Teh Stupid: Donald Trump Replaces Sarah Palin

 Posted by on January 24, 2016 at 6:06 AM
Jan 242016
 

I'm with stupid

Well, if ever a news event didn’t require an explanation of Teh Stupid, this is it.

From Politico:

Trump video shows footage of Russian, not U.S. veterans
By ELIZA COLLINS 01/22/16 07:05 PM EST

Donald Trump used footage of Russian soldiers in a video post on his Facebook page that was meant to convey his respect for America’s veterans.

Fullstop!  WTF?

The video — which was later deleted — contains images of soldiers with medals that have the hammer and sickle, the symbol for communism, and “CCCP,” an abbreviation for the Soviet Union. The original footage is available on the stock footage site Shutterstock and is titled “RUSSIA, TOGLIATTI, MAY 9, 2015, Victory Day: Veterans of World War II with red flowers in hand at the Military Parade, military medals.”

In Trump’s video, he Trump speaks directly into the camera and says, “Our great veterans are being treated terribly, the corruption in the Veterans Administration, the incompetence is beyond. We will stop them.”

Then the video pivots to the images of the Russian soldiers as his voiceover says, “We’re going to take care of our veterans, we’re going to take care of our wounded warriors. These are our greatest people. We will take care of them like they’ve never been taken care of before.”

“Illegal immigrants in many cases are treated better than our veterans, that’s not happening if Trump becomes president,” Trump says again into the camera. “Believe me, our veterans will be proud again.”

Ya know, when I first downloaded the Daily News photo of Sarah Always Failin Palin and Donald Trump, I thought of the classic t-shirt caption “I’m With Stupid.” Problem was, I didn’t know who to make the subject of the caption, Trump or Palin. They’re both pointing at each other. Imagine my relief when the above article appeared. Problem solved.

In case you can’t read the fine print in the space between the heads of these two head-cases in the pic above, it begins with: “Birdbrains of a feather flock together…” In prehistoric times, their soul-mate fusion would have looked like this:
Feathered dinosaur

Trump, the avatar of solipsism,  is rapidly proving that he is only too competent to replace Palin as the embodiment of Teh Stupid. What’s next: Trump saying he can see Russia―or should that be Tehran?―from the balcony of his penthouse suite, atop the tower that so egotistically bears his name?

mcpalinboots

Exsqueeze me, puhleeze!

Jan 222016
 


He fixes the cable?What— Me?  “Fatuous”??


Now, this here story I’m about to unfold took place back in the early nineties— just about the time of our conflict with Sad’m and the Eye-rackies.  I only mention it because, sometimes there’s a man. . .  I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero.  But sometimes, there’s a man;  and I’m talkin’ about the “Dude” here.  Sometimes, there’s a man, well,  he’s the man for his time and place.  He fits right in there.  And that’s the Dude, in Los Angle-les.  And even if he’s a lazy man— and the Dude was most certainly that— quite possibly the laziest in Los Angle-les County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide. . .  But sometimes there’s a man, sometimes, there’s a man. . .   Aww.  Lost my train of thought, here.  But. . .  aww hell.  I done introduced him enough.

Life has a way of wearing down our sharp edges, has a way of making life changing decisions manifest out of the most unlikely circumstances.  And if you’re reading this now, then that circumstance is upon you.  What you make of it is entirely up to you.  But take a moment to hear me out, and see if you’re ready to go a new way;  the eternal way— that beckons you onward toward your destiny.

Now there are easily a thousand good reasons why you should read The Urantia Book, not the least of which is, it’s the official user’s guide to the planet you’re standing on.  But for the benefit of those who have never heard of it, like the Dude, or those who are just becoming aware of the book, like you, let’s just say the five reasons which follow are good enough to get you started.  See what you think.

5.  Admit it, dude:  you don’t really know where you are.

giphy-2Like all other mortals, you and the Dude were born into this world totally ignorant of whence you came, where you are, or what you are doing here.  But hopefully you began at some point to piece together a crude picture of where you are, and the more true information you’re able to add to your picture, well, the more staggeringly awesome it gets.

But, we find ourselves as living, supposedly sentient creatures on a singular, tiny blue dot of a planet, whizzin’ along at some insane rate of m.p.h., somewhere in the uncharted outskirts of an incomprehensibly vast spiral arm of a frickin’ enormous galaxy;  which would be just one of many trillions of such gigantic structures in our quite limited vision of the observable universe.

And even with our substantial strides in cosmic understanding, the vast majority of us still don’t fathom we are all a part of an immense plan— a gigantic enterprise— an eternal project— which the Gods are supervising and outworking.  And it’s the very incomprehensible vastness of the undertaking that renders it impossible for us to see very much of it at any one time, and more poignantly, during any one life.  Oh, and dude— you are on the bottom rung of an eternal ladder.  Better start climbin’.


Big Lebowski
:
 What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?
The Dude:  Dude.
Big Lebowski:  Huh?
The Dude:  Uhh… I don’t know sir.
Big Lebowski:  Is it being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the cost?  Isn’t that what makes a man?
The Dude:  Mmm. . .  Sure;  that, and a pair of testicles.

 4.  You don’t really know who you are.

Eight year olds, Dude.

Eight year olds, Dude.

Sure:  you’re “The Dude,” and some people call you “The Dude,” and perhaps you know a bit about a branch or two of  “The Dude” family tree;  but none of these sort of things tell you who you fundamentally are.  And, in the parlance of our times, neither does a pair of testicles.  So who are you?  Probably not who you’re thinking.

First things first.  We are all children of an infinite creator.
Consequently, whether you know it or not, that makes us all potentially eternal beings.  And whatever ideas you have of your “self” at this point in your really short little life here, it’s gotta be far less than the magnificent destiny that is being offered you by your Infinite Creator Father:  A creature that achieves perfection while climbing rung by evolutionary rung to Paradise.

But, yeah, you really can’t know a damned thing about that if you haven’t read the manual.  And if you haven’t read The Urantia Book, you haven’t read the manual.  Somma you may wanna start here.

 

3.  Dude.  You don’t even know what you are.

EvoMythApeYou may say to yourself, I’m a “bowler,” or, I’m the “Dude,” or, I’m a nihilist;  you may be a “cowboy,” a “compulsive fornicator,” a “private dick,” a “video artist,” or into “adult publishing.”  But all of those are secondary classifications;  they don’t actually explain what you are— as a sentient creature— a creature with the potential to become eternally existent in an endless universe.  So.

You know you’re a “person.” It’s because you possess something called “personality.”  “Personality” is probably the most misunderstood word in our language when it comes to understanding what we really are.  That’s because current psychology really doesn’t understand what personality fundamentally is, not to mention the other components of being— say them with me now— body, mind, soul, and spirit. Personality is able to unify these various components and, through your decisions, create your identity.

But you— when you carefully examine your identity— your self— should be able to recognize that there’s no one else exactly like you, anywhere;  not in the eternal past, not in the internal future;  you are already eternally unique.  Basically, that’s really the only thing you have to offer God— an eternally unique, personally unique perspective on reality.  And the reward for sharing your perspective?  Eternal life!     Are you seeing the bargain here, dude?!?


Has the whole world gone crazy?

Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?
Walter Sobchak

 

2.  You don’t really know where you are going.

Eternity would really really suck if there weren’t a lot of astonishingly interesting places to see, places to go, things to do and people to meet in the universe;  well the universe, it just so happens, is infinitegiphy-1ly full of unending wonder, personal beings both human and divine, and matchless adventure.  Ever heard this before?  It’s a clue:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even entered into the mind of man, what the universal Father has prepared for those who survive the life in the flesh.”

But that was then.  It’s NOW, dude.  Step away from the Torino, and into the future;  you’ve gotta whole lotta learnin’ to do.

The watchword of the universe is progress.  All that incomprehensible vastness out there should suggest to any clear thinking mind that there’s a way to get out there and explore!  The good news is, there is a way;  the proviso is, you have to want it.   And yeah, it’s pretty hard to want something you don’t really know anything about.  Which, surprise, brings us right back to learning about what’s really going on in the universe from an authentically spiritual point of view.  The tasty part is, you can make it your point of view.  So pull over, kick back, and read The Urantia Book.  Yep, all of it.

 

 1.  You don’t have a real cosmology.  Yet.

But you need one;  everybody does.  Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t even know what the word cosmology means.  And a surprising number of those who do usually refer to the limited dictionary meaning for their understanding of the word.  But “cosmology” must be personally redefined— by you— to include everything there is to know about reality and the universe.

The problem–riddled theory of the Big Bang currently dominates physical cosmology, to the extent that most people think the mystery of creation has been resolved by science and that’s all there is to it.  Sadly, no.  But a spiritual cosmology must ascend to the pinnacle of human understanding.  And short of a celestial teacher showing up and teaching cosmology to the masses, the only game in town for a relatively replete cosmology is waiting for you right now— in the pages of The Urantia Book.

It’s difficult to explain how truly complicated a replete cosmological picture is, because so much of it simply doesn’t exist yet for most people.  For ingiphy-7stance, the evidence for an intelligently organized and designed universe has yet to be discovered by astronomers;  the universe is simply too vast to either observe or comprehend.  And things beyond our human comprehension still require some degree of faith to ascertain.

And that brings us to an interesting proviso, man.  While we have the utmost appreciation for The Urantia Book, we also know not everyone is ready to receive it.  Many minds are not ready for this revelation and will inevitably find a way to blow it off.  You may liken it to an infant trying to comprehend a set of encyclopedias.  There is nothing wrong with the encyclopedias or the infant, but of course an infant does not have the necessary development to read or comprehend them.  For this reason, we recommend that spiritual newbies first try to gain a good working knowledge of The Urantia Book with the assistance of a more experienced reader.  Experienced readers are usually willing to share suggestions on how to grapple with the Book’s more difficult concepts, and other readers are increasingly easier to find.   Go get you some.  And you can always use our comment section, or one of several FaceBook groups.

 

giphy-3

I’ll tell you what I’m blathering about—I’ve got information man!  New shit has come to light!

That’s right: “New shit has come to light.”  In the parlance of our times, that “new shit” is The Urantia Book.  But that’s not to say there aren’t real challenges facing anyone who desires to give the book a fair reading.  Don’t be surprised if a few of your most precious preconceptions about the way you think things are in your personal universe have to be re-framed, upgraded, or maybe even deleted.  If it’s any consolation, those of us who’ve already done that usually swear it’s totally f’ng worth the effort.

So.   If you can suspend any superficial obstacles long enough to let the book speak for itself, we believe the more courageous and energetic individuals out there will be compensated with knowing the who, what, and why of personal existence on a world of time and space!  and yeah, consequently, be changed forever and ever.  Heh.  And if you don’t realize that’s the most valuable information you can discover for reals during your life on this planet, dude, well. . .  go ahead and watch the video just for the colors, then.

Yes, this is a very complicated book, Dude.  You know— a lotta ins, a lotta outs;  a lotta what-have-yous.  And, a lotta strands to keep in your head, man;  lotta strands in old Duder’s head.  The good news is, you’ve got a perfect, divine, guiding Spirit to help you with all of them.

That's fucking interesting, man.

Just read it, Dude.  And you, too.

 

The Big Short:The Dunning-Kruger Effect Part IV

 Posted by on January 21, 2016 at 12:03 AM
Jan 212016
 

The Big Short

Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry in The Big Short 

Introduction

In the first three parts of the Dunning-Kruger effect, we’ve explored the cognitive landscape of individuals who are unable to recognize their own ineptitude; and a corollary of the effect, those who wrongly assume that their competence comes as easy to others as it does to themselves. Both can be considered metacognitive deficiencies:  a lack of awareness of self on the one hand;  and a lack of awareness of others, on the other.  In Part IV, we look at an example of the consequences to society as a whole of these deficiencies by focusing on the systemic meltdown of the world economy in 2008, through the lens of the film, The Big Short.

The Big Short: A Wicked Dramedy for our Times

While there’s been no shortage of post-mortems on the cause of the Great Recession, the most entertaining has to be the new movie The Big Short, a Golden Globe and Oscar nominee for best film, based on Michael Lewis‘s book of the same name. The film follows three sometimes inter-related investment entities as they uncover the massive fraud that had taken over the real estate industry, and their efforts to profit from that knowledge. That a morality tale emerges in the wake of their pursuit of “price discovery,” a traditional goal of the free (unmanipulated) market, is just icing on the cake.

The protagonists include Michael Burry, M.D., played by Christian Bale, the only character identified by his real name; Brad Pitt, whose character is based on Ben Hockett, an arbitrage analyst for Deutsche Bank who advises a couple of his young neighbors working out of their garage in Berkeley, CA. doing business as Cornwall Capital  (in the film, they’re located in the much more photogenic Boulder, CO;  Ryan Gosling, whose character is based on Greg Lippmann, a subprime loan trader who worked at Deutsche Bank; and Steve Carell, who plays a character based on Steve Eisman, the managing partner of FrontPoint Partners, a private hedge fund working under the umbrella of Morgan Stanley.

Collectively, they pulled back the curtain of illusion that shrouded the rotten foundations of the mortgage bond industry. In so doing, they helped expose the systemic effects of greed, stupidity, denial, and fraud among the self-proclaimed masters of the universe who run the Wall Street casino. When the dust finally settled from the 2007-2008 crash,  the damage to the U.S. economy, according to a study by Congress’s General Accounting Office, was $22 trillion.  By comparison, an entire year’s GDP is roughly $13 trillion.

The Mortgage Bond Industry

The modern mortgage bond industry has been around since at least the creation of Fannie Mae in 1938 during the Great Depression. (In the 19th century, the collapse of railroad mortgage bonds contributed to the financial panic of 1857;  and mortgage back securities (MBS) contributed to the Great Depression that began in 1929.)  For thirty years, the modern MBS was considered to be a bullet proof investment, and a very lucrative one at that, helping to double Wall Street’s share of the nation’s GDP from 20% to 40% during that time.

By packaging individual mortgage loans into bonds, lenders can more easily replace money they’ve lent to individual borrowers.  It also has the effect of expanding the number and type of lenders beyond the traditional neighborhood savings and loans (which had its own industry-wide collapse in the 1980s, requiring a $124 billion bailout from the US taxpayer).  And most importantly to Wall Street, they generate huge fees and bonuses.

Mortgage bonds are comprised of thousands of individual loans of varying quality and credit worthiness.  They are stratified into so-called “tranches,” and then sold in a secondary market. In return, buyers receive regular interest payments, basically pass-throughs from borrowers’ monthly payments. Traditionally, an MBS consisted of 65% A to triple-A graded loans, and the remaining number various categories ranging all the way down to triple-B rated, aka “subprime loans,” which traditionally made up 5% of an individual bond. Those ratios would change drastically as the credit bubble expanded, with subprime accounting for 25% of the total.  Yet somehow, those bonds were still being rated triple-A from Standard and Poors and Moodys, Wall Street’s major bond ratings agencies. (More on their key role in the Great Fraud in Part V.)

Dr. Michael Burry

Burry started out as neurologist who just happened to have an affinity for numbers. An asocial loaner with a glass eye and Asperger’s syndrome, he spent his time poring over corporate 10k filings and other sources of investing information, relieved by periodic poundings on his drum set to heavy metal music pumping through his headphones.  He began making stock market trades during the long, wee hours of his internship, and posting them on a tech stock message board during the heyday of the dot-com bubble.

Bored with medicine, Burry started Scion Capital in 2001, a one-man firm located in San Jose, CA.  Using a modest amount of family money, he quickly racked up a highly successful stock picking and trading record. He created his own blog, where he wrote about his theories of investing.  By checking the server domains that his anonymous readers were logging in from, he realized that a lot of his followers were big Wall Street firms.  One regular visitor was Joel Greenblatt, author of You Can Be a Stock Market Genius.  Greenblatt called him up one day and told him that his firm, Gotham Capital, would like to buy a quarter of his company for a million dollars.

Other money came pouring in.  Three years later, Burry was managing $600 million, and turning new money away.  Instead of taking the usual 2% off the top as other hedge fund managers did, he charged actual expenses only, usually well below 1%.  In return, he required that individual investors give him complete autonomy, meaning that they couldn’t withdraw any of their money for at least a year, or as many as five.  This latter provision would prove crucial when the shit hit the fan in 2007-2008, when the financial firms whom he had bet against delayed paying up by manipulating the markets long enough to recover some of their losses.

In his capacity as a private fund manager, Burry dared to go where no one had gone before. He actually bothered to look inside individual mortgage bonds and analyzed their thousands of individual loan components. (Something that the bond ratings agencies were supposed to do, but didn’t.)  What he found stunned him— the credit quality of a large percentage of the individual borrowers was atrocious;  and was no way reflected in their parent bonds’ ratings.

So he decided to bet against the conventional wisdom that had suffused the mortgage bond industry for decades, whose major players were as oblivious to the accumulating risk as fish are to water.  That is, until they find themselves flopping around on a fishing boat deck wearing a barbed hook lip ring.

While his detailed research turned up traditional indicators of value— court rulings, deals with other companies, government regulatory actions, etc.— it was a macro indicator that really got Burry’s attention. Living in Silicon Valley, the heart of the high tech/internet industry, he couldn’t account for the fact that despite the bursting of dot-com bubble in the spring of 2000, which resulted in the loss 0f tens of thousands of high paying jobs, home sales seemed unaffected.  In fact, houses in his area continued to appreciate. Intrigued, he started looking under the hood at the engine that was then driving the real estate juggernaut.  He concluded that rising prices were being fueled by bogus loans. When the bubble finally burst, home prices fell some 50%, leaving the mortgage bond industry in tatters.

The Great Vampire Squid

In his analysis of the Great Recession, Rolling Stone investigative reporter Matt Taibii famously branded Goldman Sachs as:

the great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

The Big Short' Vampire Squid

Shorting a stock involves borrowing and then selling it, with the expectation that you can repurchase and replace it later at a cheaper price, pocketing the difference.  No such mechanism existed for shorting subprime loans.  Tranches of these “dog shit” loans (as Steve Carell’s character so artfully describes them) were hiding in plain sight. But they were protected by their consolidation into large triple-A rated mortgage bonds, which never, ever failed.

So Burry approached Goldman Sachs in early 2005 and asked them to create him a specialized financial instrument that would allow him to bet against the subprime industry.  They just about laughed him out of the room.  In the film, they initially try to talk him out of his plan, but he remained unmoved. Given that the equivalent cost of a swap on a triple-B subprime loan was about ten times the cost of insuring a triple-A tranche;  and the odds of a triple-A loan defaulting in the first year was about one in 10,000, they were only too happy to separate this fool from his money.  So they opened their gigantic maw, whipped out their blood funnel, and set out to suck him dry.

Credit Default Swaps

After months of legal wrangling, Goldman created  “credit default swap” targeting the subprime market. While credit default swaps existed to insure whole bonds, no such policy existed to insure just their subprime components, at least any that had the specificity that Burry required. Without that specificity, his whole investment thesis would be for naught if he was proven right in the market but unable to collect from the financial entities underwriting his swaps.  Additionally, a lack of standardization would make it more difficult to sell them to other investors as the market for these novel products matured;  that is, when the rest of the Street removed their blinders and jumped in with both feet.

A key difference between Burry’s new, limited swaps and those used to insure whole bonds was that his were “naked swaps.”  This meant that he had no ownership interest in the underlying collateral used to secure the loans comprising the mortgage bond;  i.e., borrowers’ homes. If a whole mortgage bond fails, its collateral has to be liquidated, usually through a tedious and costly foreclosure process. (Different states have different foreclosure laws, which added immensely to the complexity of sorting out the fubar post-crash wreckage.)

Without (ahem) exposure to the collateral underlying the loans, Burry’s naked swaps were guaranteed 100% of their face value.  In contrast, liquidated mortgage bonds might only recover 50% of their value, and take years to unwind, generating significant legal fees along the way. (Okay, now that we’ve opened that metaphoric door, we might as well quote legendary Wall Street investor Warren Buffet: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.“)

Just as important, Burry’s swaps were to be paid off incrementally as given tranches of subprime loans defaulted— no messy foreclosure process required. Under normal circumstances, the top-rated tranches of a bond are settled first, leaving whatever crumbs are left for the triple-B cellar dwellers to scrabble over.  This pecking order would prevail in the Great Liquidation to follow.  But that was of no concern to Burry.  He had already successfully whistled himself past the chilly Wall Street graveyard and into the warm, loving embrace of Scion’s bank.  Fending off lawsuits threatened by his own investors to return their munny during the nadir of the Great Unraveling, Burry eventually returned to them an astounding 489% on their investment.

With his novel credit default swaps, a new instrument for betting against the real estate industry was born.  In effect, Burry had created a completely new market.  How many people in history can lay claim to that?

Herewith ends Part IV.  In Part V, we continue with our exploration of the events that precipitated in the Great Recession, and try to answer the question:  To what extent was the biggest economic collapse in 78 years a product of simple greed and  fraud;  and how much a product of the Dunning-Kruger effect― a cognitive brain fart of massive proportions, characterized by incompetence and denial.

CRUZ a fiction

 Posted by on January 15, 2016 at 10:19 AM
Jan 152016
 

“I believe in Sen. Cruz because he believes what he’s saying.”

Barry Lee Senchunt, Ted Cruz supporter

Flannel CruzTed Cruz seeks out familiar backdrops, which tend to show off his ugly, ill-fitting wardrobe and help disguise his tiny shoulders.

 This.

Sometimes David Brooks writes something so completely out of touch with reality that the reader’s heart breaks at the pathos of it all, like you’re watching a baby duck with a broken wing trying to fly. Then you remember that he’s paid handsomely by The New York Times and given one of the largest platforms in the country to spout of (sic) his ill-informed opinions, and it’s right back to be (sic) angry again.

I’m not sure what “readers”  is talking about;  maybe it’s those readers who don’t notice all her typos;  but most of the people I know limit their reading of David Brooks‘ shit simply because they value what they’ve gone to the trouble of putting into their digestive tracts, and prefer it stay there.  And no, not a baby duck, either.  Maybe a wounded starling, or some other rat-bird.  Not something that stirs our compassion, but our loathing.

The  Brutalism  of  Ted  Cruz

Most of us recognize a repulsive scumbag amoral bully when we see one.   Using governmental power to take a petty thief to the supreme court to enforce an unjust sixteen year sentence on a man who had already served six fucking years of his life for shoplifting a calculator— a crime which carried a maximum two year sentence— well… that sort of hideousness is reserved for creatures like Raphael Edward Cruz.  And the more you learn about this loathsome gaggle of neurons the more your reaction to him should be something like this.

Citizenship

CamoCruz

If you want to see the camo, you must click it.

Contrary to Republican conventional wisdom, wearing the ugliest flannel shirts manufactured on the planet does not make you American.  Dressing up in camo and grease paint with a bunch of professional duck killers who shoot buckshot into water fowl does not make you American.  Being conceived by Americans on American soil technically qualifies you as an American.  Being born of an American womb somewhere else on the planet, not so much, maybe.

Republicans, like our boy Raphael, built and stoked the birther fires to burn President Obama at the stake.  And now with wry amusement and disdain, Democrats are watching the same sort of bigotry towards immigrants that Cruz has been campaigning on, being applied to himself.

Christian Evangelicals

1119216As Brooks said in a moment of clarity, Cruz “sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion¹ and teaches them to answer hate with hate.”  Not exactly real Christian values.  So why is it Evangelicals continue to be so easily duped by loathsome callow scumbag politicians who mouth Christian values, but would probably push others out of the way to pound the nails into the hands and feet of their Lord and Savior?

Like every single one of the Republican pretenders to the throne, Cruz loves him some fear.  He can hardly get through an attack on Obama without expressing the virulent brutality that oozes from the dark lord Lucifer hisself, and threatening to destroy some things or some bodies in the name of divinely inspired peace and love.¹

Goldman Sachs Loan

Ted Cruz:  The New York Times is a commie rag.  Also David Brooks is a douchebag.  I was born a poor black child.  In Canada.  So of course I had to take money under the table.   My wife has naught but a good Republican cloth coat.  And my kids had a dog. Named Checkers.  Which was delicious.

Driftglass

¹ See “carpet bombing,” “glowing sand”

David Bowie

 Posted by on January 11, 2016 at 7:01 PM
Jan 112016
 


From his Ziggy Stardust album, David Bowie’s swan song “Rock and Roll Suicide”* at his 1990 Tokyo concert

I had the privilege of meeting David Bowie briefly during the overdubbing of his film Man Who Fell To Earth. He had wanted to make a production note, but said he didn’t have a pen. I looked around the control room, found one, and rushed it down to him. I handed it to him eagerly, saying something like: “Here’s one.” Fixing me with those unique eyes of his, he responded in a lilting English accent:

“Thank you. That was terribly civilized of you.”

He was a gentleman and a quick study, as my friend, and re-recording sound mixer Michael, observed.

Also too, he got a shout out today from, all places, CNBC.

David Bowie sings: “Look up here, I’m in heaven” in this eerie death bed farewell.

See you in the afterlife, Brother.

You humans have begun an endless unfolding of an almost infinite panorama, a limitless expanding of never-ending, ever-widening spheres of opportunity for exhilarating service, matchless adventure, sublime uncertainty, and boundless attainment.  ―The Urantia Book

*Excerpt of lyrics from Rock and Roll Suicide, by David Bowie:

Oh no love, you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if i could only
Make you care

Oh no love, you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

 

The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Part III

 Posted by on January 10, 2016 at 12:01 AM
Jan 102016
 

obamaguns dunning-kruger
A commentary video from the NRA claimed that President Obama stood in front of “the wrong people” when delivering a speech about gun violence before gun violence survivors, and that instead he should have stood before “the groups he is really helping: gang members, felons, and repeat offenders.” Media Matters

Introduction

In Part II of the Dunning-Kruger effect, President George W. Bush was presented as an example of a leader who couldn’t recognize and accept his own limitations, and was thus easy to manipulate. His position as president of the United States (and his mediocre IQ) made him especially vulnerable to sophisticated Wag the Dog operations designed to portray him as the kind of competent, intelligent leader he wasn’t. The apparent strategy of his handlers was to keep him tightly scripted and out of the public eye as much as possible. To that end, George  spent 407 days out of his office during the first three years of his presidency, at either his fake ranch in Crawford, Texas, or the Bush family retreat at Kennebunkport, Maine. (Remember the fake turkey he presented to the troops in Iraq? Symbol: meet reality.) By contrast, President Barack Obama, spent some 125 days out of the office over a comparable length of time.

While work habits can tell us something about a president’s general cognitive approach to problem solving and crisis resolution, they are other data points worth considering. They include: staff choices, the ability to delegate, the degree to which they write their own speeches, and intellectual curiosity. (Hint: One of the nicknames Bush earned for himself was “Incurious George.”)
Poster Chiled for the Dunning-Kruger effect

What Me Worry?

Perhaps the most telling comparison are the two men’s respective psychological profiles. In 2004, Dr. Justin Frank wrote his classic book Bush on the Couch. I was quite intrigued by the original and look forward to reading the revised edition published in 2007, which among other things describes Bush’s “telling habits and coping strategies—from his persistent mangling of English to his tendency to ‘go blank’ in the midst of crisis.” Remember his deer-in-the-headlights look when an aide interrupted him to tell him that the World Trade center was burning while he was reading My Pet Goat to Florida school children?

I also look forward to reading Dr. Frank’s analysis of President Obama, Obama on the Couch, published in 2012, and comparing the two in a future post (or five). For now, a blurb relevant to our current discussion will have to suffice.

 “Dr. Frank argues that the President’s decisions are motivated by inner forces – in particular, he focuses on Obama’s overwhelming need to establish consensus, which can occasionally undermine his personal—and his party’s—objectives.”

In Dr. Frank’s own introduction, he notes that Obama’s passion to find common ground actually makes Tea Party types even crazier, which goes a long way towards explaining their vehement resistance to everything he proposes. What makes their fanatical opposition all the more remarkable is that it reaches its greatest intensity when it concerns an issue that they themselves supported in the past, some ten in total to this accounting at Electablog. These include: the individual mandate at the heart of both Obama Care and Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health  care plan; donor disclosure in campaign financing reform; clean energy measures; changes in Medicare to save $700 billion; creation of a deficit reduction commission; and background checks for gun purchasers. (For the latter, see also: Republicans-suddenly-turn-against-enforcing-existing-law-on-guns-because-Obama). In other word, they are incapable of taking Yes for an answer.

Obama and Dunning-Kruger: A Psychological Corollary

Being investigations into human behavior, cognitive studies are designed to be nonpartisan (maybe not always successfully so, but at least they try). A related corollary of the Dunning-Kruger findings that I believe President Obama is representative of can be found in the following observation:

The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.

I once commented that if the young “Barry” Obama, growing up in Hawaii, had gone to a public school instead of the sheltered confines of a private school, he would have graduated a lot tougher, street smart kid. As such, he would have learned to better divine the malicious intent of others. I lived on Maui during the seventies when “Kill Haole Day” was an annual event celebrated in the public schools; when it was open-season on “heepies” like me. Hippies were perceived as weak, shiftless, nudist drug addicts who had taken over some favorite local beaches, and were thus fair game.(Imo, we were proxies for many otherwise justifiable local discontents, like the invasion of hotel industry that paid shit wages and, of course, high-end housing developers.)  I learned pretty quickly to recognize “the evil eye” and other signs of imminent danger, a cognitive skill that me daddy ironically called “native intelligence.” I can  think of a few times when a single “miscalibration” would have resulted in serious harm to my person.

During his early years in the White House, Obama was seemingly the last person to grok the fact that the Right Wing hated his guts and would do everything in their power to destroy him and his presidency, notwithstanding the obvious signs that were out there. Beginning with his inauguration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell set out to derail Obama’s legislative agenda. This despite the  fact that the country was reeling from the economic catastrophe of the Great Recession,  a moldering shit sandwich that Bush left Obama in an Oval Office desk drawer. It took an extraordinary level of denial for Obama to have thought that the Rethugs would willingly compromise on policy differences and work for the better interests of the country; that his charm and intellectual acuity would win the day; that he could get the leopards to change their spots. It was only after the 2014 elections that he began disabusing himself of this near fatal cognitive “miscalibration.”

Really, all he had to do was pick up the phone and call “the first black president,” Bill Clinton, for an inkling of what was to come. (If the Clintons had procured  even a small royalty from the sales of books, videos, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc., from the cottage industry that institutionalized “the politics of personal destruction,” Hillary could never have claimed that they left the White House “dead broke.” As if….)

Recently, it was reported that―horror of horrors!Obama doesn’t watch enough cable news, and therefore doesn’t understand the nation’s concerns about  terrorism. Instead of spending critical time listening  to self-promoting, bloviating talk show hosts dedicated to the failure of his presidency (consequences to the country be damned), Obama prefers to listen to the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies for information about threats to the Commonwealth. These include dangers from ISIS/Daesh/ISIL, Russian military machinations, China’s growing power and influence, the national security implications of global climate changemass killings, the growing anti-government militia movement, etc., etc.

Some, like me, would consider eschewing the manufactured reality of the cable news media-industrial-complex a feature and not a bug, but what do we know.

Another corollary:

…highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence, they may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.

One of the most frequent criticisms of Obama is that he is arrogant, aloof, detached, and, clench your cheeks,  professorial. He analyzes a problem, comes to a logical conclusion, and expects every one else to do likewise, once they’ve been presented the facts. But for those with a different point of view and a different agenda, No Drama Obama is out of touch, especially with the nation’s  feelings about terrorism. And according to two time presidential candidate and loser, Mitt Romney, out of touch with reality itself.

Gun Control: Obama’s Dunning-Kruger Breakaway Moment

Terrorism aside, the issue that has finally forced Obama to transcend his “miscalibrations” about the competency of others to realize their own stupidity is, tada―gun control.  His new, tougher attitude towards the gun lobby was on full display Thursday night at a “Guns in America” town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, hosted by CNN. Author of Idiot America Charlie Pierce has the coverage:

“Yeah, I meant what I said,” Obama said when asked about the op-ed by moderator Anderson Cooper. “And the reason I said that is this: The majority of people in this country are a lot more sensible than what you see in Washington.” Obama singled out the National Rifle Association as one of the “loudest, shrillest voices” against gun control and told the audience “[that] the way we break the deadlock on this issue is when the NRA doesn’t have a stranglehold on Congress in this debate.” To that end, the president said, “I want to throw my shoulders behind those who want to solve problems, and not those who want to get high scores from an interest group.”

It should be noted that the NRA chickened out when CNN invited them to attend the discussion. And that a new CNN poll shows that 67% of Americans support the gun control measures Obama announced this week. Pierce broadens his field of fire by taking the media to task for their enabling role in keeping the crazy going crazy:

Moreover, he was taking no guff from Cooper on the subject of why people believe nonsense about what his real plans are. Glory hallejujah, said I. Somebody finally is taking the Third Great Premise of Idiot America—Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.—seriously enough to refute it.

This is just beautiful. The president is telling members of his own party to man up and support mild gun safety measures of which nearly the entire country approves, and he’s telling the media to stop enabling crazy people simply because their madness is so sincere.

Certainty is the mother of sincerity. As Mark Twain observed:” It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And a corollary from A Compendium of Wise Sayings From George Costanza, also applies: “It isn’t a lie, if you believe it.” Cue music from Fleetwood Mac: “Tell  me lies, tell me sweet little lies…”

In close, we must ask: When will individual members of the NRA realize they are being used as dupes by the gun industry to jack sales? They should be less concerned about Obama taking their guns away and more concerned about the NRA and Fux News taking away what’s left of their common sense.

Case in point:

    According to a Fux News host,  Obama used a raw onion to fake tears while talking about school kids dying

Next, in Part IV of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, we look at the new film The Big Short, for an example of how incompetency at the highest levels of government and industry is not only excused, but rewarded.

The Dunning Kruger Effect: Part II

 Posted by on January 6, 2016 at 8:39 PM
Jan 062016
 

Dunning Kruger Road Kill CafeServing up GOP Goodies at the Legendary Roadkill Cafe

In Part 1 of the Dunning-Kruger effect, we introduced some of the findings of cognitive scientists David Dunning and Josh Kruger that explains why some people are incapable of recognizing their own incompetency and stupidity. Additional examples litter in the US political landscape like so much cognitive roadkill. For instance, over at the Big Orange, RET III writes about a particularly pernicious species of GOPer denial:

We are witnessing a sort of collective Republican denial where they cannot accept that they are not the ruling party, not the “deciders” (to use a former president’s phrase)…What is important here is not that Republicans object to the limits of their power, but that Republicans apparently cannot accept that such limits even exist.  Greg Sargent [of the Washington Post] recently caught this in a very revealing FOX News poll:

[Republicans] failed to block Obama’s transformation of the country; that must be because they didn’t even try, so they must be complicit. But this failure, too, is structural. Republicans don’t have the votes to surmount Dem filibusters or Obama vetoes. The idea that this can be overcome through sheer force of will (the argument conservatives are making in favor of another shutdown fight) is just another version of [the “Big Lie”].

Indeed, the Fox News poll unwittingly captures what is particularly problematic about this last one. It finds that 60 percent of Republicans feel betrayed by their party, and that 66 percent of Republicans don’t think their party did all it could to block Obama’s agenda. The poll asks why respondents think their party leaders failed at this: they didn’t really want to stop Obama; they weren’t smart enough; they would rather fight each other. The Fox poll doesn’t even offer respondents the option of choosing the real reason — that Republicans structurally lack the votes!

If anyone ever needed an example of how leading questions can be structured in propagandistic polls to produce a desired result, one need look no further than this example from Fux News. But that’s a topic for another day.

RET III also cites Jonathan Chait about the base’s disenchantment with the GOP:

This discontent runs much deeper and wider than Boehner. . . Boehner had the misfortune of leading, or attempting to lead, his party in an era when it had run up to the limits of crazy, where the only unexplored frontiers of extremism lay beyond the reach of its Constitutional powers.

Ah, “the limits of crazy.” To quote a man who should appeal to survivalists and militia members everywhere, author of Resistance to Tyranny, former Air Force Col. (Ret.) Joseph P. Martino, writes:

A wise man knows his limitations but never sets limits on himself. A fool does not recognize his limitations, thus limiting himself.

To paraphrase Dunning-Kruger: Fools lack the tools to recognize their foolishness.  The alternative to this lack of self-awareness is to blame someone else for their failures, like that secret Muslim-Kenyan commie illegally occupying the White House. Naturally, this illegal occupation trope is being sold to the gullible as a promise by certain GOP presidential candidates to repeal every piece of legislation, every executive order, signed into law by our illegitimate president. Because freedom!

George W. Bush: The Man Who Didn’t Know His Limitations

A man’s got to know his limitations“- Dirty Harry Callahan, Magnum Force

If historians need an example of the consequences of the failure of a 21st century power player to recognize his own limitations, George W. Bush is their man. Bush’s eminence grise, Dark Dick Darth Cheney, originally charged with finding a vice presidential candidate for future president Bush, recognized  Bush’s cognitive deficiencies early on. Opportunity knocked and Cheney answered, recommending himself for, and ultimately receiving, the job.

As a substitute father figure (Cheney was George H.W. Bush‘s trusted Secretary of Defense), he was in an ideal position to exploit “the Decider” for his own gain. No doubt Cheney used his one-on-one weekly Wednesday lunches with Bush to tell him what a freaking political genius and leader he was (the inestimable Charlie Pierce refers to Bush as”C+ Agustus); and to suggest various policy positions, like say, invading Iraq. The latter was an obvious manipulation of Junior’s daddy issues: What better way to supplant his father than by correcting his “mistake” in not deposing Saddam when he had the chance?

During the first Gulf War, Cheney had advised against overthrowing Saddam Hussein, knowing full well the disaster that would ensue. However, as Junior’s VP, he changed his mind. At the very first meeting of his national security team in early 2001, Bush blew off warnings from his terrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, about the threat posed by al-Qaeda. (Clarke was President Clinton’s terrorism chief and thus represented continuity on the subject between the two administrations.) Instead, Bush asked what it would take to overthrow Saddam. A few months later, he ridiculed  a CIA briefer for a memo he presented  titled: Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US , dismissing him by saying “You’ve covered your ass, now.” Five weeks later, nearly 3,000 Americans died in the infamous 9/11 attacks.

After the destruction of al-Qaeda’s main base of operations in Afghanistan in November of that year, Bush got his wish. Preparations were made to invade and occupy Iraq, despite there being no evidence that Saddam had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. Concurring were Secretary of Defense, Donald “Henny Penny” Rumsfeld, who had complained  there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq; his Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul “the war will pay for itself” Wolfowitz a leader of the neocons who had been trying to get rid of Saddam for years; another neocon, Under Secretary of Defense, Douglas “stovepipe this” Feith; and of course, Vice President Richard Cheney, former  CEO of  Halliburton/KBR, which just happened to gross over $39 billion from government contracts during the “nation building” phase of the worst foreign policy decision in American history.

Nation building has proven to be a profitable enterprise, a logical extension of , to gthe classic Vietnam war rationalization that America had to destroy the country in order to save it. Too bad that hundreds of thousands of people had to die; that hundreds of thousands more were physically and psychologically maimed; that millions had to flee their homes, becoming permanent refugees; that irreplaceable archaeological treasures were looted or destroyed; that the entire Middle East had to be thrown into turmoil (making Iran a hegemonic power in the process); and that the American taxpayer would incur trillions of dollars of recurring, interest compounding debt. To a psychopath like Cheney, that’s just the cost of doing business. Anyone questioning his war profiteering motive will likely get the same response that Senator Pat Leahy got on the Senate floor when he questioned him about his Halliburton ties, telling him to go “fuck yourself.

Camouflaging Incompetency

Naturally, such an unprecedented level of presidential incompetence had to be hidden, not only from The Decider himself, but from everyone living outside the White House bubble. Some of the world’s best PR people and spin doctors were put to work casting President Bush as the new. avenging sheriff in town, bringing justice to the world’s terrorist scum, a fusion of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and High Plains Drifter. (Bush Senior had seriously considered making Eastwood his vice president, so it’s safe to assume that Junior had some familiarity with Eastwood’s characters.)  Hell, if they could make a Vietnam War draft dodger a hero and Swift Boat his medal winning, presidential opponent, they could sell anything.

The fact that Bush ignored warnings of an imminent a-Qaeda attack? Put him on a pile of World Trade Center rubble,  one arm wielding a bullhorn, the other arm draped around an exhausted firefighter, promising revenge. Need to deflect attention from the fact that he had no exit plan after defeating Saddam’s pitifully over-matched military? Put him in a navy jet and land him on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier (anchored just off the coast of San Diego), dressed in a crotch grabbing flight suit that had Chris Matthews gushing over what his guest, G.Gordon Liddy observed made “the best of his manly characteristic.” For a backdrop, add a colorfully dressed deck crew. And behind and above them all, a large, professionally designed and printed banner proclaiming Mission Accomplished. (Bush’s handlers claimed the banner was a spontaneous creation of the grateful, carrier crew. Yeah, right.)

And then there was the all important on-going task of casting Bush as the successor to Republican icon, Ronald Reagan. If Reagan spent his leisure time on a ranch, riding horses and chopping firewood, then George would have to do something similar during his record breaking number of vacations at Crawford, Texas. Only his ranch was fake, with its pre-fab modular home and a total absence of–whadda ya call dem dar critters?– ah yes, horses! Dubya,  a self-confessed “windshield rancher,” eschewed horses, preferring to “ride” a comfy, late model air conditioned pickup truck instead.

In close, we revisit some of the classic cognitive stylings of the man with the room temperature IQ.

Next up in Part III: How President Obama demonstrates a corollary of the Dunning-Kruger effect.