Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Hillary Clinton Campaign did Everything Right




The Hillary Clinton campaign did NOTHING wrong. As usual, the pundits and the media are wrong. Ever since Trump’s victory, it’s been nothing but Monday morning quarter backing. On December 26, it was David Axelrod interviewing Obama. They agreed that if Obama had been the Democratic candidate, he would have won. Since the November 8 disaster, the media have been saying - nearly unanimously - that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party botched it. Hillary and her Party didn’t listen sufficiently to the plight of struggling working-class white guys, they were too cautious, they were too much into identity politics, they were counting their chickens prematurely, etc.

What is so shameless about these so-called “experts” - and I mean pundits such as the York Times’ David Brooks, anchor people like CNN’s Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper, “analysts” such as liberals David Axelrod and David Gergen, and conservative Charles Krauthammer - is that WITHIN HOURS of the election result, they made a 180-degree about face:
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Friday, December 23, 2016

Will there ever be Peace between Israel and Palestine?




My book club just discussed Susan Abulhawa’s book Mornings in Jenin (2006). I found it  gripping and convincing.

Jenin is a Palestinian city in the West Bank. It is also the site of a major refugee camp, and it suffered a brutal war in 2002.

It is important for people like me to read such a book: I have much sympathy for Israel and I am therefore not sufficiently attuned to the plight of the Palestinians. This book is a reminder of that people’s tragic circumstance over the past seventy years.

History:
The narrative begins in 1947, when the UN approved the partition of Palestine. This led immediately to conflict between Jews and Palestinians. The conflict escalated the following year, when Israel declared its independence, was attacked by, and waged war against the surrounding Arab states.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Benefits of Doubting



Doubt has gotten a bad rap over the course of human history. It has become the whipping boy in the arsenal of our emotions. I am not sure why, because doubt has a lot going for it. In a fair fight, it would win over certainty any time. After all, it has to fight on two fronts in an argument. Like an immigrant worker, it toils away; doing the dirty work that certainty feels too superior to take on.

Here comes certainty strolling down the street, briefcase in hand, stuffed with opinions whose ink is barely dry, immune to all the ugly stares from opposing views, so full of itself, so overconfident. That’s what I hate about it, it’s just too damn sure of itself.

In fact, certainty has caused so much suffering in the world, that anyone with an iota of common sense, should avoid it like the plague. It’s like the bully in the schoolyard, justifying all manner of abuse in its name. Religious fanaticism, Nationalism, Terrorism, they all hysterically wave their respective flag emblazoned with these dreadful words ‘We are certain of our cause’.

Some people will argue that the advise of philosophers like Descartes who tell us to ‘doubt everything’, negates itself, since we should also doubt that advise. Actually, the only thing you cannot doubt is doubting, since that would still make you a doubt. Read more...

Friday, December 16, 2016

Hillary: I Told you So!



Nearly two years ago I published the present article. At that time, it was titled: “The Persecution of Hillary Clinton” The gist of it was that Clinton should not run for the presidency, because she would only get hurt badly and there would be no gain in it for her.

Once again, I have been proven prescient. Of course, I could not have predicted the specific mechanisms of her defeat - for example the last-minute Comey letters, Russia’s role, etc. I did note the widespread use of lies and the fabrication of pseudo-issues by her enemies (Benghazi, the private server, the Clinton Foundation, etc.). I’ll admit that the rise of Trump, Trumpism, the post-truth society, fake news and the astounding advent of pure and unvarnished LYING as the new ACCEPTED norm in political discourse has exceeded my wildest imagination. Even so, I did have a sense of the direction which things were taking and, sorry to say, I have been vindicated. That is why I am (partially) republishing this two-year old article:

For Hillary Clinton, all hell has broken loose. Anyone with half a brain could predict that sooner or later, they were going to start her destruction. The only question was the choice of alleged “crime(s).” Read more...

Hooray for War Babies



For the past week, I have been a casualty of the influenza virus, and spent my time in bed, trying to catch my breath between bouts of coughing and wheezing.

I was transformed into a rusty, choking locomotive, and every night the sandman passed me by, realizing the futility of wasting his precious sand on me. So I spent my nights watching Word War 2 documentaries, to fit my somber mood.

I have almost recovered from my illness, but the obsession with the war has not stopped. After all, I am a war baby. I was born and spent the first 4 years of my life in that part of Europe, where the fighting was at its worst - the Eastern Front. Why cannot I remember? What happened to that part of my life? I was there, in the flesh, but now I am searching for myself in National Geographic documentaries and in big, heavy books that describe the insanity, cruelty and waste of it all.

As I write, I look out onto my lush suburban garden, full of chickadees and goldfinches, fluttering to and fro, enjoying the overflowing birdfeeders, the occasional wild turkey family strutting by and digging for seeds with their powerful claws. How did I get from there to here? Why did I survive and millions did not? In terms of risk factors, I was way up there. I am Jewish on my mother's side, which meant a clear stamp of annihilation approval from the Nazis and the Arrow Cross, until the Russians arrived. Read more...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Is Empathy a Bad Thing?



The title of Paul Bloom's new book 'Against Empathy:The Case for Rational Compassion' is misleading and if you are a cynic, you might think it is a PR ploy to get people to buy the author's book, which I did.

Bloom is making a case against 'emotional empathy', which he says, is not a good tool to make the world a better place, because of empathy‘s 'spotlight’ effect. It only illuminates what it is pointed at and is not good at addressing ‘large’ problems, like homelessness or inequality or public policy in general.

He also argues that it is easier to feel empathy for someone you know or someone who is more like you than a complete stranger (although as an animal activist, I sometimes feel more empathy for animals than people. They don't look like me but it doesn't prevent me from feeling their pain). In other words, Bloom says that emotional empathy is biased and is not very different from prejudice.

Feeling empathy for hundreds of people at a time is not easy. We are just not wired that way. That's where 'cognitive empathy' comes in: 'our more cold blooded ability to assess what other people are thinking, their motivations and their needs, without necessarily feeling what they are feeling'. This type of empathy is useful in negotiations and in dealing with 'groups'. But even here, isn't the empathy component still essential? It's not like a hungry child suddenly has morphed into a number, just because she is part of a group that needs food aid. You give to that charity because you 'feel' she is hungry, you don't just know it. Read more...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Fake news, Post-truth and Lies



 From very early on in life, we are told that lying is bad and telling the truth is good. These values are imprinted in our genes and they are one of the pillars on which any society is founded, since without truth, there can be no trust and without trust we would soon all be at each other’s throat.

But the past year has shown that the truth is no longer what motivates a large segment of Americans to make political, social or even personal decisions. What Donald Trump has shown is that the truth exists to be manipulated. He has taken the idea that the truth is relative and not absolute to a whole new level.

Plato and Aristotle already argued about this a long time ago. Plato pointed out that relative truth is logically unsound, since it refutes itself. If your truth is different from mine, then I can say that my truth is true and yours is false. Equally, you can say that my truth is false and yours is true, which means that neither one is real. (See: Plato's Critique of Cultural Moral Relativism). Sounds familiar? Does Fox News report the true news or is it the New York Times? No wonder we no longer trust the news.


Fact-checking

Who would have thought that the 'information age' would morph into a 'misinformation age', where we have to fact-check everything we read or view. An entire ‘truth detective’ industry has emerged comprised of fact checking sites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com, as well as on-line open source investigation organizations such as Bellingcat. For instance, Bellingcat’s investigation showed that a Buk ‘brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation’ launched the missile that shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in 2004 in which 298 people died. Russia tried to cover up the facts of course. (See: Revelations and Confirmations from the MH17 JIT Press Conference).


Another development is the rise of Citizen Journalism or Guerilla Journalism, described by Wikipedia as "When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another.” In other words, because there is so much toxic information out there, we need these new efforts to make up for the loss of truth. Read more...