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With the release of the Republicans’ new tax reform legislation imminent, I thought it might be a good time to revisit a Confronting Mediocrity post from 2010 titled, Top fractiles income share and the “good old days.” [1] The reasons for the renewed relevance of the post is that the Republicans’ new tax reform plan will inevitably have generous tax cuts for the wealthy while it will have minimal tax cuts for the working class. It will be the most recent attempt to put lipstick on the pig that is known variously as trickle down economics, supply-side economics, Reaganomics, or, as George H.W. Bush characterized it in 1980 – Voodoo economics.

Whatever shade of lipstick you put on the pig, it’s still a pig. Reaganomics didn’t work in the 1980s and a reincarnation of it will fail in 2017. The reason is the basic premise is flawed, unless the objective is to make the rich richer at the expense of throttling the economy. An oversimplification of the trickle down premise is that giving hefty tax cuts to the wealthy will incent them to build more factories and make more products thereby creating jobs for workers. Under this conceit, the economic benefit of a tax cut to the wealthy would trickle down to the working class.

Let be crystal clear about one thing. Trickle down economics simply does not work. It’s backwards. Henry Ford new that when he decided to double the minimum wage for his employees to $5.00 per day. And, it wasn’t a pay hike driven by altruism. In his 1926 book, Today and Tomorrow [2], Mr. Ford wrote,

“The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.”

It’s a simple concept, really. Put another $5,000 in the pocket of a millionaire through a tax break and what happens? Nothing, except maybe it’s invested in some equity fund. On the other hand, put $5,000 in the hand of a worker and what happens? He or she buys stuff. They consume, and the products they consume must be built by someone, so employment increases to build the products to meet the increased demand.

In 2012, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service published a study titled Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945. [3] A key paragraph from the report summarizes their findings by saying,

“The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”

This report was nothing less than a bombshell to the tenaciously-held core belief of Republicans that Ronald Regan’s trickle down philosophy was economic scripture. To acknowledge that trickle down may not work would be blasphemy, so Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell forced the report to be taken down. [4]

Then, in 2015, the International Monetary Fund published a paper, Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective [5], that effectively drove a stake of reality through the heart of the trickle down argument dismissing it as a fatally flawed principle and confirming what Henry Ford believed 90 years earlier. The report summarized their findings by stating,

“We find that increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.”

It seems that most now believe that the unequal distribution of incomes in the United States is a core issue that must be addressed. It is an issue that Democrats have been championing for decades and one that even some Republicans are begrudging acknowledging the impact of income disparity.

I will end this post where I began it by referencing the 2010 post in Confronting Mediocrity. The chart below was presented in that post and clearly demonstrates that as the top marginal tax rate decreased, the income disparity increased. And for that we can thank the failure of Regan’s trickle down economics.

Income share and top marginal tax rate

The era of broad prosperity between 1947 and 1974 coincided with a high top marginal tax rate and a relatively evenly distributed income share.

So, in the coming weeks, be alert for Republicans proposing tax reform based on the premise that preferentially benefiting the wealthy would create jobs and spur the economy. That concept is now fully debunked. Q.E.D.

[1] https://confrontingmediocrity.net/2010/11/21/distributionofearnings/

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Today-Tomorrow-Special-Fords-Classic/dp/0915299364

[3] http://www.dpcc.senate.gov/files/documents/CRSTaxesandtheEconomy%20Top%20Rates.pdf

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/business/questions-raised-on-withdrawal-of-congressional-research-services-report-on-tax-rates.html

[5] https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Staff-Discussion-Notes/Issues/2016/12/31/Causes-and-Consequences-of-Income-Inequality-A-Global-Perspective-42986

Blasting_of_a_chimney_at_the_former_Henninger_Brewery_in_Frankfurt_am_Main,_Germany

Entropy: “Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.” [1]

I first wrote about the metaphor of sociopolitical entropy in a 2010 posting [2] noting that President Obama’s challenge to restore order and organization in Afghanistan was considerably more difficult than it was to plunge that country further into the chaos of war through military action.

The concept that creation is more difficult than destruction is certainly not a new idea and examples can be found in many disciplines. In 1887, James JH Hamilton, principal of schools in Osceola Mills, Pennsylvania wrote in The American, “But it is easier to destroy that create; to tear down than to build up.” [3] That dichotomy is is no more evident than the contrasting approaches to the presidency by President Obama and Donald Trump.

Entropy opposites: Obama vs. Trump

President Obama was a builder who tried to constantly add order to systems. His efforts were manifest as policies to protect the environment, to provide health care, to stabilize conflict-weary regions, and to elevate America’s international stature and influence through diplomacy. This reasoned, policy-based approach to improving the lives of the body politic was tedious, complex, and time consuming. In a word, it was hard.

In stark contrast, Trump appears to have neither the interest nor the aptitude to take a policy-based approach to building a better America. Instead, at every opportunity he destroys or dismantles the structure and fabric that others before him have so laboriously built. In the Trumparian view of the world, there would be few regulations and little governmental structure to impede his holy grail – big business profits.

His goal is to increase the sociopolitical entropy at every opportunity. Why? Because it’s easy. One does not need a fully staffed State Department if international policies are considered superfluous. One does not need a fully functioning White House staff as long as there are family members to fill key positions. [4]

Is there an upside in the entropy-laden world of Trump?

There is if you are a large corporation that lacks a moral compass and has no encumbrances to polluting the environment to earn a few pennies more for your shareholders and your executive salaries. Corporations are myopic entities and are oblivious to species-threatening issues such as climate change. I wonder if there are any board rooms that consider that we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction. [5] No, the SEC 10k takes priority.

Some things are just hard

Trump seems to think there’s an easy solution to everything. Why else would he think a 66-page healthcare bill would work? Oh right, he did say, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” [6] Actually Donald, they did. Why would he unfurl a complex flowchart showing the regulatory process needed to build a highway?[7] Because his approach would be to eliminate those complex regulations and start laying asphalt. Nobody knew building a road could be so easy.

I understand the concept of entropy may be too much of a metaphor for Trump and his die-hard supporters, so allow me to end with a quote that may have more credibility for them: “Doctor. As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.” – Spock speaking to Doctor McCoy in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Believe me, with Trump as president, there have been more than a few times I wanted to say, “Beam me up, Scotty!”

 

[1]In physics entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.

‘the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases with time’ https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/entropy

[2] Obama, Afghanistan and the second law of thermodynamics. August 1, 2010, Confronting Mediocrity

https://confrontingmediocrity.net/2010/08/01/entrop/

[3] The American: A National Journal, Vol XIV-No.356 Page 105ff, June 4, 1887

[4] http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/14/14907868/trump-empty-appointments-trade

[5] The Holocene extinction event. Is our species’ destiny to be known as “The Burners?”, April 13, 2104, Confronting Mediocrity, https://confrontingmediocrity.net/2014/04/13/the-holocene-extinction-event-is-our-species-destiny-to-be-known-as-the-burners/

[6] http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-nobody-knew-that-health-care-could-be-so-complicated-235436

[7] http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/06/heres-the-huge-chart-donald-trump-is-dragging-around-to-show-how-hard-it-is-to-start-an-infrastructure-project.html

 

 

 

dead-canary

How many more canaries must die in the coal mine that is Donald Trump’s administration before America realizes that this president is toxic to the very fabric of what truly makes America great – fairness, equality, and diversity? The reality is that, for some people, no amount of metaphorical, avian carnage will result in that realization.

Most people can probably absorb one or two bad decisions or dubious behaviors by a president by considering them aberrations. But, surely there must be a tipping point where the aberrations become so frequent and so egregious that they can no longer be rationalized as outliers, and they must be recognized for what they are – the immature, aberrant, destructive behaviors that define the essence of the current president.

The backfire effect

For the majority of voters in the 2016 election, that tipping point had already been reached as evidenced by Hilary Clinton winning the popular vote. However, there is a segment of emotionally entrenched Trump supporters, nay zealots, for whom no amount of fact-based information will diminish their passionate support of Trump. There is a name for that phenomenon. It is known as the backfire effect that was first described in a paper by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler titled “When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions.” [1]

The backfire effect is succinctly summarized in a posting [2] by David McRaney – “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.” The same article also cites the 2006/2007 work of Nyhan and Reifler where they demonstrated the backfire effect by measuring people’s response to fake news articles. [3] Yes, “fake news.”

I doubt Nyhan and Reifler could have realized the impact fake news and the confirmation bias of the backfire effect would have in the 2016 election. I doubt anyone did, with the exception of Vladimir Putin and his cyber warfare experts at the FSB, a.k.a., Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации – (ФСБ).

What to do

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the solution is to recognize that responding to Trump supports with facts will likely never change their mind. It is a waste of your time to engage in fact-based discussions unless there is an acknowledgement by all that they may be wrong. Since that is unlikely to happen with emotion-based beliefs, there are three things everyone should do.

  1. Engage with your representatives in Congress and let them know your opinions. Every member tracks calls and emails to help them know the pulse of their constituents.

To call your Member of Congress:
US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121

To locate your Member on-line:
U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov
U.S. Senate: www.senate.gov

  1. Vote! Not just for the presidential horse race every four years, but in off-year elections. Congress is one of three equal branches of government and is worthy of your ongoing attention.
  2. Don’t waste your time on social media trying to convince a Trump supporter that they’re wrong. It won’t work and may well backfire.

 

[1] https://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/nyhan-reifler.pdf

[2] https://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/06/10/the-backfire-effect/

[3] http://www.uky.edu/AS/PoliSci/Peffley/pdf/nyhan-reifler%202007%20When%20Predictions%20Fail.pdf

Despite a vote by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 2015 recommending that Direct to Consumer Advertising (DTCA) be banned [1], the pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma) continues to spend billions of dollars each year on consumer-targeted media campaigns. A year after the AMA vote to ban such advertising, the industry responded by increasing their 2015 DTCA budget by 19% spending more than $5 billion in 2016. Approximately 66% of that massive expenditure was on TV ads. (See chart below) [2] I am both relieved and disturbed that it wasn’t my imagination that the number of TV ads for pharmaceuticals has been increasing.

Spending-on-prescription-drug-advertising-by-source.-Digital-outlets-not-included-1-1024x624

Drug advertising works

It’s no wonder billions are spent on pitching prescription drugs to lay people. It simply works. For every dollar spent on DTCA sales within the industry rise by $4.20. [3] A Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll [4] found that 28% of people talked with their physician after seeing an ad for a prescription medication. If a Primary Care Physician (PCP) sees 90 patients a week, that would mean 25 of those patients were there because of something they saw on TV. I would imagine that PCPs have honed their responses when a patient opens the conversation by saying they saw an ad on TV or on the internet.

DTCA is not a new topic of discussion. It seems that the only thing that has changed when I first broached the subject in 2010 [5] is that spending has accelerated and the ever-expanding sources of media has allowed the pharmaceutical industry to finely target their advertising spend, e.g., Lyrica on the Food Network and Cialis on the Golf Channel.

America is an outlier

gall-peters-map-projection

Source: Confronting Mediocrity

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s only “normal” to see pharmaceutical ads on TV if you live in the United States or New Zealand. In all other countries in the world, advertising prescription drugs on TV is prohibited. If one does the population math, that means that only 5% of the world population sees this type of advertising.

It’s a sad commentary on American society that everything, including health care, is driven by sophisticated marketing with the primary goal of maximizing corporate profits. In this construct, people are simply fodder for corporations to exploit. The best thing we can do is to be aware of efforts to manipulate us and to recognize that the interest of big business and personal interests are often not aligned.

The solution

In the case of those TV ads for prescription drugs, the solution is simple. If you don’t feel well, then see your physician. He or she has the knowledge, experience, and context to help. Rest assured, they already know more about the conditions and medications than is in the TV ads. Being an effective healthcare consumer means being informed, but it also means not being be duped by a big pharma ad into believing you have the disease du jour.

 

[1] https://www.ama-assn.org/content/ama-calls-ban-direct-consumer-advertising-prescription-drugs-and-medical-devices

[2] https://www.statnews.com/2016/03/09/drug-industry-advertising/

[3] https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/10683058.pdf

[4] http://kff.org/health-costs/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-october-2015/

[5] https://confrontingmediocrity.net/2010/08/21/dtca/

How many coincidences does it take to establish causality?

The reality is that causality can never be established by coincidences, and attempting to do so risks falling into the realm of conspiracy theories. But, every so often, coincidences turn out to be the visible expressions of an underlying network of collusion. There must be a tipping point at which enough coincidences are recognized that an actual fact-based, structured investigation is undertaken to determine that now-elusive entity we call the truth.

The nexus

In some cases, identifying and focusing on a single event that triggered the conversion from conspiracy to collusion is helpful. To be sure, in the case of the Trump/Russia nexus there are many apparent connections: Attorney General Jeff Sessions “forgetting” he had spoken with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, during the 2016 campaign,[1] Trump’s political advisor Carter Page making a trip to Russia during the campaign,[2] but wait. Do you see how easy it is to fall down the conspiracy rabbit hole when there are so many connections? Fortunately, others have been trying to make sense of all these connections[3], so let me focus on the one that seems too blatant of a coincidence to be a coincidental.

Follow the money

In the case of Donald Trump, the time-tested axiom of following the money[4] will likely be the unifying thread that stitches together all the coincidences to create the tapestry of collusion. However, the tipping point for me came not by following the money, but by following the flights of Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev. You may remember Rybolovlev from his purchase of Trump’s Palm Beach mansion in 2008. At the time, the economy was in free fall and had reached terminal velocity. Nevertheless, Rybolovlev paid $95 million for the property Trump had purchased four years earlier for $41.3 million.[5]

Rybolovlev and those flights

airbus_acj319_m-kate_at_cologne_bonn_airport

M-KATE is the tail sign of Rybolovlev’s private Airbus 319

I first learned of the peculiar flights of Rybolovlev’s private jet, M-KATE, from a segment on the Rachel Maddow show.[6] Admittedly, MSNBC has a point of view, but the flights of M-KATE have been investigated by many other organizations without an ostensible political agenda. For example, Business Insider investigated the flights and concluded that the M-KATE flights that coincided with Trump were outliers from the plane’s typical flight history.[7] Of course, the White House has denounced any coincidences as conspiracy theories.[8] This denouncement is quite ironic given Trump’s own rich history in propagating conspiracy theories.

 

Bringing it in for a landing

I seem to be circling the airport and need to bring this posting in for a landing. I have distilled the massive flight data obtained by the Huffington Post into the two maps presented below.

M-KATE flight overview

The first map shows that on October 30, 2016, M-KATE flew to Las Vegas and stayed only a few hours. Coincidentally (?) Trump held a campaign rally in Las Vegas during the same time. Similarly on November 3, 2016,  M-KATE flew to Concord Regional Airport in North Carolina where, coincidentally (?) Trump was holding campaign rally. The coincidences (?) didn’t end after the election. When President Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Abe at his mansion in Palm Beach on February 10,2017, sure enough, M-KATE flew from France to Miami, stayed for two days, and then flew back to Europe.

M-KATE flight North Carolina

The second map elaborates on the North Carolina flights of M-KATE. The stop in tiny Concord regional Airport is odd as the reason given for the stop was for refueling. Later in the day, M-KATE flew 25 miles to Charlotte International Airport to share the tarmac with Trump’s private jet. Stopping for fuel at a regional airport makes no sense if the final destination was a major airport only 25 miles away. M-KATE would have burned more fuel taking off and landing at Concord than it would have used if it had just flown straight to Charlotte International. So why the stop at tiny Concord?

Speculation is fun!

Since this post has conspiracy theory characteristics, I will take the liberty of offering my speculation of what happened on M-KATE during the flight to North Carolina. I would posit that plan was for Rybolovlev to touch bases with the Trump campaign, maybe Trump himself, in North Carolina. I think there may have been a miscommunication where Rybolovlev believed they were to meet at the site of Trump’s rally in Concord. Upon arriving in Concord, Rybolovlev realized the mistake and decided to refuel as a subterfuge to explain the otherwise inexplicable stop at a tiny regional airport. M-KATE departed Concord Airport to rendezvous with the Trump who was already at Charlotte International Airport.

Of course, the reason for the flight of M-KATE to Concord is just speculation. However, wouldn’t it have been entertaining to have been part of the flight crew on that leg of the journey? If only the pilots were American, they could be subpoenaed to testify as to the real reason for the diversion to Concord. Since that will never happen, we’ll have to be content with connecting the dots of the Trump-Russia nexus. For me, connecting the dots on the map for a handful of flights is enough to convince me that the connections are not coincidental. I’m not sure how Trump believes that nurturing a relation with Rybolovlev will help make America great again.

(Because the Trump-Russia connection is real, it’s only fitting to provide the following translation of this post.)


Сколько совпадений требуется для установления причинности?

Реальность такова, что причинность никогда не может быть установлена совпадениями, и попытка сделать это рискует попасть в область теорий заговора. Но, так часто, совпадения оказываются видимыми выражениями скрытой сети сговора. Должен быть переломный момент, при котором признается достаточное совпадение, что фактическое, структурированное расследование проводится для определения этой неуловимой сущности, которую мы называем истиной.

Связь

В некоторых случаях полезно определить и сосредоточиться на одном событии, которое вызвало переход от сговора к сговору. Правда, в случае с Trump / Russia nexus есть много очевидных связей: генеральный прокурор Джефф Сесс «забыл», что говорил с послом России в США Сергеем Кисляком в ходе кампании 2016 года, [1] политический Трамп Советник Картер Пейдж, совершавший поездку в Россию во время кампании, [2], но подождите. Видите ли вы, как легко свалить кроличью нору заговора, когда так много связей? К счастью, другие пытались разобраться во всех этих связях [3], поэтому позвольте мне сосредоточиться на том, что кажется слишком вопиющим совпадением, чтобы быть случайным

Следуйте за деньгами

В случае Дональда Трампа проверенная временем аксиома следования за деньгами [4], вероятно, будет объединяющей нитью, которая сшивает все совпадения, чтобы создать гобелен сговора. Однако переломным моментом для меня явились не следование деньгам, а следование полеты российского миллиардера Дмитрия Рыболовлева. Вы можете вспомнить Рыболовлева от его покупки особняка Трампа в Палм-Бич в 2008 году. В то время экономика была в свободном падении и достигла конечной скорости. Тем не менее Рыболовлев заплатил 95 миллионов долларов за имущество, приобретенное Трампом четыре года назад за 41,3 миллиона долларов [5].

Рыболовлев и те полеты

Я впервые узнал о необычных полетах частного самолета Рыболовлева «M-KATE» из сегмента на шоу Рэйчел Мэддоу. [6] По общему признанию, MSNBC имеет свою точку зрения, но полеты M-KATE были расследованы многими другими организациями без явной политической повестки дня. Например, Business Insider исследовала полеты и сделала вывод, что полеты M-KATE, которые совпали с Trump, были выбросами из типичной истории полета самолета. [7] Безусловно, Белый дом отрицает любые совпадения как теории заговора. [8] Это отрицание является довольно ироничным, учитывая собственную богатую историю Трампа в пропаганде теории заговора.

Взятие его для приземления

Я, кажется, кружил в аэропорту и должен доставить это сообщение на посадку. Я перегонял массивные полетные данные, полученные Huffington Post, на две карты, представленные ниже.

M-KATE flight overview

Первая карта показывает, что 30 октября 2016 года M-KATE вылетел в Лас-Вегас и пробыл всего несколько часов. По совпадению (?) Трамп провел митинг в Лас-Вегасе в то же время. Аналогичным образом 3 ноября 2016 года M-KATE вылетел в Региональный аэропорт Конкорда в Северной Каролине, где по совпадению (?) Трамп проводил акцию. Совпадения (?) Не закончились после выборов. Когда президент Трамп принимал у себя премьер-министра Японии Абэ в своем особняке в Палм-Бич 10 февраля, то, конечно же, М-Кейт вылетел из Франции в Майами, пробыл там два дня, а затем улетел обратно в Европу.

M-KATE flight North Carolina

Вторая карта рассказывает о полетах М-КАТЭ в Северной Каролине. Остановка в крошечном региональном аэропорту Конкорд является странной, поскольку причиной остановки является дозаправка. Позже в тот же день, M-KATE пролетел в 25 милях от международного аэропорта Шарлотты, чтобы разделить гудронированное шоссе с частным самолетом Трампа. Остановка на топливо в региональном аэропорту не имеет смысла, если конечным пунктом назначения был крупный аэропорт, расположенный в 25 милях от отеля. M-KATE сжигала бы больше топлива, взлетающего и приземляющегося в Конкорде, чем это использовало бы, если бы оно просто летело прямо в Charlotte International. Итак, почему остановка в крошечном Согласии?

Спекуляция – это весело!

Поскольку у этой должности есть характеристики теории заговора, я позволю себе высказать свои предположения о том, что произошло на M-KATE во время полета в Северную Каролину. Я бы сказал, что план заключался в том, чтобы Рыболовлев связал базы с кампанией Трампа, возможно, с самим Трампом в Северной Каролине. Я думаю, что могло быть недопонимание, когда Рыболовлев считал, что они должны встретиться на месте митинга Трампа в Конкорде. По прибытии в Конкорд Рыболовлев осознал ошибку и решил заправиться в качестве уловки, чтобы объяснить необъяснимую остановку в крошечном региональном аэропорту. M-KATE вылетел в аэропорт Конкорд, чтобы встретиться с Трампом, который уже был в международном аэропорту Шарлотты.

Разумеется, причина полет M-KATE на Concord – это просто предположение. Однако не было бы увлекательным, если бы он был частью летного экипажа на этом участке пути? Если бы только пилоты были американцами, их можно было бы вызвать в суд, чтобы дать показания относительно реальной причины утечки в Конкорд. Поскольку этого не произойдет, нам придется довольствоваться соединением точек связи Trump-Russia. Для меня соединение точек на карте для нескольких полетов достаточно, чтобы убедить меня, что соединения не случайны. Я не знаю, как Trump верит, что воспитание отношений с Рыболовлевым поможет сделать Америку великолепной снова.

 

 

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-spoke-twice-with-russian-ambassador-during-trumps-presidential-campaign-justice-officials-say/2017/03/01/77205eda-feac-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html

[2] http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/carter-page-russia-trip-trump-corey-lewandowski-235784

[3] http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/connections-trump-putin-russia-ties-chart-flynn-page-manafort-sessions-214868

[4] http://www.npr.org/2012/06/16/154997482/follow-the-money-on-the-trail-of-watergate-lore

[5] http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/why-did-a-russian-pay-95m-to-buy-trumps-palm-beach-mansion/

[6] http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/intriguing-overlap-in-paths-of-russian-oligarch-trump-campaign-889979971765

[7] http://www.businessinsider.com/russian-billionaire-rybolovlev-responds-to-accusations-about-ties-to-trump-2017-3

[8] http://www.businessinsider.com/white-house-trump-rybolovlev-russia-conspiracy-2017-3

The Trump administration selectively excluded reporters of the mainstream media organizations of CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, and BuzzFeed, from attending a recent news gaggle.[1] Unfortunately, Edward R. Murrow’s words from the dark days of xenophobic Senator Eugene McCarthy’s witch-hunts are becoming alarmingly more relevant.

 

Transcript of Murrow’s broadcast (emphasis mine):

Earlier, the Senator asked, “Upon what meat does this, our Caesar, feed?” Had he looked three lines earlier in Shakespeare’s Caesar, he would have found this line, which is not altogether inappropriate: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Good night, and good luck.

 

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/02/24/white-house-blocks-cnn-new-york-times-from-press-briefing-hours-after-trump-slams-media/?utm_term=.4a10ea83a3a4

It’s becoming apparent to me that I seem to have some sort of fascination with the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s the effect that I first wrote about in 2013 that suggests that a person’s self-assessment of their knowledge of a subject differs greatly from their actual knowledge.[1] The idea is that most people tend to assume they know more about a subject when they in reality know very little about it, but as their knowledge of the subject increases, their self-assessment of their knowledge decreases.

I think the Dunning Kruger effect is real and can be used as a construct to understand the actions of people in various contexts. In October 2015, I indulged my frivolous side by placing several of the presidential candidates on the Dunning-Kruger curve.[2] I had no idea at the time that the candidate I placed at the top of the first peak, indicating maximal delusion, would eventually become president.

Since Mr. Trump is now president, I feel compelled to revisit and revise the Dunning-Kruger chart I published in 2015 to more accurately reflect President Trump’s place on the curve. As you can see in the revised chart below, I believe President Trump has the distinction of being impossible to place on the standard Dunning-Kruger curve. Instead, he has earned his own curve.

President Trump and Donald Trump

It’s a curve that is fully contained within a chrysalis of delusion. No matter how much Trump learns about a subject, he will never reach the realization that he really doesn’t know as much as he thinks. Instead, his self-assessment of his knowledge continues to grow with any modicum of new information. I encourage mental health workers to ignore the Goldwater rule and offer their own opinions of why this may be true.

This chart may not mean much to anyone but fans of Dunning-Kruger. However, I do think it captures the danger that President Trump represents. It’s not just that he’s ill-informed and ill-prepared to be president. It’s that he thinks he awesome and doesn’t need to really know anything other than that which can be condensed into a 140 character Tweet.

I have to believe that most people entering the Oval Office for the first time as President have a feeling of “Oh Crap.” I think that visceral reaction would be an appropriate reaction indicating a degree of humility that an effective president needs. I think President Trump entered the Oval and thought, ‘How can I tell people in 140 characters how awesome it is for me to finally be here, where I deserve to be?”

Humility, introspection, intellect, and reason are virtues that serve presidents. their constituents, and the country well. These personality traits  are discovered in those individuals that reach the far right side of the Dunning-Kruger curve. It’s difficult not to observe that President Trump is at the far left.

[1] https://confrontingmediocrity.net/2013/08/31/you-probably-dont-know-what-youre-talking-about-you-only-think-you-do/

[2] https://confrontingmediocrity.net/2015/10/04/the-2016-presidential-race-as-viewed-through-a-dunning-kruger-lens/

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