Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hillary Got Debate Questions Beforehand? One Of The Dumbest Conspiracy Theories Ever

by Mike Keefe (CagleCartoons.com)
The sure sign of a sore loser is to confect dumb,  sour grapes excuses for a loss - like in a debate- or to confabulate stupid conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact or rationality. In the case of Donald J. Trump himself, we already heard his lamo excuse following Monday's debate with Hillary that "they" gave him a bum mic.  But as Hillary stated after hearing his absurd excuse, when you start blaming the mic "you know you are having a bad day".

Now we also have assorted Trumpies promoting the latest conspiracy theory that "a secret Fed-Ex courier delivered the debate questions to the Clinton campaign and Robby Mook days beforehand."  They have actually further conjectured this "courier" was a Clinton campaign intern or some such rot. Honest to god, if people have to invent this level of bare bullshit to explain Hillary's total composure and their hero acting like a half-crazed ape this country is really in need of general therapy.

It appears the Trumpies, like Trump himself, disavow and reject the virtues of preparation for a debate.  So because THEY or their master wouldn't do it, they can't conceive anyone else spending 4 days sequestered like Hillary did to prepare. But recall Trump mocked her over those 4 days (Thurs.- Sunday) bragging he didn't have to conduct mock debates and he wasn't going to "over prepare".  His exact words, quoted from The Washington Post, were that "he thinks preparation is overrated and that a 'seat of the pants' approach makes sense for the most important debate of his life'".


Well, it sure as hell showed in his abysmal, incoherent, ranting performance Monday night - in between his incessant sniffling.. Indeed, Trump's own advisers - to his discontent  - have talked openly in the aftermath of how he didn't prepare enough and basically "blew it".  So, there is no need to drag in ridiculous conspiracy theories concerning Hillary getting debate questions early. It's stupid, unseemly and irrational bollocks.

But rather than give HRC credit for her diligent, heavy prep these yokels confabulate the nonsense she was "given debate notes beforehand". Who did it?  They don't say.  The Federal election commission? NBC - the network carrying the debate? Or some nefarious guy in a  trench coat handing the folder off in a darkened car park (a la Watergate's "Deep Throat")?   These characters ought to be writing pulp crime fiction!

That Hillary did it all on her own, is beyond their comprehension, because frankly they have no idea the intensity with which she historically prepares for debates. In his Sunday Review NY Times piece "The First Face Off", former Obama political strategist David Axelrod  writes how Obama was crestfallen after one of his early debates with her in the primaries in 2007. According to Axelrod, Obama told him: "Hillary looked like a president up there, and I didn't"

Both attributed her crisp and composed showing to her relentless preparation and holding mock debates before hand - which also put her in good stead in Monday's showing. Why any outside observer would refuse to give credit to serious prep for such an event is beyond me. Choosing instead to believe some bull pockey that she was "handed questions beforehand". (And, of course, they are unable to account for how - if that was so- she managed to fumble on the issue of the TPP and get caught in the fib she never said it was the "gold standard" for trade. Certainly if she really had questions before hand she'd have avoided that pitfall)

But again, this goes to the heart of the Trumpie trope - mainly that because Trump himself is a lazy asshole who takes short cuts every other power person or politico must be too- and that means taking short cuts like Trump does. So, because Trump would cheat if he could - given he didn't prepare at all - others including Hillary would too.

But in the NY Times yesterday, one read the headline "New Debate Strategy for Donald Trump: Practice, Practice, Practice".  The piece notes "Campaign advisers to Donald J. Trump, concerned that his focus and objectives had dissolved during the first presidential debate on Monday, plan to more rigorously prepare him for his next face-off with Hillary Clinton. They intend to drill the Republican nominee on crucial answers, facts and counterattacks, and coach him on ways to whack Mrs. Clinton on issues even if he is not asked about them"
 
In other words, Trump's own people concede he got his ass beat by Hillary (described as a "beat down" by the Washington Post) because he refused to prepare and chose to skylark instead, playing the fool.  But even after that drubbing, Trump's advisers are "concerned that he will be open to meticulous practice"
 
The fact is, Trump blew his one -on -one chance to knock Hillary off her game big time. And contrary to the fantasies of his delirious followers that chance won't come again - where he squares off one -on -one against HRC. The reason is that the next two  formats will be different, and won't allow for it. The next debate will actually be in the format of a Town Hall meeting, taking questions from the audience. In that scenario Trump dare not get too uppity and aggressive with Hillary when voters in the audience will want him to address their specific questions. (Which includes facing them in the course of his response, not getting in Hillary's face.)
 
If he instead uses his time to try to attack Hillary - especially to get knocks in that he should have on Monday - he will live to regret it.  So, what really accounted for Trump's pathetic showing Monday? Was it Lester Holt (sic),  a "secret mole" for the Democrats? (Holt is actually a registered Republican). Is it that Hillary got crib notes from a "secret Fed-Ex messenger"  before hand? In fact, Trump's own advisers - as the Times piece put it:
 
"blamed his overstuffed schedule, including a last-minute rally in Virginia that was added days before the debate. They blamed the large number of voluble people on his prep team, including two retired military figures with no political background. And they blamed the lack of time spent on preparing a game plan in the first place"
 
Ah, the truth at last! Maybe the Trumpies will read it and use their heads for once, that their man failed simply because he didn't prepare. Like a lazy ass physics student who thinks he can just walk into an exam and ace it without opening a book, or working a problem.  And the comparison is more than apt, as Axelrod observes (ibid.):

"In the end, presidential debates are less a trial of fact than a televised final exam for the most exacting job on the planet. They offer Americans a window into how each of these candidates would deal with excruciating pressure."

Well, from what I beheld on Monday night there's no issue of who would deal with pressure better. A woman with decades of experience who knows how to prepare for debates or a con man braggart who dodges preparation then invokes supercilious nonsense to excuse his performance. Would I want such a turkey around the nuclear 'football'? Hell no!

But as Axelrod also points out, ultimately it may not matter if too many of the uninformed simply judge the debate by crude impressions and don't even see it to the end. In his words:

"The hell of our political process is the brevity of too many Americans' memories and the shallowness of their engagement, which could be a final stroke of good fortune for a con man who has been too lucky already."

See also:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1cca9a3a-8635-11e6-8897-2359a58ac7a5.html#axzz4LeiughU5

Excerpt:

"It was probably the moderator who gave him a bad microphone. Also, Hillary ate his homework. She did......he was the best prepared candidate ever, but the biased moderator did not ask him the questions for which he was prepared."


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

We Shouldn't Dismiss People Who Deny Facts? Why The Hell NOT?



A recent irritating, short essay in TIME (Sept. 12-19, p. 26) insisted rational and fact-based people need to give all the zombies,  knuckle draggers, and ignorant buffoons among us a 'break' and not dismiss them.  So, for example, we must give a pass to those who "believe things that are factually incorrect". Say like those who believe that vaccines cause autism, or to one innominate,  self-proclaimed genius of Intertel who is 100 percent convinced that "scientific conspirators falsified their data on which they based their alarming findings."  Or -from the same genius: "these scientists manipulated the peer review process to keep valid research against global warming from being published."

But anyone who's  been involved in serious climate science research would know the latter two beliefs are pure balderdash and definitely merit no respect. Especially if they issue from people who are members of a high IQ group.  They ought to have known or found out that denier papers are rejected because they don't meet minimum publication standards, including: use of proper mathematical or statistical techniques to assess data, use of coherent and testable physical models and/or simulations and assessment of errors in each of the preceding. But it's easier for deniers simply to believe denier research papers are left out because the review process is "manipulated."

While ordinary people may be partly excused for their beliefs, a high IQ person cannot be similarly excused, and he or she merits the full hammer of criticism and opprobrium. He has effectively misused his high intelligence to 'go off the rails'  and not conducted sufficient self-checks on his claims. Nor used his intelligence - with sufficient energy - to do his own research to first seek to disprove his many superficially -based beliefs.

Why? Because by virtue of their very intelligence they ought to fucking know better!  They actually possess the necessary intellect to ferret out the truth and DO the research but are too god damned lazy to do it. They don't want to read 15 or 20 papers that thoroughly debunk their idiotic beliefs, they'd rather just go to climate denier websites, imbibe the misinformation and repeat it. Especially with the conspiracy aspect.

The authors of the TIME essay ('We Shouldn't Dismiss People Who Deny Facts') claim:

"If we really want to change how they think, we need to take an honest look at what's driving those beliefs. Because it's not ignorance, it's psychology."

Actually, in the case of the genius climate deniers (or their  soft soaping allies who aren't as denial -based but still think "the jury is out")  it's politics that's to blame. Specifically Libertarianism,  which most of them espouse, whether in Mensa or Intertel.  This leads them to collect — even inventbad information to flesh out what they already believe to justify their economics theories.  Their aim isn't scientific pursuit but rather defending an economic system they believe will unravel if practical solutions to global warming became law.

My point? Their  interjection and invocation of politics means they can no longer be afforded special consideration, and this distinguishes them from say, the vaccine skeptics. The TIME authors, Sara and Jack Gorman, claim we are all subject to the same principles that "cause scientific denial".  They add:

"Research has shown that humans are distinctly uncomfortable with events or phenomena without clear causes - and when we don't  know something we tend to fill in the gaps ourselves. Take autism. Since we don't know why it occurs it becomes easy to misplace blame."

Fair enough, but autism is not global warming, for which we KNOW the cause is ever increasing CO2 concentrations that cause the atmosphere to retain more moisture and heat creating a thermal blanket that heats the Earth like a mammoth greenhouse. Indeed, the source of the greenhouse effect has been known for nearly 120 years, from the time of chemist Svante Arrhenius, e.g.

http://warming.sdsu.edu/


This issue also transpired in the debate Monday night when Trump tried to deny he had earlier called global warming a "hoax".  This, despite the fact an old tweet of his was dug up where in he babbled:

"the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese."

Why recite such crap? Because it served a political advantage. But sorry, you don't get any breaks nor are you spared criticism when you go that route. The same applies to Libertarians in Mensa and Intertel who have banged the denier drum until they're blue in the face. They do it precisely because they don't wish to acknowledge that - if true (which it is) - economic sacrifices will have to be made in the short and long term interest of future generations.  The upshot of their unquestioning belief in market economics leads them to craft a pseudo-scientific narrative ( in the guise of real science) to attack genuine climate science. To accomplish this trick they make use of  the data, papers of proven scientific whores and hacks, willing to sell their dubious skills for a few shekels to the highest capitalist bidders or think tanks e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2015/02/another-climate-scientist-fake-exposed.html

One of the best exposes of their methods and dynamics has come from Yale Law school prof and science communication researcher Dan Kahan.  He has concluded that their information processing is almost entirely determined by their deep-seated political values and cultural identities. Thus, a white libertarian member of  Intertel, for example, will see global warming science as just one more vehicle of  subversive force backed  by the "untermenschen"  to be used against his precious economic values and Eurocentric ideals. All of this is then attributed to "global warming alarmism", as an expeditious cover for his own abysmal laziness, ignorance and cynicism. At this point, his thinking is already so corrupted and contaminated it's almost impossible to break through on any rational or critical thinking level.

From Kahan's theory, these pseudo skeptics don't really have the time to evaluate every piece of evidence that comes before them (say ice cores containing CO2) so basically punt. Instead of rationally and objectively evaluating the evidence they side with the top bananas in their political group  - in this case folks like Charles Murray- and use their generic  economic arguments (i.e. against taxes as "theft" and "force")  to attack climate science or more precisely the climate science consensus that human induced warming is real, e.g.

One of their most used shticks is to clump all federal science agencies (like NOAA, NASA, EPA  etc.) together and "in on the scam". This makes it easy so they don't have to use their brains or  time plowing through separate specialist climate papers. Why do that when you can kill five birds with one stone?

Driven by this short cut mental modality, they then seek out those oddball contrarians (like Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas, Richard Lindzen) who do sound off against the climate consensus, even though they are dead wrong and have been proven so.  The stage then emerges for the next phase: cherry picking only the data which conforms to their economic or political values. By now we have  a self-reinforcing mechanism: the more the Libbie genius gets exposed to the faux science that  supports his economic and political stance the more he continues to adopt that position and related ones further out. These include such far out, paranoid ideations that one's opponents "demand that Western Industrial Civilization commit cultural suicide by adopting the crippling constraints sought by the global warming conspirators."  in the words of Kort Patterson.

Meanwhile, by extension, misinformation in public life isn’t the exception, it’s the rule, according to a study published in Social Science Quarterly  which employed a “knowledge distortion index” and looked at two competing explanations for why this is so — one top-down, the other bottom-up.  The researchers used three Washington state initiatives from the 2006 general election cycle to examine the dynamics of what is going on in this particular sort of political environment.  The study, “How Voters Become Misinformed: An Investigation of the Emergence and Consequences of False Factual Beliefs,” found that “voters’ values and partisanship had the strongest associations with distorted beliefs, which then influenced voting choices. Self-reported levels of exposure to media and campaign messages "played a surprisingly limited role,” despite the presence of significantly mistaken “facts,” which were used to help construct the knowledge distortion index.
 

Lead author, Justin Reedy in one interview stated “Both of these theories recognize that citizens can develop distorted factual beliefs because of their political views, but they disagree about how those distortions might happen. Heuristics researchers generally think that citizens have limited attention for politics and try to process information quickly and efficiently.”
Again, this reverts to Kahan's theory of why intelligent climate deniers give short shrift to deep research that might change their minds - if they only got off their butts and put their high IQs to use for an activity other than denial. But because simple denial consumes less time (one can get denier "misinformation" quickly and efficiently from numerous websites) then their denier behavior is more likely to be reinforced. That means they will be less likely to expend time or effort on difficult independent  research that might change their mind.
 

The Gormans assert Iibid.):

"Rather than chastising people for focusing so heavily on stories, we should figure out why we are all so drawn to stories in the first place. Changing minds requires compassion and understanding, not disdain."

A sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur. And that's why I often make allowances for those like the anti-vaxxers because they aren't privy to detailed biological science nor are they likely to understand autism if they did access research. So they must confabulate "stories" and these often support their false beliefs. However, I am not about to extend the same generosity to a Mensan or Ilian - especially one who cynically uses his intelligence to spread misinformation and misbegotten conspiracy theories about "global warming alarmists".

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hillary At Hofstra Debate Shows Who Deserves To Be President

Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Monday.
Trump is on the defensive after Hillary lands a potent blow to do with his tax issues.

Let us concede first that,  for the ardent Trumpie, his standard bearer did "amazing" at the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. He hoisted Hillary on her own petard. He "didn't skip a beat" and hauled her "over the coals"  for every and any bit of dissembling she's done in the past 30 years.  He even caught her out in a major whopper, as when she declined to admit she originally embraced the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, and referred to it as the "gold standard".  But, one or two opportune jabs - usually attained by going over one's allotted time - do not a debate victory make. (Never mind those bogus online polls in which reddit users tried to spam the targets and distort the outcomes.)

Now let's transfer to the parallel universe in which reality rules over PR and propaganda. Where global warming is as real as a heart attack, and reason and disciplined rhetoric triumph over harangues, demagoguery and disdain for basic financial facts - such as that trickle down economics and tax cuts do not work, see e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2010/12/bushs-revenge-or-how-zombie-tax-cuts.html

In this parallel universe where objective perceptions trump Trump's insanity it was almost like seeing a mama alligator eat an impudent pup in the first presidential debate last night. Even long time Republican strategist Steve Schmidt noted how Trump had descended into "babbling and complete incoherence" by the end of the trade and tax segments.  Before that, Trump barely held his own - and he only managed that because the lackluster moderator (Lester Holt) allowed Trump to drone on and monopolize the time with no checks made. In the end it didn't matter, because all most of us heard was the Trumpsters's incessant sniff, sniff, sniffing.  At some point we wondered if he needed an O2 tank.

But certainly the sniffling display showed us he didn't merit being considered for President, even on the basis of stamina. If a guy has to sniff for oxygen (or maybe he had a cold, even worse) even 25 minutes into a 90 minute debate how the hell is he going to hold up in a 6 hour critical meeting with Vladimir Putin?  Will he tuck himself in bed and let Donald Jr. handle it? But beyond the sniffling, there was the spectacle of the guy devolving into bombastic replies that were more apropos of  a three year old pitching a tantrum than thoughtful responses in a presidential candidate.

By contrast, Hillary evinced confidence and appeared cool, calm and collected, Her answers were crisp-  mostly within the time (2 mins.) allocated - and showed a thorough grasp of the issues, whether on the economy, trade, taxes, national security or cybersecurity. She also easily rebuffed Trump's desperate attack lines, often themselves misplaced, distorted or outright lies (e.g. the one about Sidney Blumenthal having originated the birther bilge on Obama- and Trump himself being responsible for Obama producing his birth certificate )

Here, Lester Holt finally grew a pair and pointed out that Trump was blabbering about the birth certificate issue even five years after Trump claimed to have resolved it. Holt also went after Trump's rhetorical jugular when he insisted (on his "Law and Order" shtick) that 'Stop and Frisk' was just fine and a judge's original ruling was overturned. But Holt pointed out to Trump: "Stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young people."

Trump insisted . "You're wrong, it went before a judge who was very against police and it was taken away from her."

But simple fact checking discloses he's a liar. In 2013 a district judge ruled it was unconstitutional saying 'stop and frisk' violated the 4th and 14th amendments, against unreasonable searches and equal protection, respectively.  Subsequently a higher court upheld that ruling, as noted last night by Justice Dept. specialist Pete Williams.

In the initial economics segment Trump reverted to his usual past talking points - heard in the Reepo debates- about monumental tax cuts. Of course, we've seen that one before - during Bush Junior's reign, which fueled a $3 trillion plus deficit we're still trying to manage. Hillary had the perfect phrase for this recycled trickle down malarkey:  trumped-up, trickle-down.

Regarding efforts to return jobs and prosperity Trump appealed to the old trope of cutting corporate taxes, and pushing the bunkum that the corporations are too impecunious (because of taxes) to create new  jobs. In fact, they have been sitting on more than $1.3 trillion and been using to do share  buybacks rather than invest in new plants or labor. Putting the country in further fiscal jeopardy by cutting corporate taxes will merely make matters worse.

What I loved most is seeing how Hillary got the Donald to lose his cool on multiple occasions, often leading to increased sniffling, interruptions and aimless demagoguing rather than debating. For example, at one point Hillary got a jab in noting how Trump declared climate change to be a "hoax". This elicited the instant Trump response: "I did not say that!"   (He did, in 2012.)  The idiot actually fired off a tweet to the effect that "the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese."

In fact, if this ignorant twit knew anything, he'd have known that the "concept" was actually proposed more than a century ago by Svante Arrhenius, see e.g.

http://warming.sdsu.edu/

But in any case, Trump was caught in another lie. Overall his lie ratio to Hillary's was something like 25:1, if anyone was actually counting.

Trump went on to claim he "believes in all forms of energy" - which means the most CO2 generating fossil fuels including coal, shale oil and tar sands crap. All of which also implies he cannot take seriously their proven impacts on global warming.

What I hated the most was a (mostly) meek moderator (Lester Holt) who repeatedly let this bombastic clown talk over his time limit and interrupt his opponent.  I could maybe tolerate Holt overlooking Trump's parade of lies and exaggerations (which later fact checkers would expose), but when he permitted Trump to exceed his two minute limit for about the tenth time, I got fed up. As wifey asked: "What is wrong with Hillary? Why doesn't she interrupt him?" I had to point out she was probably drilled in proper debate decorum and told not to be so boorish. But as we know, Trump, on the other hand,  makes up his own rules as he goes along. Of course, this appeals to his "basket of deplorables".

One woman in a focus group this a.m. on CBS, asked what advice she would have given Trump last night, offered:

"I'd have told him to answer the question asked, then STOP talking!"

Bingo! She summarized Trump's primary debate defect in one sentence. The boor's predilection to talk over one's debate opponent as well as the moderator. As CBS political guru Bob Schieffer put it: "A debate with the worst decorum I've ever seen."  (Thanks to Trump).

The most amusing part was to do with Trump's taxes and him trying to compare his not releasing his tax returns with Clinton not releasing her emails. In fact, that's a false equivalence. Hillary's emails have already been litigated, both by the Justice department (FBI) and by the media. On the other hand, Trump has kept his tax matters a virtual state secret so we don't even know who he is beholden to, or if he even paid any taxes at all. When Mr. Holt asked him why he would not release his tax returns, as other presidential candidates have done for four decades. “I don’t mind releasing — I’m under a routine audit,”

Hillary correctly pointed out this is total balderdash as the IRS has made it patently clear a person  undergoing audit is perfectly free to release his or her tax returns. So, that was an invalid excuse, and we must wonder what nefarious aspects Trump is trying to hide. More worrisome, what mass of information might he keep from us if President? A nuclear deal with North Korea?  Maybe giving them lower yield nukes (which might fit on rocket warheads) if they turn in higher yield ones?

Who the hell knows? This is a character who - by his current refusal to disclose - would offer the only reply as "Trust me".  As Hillary put it:  "It must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide. If he were to get near the White House,” she continued, “what would be those conflicts? Who does he owe money to?”

When Trump criticized Hillary for using a private email server, Hillary didn't hem and haw this time, but came out directly and admitted: “I made a mistake using a private email,”

Almost every media observer and commentator in the days leading up to last night all agreed Trump had one major task: to persuade uncommitted voters that he had the competence and temperament to be commander in chief. Most everyone also agreed that was a relatively low bar for a traditional nominee to pass, but a critical one for Trump given his history of making inflammatory and insulting remarks to almost every demographic group. Alas, for Trump groupies he failed to even meet that low standard last night.

Best debate moment? When Trump brought up Hillary's stamina and she retorted: "When you travel to 112 countries and sit through a House committee for eleven hours then you can talk to me about stamina."

Don't let the spinners blind you: in a crucial venue to decide the next President, Hillary Clinton made a superior case, even with her foibles. She was well prepared, had the majority of facts at her command, while Trump was grossly unprepared - opting for rambling repeats of his earlier Reepo rhetoric. Worse, he was easily rattled - often losing his train of thought -  making one fear what would happen in a ferocious encounter with Putin or the Philippines' Duterte (a Trump mirror image).  Hillary isn't perfect by any means, but anyone who watched last night's debate and doesn't believe she's better prepared to be President than Donald Trump either needs a brain transplant, or a psychological exam.

In the choice offered in this election, she clearly trumps Trump. The rest of the world and most rational people know it. We can only hope there are enough sensible voters left in the U.S. to ensure this clown doesn't emerge a commander -in -chief.

See also:
http://www.salon.com/2016/09/27/hillary-dominates-and-donald-trump-gave-the-worst-debate-performance-of-any-candidate-ever/

And:

http://www.salon.com/2016/09/27/the-most-abnormal-event-ive-ever-witnessed-in-a-wild-battle-between-hillary-clinton-and-donald-trump-lester-holt-was-the-big-loser/



Monday, September 26, 2016

About That Snowden- Leaked "Top Secret" Video With The English Speaking Alien


Image of EBE on Snowden's recently released file video from June, 1964

The unusual "top secret" alien video released by Edward Snowden on Aug. 21  - prefaced as "Project 220675" -  has incepted a lot of ruckus in cyberspace. It was evidently uploaded by Snowden as part of his recent NSA files release and still has millions of viewers puzzled, and debating its credibility. The take appears to be about 5 to 1 that the "alien" (actually an EBE or "extraterrestrial biological entity" - which claims to be from Earth's past) is either a puppet or CGI creation.  Both presumptions are nonsense as I will show, and probably explained by the fact those offering them weren't alive or watching TV back in 1964. Nor did they have an appreciation for 1964 technology.

First, let's start eliminating complaints that don't hold water:

1) "It was made in 2016 and fake-dated June 9, 1964"

Nope. It was indeed, made in June, 1964 as the cover title indicates. The diction of the "interrogator" as my linguist friend "Rebecca" observed,  "places it totally in the 1960s" including the cadence, accentuation, nasal emphasis and mid-Atlantic origin for that time, as well as turn of phrase, e.g. "Try me"  One seldom, indeed, hears anyone saying "try me" these days. At least I haven't and wifey admits the same.

2) "There was no really good color TV back then"

Not true! The 'Bonanza' western was very popular in 1963-64 and in full color. Walt Disney's 'Wonderful World of Color' had been airing since 1959.  The color in the Snowden -leaked video file is certainly not a patch on what one saw back then, but that is what 52 years storage can do.

3) "The 'alien' is  either a puppet or bad CGI"

Actually, neither. Not CGI because the technology didn't exist in  1964. Nor a puppet because the blinking eyes and mouth motion make it improbable.  It was likely a carefully costumed human, of which many were seen on sci -fi TV shows ca. 1963- 64 including 'The Twilight Zone' and 'The Outer Limits': See e.g. this "alien" from the latter show:
Please Stand By: 7 Essential Episodes of THE OUTER LIMITS

Note the dimensions of the expanded skull in relation to the narrow jaw, which is somewhat similar to the 220 675 "alien".  Some have commented that the latter's "glowing eyes" had to be cgi, but this again isn't true. Check out the Outer Limits episode 'The Galaxy Being' featuring a microwave alien with glowing eyes. It would be within 1964 TV technology to have those superposed on a skull such as shown above, and 'Voila!' we have Snowden's EBE. Well, at least a fair approximation.

See also this image below from  the Outer Limits episode 'Nightmare":
OL-Nightmare

Before continuing, I sent my Barbadian friend John Phillips (a bio-geneticist and biologist)


the file video link, e.g.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwIozu-plFM


He vehemently disagreed with my take. According to him:

"Your hypothesis is a clever debunking but doesn't hold up. This thing, whatever it is, is quite real. Look at the articulation of its limbs. More important,  pause it and examine the scale (width)  of its limbs and the contours of head and neck in relation to its shoulders. There is no normal, non-deformed  human that could fit into any such costume.  If not an actual alien, it is clearly a genetic experiment gone  awry.  A mutant? Maybe carried out at Area 51? Who knows? But it's definitely not a human in make up!"

I pressed him also as to whether it might be a puppet but he concurred with my own assessment that the blinking eyes make that - if not impossible- about as likely as our having another major hail storm at our location before the end of the year.  (However, as I summarize at the end, it could have been one of the earliest animatronic robots - which appeared at Walt Disney World by the early 1970s. Wikipedia also notes that by 1965 the first animatronics figure of a person was created by Disney. This is not to say prototypes weren't around before then - and they certainly weren't beyond the capacity of the military or security state to create - say for simulation or training purposes).

Perhaps the most trenchant objection widely seen on the net is:

4) "Look how few people are interested in it, no big news media are touching it!"

This is the key point for why few people are going to take it seriously even IF it was real.  My argument is that the video file IS real in that it was made in June, 1964 as the date cover stamp indicates.  But it is not real in the sense of a literal interrogation of a real alien from Earth's future. The giveaway is the label tag at very bottom of the cover title lead -in which identifies the source as:

Air Technical Intelligence Center  (ATIC)

But as anyone who's investigated UFO claims knows, that designation was changed on September 21, 1959 to Aerospace Technical Intelligence Center.  The failure to alter the source label tells me that what we are looking at is indeed from June, 1964 but is a simulation of an alien interview, not an actual one.  (Or, if you prefer, a mock interview.) Another clue that it's just a simulation is the "MAJ 12" on the same title, which refers to Majestic 12. This was supposedly a covert group of top specialists, scientists, government honchos,  military who were keeping alien, UFO files from the public. But up to now no one has proven this secret group exists, although my now deceased middle brother Jerome (who served in the USAF)  did show me some documents headed "Majestic 12 - Secret Eyes Only" in 1986. Alas, I've been unable to independently confirm the authenticity. (If I can locate the files I will post scans.)

Barbadian psychologist Dr. Pat Bannister - who also proposed a theory of mind linking lying and conspiracy awareness,, e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2016/04/higher-iq-liar-children-conspiracy.html


Once told me that the constant debunking of events "at the extreme spectrum of believability"  e.g. like alien abductions (which a few of her patients claimed) and UFO -alien visitations, meant that if actual evidence ever was revealed it would be unlikely to be accepted. She called it the "cry wolf" template. Repeat a wild claim often enough, have it or some variation repeatedly debunked, and ultimately when the real claim is validated no one will believe it anyway.

In Ufology the hoax examples are endless, from the George Adamski scam to more recent UFO and alien abduction hoaxes and claims - which anyone can find by googling.

But what interested me more than the imagery was the content of the ATIC agent's exchange with the purported EBE. I found most of the EBE's answers compelling and logically coherent - as I will show -but way too prolix for a genuine EBE or alien. It appeared to me more like a human (or disguised human voice)  delivering prepared responses that were intended to push the interviewer to hone his own questions. Again, more like a simulated questioning than a real one.

The  ATIC interrogator first demands: "State planet of origin." To which the EBE replies: "Earth."   My initial reaction was "Hogwash!" - as it followed too closely the 'Conquest of the Planet of the Apes' script where three ape astronauts from Earth's distant future end up on Earth in its past (ca. 1972). However, before passing immediate judgment I wanted to hear more:

The ATIC agents then states, "OK, yesterday and I quote, you told us, and I quote, 'thousands of light years to get here.'" The EBE answers "Yes." The ATIC  interrogator then demands that the entity tell the truth, and delivers a threat ("I'll wring your damned neck!"  ?? ) that has been subject to audio distortion. The EBE answers, "It is truth. I am from Earth. From your future. To travel in time is to travel in space. Offset spatial divergence."

This is a correct description of  relativistic displacement through time, which also involves movement through space back to where an object was during the target time, or forward to where it will be. Thus, movement can occur in time, and have a space offset. For example, stay where you are- maybe sitting on a chair -  and let one minute elapse on your watch. You have performed a 'movement in time' and a corresponding movement in space of 460 m, based on Earth's rotation rate of roughly 1,000 mph. (I.e. you are not simply sitting on a stationary Earth but a rotating Earth).

This imaginary spatial displacement can also be easily be computed, using the speed of light c:

Im(x) = i(300,000 km/s x 60 s) = 18,000,000(i) km

That is, you have traversed 18 million imaginary kilometers or 11.25 million miles in imaginary space. (Im(x) is the symbolic representation for an imaginary space (x) transition. This concept can also be used to invoke hypothetical extraordinary distances (and velocities, i.e. v = 2c) to show imaginary times can be obtained- but this would necessitate backward displacement in time.


For time dilation we have from special relativity:

t' = t [1 - v2/c2]½

Let, v = 2.0 c  (the EBE's  rate of displacement) so:

t' = t [1.0 – 2.0]½ = t [-1.0]½ = it

There are 9.5 x 1015 meters per light year

Take D = 2,000 LY:

D = (2,000 Ly) x (9.5 x 1015 m/Ly)= 1.9 x 1019 m

Or: D = 1.9 x 10 16 km

The time t' required is imaginary – worked out from::

(-1t/2.0) x (1.9 x 1016  km) / (300,000 km/s]  =  -i3.1 x 1010 s


On this basis it appears the EBE is referencing a "space-like interval" between two events: his own origin event departure point, and his (past) Earth arrival event.   From Wikipedia:

"When a space-like interval separates two events, not enough time passes between their occurrences for there to exist a causal relationship crossing the spatial distance between the two events at the speed of light or slower. Generally, the events are considered not to occur in each other's future or past. There exists a reference frame such that the two events are observed to occur at the same time, but there is no reference frame in which the two events can occur in the same spatial location.
For these space-like event pairs with a positive spacetime interval (), the measurement of space-like separation is the proper distance, :
   (proper distance)".
The ATIC agent  then asks, "So aliens took over our future?" The response is "No" and the entity then explains that it evolved from us.  In the spacelike interval context given above this makes sense. It evolved from us perhaps over millions of years and came from our future in imaginary time - i.e. as if using a faster than light mode of spatial displacement.  In essence then, when the time between two events is shorter than that which light would take to traverse them (at c = 300,000 km/sec) the interval is "spacelike" and no causal relationship exists. Thus the previous example using v = 2c fits this mode.

The EBE is then asked what it is doing here on Earth now. It answers, "Observing. Since evidence was destroyed." The ATIC interrogator asks "How?" and the EBE's answer is "Nuclear war." When asked to expand on that, the EBE responds: "Dogma. Political and religious dogma. It is the root of all major conflict of your species. In your next century, access to weaponry of mass destruction by states that are ruled by dogma will destroy your species".

Note first the EBE's reference to "the next century". Since the interview year is 1964 and the comment was made in the 20th century then the "next century" is the current one - the 21st. Right now, the stage is already being set for possible nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan. Each has 50-150 nuclear weapons and (as reported, p. 11,  in the latest TIME) moved closer to conflict after 18 Indian soldiers were slain in Kashmir in a recent attack by Pakistani-led terrorists, Jaish -e-Muhammad.  Quote: "Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now under pressure to retaliate with military force."

Another "dogma" state, North Korea, has recently conducted its 5th successful nuclear test and is working toward mounting nuclear warheads on ICBMs that can reach the U.S. Nations such as Pakistan, North Korea and Iran are all ruled by dogma, and all possess, or are attempting to possess, nuclear weapons.

Most interesting to me is when the question is asked, "So you know how the universe was created?" To which the entity responds: "Yes." The ATIC questioner then asks, "So you've seen God?" The EBE's answer is "We have evolved past a need for superstitions, the need for a god and other myths."

This suggests that the EBE or its impersonator is indicating that beyond a certain evolutionary stage the brain will have advanced beyond the need to entertain deities. Recall that this tendency is a particular property of the OAA or orientation association area. (See e.g. Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief’.  by Andrew Newberg and Eugene Daquill). For more on this see: http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2010/12/god-is-found-inside-brain-1.html

The  ATIC interrogator then suggests, "How about we concentrate on your time?" The entity responds, "You are not capable of accepting or understanding the discoveries of my time." The interrogator responds, "Try me." The EBE's response is, "the nature of the universe, the origin of so-called life, it is known."

The ATIC interrogator also asks the EBE, "So how was the universe created and why is it so perfectly made for us?"

This has been suggested by some (e.g. Whitley Streiber) to be a clue that the video is a hoax because  the fine tuned universe idea  "didn't arise until much later" (likely with Fred Hoyle's 1984 book 'The Intelligent Universe'). But in fact, the idea had been around since 1961 when physicist Robert H. Dicke claimed that certain forces in physics, such as gravity and electromagnetism, must be perfectly fine-tuned for life to exist anywhere in the Universe.  This was then refined to the "anthropic principle" - proposed in Poland ca. 1973-   that  held only we on Earth have benefited from such fine tuning.

The EBE's response is direct and takes note of the modern multiverse proposal:

"There are an infinite number of universes.. Each with different physical properties. Virtually all do not support like, such as you know it We exist in a universe that does support so-called life."

The EBE (or EBE impersonator) is not referring to Hugh Everett's 'many worlds' interpretation of QM but rather actual parallel cosmi incepted from the selfsame primordial vacuum state (via inflation) as our own universe. Thus, an actual primordial vacuum - not a human observer or consciousness making observational choices- is the source of the real parallel universes. Hence, all putative parallel universes plausibly emerged from the primordial vacuum the way ours did, e.g. from the Big Bang. See e.g.:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/09/are-there-parallel-universes.html

Just as interesting is when the ATIC agent inquires: "What happens when we die?"  Whereupon the EBE replies: "Death is a human construct. It does not exist. You will experience, you have experienced, every instance of a so-called life."

The ATIC agent seeks clarity,  asking: "So let me get this straight. There's no death and we all experience each other's lives". To which the EBE responds, "In essence, yes."

This is rather esoteric but might refer to Frank Tipler's notion of "eternal return" discussed in his book, The Physics of Immortality. A Wikipedia summation can be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_return

An alternative interpretation is one I explored four years ago,  As I noted:

"(Stuart) Hameroff's basic argument then, is that death doesn't mean the final termination of consciousness, so much as the end of its localization. If that is so, you cease to be a "person" or an individual identity and instead merge with other dispersed quantum wave forms (I have called them "B-waves" or de Broglie waves) to enter an "oceanic" state. "

I added that this oceanic state was identified as the "implicate order" by physicist David Bohm, in his superb book 'Wholeness and the Implicate Order'.  It referred to a higher dimensional reality into which we are subsumed. 

At another point the ATIC agent interjects: "So you know the meaning of life?" The answer is, "Not meaning, nature." The interrogator responds, "What's the difference?" The EBE's  answer is, "Meaning is ascribed. Nature is the objective reality."

This is a subtle point that might be missed by many. "Meaning" is what our limited brains impose on physical reality to make it more accessible.  Our brains' frontal lobes  evolved to parse meaning  seek it out  It is often culturally or religiously molded and often independent of actual facts, evidence. Nature is associated with objective physical reality, i.e. independent of our brains' filters on that reality.  For example, human brains have evolved to search for meaning or purpose in the universe which is a major reason they cling to God or promote the invention of gods. These artifacts help us to assign meaning to our lives which - to the brain - would otherwise be "meaningless".

Another crucial interlude opens when the ATIC interrogator asks, "What do you base your morality on?" The answer is "Compassion and evidence."   The first part could easily be traced to Buddhism where compassion - for all living things - is the primary virtue taught. As an example, the compassionate person extends and enhances life for all things, even insects, birds, rats etc.. He is also incapable of hateful or destructive thoughts or inimical beliefs toward others. On the other hand, the angry person entertains hate and vicious beliefs, including that his beliefs are superior to all others and indeed, that if others don't cooperate with them they will suffer grievous future harm - perhaps in a "next life". To the Buddha, this sort of thinking exemplified the epitome of desire turned inward toward spiritual arrogance and pride.

The second aspect, "evidence" has been a long time element of scientific Materialist morality, meaning that we predicate behavior on the evidence that it is constructive for the whole community not a small part of it.  An evidentiary morality, indeed, would most likely be based on provisional ethics, see e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2014/08/absolutist-ethics-needs-to-be-replaced.html

In summary, this video is definitely entrancing but I simply don't buy that it is a literal interview with an actual EBE. (Apologies to John Phillips, but I believe he is wrong - as he is on global warming- which he claims is "not all human-induced").  My conclusion is that it is an elaborate simulation of a potential future encounter in which an EBE might be interviewed. Perhaps ATIC intended it as a training exercise just in case a genuine EBE turned up. What is this EBE in the simulation? Possibly an audio animatronic robot, into which a pitch-altered human voice has been piped (though some insist an analysis was done which rules that out, but they haven't cited any specific source).

Or it could be a severely anorexic person made up as an EBE.  Who knows?   In any case, what was encouraging was to at least behold answers, responses to the ATIC agent  that would do any actual EBE (or alien) proud.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Colorado Climate Change Future: Grim - According to New Report

A house is fully engulfed by the Black Forest Fire.
Fires like this will be common in Colorado in 25-30 years.

A newly released report (on Thursday) commissioned by three Front Range cities forecasts grim climate conditions for Colorado - certainly for the Front Range, and likely the entire state. This according to the Louisville, CO-based Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.. The forecast includes an increase in the average number of days with temperatures over 100 F, as well as increased precipitation for other areas, i.e. featuring severe winter or summer storms. Already, here in the Springs - two months ago- we were lashed with the worst hail storm in memory with hail stones up to the size of softballs.

We just had our entire roof repaired following hail strikes with pits, holes that one roofer compared to "meteorites" - an exaggeration but he got the point over to us. Now, we are awaiting one entire south side of the siding to be replaced after it was literally ripped into multiple holes by the hail. According to the insurance company (Hartford) hundreds of homes have been affected putting enormous pressure on roofers and others in the area, now forcing wait times of many weeks to complete repairs.  This is only a taste of what's to come if the RMCO projections turn out to be even 50% correct, and there's more reason to believe the probability will be a lot higher.

Much of this isn't surprising in that NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) made similar predictions, including for the entire Rocky Mountain  West, some six years ago. They projected hotter, drier conditions with extended droughts and enhanced fire danger especially as the forests ravaged by the mountain pine beetle spread. See, e.g. this report on the pest.

http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/insect/05528.pdf

What this pest does is nothing short of horrendous, in converting living plant tissue into highly flammable dead bark for which the slightest spark can start a conflagration. Those readers interested in a detailed account of the trepidations of this pest can get hold of the superb book: The Dying of the Trees.  You can read a shorter account here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/18/science/18trees.html?pagewanted=all

The point is the beetle is a major catalyst for all the ongoing and uncontained Colorado wild fires, including the nearby Waldo Canyon fire  four years ago.  At the time I posted that thermal currents and winds also dispersed parts of the fire's burgeoning smoke plumes eastward, toward the east side of Colorado Springs where we live. 
Basically, if heat-trapping emissions into the atmosphere keep increasing, the northern Front Range climate by 2050 will be fundamentally different. According to lead  researcher Stephen Saunders, director of RMCO,:

By the middle of the century, summers here will be as hot as summers have been recently in El Paso.  Half the houses in Denver today do not have air conditioning. We’re going to be facing serious threats to people’s health because of these temperature increases,”

Adding:

Temperature increases also will drive wildfires, increased evaporation from reservoirs, changes in snowpack, and enormous increases in energy use for air conditioning. These temperature changes will affect every aspect of our life.”

Already, Denver's average summer temperature has increased. This year, the average temperature in Denver for June, July and August was 72.7 degrees — 1.5 degrees higher than the annual average of 71.2 dating to 1872, said Kyle Fredin, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder. If current trends in heat-trapping emissions continue, Denver residents by 2050 will face an average of 35 days a year where temperatures hit 95 degrees or hotter, the study found. Right now, the average is five days a year.

Boulder by 2050 will have an average 38 days a year with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees and, by the end of the century, an average of 75 such days a year. The studies found Fort Collins by 2050 will have an average 24 days with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees and 58 days on average by the end of the century.

These numbers may not significantly impress many people, but they should given they mean vastly more demands on the power grid, already stretched energy sources. Currently, half the houses in Denver lack air conditioning as noted above by RMCO Director Stephen Saunders. The proportion is even greater here in Colorado Springs (65%). That means more health problems for those who don't install it, but it also implies the probability of more power outs if all those people do. This is something the deniers need to register as they keep pooh-poohing consequences of a rapidly changing climate.

According to a Denver Post account (Sept. 23, p 1A) the RMCO report was commissioned for the purpose of:

"helping Colorado prepare and are based on government temperature data and university consortium climate models. RMCO does advocacy work in favor of limiting greenhouse gas emissions in addition to climate research. Denver environmental health officials commissioned the Denver climate analysis. Boulder and Fort Collins analyses were done as part of a $57,300 project run by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Denver officials commissioned this study for $9,000 “as a way to frame our actions on climate, both for the mitigation of climate altering greenhouse gas emissions and the adaptation to a warming, altered climate,” city spokeswoman Kerra Jones said. “This study was intended to bring real data into models that could project what that might specifically mean for Denver and the metro area.”


Officials in the three cities that commissioned the study are also painfully aware of the role of increased CO2 emissions. (An appreciation that's been slow to emerge in the right wing City Council members here in the Springs). Prompted to act,  Denver officials last year issued a Climate Action Plan calling for citywide cutting of emissions by 80 percent, below 2005 levels, by 2050.

 Unfortunately, as the Post notes, "local efforts to reduce emissions from vehicles, factories, the oil and gas industry and other sources in Colorado likely would make a small difference because climate change is driven by global-scale increases in heat-trapping gases." So unless thousands of other municipalities around the planet  take action, the difference in conditions will hardly be noticeable. It is a global problem.  According to Saunders, quoted in the Post:

All this depends on global emissions. However, people around the world will be looking to see what we do here in response.”

Indeed. A prime reason we moved to Colorado 16 years ago was because we believed it to be one of the few places - given its mean altitude - that might weather the worst excesses of climate change. It now appears we were wrong, but when we look around and see the likely impacts on other areas -including Barbados - we still realize we probably have been relatively lucky. Besides, neither of us are likely to still be around when the worst arrives!

 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Yes, College Rankings Are A Marketing Ruse - And Joke


The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska -Fairbanks. Most likely you will not find UAF listed in U.S. News & World Report's Annual College Listings - but that doesn't mean it's not a great university.

Frank Bruni's NY Times' Review Op-Ed 'Why College Rankings Are A Joke' (Sept. 18, SR3) merits commendations for exposing the annual college rankings marketing racket.  From numerous points of view Bruni skewers the commonplace trope that a media listing of colleges, universities can provide a seminal insight into quality. And, of course, which schools always end up at the top? Well, the Ivies because they peddle their brand most ardently and invest the time in advertising, and marketing that brand to too many gullible parents- who then join battle with tens of thousands of other parents. All intent on getting Junior or Missy into the "best" school.

But most of this effort is doomed to end up merely with outstanding college debts, and the graduates will leave without having received the specific education they expected. Whereas, if they hadn't been blinded by the brand they might have made a more judicious pick.  As Bruni puts it:

"The rankings nourish the myth that the richest, most selective colleges have some corner on superior education."

Bruni's beef is that this annual high branding exercise fails to recognize excellent public institutions - especially those that may evince superiority in a specific field, discipline. A case in point was the University of South Florida ca. 1968-75 featuring the best quality work in astrometry in the nation, thanks to its Chairman, Prof. Henirich Eichhorn.    Astrometry is the branch of astronomy that deals with accurate determination of stellar positions (in Right Ascension and declination), for the purpose of creating reliable star catalogues. It also entails analysis and determination of the proper motions of celestial objects, as well as highly specific motions including: precession of the equinoxes, lunar libration and astronomic nutation. Prof. Eichhorn also brought in astronomy staff from Yale including Sabatino Sofia, James. H.  Hunter and Carol Williams, launching USF into the top tier of astronomy departments.

Flash forward to the present: if one searches the annual U.S. News rankings for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, for example, the chances are it will not be found. The lame conclusion based on the ranking elite bias will then be it is not a place worth attending, but this would be a gross error. In terms of specific fields, atmospheric science and space physics, there is perhaps none better. We are talking here not only about the quality of the staff but the resources, e.g. available at the Geophysical Institute.

UAF, for example, has been at the forefront of Arctic atmospheric research - much of which is conducted at the Climate Research Center, e.g.

http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/


There is also Poker Flat, the world's only scientific rocket launching facility, e.g.

http://www.pfrr.alaska.edu/

The rockets launched from here enable more detailed studies of the aurora, magnetic substorms.

For space physics in general, including the study of the aurora, substorms and solar-terrestrial dynamics it has all the resources the dedicated researcher needs, see  e.g.


Given the UAF location and its facilities you won't find a better place for studies in ionospheric, infrasound and magnetospheric physics, as well as space weather. Harvard certainly can't compete in these specialized fields, nor does it have comparable resources.

All of this underscores points I made two years ago concerning a fact too many wannabe collegians and their parents overlook: it makes very little difference which university you attend (assuming it isn’t a ‘for profit’ or online version). It is more the cachet and reputation of the specific department.

From the May 2011 issue of MONEY magazine: "Don't assume an Ivy League education is better than one from a public or state university."

MONEY found that  'bang for the buck' included college graduation rates and post-college success rates - which compared favorably to - or exceeded  - what one obtained from the hallowed Ivies. Alas, this has still not trickled down into the mainstream media where we still find "Best Colleges" lists spread around with the Ivy Leagues on top - then all the rest. So no wonder students and their parents are neurotically driven to believe the Ivies are the  only route to success.

From Bruni's piece, it is highly instructive to see the assorted factors - all highly subjective- that are used to arrive at the rankings.  For example, one is how highly officials at peer institutions rank said school. But as Bruni observes, if they know little or nothing about it (especially for the specific field) why would you expect anything other than a low to mediocre rank?  In such a case it is more plausible they'd go by the "reputation" - but where does that originate? Well, usually from earlier US News rankings! So it's a case of subjective brand incest piled atop more perception incest.

In toto, the cumulative parameters drive perceptions in one direction. To quote Bruni again:

"Intentionally or not, they fuel a frenzy to get into the most selective schools. But they can't adjust for how well certain colleges serve certain ambitions."

What if a high school student then, has an intense interest to study the aurora? Maybe he saw images of it firing up the Arctic sky in a PBS documentary, and now wants to study the physical mechanisms driving it in detail. Will he be able to do this at Harvard, or even MIT? Not very likely. At least to the same extent as actually being in the Arctic and having access to resources such as provided by the Poker Flat rockets, or HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program).  As noted in the Wiki article on the program:

"According to the HAARP team, this (research) will advance the study of basic natural processes that occur in the ionosphere under the natural but much stronger influence of solar interaction,"

My point, and I believe Bruni's, is that it would be a crime to dispatch this student to some university which would not be able to fully satisfy his intellectual curiosity, and provide him a future trajectory for productive work and research. But if his parents only go by selective US News rankings, that negative outcome is very likely.

One of the worst travesties of the annual rankings racket exposed by Bruni is that "many college presidents, provosts and deans of admissions express disdain for the rankings...but participate in them nevertheless."

The Existentialist Jean -Paul Sartre would have a precise word for that: "bad faith". At his Loyola University appearance in 1964 he defined it as a person deceiving himself into being convinced he lacks real freedom of choice, usually because he harbors a fear of potential adverse consequences. Thus, the college provosts, presidents  admissions staff etc. know the 'best college' rankings are just media branding bunkum but nevertheless kowtow to them because they believe their peers will look askance at their hostility, perhaps question their credibility.

Perceptive citizens, especially parents, shouldn't be so hamstrung because they have nothing to prove to anyone else. If they are truly dedicated to the welfare of their charges they will do what is best for them- and that means securing the best college for their particular talents.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Wells Fargo Bankster Hustle Shows Dodd-Frank Is Toothless To Protect Customers



Recall five months ago I referred to a  WSJ piece in which the author (Donna Borak)  made clear Bernie Sanders knew exactly what he was talking about re: reining in the banksters. Further,  it was the outside media and Neolib hacks (like Barney Frank)  that made a right mess of it.  Thus, to quote the article on  the authority the government could use to break up the big banks, we learned:

"Mr. Sanders said a bill he introduced in May, 2015 would give the Treasury Secretary authority to break up big banks but leave it to the institutions to figure out how to restructure"


Further details (ibid.):

"Under his plan, The Financial Stability Oversight Council, headed by the Treasury Secretary  - would have 90 days to compile a list of banks deemed too big to fail,  The list automatically would include institutions like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley

Now in retrospect we see how prescient Bernie was as the Wells Fargo bankster scam has unfolded. For those who have lived under a rock, or don't follow finance stories, let me summarize: Wells Fargo's banker honchos - including top bankster banana John Stumpf (recently grilled by the Senate Banking Committee) set ridiculous sales quotas for retail bank employees which led to millions of sham accounts set up (in customers' names)  that customers knew nothing about. In some cases, as many as 7-8 accounts per bank customer were set up which dinged the owners with multiple bank fees. It was only after going through statements they became aware of how they'd been played.

Former employees quoted in a recent (Sept. 17) NY Times Business piece affirmed the "biggest problem was Wells Fargo's aggressive sales culture which was nurtured and hones over decades at the bank's highest levels."

In other words the scam bank "buck" can be parked right at Stumpf's door.

According to one former bank employee, Sharif Kellogg, based at a Wells'  branch in Catonsville, MD:

"The branch managers were always asking: How many solutions did you sell today? They wanted three to four a day. In my mind that was crazy. That's not how people's financial lives work."

Which is exactly true. Indeed, wifey and I have been customers at a local Wells Fargo branch for over the past 13 years, and although offered "deals" we never at any time had more than a limited number of accounts, including CDs.   I'd estimate the  grand total over all that time would have been six at the most, and currently only three including a CD.  It's hard enough to keep track of a few accounts far less ten running at a time as some Wells cusstomers were faced with

For his part, Kellogg- referenced above - was constantly hounded by his branch supervisor to increase his sales or "solutions" as they were known. Quoted in the Times he said:

"I was always being written up for failing to bump up my soloutions numbers"

And this happened to a guy earning only $11.75 an hour. Yet it was these lower grade employees who bore the brunt of the 5,300 layoffs. This is while the honchos that engineered it  are still sitting pretty with their mammoth multi-million dollar bonuses, stock perks and paid vacations for getting employees to sell shit to those who don't need or want it.

Wells'  chief executive John Stumpf actually had the chutzpah to deny the misdeeds were  the result of an aggressive sales culture or flawed inncenitve structure. But that would carry about the same credibility as me - when I taught space physics - claiming that assigning 15 labs and  15 projects per week would not entice students to cheat. No one with half a brain would buy such flagrant BS and no one ought to buy Stumpf's either.

In fact, under corporate criminal law - all Stumpf's posturing aside-  Wells Fargo is strictly liable for the criminal behavior of its employees acting within the scope of its sales business.

The really ironic aspect of this whole shameful farce? The bank employees were given ethics training and it insisted they adhere to high standards. According to one Wells teller writing in a Reddit forum:

"We go through SO much training about ethics and how you CANNOT do that. I got threatened to be fired as a teller because I wasn't meeting my numbers. I told them I didn't believe in trying to convince someone to spend money they don't have to get what they don't need."

And yet this employee, with high ethical principles, was found expendable because she merely refused to play the bank's aggressive profiteering game.

Wells' fired workers, for their part, actually managed to get some digs in at these bankster assholes using creative (youtube) cartoon videos, e.g.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzGeEtKbCI


Most are spoofs of the banksters'  hard driving "gimme my profits" culture and the fact ordinary workers were hardly getting rich meeting their bosses' specious hyper-sales targets. In one video, a cartoon banker drones on: "If tellers and bankers make those sales numbers each day, at the end of the month everybody in the branch gets a $5 gift card to McDonald's and the district managers gets a $10,000 cash bonus."

If it wasn't so damned pathetic you'd have to laugh.

Incredibly, as federal prosecutors are considering bringing charges, you have the spectacle of assholes like Stumpf giving false apologies and accepting "accountability" for lower echelon workers "misinterpreting sales goals".

That's really generous of this profiteering renegade, but how about him foregoing all his pay for the next  five years and returning all bonuses? Then giving the monies to the discharged lower rung Wells' workers? Of course, that would never fly. Neither the existing shredded banking laws, nor the high status exec culprits have the capacity or the honor.

What has happened is that Wells  has been fined $185 m - which is chicken feed to these guys. The bank also agreed last week  to develop a "broad oversight program" for its sales practices in a settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. According to Wells Fargo spokeswoman Mary Esher, the "bank had considered this step for quite some time before finally deciding to eliminate the sales goals".

Why Wells would have to take "quite some time" to even consider robbery incentives for sales goals is beyond me. But perhaps the honcho banksters live in a different moral universe from the one I and  millions of other Americans inhabit. We don't possess all copper- -lined bathtubs e.g.

But we do know right from wrong.

And we wouldn't need harsh lectures by Senate Banking firebrand Elizabeth Warren. Sen. Warren, had she'd been nominated as Veep (as most of us suggested), would have saved Hillary's bacon with millennial voters (now turning to the 3rd party candidates.)

The best part of the Banking Committee session with John Stumpf was Sen. Warren raking the sleazy bastard over the coals, saying in part:

"You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket...Your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low level employees.... This is about accountability. You should resign. You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on and you should be criminally investigated. This just isn't right!"

Spoken like a person who actually looks out for citizens. But again, that requires having a moral imperative as opposed to money grubbing über alles ethics.. Don't look for a rat-faced bastard like Stumpf to follow any of her injunctions. This is a character with the morals of a leech.

See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/thom-hartmann/69054/how-to-take-on-the-banksters

Excerpt:

"the truth of the matter is that cross-selling isn't meant to be good for customers. It's meant to inflate stock prices, and consequently enrich investors and executives, like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf himself."