Putin Fights Hard to Protect Trump as His Agent.
18 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
On the dossier, Putin has recently and more colorfully said, the allegations are false and that when Trump was in Moscow last, "We didn't even know about his political ambitions. What, someone thinks the special services chase after every American billionaire? Of course not, that's total nonsense." (True or False?)
Yet Trump has a mutual admiration society going with Putin and seeks 1) more ties and a better relationship with Russia, which some experts claim is the greatest threat to the US, 2) seeks to drop US sanctions against Russia for Crimea, 3) he opposes a NATO build up in eastern Europe, and claims NATO is obsolete, and 4) he backs Russia on its goals in Syria.
On allegations Putin has ordered the murder of journalists, Trump has said, "Well, I think our country does plenty of killing, also." On the unanimous conclusion by U.S. intelligence services that Russia hacked the election, he claimed "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." (Trump transition team statement). Although Trump has since accepted those findings.
Could anyone but a compromised agent do better? Especially a US president in a position to make such policy changes?
Putin's smirk when he said the dossier allegations were false says as much as well.
Shouldn't we learn all the facts? We do know a cabal of reporters, using public records in several countries have shown Trump's ties to Russian officials, mobsters & even Putin go back decades. Those mobsters literally own Trump as they've repeatedly bailed him out financially when he has gotten into trouble, including rather recently in part on his Taj Mahal casino. And public records also substantiate parts of the Dossier.
We need a full blown hearing, not a shove under the rug sought by his friends and voters.
Trump as Suspected Russian Agent and Blabber Mouth
16 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
US intel sources warn Israel against sharing secrets with Trump administration.
Israeli intelligence officials fear that top-secret information that has been exposed to the United States will be leaked to Russia—and from Russia to its close ally, Iran, Israel's enemy.
Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration as the next president of the United States is causing Israeli intelligence officials to lose sleep as well. Discussions held in closed forums recently raised fears of a leakage of Israeli intelligence top-classified information, clandestine modus oprandi and sources, which have been exposed to the American intelligence community over the past 15 years, to Russia – and from there to Iran.
The Great Theft of Labor’s Wages by Corporate America: The Great Three Stage Heist
16 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
Time was, under the perfectly competitive model of competition, input factors were paid the value of their marginal product. That went for labor too, notwithstanding the pushing and pulling of corporations and labor unions, all as reflected in the graph below before say about 1973. Then something happened.
But before getting to that, we need to discuss the marginal productivity pricing of factor inputs, including labor. As capital – the machinery and stuff that labor works with -- increased relative to the number of laborers, their marginal productivity increased, and the value of that productivity increased. So did their wages. To the contrary, had there been less capital and more laborers, the value of their marginal productivity and wages would have been less. Until about 1973, marginal productivity pricing for labor pretty much applied in the US, as the graph shows, but after that as unions faded and corporate power grew, something happened.
Corporations began to think, why should we have to pay for all this extra capital when the benefits mostly go to wage earners in the form of higher wages, overlooking the fact that there were fewer laborers now required to produce the same output, where only so much can be sold at a given price. Inasmuch as top corporate management controlled corporate cash flow and decided who got what, CEOs did two things. They started slowly paying themselves higher salaries and bonuses. They allocated more wage increases to profits. Other top management, coming to understand what was going on, in the small, got on board, too, as did upper middle management, in time. But this money for higher profits and salaries had to come from somewhere and it came out of the higher productivity that should have been paid as higher wages. Most stolen future wages was diverted to capital and top management, however.
But corporations were clever about it. They watched what each other did and all sort of reached the obvious conclusion that cutting wages would create uproar so the better course was to be patient, keep adding capital to the production process, but hold wages constant and take management’s and capital's ever bigger cut out of labor’s rising productivity and wages going forward. CEO salaries slid up from good to very good and on to now outrageous, all over time. So did profits as well. Matters became increasingly unreasonable slowly and over time, in increments, as labor productivity grew. Management found further justification for its actions in the real and rising unemployment of the surplus labor it observed and the cost of new capital. But this was only the second stage of capital’s great theft of labor’s wages.
This brings us to the third stage in top management’s thinking. All of what I describe was the precursor sensibility to the third stage of the theft of wages. It turns on the idea of why not get rid of labor entirely and replace them with robots so as to keep all their wages and have capital keep all of the productivity gains – the direction in which we are largely headed. What we observe since the early 1970’s is labor’s share of national income has been falling and capital’s share of national income has been rising in virtual like amount. No surprise, but nobody dares talk about it from capital's side; only labor's.
The greatest heist or theft in modern times and virtually no one outside of top management types even knows about it or understand it.
The consequences of diminished aggregate demand and growing income equality are the symptoms, but not the cause. The reason corporate America has gone after appropriating wages is because there is not adequate growth for rising profits due to deficient aggregate demand due to excessive income inequality.
The game started with the first stage, most know about, which was the theft of labor’s wages by ditching much American labor and sending their jobs overseas for cheaper foreign labor so capital or the corporations owning it and the production process could pocket for themselves the resulting saving in wages.
That was the first bite. The second was to steal US labor’s increased productivity and wage increases over time as I describe, and the third is to displace labor totally and take all their remaining wages in multiple waves of new robotics. This stage is just seriously getting underway.
It is a long story of greed, small and narrow mindedness, capitalism, as predation and of our government and politicians being totally “out to lunch” like almost all of the public. The big or macro picture escapes almost everyone.
The Assembled Dossier on Trump
14 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
Overview: Russia holds embarrassing and compromising material and information on President-elect Donald Trump. Trump received
hacked and other intelligence from Russia for use in his presidential campaign in exchange for Russia keeping the compromising material on Trump quiet and Trump working to lift sanctions on Russia and getting some personal economic benefits from an oil venture.
Source: Cambridge educated Christopher Steele, age 52, a former MI6 officer and Russian specialist and now the director of a private-sector security firm in London, is the author of the 35-page Dossier making the explosive and unsubstantiated claims. Steele is now in hiding. Steel “was one of the more eminent Russia specialists for the Secret Intelligence Service,” better known as MI6. U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, have said that Steele’s source network was viewed as credible.
Why Made Public? The decision to brief or confront Trump on the allegations of the dossier is what brought the dossier into the public domain.
Trump's position: The dossier is all lies and fake news and said it was “a disgrace that that information would be let out.
Key Contents of Dossier.
Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016, a senior Russian foreign ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively,said the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump for at least 5 years. The Source asserted that the Trump operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Another source acknowledged that the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages, emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was "plausible deniability” and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team. In return the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.
However, in terms of established operational liaison between the Trump team and the Kremlin, the source confirmed that an intelligence exchange had been running between them for at least eight years. Within this context Putin’s priority requirement had been for intelligence on the activities, business and otherwise, in the US of leading Russian oligarchs and their families. Trump and his associates duly had obtained and supplied the Kremlin with this information.
As far as ‘kompromat’ (compromising information) on Trump was concerned, although there was plenty of this, Trump understood the Kremlin had given its word that it would not be deployed against the now Republican presidential candidate given how helpful and cooperative his team had been over several years, and particularly of late.
Mr Trump’s attorney had a secret meeting with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016. [Michael] Cohen had been accompanied to Prague by three colleagues and the timing of the visit was either in the last week of August or the first week of September. According to [redacted], the agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the Trump team more generally.
Russia supported Mr Trump because he was “viewed as divisive in disrupting the whole US political system” Asked to explain why Putin and the Kremlin had launched such an aggressive Trump support operation in the first place, the MFA (foreign ministry) official said that Russia needed to upset the liberal international status quo, including on Ukraine-related sanctions, which was seriously disadvantaging the country. Trump was viewed as divisive in disrupting the whole US political system; anti-establishment; and a pragmatist with whom they could do business.
As the Trump support operation had gained momentum, control of it had passed from the MFA to the FSB and then into the presidential administration where it remained, a reflection of its growing significance over time. There was still a view in the Kremlin that Trump would continue as a [divisive] political force even if he lost the presidency and may run for and be elected to another public office.
Trump associates “confirmed he would lift Russian sanctions” in exchange for 19 per cent stake in a Russian oil giant. In terms of the substance of their discussion, Sechin’s associate said that the Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered (Carter) Page/Trump associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft in return. Page had expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
It appears Trump has been acting as a Russian agent on US soil and has compromised the security interests of the US in other regards as well. He has acted for his own economic benefit while running for high public office.
This warrants a new senate committee aligned with the Justice Department to hold hearings. The impeachment of Trump should also be on the table.
Trump is Failing
11 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
He has aligned himself with Putin and defended him against information provided by the US' own intelligence agencies on which Trump has cast aspersions and doubts because he doesn't like what they have to say.
He claims the election results were not affected but there is significant evidence outcomes were changed in one or two house races.
He has taken sides with a nominal foreign enemy against the American intelligence services, and, after realizing what he has done, feebly and stupidly tried to backtrack on his disparagements.
His new DOD pick, already at war with his new chief intelligence pick, is a naive conspiracy buff with no good handle on political reality.
I see Trump as being ego-centrically thinned-skinned and not up to the job which means when the going gets seriously tough for him, he will either have to grow up and into the job or he will quit and hand the reins to Pence. He didn't really much want the job to begin with.
On Elites and Billionaires
11 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
There are really only two kinds of elites-- elite because of one's education or elite because of one's wealth (or both). One or the other always prevails. Elites because of their educations act and hope to promote themselves and also very much and often the public welfare and interest. Elites by wealth very typically seek egocentric influence and control to enhance their own wealth further and that of those who are also wealthy. Money is their orientation, and how to get more of it, their goal. Rarely does the public interest truly concern them.
Trump is a billionaire. He is stuffing his administration with other billionaires and the super wealthy. Whose interests will they promote? The public's? Main Street's? the middle classes? More likely, I suggest, is that they will ultimately promote the interests of the very wealthy.
Billionaires cannot influence and control the nation, they believe, unless billionaires control and run the government. That is where we are. We should watch out. We are at a dangerous turning point. Foxes are now guarding the henhouse, it seems, claiming their interest is the public interest.
Will Trump and his cadre act to promote the public interest, in a novel turn of events, or will they act to take care of themselves and their wealth instead? The Clinton Foundation could wind up looking like chump change here by comparison.
Failed Micro Perspectives
07 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
America has a BLS defined working age population of 203 million and, as the troublesome chart below indicates, we have about 94 million of those people not in the labor force. The relevant questions as to the chart are why so and why did the number fall so and not materially recover from the 2008-09 crash and recession. What is going on?
The response of micro-minded people to this chart vary and include:
1. the chart isn't current; it is a few years behind;
2. the chart can't be true with only 4-5% unemployment;
3. ignore that chart and look at this one or these instead;
4. the chart ignores demographic changes;
5. the economy is doing wonderfully; the chart has to be wrong;
6. the chart is silly--it implies 100% should be in the labor force;
And these are all people who pretend some knowledge of economics.
Then, there is much collateral evidence bearing on this chart. It includes --
1. Labor's share of national income has fallen and capital's has risen in like proportion;
2. Many American jobs have been and remain off-shored;
3. Robotics is beginning to replace labor at a greater rate;
4. The lower class and the bottom 2/3 to 3/4 of the middle class (the vast majority of the US population) are still largely in recession, with stagnant or declining real income and destroyed wealth positions;
5. The key economic problem of the age -- one historically without real precedent except in times of general recession or depression -- is deficient aggregate demand; and
6. We have had growing income inequality so the percentage of national income going to the top 3% has risen and that to the group I identify has stalled or fallen.
The micro-minds also deny or ignore this macro data as well, or quibble with it unsuccessfully, too.
For the macro-minded, all this evidence raises concerns because it points toward an inconvenient macro reality too few see well among the clutter, and none want to face or acknowledge. A reality that has serious implications for us all and portends big changes in social and economic policy ahead or social upheaval beyond Trump's rise.
It is what Silicon Valley TED talkers are now chillingly calling the huge "human surplus."
Two Viewpoints on Macro Complexity
05 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
Some have a sense of macro complexity, almost intuitively. Most don't. Its absence creates numerous misunderstandings of much. A knack for understanding macro complexity, whether natural, developed by training or both, allows a person to back away from the immediate, the trivial and the obvious in a situation and see the whole of something from a higher macro vantage point in all its relevant and interactive processes and complexities and to understand the mechanism or situation as a whole. It is a particular forte of good economists and those with excellent economic intuitions and it is particularly missing in those who are too narrowly or poorly educated, in technocrats, in specialists and in most lay people. Why, you might ask.
Complexity, involving multiple interactive processes and competing forces is the brain food of the very intelligent in many fields and such people also tend to be highly and better educated. This is a well know fact of life which displeases not a few. It is also the basis of many conflicting views, often because the viewpoints held, differ so. That which is immediate and readily understandable often conflicts with that which is not, but is real and predictive. Heads butt, policy recommendations differ and politics bifurcate at the extremes into ideology, as a means to handle the complexities of reality when they overwhelm, and apolitical efforts to address those complexities, often when they yield up no ready means of simplification. These too are facts of life.
It is no secret which end of this continuum deals best with macro complexity and there is also no general or ready solution on how to bridge the gap between such splayed viewpoints. Both aspects are what intrigue me most about Facebook, but that is an aside. Let me give you some examples.
Laws are passed revoking judicial sentencing discretion and imposing mandatory sentencing guidelines. Crime drops and the guidelines are lauded by those who urged them, but then crime rises again later and those who sought the guidelines go silent. Others, doubtful about the guidelines' deterrent effect from the beginning, look more broadly for a way to explain the data and after a bit discover that when crime fell, national income and welfare expenditures had risen and that when such income growth dropped or went elsewhere and welfare was cut, crime rose, exactly what was observed. Or another example.
By law the Fed may not buy new bonds sold by the government, but nothing prevents the Fed from buying those bonds from their original purchasers and others once they are already initially sold. Is the Fed then funding government debt? Or if we look in the macro aggregate at how the entire system operates, can it be accurately said the government in fact creates banking reserves when it spends and it destroys reserves when it taxes or borrows. The micro specialist's or technocrat's view is no, none of this can occur, while the truth is all of this occurs. The viewpoints are radically different in regard to macro complexity: one is narrow, focused and legalistic; the other is macro, complex, and economically interpretive and substantive. Each camp declares the other doesn't understand. One final example.
Trickle down economic theory contends tax cuts for the rich increase consumption and real investment expenditure to the benefit of everyone because, within the dated neoclassical economic framework, that is true and what is taught to undergrads. But that is not what is observed in reality. Why not? Because, in reality there is a) substantial income inequality, b) much economic uncertainty, inducing strong preferences for liquidity, and c) few good real investment opportunities because of deficient aggregate demand, so the rich will have a high propensity to hoard, in both cash and passive secondary market assets, their tax cut proceeds, and there will be minimal impact on consumption and real investment, but some small increases in stock and bond prices. Again, the viewpoints and frames of reference differ in macro complexity.
Notice, macro complexity is strongly inclined to the empirical and economic interpretation and its antithesis is more prima facie, micro and less considered in all regards. People seem to line up into the two camps to a surprisingly significant degree, regrettably with most by far in the latter.
The Changed Face of America: The True Legacy of the Bushes and Obama
05 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
* The Coming of a 1% Economy and the 1% Politics That Goes With It: A singular reality of this century has been the way inequality became embedded in American life, and how so much money was swept ever upwards into the coffers of 1% profiteers. The country firmly and unequivocally entered a new gilded age.
* The Coming of Permanent War and an Ever More Militarized State and Society: Can there be any question that, in the 15-plus years since 9/11, what was originally called the “Global War on Terror” has become a permanent war across the Greater Middle East and Africa (with collateral damage falling in all directions on the west)?
* The Rise of the National Security State: In these years, a similar process has been underway in relation to the national security state. Vast sums of money have flowed into the country’s 17 intelligence outfits (and their secret black budgets), into the Department of Homeland Security, and the like. (Before 9/11, Americans might have associated that word “homeland” with Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but never with this country.) The national security state has created a global surveillance apparatus
* The Coming of the One-Party State: Thanks to the political developments of these years, and a man with obvious autocratic tendencies is entering the Oval Office, it’s possible to begin to imagine an American version of a one-party state emerging from the shell of our former democratic system. Republicans already control the House of Representatives (in more or less perpetuity, thanks to gerrymandering), the Senate, the White House, and assuredly in the years to come, the Supreme Court. They also control a record 33 out of 50 governorships, have tied a record by taking 68 out of the 98 state legislative chambers, and have broken another by gaining control of 33 out of 50 full legislatures.
* The Coming of TV News Edutainment: Among the things that prepared the way for Trump, who could leave out the crumbling of the classic newspaper and the merger of news and entertainment, on TV and social media.There is now the search for anything or anyone (preferably of the celebrity variety) that the public can’t help staring at, including a celebrity-turned-politician-turned-provocateur with the world’s canniest sense of what the media so desperately needs.
*The Rise of Wall Street and Greed. Once only two and a half percent of the economy, Wall Street is now more than 15 percent and is fast rivaling our total healthcare industry. It trades in rents, gains and other non-productive opportunistic income that line the pockets of the top 1 to 5 percent and it gouges Main street and middle America at each and every opportunity. It goal de jur is to have its Dodd Frank policeman taken out and shot so it can continue on its merry illegal ways unchecked. It has become the enemy of the real economy and undermines it at every turn. It is the handmaiden of the 1%.
*The Continuing Assault on Government. Government is under attack by the emerging one party system which wants to undo the New Deal and atrophy goverment so it can not stand up for the public interest and impede the 1%. Government has been gutted by out sourcing, which continues today, and by stalemate and the guerilla tactics of subversion. Government has been shrinking under Obama. It is definitely on the wane as Libertarianism and bad economic policies ascend with the new one party system. America has become a paradise for greed, lawlessness and fools.
(Inspired in part by Tom Engelhardt)
Some History on Supply Side Economics
02 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
Some History on Supply Side Economics
One of my teachers, Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell, developed supply side economics largely as a mental exercise and as a spoof on republicanism. As his many appearances on the Letterman show indicate, he has quite a sense of humor. In truth, Mundell is a leading Keynesian and a co-developer of the Mundell-Fleming model adding exchange rates to the classical IS-LM Keynesian model. He was one of my teachers for Keynesian economics at Chicago.
Mundell used to joke that in politics he was best known for tax cuts and supply-side economics, but in economics, it was for his work on currency areas, Keynesianism, international exchange rates, and international economics, both of the latter as extensions to the Keynesian system. He was chagrined when he won the Nobel Prize for all of that work, including supply side economics!
Yet he could keep a straight face as he did when he gained notoriety for supply side economics and became Ronald Reagan's economic advisor and lectured him and his staff on supply side economics. However, looking, back Reagan ran a gargantuan Keynesian deficit coming out of the 1981 recession and America's economy boomed for a decade. Ah, to have been a fly on the wall through it all.
Yet Mundell could be very honest, too. I once asked him a hard economic question that had been bothering me. He thought about it for a minute, looking out a window, and then turned to me and said, "I don't know."
Mundell also gave some great advise on how to accept a Nobel prize, by saying,“The Nobel prize is a big deal. In the academic world, it’s the ultimate prestige. My advice: Do your best to be profound—it is, after all, a roomful of profound thinkers—but don’t try too hard. See if you can make people laugh a little; I sang a verse from My Way, and that seemed to do the trick. And make it personal; I invited the entire room to my son’s wedding to break the ice.”
Then, there was the famous Milton Friedman-Robert Mundell debate between two of my teachers in 2001 centering on exchange rates. As MIT's Rudi Dornbusch described it: 'It was a gladiator event, a workshop where Mundell and Friedman really got at each other. Friedman obviously admired the sheer creativity and knowledge of Mundell, but would not let him get by, sparks flew. Mundell recognized Friedman as an icon but understood that he could play the bad boy with success. Then came the moment that took breaths away. It was the unspeakable from Mundell: “Milton, the trouble with you is you lack common sense.'”
What an Undergraduate Education Should Be
02 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
Ms. Z contends “[I]f your degree is in a hard science, by the time you take the required English classes, a foreign language and a couple lower level social science classes, that's all the extraneous class work you have time for. There isn't time for (or economic argument for) a classical education any more."
Mr A writes, Much undergraduate education “is basically 'generic.’ Just a whole lot of definitions, calculations, sort of stupid exercises. They never get to the 'good stuff.’ I do think people have to know the basics of any field. but current structure of academia is basically 'hoop jumping'----you see who can survive 4 years of boring exercises and then if they get to grad school or are lucky they get to see interesting stuff---not just rote calculations, endless vocabularies."
Kimball Corson: We are citizens first and secondarily what we are trained to be as specialists. The first is an argument for a liberal education; the second, for undergraduate majors and graduate study. Curriculums are compromised because it is not known in advance whether a student will pursue graduate study. The assumption tends to be he won’t which is why undergraduates specialize in at least the last two years of a four year program.
A broad exposure is important, regardless. Chicago’s first year used to require all students take a year (three quarters) of calculus or other equally advanced math (3 hrs), a year of art history (2 hrs), a year of western civilization (3 hrs), two years of a language, starting in the first year (3 hrs), a year of Literature (3 hrs) and a year of science (physics, chemistry, biology or the like. 3 hrs), all with no remedial or catch-up work.
The second year looked much the same, but without the art history and a social science sequence (usually a year of economics) added instead of an additional year of math. Then you were deemed equipped well enough to choose your major. The arts, humanities and sciences were all balanced. Columbia’s program was similar.
The insistence was on a good liberal education. You were a citizen first. And I do not think that insistence was misplaced. However, most students are not up to such a program today which is partly why admission has become very selective at top schools. High school remedial work plugs up the undergraduate programs of most lesser universities now. Also, not even all top schools do so well. Harvard has, for many years been criticized on what a sloppy, lax and poor program it has for its undergraduates, but faculty have not been able to agree on any significant reforms. But the idea exists on what a good program should look like for students who were prepared.
The idea becomes stifled by credit for remedial high school work, undergraduate business and accounting majors and faculties who don’t care and let the students take what they want. The results are disastrous. Undergraduate degrees are depreciated; students are not prepared for graduate study; and liberal and science educations are badly compromised.
It is true that much undergraduate education must be survey work and studies, and, as Mr A argues, ‘Just a whole lot of definitions, calculations, sort of stupid exercises.’ But frameworks must be established and learned as a foundation for more advanced study or the “good stuff” to come later, if there is a later for a student. Also, good faculty always have ways of easing the drudgery here. There is just a huge basic quantum of knowledge that has to be learned as foundational to any good arts and sciences education. To slight either is a compromise.
Beyond that, the rest can be learned, on a more specialized basis, in graduate school. But the word of advice is be careful of what you miss. You can easily regret it later. Get what is needed as foundational to later learning on your own is good counsel.
Many Do Not Understand What a Quality Education Is
30 December 2016 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
Mr. Y, an intelligent observer asks: "Is a 'quality higher education' simply a title for going to the right school or is it actually an education? And, is it possible to get an education from the wrong school or without a school at all? And isn't it true that many graduate from a 'quality' school without ever being an elite? (Like my brother who has a PhD from Harvard.) I think an education from the right place is an essential feature of elitism in our culture but it's not enough to define it. You wouldn't ban the education but you might make your opportunities based on what you know and how you function rather than on where you went.
Kimball Corson It is an education, of course. But the rest is not entirely true. A top quality education is obtained from excellent professors in small classes of excellent students who are all inspired to learn and are guided by those professors on the issues and key points within the dynamics of the class and in interactive discussions, some few during class, and more with students afterward, followed by much study alone with books and published papers later. The top schools and best universities tend to most provide that experience the most often. All else is lesser. Smarts and skills really do rub off from top people who themselves are very smart, dedicated and enthusiastic about their research and teaching.
The educational experience can be, and was for me, elevating, life altering and transformational. I was a smart but somewhat unruly kid going in. When finished, I had had the luxury of having studied under eight then or later Nobel Laureates in my field, several of the best law professors ever (e.g., Richard Posner) and had sat in on multiple additional classes of several other Laureates in other fields (e,g,. Saul Bellow, English; Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, physics). It was a horrendous experience, hard to top anywhere else at any other time. I was lucky. I did not create the opportunity, but I was smart enough to see it developing and take advantage of it.
I did not wind up at the University of Chicago by mistake. I knew what was coming together there and I went for it. One undergraduate professor I had said I was years ahead of myself in these sensibilities. I never doubted it. I knew what work everyone at Chicago was doing and had done before I even arrived there. I got the very best out of my experience.
Later in her life, my mother was an English professor at the University of the Americas in Mexico City and had close ties to Harvard, having "placed" several transfer and graduate students there during her teaching years. After I won a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship in economics as an undergrad, and could go anywhere I chose, I applied to Harvard and Chicago, was accepted by both and chose Chicago which I knew I would in advance. My mother had a conniption and hammered me with why. I didn't explain more than to say it was a better opportunity then. Many years later, after I was finished with my education and was practicing law, she told me she had investigated the matter thoroughly and clearly understood why I had chosen as I did and that it was not to spite her as she first thought.
I hear people say all educations are the same and fungible, that top universities are a sham, that it is all baloney. That you can learn it all yourself, that it is all what the student does and not much of it really matters later except what you do later. Surveys show most Millennials think it is more who you know, than what you know and have learned that matters more for success.
Such is the horrible state of anti-intellectualism in our age. Misinformation is rampant and people are genuinely adrift.
On Intellectual Elitism
30 December 2016 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
A quality higher education is definitely the most elitist of all characteristics defining who is elite. Should such an education be banned?
a select part of a group that is superior to the rest in terms of ability or qualities.
Hostility toward elitism really is then hostility toward the idea of anyone being "superior to the rest in terms of ability or qualities." This is a very popular notion and forms a foundation against all forms of elitism. The very idea of superiority offends. Such hostility is found also, but unthinkingly, among America's elites. Elites themselves are conflicted.
The ensuing mess or stew is even greater on intellectual elitism. Disparaging the well educated or those knowledgeable, in public is popular even among other elites. We see it popularly in the denial of expertise; the idea that one man's idea on a matter is just a valid as another's; because of information conflicts, anything goes; so what is truth; then to faux information and finally to the post truth era -- all are attacks on knowledge elitism. All are popularly based. Some are strategically opportunistic. But all are attacks on elitism, nonetheless.
Part of the difficulty is that reality is truly complex and growing more so all the time. This is occurring at the same time that the public's analytical and critical thinking skills are decidedly on the wane.The public is overwhelmed. They can't sort matters out well for themselves and they have been conditioned against intellectual elitism. That is a real jam to be in. They often decide emotionally and go with their guts instincts. A very bad way to go.
Another popular problem is the misunderstanding that educations are fungible. They are not at all a fungible product. Some are routine, uninspired; some range up to life and outlook transforming. What is taught on the same subject differs. This is the quality dimension too many don't recognize and, unfortunately or worse, quality is expensive. The view all educations are themselves equal is a popular anti-elitism view.
The situation I describe is further muddled by genuine and informed intellectual disagreements among the top intellectual elite, although for political and popular reasons, this aspect of the problem is very much overplayed. Once crankpots, excentrics, and moneywhores are flushed from the mix, there is surprising uniformity of thinking by subject, among the top intellectual elites, especially on policy directions. The anti-elite public simply doesn't understand this.
The popular core disposition against the very idea of superiority colors and biases the whole enterprise of considering the problem. Clear, intelligent, fair and open mindedness on the topic is extremely hard to come by among the public, especially when the other problems I identify are layered on top.
Elitism, especially in regard to knowledge or education, is very hard for the public to understand. It is only really well understood by the intellectual elites themselves and even they are often conflicted on the very idea of superiority. America's attack on the knowledgeable elite is anti-intellectualism -- long a dominate theme in this country -- run wild beyond all good sense and measure.
Ishi Crew: Observations on the Israeli and Saudi Leadership
28 December 2016 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
"I don't have a dog in this fight-- one or two state solution, or just abandon -- though I have read and liked a lot of stuff by israeli scientists (most of whom seem politically on the left; but some are right wing and believe in the Torah, etc, just as some Christian physicists think the Bible is true).
[However,] regardless of what they say, the way the Israeli leadership talks, when I hear them on the radio, is quite interesting and chilling. They can talk for two hours on the conflict without saying anything. Basically they are stalling, and, often, the press and others give them a pass -- act as if they are being reasonable.
Another chilling group is the Saudi leadership---the ones I heard talk seemed extremely smart but downright 'evil.' (One was talking about Syria.) A lot of these people are smart -- less in a 'science' way but more in the 'Hitler' or 'Trump' way (though some have science training).
On Watching A Disastrous Program
28 December 2016 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
I watched something pathetic this evening on CBS proving why Lincoln Center is the high cultural capital of America. The program was in progress when I tuned into it part way through, first catching the Kennedy Center's high tribute to Martha Argerich, who was present. It recounted her life and career as a pianist and had several performers play in tribute to her, including Itzhak Perlman (always a ham and now slipping) and Yefim Bronfman performing the third movement to Beethoven's Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 8, in G (the whole thing is just too much for Americans) and much better yet, then Yuja Wang playing a wonderful version of Piazzolla's Grand Tango on a Steinway Grande, with the high intelligence, musical sophistication and good taste for which she is internationally renowned.
From there, the program descended into a big screen presentation of the fictionalized life in Camelot of John F. Kennedy, with Cynthia Erivo concurrently singing "The Impossible Dream" from the Broadway musical "Man of La Mancha." Why is unclear, at least to me.
Then the program took a huge and drastic leap down musically with a tribute to the Eagles, who were there also, minus one, deceased. Those performing for them were the Kings of Leon doing "Take It Easy" and sundry other bands doing too much, including Juanes, Steve Vai and Steuart Smith howling "Hotel California."
I understand there was more before I tuned in that was also terrible, but the effect of what I observed was a wild leap off a musical cliff. The program I saw, if it can be called such, ended with a few of the various notables and celebrities present, who hummed and bobbed their heads through the "popular" portion of the program, shouting an angry, loud, hard rock tune out into the audience. One shaggy, white-haired gent in a tuxedo made a vivid impression on me, as he he angrily screamed out the lyrics to the point of salivating. The president and first lady looked restrained and pained. What a fucked up musical disaster.
It was a glaring lesson that, contrary to popular sentiment, all music, or what passes for it, is NOT created equal or even close to it. It also highlighted what a cultural and vacuous wasteland America has become in regard to its dominant musical dimension.