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When Trust Evaporates

When Trust Evaporates

I thought I’d compare the current Wuhan zombie apocalypse bat virus to that of SARS and see what is similar this time around…and what is not.

Now, I’m not going to get into which virus wins the “I killed more faster”, (thus far, it was SARS with a fatality rate of 9.6% vs 2.8%). Or which is more infectious (SARS again, though Coronavirus can spread while still incubating). Or join the silly debate of whether we should eat bats (they carry the disease, so ummm…NO). Rather, I’m going to focus on what’s been different in terms of the reaction globally…and why this is important. Because let’s face it, statistically, you’re still far more likely to be killed by some dolt crossing the centerline while watching his Insta feed…and nobody is running around like headless chickens screaming…don’t drive, don’t drive.

The Difference This Time

When SARS arrived on our doorsteps, the world’s response was one of cooperation, collaboration and a concerted effort to help our fellow man.

This time, the geopolitical world is completely different. We’re going into this at a time when trade wars have been ignited, Europe is fragmenting (Brexit, EU disharmony) US political polarisation is really something to behold. That’s bad enough, but there is an accelerating sense of distrust between countries at a political level and of institutions by the public at a private level.

All of these factors combined explain why it is that amongst other things…

Russia, Mongolia and North Korea have closed their land borders with China, and even HK has restricted their border. Flights in and out of mainland China have been cancelled indefinitely, with planes arriving from China landing in many countries only to be told…no way buddy back you go.

Who’s To Blame?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Three Major Imbalances – Financial, Trust and Geopolitical

Three Major Imbalances – Financial, Trust and Geopolitical

But greed is a bottomless pit
And our freedom’s a joke
We’re just taking a piss
And the whole world must watch the sad comic display
If you’re still free start running away
Cause we’re coming for you!

– Conor Oberst, “Land Locked Blues”

It’s hard to believe 2020 is just around the corner. If the last ten years have taught us anything, it’s the extent to which a vicious and corrupt oligarchy will go to further extend and entrench their economic and societal interests. Although the myriad desperate actions undertaken by the ruling class this past decade have managed to sustain the current paradigm a bit longer, it has not come without cost and major long-term consequence. Gigantic imbalances across multiple areas have been created and worsened, and the resolution of these in the years ahead (2020-2025) will shape the future for decades to come. I want to discuss three of them today, the financial system imbalance, the trust imbalance and the geopolitical imbalance.

Recent posts have focused on how what really matters in a crisis is not the event itself, but the response to it. The financial crisis of ten years ago is particularly instructive, as the entire institutional response to a widespread financial industry crime spree was to focus on saving a failed system and then pretending nothing happened. The public was given no time or space to debate whether the system needed saving; or more specifically, which parts needed saving, which parts needed wholesale restructuring and which parts should’ve been thrown into the dustbin. Rather, unelected central bankers stepped in with trillions in order to prop up, empower and reward the very industry and individuals that created the crisis to begin with. There was no real public debate, central bankers just did whatever they wanted. It was a moment so brazen and disturbing it shook many of us, including myself, out of a lifetime of propaganda induced deception.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trust is On Trial in Europe and the World

Trust is On Trial in Europe and the World

“It seems that if there was any truth to our language, ‘trust’ would be a four-letter word.”

Joel – “Risky Business”

Trust is the most important aspect of human endeavor. Without trust there can be no interaction. No communication.

No friendship. No love.

No Commerce.

The key to understanding economics is understanding people. The basis for all human interaction is the basic trust that a trade once completed will be honored.

The global economy runs solely on trust. Without the trust that contracts signed today can be fulfilled tomorrow and disputes settled with a reasonable degree of amity, there can be no iPhones.

No Amazon.

No oil.

When politics become toxic, when the sides refuse to cooperate on the very basic functions of government, uncertainty reigns. And uncertainty filters down to the people getting up everyday, going to work and providing a home for themselves and their families.

It’s like that great scene in the classic movie “Trading Places” where Eddie Murphy talks about the guy who’s worried he won’t be able to buy his kid that “G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu Grip” for Christmas.

That guy was the barometer for the market. That guy knew something about trust.

I had one of those G.I. Joe’s as a kid. My dad rarely let me down in supplying the most important things on my Christmas list.

It’s part of the reason why I loved him and trusted him completely. He was very human, but he kept his promises and I always knew where the boundaries were.

He and mom did what they could without making promises they couldn’t keep.

That example, despite the heartbreaks and the setbacks, shaped my approach to being a husband and a father. I don’t make promises to my daughter or my wife I can’t keep.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Real Problem With Modern Monetary Theory

The Real Problem With Modern Monetary Theory

The Real Problem With Modern Monetary Theory

MMT supporters will point to 2008 and say, “Just look at QE. In 2008, the Federal Reserve Balance sheet was $800 billion. But as a result of QE1, QE2, and QE3, that number went to $4.5 trillion. And the world didn’t end. To the contrary, the stock market went on a huge bull run.We did not have an economic crash. And again, inflation was muted.”

Fed chairman Jay Powell has criticized MMT, for example. But its advocates say Powell and other Fed officials hoist themselves on their own petard. That’s because they are the ones who actually proved that MMT works. They point to the fact that the Fed printed close to $4 trillion and nothing bad happened. So it should go ahead and print another $4 trillion.

This is one of the great ironies of the debate. The Fed criticizes MMT, but it was its very own money creation after 2008 that MMT advocates point to as proof that it works.

Their only quibble is that the benefit of all that money creation went to rich investors, the major banks and corporations. The rich simply got richer. MMT advocates say it will simply redirect the money towards the poor, students, everyday Americans, people who need healthcare and childcare. It would basically be QE for the people, instead of the rich.

And it will go into the real economy, where it will boost productivity and finally give us significant growth.

When I first encountered these arguments, I knew they weren’t right. Both my gut feeling and my more rigorous approach to my own theory of money told me MMT was wrong. But I must admit, their arguments were more difficult to answer than I expected. I had a tough time uncovering the logical flaws.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The End of Trust

The End of Trust

I worry about America. When I was young, despite all its problems, America was greater than life, always beaming with optimism with a vision of a better future always ahead. Now that I’m getting older I’m very much unsure. Maybe I now know so much more than when I was younger, that is highly likely, but I’m not blind to seeing the changes over the past few decades.

When does a civilization recognize that it is in decline? When does it realize that its best days are behind it? It’s probably a much easier question to answer for historians with the benefit of a historical record and viewed through the lens of time, but much harder, if not impossible, for witnesses in the midst of history unfolding.

I ask these questions because it is hard not to worry about the state of the US or Western democracies in general these days. From my perch we are witnessing the end of trust, trust in government, trust in fairness, trust in each other. It’s not something that’s suddenly evolved, it’s been coming for a long time, but perhaps we’re just approaching peak realization. 50% of eligible voters already don’t vote in US presidential elections, they have no sense of stake or trust in the outcome. Nepotism and corruption appear rife in aspects of government and general success in life. I could list a myriad of examples, you can as well. The recent corruption scandal in college admissions being the latest example of many confirming an already prevailing sense that the world is rigged. Politics are getting ever more polarized and a common reality seems increasingly out of reach. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Faith No More: America’s Trust in Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom

Faith No More: America’s Trust in Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom

Faith No More: America’s Trust in Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom

Gone are the days when US consumers looked to the nightly news and print media as a trusted source of information, and especially if they hold conservative views, according to a new poll by the Columbia Journalism Review.

Things are going from bad to worse for the US legacy media as its trust credentials have reached an all-time new low, as if that were possible. It has even achieved a lower trust rating than lawyers and members of Congress.

The introduction to the CJR poll provided the following ominous opening: “For decades, we’ve known that Americans don’t trust the press. What we haven’t known is how people view the makings of journalism, from the use of fact checkers and anonymous sources to the question of whether money skews journalistic decision-making. This new national poll for CJR answers those questions, and points to how big the trust gap remains.”

Indeed, the cynicism on the street should have every mainstream media purveyor in a state of absolute panic.

In one particular finding, it was revealed that many news consumers believe that reporters, seemingly in an effort to push forward with a political agenda, are too quick to run with a story before knowing all of the facts. This has never been more true before than in the Trump era where anything goes, so long as it trashes conservatives.
 
We have just witnessed ample proof of that media tendency in several high-profile cases. This week, attorneys for Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages for negligence.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

MSM Begs For Trust After Buzzfeed Debacle

MSM Begs For Trust After Buzzfeed Debacle

Following what the Washington Post has described as “the highest-profile misstep yet for a news organization during a period of heightened and intense scrutiny of the press,” mass media representatives are now flailing desperately for an argument as to why people should continue to place their trust in mainstream news outlets.

On Thursday Buzzfeed News delivered the latest “bombshell” Russiagate report to fizzle within 24 hours of its publication, a pattern that is now so consistent that I’ve personally made a practice of declining to comment on such stories until a day or two after their release. “BOOM!” tweets were issued by #Resistance pundits on Twitter, “If true this means X, Y and Z” bloviations were made on mass media punditry panels, and for about 20 hours Russiagaters everywhere were riding the high of their lives, giddy with the news that President Trump had committed an impeachable felony by ordering Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump office tower in Moscow, a proposal which died within weeks and the Kremlin never touched.

There was reason enough already for any reasonable person to refrain from frenzied celebration, including the fact that the story’s two authors, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, were giving the press two very different accounts of the information they’d based it on, with Cormier telling CNN that he had not personally seen the evidence underlying his report and Leopold telling MSNBC that he had. Both Leopold and Cormier, for the record, have already previously suffered a Russiagate faceplantwith the clickbait viral story that Russia had financed the 2016 election, burying the fact that it was a Russian election.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trust Is Failing on Both Sides of the Pond

Trust Is Failing on Both Sides of the Pond

Trust Is Failing on Both Sides of the Pond

I’ve been warning for a while now that we are pushing towards an inflection point in history.  With each passing week it feels like events are accelerating as change to the status quo is everywhere.

In Europe, the EU leadership and Theresa May are so desperate to stop Brexit they can’t stop lying about everything.  In one day we have May’s government found in contempt of Parliament for not releasing the full legal advice of her Brexit deal and the European Court of Justice pronounce that the U.K. can unilaterally cancel Brexit if they want to.

They are this desperate because there is a real probability of May’s horrific deal not getting the thumbs up from parliament. That said, the arm-twisting behind the scenes is likely epic as one by one May’s remaining cabinet members come out in favor of the deal because they see they have no other option.

At the same time France is literally on fire thanks to a good ol’ fashioned tax revolt, which reviled, unprepared and arrogant President Emmanuel Macron cannot fathom.  Macron’s handling of these protests has been abysmal, displaying a level of contempt for the French people so profound he may wind up more hated in the end than Theresa May.

Both of these odious people make no bones about their real loyalties and the more they talk, the more they try to sell their latest betrayal of national interests for Brussels’ the more the intensity of the hatred of them increases.

This is not a linear thing.  It’s the kind of situation that goes from murmurs and shrugs to outright violence in a matter of days.

Especially when you come out and tell the very nationalistic French people that nationalism is akin to evil.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Chuck Todd Blames Fox For Press Distrust, Urges Liberal Media To ‘Rise Up’

In what we initially assumed was a satire piece, NBC News’ ‘fair and balanced’political chief Chuck Todd has taken to the auspiciously open-minded pages of The Atlantic to pen an op-ed  explaining how we’ve all got it all wrong – it is Fox News’ Roger Ailes who is to blame for press distrust and in fact, it is time for the mainstream liberal media to ‘rise up’ and defend their work.

Presented with no comment (but some emphasis), here is Chuck Todd explaining that “It’s time for the press to stop complaining… and start fighting back.”

Via The Atlantic,

A nearly 50-year campaign of vilification, inspired by Fox News’s Roger Ailes, has left many Americans distrustful of media outlets. Now, journalists need to speak up for their work.

I’ve devoted much of my professional life to the study of political campaigns, not as a historian or an academic but as a reporter and an analyst. I thought I’d seen it all, from the bizarre upset that handed a professional wrestler the governorship of Minnesota to the California recall that gave us the Governator to candidates who die but stay on the ballot and win.

But there’s a new kind of campaign underway, one that most of my colleagues and I have never publicly reported on, never fully analyzed, and never fully acknowledged: the campaign to destroy the legitimacy of the American news media.

Bashing the media for political gain isn’t new, and neither is manipulating the media to support or oppose a cause. These practices are at least as old as the Gutenberg press. But antipathy toward the media right now has risen to a level I’ve never personally experienced before. The closest parallel in recent American history is the hostility to reporters in the segregated South in the 1950s and ’60s.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Facebook’s Secret “User-Reputation Score” Exposed

In a hideous reflection of China’s already-prevalent ‘Social Credit’ systemwhich is a rating assigned to each citizen based on government data regarding their economic and social statusThe Washington Post reports that Facebook has begun to assign its users a reputation score, predicting their trustworthiness on a scale from zero to one.

Under the guise of its effort to combat ‘fake news’, WaPo notes (citing an interview with Tessa Lyons, the product manager who is in charge of fighting misinformation) that the previously unreported ratings system, which Facebook has developed over the last year, has evolved to include measuring the credibility of users to help identify malicious actors.

Users’ trustworthiness score between zero and one isn’t meant to be an absolute indicator of a person’s credibility, Lyons told the publication, nor is there is a single unified reputation score that users are assigned.

“One of the signals we use is how people interact with articles,” Lyons said in a follow-up email.

“For example, if someone previously gave us feedback that an article was false and the article was confirmed false by a fact-checker, then we might weight that person’s future false news feedback more than someone who indiscriminately provides false news feedback on lots of articles, including ones that end up being rated as true.”

The score is one measurement among thousands of behavioral clues that Facebook now takes into account as it seeks to understand risk.

“I like to make the joke that, if people only reported things that were [actually] false, this job would be so easy!” said Lyons in the interview. “People often report things that they just disagree with.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How To Beat A Manipulator

How To Beat A Manipulator

I’ve been busy working through some of my own stuff lately, while marveling at how closely my personal journey has been mirrored in the larger world. I wrote out the following as a personal exercise while meditating on all the similarities between abusive personal relationships with manipulators and our relationship as a species with the sociopathic plutocrats who rule us. I got a lot out of writing it, and it came out relatively readable, so I figured I’d publish it as-is in case anyone else finds it useful too. Here ya go!

~

Humans are hackable. Ask any conman. Our desire to think we have control over our lives often hides this from ourselves, but most of us are highly suggestible and hypnotizable. If you think you’re not, you’re in more danger of being hacked than someone who has humbled themselves enough to see how this works in them.

There’s no need to be ashamed of being conned. Realizing that you’ve been, or are being, conned will naturally bring up feelings of embarrassment, but it’s never your fault that someone’s taken you for a ride. Get clear: conning someone is the crime; being conned is being a victim of that crime. That’s how the law sees it in fraud cases. Manipulators would love you to think that it’s your fault for allowing yourself to be manipulated, but that’s just another manipulation isn’t it?

Manipulators use one of our most astounding, useful, and beautiful human characteristics when they con us — empathy. Our innately trusting nature is the reason why we’ve been able to collaborate on large scales to create and innovate in extraordinary ways unseen anywhere else in the animal kingdom.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Artificial intelligence, fake images and crumbling trust in our narratives

Artificial intelligence, fake images and crumbling trust in our narratives

In a piece I wrote in 2014 I opined, “If you want to corrupt a people, corrupt the language.” I added, “Once it becomes impossible to say the truth with the language we have, it will ultimately be impossible for us to adapt and survive.”

In that piece I was complaining about what I dubbed “oil Newspeak,” an Orwellian lexicon created by the oil industry to deceive policymakers, investors and the public.

Of course, back then I concerned myself only with words. But with the increasing power of artificial intelligence (AI) enhanced software which is now available to average computer users, practically anyone can alter and/or create images and audio recordings that seem real, but which are entirely concocted. It means that comedian Richard Pryor’s famous line—”Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”—may very well morph from a joke into a serious question.

Humans understand the world by narrating it. Our narratives are always approximations of reality; we cannot know objectively our reality because we are inside of it and limited in the scope and modes of our perceptions—modes that are shaped by evolution to help us survive, but not necessarily plumb the depths of the universe.

Still, those narratives must be reasonable approximations of the dangers and opportunities we face or they will lead us in the wrong direction. Words can be powerful and images even more so. The power of the iconic is so great that it can easily bypass our logic and slip directly into our minds.

Draftsmen, painters and sculptors have long created images for us to dwell on, many of them filled with mythic animals, immortal beings and historical and non-historical personages.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

SELCO: The Importance of Friends and Family When the SHTF

SELCO: The Importance of Friends and Family When the SHTF

In one of the previous articles, I mentioned how to deal with people who might show up on your doorstep once when SHTF, looking for help from you. And I mentioned that a lot of people worry about the fact that their friends and family will be among those people.

The topic that cannot be separated from that is trust, and it is something to think about (and write) here.

Friends and family in the world today

I was talking a few days ago with a friend about the issue of friends and family when SHTF. I realized that some 15 years ago if something serious happened, some event that needed a strong group of bonded people in order to overcome that event (riots, serious weather event, disruption of law and order, war…) I could count probably on 15 people I really trusted, organizing together with me in a very short period of time.

Today if something serious happened, I can count maybe on 5 or 6 people.

I am talking about the number of people that I can trust with my life in a strong core group.

That count includes all of my friends and family. Only 5 or 6 would be trusted enough.

And you need to know that I live in a region of the world where family connections are traditionally very important.

So yes, things are very bad, even here.

We are living in the world where, intentionally or not, we are being pushed or dragged into a reality where materialistic goods are the only thing that is important.

Or to use philosophic words, it has become more important “to have, not to be.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s What We’ve Lost in the Past Decade

Here’s What We’ve Lost in the Past Decade

The confidence and hubris of those directing the rest of us to race off the cliff while they watch from a safe distance is off the charts.

The past decade of “recovery” and “growth” has actually been a decade of catastrophic losses for our society and nation. Here’s a short list of what we’ve lost:

1. Functioning markets. Free markets discover price and assess risk. What passes for markets now are little more than signaling devices to convince us the economy is doing spectacularly well. It is doing spectacularly well, but only for the top .1% of 1% and the class of managerial/technocrat flunkies and apologists who serve the interests of the top .1%.

2. Genuine Virtue. Parading around a slogan or online accusation, “liking” others in whatever echo-chamber tribe the virtue-signaler is seeking validation in, and other cost-free gestures–now signals virtue. Genuine virtue–sacrificing the support of one’s tribe for principles that require skin in the game–has disappeared from the public sphere and the culture.

3. Civility. As Scientific American reported in its February issue (The Tribalism of Truth), the incentive structure of largely digital “tribes” rewards the most virulent, the most outrageous, the least reasonable and the most vindictive of the tribe with “likes” while offering little to no encouragement of restraint, caution, learning rather than shouting, etc.

The cost of gaining tribal encouragement is essentially zero, while the risk of ostracism from the tribe is high. In a society with so few positive social structures, the self-referentially toxic digital tribe may be the primary social structure for atomized “consumers” in a dysfunctional system dominated by a rigged “market” and a central state that no longer needs the consent of the governed.

Common ground, civility, the willingness to listen and learn–all lost.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Our Institutions Are Failing

Our Institutions Are Failing

Our institutional failure reminds me of the phantom legions of Rome’s final days.

The mainstream media and its well-paid army of “authorities” / pundits would have us believe the decline in our collective trust in our institutions is the result of fake news, i.e. false narratives and data presented as factual.

If only we could rid ourselves of fake news, all would be well, as our institutions are working just fine.

This mainstream narrative is itself false: our institutions are failing, and the cause isn’t fake news or Russian hacking–the cause is insider plundering and collusion, aided and abetted by a decline in transparency and accountability and the institutionalization of incompetence.

In other words, the citizenry’s trust in institutions is declining because the failure of institutions is undeniably the fabric of everyday life in America.

When was the last time you heard the top management of a university system take responsibility for the unprecedented rise in the cost of tuition and textbooks? The short answer is “never.” The insiders benefiting from the higher-education cartel’s relentless exploitation of students and their families act as if the soaring costs are akin to cosmic radiation, a force of nature that they are powerless to control.

The same can be said of every other cartel plundering the nation: healthcare (i.e. sickcare, because profits swell from managing chronic illness, not from advancing health); the Big Pharma cartel; the military-industrial complex; banking; student loans; the governance-lobbying cartels; the war-on-drugs gulag, the FBI and so on in an endless profusion of insiders whose self-serving plunder and gross incompetence rarely generates consequences (such as being fired or indicted) due to an absence of accountability and transparency.

Incompetence has been institutionalized, and is now the accepted norm.Schools fail, municipal agencies fail, oversight agencies fail, state agencies fail, and the public feels powerless to effect any systemic change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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