Monday, 31 October 2016

Committees of Correspondence?

 US voters can be forgiven for throwing their hands in the air in bewilderment after no less a luminary than the director of the FBI, James Comey, has seen fit to weigh into the politics of the election at the last minute.

Talking of politics - What do we know about his politics? According to CNN to quote the man himself "I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life". However he has now apparently allowed his membership to relapse and isn’t registered any longer. Well he will have completely changed his political loyalties as a result of what must surely have been his own personal ‘road to Damascus’ experience? Who knows after that he could even be toying with signing up to Socialist Party USA as I write.. then again maybe not?

I had always just assumed being a paid up republican was one on the qualifications for the job – Oh and he has a history of going after Hills.
How many does it take to blow up the houses of Parliament?

         – ask Guy Fawkes. An appropriate question as we come up to Nov 5th, the 410th anniversary of the plot.

But I digress – Apparently James Comey has written an ‘explosive’ letter to Congress and then one here to explain himself.

So what genuine information do we actually have?

He says some emails have turned up in a case unrelated to Hill’s but they might be 'pertinent' to that investigation. So he wants to take appropriate steps to obtain  and 'review' them.

When pushed he ‘decisively’ states “We would certainly look at any new and substantial information.” speaking about something entirely hypothetical.

...but - wait a minute here, let's be clear on this. The FBI have not actually got their hands on any emails? They have not read them. They seem to have no idea what, if anything, relevant may or may not be in them. “Penis enlargement” and “letters from nice Russian girls” maybe?

Given the supposed possessor of the hypothetical emails is the estranged husband of Hill’s aid what are the chances if there are any genuinely vaguely ‘pertinent’ emails they will be copies of ones the FBI have already reviewed and discounted?

Soo.. on the basis that it is not impossible to rule out that there may be some emails that may have some connection to an investigation, the FBI previously concluded had not risked leaked data Comey sees fit to write what amounts to an incendiary letter to congress, surely knowing that the simple existence of the letter he has written can be used to destabilize Clinton’s campaign among the voters inclined to think exclusively in headlines and ignore the small print.

 Of course if it all blows over as a nothing after the election – any damage is already done – unfortunate that. Well if he didn’t see that before he wrote then maybe one ought to question if Mr FBI is bright enough to actually undertake his current role.. and ditto if he did and did it anyway.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Quote of the Day

“Someone asked me the other day if I believe in conspiracies. Well, sure. Here's one. It is called the political system. It is nothing if not a giant conspiracy to rob, trick and subjugate the population."”
(Jeffrey Tucker)

Conspiracy 101

I am not naturally a great believer in conspiracy theories. There are normally far more likely reasons and explanations than conspiracy.

However there is such a thing as what is known as "Group-think". It really needs a detailed explanation but in short:

Group-think is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a groups of people and results in an irrational, or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

 The "in-group" significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the "out-group"). In addition, group-think can produce and pseudo legitimize, ugly, demonizing/dehumanizing, beliefs and actions, against the "out-group".

Group-think is also observed more broadly, in natural large groupings, such as different mind-sets of liberals versus conservatives, this conformity of viewpoints within a group does not mainly involve deliberate group decision-making, and might be better explained by the collective confirmation bias of the individual members of the group. It can naturally result in a group dynamic that can in turn look orchestrated without necessarily being so.

 It is arguable there are elements of this observable among "Remainers" in the "Brexit" campaign and aftermath of the vote.

The Remainers appeared to have a significant element of the metropolitan and Political elite, secure in their worldview and tending to look at anyone else , especially if they disagreed with them with contempt.

A neat example of faulty thinking and dehumanization was the way the Prime Minister, David Cameron, dismissed UKIP (UK Independence Party) as ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’. Many natural Conservative voters disillusioned with what they saw as the EU steamroller had increasingly identified with more reasonable elements UKIP’s not anti Europe as such, but specifically anti-EU stance.

Much of the Remain Campaign's "Project Fear" arguments were an attempt to browbeat terrify and stampede voters into being terrified of voting Leave and the "great and Good" were clearly confident they were going to have their way with a Remain vote in the referendum right up until the counting.

The Remainers had promised Armageddon in the event of a leave vote Prime Minister David Cameron even talking about war. Various world leaders had been dragooned to spout threats and warnings. Even President Barack Obama was wheeled out to spontaneously (anyone who thinks this sounds suspiciously like a peculiarly British phrase, crafted especially for a British audience please form a line) threaten that if the UK were to leave the EU it would, go to the 'back of the queue' when it came to negotiating any separate trade agreement with the US.

In the immediate aftermath of the vote there was in fact very little turbulence, except in the lives of some of the Political elite in the UK and across Europe. Heads Fell metaphorically among the British political establishment, Including David Cameron's. Much wailing and cursing was heard among the Remainers, used to getting their own way and inexperienced in accepting defeat.

Suddenly it became apparent that many of them were far more keen on the sort of democracy where things went their way than that less acceptable, practically fake, democracy.. more "Populism" almost.. Mob rule where things somehow incomprehensibly went against them.

So, and here is where we get back to the consequences of group think. They began to talk down the UK economy, currency and prospects against the evidence. They began to look at ways to subvert the result of the referendum.

The disappointed abroad, with the bitterness of spurned lovers who never saw it coming EU leaders began to threaten to make the UK pay for abandoning them.

Eventually a computer logarithm in the far east picked up on this wailing and gnashing of teeth and mistaking it for real problem instigated a flash crash in the value of sterling in eastern markets before anyone human had a clue what was happening.

It must have occurred to quite a few - it did me - at this point that if the dire predictions could somehow be made to appear to come to pass... If the Referendum could somehow be subverted, or diverted, by the usual suspects in parliament... by < href="">a court case.. then the remainer elite might yet get to have their cake and eat it.

An the poor old dumb ill educated foolishly idealistic voters would never realize their prize had been snatched away and could be lulled back to sleep, happily dreaming they had won their independence.

 Not an actual conspiracy then - as such... more a group's individuals actions collectively producing a manifestation of group-think swarming behavior... "

So, now you know - if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it still ain't necessarily actually a duck, it could, despite appearances, just be something... duck-like... duck-ish.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Hills vs Donald II. Just when you thought it was safe...

Acknowledging Getty Images + P Richards

Some random thoughts on the Presidential debate between Hills and Donald.

It’s no good. I have tried to resist commenting on the world at large. Greatly assisted by lack of time and the suspicion that it makes very little difference anyway :-) Never-the-less here goes nothing.

Firstly, having considered the two of them, I must nail my colors firmly to the mast as a strong supporter of… “None of the above”. To me neither would exactly be my first choice as a commander in chief, nor many of the also-ran’s who put their names in for nomination, on either side.

One thing that for some reason especially stuck with me about the debate was Donald’s comments about Bill Clinton. For any one who has been living in a nuclear bunker under silent running since – say 1973…

Donald has had some comments he made on camera a few years back come back to haunt him. He characterizes them as “Locker room comments”.

He said, “It was locker room talk, as I told you. That was locker room talk. I'm not proud of it.”

He neglected to mention if he was specifically referring to a Middle School Locker Room or not - Given the intellectual maturity of the original comments. - On reflection though hopefully not, as one would like to think better of middle schoolers, their whole lives in front of them, hope of the future etc.

There is probably a thesis somewhere in so called ‘Locker Room banter and unwritten protocol’ revolving around naked guys subconsciously trying to show they are not doubtful about their sexuality, by adopting and using exaggerated stereotypes.

It all brings to mind something Confucius once said: “Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?”.

But I digress - Reassuringly Donald insists he has “…tremendous respect for women.” So that’s ok then.

In any event, presumably as mitigation, or possibly in the hope of some mud randomly sticking to Hills amongst the ‘hard of thinking community’, Donald offered up a comparison between himself and her husband Bill Clinton (not just any random black sheep) -  and how he interprets allegations about Bill’s behavior as so much worse than his.

I quote, “If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse. Mine are words, and his was action. His was what he's done to women. There's never been anybody in the history politics in this nation that's been so abusive to women. So you can say any way you want to say it, but Bill Clinton was abusive to women.”

So, in Donald’s own words, according to transcripts, apparently speaking about himself, he said; “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss… I don’t even wait.” - “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.” - “Grab them by the p---y,” - “You can do anything.”

So, to recap,  these are Donald Trump’s own words  - about what he apparently boasts are his own personal actions. So looking at his comment “Mine are words and his was action. His was what he's done to women.”? 

Really? Because it kind of sounds on the face of it like a boastful admission of actions someone was in the habit of taking - and knew from personal experience - his power and influence would let him get away with. Actions “done to women” from what was said.

From that specific ‘attack’ it seems to me Hills does not come out quite so badly, morally speaking, as the ‘wronged, faithful, forgiving wife ” arguably defending her husband. 

Maybe Donald should have thought that one through some more before trying it? There again presumably he knows his supporters…