Tag Archives: 45th President.

New House, New City, Nine Dots Prize, Global Challenges, and It’s That Man Again.

Solar Eclipse 2017 #4 by L3M35

I have been busy.

Recent events have included house moving and an un-winning of the Nine Dots Prize. Here in the USA, we’re all having a wonderful time care of Trump Enterprises and I suppose I should put in my pennyworth.

House moving

Every two years, we have moved. This time was from Daytona to St. Petersburg, Florida. This is a substantial improvement in the availability of culture and things to do. I will have to do without the Daytona Speedway, but I’ll manage.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge by Texx Smith

Sunshine Skyway Bridge by Texx Smith

A morning walk now has a view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, AKA the Scary Bridge, with its steep shoulders. Apparently, dolphins and manatees make an appearance by the dock, and I am getting to know the wading birds and fish who sometimes leap into the air.

St. Pete has all kinds of activities born of a diverse bunch of humans. Yesterday, I took my aged laptop to the mending shop. The proprietor had a back to me, so all I could see was a woman of a certain age with shoulder-length blond hair. When he turned around to talk with me, a bubble of laughter escaped me. She had the face, hands, and voice of a man and boobs.

Nine Dots Prize

I did not win: this fellow did. Good luck to him. There is more at TheBookseller.com should you need more information.

James WilliamsOxford student wins inaugural $100k Nine Dots Prize
Published May 30, 2017 by Natasha Onwuemezi
James Williams, a doctoral candidate researching design ethics at Oxford University and former Google employee, has won the inaugural $100,000 (£77,730) Nine Dots Prize.

I sulked for a day or so.

Luckily, I already had a replacement prize, and it was easy to act on my motto “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”. It helps that the prize is much better funded at $5million in prizes and $1m for the top prize. The competition is called The Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape. and is sponsored by The Global Challenges Foundation, founded by another Hungarian billionaire László Szombatfalvy.

This new project dovetails nicely into the overall H++ project. It diverted me from working on the theory side. In the nutshell, quite clearly, climate change is real, and mankind’s preparations for the problems it will bring is truly underwhelming. The Information Revolution has cut the connection between those with the resources to do something about it, and have proofed themselves against anything that may affect them personally, and the rest of humanity. The 99.99% are also not equally exposed: 10-year-old Amina in Sudan has the fear violence, famine, and suffers a lack of education which might have increased her horizons and her chances. Clair, another 10-year-old living in her brownstone in New York, New York is cossetted by her parents, a wealthy, concerned city and Michael Bloomberg who as mayor made progress proofing the city against extreme weather after Hurricane Sandy. The trick will be to reconnect the masses with the vast power of modern civilization and fix this. Things might turn out surprisingly well.

Trump, Trump, Trump

KKK in Charlottesville

KKK in Charlottesville

From the H++ perspective, the tale of the 45th President of these United States is informative and highly amusing. The US Congress seems to be competing with the Romanian oligarchy to prove who is most venal. The Republican Congress attempted to disband its Ethics Committee because presumably, it had no ethical standards to maintain. The Romanians tried to abolish corruption as a crime; again, presumably, it would be then known as business as usual.

Meanwhile, President Trump is well on the way to starting the second American Civil War. Some 80% of Republican voters would vote for him again. The legacy of the first American Civil War has broken loose, to become the disparate groupings of the Alt-Right. Luckily, Charlottesville was in late August, so the old ally of Law-and-Order, the weather will chill the rioting for now.


Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Solar eclipse 2017 by Wolfgang Strickling

Solar eclipse 2017 by Wolfgang Strickling

On Monday, Nature mounted the spectacle of a total eclipse. Most people who saw it were impressed. Even the news media stopped for the 2 minutes it took to happen.


Rex W. Tillerson - Davos 2009 - by Michael Wuertenberg

Rex W. Tillerson – Davos 2009 – by Michael Wuertenberg


Now, Hurricane Harvey is bearing down on Texas. Galveston is toast. I wonder how many CEOs of the oil concerns in Houston are at home today. According to a recent study from Harvard, 80% of internal documents in Exxon confirm that global warming is real, and 80% of their advertising describes global warming as a remote, unproven hypothesis, taking a leaf or two from the advertising created by the Mad Men claiming that cigarettes were good for your health.



The upbeat ending

Steven Pinker, psychologist, writer, and intelligent human, wrote a nice piece last year. He advises us not to be cynical, and use it as an excuse for inactivity, nor naively optimistic, which will only end in tears. Be rationally optimistic and recall the words of the Mahatma:

Be the change you wish to see in the world.


Coming soon: Eulogy for Steve, Prediction Watch starts with AI et al, the Accordion and Zydeco, Will You Kindly Stand Up.


The Decay of the Art of Lying

Portrait of Mark Twain ca. 1905 owned by the Mark Twain Library in Redding CT, by Terry Ballard

by Professor S. Clements, Chair of Ozology, Agloe, NY

Essay, for discussion, read at a meeting of the Skull and Bones Club of Haarvaard, Boston, Mass., and offered for the three hundred thousand dollar prize, now first published.  [1]

Obviously, lying isn’t dying out. Even the most cursory check by the most careless nincompoop will find that the universal custom of lying is alive and well. As the Sage of Calaveras County reminded us, “…the Lie, as a Virtue, a Principle, is eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man’s best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth ….” We are eternally indebted to the Sage’s profound insight and professional zeal.

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi

Since Twain’s times, mankind has been the soul of diligence and industry, developing ever more excellent ways to doublespeak, distort, hype, misinform, mislead, mis-speak, sex-up, spin, overstate, understate, puff, rationalize and economize/stretch/twist the truth, The Sage would marvel at the burgeoning of the humble telegraph: acquiring a voice with the telephone, taking flight as radio waves, fusing Greek with Latin in order to draw in pictures, all to provide more and better ways to inform the general public about winning jackpots, the best car deals, and elixirs still not subject to FDA approval. He would gawp at the industry – which would humble the builders of The Pyramids – which has gifted the common man with the tools for truth adjustment, with its crowning achievement: Facebook.

So, given this sublime pinnacle of endeavor, what have I to complain about? What is so special about our current times? Why is there “a decay in the art of lying?” It is simply this: No educated person, no one well-traveled and familiar with the finer things in life could “contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted.” Our age is now described as one of “post-truth.” Apparently, truth has been optimized and upgraded to lo-cal truthiness. The fiction that most of the time most people, politicians and car salesmen included, tell the truth is finally exposed as a callow fiction. Could this be true? Is this like the Space Race, some moment, some small step which has been set in history never to be repeated?

The Libration of Paris

The Libration of Paris

Now the children are abed, we can all agree: not in the least. The Lie is a Necessity, an Understanding, a Facilitation, a recreation and is Eternal; application does not wither her, nor custom stale. Many examples worthy of superlatives have slipped passed into dusty forgetfulness and as for truthiness, this too shall pass. After all, previous ages have gifted us such great legacies of lying. Who can forget the creativity evinced by Indulgences of the medieval church, the peace accords made with Native Americans, the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, the benefits of the British Empire, or De Gaulle’s liberation of Paris? And what of the good Doctor Goebbels, and his breathtaking achievements?

Has the use of the euphemism, the fig leaf of propriety, fallen from fashion? We have more than enough to cover the embarrassment of members of all parties, persuasions, and proclivities: you may “hike the Appalachian Trail”, “discuss Uganda”, adopt a “wide stance”, have the “utilizzatore finale”, “watch badgers”, “slip your moorings”, and although one may not have “inhaled” nor “had sex” the public feels she certainly swallowed.

Bernie Madoff, By U.S. Department of Justice

Bernie Madoff, By U.S. Department of Justice

The fecund field of finance has always been a profitable venue for lying. In recent years, it has benefited from scientific advances in confabulation, theprinciple being an arcane, redundant vocabulary which includes a lot of numbers and now mathematical inscriptions. This gives any fiduciary pronouncement an aura of science and certainty. Who can forget the masterpieces of Enron, Madoff’s marvels, or the creative opportunities offered by mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations? Nothing says a job well done than a $134.1 million golden parachute.

Science, the objective search to understand the universe and everything within it, has had its fair share of shady hypotheses: the four humors, the Martian canals, the racial inferiority of anyone not male, white, and educated at a fine university like this. Now science is big governance and big business, there is all the more reason to bend the rules, trim the results, overestimate a success. The title of a paper by John Ioannidis is suggestive: “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”. The central tenant of the scientific method is that “the facts, ma’am,” can be shown to be true by someone other than the proposer. That is reproducibility. Two papers studying reproducibility in psychology show that between a third and two-thirds are – how does one say – unproven, ranging from not wholly true to pure invention. It is worse in pharmaceuticals. Of the 74 antidepressants licensed by the FDA only 37 have positive clinical trials. Most (60%) new drugs licensed by the FDA do not have published clinical trials, at all. This opens the door to a wonderful new variant on the “silent lie” so prized by the Sage. Isn’t a relief to know that a member of the legal profession will be on hand should you be maimed or die as a result?

Tonkin Gulf incident

Tonkin Gulf incident

On the other hand, maybe some small step for mankind in the progress of lying has been achieved. Once, the explosive sinking of a warship and well timed news reportage could justify a war. Then it required two ships. Lately, inflation has set in, so a warship plus an embassy just didn’t do. It required a spectacular demolition to move the people onto a warlike footing, and, even then, it required a little bunk and hokum about yellow cake uranium to get the show on the road. Once this was achieved though, the people were touchingly believing in the President’s insistence that Saddam Hussein was an architect of 9/11. Neither did it seem strange that the incumbent President’s dad and Shafig bin Laden, brother of Osman, were together in New York on 9/10/2001. Do you believe Americans will support President Trump in his war? Would the generals be happy should he walk away from a NATO commitment to defend say Lithuania? I feel that we can no longer feel confident that a crisis containing the nuclear option would put the country on a war footing again, although no doubt our friends in the Kremlin would help if it were to their advantage. There is always the possibly of things going awry or valuable human beings like us being hurt.

Then there is the thrice-accursed Internet. Once, the wide spread dissemination of corrected news was limited to those with means and education. Everybody was entitled to their opinions, and we told them so, knowing that those opinions mattered little without ownership of at least a television station. Then the hippies struck. These wretches with their libertarian ideology created the Internet. The old expedient of looking at the letters to the editor is long gone. Ignoramuses, trolls, luddites and people of sense play as equals on the fracking field of the World Wide Web. It is also full of sink holes and silos from whence who-knows-what may erupt. Anybody can publish confabulated news and swing elections (so they say), and we can only shudder that possibilities which a world stage might be used by iron souled truth mongers.

Lying also seems to be in trouble when it comes to the fiction of politeness. Cowboys, samurai and Scottish highlanders were extremely polite. This is unsurprising when multiple means of ready death were easily available and those who might take insult well practiced in the use of those aforesaid means. Ladies who take tea were also carefully polite because of an iron etiquette and long memories. As Twain himself writes, “Is it justifiable? Most certainly. It is beautiful, it is noble. …they had a thousand pleasant ways of lying, that grew out of gentle impulses, and were a credit to their intelligence and an honor to their hearts. Let the particulars go.” Men, too, were courteous to a point although “Their mere howdy-do was a lie” and more likely meant “I wish you were with the cannibals and it was dinner time.” We are now thrust into a time when no political speech is complete without bleepable cuss words. Stupidity and cupidity are considered badges of virtue, much as, once upon a time, a holy man needs be filthy and wracked with fleas. The possibility looms that a viral video will become more influential than a White House briefing. Or worse, profitable agreements made by our kind of people may have to be shared. I’m aware of the efforts being made to tame this unruly sprawl, but we should ask how an elite can maintain its coherence and authenticity?

We now see the costs of allowing the art of lying to descend to such a level. A cost not measured by the trifles which inspire the common people – loyalty, country, community, and so on – but the only thing that counts, hard cash. Unshackled from truth, lies belong to anyone, and authenticity becomes as illusory as a quiet night out at a musical. But not all is lost and no doubt you are all aware of the challenges of the next four years. Indeed, I feel as the Sage did all those years ago, “like an old maid trying to teach nursery matters to the mothers in Israel.”  I think it only fit to finish as Twain did is his masterpiece “On the Decay of the Art of Lying”, “Joking aside, I think there is much need of wise examination into what sorts of lies are best and wholesomest to be indulged, seeing we must all lie and do all lie, and what sorts it may be best to avoid, and this is a thing which I feel I can confidently put into the hands of this experienced Club,–a ripe body, who may be termed, in this regard, and without undue flattery, Old Masters.”

[1] Took this pin money.


The Featured Image: Portrait of Mark Twain ca. 1905 owned by the Mark Twain Library in Redding CT, by Terry Ballard.

Silvio_Berlusconi_(2010), By Silvio_Berlusconi_(2010).jpg: www.la-moncloa.es derivative work: Off2riorob (Silvio_Berlusconi_(2010).jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The_Liberation_of_Paris%2C_25_-_26_August_1944_HU66477.jpg, See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

BernardMadoff.jpg, By U.S. Department of Justice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tonkin_Gulf_incident_track_chart_of_alleged_attacks_on_4_August_1964, By U.S. Navy. Post-work Cobatfor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons