Tag Archive | Scott Adams

Fake Accompli

I didn’t watch President Trump’s now-infamous Thursday press conference live. WBAL’s morning news said something about a meltdown, but I mostly pay attention to the weather, so I know what to wear on the bike. I did go to work curious enough about how Trump had handled the Flynn resignation to want to see the entire conference for myself.

When I walked upstairs for our Friday morning bagel and doughnut feed, I asked my office tennis buddy if he had seen the story on Eugenie Bouchard’s twitter date. He was too busy giggling and shaking his head over a video of the press conference on his iPad. He told me Trump was really crazy. A few minutes later another work buddy came over to my desk and asked me if I had seen the press conference. I told him I had a youtube link to watch over lunch. He said I had to watch it. It was great, he said, Trump really gave it to the press!

These are both bright guys, and I like them both. It wasn’t too surprising that they would disagree, but I was intrigued that they had vastly different takes on the same event. So I watched it over tea and a chocolate cake doughnut, and tried to keep an open mind.

I was waiting for him to pull out a pair of steel balls, but mostly saw Trump being Trump. He was lying here and blustering there, as always, but he wasn’t melting down. I don’t like the job he’s doing, but didn’t really blame him for calling out the press for attacking him. He’s threatening the established order – the Deep State – so of course the press is attacking him. And of course he’s going to play the victim.

At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf posted One Press Conference, Two Audiences, in which he claimed:

Viewers who watched it themselves saw a rambling, misleading performance. But those who relied on conservative cable newscasts or talk radio hosts got a very different impression.

But my friend saw it himself, and loved it. So I’m thinking Friedersdorf is engaged in wishful thinking.

Perhaps the divergent coverage of Thursday’s press conference helps to illustrate that a great many of those people aren’t seeing the same information as those who oppose Trump — they are being fed lies and untruths by coastal-dwelling millionaires like Hannity and Limbaugh; and they exist at a time when even more responsible right-leaning outlets that make up their information bubble are unlikely to target the lies they encounter, and in a culture where a columnist like Goodwin sees what’s going on and celebrates it as Trump playing the game well.

I think we’re getting a predictable amounf of slant from both sides. Scott Adams thinks different expectations lead to Imaginary News.

We live in our own personal movies. This is a perfect example. Millions of Americans looked at the same press conference and half of us came away thinking we saw an entirely different movie than the other half. Many of us saw Trump talking the way he normally does, and saying the things he normally says. Other people saw a raving lunatic, melting down.

Adams is pretty much on board with Trump, but I don’t think he’s wrong about the people or the news. As others have pointed out, the mainstream media used the term fake news to vilify news they couldn’t control, and now it can’t control that many people see it as little more than better-packaged fakery.


Thought Experiment

In The Elbonian Zombie Virus, Scott Adams asks what should happen if one percent of a given nationality of people, his cartoon Elbonians, were infected with a virus that turned them into zombie killers.

There is no cure for the Elbonian Zombie Virus. So what would world health organizations do?

For starters, they would quarantine the entire nation of Elbonia to limit the damage. This is obviously unfair to all uninfected Elbonians but it is also the only practical way to protect the rest of the world. Once the quarantine is in place, the professionals can get to work on a cure.

Now here’s the interesting part. What is the functional difference between the Elbonian Zombie Virus and radical islamic terrorism?

So, Adams established an analogy between a medical quarantine and Trump’s idea to keep Muslims out of America. I’m sure that will please Trump supporters, and doing so would probably reduce the number of Americans killed by Muslim terrorists, which is around three dozen per year. But it wouldn’t do anything about the three hundred other American deaths by non-Muslim terrorists. We’d also have to quarantine Christians, Jews, Sikhs and even atheists. So the Amish would be running things.

But let’s extend Scott’s thought experiment to other dangerous groups, for example, gun owners. Even though some talk about it first, no one knows for sure which gun owners will actually and suddenly start shooting innocent victims – or themselves. No one knows which gun owners will leave their weapons in reach of children. We don’t even know which police officers will start shooting innocent victims.

How would Adams’ approach work against firearms enthusiasts??

So what should world law enforcement organizations do?

For starters, they should quarantine gun owners to limit the damage. This is obviously unfair to all responsible gun owners but it is also the only practical way to protect the rest of the world. Once the quarantine is in place, the professionals can get to work on a cure.

Effectively ending the Second Amendment would not please Trump enthusiasts, but it would reduce the number of suicides, murders and accidental deaths that currently number about thirty-two thousand per year. It would also reduce the eighty-five thousand non-fatal gun injuries every year.

In other words, discriminating against gun owners would save far more lives and makes just as much sense as discriminating against Muslims – which makes no sense at all.

TSV Missiles

Have you ever heard of TOW missiles?  They are a cheap but deadly anti-tank missile. Do you know what TOW stands for? Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided. The operator fires the missile, then keeps his sight on the target even if it moves, and wires send signals from the sight to the missile as it rockets towards the target.

Have you ever heard of TSV missiles? Of course not, I just made that up. It stands for Trump-launched, Socially-guided, Voter-impacted. I got the idea from yet another Scott Adams blog post on Trump being a Master Persuader, an expert in autosuggestion, a combination of salesman and hypnotist as described by Émile Coué or Norman Vincent Peale.

Adams thinks that Trump calling out Hillary Clinton for having no stamina is a, “linguistic kill shot.”

The best Trump kill shots have the following qualities.

1. Fresh word that is not generally used in politics

2. Relates to the physicality of the subject (so you are always reminded)

Clinton has already experienced some coughing fits on the campaign trail. And her voice often sounds hoarse, which is to be expected when you give speeches every day. Neither of those things mean much. But add the Internet rumors that Clinton has some lingering brain issues from a concussion, plus her long bathroom break during that one debate, and some rumors that she has trouble with balance, and there you go. That’s enough circumstantial “evidence” to convict her of being unhealthy.

As noted by one of Adams blog commenters, in one of the few Dr Who episodes I have seen with David Tennant, a lady Prime Minister ordered an attack on a bunch of aliens that were no longer a threat, and in fact leaving Earth. The ticked-off Doctor remarked to an aide, “Don’t you think she looks tired?” and within hours she was facing a vote of no confidence. That’s important because if it happened in Dr Who, it must be possible.

But seriously, I’ve been getting stuff like TSVs for years. Usually they come from Drudge, or Little Green Footballs, or Redstate, and by way of my uncritical siblings end up in my Facebook feed. They always fail the Snopes test, but no one in my family have ever admitted that they were wrong, and no one seems to have started fact-checking memes before reposting them – because they want to believe what they are being told.

So let’s test this meme. I’m refraining from posting this on social media, and I’ll be interested to see if and when a ‘Hillary has no stamina’ post shows up on my Facebook feed. Let me know if you see one, too.

The Effluenza Defense

I ran across a very brief discussion, Seriously?, of the Ferguson situation on Scott Adams’ blog. Adams was initially upset by reports of the police manhandling and arresting the press, but retracted his comments and reassured commenters that:

“I assumed the shooting itself would turn out to be justified, and it seems to be heading that way.”

Ethan Couch – a teenager who was given 10 years’ probation for drunkenly driving into and killing four pedestrians – is known for the affluenza defense. An expert psychology witness testified that a lifetime of being coddled by his parents led Couch towards irresponsible behavior. It wasn’t his fault – the way he was raised, he was bound to do something wrong.

What we are seeing in the case of Officer Darren Wilson is the effluenza defense. Wilson, and all police that kill citizens, are overwhelmingly excused by those who believe that the victims have it coming. It wasn’t the officer’s fault – the way that most poor people are raised, they are bound to do something deserving of a justified shooting.

Dissing Malthus Again

In, Adam’s Law of Slow-Moving Disasters, Scott Adams repeats the generally-taught idea that Thomas Malthus was some sort of doomer:

I’m skeptical of any claim so big and contrarian, but it does fit with The Adams Law of Slow-Moving Disasters. Simply stated, my observation is that whenever humanity can see a slow-moving disaster coming, we find a way to avoid it. Let’s run through some examples:

Thomas Malthus famously predicted that the world would run out of food as the population grew. Instead, humans improved their farming technology.

A few years ago on dagblog, I discussed what Malthus actually wrote. He didn’t predict that we would run out of food. In his An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the Future Improvement of Society with remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers, he argued that rather than being freed to live in utopian conditions, the human population would continue to be resource-limited in bad times, self-limited in good times and that misery would result if these limits weren’t effective enough. In his own words:

On the whole, therefore, though our future prospects respecting the mitigation of the evils arising from the principle of population may not be so bright as we could wish, yet they are far from being entirely disheartening, and by no means preclude that gradual and progressive improvement in human satiety, which, before the late wild speculations on this subject, was the object of rational expectation. … A strict inquiry into the principle of population obliges us to conclude that we shall never be able to throw down the ladder, by which we have risen to this eminence; but it by no means proves, that we may not rise higher by the same means. … And although we cannot expect that the virtue and happiness of mankind will keep pace with the brilliant career of physical discovery; yet, if we are not wanting to ourselves, we may confidently indulge the hope that, to no unimportant extent, they will be influenced by its progress and will partake in its success.

All Malthus was doing was throwing a bit of cold water on the extremely utopian predictions of Godwin, Condorcet and others, who thought that man was about to escape the fetters of food and energy and live in philosophical enlightenment. As there are no reports of a utopian era since 1798, it seems that Malthus was correct.

The Dilbert Strip that wasn’t

Back in the 1990s, our local paper took a poll about whether to add the witheringly funny Dilbert or the far more predictable Pickles to their lineup of daily comics. I voted for Dilbert, but Pickles won in a landslide. I think they did eventually pick up Dilbert, but it didn’t matter because Dilbert was soon online anyway.

Creator Scott Adams has also written a few books. My stepson gave me The Way of the Weasel for Xmas many years ago, and it was also laugh-out-loud funny. Adams also posts a blog, with a disclaimer to the effect that he’s trying to stimulate discussion. Oftentimes though, it appears that Adams is letting the pointy-haired boss actually write the blog entries, and some of those are also very funny, though probably not in the way that Adams expects. In Fairness Test, he poses a question:

A retired businessman is worth one billion dollars. Thanks to his expensive lifestyle and hobbies, his money supports a number of people, such as his chauffeur, personal assistant, etc. Please answer these two questions:

1. How many jobs does a typical retired billionaire (with one billion in assets) support just to service his lifestyle? Give me your best guess.

2. How many jobs should a retired billionaire (with one billion in assets) create for you to feel he has done enough for society such that his taxes should not go up? Is ten jobs enough? Twenty?

… I heard an estimate of how many families a particular billionaire supports … If you figure an average family is 2.5 people, one billionaire is supporting 250 humans. … When I hear that one person is supporting 250 non-relatives, plus a number of relatives too, it feels as if that billionaire is doing more than his “fair” share.

I imagined a Dilbert strip where the pointy-haired boss is reading this same question, from a company memo, at the conference table. Alice sighs, Wally makes that O with his lips, but Dilbert immediately whips out his smartphone and starts tapping away. “I think I see a problem. At 250 persons each, we will need 1,259,688 retired billionaires to support the 314,922,031 people currently living in the US. We currently have less than five hundred billionaires so I volunteer for one of the open positions.”

Asok throws up his hand, “Oh, I volunteer, too!” but Alice glares at him, so he adds, “As a lowly intern, I would be happy being a half-billionaire.”

Dilbert is still punching numbers and adds, “One billion dollars divided by 250 persons equals $4,000,000 each.”

Wally says, “With that much cash behind him, why can’t my billionaire keep me up with the cost of living?”

Dilbert continues, “Collectively, 1.3 million retired billionaires will be worth 1,300 trillion dollars. Right now, gross GDP in the US is only 15 trillion dollars. Gross World Product is only 70 trillion dollars — so there isn’t nearly enough money in the world to pay enough billionaires to support the rest of us and still live like billionaires.”

Asok frowns, “We’re doomed.”

Cheerful Wealth Creation

On the same day that Asok cheerfully asks for more busywork, Scott Adams cheerfully suggests that the world can be divided into wealth consumers and creators:

I’ve met a lot of rich people, and as far as I can tell, they aren’t addicted to money, power, or even prestige. I say that for the same reason you don’t crave a ham sandwich at the moment you finish eating one. Once the rich become rich, their motives evolve.

My hypothesis is that the rich are often addicted to hard work itself. Once that hard work produces all that a person needs for personal use, the impulse for hard work doesn’t go away. …

I tend to agree that rich people are often driven to succeed, though I wouldn’t strictly attribute their success to hard work. Some of them are hard-working cheapskates, some work hard and don’t pay their bills, some work hard and consider cheating par for the course – though by no means all of them. I hear so many people look at someone on TV – Michael Phelps, Heidi Klum, Donald Trump – and say, “Why doesn’t he/she just retire and enjoy all that money?” I always tell them, “They didn’t become successful by wanting to retire.”

I wonder if instead of dividing the world into poor, middle-class, and rich, we’d be better off sorting the world into people who create more wealth than they consume and people who consume more than they create. There might be a lot of power in that model.

I don’t believe that anyone creates more wealth than they consume. Obviously some are very adept at exploiting wealth from scarce natural resources or from the efforts of other people. While that may or may not be very commendable, it just isn’t the same as creating wealth. What Adams probably means is people that earn money vs people that live off the system. But you can make a case that we all live off the system. Even so-called wealth creators line up for government contracts.

From an energy standpoint, much of what they call wealth creation is indistinguishable from busywork.

I could see dividing the world into levels of energy and resource consumers, because I think energy and scarce resources are at the root of what we call wealth.