As I blogged yesterday, the claim that Assad ordered a chemical attack on his own people in the past week doesn’t pass my sniff test. For Assad to order a gas attack now – while his side is finally winning – he would have to be willing to risk his life and his regime for no real military advantage. I’m not buying that.
But let’s say the world believes Assad or a rogue general under his command gassed his own people. What’s an American President to do? If Trump does nothing, he appears weak, and it invites mischief from other countries. But if he launches 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military air base base within a few days, which he did, the U.S. gets several benefits at low cost:
1. President Trump just solved for the allegation that he is Putin’s puppet. He doesn’t look like Putin’s puppet today. And that was Trump’s biggest problem, which made it America’s problem too. No one wants a president who is under a cloud of suspicion about Russian influence.
2. President Trump solved (partly) for the allegation that he is incompetent. You can hate this military action, but even Trump’s critics will call it measured and rational. Like it or not, President Trump’s credibility is likely to rise because of this, if not his popularity. Successful military action does that for presidents.
3. President Trump just set the table for his conversations with China about North Korea. Does China doubt Trump will take care of the problem in China’s own backyard if they don’t take care of it themselves? That negotiation just got easier.
4. Iran might be feeling a bit more flexible when it’s time to talk about their nuclear program.
5. Trump’s plan of a Syrian Safe Zone requires dominating the Syrian Air Force for security. That just got easier.
6. After ISIS is sufficiently beaten-back, the Syrian government will need to negotiate with the remaining entities in Syria to form a lasting peace of some sort that keeps would-be refugees in place. Syria’s government just got more flexible. It probably wants to keep the rest of its military.
7. Israel is safer whenever an adversary’s air power is degraded.
On the risk side of the equation, we have the possibility of getting into war with Russia. I’d put those odds at roughly zero in this case because obviously the U.S. warned Russia about the attack. That means we knew their reaction before we attacked. And it was a measured response of the type Putin probably respects. I expect Russia to complain a lot but continue to partner with the U.S. against ISIS.
If it turns out that the sarin gas attack that sparked this military action didn’t come from Assad, it doesn’t much matter. President Trump will bank all of the benefits above even if the attack turns out to be a hoax. We know Assad had some chemical weapons at one point, and probably used them. No one will be crying for Assad if the attack was unnecessary. And realistically, the public will never be 100% sure who was behind the attack.
I doubt this is the first step in a larger plan for war to depose Assad. But if Assad thinks it might be, we have a stronger position over there.
I’m not pro-war, so this military action alarms me the same way it alarms most people. But objectively speaking, the risk-reward ratio for this attack on Syria’s air field was exceptionally good. You rarely see so many benefits arise from one limited military action.
I thought President Trump would hold off on military action in the service of regime change. That still seems to be the case. But once our intelligence services traced the plane that allegedly dropped the gas back to a specific air base, it opened the option that Trump took. I didn’t realize that our military knows what every aircraft in Syria is doing at all times. That’s impressive, bordering on hard-to-believe.
You might enjoy reading my book because that’s the kind of person you are.
The reason the Assad government would bomb its own people with a nerve agent right now is obvious. Syrian President Assad – who has been fighting for his life for several years, and is only lately feeling safer – suddenly decided to commit suicide-by-Trump. Because the best way to make that happen is to commit a war crime against your own people in exactly the way that would force President Trump to respond or else suffer humiliation at the hands of the mainstream media.
And how about those pictures coming in about the tragedy. Lots of visual imagery. Dead babies. It is almost as if someone designed this “tragedy” to be camera-ready for President Trump’s consumption. It pushed every one of his buttons. Hard. And right when things in Syria were heading in a positive direction.
Super-powerful visual persuasion designed for Trump in particular.
Suspiciously well-documented event for a place with no real press.
No motive for Assad to use gas to kill a few dozen people at the cost of his entire regime. It wouldn’t be a popular move with Putin either.
The type of attack no U.S. president can ignore and come away intact.
A setup that looks suspiciously similar to the false WMD stories that sparked the Iraq war.
I’m going to call bullshit on the gas attack. It’s too “on-the-nose,” as Hollywood script-writers sometimes say, meaning a little too perfect to be natural. This has the look of a manufactured event.
My guess is that President Trump knows this smells fishy, but he has to talk tough anyway. However, keep in mind that he has made a brand out of not discussing military options. He likes to keep people guessing. He reminded us of that again yesterday, in case we forgot.
So how does a Master Persuader respond to a fake war crime?
He does it with a fake response, if he’s smart.
Watch now as the world tries to guess where Trump is moving military assets, and what he might do to respond. The longer he drags things out, the less power the story will have on the public. We’ll be wondering for weeks when those bombs will start hitting Damascus, and Trump will continue to remind us that he doesn’t talk about military options.
Then he waits for something bad to happen to Assad’s family, or his generals, in the normal course of chaos over there. When that happens on its own, the media will wonder if it was Trump sending a strong message to Assad in a measured way. Confirmation bias will do the rest.
There is also a non-zero chance that Putin just asked Assad to frame one of his less-effective Syrian generals for going rogue with chemical weapons, and executing him just to calm things down.
I don’t think we’ll ever know what’s going on over there. But I think we can rule out the idea that Assad decided to commit suicide-by-Trump.
You might enjoy reading my book because of all the reasons.
A few days ago, Mike Cernovich broke the news that ex-Obama advisor Susan Rice had asked for the identities of Americans caught up in electronic surveillance of foreigners, including some Trump associates. After Mike broke the story, the big news organizations followed. I asked my well-informed Trump-hating friend what he thought of the story.
He said he hadn’t heard of it.
I was surprised. It was the headline news. While we were on the phone, he checked CNN’s website on his computer and informed me that no such story existed. In his words, it was probably “fake news” that he assumed I saw “on Breitbart” or some other site he considers below his standard of news excellence.
So I asked him to navigate over to Business Insider (partly owned by Jeff Bezos) to see if the story was there. And sure enough, it was. Prominently. My friend read the story and agreed it should have been covered on CNN as well.
That’s when I had the entertaining experience of explaining to my friend that his news habit of relying on CNN and the New York Times made him more of a victim of manipulation than a consumer of news. I explained that unless he is sampling stories from both sides (left and right), he is being completely misled by one of the sides. Both sides get the facts right, usually, and eventually. The manipulation comes in the form of what they emphasize and what they deemphasize. CNN apparently decided that the Susan Rice story was not important news. Coincidentally, this particular news also made them look like ridiculous turds for mocking the Trump “wiretapping” claim non-stop as a sign of the president’s character and perhaps his sanity.
We don’t know all the facts yet, but we do know that Trump’s claim of being “wiretapped” by Obama is starting to look dangerously close to something similar to the truth. CNN did not see that coming, and it would be awkward to walk-back all of their mocking. So they just sort of ignored it.
A few days after the event, when I assumed CNN had caught up to the pack, I Googled “Susan Rice” to update myself on the story before writing this blog post. CNN’s top story on Susan Rice is from 2012. See it at the bottom.
Anyway, my point today is about Susan Rice’s unusual wording in denying any leaking of the Trump surveillance information. She said, “I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would.”
When I learned to be a hypnotist, my instructor taught the class that some types of verbal slips are actually a message of honesty from the subconscious. Rice’s odd wording leaves open the possibility that she leaked SOMETHING to someone. To a hypnotist, Rice’s choice of words would be regarded as an unintentional confession of leaking.
To be perfectly clear, I have no science to back this point. And I assume some hypnotists would see it differently. But I have been tracking this sort of verbal slip for decades, and I find it surprisingly predictive.
The example our hypnosis teacher used in class is that when you are on a first date with a woman, and she intends to say, “I’m famished,” but uses the wrong word and says, “I’m ravished” instead, she is signalling an interest in sex. I didn’t believe that was true until a woman mixed-up those two words on a date with me. That date worked out well.
I don’t know if Susan Rice is being honest in her denial of leaking. But if I had to bet, I’d go with my training.
You might enjoy reading my book because sometimes you are famished and sometimes ravished.
Was President Trump’s first attempt at getting a healthcare bill a failure?
Your answer to that question probably depends on whether you are a goals-thinker or a systems-thinker.
If you see the world in terms of goals, you would say the healthcare bill did not get enough votes on the first try, and therefore it is clearly a Trump/Ryan failure.
But if you see the world in terms of systems, things look a lot better. I talk about the advantages of systems over goals in my book. The quick summary is that a system is something you do on a regular basis that improves your odds of success in a non-specific way. Systems-thinkers choose paths that allow them to come out ahead in the long run even if they appear to be “failing” along the way.
For example, if you are a founder of a startup that doesn’t work out, you usually end up with new skills. Maybe you also gain new contacts in the industry, more insight into the market, and that sort of thing. Those new assets make your odds of success on the next startup far better.
College students are systems-people. They go to class and study every day without knowing precisely where their careers will lead them. All they know is that a college degree gives them more options and better odds of success. That’s a good system.
I’ve blogged about my main system in life that involves building my Talent Stack. I figure out which skills I need to add to the ones I already have to make myself unique and valuable in the marketplace. For example, right now I’m building out my skillset for livestreaming over Periscope and YouTube. That skill goes well with my blogging. I don’t know exactly where that all ends up, but I know my options will increase with my Talent Stack.
With that bit of background on systems, let’s get back to healthcare. As a systems-thinker, I don’t see the first attempt at a GOP healthcare bill as a failure. I see it as part of Trump’s normal systems-thinking approach. The tell for a good system is that failure puts you AHEAD. And that’s exactly what happened.
By the way, I told you during the campaign that one of Trump’s signature moves is creating two ways to win and no way to lose. He did that again with healthcare. Here were his two ways to win:
1. Healthcare bill gets passed on the first try. Trump looks like an effective leader. The details of the bill get improved over time.
2. The healthcare bill does NOT pass on the first try. This softens up the far right by branding them villains. Now they have to compromise on the next bill or watch as centrist Democrats enter the conversation. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on Obamacare, and the conditions for compromise are IMPROVING EVERY MINUTE. That’s what the Master Persuader tells us happens when you “walk away from the table” like you mean it. Trump just walked away from the table to go work on tax reform. If you watch his Twitter feed, you know he is winking at the public and telling us to stay tuned on healthcare.
Meanwhile, a fascinating thing is happening outside of government. Watch how many private citizens are looking into the details of healthcare reform and even proposing their own solutions on blogs and articles. The nation is engaged on the topic in a way that looks like a self-organizing system. All the public needs is some sort of common website that is designed to discuss the pros and cons of the various ideas in plain language so the best ones can bubble up to the top.
I’ve blogged before that the United States is no longer strictly a Republic. Social media creates a direct-democracy option in the sense that public opinion can be so strong that politicians have to bend to it. But social media only has power if it can focus on something specific. Until the public comes up with its own healthcare plan, social media is powerless.
But consider our unique situation. As far as we citizens can tell, Congress is no longer functional for any issue that has as many lobbyists as the healthcare topic. They can’t get it done on their own. Too many industry-created roadblocks.
Social media, and the weight of public opinion, could overcome any roadblocks in Congress by making it impossible for politicians to get reelected if they ignore the public’s preferred plan. But the public has no preferred plan. There is only public confusion about the options.
As a citizen, I call upon the Trump administration to help the public create a system to sort out the best healthcare options for the country, free from the pressure of lobbyists. Just tell us which website to look at, and we’ll do the rest. When we (collectively) have a good set of proposals (let’s say three different plans), Congress can turn them into bills and vote. If the public takes sides with one of the bills, that helps to neuter the lobbyists. Lobbyists know politicians need to get reelected. And that means lobbyists are helpless when the public and the politicians are on the same side.
I don’t like living in the “can’t do” country. If Congress can’t get healthcare fixed, the public appears ready and willing to fill the gap. All we need is a preferred website to focus that energy.
Better yet, let’s see the debate on healthcare as a limited engagement reality TV show. Bring on the experts on each mini-topic (such as selling insurance across state lines) and have them try to convince a panel of business-expert judges that their plan is the best.
I’d watch it.
You might enjoy reading my book because it talks about systems being better than goals.
I don’t know much about Congress, and all its arcane rules, but I think the process for creating a healthcare bill goes something like this:
Congress asks lobbyists to write a bill that is good for the healthcare industry and bad for the American public.
The bill fails because Congress is neither credible nor functional. But the public doesn’t care too much about the failed bill because it wasn’t for their benefit anyway.
With our current system (a Republic), that’s as good as we can do in 2017. The politicians need money to stay in office, and this is how they earn it – by selling out their constituencies.
But the days of the Republic are over. Social media is now the dominant force in politics. The people rule, but only when they have focus. Unfortunately, the people don’t have expertise in healthcare, and they don’t have a plan of their own. So they can’t focus on anything useful.
Can that be fixed?
Surely, some private citizen or group of citizens has the necessary expertise to come up with a bipartisan healthcare bill. Maybe it could even be explained in plain language so voters can understand it. And maybe it can be online so critics can weigh in with counterpoints and supporting links, so the plan improves over time.
I’m sure there are conservative think tanks with ideas, and liberal think tanks with ideas. I don’t want to hear any of them. If I can identify the authors with a political side, the plan has no credibility.
What we need is a healthcare plan that has an unknown creator, ala bitcoin. We need both sides of the political debate to see the plan as neither left nor right, but rather something supported by data, and perhaps by the case histories of other countries.
Give me a plan I can understand, that is backed by data, not written by the healthcare industry, and not identifiable as right-leaning or left-leaning, and I’ll help sell it.
Let me give you an example of what some of that might look like. This is just a thought experiment, not a suggestion.
Suppose President Trump declared Detroit (for example) a special Healthcare Economic Zone. The Zone would feature:
1. Free healthcare for everyone in the zone, paid by the healthcare industry itself because…
2. The zone would be a test bed for new technologies and new systems. That means some extra risk for the patients, but not much.
For example, let’s say IBM wanted to test its Watson computer to diagnose patients. The rules in the zone would say IBM has to provide real doctors to confirm every diagnosis until Watson can outperform humans. So a patient might need to spend twice as long at the doctor’s office, but in return, he gets free healthcare, and potentially better medical treatment than anywhere else in the world.
The zone could have a special FDA fast-track for approving the things that are somewhat obviously safe(ish) but would normally take years to work through the system. Here I am not talking about internal medicine, just external medical devices. For example, if someone invents a handheld CAT scan device, we probably know enough about how to make that safe without a full FDA process. The fast-track stuff would be limited to the easy decisions. The questionable stuff would still take the long, safe route.
Now, what happens in Detroit if everyone has free healthcare? I think it would attract businesses that want to save money on providing healthcare to employees. And the medical industry itself would bring lots of jobs into the area. If you give me some robots, and some human employees who don’t need me to pay for their healthcare, I’ll build my medical device factory in Detroit instead of contracting with China.
The things we learn from the special Healthcare Economic Zones would spread to the rest of the country and provide practical models for what works best.
We can have more than one special Healthcare Economic Zone. Each one would teach us something different. For example, one zone might focus on technologies and systems that dramatically lower the cost of medical care. The stuff that works can spread to the rest of the world and lower the cost of healthcare everywhere.
The idea of Healthcare Economic Zones isn’t mine, by the way. I heard it from one of the smartest people on the planet. (He’s the one sitting to the left of the actual smartest person on the planet.) But don’t blame him if I interpreted the idea wrong in this blog post. I probably missed some important points, but I think you get the idea.
Waiting for Congress to fix healthcare seems like a fool’s dream. It is obvious that they don’t have the tools to do that. But nothing is stopping citizens from proposing their own ideas and using social media to pound it through the system.
My other idea for fixing healthcare is to tie it to term limits. I’d like to see Congress play chicken with itself and pass a bill that says term limits go into effect if they don’t pass a viable healthcare bill by some future date. That would get their attention. It won’t get us a good healthcare bill because lobbyists are writing the bills, and Congress isn’t functional. But at least voters would get revenge on their representatives for betraying them when no bill is passed. That’s not nothing.
Today we are witnessing one of the most important events in political history. But you probably can’t see it because the news is talking about healthcare, and how Ryan and Trump totally failed to get enough votes.
The real story is happening in parallel with the healthcare story, and that’s what renders it invisible. Something enormous is happening that has nothing to do with anything you are seeing in the news. In fact, you’ll probably read it here for the first time.
I’m dragging this out to see if you can guess the big news before I tell you. It is something I predicted would happen. It is something the country needs MORE than healthcare. It was, until yesterday, perceived as the biggest problem in the United States, if not the entire world.
And that problem almost totally went away yesterday. The smell might linger, but the problem has ended. We should be celebrating, but instead we will be yammering about healthcare.
Do you know what problem just got solved? It’s invisible for now, but later everyone will be able to see it.
Don’t see it?
Okay, I’ll just tell you.
With the failure of the Ryan healthcare bill, the illusion of Trump-is-Hitler has been fully replaced with Trump-is-incompetent meme. Look for the new meme to dominate the news, probably through the summer. By year end, you will see a second turn, from incompetent to “Competent, but we don’t like it.”
I have been predicting this story arc for some time now. So far, we’re ahead of schedule.
In the 2D world, where everything is just the way it looks, and people are rational, Trump and Ryan failed to improve healthcare. But in the 3D world of persuasion, Trump just had one of the best days any president ever had: He got promoted from Hitler to incompetent. And that promotion effectively defused the Hitler-hallucination bomb that was engineered by the Clinton campaign.
In all seriousness, the Trump-is-Hitler illusion was the biggest problem in the country, and maybe the world. It was scaring people to the point of bad health. It made any kind of political conversation impossible. It turned neighbors and friends against each other in a way we have never before seen. It was inviting violence, political instability, and worse.
In my opinion, the Trump-is-Hitler hallucination was the biggest short-term problem facing the country. Congress just solved for it, albeit unintentionally. Watch the opposition news abandon the Trump-is-scary concept to get all over the “incompetent” theme.
No one wants an incompetent president, but calling the other side a bunch of bumblers is routine politics. We just went from an extraordinary risk (Trump=Hitler) to ordinary politics (The other side=incompetent). Ordinary politics won’t spark a revolution or make you punch a coworker. This is a good day for all of us. It just doesn’t look that way because the news is distracting you with the healthcare issue, which is also important, but a full level down in importance from electing Hitler (in your mind).
Speaking of healthcare, I predicted on Periscope here several days ago that the only way to get a bill passed was to let Ryan fail hard on the first attempt while scaring the left at the same time. That softens both sides to the middle. There was literally no other path to the middle. You couldn’t get there without the first step being a major failure by the majority party. This necessary step toward success is, of course, being reported as total failure.
Today I’m getting a lot of what I call the “November 7th effect.” That’s where my critics are prematurely celebrating my wrongness because the Ryan version of healthcare failed. I hope to see my critics again toward the end of the year. Don’t be strangers.
Update: Watch on Twitter as my critics come after me personally and ignore my points. That’s how you know I’m onto something. (Otherwise they would criticize the point.)
I worry that climate scientists think the skeptics are just dumb. I’m sure there are plenty of dumb people on every topic, but I’m here to suggest that the bigger problem might be a form of pattern recognition. I’ll take you through that thought.
I’ll start by displaying my own pattern-based starting point for the climate change issue. I don’t present my opinion as truth or fact. This is a description of my biases, a result of all the patterns I have observed over my lifetime. If you have observed different patterns, I would expect you to have different biases. Here’s a whiteboard graphic of my starting biases on climate change.
I’m not a scientist, but it seems to me that the chemistry and physics parts of climate science are probably pretty locked down. I give that stuff full credibility.
The measurements of temperature, ice, and sea levels over time are probably fairly good, but I observe disagreements among scientists on how best to measure. I’ll give the measurements an 85% credibility.
When it comes to the complex climate models, I’ve never seen a complex, iterative model – of the type that includes human assumptions and human measurements – reliably predict the future multiple years out. I don’t think it has ever been done, and perhaps it never will be. I give the complex climate models a 10% credibility rating. And I am only that generous because perhaps this is the exception to the pattern I observe that says complexity always hides the future, as opposed to predicting it.
This is a good time to remind you that I have neither the qualifications nor the time to evaluate the climate science models on my own. So I’m stuck with using pattern recognition – which is not science, and it is not reason. And my pattern recognizer says humans use complexity of this sort to hide the truth, not to reveal it. If scientists want to change my mind, they need to show me historical examples in which things “like this” did a good job of predicting the future. You have to work on my pattern memory to change my mind, not my knowledge of climate science.
The last box in my graph, the economic models, have no predictive power for this topic, or any other. Long term economic models are like astrology with good manners. I have a degree in economics, and an MBA, and I spent years in corporate America making financial projections. My experience tells me that the people creating the models can get any result they want. None of that looks like science to me. I give the economic models zero credibility, just like every other economic model that pretends to see the future.
When I talk to people who believe the climate change models and the economic models are accurate, I observe another pattern. The people who have the least real-world business experience think the experts probably know how to do this sort of thing. That observation might be nothing but confirmation bias on my part, but if you want to change my mind, that’s part of your challenge.
This brings us to the famous-but-questionable statistic that 98% of climate scientists have the same view. If you have a degree in art history, for example, you might find it compelling that so many scientific experts are on one side. How could so many experts be wrong??? But if you are a student of persuasion, as I am, you see a world in which mass delusion is the rule, not the exception.
Consider all the people who have a different religious belief than you. According to you, all of those people are living a mass delusion. Consider the people on the other side of the political divide from you; those people are in a mass delusion too. In fact, most of our experience of life is informed by one kind of mass delusion or another. So when I see a statistic that says 98% of experts are on the same side, based on climate and economic models, it could mean one of two things: 1) They are right, or 2) It is just another routine mass delusion, and one of many.
My point is that the 98% of scientists claim has a lot of persuasive power if you are not a trained persuader. But it means far less if you understand how common it is for smart people to be sharing a mass delusion. Remember that every religion and every political party has smart people in it. Being smart doesn’t protect you from delusions as much as you might think.
If you want to convince me that climate change is a clear and present danger, you need to change my biases on three things:
1. Convince me that complex models such as the climate science models have done good jobs in other fields in the past. And the examples have to involve human judgement in the inputs, and lots of iterations. And those models have to have succeeded in predicting the future five years out, or better. If such things exist in other fields, I can be persuaded that climate scientists can do it too. (No fair picking physics models. Those are not filled with human assumptions.)
2. Convince me that economic models of this complexity have done a good job predicting the future in other areas.
3. Erase my memory of all the times mass delusions looked totally real to smart people.
If you want to make me worry about climate change, working on my biases by changing my pattern memory has a better chance of persuading me than the current method of calling me an idiot.
You might enjoy reading my book because of all the reasons.
Last autumn, before the election, a writer for Bloomberg asked to spend a day with me to interview me for a feature piece about my blogging on Trump, and my life in general. I could tell from the initial conversation that it was going to be a hostile article. The reporter was open about being deeply frightened of Trump, believing him to be a racist, sexist, homophobic monster. So you can imagine how she felt about me for writing flattering blog posts about his persuasion talents.
I quickly determined that agreeing to the interview would be foolhardy. Obviously it was going to be a hit piece. The writer weakly tried to conceal that fact, but failed miserably.
If I agreed to the interview, I knew I would be making myself the target of ridicule and shame, baring my flaws to the world – both the real ones and the fake news ones. No rational person would agree to such an interview. It was a suicide mission.
So I agreed to the interview.
Regular readers know I don’t experience embarrassment like normal people. I just thought it would be funny to have them write about how wrong I was… just as the election was about to prove how right I was.
The day I agreed to the interview, I told my girlfriend Kristina that I was going to be the subject of a “hit piece” in Bloomberg. When the writer asked to speak to my brother, for background, I told him it was a hit piece, but I invited him to do it anyway, just for fun. Obviously, no sane person would agree to be interviewed for hit piece on his own family.
So my brother agreed to the interview.
We’ll have a good laugh about it later today. He got framed as a gullible idiot for “believing” something my mom told us when we were kids.
Check the article here and see if you can spot the fake news and the places where context has been tweaked to make things look both true and misleading at the same time. I’ll tell you what you missed, if anything, after you read it. Compare your impressions to my Fake News Report Card below.
1. The article and headline used my old phrasing “master wizard” instead of the updated “Master Persuader” that I used in 95% of my work. That was an intentional choice by the editor to create the KKK association in your mind, or at least to make it all seem silly.
2. The anecdote about me showing her a Victoria’s Secret Whencast that I made didn’t happen. One of the hundreds of public Whencasts on the site included that content, created by a woman. I might have opened that one along with others as different examples of what the software can do. By highlighting that one bit of fake news (saying I created it), and putting it in the context of my girlfriend being too young for me, it created a powerful and intentional creepy vibe.
3. Kristina doesn’t live with me. She was staying at my house temporarily while her place was having some repairs and upgrades.
4. When an article is intended to be favorable, you see photos that make me look relatively good, like this one, from Peter Duke:
When an article wants you to look bad to the reader, you see photos like this, from the Bloomberg article:
This is standard practice on both sides of the political spectrum. Publications pick the photos that tell their bias, not the story.
5. The headline suggests I am somehow, maybe, in favor of genocide. Obviously I’m not in favor of genocide, and the article later weakly explains that. But by then, the damage is done. Your brain is most influenced by what you read first, especially if it is in a headline.
6. The headline says Trump hypnotized me. I would accept that as a hypothesis, but the article doesn’t address the point at all. The implication is that I’m a gullible nut-job, as opposed to one of the few people who predicted Trump’s win and provided lots of cognitive-science-backed reasons for the prediction.
7. The article was initiated before the election, and was originally intended for publication about then. But a funny thing happened that ruined everything for Bloomberg. Trump won, and in so doing, he made me look like less of a nut. My accurate predictions, against all odds, would have been the headline in any article that wasn’t designed to be hostile.
8. To explain my Linguistic Kill Shot idea, the writer focused on the Carly Fiorina “look at that face” incident. She could have mentioned Lyin’ Ted, or Low Energy Bush, or Crooked Hillary. All stronger examples, but they don’t make me look like a sexist when the context is omitted. The Fiorina examples does.
9. The writer refers to my wide field of interests as “unusual fixations,” thus turning ordinary discussions of fitness and diet habits into something that sounds like a fetish.
10. Last year, the author of a book about seduction called The Game mailed me a copy of his book. This is common practice among authors. Sometimes it happens because an author thinks another author would be interested in the book. Sometimes an author hopes to get a public mention to boost sales. I have lots of unread books all over the house for this same reason. The Bloomberg writer focused on this one. The Pre-suasion book she mentions was also signed and sent to me by the author, for the same reason. But I read that one. (It’s great.)
You might recognize this book-related persuasion trick as the Mein Kampf play. If someone gives you a book that you didn’t ask for, somehow the book still explains your soul.
11. The writer asked me what would happen for me personally if Trump won. I talked about the good and the bad of it. She picked only the following words to make me look like a douche bag: “If Trump gets elected, my profile will go through the roof, because I’m in a very small group of people who publicly said he would win in a landslide. … I’ll be very popular,” he said, with satisfaction.”
Notice the three dots before “I’ll be very popular.” That is your signal for a manufactured quote. They assembled it from bits of what I said and left out the context that would have rendered it un-douche-baggy.
12. This quote is out of context: “In the kitchen, Adams installed three microwaves so he “can make a lot of popcorn at once.” The missing context is that I designed the house knowing that whoever makes the popcorn for the rest of the family misses the first part of the movie. Plus, the extra microwaves come in handy all the time. I use them at the same time quite often. How did that come out sounding nutty?
13. My girlfriend, Kristina, has an advanced degree from UC Berkeley, plays multiple instruments, has succeeded in several fields, and now has 3.3 million Instagram followers. The writer mentioned her bra size.
14. This quote was cobbled together to make me look like a racist and a sexist because I write about Trump. “Adams has said, his professional advancement was thwarted by diversity hires. ‘There was no hope for another generic white male to get promoted any time soon,’ he wrote in Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert. (Later in the book, he noted that his Dilbert TV show was canceled after ‘the network made a strategic decision to focus on shows with African-American actors.’)
Both events are true, but in the first case she left out the fact that my bosses told me in direct language that they couldn’t promote a white male. I didn’t imagine it. Likewise, the UPN network literally made the decision to focus on African-American viewers at that time. it wasn’t just my interpretation of events.
Here’s the problem with that sort of reporting out of context: I’m also the guy who thinks men should stay out of the abortion question and leave it to women to decide what should be legal. I also blogged about my ideas for slavery reparations. I also described myself to her as “ultra-liberal” on social issues, because I am. If you leave out that context, the anecdotes sound like an explanation for why I grew up to be so terrible.
15. The article quotes my friend and cartooning colleague Stephan Pastis as being appalled at my Trump support, and speculating that the reason might simply be that cartoonist crave attention.
Of course I crave attention. Plus, it’s my job. That part is not in dispute.
But I think Stephan’s quotes were from before Election Day, when people still thought I was nuts to predict a Trump win. Today, I think Stephan would add a second hypothesis: I did it because I thought I was right, and it seemed important to me to share with the world what I could see coming from a mile away.
Plus I crave attention. It was a twofer.
16. The writer badgered me on several occasions to make a comparison between Dogbert and Trump. I said Dogbert’s personality is based on my own dark inner thoughts and had nothing to do with Trump except they are both ambitious in the extreme. So she wrote this: “I’d thought the point of those strips was to laugh at Dogbert’s cruelty—not celebrate it. But Adams seemed elated by the triumph of a Dogbertesque president.” WTF?
That’s sixteen intentionally-biased or incorrect components in one story.
By the way, Bloomberg did have a third-party do fact-checking on the article by running a bunch of questions by me for verification. That is standard practice for the big publications. None of the things I mentioned here were in the fact checking. The fact-checkers don’t check the writer’s own eye-witness accounts for accuracy, and they don’t check for missing context.
When normal citizens read the news, they think it is mostly accurate. But when you are the subject of reporting, you can see the fake news all over it. I thought I would share this view with you so you can increase your skepticism when you see this sort of thing presented as truth.
Plus, I crave attention. I couldn’t solve healthcare funding without it, among other things. Attention is fun, but also a tool.
You might still wonder why I volunteered to be interviewed for a hit piece, aside from the attention thing. My brother just sent me a very short video clip of his first reaction when he opened the article to read it. I think this answers all of your questions.
You might enjoy my book because I crave attention.
Kids as young as eleven have smartphones. That situation won’t change.
A kid with a smartphone has access to any illegal drug in the world, as well as all the peer pressure in the world.
Pills are small, cheap, odorless, widely available, and nearly impossible for a parent to find in a bedroom search. When you have this situation, the next generation is lost.
That is our current situation.
To address the problem, you would need the phone companies to allow parents full access to all messages on a kid’s phone. And this feature should be mandatory, not optional. Parents need to see all messages, and all photos, from all apps.
The phone companies won’t make that capability widely available on their own because it would reduce their income. So the government needs to force phone companies to give parents that level of control to protect their kids. If you want to put a clamp on drug use, the only way is for parents to have full control of teen communications. Every message, every time. And it needs to be mandatory for anyone under 18.
I know what you are going to say. You’re going to say good parenting is all you need. But my observation is that no more than 20% of kids can be “parented” away from temptation. The other 80% are totally out of luck.
Today, you can limit a kid’s smartphone and Wifi use in a variety of ways. But if a teen has 1% freedom to contact anyone for anything, that’s all it takes.
My observation is that smartphones have made half of all adults mentally ill. I mean that literally, not figuratively. The business model of phones is addiction, not value. And they addict you at the expense of the things humans need in their lives to be happy and healthy.
Kids have it worse. They haven’t developed any natural defenses. They are pure victims.
Today I declare the phone companies to be enemies of the state. They are ruining everything you love, and everything you care about. And they are doing it right in front of you.
If this is not already obvious to you, it probably means you’re a smartphone addict. A normal person’s brain will spontaneously generate a protective illusion to support an addiction. If you see no problem with smartphones causing drug addiction in kids, or you think I am exaggerating, you’re probably in the illusion.
If the Trump administration were to regulate the mobile phone carriers to add mandatory child-monitoring of communications, perhaps we can save the next generation. The current generation of “digital natives” is already lost. The majority of the current generation of kids are doomed to be drug addicts, either legally or illegally.
And that’s on us.
I’m going to delete any comments that say good parenting is all you need. That opinion would not be worthy of this topic.
You might enjoy reading my book because of all the reasons.
Note: If you came here from Twitter, I use “kittens” as my code for climate science to thwart Twitter’s shadowban on my tweets.
You probably know that actor Leonardo DiCaprio is a climate activist, and he is trying to persuade the world that climate change is both real and serious. Someone asked me on Twitter what it would take for DiCaprio (for example) to persuade a person like me.
I’ll take a swing at that.
For starters, you must separate the questions of real and serious. The real part refers to the climate models. The serious part refers to economic models. Those are different topics.
If you want to convince me that climate change is real, the best approach is to abandon the current method that packages climate models in a fashion that is identical to well-known scams. (Or hoaxes, if you prefer.)
Let me say this doubly-clear. When I say climate models are packaged in a fashion that is identical to known scams, I am not saying they are scams. I’m saying they are packaged to look exactly like scams. There is no hope for credibility with that communication plan.
To make my point visual, imagine walking into your kitchen and finding an intruder wearing a ski mask and holding a gun. You assume this person is not your friendly neighbor because he is packaged exactly like an armed burglar. If you shoot that intruder, and it turns out to be your neighbor playing a prank, you probably won’t go to jail because it isn’t your fault. The problem was that your neighbor packaged himself to look exactly like an armed burglar.
Climate scientists tell us that there are hundreds of climate models, all somewhat different. I assume that most of them do a good job predicting the past (hindcasting) because otherwise they would not be models at all. Hindcasting is one minimum requirement for being a model in this field, I would assume.
Then science ignores the models that are too far off from observed temperatures as we proceed into the future and check the predictions against reality. Sometimes scientists also “tune” the models to hindcast better, meaning tweaking assumptions. As a non-scientists, I can’t judge whether or not the tuning and tweaking are valid from a scientific perspective. But I can judge that this pattern is identical to known scams. I described the known scams in this post.
And to my skeptical mind, it sounds fishy that there are dozens or more different climate models that are getting tuned to match observations. That doesn’t sound credible, even if it is logically and scientifically sound. I am not qualified to judge the logic or science. But I am left wondering why it has to sound exactly like a hoax if it isn’t one. Was there not a credible-sounding way to make the case?
Personally, I would find it compelling if science settled on one climate model (not dozens) and reported that it was accurate (enough), based on temperature observations, for the next five years. If they pull that off, they have my attention. But they will never convince me with multiple models. That just isn’t possible.
If climate scientists want their climate predictions to be believed, they need to vote on the best model, and stick with it for a few years. If they can’t do that, all I will see is lots of blind squirrels in a field of nuts. Some squirrels will accidentally find some nuts. But it won’t look like science to me because of the way it is packaged.
I do realize that picking one model as the “best” is not something science can do with comfort. It would feel dishonest, I assume, since they don’t know which one will perform best. But if science wants to be persuasive, they need to pick one model. And it needs to be accurate(ish) for the next five years. Nothing else would be persuasive to me.
On the second point, about how serious the alleged problem of climate change is, we have to rely not on scientists but on economists. And economists have zero credibility for long-term forecasts of that type. So the serious part is beyond the reach of persuasion. You can’t get there from here because economic models are no more credible than astrology.
By the way, my educational background is in economics and business. And for years, my corporate jobs involved making complex financial projections about budgets. In other words, I was perpetuating financial fraud within the company, by order of my boss. He told me to pretend my financial projections were real, and I did. But they were not real. My predictions were in line with whatever my boss told me they would be. I “tuned” my assumptions until I got my boss’s answer.
When I tell you it would be hard to convince me that a stranger’s economic model is credible, keep my experience in mind. I’ve seen lots of economic models. I’ve built economic models. In my experience, they are nothing but guesses, bias, and outright fraud.
The only way to convince me that climate change is bad for the economy is to wait until it starts breaking things. If I see it, and scientists agree I am seeing it, I might believe it. But long-term economic predictions can’t get me there.
I remind you that my topic is about persuasion, not the underlying truth of climate change. I don’t have access to the underlying truth because I am not a scientist working in the field. My information comes from strangers that tell me their interpretation of what the scientists are saying. I am as far from science as you can get.
The people who are hallucinating the hardest on this topic are the non-scientists who believe they have done a deep dive into the scientific papers and the climate models and arrived at a rational conclusion. The illusion here is that getting information from other humans is the same as “science.”
Another group of hallucinators believe that they can determine the scientific truth of climate change by counting the number of scientists on each side. But that ignores the fact that science often has the majority on the wrong side. That happens every time a new idea is starting to replace an old one. Darwin did not agree with the consensus when he introduced evolution. Einstein’s ideas were slow to catch on, etc.
When the majority of scientists are on one side, what matters most is the flow rate from one side to the other, not the raw numbers. I need to know which direction the scientists are moving. Are more climate scientists moving toward climate skepticism or away from it? Give me that data and I’ll have something useful. But counting the number on each side during one slice of time is meaningless for persuasion.
My point is that Leonardo DiCaprio would have a tough time persuading me that climate science is both real and serious. But it isn’t his fault, because science has packaged climate science to look like a hoax, and sent him out to sell it. I respect and admire DiCaprio for his heart on this matter, and his effort on behalf of the planet. But science has failed him by giving him hoax-looking sales collateral.
You might love my book because of reasons and other good things.
I’m testing a WhenHub visualization that is optimized for comics. Here are some of my Robots Read News comics that I thought worked best. For optimal viewing, click the icon in the lower right of the Whencast to view as a full page.
Obviously I could have pasted the comics directly to the blog page. But WhenHub adds a number of features that I don’t get on the blog. For example, as a reader you could use our cloning feature, edit out the comics you don’t like, and share as your own WhenCast on Facebook or anywhere else.
Think of a Whencast as a way of offering digital “shelf space” on a blog or media site. That shelf space can be managed by any trusted content provider. Any changes at the source will flow automatically to every page that has the embedded WhenCast.