The creator of the also excellent Century of the Self film series released his latest film in October, 2016. Dubbed HyperNormalisation, it offers both a history lesson of the complicated relationship between the West, the Middle East, and Russia, as well as an unflinching look at the roles played by technology, surveillance, and the media on our modern condition of general confusion, destabilization, and surrealism.
- a. The Alfa Bank pinging server
- b. Connections in the Trump campaign
- 1. Paul Manafort — former campaign manager who helped rig elections for Ukrainian pro-Moscow former president Viktor Yanukovich
- 2. Sergei Millian — head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the US
- 3. Ivanka’s friendship with Putin’s girlfriend
- c. Russian hacking of the DNC emails
- d. Russian attempted hacks on state vote registration rolls
- e. Russian bots and paid disinformation operatives influencing public opinion in the US presidential election
- 1. Twitter
- 2. Medium
- 3. Facebook (?)
- 4. Darkweb
- f. High probability of significant Russian investment in the Trump Organization, its subsidiaries, shell companies, or off-shore protectorates
Regardless of whether or not you agree that slashing spending, fiscal austerity, balanced budgets, and a low federal deficit are good ideas, the fact remains that the Republican Party does not generally live up to its aims of expense reduction and small government.
As hard as it is to believe, there are still some people who think that Reagan cut the size of government, although Reagan was a big spender and laid the groundwork for the immense national debt we live with today.
Then there was Ol’ Dubya with his two disgraceful wars, TARP bailout, auto bailouts, fiscal stimulus, and tax cuts. Not to mention yanking the election out from under Al Gore’s popular win via a leg up from Florida governor brother Jeb.
Turns out, not even gridlock is a decent strategy for preventing escalating expenditures, under the theory that not getting anything done would prevent the government from growing. Apparently not:
Total gridlock is the worst outcome, where impact to the budget is concerned. Total Democratic control of the White House and Congress is the most fiscally responsible since the presidency of Richard Nixon.
So the idea of Republican leanness is a fallacy whether you believe that’s a worthy goal or not — and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest the tide is turning toward a wider appreciation of John Maynard Keynes’ approach to sensible fiscal spending when there is unemployment (puts idle resources to work and reduces government welfare expense; gives people a sense of purpose; builds community), if it is accomplished by debt financing (i.e., issuing Treasury Bonds — allowing individuals, pension funds, and so on to invest in the United States as sort of national asset class) and is used to build goods and structures that benefit the public at large: infrastructure, research and development, public resources, public health services, job training, paid volunteer work, parks and public spaces, etc.
Keynesian and Classical theory have oft been at odds, but are better understood now as complements: in a healthy, roaring economy, government should take its boots off the throttle and avoid tipping over into the kind of speculatory gamesmanship that got us into hot water in 2007-8. But in a depression or recession, or when the economy is recovering sluggishly, it should be a goto solution to start thinking about where to apply government funds (i.e. our money!) to things that need doing anyway; services that invest in our economy’s greatest resource: its citizens; programs that position us for the future by having the luxury to think ahead boldly.
Although the economy has recovered nicely for some — especially those in higher tax brackets — it has clearly left a number of Americans behind. It’s only added to a trend that had already started in the 70s, when inequality began widening in the U.S. The populist white, nationalist ire unleashed in the 2016 presidential election was something perhaps few saw coming, even though in hindsight the far right has been whipping their base into a frenzy for years — arguably since Reagan, if not with Nixon. That means there’s still a healthy place for government spending, especially in areas we already know we’re in sore need of a boost: roads and bridges, a public health care option, basic research, advanced manufacturing, the pivot to a renewable energy economy, to name a few.
Luckily, that’s what Hillary Clinton wants to do:
- Use the revenue from closing corporate loopholes and cracking down on tax inversions to invest in small business, long-term growth, R&D, advanced manufacturing, and job training
- Manufacturing Renaissance Tax Credit: to help revitalize communities hit hardest by the collapse of manufacturing
- Paid family and medical leave in the workplace
- Fundamentally reform veterans’ health care and build a 21st-century Department of Veterans Affairs to deliver world-class medical care
- Close oil and gas loopholes, using the proceeds to pay for the transition to a renewable energy economy
- Close loopholes and raise tax brackets for the very wealthy, using the funds to invest in youth services and infrastructure
- Modernize America’s energy infrastructure, address the growing threat of cyberattack, and support clean energy job creation and innovation in the process
- Create a Clean Power Market across the North American continent
- Offer competitive grants for phasing out old, polluting energy infrastructure (fuel oil, propane, coal)
- Reduce air pollution by converting / deploying high-efficiency trucks, buses, ships, and trains in the transportation sector
- Increase public R&D in renewable natural gas, low-carbon gas, and carbon dioxide sequestration
- Offer apprenticeship programs in high-skilled jobs in the new energy economy and construction
- Modernize housing policy, curb skyrockeeting rents in major cities, reforge a path to homeownership for middle America
- Create a public health care option to incentivize competition in the ACA exchanges
- Launch a national campaign to modernize and elevate the teaching profession
- Provide school district funding to develop computer science curriculum
- New municipal school bonds program to help finance repairs and re-investment in unsafe and unhealthy schools
- Offer free community college tuition and debt-free public college tuition for families who make up to $125,000/year
- Allow student loans to be refinanced at current low interest rates; forgive any debt remaining after 20 years
- 3-year student debt deferment for social entrepreneurs and eligibility for up to $17,500 in debt forgiveness
- Institute a 3-month moratorium on student loan payments to allow borrowers to consolidate and refinance
- Make preschool universal for every 4-year old in America; double investment in Early Head Start
- Increase child care investment significantly to ensure to family pays more than 10% of their income
- Double the size of the outdoor economy within 10 years, adding $700 billion in new annual economic activity
- Create an American Parks Trust Fund to invest in the country’s natural preserves
- Restore and refresh more than 3000 city parks within 10 years
- Create a new Water Innovation Lab and a Western Water Partnership to help manage our water challenges over the coming decades
- Become the world’s clean energy superpower: install more than half a billion solar panels by the end of term 1; generate enough renewable energy to power every home in American within 10 years; create a grant and award-based Clean Energy Challenge with states, cities, and rural communities; Solar X-Prize; tax incentives for renewables; foster energy innovation
- Help build the new tech economy on Main Street: create a lifelong learning system more geared towards 21st-century jobs; invest in STEM education; invest in science and tech R&D; help ensure benefits are flexible and travel with workers, not their employers; commit to 100% of households with broadband access by 2020; deploying the 5G wireless network; building free wi-fi infrastructure in punlic places and transport hubs; launch digital community projects to improve connectivity more affordably
- Offer tax credits to companies who hire apprentices
- Offer tax credits to companies who offer profit sharing programs to their employees
- Public health initiatives: substance abuse treatment and prevention; expand mental health services; services for autism spectrum disorder; reduction of co-pays and deductibles; reduce the cost of prescription drugs; double funding for community health centers
- Expand the role of national service, both paid and volunteer, with expansions of programs like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and the creation of a National Service Reserve for millions of Americans to contribute volunteer time to local challenges in their own communities
by the way: Her plan plans to finance itself by making wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share in taxes, and would not appreciably add to the deficit beyond any existing projections from the OMB;but here’s the best explainer I have found about whywe should seriously loosen our collars over the national debt.There is no reason to pay it down; and indeed, it would be dangerous and deleterious to even try to, because we’d be starving the economy of the circulation it needs to keep operating and growing:💰money💰.
I still see a lot of denialism on this point from the far-left (or the alt-left, depending on your favored terminology), which is a bit devastating to see as it essentially parrots the pro-Russian ideology of the far-right (both the alt-right and the neo-libertarian flavors). Green Party candidate Jill Stein is an especially pernicious promoter of this myth that Vladimir Putin is a poor, innocent, peaceful world leader who is being bullied by NATO (when in fact, Russia has been the aggressor since its annexation of Crimea in 2014).
DNC hack forensic evidence
Two separate Russian-affiliated adversaries were behind the attacks, according to a post-mortem by cyber-security firm CrowdStrike when the news of the intrusion first broke in early June, 2016. This has since been confirmed by other independent security firms including Fidelis, Mandiant, SecureWorks, and ThreatConnect as well as corroborated by analysis from Ars Technica and Edward Snowden.
At this point the US intelligence community is confident enough to formally accuse Russia of involvement in the hacks, and are currently investigating other breaches of voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois as well as in Florida — the key battleground state from the 2000 election that handed GWB an unfortunate victory. Elsewhere, there is ample evidence of Putin’s extensive disinformation campaign being waged online (including several experiences I have myself witnessed), which is the continuation of a long through line of wielding propaganda as a tool from the former head of the KGB.
There’s a popular and somewhat understandable misperception of culture as a vehicle of reproducing “normalcy” throughout society. However, each historical era makes the cognitive mistake of assuming its particular version of Normal is, well, Normal. And that all eras which came before — that were obviously ruled by stupid people who could not understand the kind of objective truths we are now privy to in the New Modern era — were a series of mass delusions in which people fooled themselves into thinking they had The Answers, when they so clearly didn’t. Because The Problems continue apace.
The twisted social psychological paradox we have not yet managed to escape is our abject failure to understand that we Moderns, too, are trapped within an enormous cultural projection of our current set of utopian delusions. We are no different, nor more special, than all the well-intentioned optimists and sad charlatans of bygone eras we love to thumb our elitist noses at. But our cursed cross to bear is the historically inescapable belief in our own Exceptionism — that we are The Smartest Guys in the Room, and that our newfound flavors of scientific rationalism will allow us to Save The Day and prop ourselves up as the hero gods of humankind we deep inside know that we must be.
For how can it be otherwise?
Whether God created us or we Him, it hardly matters — both narratives serve our deep-seated psychological ends: to prop ourselves up as the Platonically pure forms of human perfection we are eternally striving to be, despite all available evidence to the contrary. Whether mere mini-Gods or True Gods ourselves, we puff ourselves up with the pride of our uniquely gifted creationism vs. other species (and when it suits us, Other races, genders, ethnicities, or other demographical lenses that may be wielded to set The Best among us apart), which (in our minds) serves as the supremely obvious evidence of our planetary — and possibly (hopefully!) galactic — supremacy over natural reality.
All of this has happened before
But even a shallow skim through history could easily produce ample evidence in support of the opposing idea: that all such delusions of grandeur are false — which is part of the reason we (technologists, especially) love to avoid consulting history regarding such matters. The social proof of accolades in the Here and Now is far more exhilirating and, of course, less depressing.
And why look to the past, when all that is accessible can only lie before us? Yet both perspectives are false — neither the past nor the future are truly accessible to us. We live ever fixed within a singular bubbling moment of spacetime we have only barely begun to comprehend. In fact, all that our intellectual and scientific machinations have managed to reveal to us is the staggering lack of edgeness at the edges; and that the more deeply we pursue any sort of objective insight into any subject, no matter how narrowly defined, the more we only find an ever-widening gulf of ignorance opening up as if to swallow us.
Such is the fractal nature of reality, that it seems to slip further from our grasp the harder we struggle to know it — like flies in a vast inky darkness of transfixing ointment. Take for example two of the most theoretically “objective” fields known to modern scientific inquiry, and ask for their practitioners’ opinions on how the imaginary “coefficient of certainty” in their domains (that I am just now making up; bear with me — for you see, I too am a mini-God with powers of creation! Voila!) has fared over recent decades. They’re liable to tell you that physics only seems to be getting stranger, while mathematics may be brushing up against the limits of computational irreducibility, leaving a host of fundamentally unsolvable problems (although Stephen Wolfram does nonetheless leave us with ample hope of an infinite amount of discoveries to be made within the remaining territories of computationally reducible systems that we can continue to practically soldier on in. PHEW!).
Where shall we look for the Normal?
Outside of heady intellectual computational theory and the often esoteric pursuits of hard science, there is still a planetary majority of people who simply aren’t interested in this particular method of asking questions about the deep mysteries of life. Far from being irrational clods who lack the cognitive capacity to understand engineering and complex equations, they are seeking — and many have found — their answers to the profound mysteries of the meaning and purpose of life elsewhere, in other domains.
Whether it be hearth and home, creative pursuits, caretaking of others, careers and/or inquiries into other fields, or any of a dizzying variety of alternatives to the purely scientific-relational approach to values: these people are not wrong. They are not misguided, or necessarily simplistic in their searches for meaning — and neither is a simplistic approach itself objectively worse than a complicated one. In fact, as the economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb so compellingly argues for via the concept of antifragility, our modern, rationalized, (predominantly) Western tendency to hyper-complexify matters often only ends up making things worse. We can’t resist the urge to meddle, and insert ourselves into the micromanagement of many processes that ought to be left well enough alone, such that the natural, organic forces of time and randomness can perform their mysterious acts of self-healing.
Instead, we exhaust ourselves with frantic over-interventionism in our quest to “smooth everything out,” eradicate the uncertainties of risk, and tamp down the erratic edges of non-conformity into the kind of straight lines and perfect curves that makes it easier for us to manipulate them within our clever mathematical models. We embark on ever more ambitious projects of forcing people to fit the models we create, so that we may pat ourselves on the back for our obvious brilliance and sophistry with prediction (and, of course, justify the collection of enormous financial rewards for being so clever).
When some people begin to rationally feel spiritually and emotionally lost within this framework, scientific rationalization once again comes to the “rescue,” via medicalization of a vast and growing array of commonly routine experiences and phenomenological traits. From the most trivial and mundane “disorders” such as “inadequate or not enough eyelashes” to the more Orwellian “oppositional-defiant disorders” that tend to land the less obsequious amongst our children on a regimen of expensive drug cocktails, Big Pharma has got The Cure for YOU!
Whatever malaise afflicts the less engaged portion of the population that isn’t quite sure about the necessity of all this excessive (and fabulously profitable) interventionism, there is sure to be ample pharmaceutical “assistance” available in pursuit of learning to appreciate the New Normal — whatever the New Normal becomes at the behest of powerful corporations and the political minions who serve them via armies of lobbyist Slugworths whispering self-serving plans into the ears of the global elite whilst writing dark money checks in smoky back rooms (of course in my imagination, the global elite have flouted society’s pathetic insistence on protecting the plebes from the dangers of inhaling the carcinogens that afford sociopathic business “leaders” with their well-deserved profits — they retain the right to smoke indoors, goddammit!!).
In other words, Normal is merely what we decide it to be, whether by collective decision or by imposition from a cabal of powerful forces whose colossal self-interest bias has created one of the largest systematic exploits of the principal-agent problem heretofore witnessed in history.
We no longer even recognize the war we’re fighting
Our spoken or unspoken desire to dominate all of civilization through the manipulation of ideologies is no longer even a thinly-veiled attempt — we’re too sophisticated now and, in the common parlance of the often-discredited Youth, “like, totally over it.” We’re more liable to either be bored of the game and tune out altogether, leaving the fate of civilation largely in the hands of the elite forces who have only their own best interests at heart; or to make the seemingly logical decision that the best course of action is to play it, and play it well — in the hopes of making it into the upper echelons of elitedom, by which to survive Whatever May Come.
So: if we do collectively hold some deeply-seated love for Actual Reality, and seek to enjoy the pleasures of each other’s company in a more peaceably sane pursuit of gratitude at the wonders of existence (or at least, a tongue in cheek self-deprecating awareness of our utterly infinite lack of ability to directly do so), then we ought to resist more forcefully the current project we are collectively on — whether by choice or, more commonly, by being caught up in the accidental lottery of birth which placed us into this particular era at this particular time: full of self-important drudgery, decadent hedonism, pomp and circumstance, and neurotic self-obsession.
We cannot, as human beings imprisoned within the distortions of perception and cognition, in any objective sense “know” the world that is Out There. But the illusion is so compelling that we find ever more seemingly obvious ways to convince ourselves that the knowledge is ever just out of reach — if we could only move a little bit faster towards it, we will surely catch it.
Meanwhile the individuals most drawn to the pursuit of wealth and power — the most arguably useful symbols one can wield in one’s pursuit of planetary domination via ideological colonization — have us zealously convinced of the above fallacy throughout every age. Playing on our deepest psychological weaknesses, it gets easier and easier to do so via application of all the modern tools in the toolbox of propaganda at our disposal, that only increase in number under the guise of the “progress” that curiously seems to benefit the wealthy and powerful in an asymmetrical way, versus providing promised benefits more broadly.
This is why we can’t have nice things
Or rather, why we can only have nice Things, and we can’t seem to find a way to enjoy the suspiciously elusive things which are not Things. The simple and ephemeral joys that only well up from In Here, from love to joy, empathy to compassion, are simply not measurable by the sophisticated rational-scientific methods we have thus far been able to invent. Not indexable, not capturable by market predictions or mathematical modeling, they teeter on the edge of a steep precipice inside of an aggressively advancing value system that resists being unhinged from the comforting certainty of statistical analysis — left flapping out in the harsh, unpredictable winds of uncertainty and risk.
Paradoxically (and somewhat hilariously), we often wonder why we’re so terribly bored and full of ennui at the whole otherwise astonishing business of life (once unmoored from the over-interventionism of the Business of Life). We cannot seem to grasp that all of our efforts at stamping out variability and disorder work precisely against us — distancing ourselves from the organic, unplanned diversity of the natural world that did just fine on its own, thank you very much, before it perhaps made the mistake of running into the set of random conditions that proved hospitable enough to produce our tragedy of a species: so well-intentioned, so brilliant and well-meaning, yet so horribly, pathologically, depressingly Quite Lost.
Some of the more interesting bits:
- End of Afghanistan “mission”
- Appeal to double down on middle-class economics
- Increase availability and provide tax credit for quality childcare
- Getting paid sick leave laws on the books
- Wage equality
- Raising the minimum wage — “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.”
- Lowering cost of community college to free
- Asks companies to provide more job training, hire more veterans
- Bi-partisan infrastructure plan to attract businesses / industries
- Trade deals in Asia, Europe — “95 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities.”
- Precision Medicine Initiative — pursuing cures for cancer, diabetes; personalized health information
- Free, open, and fast Internet
- Colonizing space — “not just to visit, but to stay.”
- Closing corporate tax loopholes brokered by lobbyists
- Opposing Russia, supporting Ukraine
- Opening relations with Cuba
- Halting Iran’s nuclear program
- Legislation around cyberattacks, identity theft, and child data
- Pursuing climate change solutions, including getting China to commit to limiting their emissions for the first time
- Free speech; religious rights; LGBT rights
- Shutting down Guantanamo
- Transparency on surveillance; civil liberties vs. counter-terrorism
- Marriage equality
- American values vs. partisanship
- Plea for a better politics
- Appeal to debate and reason on divisive issues: abortion rights, immigration, voting rights, police brutality
- Mic drop — “I have no more campaigns to run.”
President Obama’s tech-centered State of the Union: full text, and digital rights concerns – Boing Boing. p.s. cool visualization of Twitter mentions during the speech (via srogers @ cartodb)
Both are subject to an extra heaping of criticism, skepticism, and scorn because there is some culturally-validated argument to be made about how they are different from some perceived status quo.And in modern mercenary America, the mythology is “win at all costs” whether it’s politics, business, religion, education, or Returning That Thing You Broke even though it’s out of warranty because goddammit we’re entitled to All The Things!!!!Ergo:
- To gain or preserve power, you need to win
- It is acceptable — even laudable — to win by any means necessary (legal, ethical, loophole, grey area, “disrupting” or otherwise)
- To win you must be good and work hard, but plenty of winners take shortcuts, cheat, break rules/laws, harm others, and/or fraud their way to the top — so in order to stay on the field, you need to become open to those tactics whether you believe it’s right or not (see: Lance Armstrong). Meanwhile internally, you have built-in psychological mechanisms that enforce your justification and carve out a special view of yourself as being ultimately a good person (see: Jonathan Haidt) and even, more twistedly, a “good person who does bad things” (see: BTK serial killer) — whereas other people who do bad things are not simply constrained by their environments (as you are); they are just bad people.
- In the struggle for power, those who have (or want) it aggressively seek out any thread of weakness, real or perceived, in whatever individuals or outgroups appear to threaten their dominance.
- Difference from the norm is widely and cross-culturally perceived as weakness and carries a negative connotation socially.
- Anyone who suggests or espouses difference is subject to derision and confrontation, as a matter of course.
- Those who have “outward difference” characteristics — i.e. women, members of different races, religions — therefore tend to be the subject of derision and confrontation as a matter of course: because it leads the Normal to winning, and therefore preserving power.
- Any method of fomenting confrontation and contempt is acceptable in the noble pursuit of power, even including vociferously denying and decrying the unethical tactics used by other Normals championing for the same outcome (see: Gamergate).
- The age of Political Correctness took some tactics off the table, namely the overt invocation of gender or race (to a lesser extent, religion) to “name” the difference and call out the offending anti-Normal, immediately discrediting any perspective they put forth via ad hominem attack.
- …but the underlying game remains the same. Identify and publicly shame a perceived difference — they “kill the buzz” or they “aren’t aggressive enough” or conversely are “too pushy” or they don’t lean in enough or they don’t have the mind of a hacker. Whatever the red herring is, it’s often a derivative of a stereotype we apply to a marginalized class — but it’s trumped up and re-packaged, perhaps with some shoddy, easy to find pseudo-evidence in support — not terribly dissimilar from the way Wall Street made subprime mortgage loans appear like the bedrock of America’s financial future via complicated and inscrutable re-branding.
Stinks just as bad.
- Stephen Hawking — http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/11268738/Artificial-intelligence-could-mean-end-of-human-race-says-Stephen-Hawking.html)
- Elon Musk — http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2015/01/15/elon-musk-puts-down-10-million-to-fight-skynet/
- Bill Gates — http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/01/28/bill-gates-on-dangers-of-artificial-intelligence-dont-understand-why-some-people-are-not-concerned/?postshare=6281422489400428
Tests are evaluating tools that can only act as a diagnostic — they offer no improvement in the actual ability of children to learn. In the so-called “real world” we don’t take tests — we solve problems and tackle challenges that (ideally) resonate with us somehow when we manage to solve them.
Unfortunately one of the more important parts of that equation — the passion, and the interest that drives us to ask questions in the first place — is often absent in many a modern life.
In service of stability, in service of family, of practicality, of a grim sort of tradition — for whatever reasons, we find ourselves here. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Moreover, tests are supposedly a heuristic that stands in for “teacher performance.” But there are many quite consequential other factors that affect students’ performance on tests, most of which have nothing to do with the teacher and everything to do with the child and his or her life outside of school.
In other words, judging teacher ability by test scores alone is a very “lossy” way to make a judgment to begin with — and we’ve dramatically increased the number of tests, to the point where there are precious few *other* judgments allowable or possible about our teachers. Plus, we’ve tied test scores to teacher salaries and district funding more broadly — all based on the notion that one very lossy metric is able to tell us everything we need to know about what’s going on in our schools.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Missing from that metric is any factor that accounts for what arguably *is* the most salient predictor of student performance: poverty level. This makes intuitive sense to anyone who’s ever taken a sociology class, or has experience with poverty itself — when you design a feedback loop to punish the poorest students, who already have the most difficult time prioritizing school life over the very real concerns waiting at home, we shouldn’t be surprised that the loop keeps tightening and ensuring the black hole of poverty is harder and harder to escape.
There’s nothing common about the Common Core
The standards for Common Core sailed through reams of political due process in record time, right on a wave of $230 million from Bill Gates — a man who went to an elite private school, and has sent his children to the same type of education. No dogfooding, Bill? If the improvements you’re making to our system are so awesome, why not entrust your own family’s future to the power of the robust American public school system?
Or is it just another thinly veiled form of colonialism, under a new guise — much like Zuckerberg’s boondoggle internet.org. We’re giving our children a better chance at becoming great test takers, much like we’re giving the third world a few tiny drops of Facebook-gated internet. Go us! This is what Great Men do with all that money they fleeced out of the American economy: Give Back. We applauded them as they siphoned it — slack jawed, drooling fanboys — and later lauded them as they gave slivers of it back in exchange for the modern version of the pyramids: your name on an edifice, to live on through the ages and be recognized by future men. This is how one escapes dying — so the story goes.
There’s another story.
You can escape dying in another important way: by living. Just choose to live honestly and openly every day, in every moment, in every moment of decision.