Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Elections and Expansion of Power

"And, when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, all the laws being flat?"
--Sir Thomas More (A Man for All Seasons)

Increasingly, presidential elections in America throw groups who supported the losing candidate into panic. The panic includes pointing fingers. The president elect is a marxist or fascist. People who voted for him are uninformed or just plain idiots. The election system is rigged or unfair.

An interesting thing about this phenomenon is that it is bipartisan. For example, eight (and four) years ago, Republicans went into hysteria when Barack Obama was elected. Today, it is Democrats' turn as Donald Trump prepares to take the reigns. Complaints only arise when their side loses.

One way to explain this behavior is that it aligns with social identity theory and the psychology of losing. People tend to identify with groups--sometimes very strongly. They can develop such an psychologically vested interest in their group being superior that, when their group loses or is put down, they cope with cognitive dissonance by blaming others.

Another way to explain it is that there is true reason to be terrified. Today's US president holds far more discretionary power than our founding ancestors intended. That may be ok with you if the person in charge shares your values. But if a sitting president does not like you or the group you belong to, then the nation's chief executive is in a position to trample your rights with, borrowing from the current administration's stated approach to lawlessness, with the stroke of a pen or a phone call.

The anti-federalists foresaw this situation long ago. Marry discretionary rule with democratic election processes, and you were likely to see at some point just what we're living through today.

But the proper source of blame isn't the other guy. It is with us when we support discretionary expansion of presidential powers when it suits our interests. Because, at some point, that discretionary power quite likely will be wielded by someone we don't like and who doesn't like us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Making America Great Again

We, so tired of all the darkness in our lives
With no more angry words to say can come alive
Get into a car and drive
To the other side
--Joe Jackson

President elect Donald Trump's campaign slogan was 'Make America Great Again.' Of course, countries such as the US are merely collections of people. It is people living inside of countries who can act in great ways.

It is true, however, that capacity for greatness is influenced by a country's environment. For example, how a country's various legal and economic institutions are structured can place a wind at peoples' backs or in their faces on the path toward greatness.

Perhaps a more appropriate campaign slogan would have been 'Make America's Environment More Capable of Facilitating Greatness.' Unfortunately, it's not very catchy.

The most significant factor that influences a country's environment for facilitating greatness involves the extent to which its people are free. Free people can exercise their God-given right to peacefully pursue their interests. When people can freely act, great things happen.

Unfortunately, policies enacted during past administrations have made us less free. Moreover, many of Trump's campaign planks, such as protectionist trade policy and government funded infrastructure projects, serve as powerful headwinds that stall great endeavors.

It is reversing such policies, i.e., removing government force from the system, that is critical to an environment that promotes greatness.

Ron Paul suggests that ending the 100+ year dominance of the Federal Reserve over monetary policy is vital in this regard. The Fed's fiat monetary policies have destroyed the purchasing power of our currency and unnaturally tilted the scales toward more economic inequality.

During his campaign, Trump indicated that he is aware of these problems to some degree. It remains to be seen, of course, if he is serious about acting on them.

By removing government force from the monetary system, people can freely decide on things such as what constitutes effective money and how much borrowing should cost.

Ron Paul is correct. Monetary freedom lines the path toward greatness.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Of Clothes and Cake

"Sorry, the bar is closed."
--Bartender at fashion show (Bright Lights, Big City)

Thought similar after hearing news this past weekend that prominent fashion designers are refusing to outfit Melania Trump for the presidential inauguration. If bakers can be forced to serve particular customers, then why can't fashion designers?

When freedom of association, which includes the right to discriminate, is taken away, then intolerance of any sort is illegal.

Pretty sure Ms Trump will be able to make do without the presidential clothiers, though.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Real Fakes

"A journalist makes himself the hero of the story. A reporter is only a witness."
--Jim Cleary (Deadline U.S.A.)

In a timely follow up on yesterday's post, Glenn Greenwald dissects the Washington Post's shoddy work in their reporting on venues deemed to be 'fake news' outlets. As noted yesterday, it could hardly be more ironic that an outlet whose product is consistently slanted is accusing others of reporting 'fake news.'

The longer WaPo and other mainstream media sources cling to such absurd threads, the more likely it is that their brands will lose any equity that they have left.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fake News

"Just what do you want from me? Permission to be a fake? Stop whining."
--Jane Craig (Broadcast News)

One of the amusing outcomes of progressive hysteria over the election of Donald Trump is the left's rally around the narrative of 'fake news' and how it contributed to Trump's win and/or Hillary Clinton's loss. In this context, fake news is misinformation that is presented in a format that resembles mainstream news sources--particularly web-based sources. Because it looks like news, it is taken by gullible consumers of information to be true even though it is false.

The situation could hardly be more ironic. Mainstream media sources such as the New York Times and the Washington Post--venues whose content was so slanted during the presidential campaign that it could well have pushed voters away from Clinton and toward Trump in the name of procedural fairness--are now accusing alternative outlets of being illegitimate.

It gets even weirder. Mainstream outlets are now crossing the fake news concept with the narrative that Russia was the primary driver of election-related fake news as was able to bamboozle hundreds of websites to serve as propaganda machines for Mother Russia. A couple of the names appearing on such lists, btw, are,, and, of course,

Such absurdity suggests that the noise associated with post election cognitive dissonance may be reaching a crescendo.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Using The Cyber

Ellsworth Toohey: Mr Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me in any words you wish.
Howard Roark: But I don't think of you.
--The Fountainhead

Jeff Tucker notes one encouraging practice of president-elect Trump thus far: his preference for speaking directly thru new technology media channels rather than indirectly thru traditional media outlets and 'journalists.' Trump has been doing more communicating thru YouTube and Twitter than thru newspapers, television networks, et al.

Yes, Trump is prone to bluntness and gaffs. But it should be obvious by now that the only people who mind this approach are intelligentsia and #NeverTrump types.

Trumps use of 'the cyber' bypasses the establishment to deliver messages to people in a manner that reduces possibility for media filtering and slant. This is refreshing and liberating.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

I, Turkey Day

Neal Page: He say's we're going the wrong way
Del Griffith: Oh, he's drunk. How does he know where we're going?"
--Planes, Trains & Automobiles

In a holiday-inspired homage to Leonard Read's classic "I, Pencil," this article sketches the complexity behind the supply chain that brings us Thanksgiving dinner. No planner could put such a progression together--much less describe it accurately.

Another demonstration of the miracle of spontaneous order that occurs when people voluntarily cooperate through production and exchange.

Indeed, our founding ancestors learned this the hard way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Technical Pattern

Where are you going to
What are you gonna do
Do you think that it will be easy
Do you think that it will be pleasin'
--Steve Miller Band

With the Dow crossing 19K post-election, a new bullish technical pattern has been proposed:

Seems fitting, given the times. Unfortunately, long bond yields exhibit a similar 'USA' pattern.

At least one of them is unlikely to last.

position in SPX

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Monkey in the Wrench

Hans Gruber: Who are you then?
John McClane: Just the fly in the ointment, Hans. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass.
--Die Hard

All three major equity indexes closed yesterday at all time highs. The wind is at the backs of the bulls for a year end surge.

One fly in the ointment is the Trannies which have yet to confirm the new highs in the Industrials.

While new highs for the group are a day or two's worth of rally away, the nonconfirmation constitutes one cause for pause--however small.

position in SPX

Monday, November 21, 2016

Not Free Trade

I'm sailing away
Set an open course for the virgin sea
I've got to be free
Free to face the life that's ahead of me

Article provides evidence of just how far away the US is from the 'free trade' country that many presume. When all regulatory constraints are considered, the US is one of the most trade restrictive counties in the world.

As noted in previous posts, free trade requires no treaties or 'deals.' No signed documents among bureaucrats are necessary to motivate people to trade with each other in order to better their circumstances.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Unity After the Vote

He say, I know you, you know me
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Come together, right now
Over me
--The Beatles

The motto of the United States is e pluribus unum, Latin for 'from many, one.' Established in 1776, the same year as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the motto's context tells us that the meaning does not imply surrendering oneself under penalty of force for some kind of greater good. Rather, it means voluntary cooperation in order to advance one's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

When people act with discretion with respect to how much cooperation they will engage in, individuals are free to disagree and not go along with the crowd as long as they do not trample the rights of others--many of which were enumerated in the Constitution.

The same idea applies to post election unity. It is sometimes said that, once the process of an election is completed, it is time for people to accept the results and come together in unity in order to move forward. Not only does this fly in the face of human nature, particularly for those on the losing side of the vote, but it also challenges the unalienable right to pursue one's interests limited only by the restrain of not forcibly invading the interests of others in the process.

In fact, one can argue that our founding ancestors made it as difficult as possible for the central government to be unified. Their designs specifying differences in how officials were chosen for various branches of the federal government (House, Senate, President, Supreme Court) exemplify the framers' intent to discourage political unity.

Unity is not a condition under which representative should expect to govern. If government seeks unity by force, then expect more rather than less divisiveness.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Social Networks and Election Hysteria

I wanna know what you're thinking
There are some things you can't hide
I wanna know what you're feeling
Tell me what's on your mind
--Information Society

Some have theorized that the hysteria on display following the presidential election, particularly among anti Trump types, demonstrates that extensive social networking can prompt many people to create virtual realities that are difficult to shed if facts that challenge their personal worlds intervene. Such individuals cope with election-related cognitive dissonance by retreating further into the comfort of the world defined by their social network connections.

A competing but not altogether unrelated theory is that people with extensive social network connections are too tightly coupled to their environments. In the social networking context, tight coupling can make it more difficult to think for oneself because of constant exposure to the thoughts of others. Time and attention that can be allocated to personal matters offline is reduced. Highly networked individuals are more subject to influence and control by others.

Tightly coupled individuals respond to every little stimuli--even those that do not demand response--thereby making highly networked types prone to overreact to their environments.

Because of its capacity to 'overconnect' individuals to their environments, social networking can be viewed as potential source of instability--one that is potentially maladaptive in nature.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Internal Improvements

In violent times
You shouldn't have to sell your soul
In black and white
They really, really ought to know
--Tears For Fears

A great hypocrisy of American politics involves mainline Republicans who decry socialist policies of Democrats while applauding large infrastructure spending projects funded by the federal government. Currently GOP applause is directed toward Donald Trump's proposal to spend $1 trillion to build/rebuild roads, bridges, etc.

Republican love of infrastructure projects has a long history. A central plank of the Whig Party's American System in the early 1800s was federally funded 'internal improvements'--roads, bridges, canals, dams, et al.--primarily for benefit of northern industry. When the Whigs morphed into the Republican Party in the 1850s, it was Abraham Lincoln who helped institutionalize the internal improvement notion into the GOP playbook.

Funding infrastructure projects by forcibly taking property from some for the benefit of others, even if those others are euphemized as 'the greater good,' is consummate socialism.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Leaks and Elections

Sybilla: What will become of us?
Balian of Ibelin: The world will decide. The world always decides.
--Kingdom of Heaven

Ron Paul echos something I've been thinking--that the most significant thing to come out of this election cycle from a process standpoint is the contribution of Wikileaks. Wikileaks, of course, is just a clearing house for information. The suppliers of that information, the real leakers, are the ones that deserve the credit for getting information being suppressed by governments to its rightful place: into the hands of the people.

Wikileaks' slogan is "we open governments." Very appropriate. Government secrecy compromises freedom. It compromises safety as well. Government secrets create foundations for aggression and war.

As implied by the Wikileaks slogan, the fewer the secrets, the more open the government. The more open the government, the greater the liberty.

Because government can only create information if it commandeers resources from people to do so, then it is the people who are the rightful owners of that information. It is their property. They have just claim to see it.

Once they have it hand, then people are capable of making more informed decisions in, for example, elections.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dollar Rally

We're talkin' 'bout the dollar bill
Now what are we all to do
When the money's got a hold on you
--Simply Red

The US dollar has been rallying on the back of last week's election results. Some high profile investors, such as Stan Druckenmiller, have voiced their bullishness about the dollar's prospects post-election.

A long term chart shows the Dollar Index doing work at the nice round resistance level of 100 with a nice multi-year cup-and-handle pattern in the backdrop. Should it break out, the USD has considerable room to run.

Conventional wisdom suggests that a strong dollar is bearish for gold, although there have been extended periods where such a negative correlation is not apparent. Moreover, central bank money printing worldwide is likely to make all historical relationships involving fiat currency less reliable predictors in the present environment.

Would think that we are likely to start hearing complaints from domestically headquartered companies that the strong dollar is hurting their ability to trade with other countries.

position in gold 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Will of the People

Kreese: What's the matter? The boy can't take care of his own problems?
Myagi: One to one problem, yes. FIVE to one problem, too much ask anyone.
--The Karate Kid

It is often said that results from democratic election processes constitute 'the will of the people.' No. More accurately, democratically derived election results can be said to reflect the will of some group--usually a majority faction--of people.

In societies governed by discretionary rule rather than the rule of law, election results confer a license to the majority faction to impose their collective will on the minority faction. Because of the stakes involved, factions become desperate to achieve majority status and maintain it.

Only systems grounded in the rule of law impairs the will of any group of people to be imposed on others via democratic election process.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Global Bond Route

It ain't no use
We're headed for disaster
Our minds say no
But our hearts were talkin' faster
--Donnie Iris

Bonds still getting pounded with Ten Year yields up almost 20% in less than a week. Sovereign debt worldwide has joined the route.

Heard some talking heads this morning trying to drink the bond bloodbath pretty--e.g., rising yields signal optimism about global growth. Look at the Dow, they argue. It's hitting all time highs...

Don't drink that kool-aid. Although near term stochastics suggest the sell-off may be due for a breather, a secular trend higher in rates will eventually crush leveraged economies and markets.

position in SPX

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Post Election Cognitive Dissonance

"This is a pleasant fiction."
--Lucilla (Gladiator)

Cognitive dissonance is mental stress driven by the holding of contradictory beliefs or thoughts, or by the appearance of new information that conflicts with existing beliefs or values. While cognitive dissonance can be resolved in the direction of moving toward truth, it often drives people in the opposite direction--toward rationalizing false beliefs and/or continuing (perhaps even escalatinge) failing courses of action.

Stated differently, cognitive dissonance helps shape the psychology of false beliefs and denial.

Scott Adams suggests that last week's election results have unleashed a enormous wave of cognitive dissonance among anti-Trumpers. He suggests that those protesting Trump's victory are struggling with a state of mental stress that is characteristic of cognitive dissonance. The pathology was as follows:

1) They believe they are smart and well-informed.

2) Their smart, well-informed judgment told them that Trump was obviously a terrible candidate for president.

3) Half the voters, which includes smart and well-informed people, voted for Trump anyway.

Because these 'facts' can't be reconciled in the minds of anti-Trumpers, something has to give in order to cope with the mental stress. Two possibilities for interpreting reality follow. One is to accept that, if a large portion of the voting public does not see Trump as a terrible candidate for president, then perhaps he isn't. Of course, doing so would conflict with 1) and 2) above--i.e., that the individual is smart and well-informed and correctly identified Trump as a terrible candidate. The negative psychic income involved with this resolution is too great for many to bear.

Seeking an alternative that takes less psychic toll, anti-Trumpers are likely to head down path number two. Post-election anti-Trumpers stay committed to 1) and 2) and modify 3). They rationalize that those who voted for Trump know he was a terrible candidate and prefer terrible. Moreover, Trump supporters can't be smart and well-informed.

In the anti-Trump hallucination, the KKK, neo-nazis, xenophobes, bigots, et al are not nutty fringe groups but appear center stage as general symbols of all Trump supporters.

That Trump supporters include many smart and well-informed people who are capable of rendering good collective judgment is unfathomable to people who can't imagine a world in which their personal powers of perception could be so wrong.

To reconcile their world, anti-Trumpers have to imagine Trump supporters as defective in some moral or cognitive way.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Executive Power

"And, when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?"
--Sir Thomas More (A Man for All Seasons)

Part of the post-election hysteria engulfing the Left can be interpreted as fear of the power that Donald Trump will be able to wield as president. Such a threat is very real. And, as Glenn Greenwald observes, the vast power that the president currently holds is something that the Left has facilitated.

As administrations before him have done, President Obama has extended his authority far beyond its constitutional limits. While they complained about executive overreach when President Bush was in office, Democrats were fine with such lawlessness when their party held the office.

As these pages have warned, when discretionary rule replaces rule of law, sooner or later you will be in trouble when your guy is replaced by someone with a different view of the world.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Illusion of Accuracy

The spheres are in commotion
The elements in harmony
She blinded me with science!
And hit me with technology
--Thomas Dolby

After the 1992 presidential election results came in, I remember my company's former CQO telling me that the accuracy with which the polls forecasted the election results spoke to the power of statistical sampling in estimating outcomes for a population. Seemed reasonable to a rookie like me back then.

Were I to respond to his assertion today, I would say that there is more to predicting outcomes from human subjects than a reasonable sampling plan--which is no small task in and of itself. How the questions are asked also makes a difference. For example, ex ante questions such as "Who do you plan to vote for?" has a different response profile than "Who will you vote for?" as does "Who did you vote for?" ex post.

Another issue involves the difference between what people say they will do and what they actually do. Survey respondents might say they will vote for one candidate, but actually vote for another. Or perhaps they don't vote at all. People might indicate that they do not plan to vote but subsequently head to polls and vote--perhaps for the candidate deemed least likely by other survey responses.

The +/- X% 'margin of error' numbers provided by pollsters provide an illusion of accuracy when underlying methodologies fail to compensate for the true sources of error in survey research.

This is precisely what we saw in the run up to election day. People blindly hanging their hats on forecasts provided by pollsters who offered the illusion of accuracy when, in reality and with notable exceptions, the polling methods generated estimates that were spectacularly wrong.

Why the error among pollsters was so skewed in one direction (which, fittingly, is known as 'bias' in survey research) is a subject for another day.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New New Deal Rally

I was dreamin' when I wrote this
Forgive me if I go astray
But when I woke up this morning
Coulda sworn it was Judgment Day

Would be remiss if we didn't recount the tremendous amount of market movement since election night. When the tables began to turn in favor of Trump on Tuesday nite, futures markets immediately fell out of bed. The Dow was down nearly 1000 pts and many markets were 'limit down' at about -5%.

However, when Trump spoke after the election had been called about getting the economy going again via government 'investments,' markets began trimming their losses. By the time the opening bell rang yesterday morning, equities were in the green and didn't look back. The Dow lifted 300 pts and finished with in spitting distance of all time highs.

What happened? Beyond the maniacal behavior of traders seeing themselves caught on the wrong side of 'common wisdom' about the election, a primary factor in the move higher is hope that Trump will drive the investment in infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy. Banks, retail, healthcare, heavy equipment, et al. Many stocks in these sectors are closing in on 10% gains since Tuesday's close. A New New Deal rally

As we know, the prospect of more stimulus peps up addicted markets.

Unfortunately bonds didn't play along. As stocks partied higher yesterday, Treasuries were crushed. Ten year yields are now north of 2%--a place they haven't been in nearly a year.

Why the selling? Government stimulus projects need to be paid for. Bond markets are beginning to discount how much Treasury debt will be required to fund these projects. Interest rates are being remarked to reflect higher borrowing costs.

If govvies continue to get splattered, then it is only a matter of time before bond yields stop the New New Deal stock rally in its tracks.

positions in gold, SPX

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump's Turn

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
--The Byrds

The swing felt similar to twelve years ago. As initial results began to trickle in on election night in 2004, polls and pundits were firmly in John Kerry's camp. A few early states were called in his favor. Prediction markets, as I recall, assigned a 90%+ probability of a Kerry victory.

I decided to go for a late evening jog. As my feet crunched leaves on the sidewalk beneath the streetlights, I remember thinking that Bush will need to pack his bags soon.

By the time I had returned, however, the entire race had flipped. W had unexpectedly won a couple of blue and battleground states, and the incoming vote tallies suggested that Bush's election night momentum was building.

I went to my computer to check out the prediction markets. The Bush and Kerry contracts had essentially traded places. It was now the Bush contract that was valued at 90%.

Just like that.

Last night Donald Trump was elected president of the United States with much the same election night dynamic. Polls, prediction markets, and pundits overwhelmingly favored a Hillary Clinton victory. Early election results did not offer much encouragement for Trump supporters. For example, in my home county considered central to 'battleground' Ohio, initial counts of early voter ballots spotted Hillary a 20% lead.

However, as ballots from Eastern Time Zone polls were being tallied, it became evident that support for Clinton in crucial states was weaker than expected. In fact, Trump was amassing sizable leads in many of these states.

Prediction markets and other odds-making sites such as the NYT forecasting site began to flip dramatically, with Trump moving from 20 to 50 to 70 percent odds of winning within a couple of hours-leaving many commentators flabbergasted. By the time battleground states such as North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida began to be called for Trump, his chances of winning had increased to 75 - 90%.

Trump subsequently crossed the 270 electoral vote mark early Wednesday morning.

Just like that.

How did all of the prognosticators get it so wrong? That question will occupy analysts for some time. My sense is that, similar to 2004, the "had enough" factor was significant. Many people have had enough with status quo politics, and they view Donald Trump as an outsider, albeit a 'wildcard' one, with capacity to make change.

Many onlookers also perceived a lack of procedural fairness in how Trump was being treated by the media et al during the course of the campaign. At some point those onlookers had enough of the biased treatment and acted at the ballot box to express their displeasure.

The "had enough" factor brought people out of the woodwork to vote for Trump who otherwise would not have. Pollsters did not adequately account for this factor in their models.

Trump's entire campaign, including his dramatic turnaround on election night, will go down as one of the biggest stories (and case studies) in modern American politics. Where his term as president goes may be as unpredictable as was his path to the White House.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Get Out and Vote?

"It is a kingdom of conscience, or nothing."
--Balian of Ibelin (Kingdom of Heaven)

"Get out and vote." The mantra reaches a crescendo on election day. Since childhood, we are told that because we live in a democracy, voting is our civic duty. Ballots cast reflect 'the will of the people.' And that voting processes grounded in the democratic principle of 'majority rule' are ultimate expressions of freedom.

Perhaps it is the frequency with which these claims are drummed into our heads that causes us to generally accept them as is. However, people willing to don their critical thinking caps in search of truth of likely to conclude that some if not all stock claims underlying the "get out and vote" argument are contestable.

Let's consider one counterargument here.

The proper scope of government is to assist people in protecting their property (broadly construed) from aggression by others. When government oversteps its rightful boundaries by forcibly taking property from some for the benefit of others, then it becomes the aggressor.

When people vote for candidates or laws with demonstrated capacity for committing such aggression, then those voters become partners in crime. When they cast their ballots, those individuals are pulling levers of aggression. They become principals of violence who, by casting their ballots, are contracting with strong armed agents to do their bidding.

Under such circumstances, is there a case for casting a vote? If the situation involves voting for a candidate who sponsors less aggression than another candidate (i.e., the lesser of two evils), then the answer is no. Voting for a candidate who promises aggression against a minority of people is still employing offensive force. Greater good accounting does not suffice.

In some cases, however, it may be possible to vote for pushing government back toward its proper scope in a peaceful manner. Although they are rare, candidates occasionally surface with capacity to shrink government without side helpings of aggression. One can also vote against initiatives such tax levies in order to decrease the degree of forcible appropriation of property in the system.

Beyond those few cases of voting with peaceful profiles, "get out and vote" involves securing the services of political agents to act aggressively against others.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Evil Voting

"There will be a day when you will wish that you had done a little evil to do a greater good."
--Sybilla (Kingdom of Heaven)

The primary heuristic people seem to prefer when voting for president this time around is: vote for the lesser of two evils.

No big deal, some might say, that's how it nearly always is. Few candidates are perfect. Compromise is required.

If that has been the dominant mindset all along, then it should not be a surprise that we are where we are.

When you compromise with evil, you increase evil.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Comey Redux

I can't stand this indecision
Married with a lack of vision
Everybody wants to rule the world
--Tears for Fears

FBI Director James Comey sends another letter to congressional leaders saying investigation of Clinton emails show nothing new. Media of course takes this as clearing Clinton once again.

Certainly a plus for Clinton two days before Election Day.

However, Comey still faces problem of internal mutiny. There is also the investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Remember, Remember

"Truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into the mirror."
--V (V for Vendetta)

Lots of angst and finger pointing as election day approaches and likely to be more after Tues. As V reminds us on this Fifth of November, our government is only a reflection of its people.

Our dystopian problem does not rest with the other guy. The problem lies within.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Milgram's Obedience Experiments

Male student: I'm getting a little tired of this.
Dr Peter Venkman: You volunteered, didn't you? We're paying you, aren't we?
Male student: Yeah, but I didn't know that you were gonna be giving me electric shocks! What are you trying to prove here, anyway?
Dr Peter Venkman: I'm studying the effect of negative reinforcement on ESP ability.
Male student: Effect? I'll tell you what the effect is. It's pissing me off!

In the early 1960s, social psychologist Stanley Milgram of Yale University ran a series of famous experiments aimed at studying 'destructive obedience.' The gist of the experiments (Milgram, 1963) was that most subjects would deliver excruciating electric shocks, perhaps even sometimes debilitating or lethal, to innocent people when the experimenter told them to do so.

When subsequently explaining his findings in the popular press, Milgram (1973) suggested that one reason why people go along with malevolent authority is that they feel arrogant, uncoorperative, and rude if they do not obey. Commitment to politeness overwhelms commitment to basic moral decency.

Milgram's research helps explain the political correctness movement, unwillingness to testify, party loyalty under conditions of political corruption, and other collectivist phenomena.


Milgram, S. (1963). "Behavioral study of obedience." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4): 371-378.

Milgram, S. "The perils of obedience." Harper's, December, 1973, pp. 68-77.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Clinton Foundation Investigation

Always slipping from my hands
Sand's a time of its own
Take your seaside arms and write the next line
Oh, I want the truth to be known
--Spandau Ballet

Multiple sources are reporting that the real elephant in the room for Hillary Clinton is the FBI investigation into possible improprieties of the Clinton Foundation. This investigation is separate from but related to the Bureau's investigation into Clinton's email improprieties while secretary of state.

Momentum of the Clinton Foundation investigation is building due to the Wikileaks publication of thousands of hacked emails including those from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, and possibility of new evidence found on on Anthony Weiner's laptop.

The primary focus of the investigation is the possibility of 'pay-for-play'--i.e., donors such as foreign dignitaries paying the Foundation in exchange for inner access to US foreign policy information and favors via Clinton's State Dept. Stated differently, the investigation is trying to determine whether Hillary Clinton put US foreign affairs on sale.

Sources suggest that evidence that implicates the Clinton Foundation is mounting at a rapid pace and that, barring obstruction from, for example, Obama's Dept of Justice, that an indictment is likely pending.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Early Voting

"Appeal to their emotions. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them mad, even if they get mad at you. But for heaven's sake, don't try to improve their minds."
--Jack Burden (All the King's Men)

For the past few weeks my Twitter feed has been sprinkled with paid messages from Hillary Clinton to vote early. It is one thing for a person to decide to vote early and another thing for a candidate to advise it.

A person might vote early for various reasons. A schedule conflict on election day. Not wanting to deal with the possibility of standing in line to cast a ballot. Dislike of the polls that troll outside voting places.

The primary risk of voting early, however, is that individuals cast their ballots before all the information is in. New information could turn up that might alter voting decisions. Unfortunately, this new information can't be put to use by early voters because their ballots have already been submitted.

But why would a candidate advise people to vote early? Wouldn't a candidate want voters to weigh all information that comes in right up until election day in order to make the most informed choice?

I can think of at least two reasons why candidates would want people to cast their votes early. The first reason is that the candidate has an early lead in the polls and wants to preserve that lead by locking in supporting votes as quickly as possible. Not only does the leading candidate collect those votes, but polls that report early voting trends that favor the candidate might lead to subsequent bandwagon effects that a) push undecided votes toward the leader, or b) discourage those who might vote for opposing candidates in doing so.

The other reason is that a candidate fears that information might emerge between now and election day that paints the candidate in an unfavorable light. Better to lock in voters now before they might possibly change their minds in lieu of potentially damaging information. Grab those voters while the getting is good.

Interestingly enough, Google Trends indicates that the search phrase 'change early vote' has been trending since news broke late last week of the reopening of the FBI's case against candidate Clinton.

Candidates who seek support from the most informed voters possible are unlikely to advise people to vote early.