happen?” Rucker asks. “Those high is social class, by definition, have more wealth and resources. They feel more empowered, and this psychological sense of empowerment leads them down the path of cheating to help themselves. Those who are low in social class do not feel empowered. They feel more communal and more dependent on others, which produces a willingness to help others, even when it involves behaving unethically.”

So high-class cheat to protect themselves — that’s called “moral decoupling,” by the way — and lower-class tell their lies to bolster the community. Makes sense, and you’ve probably seen this in practice. This is all at the root of our bonus-driven work culture, or our flawed attempts at incentive programs. It’s at the root of inequality issues too, obviously. We have this culture at work often driven by achievement, to the point that a term like “management innovation” has come to mean “He/she works on products that make us a bunch of money.” With so much confusion about who, what, why, and how we’re doing things, should it surprise anyone that people are hitting their tell a lie targets left, right, and center?

That’s what some executive would sneer while reading this. “Professors? Those guys are jokes. I’m a world-builder!” Almost everyone in Trump’s cabinet thinks this way, as an aside. It truly is the tell a lie era, at least in America.

Look, look — I know companies are not beholden to moral norms. Most exist to make money for a set of stakeholders. I get all that. It’s not surprising that lying would be rampant in most companies. A lot of work is really a complex game of control and power anyway, and people having the chance to tell a lie is often crucial to their own personal “strategy” about surviving and advancing.

But we’ve got engagement numbers in the toilet globally. Trust numbers aren’t that far behind. Everyone is stressed. No one seemingly has time for anything. We’re running people in circles and burning ’em out on both sides — and it’s all driven by this culture of “If you do more, you’ll get more. I promise!”

Talk about those “tell a lie” moments, eh?

That people should be better, more ethical? Sure. Although I myself am guilty there too. (We all are.)

Maybe that people should be open and honest at work? Of course, although that’s about six millennia from ever happening.

I try to think about work in different ways, and I also try to call out some managerial BS we’ve all experienced. If that kinda sorta interests you, I do a newsletter every Thursday.

Am I saying you shouldn’t be a lying dickbag to those who work for/with you? Yep. But for the target-chasers, this will never change.

I could be exhorting for The Gig Economy, which I personally have found some success with — but the fact is, we’re actually in the most bureaucratic time period ever (for first-world work). Those lying middle managers, who promise you the moon and hand you dirt? Ironically, they’re mostly crippling the bottom line of where you work.

People should be better, and work should be made simpler — not more complex, which is what we tend to do. That’s the bottom line. I can’t go around and fix every human being’s mentality, though.

There was a lot of fraught hand-wringing about the world in 2016. Many themes and essays tried to explain where we’re headed. Concerns, fear, disillusionment, etc. If you want one theme that kind of encapsulates so much going on around us right now, it’s that we’re living in the Tell A Lie Era. Who cares if you don’t release tax returns, which no one has ever done? Tell a lie! Become President!

Anything else you’d add on this tell a lie culture?

Democrats again embrace bigotry

One-time minor-league entertainment notable Sarah Silverman isn’t good for much. But this comparison is one time she is instructive.

In 2015, touring comedians like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld were critical of college audiences’ PC restrictiveness. But not Silverman.

“You have to listen to the college-aged, because they lead the revolution,” is how she explained her flimsy-spined willingness to accept trendy message-scissoring, as quoted in 2015 by AVClub.com.

Like Simple Sarah, the Democrat Party leadership seems to have no unvarying principle save for status-retention. They’ve apparently calculated that change must come, regardless of its quality.

To survive, albeit as gruesome behemoth, that party has now embraced hatred.

In the aftermath of the flood of ugly anti-Semitism that gushed from Rep. Ilhan Omar’s heart via her mouth, more than a few Democrat Party leaders and liberal mainstream media hacks rose to defend her against perfectly legitimate criticism.

Those included Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, the Washington Post, Roll Call’s Emily Kopp, Jon Shwarz of the Intercept, and pretty much everyone who cashes checks signed by Andrew Lack or Jeff Zucker.

And I’ve already lost track of how many other liberal news media figures have galloped into broadcast with tortured defenses of bigotry that all good people once considered indefensible.

“Democrats have become an anti-Israel party,” President Trump recently told White House reporters. “They’ve become an anti-Jewish party.”

Democrats effectively sanctioned Omar’s articulated evil. The resolution they ultimately produced did not explicitly name her or cite her statements, but watered down the point of the whole thing by cramming in every other form of prejudice imaginable.

“Today is historic on many fronts,” wrote Omar and fellow Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rachel Tlaib, in a triumphant joint statement. “It’s the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history.”

So, what began as a specific reaction to Omar’s anti-Jewish hate was turned from that noble task to a bland pronouncement more to her preference. The villain became the victor.

“Today’s resolution vote was a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism,” said House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney.

Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, and Tlaib have led the Democrat Party onto a vile boulevard that party’s heads used to decry. The ease with which those party officials reversed their anti-Semitism opposition illustrates smallness of character.

But unseemly indulgence of anti-Semitism is not contemporary Democrats’ sole offense.

American Catholics were once dependable Democrat voters. I grew up in the late ’60s and recall Irish-Catholic families hanging JFK portraits in their homes. (My wife and I presently have one of President Trump hanging in our living room.)

In recent times, more and more national Democrats have attacked Catholicism.

“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein intoned dramatically of Catholic appeals court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Many observers, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, charged the Democrat had violated the Constitution’s “religious test” prohibition.

Democrat Senators Kamala Harris and Maize Hirono challenged Judge Brian C. Buescher, who would possibly serve on the United States District Court for Nebraska, on his membership in the pro-traditional values Catholic Knights of Columbus.

For them and like-minded Democrat colleagues, religious testing of Catholics is all the rage.

It has become common for congressional Democrats and their news media accomplices to savage Catholic Church teachings and traditions. One need only read daily papers to find fresh evidence.

Taking a step back, we can see that Democrats’ hostility toward traditionally respected and influential American faiths is of a part with the general out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new sensibility guiding them.

That has seen challenges to Constitutional rights to free speech and gun ownership; historical revisionism in academia; the tearing down of venerable statuary; attempted erasure of national boundaries, sovereignty, and citizenship significance; and even disputation of our country’s very right to exist.

This is, of course, far from the first time the Democrat Party has

supported bigotry. Historians like author Dinesh D’Souza recall the majority of slaveholders belonged to that party, and that elected Southern Democrats long protected both that institution and the Jim Crow laws that followed.

The Ku Klux Klan began as a Democrat vehicle. Sen. Al Gore, Sr. filibustered against the 1965 Civil Rights Act, which was opposed by a majority of Democrats but supported by most Republicans.

Today, powerful Washington Democrats apparently reason that traditional American ideals of equality and nondiscrimination should be jettisoned in favor of Radical Islamic prejudices, and that party candidates can win future elections without the votes of Catholics and Jews.

I hope for the good of America that Democrats are again wrong.

Iowan DC Larson’s recent political books include “That a Man Can Again Stand Up: American Spirit vs sedition during the incipient Trump Revolution” and “Ideas Afoot: political commentary, cultural observations, and media analyses.” Essays by him have run in Daily Caller, American Thinker, USA Today, and elsewhere. Newspapers across his home state of Iowa carried his essays championing the Trump candidacy and presidency. And his political blog is American Scene Magazine https://americanscenemagazine.blogspot.com/.

Living a Post-Truth Reality

‘Real News’ achieved another victory last night over the ‘Fake News’ phenomena when Roy Moore lost his candidacy for Alabama Governor. Not only did he lose despite Trump using the same tactics that got him the bid in the 2016 elections — that of calling his accusers fake — but it starts to poke holes in the notion that the hype around the power of Fake News is here to stay. Maybe Trump won, not because of any remarkable success on his part, but because Clinton was as unremarkable as people thought, and only had a thin veneer in a life-time of selling out on the ideas she claimed to champion. Maybe it was also a bit historical, as Americans have had a tendency to swing conservative, especially after a liberal president, and the Democrats have not held three consecutive terms since FDR. Maybe the Americans that showed up to the polls are really as Xenophobic as the man representing the final electoral count. And maybe, because of this, there can be a shift in party politics, with the old power of Clinton and Wasserman-Schultz and those that ran the DNC for Hillary being replaced by a new wave of politicians that more accurately represent what the next generations want from the political process as compared to the previous. Or maybe I am getting ahead of myself, but there is cause for hope after the downfall of Roy Moore.

Fake News is a real threat, but one that is hard to take seriously. How can anyone listen to the ravings of Alex Jones and believe he is anything short of a mad man? How can people take Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about jobs, immigration and the environment as reality? The problem lies in the artful manipulation and polarization that has been happening across the country since 9/11, and took off during the financial crisis. When the terror attacks happened, the country grew angry. There had to be something that we could do. Sadly, that anger became so misguided that we destabilized the Middle East and wrecked the economy through deregulation and tax breaks that started in the Reagan era and were continued by his predecessors. All of this has led to an extremely caustic political environment where personal conviction is held over reality, and the American mythos that greatness comes from heavy industry and deregulation, that wealth is a symbol of aptitude and not inheritance, reigns.

This outpouring of Fake News, while stemming from the campaign, has kept up steam by a seeming deep state revolt. If things had continued like normal, like in the Bush days, there’s a good chance that media companies like CNN would have started to normalize the presidency by framing it as something that is happening, not something that is to be fought against. Instead, we have Russiagate, Donald Trump’s insistent tweets, and a disturbed and disrupted news cycle. An optimistic leftist would not be slow to point out that this means that a script of dissent is being inculcated in their less radical political compatriots, which could lead to a major backswing of the pendulum in the 2020 elections.

The question is, what do we do about it? Should we regulate social media and create a set of controls or should we let time and liberalism work out the problems? Can “truth and falsehood grapple?”

Personally I don’t believe that social media platforms should be regulated through the government, but I think the platforms should be transparent on the creation of their algorithm. When Google claims that it will begin to take into account the quality of sources in its search ranking, they should give a clear indication of what they mean by quality to show that they are not intentionally biasing some news over others. Since they are the current curator of vast archives of knowledge they hold tremendous power over what is found through keyword searches. A minor change in results is like a ‘minor’ change in high school history books, where at least in Pennsylvania, they teach that slavery had no effect on the Civil War, that Haymarket was the result of terror actions by anarchists and not police brutality on the workers assembled in the square, and more. A minor tweak on the information provided can have a ripple effect on the community reading it.

There is also the possibility that with the production of an algorithm that will determine the “quality” of a news article, it will lull people into a false sense of security, that what they have read is right because, well, look here is the explanation that proves that what I’m finding on Google is factual. There is still a strong probability that there will be a way to game the algorithm to rank certain articles over others, that could be exploited by sites that make more propaganda than they do news.

Personally I’m all for an anarchist internet. I’m pro-net neutrality and think that attempts by Facebook and Google and Twitter to look ‘clean’ and anti-fake news will, in the end, be a marketing stunt. The spread of fake information predates the internet to the beginning of civilization, and while it may have increased reach I do not want the platforms that host it to start working as the daily news editor. As long as people want to watch them, then figures like Alex Jones will get time in the spotlight. It’s not so much the Jones’ that worry me, but the censors that could remove the opposition or group it in the same category. Certainly chauvinists won’t disappear with a few expertly coded ones and zeros, and parties like Britain First that Trump is happy to retweet will keep plugging along with the same fervor they always have.

There won’t be any stopping the tide of history, and the world of Journalism is changing. The elites no longer hold all of the power, which should be a good thing for everyone involved. As Chomsky explains with his propaganda model, the media of the past century was largely run by those reflecting the consensus of the powered elites because they too were a part of that group. The barriers of entry were astronomical to starting a media corporation, now anyone with a twitter handle can break news immediately. There will, probably, be a balance that is found in the future, with power once again being concentrated in a few hands, but instead of decrying the “anarchy in the townsquare” we should embrace the competition of ideas. Yes, Neo-nazism is on the rise, but it lost before and it can lose again.