We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why Are Television News Anchors So Irrelevant?

Most people by this point know either subconsciously or consciously the main reasons for why CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox News regulars act like a group of preppy high school girls. Let's briefly list 4 common reasons before moving on to the underlying explanation.

5) The nature of their work as charismatic and believable presenters of information rather than experts. It is key to mention that the separation between 24 hour cable networks and brief "serious" 6 PM broadcasts on basic cable is disappearing. It used to be that the evening news audience demographic was numerically dominated by the group of elderly depression era females. This explained the need for senior citizens like Dan Rather who was ideal marriage material for the widowed viewers and delivered the authority of a small town doctor. To this day a doctor is shown by polls as the most respected wage laborer whose opinion is considered the most truthful (it makes doctors natural lead characters in TV drama series and movies). However this demographic is dying off and being replaced by baby boomer women (greater female life expectancy always tilts corporate marginal profit seeking) who respect Katie Couric's professional achievement and ability to look good at her age.

4) Support by biggest media corporations of Reagan's efforts to reduce funding for department of education (either through cheerleading it or tacit support from silence). 40 year olds watching the news on TV today were directly affected by the across the board reduction in quality of schooling. Television and newspapers thus have to use less big words and their writers are increasingly relying on baby speak, puns, and outright prepackaged talking points (Gretchen Carlson playing dumb to keep her job is one extreme example of this). Shorter attention span is not the cause but the social symptom. This directly feeds into 3)

3) MSM responding to an Australian tabloid oligarch's invasion of United States with headlong rush towards turning news into entertainment. Of course this would have happened even without the accelerating influence of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation conglomerate. The aging of current TV demographic is permanent since mostly those remain who are unable to master the use of internet two way transmission medium. Since the audience is increasingly represented by rural senior citizens who were failed by the education drives in the 50s and 60s, the intensification of circus style hysterical entertainment as seen on the radio is inevitable in the short term. Murdoch's influence must again be mentioned however. Newstartainment ( trademarked =] ) saw a publicly visible deepening split between internationalist media oligarchs (who encourage globalization since USA is not essential to their base of operations) and nationalist media oligarchs who use their media asset influence to help out USA based heavy industry. NBC Universal can be said to be an example of a nationalist oligarch mouthpiece since it is owned by General Electric (which is reliant on selling real tangible items like engine parts to US military and government organs). News Corporation of course is not as reliant on the well being of United States military-industrial complex so its assets like Fox News can be extra irresponsible with their newstartainment. From the financial perspective it is better strategy for GE's bottom line to support nationalist Democratic party wing of the oligarchy (since better educated/healthier peasants allow US based corps to better compete abroad). That is why MSNBC leans towards democratic millionaires and their businesses. The fact that Fox News was emulated points less to its success than to a transition of formerly US tied corporations towards a more global status. For more information on who the top 10 owners of media clusters are, here is a handy chart (warning : This is from 2002 and the industry got more consolidated  and monolithic since then. Use it to get the thrust of the idea).

2) Losing ad revenue to the internet since television news (and TV programming in general) did not live up to its promise of raising human consciousness as envisioned by the first head of the FCC. The internet serves as a type of American glasnost while television serves as a way to sell state propaganda and mass produced TV drama garbage at home and abroad. That is easily recognizable. Getting young people's trust back (to keep going long term as old people die) is now almost impossible and the road of least resistance is to intensify the circus. Some young people watch the news and MTV just to laugh at how terrible it is (that still is a mild boost to ad revenue). News "anchors" themselves do not come into contact with relevant information much since their networks have actively cut recruitment of journalistic investigative talent. Since it is cheaper to analyze second hand information with talking heads than hire sufficient numbers of understimulated human explorers (and pay for their plane tickets, hotel accommodation, security, etc), news anchors come less and less into real contact with knowledgeable experts. Ridiculous cowards like Wolf Blitzer for example, do not get hits to their self esteem as much from interaction with resident stay at home talking heads than with old school journalist data fiends like Michael Ware. To be fair, as Fox News anchors show, there is a lot of self censorship and dumbing down to remain on the job.

***drum roll***

And the underlining explanation is....

1) National news anchors and pundits are members of the wealthiest 1% of the population. Even if they started out poor (which is increasingly becoming unlikely as key people in the conglomerate hierarchy flood these simple job openings with their children) the long cut throat climb to the top irreparably changed them. The laughing playboys on TV are completely insulated from vast majority of the problems that Americans are facing (except of course problems of taxes on income and capital gains and regulations on financial gambling). Whether they work for Fox, CNN, MSNBC, many of them are good friends and are always on the look out to jump ship to another network to bump up their salary. People like Anderson Cooper, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity would never be caught dead riding a piece of third world joyride called the NYC subway. To them life in America is great and getting better all the time. Every day is just an ego bolstering practice of either driving from luxurious suburbs or being driven to a place where people put make up on them, where they see their friends, and where they talk to some senior citizen politicians/celebrities (who are naturally as insulated). They sit down and chit chat about the problems of places like Detroit ( which for all intensive purposes is as foreign and distant as cities in Africa are). They are goofy and full of giggles not just because they are professional entertainers but because the anchors that elderly people get their "news" from are but middle aged preppy high school girls on the equivalent of a fashion show.

Such dramatic disconnect having continued for as long as it has could only have created neurotic social perceptions the ripple effects of which we'll be feeling for years to come.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Looming Escalation Between Venezuela and Colombia

Both countries stand to gain from violent confrontation within F.A.R.C. controlled Colombian territory. The danger of the current escalation calls for direct Brazilian involvement to help resolve it

The recent defeat of Tamil Tigers by Sri Lankan leadership reminded the world of a simple truth. It being that even decades long civil wars can come to an end through the sustained use of violence instead of political settlement or outside mediators. This is good news and inspiration for Colombia's Harvard educated lawyer president Alvaro Uribe. After all, Sri Lanka's government was able to build up its military and political will for a fast paced, decisive, and successful end game (something that eluded Colombia's military for half a century now).

It's much easier for the international community to work with the government responsible for mass war crimes if that government is victorious and not engaged in a neverending quagmire. Uribe's military build up in recent years through Plan Colombia (with devoted, accelerated, financial, and technical support from Bush and Obama administrations) indicates that he is looking to imitate Sri Lanka's example of national unification before Venezuela and her allies make it impossible. Venezuela, with Russia's assistance and financial support, is about to open Western Hemisphere's first factory for production of AK-103 rifles and ammunition for them. Chavez's near future capability to annually produce 50,000 rifles and ammo will allow him to really bolster the capability of FARC allies in Colombia's jungles. If the rumors of various anti-aircraft missiles being provided by the Kremlin are correct, then FARC will also be able to neutralize Uribe's American provided troop transport helicopters and aircraft that periodically terrorize forest villagers with chemical weapons (under the drug war fig leaf pretext of eradicating coca plants).

Uribe seems to be running scared. That is demonstrated by his recent decision to give United States control over a number of Colombia's military bases, to some civilian infrastructure like airports, and to allow US troops immunity from prosecution. No self-respecting imperial puppet deepens his humiliating dependency into Karzai status unless absolutely necessary. Puppets usually try to push for more autonomy from Washington DC. In fact, Fidel Castro's recent article even went as far as to say Colombia was virtually annexed under Obama's watch. Rather than the statement being a rhetorical exaggeration, Castro points out that that at no previous period in time did the Colombian oligarchs allow American military to have as much control over their domain.

Perhaps Uribe is hoping to avoid Saakashvili's fate by having enough American troops on his territory to deter a Venezuelan military response during the end game. Once Colombian government launches an all out attack on FARC controlled zones to consolidate control over the country, it will want to also attack FARC's hiding and refueling safe havens in border parts of Ecuador and Venezuela. Right now those safe havens help FARC out the way parts of Pakistan help out the Taliban. Considering Venezuela's arms purchases, the outcome of an attack by Colombian military that doesn't also extend across the border may prove to be disastrous, humiliating, and inconclusive.

Colombia is not a recently acquired protectorate like Georgia and has been a way for United States to destabilize the region for decades (to prevent South American economic cooperation/integration the way it is occurring now). It makes sense for Uribe to think his country is safer from counterattack attack than Georgia was. However, USA's current weakened economic condition, loss of domestic desire for more imperial adventures, and change in political leadership means time is running out for a military solution. Venezuela's position is getting stronger and it doesn't have rebels to fight like Colombia.

Colombia literally cuts off Venezuela geographically from its ally Ecuador, prevents meaningful cooperation between the two in construction of infrastructure like railroads, and allows United States a springboard (that extends from another puppet Panama) to exert influence on the continent. It is finally in America's interest to end the decades old civil war there before Brazil and Venezuela end it themselves on their terms while gaining prestige in the meantime. Having a loyal puppet inside the South American economic unification schemes would provide an important Trojan horse for Washington (the way England/Poland are used now as Trojan horses to slow down and disrupt EU consolidation as a center of force on the planet).

Time is also running out for Chavez. Even though US economic power is fading in the region (not to be confused with the hard power of military presence), Brazil's is growing. Considering that Brazil is also Colombia's neighbor, Lula Da Silva may soon be seen as more constructive/inspirational in the region than Chavez. Colombia under a government more favorable to Bolivarian style continental unification would physically shut United States out of South America, provide more influence over the strategically key Panama, and give Chavez led center-left Spanish speaking cluster of countries a way to be co-equals with Brazil in deciding continental policy.

Uribe and Chavez thus both have great potential rewards from a military confrontation if each man manages to make it happen on his terms and control the public perception after wards.

That is why Brazil must step in and actively work with other global players with interests in the region (China in resources such as Chilean copper and Russia in infrastructure development such as nuclear power plants) to put pressure on Obama and deter Colombian government from emulating Sri Lanka's military solution. Brazil has shown its willingness to be a strong sovereign power by acting independently from US in providing solutions during the Honduran coup crisis. Although Lula Da Silva has a center-left union organizing history and has more in common with Chavez than Obama, he can be the perfect bridge between the two. Obama for his part needs to break away from the influence of some elites in American military establishment. The leak about Afghanistan troop build up deliberations and McChrystal's impudent behavior shows that there are elements in the American Military-Industrial complex that need to be shown who the boss is. International pressure must also be applied on Chavez since he is a military man and may decide on some sort of violent preemption (either sharp escalation of indirect aid to FARC rebels or even direct limited engagement if Colombian threat seems overwhelming or there is perception of American weakness). If Brazil and other countries agree with Chavez that FARC is a belligerent entity (the way an army is) rather than a terrorist organization, it may begin the process of dialogue towards a non-violent political settlement.

A regional war or Afghanistan style escalation dragging major players is not what the American people on both continents in the Western Hemisphere need right now.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Heavy Industry Requires Direct State Control

Demand for big capital intensive consumer products like hospitals, trains, spacecraft, schools, bridges can only be adequately provided by the state

The sight of former textile and paper factories being turned into overpriced lofts in many Western cities shows how light industry can pick up its belongings and leave the country at a moment's notice. Competition in manufacture of small relatively portable consumer goods (anything smaller than a civilian car) has produced an enormous jump in technological evolution of gadgets. These are the glaring successes of capitalism that cannot be ignored. Thomas Friedman and Karl Marx have spent half of their famous books describing these efficiency victories of the market. The breakneck pace of progress in small consumer goods has made declining economic/social power (of most of the world's population) more tolerable by negating some of the suffering. Although proletariat of the world (99% of world's people who don't purely live off capital investment such as neurosurgeons, 80 grand a year white collar workers, McDonalds staff, etc) have been becoming increasingly impoverished from mechanization, light industry provided some relief. Shiny televisions, increasingly powerful computers, and Wi-Fi cellphones have masked the decline somewhat. After all, a dollar in 2009 buys exponentially more computing power than a dollar in 1999 or 1989 so small electronics are seeing a form of mind blowing deflation.

The capital intensive products of heavy industry have lagged behind pathetically however. A dollar in 2009 doesn't make you travel substantially faster around the world than a dollar in 1989. Neither does it give you a lot more quantitatively and qualitatively better education or health. Space progress is not the only macro technological arena that has stagnated. What happened to the space shuttle is happening in virtually every macro heavy industry reliant area of planetary activity. The major lag in development of HI products versus LI products deserves major international attention.

What are HI products? Let's name some:

1) aircraft, trains, spaceships, bridges, tunnels, mines, deep sea oil platforms, heavy transport ships, submarine habitats, deep space habitats, power plants, large farms

2) machines that create the parts for the value added products above and machines that create these machines, factories where these machines are located and that have the personnel that is employed to run the factories

3) supporting infrastructure to items in 1) and 2) such as transport infrastructure linking the extraction of raw materials to the processing plants to the assembly plants to the distribution plants (vertical downstream and upstream chains)

60 year old bridges are being driven on by 3 year old cars. A person from 1840s would easily recognize the trains of today when it comes to their function and utility. This person would not undergo the same awe as a horse riding mail courier would at the sight of video conferencing from laptops and such.

What people forget is that bridges, spaceships, and factories full of cutting edge robotics are just large value added products. Sure, a factory that makes engines for spaceships may have more moving parts within it than a cellphone but when it comes to the totality of a particular assembly line's singular functioning, it is but a product that is in demand for a buyer. An iron ore extraction plant is also a product with multitudes of customers (large scale consumers). So why is it that the market has consistently failed to produce evolutionary leaps in HI consumer products as breathtaking as the ones in LI consumer products?

Well, the common reply is that because these big consumer products are capital intensive, it's hard to get investment for really exotic large scale experiments in new means of large scale production and extraction. The argument goes on to point out that due to the long term nature of these difficult projects, it's hard to get enough investors with the patience and vision to really stick around.

The problem in a nutshell boils down to insufficient capital, insufficient patience (especially in an era of quarterly results and fast paced financial sector gambling with quick returns), and insufficient appetite for risk as is common in companies controlled by shareholders rather than singular ego driven 19th century style oligarchs. To be fair, often governments put too much restriction on really revolutionary projects such as private space exploration. However, at the end of the day, the global stagnation in high macro technology and infrastructure is the result of capitalism fundamentally failing at meeting peoples demand for complex value added HI consumer products.

Do people want to fly from London to Tokyo in half the time in safe hypersonic craft? Yes they do. Do they want their drinkable water to be cleaner, cheaper, and more available? Of course. Lets not even get into the desire for modes of transport that aren't powered by small explosions of hydrocarbons. Since demand is not being met, the only solution to start meeting it is direct total state control of strategic heavy industry products. Control can include or exclude outright ownership but it has to be total (total control without direct ownership is not a contradiction from the standpoint of state capitalism and there are plenty of examples of it). The state has the patience, the vision, and the capital to really start making the same leaps in progress as are occurring in cellphones for instance.

For example: the next generation airplanes shouldn't just be more bloated whales with tiny wings.
They should be substantially faster (hypersonic or even scram jet), cheaper to fly (or free depending on how far the government subsidizes them or decides if ability for travel is an inalienable right), and of course constantly safer and more comfortable.

The simple demand above that we come to expect from LI consumer products (with every new generation laptop, fridge, or lawnmower) may evoke laughter. This laughter is deserved as the current capitalist mode of delivering improvements in HI goods involves is inefficient by its very nature. Even when state governments work hand in hand with large corporate actors to say, build a new high speed railroad, the profit motive keeps the whole enterprise at a very cautious, very expensive, inefficient snails pace. One has to just look at the empty lot where Freedom Tower should have been a few years ago. The shareholders (citizens) of large capable states deserve better for their involuntary investment.

That is why direct control by the state of key strategic HI sectors of the economy is a must. People would not even notice the change as this action would take some key industry from mid-level state capitalism as practiced now to maximum level state capitalism as was practiced under Lenin's New Economic Policy. Soviet success of industrialization within one generation (replacing horses with tractors, bringing electricity to areas previously without it, large scale construction of colleges and universities, etc.) found a worthy successor in modern China. Chinese leadership has built incredible gleaming infrastructure within a generation while allowing light industry capitalism to provide things that capitalism is good at providing (hats, shoes, tables, flashlights, DVD players). Things like bridges and new airports however were provided by the state corporations after careful planning with long term future in mind. Chinese have avoided disasters like the Big Dig due to more direct control over all the players throughout the entire vertical business chain. One does not even need to mention the success of Singapore in providing ever improving quality housing (most people there live in public housing).

Of course there is the argument that the state may have the same deficiency at raising capital for these megaprojects. Not every country has a billion tax payers and a large land area. This is not a problem at all as it invites real productive international cooperation in tangible improvement in people's lives. European citizens would jump on board immediately if they knew how much cheaper (if not free) their train rides would be if EU owned enough mines, raw material processing centers, and train assembly lines. When 20-50 countries put their capital together they can reap the benefits of mass production in HI sector. Hypersonic 21st century aircraft, spaceships, small nuclear power plants, floating desalination plants can be stamped out cheaply (with excess remainder bartered with other societies in exchange for anything from coffee to sugar to titanium).

The limit of course would be cooperation at international UN level involving vast majority of the world's actors. That will have to wait a while as the world is undergoing consolidation of regional economic blocks.

The regional economic block that will deliver the best HI goods will eventually become the spine of the first global government. Although it would be preferable if humanity immediately jumped towards global cooperation in management and production of HI consumer goods, the regional block formation seems like a safer way of going about it. Nothing would be more productive for the world (in comparison to the current US dominated vampiric free trade blood draining) than gentle competition between European Union, North American Union, China, South American Union, etc  in who can build better tunnels, mines, spacecraft, etc. It is already happening in a way between large multinationals backed from either Washington DC or Brussels but there are still insufficient political controls. It will be interesting to see the business strategy behind HI products emerging from USAN since this block is being driven in part from resentment from Western economics.

(sidenote: this article is not an argument for more state control but more of an analysis of a process already happening and dissection of fundamental reasons for it. As head of the US democratic party, Howard Dean, recently mentioned, the silly ridiculous argument between socialism and capitalism is finished. It never made sense and only served as a pretext to continue the feud between Eastern and Western planetary elites. It makes more sense to have more state control on international level from the perspective of many rich people and it will thus be done. EU's model of regional integration is now copied by entire continents and the process of continental integration will happen a lot more rapidly now. Unfortunately, the profit motive [now bumped to a higher level and driving gaggles of state heads] and the difficulties listed earlier in the article continue in this process until eventual integration of key economic blocks into a system of world governance and more centralized HI decision making. The alternatives to global integration via non-EU models [Anglo-American led corporate globalization] involve too many risks of violence and unimaginable horrors.)

As for today, with 1 in 6 of Americans having had insufficient food in 2008, the least the state can do is take direct control of middlemen distributors (like Wall Mart and Costco) to better negotiate for and coordinate food supplies to the major urban hubs where people have less access to cars. For the price of 1 week in Iraq and Afghanistan, the authorities can operate hundreds of such distribution points in strategic areas to prevent social unrest.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Decline of Suburbia and Democratic Party Dominance

Since economically inefficient and socially stagnant nature of suburbia makes educated people flock to urban areas, Democratic party may become monolithic and dictatorial since elites are not as split anymore

United States is a huge country. That and favorable conditions led to an early and advanced car culture (Canada, Russia, China, Brazil had various restrictions stifling that, ranging from permafrost to outright ban on private property). The love for cars and the infrastructure that makes it possible has been a source of national pride for decades and brought envious glances from around the world. As much as smaller vehicles make sense in urban areas, anybody who has been to rural U.S. would immediately appreciate the benefits of increased horsepower and vehicles whose size would be considered military grade elsewhere in the Western world. When you take into account that most Americans lost their virginity inside cars, the psychological obsession with motor vehicles begins to make sense. It's no wonder that road trips hold a special place in the national consciousness and that advertisements for cars overly utilize freedom and sex appeal compared to how cars are marketed elsewhere (for more on this, check out advertising guru Clotaire Rapaille's Culture Code).

However, the unfortunate side effect of Eisenhower administration's emulation of Germany's Autobahn (rather than large scale development of high speed public transit as in France or Japan) also allowed the whites to not live together with non-whites. Non-whites (and the poor in general) were subsequently never fully integrated into the national fabric since those better off could now move away from the poor into suburbia. Unlike the Soviets ( who attempted national integration with their colonial subjects through mass education) or the British/French (who were geographically separated from non-white subjects), white Americans found a way to solve their disinterest of getting along through mass movements into the suburbs for which there was plenty of space for.

It has been common knowledge for decades now among social policy experts that a mixing of different classes is good for society as a whole. For instance, over a third of Holland's people live in affordable public housing since once you qualify to move in, they don't kick you out if your income greatly increases. Many professionals of course remain to take advantage of the savings. Class polarization along geographic lines is thus greatly reduced. In United States, the subsidies to highways (and the resulting creation of suburbia) have done more than just rot inner cities, deteriorate food quality, and create fertile ground for South Africa-esque gated communities. They have set the ground for inevitable reversal of suburbias becoming slums due to the sheer economic and logistical inefficiencies of suburban construction in general.

Interestingly enough, the two party system was preserved as rural whites and the remaining urban whites (often cynically using racial politics to bolster electoral numbers and influence) were balanced numerically. However, in the last 20 years a number of the following factors began to create an imbalance:

1) More than half of people now living in urban areas than rural ones
2) More people deciding to remain single and not having children (diminishing appeal of creating a suburban nest
3) Increase in the amount of people renting rather than trying to buy a home (the "American dream" so far has been achieved by only 1/3 of the population with a third flat out rejecting it for urban living and a third either desperately trying or slowly converting to the urban dream. The recent housing bubble and collapse is by far the best evidence of this. It will hopefully create a proper national attitude readjustment concerning what dream to pursue and what mode of living to support and encourage with laws, regulations, and incentives. People who rent are increasingly seen as at least co-equal to home owners by politicians)
4) Increase in secularization of United States that leads to a view of small town residents as backward religionists
5) Globalization and de-industrialization of United States leading to reduction of opportunities for rural areas and increase in opportunities in Urban hubs
6) Rapid increase in college access (for at least majority of the whites) creating a stronger educated class that abhors small towns and where educated individuals try to move out.

Considering that the population of this country doubled over half a century, the suburbs had to expand or at least rise in price. The demand from educated whites could not be readily satisfied due to sheer physical and financial logistics.This of course resulted in white migrations into the Urban areas once again resulting in gradual change in urban political leadership (notice NYC under republican mayors), increase in infrastructure improvements for new migrants due to wealthier tax base, and corresponding millitarization of police. The drop in crime in major urban areas in last 15 years is not due to some role model efforts of a mean spirited former mayor and cracking down on squeegee men but by outright displacement of the poor from the urban areas.

Colonization of Brooklyn in areas such as Williamsburg is a fascinating example. Colonization as a term is not used lightly in this piece. First came the brave poor urban whites wanting to rent cheap space (much like the displacement of blacks from another further part of brooklyn, Brighton Beach, by Soviet immigrants for whom money was an issue). These individuals who would have otherwise preferred lower Manhattan:

1) could tolerate living next to minorities more than their more timid white counterparts from suburbia due to greater familiarity of the landscape
2) many were physiologically (ENFP, ESTP, ENTP psychological types most likely predominate the party scene at the edges of white settlements in Brooklyn) understimulated and were more free of the bonds of religion/tradition/ignorance

They used their newly acquired cheap habitats to throw wild parties and engage in large scale hedonism that would not be allowed in lower Manhattan. The contrast of educated hedonistic college graduates amidst populations of blacks with whom they had little in common slowly displacing previous residents through economics makes the term of colonization resonate. Of course once they settled the area, infrastructure improved from increase in tax revenue. This allowed other whites, older and more suburban to follow on their heels in increasing numbers. The L train connecting predominantly white lower Manhattan with Manhattan's expansion across the river is of course shiny and new.

The trend has interesting political implications. The political center rather than being split like before will move to the cities. It is unlikely that rural racist/religious will flip to being democrat again as in the 50s. The increase in  financial power of the cities and the influx of educated whites into the Democratic party creates a Democratic party that keeps growing stronger with time as the wealthiest 20-30% of population (who haven't fled abroad in search of employment) occupy what was once "inner cities". In effect, around some major cities the suburbia has moved into them. Long Island suburbia is thus creeping westward. Some cities perceived as unsalvagable like Detroit will be allowed to die and become decrepid shells like many Soviet cities now rotting in Siberia. Suburbia will not disappear of course and those too far away from cities will transform it into a more militarized gated community structure. Rise in gated communities in last 20 years illustrates this.

American cities will become more like France's, with immigrants and minorities being on the outskirts rather than the whites. This dynamic of the most powerful individuals dominating the political sphere from the urban areas will not escape the attention of non-white Americans for long. The tension within the newly powerful Democratic party and the imbalance of one party always setting the national agenda can be resolved in 2 scenarios.

A) Although we've seen rather pathetic recent attempts by the Republican party to re-assess their relationship with minorities, it is not impossible that they will transform themselves into a multi-ethnic political party years in the future and structure themselves more along economic populism. This would allow them to dominate numerically as white population declines below 50% in the 2020s and so on. If they do not do so then they will continue losing national election after election.

B) The uneducated/rural/religious and more blatantly racist core of the Republican party might not tolerate being part of a multiethnic construct and thus would not take into consideration a platform that attracts and integrates the minorities being driven from the cities. This will result in Republican party turning increasingly militant and radical and their continued failure at the national polls will shrink them into almost a third party status. At that point, non-whites disillusioned with situation in many urban areas (surely there will be some urban areas that integrate better with influx of education and resource redistribution) and the increasing radicalism of the Republicans can lead for a creation of a third party.
This is an open ended scenario that sees partial disintegration of Republican rural/suburban political power through loss of voters to Democrats, Libertarians, crypto-Fascist conservatives and conceivably some Hispanic-black coalition that tries hard to attract some poor rural whites with populism. Many midwestern states will continue Republican dominance unchanged and would resort to rabid state's rights calls to insulate themselves from the influence of the Democratic center. However, without significant numbers in Congress, the efforts of Republican state governments will not go as far as hoped. No longer would they be able to rally rural whites against the cities as the cities will become increasingly white and wealthy. It is possible that libertarian ideology would prevail by default in large swaths of rural areas due to its non-redistributive nature, dog eat dog survivalist ethic, and thus potential to reduce public conflict (even while further alienating ethnic groups from one another). Private money from cities would then have unhindered influence.
(Sidenote: the above scenarios assume there is no national break up, constitutional reorganization, or civil violence. This article was originally written in May 2009 and things have deteriorated dramatically since then. As mentioned above, although rural Republicans are not likely to switch to Democratic party, it is possible that psychological association of executive branch with steep downward economic spiral will lead urban whites to GOP in 2010 elections. Although I continue to believe that democratic majority will be strengthened through election of more progressives, even if urban voters flock to GOP in the next congressional round, the Palin crypto-fascist faction should still split the GOP allowing continuation of Democratic national center.)

As of today, many Americans are distracted by the many troubles and pressures of international commitments and economic crisis to pay attention to United States taking many of the trappings of South American countries. Although the country is too big to have all of the elites concentrated in the cities, their increase in globalized urban hubs will, for the first time, create a concentration of corporate power behind one party. Urban areas are also easier to defend and logistics of food transport become streamlined. The Democratic party could very well resort to empty promises of equality, progress, social responsibility, and every man woman and child needing an education to preserve an image of a multi-ethnic construct. Reality on the ground however will make it easy for it to not fulfill any of the promises. The great educational gaps between the races, lack of national ethnic integration, the backwardness and biases of southern evangelicals will make it hard for people to hold Democrats accountable. After a while it could very well be that the Democratic party will stop pretending about whose interests it defends and having shed American international commitments abroad (and promises to spread freedom and equality), United States would transform into a Brazil-esque entity. Decadent hedonistic urban individualism with vast swaths of the rural population left behind (even more so than before if that can be imagined). White flight is a radical concept and a symptom of a rotting nation without national unity (last time we saw white flight was in post-colonial spaces such as Africa and Central Asia where Russians found it intolerable to live with one formerly dominated group but found it easier to remain within the Baltic space where they are hated perhaps even more).

Solutions to this are few and they have to be relatively radical:

1) Rapid shedding of our imperial ambitions and commitments abroad to save money to dump into infrastructure rather than acceleration of Soviet type decline and rot due to the executive being browbeat by military leadership
2) Utilizing the Internet to augment education ( and thus bypass some of the gridlock for education reform) to provide Hispanic and black children a nationally standardized pre-K to High School materials that can be taught at home 
3) Voting restructuring to allow a more proportional representation in congress. Our government is too weak and divided to make major changes even under a committed intellectual like Obama. Hopefully, he isn't our version of Tony Blair. His stand on Afghanistan tomorrow will reveal a lot about the nature of his character. Major surge in Afghanistan will demonstrate a fundamentally weak character and the specifics of the possible surge will show the current strength and ideological orientation [nationalist/internationalist] of military leadership

Internet as it stands now is not enough to create a common culture for Americans. However if nothing radical is done and south-American style impudent corporate power begins to finally rule with the backing of a relatively homogeneous cultural/political group of elites and their white educated supporters (undivided as they were last few decades) then social tension will continue to increase. Then we will have education provided more forcefully years from now by an American version of Hugo Chavez. The experience of Brazil has shown that a large multi-ethnic country becomes dictatorial once their oligarchs and the educated begin to cluster in urban cosmopolitan hubs. It may sound silly now with Obama's troubles to think that Democratic party can become so monolithic but in the absence of a national split up into smaller federal unions, this scenario is not out of the question. Many countries in the Western hemisphere (notably Cuba and Brazil) provide valuable information as to what can occur.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Myers-Briggs Personality Pluralism

Greater harmony, productivity, and general happiness to be had from better study of differences between neural breeds of Homo Sapiens (hardwired brain differences resulting in diverse personalities and modes of function).

The year is 2009 and it has been over a century since popular consciousness has widely accepted the fact that humans are just another type of animal. Curiously, even as humans are increasingly accepting of political and cultural pluralism, there is still insufficient focus on how pluralism in general arises from differences in breeds of humans. Populous mammals like dogs and cats have a number of breeds that cluster by physiological external differences like size and internal neural differences like aggressiveness, friendliness, and task specialization. Humans of course are no different (even if their neural computers are able to run remarkably advanced virtual simulation and symbol manipulation programs).

The implications stand to improve the psychological quality of life and raise consciousness for billions of people. Although short sighted knee jerk idiots may think implications will automatically cause a return to forced eugenics (as practiced by countries like Sweden, USA, and Germany in the first half of the 20th century) or measurement of skulls to filter potential criminals, such proclamations point more to the pessimistic nature of those who make them. Scientific inquiry and further development of concepts known to be true have historically brought more net positives (raised the living standard of the human herd by allowing them to live longer and do less labor through technology) than net negatives such as destructive wars (brought on more by non-democratic political arrangements than technology used to wage them). Advancing study of implications from humanity being comprised of numerous unequally distributed breeds is worth the risks. Treatment of different breeds and self esteem of individuals within each breed stand to improve if there is strong emphasis that each breed is logically as important as the other in its social usefulness (although social usefulness should never be the only or even main criteria in social sciences or policy).

Right now we have a world where the German Shepards, the Pitbulls, the Poodles, the Border Collies, and the Golden Retrievers are all rightfully treated the same but they suffer from the problem of more numerous breeds (as well as the most vicious/cunning ones) determining what breed is the universal ideal for a human. Each person judges all others based on what the one judging is good at physiologically. A very empathic person judges others based on empathy. A conservative one judges the rest on how good of a conservative they are. Same applies to all the others be they a partying hedonist, an introverted scientist, an artist, an athlete, or a social butterfly with highly developed taste buds ("how can others eat that crap!?").

This is a very natural problem to have for humanity. Since every person subconsciously wants to expand personal power in all directions, for thousands of years, the strongest or more numerous breeds have tended to not just make their personalities and ideas into universal law for others but to actually buy into their own lies that everybody else should strive to be like the rulers. Even societies with caste systems were not immune as seen by India's inegalitarian caste valuation (warriors over farmers) and transformation from a caste system with social mobility to the entrenched stagnant system we now mentally associate it with.

A previous article touched on how Myers-Briggs personality test is a good quick way to get a glimpse of what neural breed a person is, how numerical predominance of some breeds helps preserve status quo, and how the differences in neural architecture split and unite people a lot more than externally visible characteristics like skin and hair color. If we use a typology system like Myers-Briggs, it soon becomes obvious that although breeds can form natural dominant coalitions (SJs) and (SPs), there will still be a lot of socially tangible differences within each coalition. That is enough to pose a serious problem not just for rare breeds like INTJs but common ones as well.

That problem is depressed self esteem from comparison of one self to those breeds that thrive in whatever socioeconomic system exists at the time (and whose mode of being are widely emulated for this reason) and from feeling alone and excluded since no breed exceeds 15% numerically. Whether it is an athlete, an artist, or a scientist, they are always outnumbered which leads to wishing that everybody else (or themselves) was different. Even within dominant pro status quo coalitions of SJs and SPs, a difference, between an ISTJ and an ESFJ for example, can be so great as to make them not get along well at all. This problem is heightened for NF and NT coalitions. Depression and various neurotic behavior thus results on a large scale. When a person says that nobody understands them, the case often is that vast majority (90%+ people) really don't fundamentally understand them. How can a German Shepherd understand a Chiwawa and vice versa? Only mutts provide the imperfect understanding bridge.

The often failed emulation of the most able to "make it" (or seen as more able) may be a more serious threat to the health of people's ego, their self respect, and their pride. Just as an emotionally cold and aggressive person may feel distressed when living in a hippie ENFP/INFP/INFJ/ISFP commune, a naturally empathic and kind Golden Retriever will feel distressed and alone in a society that values warrior Pitbulls. Similarly, when the types who make it in United States financial sector (children of the rich, psychopaths, and some of the more cunning SPs and NTs), a vast social pressure is created to pound in square pegs in round holes and be more like what is deemed "successful". It is no different than if soldiers were in charge and we all had to admire wars and go to bootcamps to be seen as having the right stuff.

As for psychopaths, their natural ability to blend in (so they can live off the herd better) makes them strong candidates to make it in any system. A super inegalitarian monetarist imperial system like our own is an extra juicy jungle to thrive in. Proportionally to psychopaths' population (1% for the true clinical ones and up to 6% for the subclinical ones), they are overrepresented on Wall Street and in prison (8% and 20% respectively for clinical ones).

Subclinical psychopaths can just be some breeds (ESTP/ENTP/ENTJ/INTJ backgrounds seem like good general prerequisites) whose T function and lack of empathy is so high as to make them exploit the herd (rather than improving it as has been the trait most admired in leadership by history) without a second thought. In fact it may be unfair to even have the concept of a "psychopath" as it represents just another breed of human that is adept at preying on fellow humans with elaborate disguises. Psychological pathology after all, represents mental "sickness" and mental "sickness" is just majority's flawed way to single out and focus on fringe breeds and individuals whose backgrounds make it extra difficult for them to make it. Not one breed is logically and generally more normal/abnormal or maladaptive/adaptive than the other since "normal" and "adaptive" is the bell curve average for a particular society.

Understanding these physiological differences can allow people to have more pride in who they are and develop towards a truly pluralistic and more compassionate society. Human breed science doesn't have to be a nightmare world. People like Foucault, Rousseau, and Kaczynski have made strong and effective arguments on how the more technologically advanced society becomes the less free we are. We need to understand these concerns and consequences of progress in social sciences but we can't turn the clock back since luddite solutions are not just impractical but inhumane.

Understanding that there are different breeds of Homo Sapiens (with often different needs and modes of thought) can allow society to:

1) Treat, help, and nurture each type better so as to make healthier hyperspecialized types. We can have healthier and better artists, cops, scientists, etc.
2) Treat, help, and nurture mutts better so as to have better ambassadors and communicators between the strongly specialized breeds
3) Develop better science as to which breeds work best with each other so as to prevent, mediate, and solve social conflicts
4) Help identify and isolate predatory humans better so as to lessen their abuses, reduce the number of their victims, and integrate them into society more productively
5) Strengthen proportional representation democracy and bring more harmony to the herd while preventing unhealthy caste structures from reemerging
6) Increase efficiency, productivity, and general happiness of society by allowing individuals to make full use of their strengths and be more proud of their neural architecture

Lets fully embrace what science has been telling us so we can graze on this planet with less confusion. A confused herd will make a poor recipient for when the singularity arrives. Lets end with a pro-mutt quote to balance the article and emphasize perils of too much specialization.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

-Robert A. Heinlein

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hoover Presidency and Obama

Hoover, a capable technocrat dealt with a deepening depression by trying to improve status quo fundamentals rather than trying to bring new fundamentals into being. Obama, a year into his presidency, does the same but worse.

Timing is everything. When a Republican held on to the presidency during 1929-1933 period of deepening international depression, half a century of Democratic party governance followed (with last vocal remnants arguably stamped out in 1994). Population's psychological association of Herbert Hoover's GOP with worst financial catastrophe in memory and inability to substantially remedy anything (during a 4 year downward spiral) was total.

These days, Hoover's name lives in infamy even though he was a brilliant and very capable micromanaging technocrat. Just like Carter, he was overseeing macro scale global decline and similarly to Carter, did not have the will to radically break from the status quo establishment modes of thinking. The reason for them not breaking with the past too rapidly is that grand declines happen over a period of years with a number of positive reversals. The gradual nature of decline allows the psyche of the political leadership to adjust to increasingly worsening reality (which would otherwise be intolerable if decline occurred in say, 2 weeks instead of 2 years). For example, after Great Crash decline of 50% from 381 to 198, the Dow recovered 33% of the losses by summer of 1930. That was the first of the great sucker rallies that continued until the ultimate bottom and socioeconomic emergency in 1933.

Hoover's administration did not have as many data metrics as exist now (concerning homelessness, hunger, etc) concerning true economic situation on main street. For guidance, they thus overly relied on the casino gambling chart for the rich (that is Dow Jones) even more than Obama administration today.

Here's how that chart looks today:

The current sucker's rally got the gambling chart up to almost 60% in 2009 from its post crash lows. Internet trading advances allow more players with better communication to participate. This means even greater potential for volatility in general (large negative and positive reversals) than in 1930s. When Hoover was in office well into the year following the collapse, his chart looked like this:

Does not look all bad right? Perhaps it looks as if some nuts and bolts need to be tightened by a gifted team of technocrats and the great bubble machine will be up and running again? Although the time for relatively radical measures (FDR style attempts to preserve capitalism) was perfect, these measures would have been politically impossible and were not seen as needed. The rest is history. As tax revenue for government to do anything increasingly dried up, Hoover had less and less tools at his disposal. His administration was in the classic gambler's dilemma of hoping for a reversal while riding an incredible wave all the way down.

The current economic depression may be even worse for United States than the last one in a number of key respects.

1) There is a lot less industrial capacity to fill up than there was in 1929

2) Unemployment after 2008 crash rose a lot quicker than after 1929 crash. By same unemployment calculation standards used in 1929, we are approaching 25% real unemployment already whereas it took 4 years in 1930s for it to get that bad then. If we mimic the Hoover era descent as well as we did the crash (half the gains gone bringing Dow back to 1996 level within months), we'll reach real unemployment of over 50% by 2012. Argentina, with half of its population below poverty line is a good recent example of what we can expect once the dollar default occurs (regardless of the form it takes).

3) Other great powers DO have often greater and often newer industrial capacity to outcompete us even if there is a political decision in Washington to use state capitalism to climb out of the depression using China-esque mercantilist system and industrial exports.

4) The government debt and budget expenditures (proportional to the size of the economy) are greater than in 1929

5) Ethnic divisions are a lot greater than in 1930s due to the number of white Americans being below 70% of population versus being over 90% in 1930s. This may hinder government acquiring enough political will to engage in real nationalist safety net provisions.

6) Modern American oligarchs are internationalists and have better means and will to move their wealth and themselves abroad if needed

My full article outlining the historical context of diminished means to climb out of the hole compared to before and some means left to Obama administration's disposal can be found here.

Obviously 80 years of technological progress means that welfare provisions will be a lot more tangible once social mindset turns towards providing them. This depression will be a lot more physically comfortable than the old one just because gadgets and developments in social sciences advanced greatly. This however does not eliminate the psychological pain born out of comparisons, thwarted expectations, interpersonal alienation (due to better communication technologies versus in person contact), and collapsing national morale of people who fancy themselves as citizens in a "superpower".

History would have been neatly repeated politically if McCain got elected. The resentment based oligarchic GOP socioeconomic structure (that Nixon first hinted on and that Reagan entrenched) collapsed under its weight in 2008 under GOP president. McCain's poor neural circuits and inability to generally surround himself with prudent people (although he did use Romney for financial advice in Sep and Oct 08) means that he would have dealt with the downward spiral even worse than Obama.

(sidenote: Of course it's possible he would be too old to care about politics as usual and would have started emulating his hero Teddy Roosevelt by turning on Wall Street. Such speculation about the "real" McCain or "real" Obama coming out when in power is useless. It's enough to keep in mind that crisis would continue deepening under the watch of another GOP leader).

It may sound ridiculous to think McCain would have accomplished even less than Obama by now but we must remember that even Hoover, the technocratic wonder boy, couldn't do much. McCain's sheer presence and belligerent posture would cause greater capital flight out of the country and quicker movement from dollar as a world reserve. Bailout to first class passengers (Wall Street) leaving the slowly sinking ship would have continued.

So now we have a rather interesting situation that just when the GOP has totally burned itself out and is in the process of disintegration, the people are associating their tangibly felt decline in living standards with the newly ascendant democratic party. Although this does not mean the democratic party will not keep winning in next elections (due to GOP infighting and shrinking economic pie with which to reward supportive factions), its potential to emerge as a monolithic long term juggernaut is greatly diminished.

Exasperation with both political wings of the oligarchy leaves people without a scapegoat for their psyche and opens the door to radicalism and rise of regional (rather than national) power centers. It remains to be seen if the key members of the international community will find it worth their resources to step in to bail United States out (to prevent potential long term geopolitical headaches stemming from social unrest in a state with many nuclear warheads and to profitably pick the bones of the country in the process). Although the bailout infusion has delayed the dollar default, it just made its consequences worse once it arrives.

On a more cheerful note, here's a political cartoon from 1930s.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Credit Rating Agencies Are Financial Weapons

World needs new international credit rating mechanism since biggest credit agencies are US based and thus are pressured to distort their reporting on Western nations. 

Also a couple words on Warren Buffet's recent moves

Moody's consideration this week to upgrade the credit rating of Burlington Northern Santa Fe is a wonderful example of why the world needs an international UN supervised credit worthiness system. The reason why BNSF's ratings may go up is because of Warren Buffet's decision to fully invest into a vast railroad network covering 2/3 of United States (stretching from the key region of Texas to China's port middleman of California). As the world's second richest man and one popularly considered to be the best investor, Buffett's moves are always carefully watched and analyzed. Although calling BNSF acquisition a possible boost to Obama's policies is a bit of a stretch, the 79 year old billionaire's purchases usually resonate deeply in the investing world.

Since Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is a key owner of Moody's,  one of his assets is about to rate up the value of another. That would be news if such conflict of interest wasn't so common as to be the norm. What has been less noticed and talked about is Buffett's recent gradual sale of his stocks in Moody's itself. The biggest shareholder in the world's biggest credit rating agency (Moody's has 40% of this market and thus the power to acquisitions cripple entire countries through rating them down and reducing capital investment flow) decided to quietly start decoupling himself from it.


The era of investigators investigating themselves is coming to an end. Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch Ratings together control majority of the world's rating market and are all based in United States. No surprise that United States continues to have the best triple A investment rating even though its macroeconomic situation and debt resemble something seen in the third world. USA's current and former satellite nations (although Germany is moving out of its satellite status now that its ever growing public debt is protected by Euro as reserve currency) benefit the most from this political protection. Japan has been famously running a public debt for years that is far above the 60% per GDP that is generally considered the safe limit in public discussion.

We're familiar how downgrades and upgrades by US credit rating agencies have been the matter of life and death for numerous countries in the past 50 years. The quality of life for endless millions of people around the world was dependent on the "expert" analysis of these corporations and the investment money it can bring. This applies to countries that aren't colonies or special friends. Moody's couldn't logically downgrade and weaken Cold War allies regardless of their macroeconomic fundamentals. Although Japan is in the same public debt company as Zimbabwe, nobody is screaming against investing in it. Naturally, the same US gov based restraint prevented the agencies from predicting the financial collapse of 2008.

Powerful countries like China cannot enter the English speaker dominated rating market since a Chinese credit agency would be in the same position when it comes to full analysis. The mere fact that people wouldn't believe a Chinese version of Moody's yet continue to listen to the big 3 in US as if it means anything (at least in regards to rating for countries as a whole) is another demonstration of the faith based nature of economics. An argument can be made that the Western world as a whole suffered decreased economic growth due to the politically motivated self restraint of the agencies whose job is to see what's worth investing in and loaning money to. Proper introspection couldn't be achieved.

It would be ludicrous for the agencies to rate each other's effectiveness or have a US government body do so. Even finding general real numbers behind any country's macroeconomic situation from IMF, World Bank, or CIA World Factbook is impossible since these organizations serve oligarchs and governments in the Western world. If IMF wasn't disproportionately influenced by US it would have prescribed the same bitter treatment to its master as it does for many countries in the world (such as fighting large scale corruption within key economic sectors). We continue to see the ridiculous spectacle of morbidly obese countries telling everybody else to get healthier (which they actually did if one looks at anemic GDP growth in the West compared to the rest of the world).

If capitalism is to remain in the years ahead then there needs to be a very robust international UN controlled credit rating agency. It has to be under UN supervision with transparency and input from all the nations and not just be an act of creation by G20 (recent switch of world's economic control from G9 to G20 just expands the ridiculous notion of a few rich nations deciding global economic policy instead of UN).

It remains to be seen whether Buffett has the intention of fully selling off his share in Moody's (and is just doing it gradually to not cause a stir) or if he still thinks there is utility in this insanely powerful organization. As for his investment into railroads leading to and from California ports bringing Chinese goods, we will soon see if that is a sign of faith in the growth of China or US. Buffet has often said that just like a great company, a great country can survive a period of mismanagement. It may very well be that he is old enough to actually have a bit of a nationalist sentiment but any investment he makes in GE or American infrastructure may be part of a bigger picture. His investment into production of electric cars in China certainly shows he thinks Chinese may beat us in this field (and this country has a lot of natural resources to transport by Warren owned rail to the ships departing for Chinese factories).

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Military-Industrial Complex Reform

Since defense industry is the backbone of US economy and employs millions of people, it needs to be transformed into an engine of productive national renewal rather than be sharply and rapidly slashed

The military-industrial complex has been the biggest real sector of the American economy since World War 2. The total amount of money poured into defense (and defense related expenditures which wouldn't otherwise exist) is now over 1 trillion dollars annually. Utilizing this proper counting of expenditures (rather than official breakdown that shows defense as just 1/4 of the total budget), the federal government spends 1/3 to almost 1/2 of all money it gets on defense (one may argue that it is even more when costs of years of counter-insurgency warfare are added but let's look at the basics for now).

Millions of Americans get their paychecks either directly or indirectly from the government in this manner. As such, making rapid sharp cuts in the defense budget (under either ideological or budget balancing pretext) would greatly exacerbate dangers to social stability and American domestic national security. Even modest cuts in defense will throw hundreds of thousands of additional citizens out of work and push the current real level of unemployment (20% or 1 out of 5 Americans without a job) to being worse than during the Great Depression. Possibility of serious social eruption with real violence is increased if this final solid industrial pillar of US economy is touched. Even with rather overpriced weaponry, US is still the biggest weapons dealer on the planet. In addition to quantitatively unmatched weapons exports to satellite nations and ideological allies, the government's military purchases is the last thing keeping remaining top notch American factories from being shut down.

Obama administration seems to realize this as has every president for the past 50 years. He prudently extended the GI Bill to send Iraq and Afghanistan occupation veterans to college. It is safer to have Iraqi war vets drinking liquor in college than sitting unemployed, armed, and boiling with personal or political resentment in an economically depressed town or city. Obama and Gates also mostly cut weapons systems so far that are in their research and development phase rather than full production phase. Blue collar workers are still showing up to make mortars, helicopter replacement parts, Humvees, etc.

Although the corporate path to globalization has already destroyed most of the productive industrial capacity in America, the military related factories remain to churn out a wide variety of complex products in large quantities. These assembly lines (and the advanced machinery and managerial systems experts required by them) will be the last thing the Obama administration touches. That is the reason Obama has focused more on health care to reduce long term costs.

It was always inevitable that mechanization in time will reduce total global amount of human workers and constantly increase levels of total unemployment on an international level. It is against this backdrop that the federal government has to work to decide on what to save money on. Here is a fascinating letter to the president and a call to action from 1960s (highly recommended) by scientists warning of mechanization and its consequences. Some quotes are in order:

"Present excessive levels of unemployment would be multiplied several times if military and space expenditures did not continue to absorb ten per cent of the gross national product (i.e., the total goods and services produced). Some six to eight million people are employed as a direct result of purchases for space and military activities. At least an equal number hold their jobs as an indirect result of military or space expenditures. In recent years, the military and space budgets have absorbed a rising proportion of national production and formed a strong support for the economy."

"The problems posed by the cybernation revolution are part of a new era in the history of all mankind but they are first being faced by the people of the U.S. The way Americans cope with cybernation will influence the course of this phenomenon everywhere. This country is the stage on which the machines-and-man drama will first be played for the world to witness"

"* Surplus capacity and unemployment have thus co-existed at excessive levels over the last six years.
* The underlying cause of excessive unemployment is the fact that the capability of machines is rising more rapidly than the capacity of many human beings to keep pace.
* A permanent impoverished and jobless class is established in the midst of potential abundance."

It has been 40 years since the warnings of this report and 40 years of the government disregarding all recommendations within it (as well as very similar observations and recommendations made by Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1970). Since the government has not made a thrust towards utilizing its industrial base (when it still had it) to move into post-scarcity socioeconomics, what remains to be done is make sure the remaining factories keep running. That means reform of the military-industrial complex rather than massive cuts in it. People working for the defense sector can slowly be put to use nation building right here at home.
It is well understood that the defense sector is bloated and corrupt (Lockheed-Martin for instance makes sure to have offices, factories, and people employed in over 40 states to influence congressmen across the board). However, gutting this 60 year old industrial behemoth will not only increase danger from former soldiers stirring trouble but will also create a bit of a brain drain as defense related scientists go abroad. Considering that the funding for exotic weapons Research and Development has increased under Obama, perhaps the government is aware of this and does not want an American repeat of Soviet scientists selling flowers on a sidewalk for a living until finding work in China.

Most importantly, the same factories making advanced fighter jets, tanks, and communications systems can be retooled to serve national renewal just as car factories were retooled to make tanks during WW2. The recent fires in California for example, could not be brought under control because of inadequate amount of firetrucks (some of them 40 years old) and military-industrial complex facilities can be utilized to stamp out fire trucks and other equipment of tangible material use. Under this cover, the government can continue funding the defense associated industries while actually diverting substantial amounts of money to improving social welfare and quality of life. This would be the equivalent to making cuts in defense that are absolutely necessary while being politically doable (since right now major cuts are impossible in any event due to congressmen needing Lockheed corporate money as well as blue collar political support working on Lockheed owned assets).

The way things stand now once the dollar default occurs, military industrial complex will be rapidly reduced anyway. Since it is a lot more real and tangible than the now deflating financial sector, its demise will bring a lot more societal misery than can be imagined. That is why it must be reformed to be more than an advanced killing machine. A good way to go about it would be to:

1) Increase the number and scope of collaborative projects with European aerospace and military counterparts when it comes to weaponry. This way, the burdens of developing next generation platforms can be shared while keeping American scientists employed within NATO space. Just like Indians and Russians are now jointly working on supersonic BrahMos missiles, there is no reason why Europeans and Americans need to engage on separate jet, ship, helicopter, and missile research.

2) Use executive authority to make surviving car and airplane factories collaborate with cutting edge military production facilities. Since German style state capitalism is coming to United States in the near future anyway, it will not be a big jump from ordering car companies around to mandating collaborative production of 21st century civilian vehicles, planes, communication tools, etc. Even national health care problem can be rapidly solved if the coverage given to soldiers is expanded to provide for all Americans.

3) Declare a national emergency as a pretext (war on dingy infrastructure to beat the Chinese or some silly marketing phrase like that) for using the military assets in socially productive and creative ways. This is an unfortunate tactic but seems to work the best in this society rather than direct appeals to compassion and data. An American government that says "hey lets use our soldiers and our space assets to put up these broadband towers all over the country so everybody has faster Internet than Japanese do" would have much greater success than one that follows recent example of Finnish government by saying  "all people have a right to the fastest Internet possible".

4) Of course who can forget about the 700 military bases US has around the world to maintain dollar dominance as a reserve currency. As the dollar declines, so should the number of American bases overseas.

Not using the military industrial complex as a vital tool of reform with the biggest potential (while first reforming the tool itself and taking enough control of it) would leave the federal government with few other options.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Myers Briggs Personality Type and Political Affiliation

Modern psychology and brain anatomy studies reinforce the need for proportional representation democracy. That is because roughly 80% of people have brains that predispose them towards protection of the status quo

We've all come across people who just seem incapable of modifying their perspective based on new data being presented. Most of us still mouth the words that additional education (or indoctrination/propaganda as is often the case) is what is needed since surely this person will turn around if his/her consciousness is sufficiently expanded with additional data backing your perspective. However, all too often deep inside we know that some people are "hopeless". This conclusion concerning failure of propaganda is reached from all over the political, cultural, and religious spectrum at one point or another. It thus becomes fashionable to outright dismiss "inconvertible" individuals and opposing zealots (on political and religious fringes of any given population) as nuts and crazies.

Personality theory in psychology allows us to better categorize individuals in society without resorting to name calling. Myers-Briggs typology in particular offers a better construct (compared to useless terms like conservative and liberal for example) to predict how an individual will act politically and socially. Myers-Briggs research combined with biology and brain scan techniques also offers us hints at understanding the underlining anatomical basis that predisposes a person to be either a disagreeable radical or a gentle follower.

There's been little relative popular attempts to scientifically explain why the bulk of the population is always a warzone between the extreme fringes. It's just assumed that it will always be this way just like there will always be criminals and extremely altruistic self-sacrificing givers. This assumption seems reasonable and obvious but gives rise to two other creeping and unsettling assumptions:

1)  The human population is relatively fixed along a bell curve type continuum. Perhaps this is better visually represented by a sphere with a number of spikes extending from it. The moderate population is the bulk of the sphere and the zealous "radical" factions (whose opinions differ dramatically from the statistical average) are the spikes extending from the sphere's surface (as well as into the interior to some degree which would represent silent sympathizers). It is irrelevant to label the spikes as extreme left, right, etc. All that is important is that a relatively fixed minority of the population (lets say 10-20% range) will be:

a) prone to modes of thought that are tangibly different from majority's

b) prone to action and lifestyle based on these thoughts

Authors like Friedrich Hayek for instance, observed that in 1920s Germany roughly a million workers swung their support between communists and Nazis based on who was winning. It was noted that the two seemingly opposing ideological parties clashed with one another the most because they were very often competing for recruits in the same psychological pool of young people. Considering how many overexcited Americans called both Bush and Obama the new "Hitler" in recent years, we can easily imagine how an aggressive drooling at the mouth anti-war protester from a big city could have been an equally excitable protester at a teabag rally if only he was born in a small town and into a different culture.

2) Since the ratio of intensely active people (prone to being perceived by population at large as "wingnuts"or criminals or radicals or genuinely informed and committed activists, etc) to more relaxed apathetic majority seems to be roughly fixed across all societies and globally as a whole, the explanatory basis for such a dynamic can only be biological. Just like there exist (and can further be bred) aggressive dogs and peaceful friendly dogs, there exist aggressive people, natural Buddhist-esque peaceful people, etc. A person who is an aggressive pit bull equivalent (and who wants to impose his views of the world onto others the most) would differ in his relatively extreme ideology depending on what part of the world he was socialized in. Psychiatry has shown us that people are born with different ratios of neurotransmitter production and quantitative as well as qualitative differences in the types of chemicals that affect their mood and cognition. We now understand that people differ a lot more in terms of brain architecture than they differ in terms of things like body type, skin color, fast twitch/slow twitch muscle ratio, etc.

The reason why these assumptions are unsettling is not because there is a degree of fatalism involved ("he will be a radical of one stripe or another no matter what" or "he will be socially lazy, shallow, apathetic, and uninvolved no matter what). Obviously with modern socialization methods and pharmaceutical modification (with psychological genetic and cybernetic modification to follow in near future), an individual can be shaped more than ever before by society and by himself. The assumptions are unsettling because if the broad direction of our views, opinions, and political/cultural/religious affiliations are largely physiologically determined at birth, then societal progress becomes enormously more difficult. Societal progress can be defined here as one zealot faction (that is seen by majority as the most "correct" in its socioeconomic policy perspectives and formulations of what humans should do next) dragging everybody else along behind it as has always occurred throughout history.

Obviously people will disagree on what constitutes progress (some actually thought arrival of Reagan was progress) but if majority of people are physiologically predisposed towards the status quo, progress of any sort becomes a lot harder in a democratic society. In the past, one intense dedicated fringe of the aristocratic elites dragged the other nobility along behind it (since majority of nobility would also have a soft apathetic bulk) and thus dragged the rest of the population behind it as well. We also had scenarios of power vacuum developing and one intense fringe political faction overpowering the others (as in the case of Bolshevik and French revolutions) and filling the leadership position to then drag the rest of the serfs behind it.

In today's democratic structure however, protection of the status quo is a lot more preserved since the moderate bulk of the population has a political voice and thus a way to provide the ruling elites with legitimacy. The moderate bulk of the elites now also has ever more sophisticated consent and perception manufacturing methods to influence the newfound voice of the majority. For a small number of dedicated activists, pushing society along towards desired version of progress against the forces of social inertia is now harder than ever. The powerful activists now need to sway both the fellow elites and the people simultaneously.

Let's finally get to the Myers-Briggs part of the article to see what we are now dealing with.

The most widely used way to get a glimpse of people's underlining neural physiology has been the Myers-Briggs psychological questionnaire (one of the better versions found online for free can be found here). Over the past few decades, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been utilized to collect enormous amounts of statistical data on personality types found within the human population. The statistical type breakdown (I am using a combination of 3 different sources on the %. Don't mind the catchy positive nicknames each type and group cluster has been given. What matters here is the number within a population.) so far has been as follows,

Protectors (SJ)

ESTJ - Overseer, supervisor
11 - 11.6 - 13= 11.8%
ESFJ - Supporter, provider
10 - 12.3 - 13= 11.7%
ISTJ - Examiner, inspector
6 - 11.6 - 12= 9.8%
ISFJ - Defender, protector
6 - 10 - 13.8= 9.9%
All SJs


Creators (SP)

ESTP - Persuader, promoter
4.3 - 8 - 13= 8.4%
ESFP - Entertainer, performer
8.5 - 9.5 - 13= 10.3%
ISTP - Craftsman, mechanic
5 - 5.4 - 9= 6.4%
ISFP - Artist, composer
6 - 8.8 - 9= 7.9%
All SPs


Intellectuals (NT)

ENTJ - Chief, fieldmarshal
1.8 - 3 - 5= 3.2%
ENTP - Originator, inventor
3 - 3.2 - 5= 3.7%
INTJ - Strategist, mastermind
1 - 1.5 - 2.1= 1.5%
INTP - Engineer, architect
1 - 2.5 - 3.3= 2.2%
All NTs


Visionaries (NF)

ENFJ - Mentor, teacher
2.4 - 3 - 5= 3.4%
ENFP - Advocate, idealist
2.1 - 5 - 5.5= 4.2%
INFJ - Confidant, empath
1 - 1 - 1.5= 1.2%
INFP - Dreamer, healer
1 - 2 -4.3= 2.4%
All NFs


Each of the personality types (the well defined strong ones at least who haven't self reported to be a mutt of 2 or more different personalities) can be seen as a specific brain type. As mentioned above, the physiological neural difference between 2 people of vastly dissimilar brain types is a lot more significant than how a person looks on the outside. That is because the brain type determines a mental and emotional predisposition of a person for the rest of his life. People classified as "bipolar" or "anti-social/sociopathic" for instance, have neural structures that will make them lean towards some things more than others during their entire lives.

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We can see from the statistical breakdown that SJ (left-brained people with parietal lobe strength) predominate in the overall population. The second biggest group are the SP (right-brained with parietal lobe strength). Together they are almost 80% of the population. The SJs tend to be conservative, authoritarian in outlook, conventional, focused on concrete "what is", and protective of the general society. They don't rock the boat too much and defer to tradition. The SPs tend to be fun loving, crafty, entertaining, and have uncanny ability to focus on "what is" (with their parietal lobe) in order to fix and modify it.

If you look at the cute nicknames given to different brain types, you can see that the human herd pretty much needs all of them if it is to evolve and survive. Some types are needed more than others in the great scheme of things. The SJ and SP groups for example are conveniently numerous. SJ population provides a great amount of soldiers, policemen, social workers, self sacrificing charity givers, accountants, and status quo protectors. In other words they keep the herd safe even if it means stagnating the herd through using their positions in the executive to slow down rapid change. SP group provides us with artisans who improve quality of life for the herd through provision of entertainers, artists, dancers, singers, and resourceful improvising mechanics. SPs can be said to exist to entertain SJs and keep them on their toes by having more fun than them.

It's easy to see how SJs lean republican and SPs lean democrat overall. The jokes that democrats have better sex lives than republicans begin to acquire an element of truth (considering the different approach left and right sides of the brain take in deciding on how to deal with the here and now). However, the two large groups are united by their concern with all things as they are in the now. That makes the two groups friendly and status quo leaning by default. An ESTJ born in Brooklyn may identify as a traditionalist democrat whereas an ESTJ born in West Virginia may identify as a traditionalist republican, but both are more likely to seek similar professions and get along if they hang out together. Brain type identification provides a lot more material to predict a person's behavior and views on the world than simple political identification.

The overall theme emerges that people with neural computers that predispose them to either protect the status quo or be apathetic about it (since they are busy pursuing hedonistic adventures) are the supermajority that are not as interested in "what can be" (as the less numerous NP and NJ groups tend to be). A point must be made here that not one group is more important than another and that even their numerical breakdowns seem amazingly appropriate. It would be turbulent for the herd to have for example, more ENTJs/INTJs than ISTJs/ESTJs since the problem with authority that NJs have (due to their desire to be the authority themselves) would create unsustainable infighting and not allow enough people who follow orders. Each brain type has a very key social niche and function and over thousands of years there evolved an intricate genetic balance and ratio. There are of course also multitudes of physiological "mutts" who are a hybrid of all and can't be "pigeonholed" (the most common complaint brought against psychological typology in general).

Interestingly enough, the Hindus have spent thousands of years evolving classification of human beings into 4 broad psychological varnas or classes. Each was considered as important as the other (all parts of the same body) with their own particular temperaments and duties.

Some brain types are literally made to create new theoretical constructs on how society should be organized and which steps it should take next (INTPs, ENTPs,). When balanced by the emotional consideration and input of INFPs and ENFPs (since strong T theorists are prone to being too rigidly rational and thus not take into consideration the emotional impact of their constructs) new paths for society can be developed that would be acceptable to SJs and SPs combined. However, as explained above, these people will always be outvoted and marginalized by politicians who mobilize the other more numerous groups. "Think of the children!" is a call to arms for ESFJs and ISFJs for instance whereas being tough on crime, national strength, and defeating foreign enemies is the bread and butter of ESTJs and ISTJs.

This dynamic reinforces the need for proportional representation in our system of governance. Proportional representation is practiced in most European Union countries to great effect. This way each brain type cluster can get a political party of their own. The marginalized 20% of the population can get representation and even serve as coalition kingmakers. New voices can be heard in the discourse. Today the 20% of population has to either join the big parties they don't like and "radicalize" them (seen by the tail wagging the dog phenomenon of militants dominating today's Republican party and driving moderates out of it) or abstain from the process thus depriving society of valuable input. In proportional representation, each batch of brain types seen as "radicals" can find a party to call home and really support. They would also have more political representation to vent out their frustration and to institutionalize their presence and views. Citizens can then pick and choose which vision of progress to support and which to leave behind.

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