Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Mind F*K, Cambridge Analytica

I am posting this Fresh Air interview of Christopher Wylie and his book about Cambridge Analytica here because I strongly feel that the subject matter is not getting enough attention.

The way the technology Mr Wylie worked with was applied by Cambridge should be viewed as being as dangerous as any weapon humans have devised.  I realize some will say I’m being hyperbolic.  Have at it.

I remember being taught, even in school, how to understand the goals and effects of advertising including the means by which subliminal messaging works.  It’s banned in some places, sort of regulated in the US.  I was taught to be aware when watching TV.  When we look at the progression of communication, the written word leaves the emotional interpretation to the reader and their personal life experiences as reference for understanding the author’s message.  The ability to add a picture opened up a means for the author to be more specific in the message being presented. With the advent of recorded sound, even more specificity could be had via tonal inflections.  But, when video came around, there was little room for the recipient of the message to not “get” the message.  Jerry Mander wrote about this in his book: 4 Arguments for the Elimination of Television.  More relevant today with the consolidation in the industry of broadcast.  Watch his 9 minute talk and then read on.  Today it’s the internet I believe that has replaced the TV.

Yet, even with the ability of video, the message was broadcast widely hoping to catch the few receptive.  Not anymore.  Data is the issue.  There is the ability to build a digital you. Not the physical image of you, but you the person as lived via you brain.  Your mind is digitally catalogued.  You could say we have found the fountain of youth.  Unless your data is destroyed, you will now live on for all eternity.

Cambridge Analytica is a tail of technology in the hands of “the evil genius”.   As you will hear in Mr. Wylie interview, the development of the data processing was for the purpose of finding those who could be “radicalized” and then reach them before that might happen.  Along comes Steve Bannon, a big money backer and the machinery gets turned on society.  The intention was to target those who could be incited to anger and then incite that anger.  Specifically mentioned is the Alt Right type personalities.

This technology is using all we know about how the brain/mind works and turning the knowledge on society for selfish want.  Imagine how miserable, hurt, depressed, angry you have to be to want to move the world to be as you are?  That’s Bannon.  I’ve known people like this first hand.  “I hurt and I want you to hurt”.  This is consensus building without those targeted even being aware their consensus is manufactured.  This is power beyond the threat of nuclear war.  The goal is not to mold everyone.  The goal is to mold enough such that serenity within society can not exist for the likes of Bannon.  For others it is just power for one’s purpose.  In the end, it is the ultimate tool of selfishness.

The company no longer exists.  The machinery still exists and is still being used as a weapon.  Defensive or offensive is a matter of one’s ideal/ideology of life.   This goes beyond elections.  I touched upon this a bit in my post looking at the phrase “Rat Race” and how it’s not a commonly appreciated concept anymore.   The present process of “normalizing” or the idea of moving the Overton Window.

Or, it could be the ultimate tool for selflessness.  But, we’er not even thinking about that question are we?  Oh well, I guess the “free market” will solve it for us…Don’t ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to.

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I keep wondering: Is anyone under the age of 40 ‘Ready for Hillary’?

Yves Smith linked this morning on her Naked Capital blog to my post from yesterday called “The Secretive Democracy Alliance’s Secret Is Out: Some of its members are elitist, racist and self-serving,” and added a comment about it:

Helpful, but does not follow the logic to the obvious conclusion. Why is the Dem apparatus harping on the Kochs and not issues that would motivate voters, like more jobs, better access to housing and education? Because they’ve done nothing on those fronts and don’t intend to. […]

The link and Yves’ comment “pinged back” as a comment to my post.  In response to Yves and to a comment by Daniel Becker, I wrote:

My intended point, Yves, was that harping on the IS harping on the issues that would motivate voters, like more jobs, better access to housing and education.  Steve Phillips, et al., think that only white men and married white women are smart enough to understand the connection between politicians’ financial benefactors and those politicians’ proposed legislation and attempts to block legislation.  I think Phillips is wrong.

The failure of the Obama administration–courtesy largely of Tim Geithner and of Obama’s weird infatuation with him throughout Obama’s first term, but also to Obama’s laconic, detached, I’m-a-centrist! persona–to propose and then fight for substantial Keynesian fiscal policies and for other progressive policies–is not, say, Nancy Pelosi’s, or Dick Durbin’s, or Sherrod Brown’s, or Tom Harkin’s fault.

And, yes, the very last thing that the Dems need is yet another presidential nominee who’s never had an original policy idea in her life; who almost never takes a policy position that actually leads rather than follows (and in the one instance in which she did–drivers’ licenses for unauthorized immigrants–scrambles and backtracks at first sign of political harm to her; who spends her time posting to a silly Twitter account and trying to enhance her personal persona rather than ever, ever, ever actually thinking about and offering specific domestic policy proposals; and who apparently can’t function without the constant presence of an entourage of her “people,” i.e., her devotees.

How many other Secretaries of State had a constant go-fer?  How many other FORMER Secretaries of State brought along that same constant go-fer after leaving office? How many couldn’t manage without one?

I keep wondering: Is anyone under the age of 40 “ready for Hillary”? Best as I can tell, the answer is, no. What people ARE ready for is a politician–like Durbin, Harkin, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, the former two who are too old to run for president, the latter two who don’t appear interpeted in doing so–who doesn’t have a Twitter account, or a personal entourage, or a daughter whose parents thought it was a good idea for her to sell her celebrity name (and nothing more) to a network news program for a huge amount of money, and talked their daughter into doing that.  Someone, in other words, who’s not famous for just being an ‘icon’, but who has built a mostly-quiet career as an economics populist in Congress or academia.

And, Daniel, I, like you, still cringe, as I did in 2008, at a campaign run almost entirely on a promise of Hope and Change, the substance of which the candidate never specified because he himself had no particular person convictions or policy ideas.  We don’t need another such standard bearer–not even one who replaces Hope and Change with WOMEN! WOMEN! WOMEN!  One Dem presidential candidate, and Dem president, of that ilk is more than enough, thank you very much.

Daniel, I think you and Yves have it backwards. The Dems can’t show progress in policy BECAUSE of the billionaire-controlled campaign-finance system.

So now I’ve gotten it off my chest.  It, being my dismay and utter frustration at the silly Hillary-or-bust obsession of the seemingly hypnotized Establishment Democrats and pundits.

This woman has written a narcissistic book for which she was paid handsomely-being paid handsomely appears to be her primary concern–and is in the process of blowing her book-tour interviews.  Which is nice, because now maybe–just maybe; it’s by no means certain–some actual longtime progressive policy person of some political stature, who doesn’t have a Twitter account or a personal entourage, and is not entirely self-obsessed–will step forward and run for the Dem presidential nomination, on a platform that details policy rather than relies upon personal celebrity and gender.

Hope springs eternal. Although the Kochs, the Chamber of Commerce, and some hedge fund folks have noticed, few political journalists–and apparently no Dem pols and political consultants–have.  This country is suddenly moving rapidly toward a progressive economic-populist era.  Instead, the over-40 professional political crowd thinks that the political sun rises and sets each morning with Hillary Clinton’s personal appearances and Twitter comments.  It doesn’t.

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Post edited slightly for clarity after posting. 6/25 at 3:58 p.m.

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Business income or personal income

In response to Small businesses and tax cuts and reporting by Daniel Becker, reader Betty, a long time small business owner and not a sole proprietor herself in one of the richer towns of MA with a median income over $180,000 , asked:

… I’ve always been baffled by the Republican complaint that it would be bad for the BUSINESSES of small business owners with incomes over $250,000 to be lumped with the Rich and have their taxes go up, or not go down, if the Bush tax cuts were not extended for the wealthy. What I don’t get is this: Even if the business earns millions, all business expenses are deductible. What’s left that’s taxable (the profit) is the PERSONAL INCOME of the owner or owners, right? So how does a higher tax adversely affect the business? Or are these large small businesses just corporations in disguise?

Dan Becker replied to Betty in two excellent posts from the past:

I posted back in July of 2008 specifically addressing the conflation of income and business taxes as Betty is noting.

Unfortunately, too many business people don’t get it either as I found after having a heated discussion with one of my colleagues. He insisted I must not be incorporated because I did not know what I was talking about.
At the time I posted it, a couple others at AB commented that I was making the issue too complicated and that the average reader did not need to know such details. Here we are 2012 discussing it again. We can not expect to solve our problems is we are going to avoid deeper understanding of the words we use and the concepts those word represent.
I suggest my posting on the 1936 tax tables is another one of those postings that not enough people have read. To many people really have little to no idea just what is being talked about when someone says “income tax” or “marginal rates”

(Dan C here…The small businesses many people, in my estimation, generally associate the term ‘small business’ are probably ‘companies’ under 50 employees but with a variety of legal and IRS oriented classifications. I may post updated versions of these posts…people tend to approach taxes with more religious fervor than understanding).

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Small businesses, tax cuts, and reporting

 I sometimes get the ‘eyes rolling’ reaction from people in my social sphere when I insist that at least linking to  original documents is important, and that someone needs to follow up on what an author says someone else says (as a way to gain traction and authority status for their own writing, such as saying the non-partisan Tax Policy Centers says).  I won’t go into the idea of spin, which involves figuring out intent.  Mine is a caution for readers:

The post is lifted from a note from Daniel Becker in response to a query I sent to him…Dan is a small businessman in the way most of us think of as small business.  (The IRS has a different criterion  of ownership that allows a company like Bechtal at $31 billion to be considered a small business).

Dan Becker’s note:

The Washington Post article is   Obama calls for small business tax breaks.   The article uses the  Tax Policy Center original under the title Temporary Tax Relief to Create Jobs  as the source for the reporting.

The WP article notes:

“The last time the country had a similar proposal to the tax subsidy was during the Carter administration, according to the Tax Policy Center. Research by the Labor Department found that few firms knew about the tax policy, but those that did increased employment notably.”

But from their source it actually notes:

“The last experience the United States had with a credit for incremental employment was with the new jobs credit enacted at the beginning of the Carter Administration in 1977. Evaluations of that credit and how it came about found that most firms were either unaware of the credit or did not respond to it. Research based on a Department of Labor survey found that only 6 percent of firms who knew about the credit said that it prompted them to hire more workers. Firms that were aware of the credit, however, increased employment about 3 percent more than other firms. ”   (bolding is Dan B.’s)

WP had another smoothing over (under the fold):
 

“An incremental jobs credit could be a cost-effective way of raising employment in the short run, the nonpartisan center said in a report this year. The effectiveness of any jobs subsidy depends . . . on how employers perceive its potential benefits when making hiring decisions.”

The actual statement:

In summary, the effect of this proposal on employment is very uncertain. In theory, an incremental jobs credit could be a cost-effective way of raising employment in the short run and some research suggests that the 1977 credit did increase jobs, although the evidence on that is far from conclusive.
The effectiveness of any jobs subsidy depends greatly on both the details of the proposal, still to be finalized, and on how employers perceive its potential benefits when making hiring decisions.

Dan B

(Editorial comment at end of note from Dan Becker….Man! They still want to believe that cutting taxes is actually the same as if the 99% were now getting that $1 trillion of income that is now with the 1%. Just like they believe cutting taxes will increase revenues (sure if you convince the dictator to stop taking a full 90% of all that his people produce, but that’s not US).

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