Posts Tagged ‘United States’

The Man Who Sold America

January 7, 2020

The title of this book is identical to the title of a book by Joy-Ann Reid. The subtitle is “Trump and the Unravelling of the American Story.” It provides an excellent summary and a superb analysis of what Trump has done to the Republican Party, and, more importantly, to the United States. Regarding the goals of the healthy memory blog, it provides an ideal subject for growth mindsets. For American citizens it summarizes the damage that Trump has done to the United States and democracy and a summary of the risks Trump presents to the future of this democracy.

There is an excellent chapter for white people who are afraid of becoming a minority. It is a chapter titled “What America Can Learn from South Africa.” It will make clear that there is nothing to fear and that such a development will be beneficial to the United States. As expected, there is disinformation that contests this point. But HM has a professional colleague who is a citizen of South Africa, who is doing well, and will attest to a good and fulfilling life as a minority white person.

Regarding Russia, it notes that Donald Trump’s attraction to Russia has been on display since at least 1987, when he and his first wife, Ivana, traveled to Moscow to inquire about a potential real estate deal. It is widely believed to have been arranged by Soviet Intelligence services. The Soviets were reportedly alarmed by Ronald Reagan’s hawkishness and were looking to develop contacts with an American they might turn toward their point of view. Experts suggest the Soviet Union’s interest in Trump and his family likely stretches back much further. A November 2017 article for Politico Magazine by Harding, noted that the KGB may have opened a file on Trump as early as 1977, when he married Czech-born Ivana. Harding notes that Ivana, as a citizen of a communist country, would have been of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA. Craig Unser’s book, House of Trump, House of Putin: The Unfolding Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia was reviewed in an earlier healthy memory blog post.

Given this information, and given the evidence reported in this blog on how Russia helped Trump become president, it is surprising that people have difficulty understanding Putin’s influence on Trump. A question that needs to be asked here is where did Trump’s money come from for his developments and projects since no U.S. banks would provide funding given that he has had serial bankruptcies. His son has provided the answer to this question and the answer is Russia. It is obvious that Trump will not reveal his taxes or finances because they would indicate that Putin owns him. Democrats behave as lawyers rather than politicians by continuing to pursue this question in the courts. True politicians would make it incumbent for him to reveal his sources of finances to prove that he is not owned by Putin.

Revising Beliefs

August 7, 2015

We know from the immediately preceding post, “Understanding Beliefs,” as well as from earlier healthymemory blog posts, that beliefs are difficult to change.  Yet we inhabit an environment in which there is ongoing dynamic change.  Moreover, modern technology accelerates the amount of information that is being processed and the amount of change that occurs.

Nils J. Nilsson, a true genius who is one of the founders of artificial intelligence, recommends the scientific method, as the scientific method is the primary reason underlying the progress humans have made in the past several centuries.

I would like to see a survey of what people believe about beliefs.  I fear that most would fall short of what Nilsson describes in Understanding Beliefs.  I fear that the idea that we do not have direct knowledge of the external world, but rather develop models of the external world based on experience would be alien to most.  I fear that even among scientists, engineers, and educators there are those to whom this concept is alien.  Moreover, probabilities are likely absent regarding many beliefs being replaced by absolute belief and absolute doubt.  People still refuse to believe even given scientific consensus regarding such topics as evolution and global warming.  Moreover an understanding of statistics and experimental design by the general public would be necessary.  So this lack of sophistication or primitive modes of thinking constitute a considerable obstacle to employing the scientific method.

Nevertheless, just for fun, let’s consider how a country might work were it governed according to the scientific method.  Let’s take the United States for example.  Americans would need to accept scientific results even if they conflicted with their personal beliefs.  Sometimes scientific results  are counterintuitive.  For example, research in the arena of public housing has found that it is less expensive to provide public housing initially, rather than having the homeless work their way up in terms of eligibility by freeing themselves from abuse, finding employment, and so forth.  The savings that accrue are due to the decrease in emergency room visits, ambulance and related costs that are spent on the homeless.  In addition there is also the pride of having a residence that fosters personal development.  Of course, there is the option of completely ignoring the homeless and not providing medical services, but instead just sweeping up the bodies and incinerating them.  In lieu of this radical option, using data to pursue policies that control costs is the preferred option

A similar option exists with respect to medical costs.  The United States has had the highest medical costs in the world that result in third world medical statistics for a long time.  The uninsured have gone to emergency rooms for costly care that is passed on to hospital bills.  The Affordable Care Act is a first attempt to remedy this problem.  Yet it still is receiving stiff resistance from those who think it is wrong to consider medical costs as being a citizen’s right.  Government involvement is a way of providing better medical services while controlling these costs.  Another problem is that the most common means of payment is a fee for service.  It is much more rational to compensate physicians for results, normalized by the condition of the patient, as is done in England.

As the United States is divided into states, it would be possible to design experiments in which different policies were followed in different groups of states and then analyze the results in terms of results and costs.  Although questionnaires would be one component of the evaluation, the primary measure would be the success of the different programs in terms of objective medical results.  Now, in the case of studies regarding health, these results would be normalized with respect to the initial health of the patient.  It should be realized  that the survey data might conflict with the medical results.  That is, people might think that care had deteriorated even thought their health had improved.  These people might have been disappointed and felt annoyed because they did not receive treatments that they wanted, even though they would have been ineffective (given an antibiotic for a virus, for example), or had not been given unnecessary medical tests.

This same paradigm could be followed for other issues.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Universal Desire for More Equal Pay

January 27, 2015

This post is based on the Perspectives on Psychological Science article (November 2014), “How Much  More  Should CEO’s Make:    A Universal Desire for More Equal Pay,” by Sorapop Kiatpongsan and Michael J. Norton.  They used a survey based on 55,238 respondents in 40 countries.  These respondents estimated the wages of people in different occupations–chief executive officers (CEOs)—cabinet officers—and unskilled workers and also provided their estimates of what their pay should be.  Data from 16 countries was used to show that the respondents were dramatically underestimating actual pay inequality.  Although the specific magnitude of the pay estimates differed across countries and across specific demographic groups, the clear conclusion is that people underestimate actual pay gaps and their ideal pay gaps are even further from reality  than those underestimates.

This underestimation was most conspicuous in the United States where the actual pay ratio of CEOs to unskilled workers (354:1) far exceeded the estimated ratio (30:1) which in turn exceeded the ideal ratio (7:1).  The United States presents an interesting case where the ratio of the average CEO to an average employee increased from 20:1 in 1965 to 354:1 in 2112.  Peter Drucker, the management guru, suggested that exceeding this 20:1 ratio would increase employee resentment and decrease morale.

An interesting question is how all this came about.  There was a business professor, whose name I have unfortunately  forgotten, who published an  article he intended to decry the gross overcompensation of CEOs, but the law of unintended consequences was at work.  These data were used as a basis for pegging and increasing CEO compensation.  A candidate could use these data to estimate what the going rate was and boards of directors felt a need to be competitive and kept increasing the offers.

The obvious question here is what can be done about it.  The passing of laws or regulations is one idea, but there are probably creative ways to circumvent them.  I believe that the problem stems from corporate structure.   Currently there is a CEO and a Board of Directors.  They take good care of each other.  This is not good for the company, the company ‘s stockholders, the company’s employees, or the company’s customers.  Elections usually consist of a ballots distributed to stockholders with one list of candidates for the Board of Directors.  This board selects the CEO and they take good care of each other.   Elections with one set of candidates is what is used by totatalitarian states.  I never respond to these elections.  I demand viable competitive candidates before I vote in any election.
I think corporations should be required to issue ballots where there are at least two candidates for every available position.   Then shareholders could vote for candidates who committed to reeling in CEO compensation and perhaps even their own compensation.
I know that the argument against this is that shareholders are not knowledgeable enough to vote, nor do they want to extend the effort to familiarize themselves with the candidates.  I would argue that in our democracies there is ample evidence that voters not only frequently do not know the candidates, but also vote against their own interests.  Although our democracies might not function effectively, they usually manage to minimize the subversion of power.  In others words, they do have some level of control that is absent from corporate governance.
© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Early 4th of July Post

June 30, 2013

In the United States the 4th of July is a holiday celebrating its Declaration of Independence. This holiday is certainly warranted, and I am quite pleased with what this declaration started. Unfortunately, the holiday is spoiled for me by those who use it to declare that the United States is the greatest country in the world. First of all, there are facts that would put this claim in dispute. For example, although the United States has, by far, the most expensive medical costs in the world, its health statistics are mediocre or worse. The way the system works is that Americans either receive inadequate medical care, or too much in medical care in the way of over-medication and unnecessary surgery. For a free country, the United States has the highest incarceration rate according to the Wikipedia (716 per 100,000 population). It is possible that this claim is unwarranted as there are no statistics for North Korea.

However, even if the United States were the best country in the world, we Americans should not be overcome with hubris and think of ourselves as living in the best country in the world. Remember, or revisit, the healthymemory blog post “Self-Affirmation Rather than Self-Esteem.” In the 1980s there was a big push in psychology regarding the benefits of self-esteem. Unfortunately, programs boosting self-esteem were found wanting. It has been found that it is self-affirmation rather than self-esteem that is beneficial. Here is the distinction. Self-affirmation means that you have confidence that you can accomplish what needs to be done, that you can improve yourself. You are not afraid of failure, and should you fail you know you can succeed as long as you persist in your efforts. However, if you have high self-esteem, you will likely not perceive the need to improve yourself. Moreover, should you fail, that damages your self-esteem

What pertains to individuals also pertains to countries. Countries that think they are the best or great, are likely not to see the need to improve. Consequently, they will neither improve, nor address their problems. Rather, they are likely to embrace outdated ideologies. However, countries who see a need to improve, even should they already be the best, will pursue efforts to change and grow. In today’s dynamic world, the need to change and grow is more imperative than ever.

When people say they are proud to be an American, I wonder if they remember that pride is one of the seven deadly sins. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” Proverbs 16:18.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Informative and Timely Read

January 20, 2013

That would be The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse by Rebecca D. Costa (www.rebecca.costa.com). As the title promises she presents a theory of why civilizations collapse. The simple explanation is that a civilization’s beliefs do not keep up with the environmental facts in which they operate. She uses the Mayans, the Roman, and the Kymer civilizations for examples. Given the exponential increase in technology that has occurred, the problem is much greater today than in the times of those ancient civilizations.

Biological evolution is slow. At one time the evolution of technology was also slow, but the rate of change in technology is truly exponential today. So how can homo sapiens keep up? Unless the singularity predicted by Ray Kurzweil in which humans become one with technology (enter “singularity” into the search box) this is a definite problem. This failure to “keep up” is quite evident in the stagnation of governments in the United States and European Union.

Costa introduces the concept of supermemes, which are overriding habits of processing information that lead to stagnation and fail to solve pressing problems. These supermemes will be addressed individually in later healthymemory blog posts: they are “Irrational Opposition,” “The Personalization of Blame,” “Counterfeit Correlation,” “Silo Thinking,” and “Extreme Economics.”

She does provide rational solutions for dealing with the irrational world in which we live, and strategies for implementing those solutions. One chapter is titled “Building Better Brains,” a title to which the healthymemory blog resonates. She argues that insight can deal with our problems successfully and discusses conditions conducive to cognition for achieving this insight. Future healthymemory blog posts will discuss these topics.

Nevertheless, I shall be unable to do justice to these topics, so I suggest you get the book and read it for yourself.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.