Politics and the art of deception

Yep, lots of people are rightfully outraged at the election of Donald Trump and what the future holds. They look at his tweets, at was he says, and are super excited that he is going to do all the things he said or tweeted.

Meanwhile, back in the UK there is a whole lot of hand wringing going on about #BREXIT and what it means. It started the morning after the vote was announced, when liar, braggart, and Trump confidant Nigel Farage admitted that the £350-million for the UK National Health Service that was one of the flagship reasons for leaving the EU, was a “mistake”, or a lie.

The whole point of politics to find a way to get things done? That often r
requires a twisted tongue so as not to upset a prevailing government, or official before they’ve agreed to do what you want. It’s what Clinton mean when she said  she often had both a ‘both a public and a private position’.

Often this comes back to bite the politicians, when what they want to do is bad, doesn’t happen or in some other way backfires. Anyone who thinks that you can be open and transparent with everyone all the time, simply has not been successful at any meaningful level. Tony Blair is a fine example of this, his legacy in tatters, all the positive work he did while in office forgotten, over the lies and deception that took the UK into the “War on Terror“.

Everyone now is overheating about what Trump might do based on what he said or tweeted. First of all most of that is simple distraction. It’s throwing crumbs to the dogs, while he actually gets on with what he wants. His deception and lies though will come back to bite him, but you can’t assume he’ll do, or more importantly, be able to do everything he has claimed. It’s what politicians do, they say what they need to get the chance to do what they want.

Did you never ever tell your kids a white lie, or something that wasn’t really true to get them to do something? Did you ever threaten them when you had no real intention of following through? If you can honestly answer this no you did not, I’ve got a country you can run post BREXIT.

Assange/Wikileaks/Trump

It will be interesting to see how they play out under Trump.

The first, and perhaps least important is that of the position of Julian Assange, the erstwhile editor-in-chief of the organisation WikiLeaks. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuador’s embassy in London trying to avoid questioning in Sweden over an alleged rape charge. Assange asserts that this is a thinly veiled first step in extraditing him to the US for trial on much more sinister charges.

I debated, aka argued, with my own son that you couldn’t take anything that Assange is now doing at face value. That when wikileaks first arrived on the Internet, it was about the leak and the injustice and not the personalities. My son, remained convinced that it was about the global banking system, and their ties with powerful politicians. I disagree, for too long, wikileaks has been about Assange.

Given the timing, and manor in which the wikileaks disclosure of the DNC/Podesta emails came about, I believe this was nothing more than an attempt by Assange and wikileaks to undermine the US election. They succeeded.

It’s almost certainly no coincidence that it was announced that Assange would finally be questioned by the Swedish authorities next week. The only question that remains, irrespective of the outcome, is will a Trump Presidency go after Assange in the same way either Obama or Clinton Presidency would?

If not, does that leave wiggle room for the return to the USA of Edward Snowden? Wikileaks can and will go on without Assange. Snowden is the real hero for exposing the secret mass survailance system that Presidents Bush/Obama had setup, and now will come under control of President Trump.

Feeling had America, you should. Don’t forget the emails, the only thing we learned from them for the mot part was how the DNC set Hillary up to fail, and they gave the chattering classes something to focus on that wasn’t policy, and wasn’t difficult.

Dystopian Future it is then

In his acceptance speech, President elect Trump said, among other things:

We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.

This from a man, who tweeted:

I’ve no idea what to expect now from the Trump Presidency, but it’s an amazing  coincidence that the original Blade Runner film was set in In Los Angeles in November 2019, just two years from now.

Hopefully Blade Runner isn’t a metaphor for a Trump Presidency; the weather and the blade runners, especially Gaff, do not foreshadow Trumps Immigration cops; and hopefully the Los Angeles in the film, nothing like the real LA in 2019; and the replicants not an extreme of the automation I wrote about yesterday.

blade-runner

What we don’t know is how Trump will do this. Just running up the deficit doesn’t seem likely given he’s from the GOP/Republican party. Taking much of what he’s said, closing tax loopholes, defunding Nato, closing overseas bases in place like Germany, Japan and more won’t likely save enough money. Your move President Trump.

Bring back what jobs?

Look, the jobs that are lost, are not coming back, get over it. When Trump claims he’ll bring back jobs, he either has no idea what he is talking about, or he envisions some dystopian future where Americans are more like slaves than they’ve been since, well, slaves.

China and Mexico are not the problem, automation is. Even if Trump were able to force companies to bring manufacturing back to ‘Merica, through punitive tax and trade barriers, the manufacturing won’t be the same as it was, ever.

Listen to this recent extract from NPR’s All Things Considered. Bertram de Souza of The Vindicator talks about steel mills following a recent visit of Trump to Youngstown Ohio.

The next wave of automation is coming, it’s in driverless vehicles, it will have a dramatic impact on employment. Automated delivery trucks, automated taxi’s, autonomous vehicles will make a large dent in the current employment of some 3-million in America. While many cities are salivating over the ability of self-driving, autonomous vehicles to fix their broken road and transport infrastructure, that’s missing the point.

There are many detailed, and complex reports on the impact of automation, pick your favorite organization and search their website, McKinsey and Company(2014); Stanford Business School(2015); Pew Internet(2016) and on, and on.

Equally there have been a few superficial recent reports in the news media, this one from US Today. One of the better, more recent articles is from Rex Nutting over on Marketwatch.Rex Nutting over on Marketwatch.

I’ve been horrified by the lack of actual policy discussion and examination of the context, detail and and lack of clarity even where there is policy. This is something we should have had a real debate about when, what and how we handle the future of automation.

It’s not as if the impact of automation is new. Depending on how you classify automation, it’s been going on since the invention of mills, but importantly since the computer became pervasive in business.

As far back as the late 1960’s it was a discussion topic. In the early and mid-1980’s automation had become a key issue for governments and businesses. This was a classic of it’s time.

A human teller can handle up to 200 transactions a day, works 30 hours a week, gets a salary anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000 a year plus fringe benefits, gets coffee breaks, a vacation and sick time… In contrast, an automated teller can handle 2,000 transactions a day, works 168 hours a week, costs about $22,000 a year to run, and doesn’t take coffee breaks or vacations. – Bennett, 1983

This is a well used quote from a report called “Bank Systems and Equipment” by Bennett et al 1983 and often misquoted and attributed to Nobel Prize winner, Wassily Leontief and  Faye Duchin, who used it in their seminal 1986 work “The Future Impact of Automation on Workers“.

img_20161107_125230I worked on an IBM Corporate study in 1998, following the release of Dunkerleys book, the jobless economy.  I still have the books on my home office book shelf.

Many of us were uncomfortable with what technology was capable of doing to our society, much more than our jobs. I’d seen it first hand and contributed to the loss of hundreds of jobs. When I first arrived at Chemical Bank in New York city in 1983, there were hundreds of people, mostly women, sat in large rooms, processing incoming credit card authorization phone calls. Within 3-years, they were all gone. Their positions had been eliminated. Replaced by simple automation of the repetitive tasks they did using search and a “database” lookup.

Some of the information and outlook from that IBM study found it’s way into this presentation I gave at meetings and conferences around the world at that time.

Automation was, and is unstoppable without a much bigger debate. Trump alone can’t fix it or stop it. Automation is a result of three, equally powerful trends.

One. The absolute fear and revulsion in America of Unions, their impact, power and influence. Sterns 1963 paper “Automation-End or a New Day in Unionism?” captured the potential impact of automation on Unions.

Two. Big corporations and the way the market values them, their ability to balance investment against revenue and more importantly profit. Investors and the market don’t care how business makes profit, and the tax authorities allow investments to be written off against profit. So removing expense, in the form of employees, and improving profits is always on the agenda.

Three. The continual consumer march towards ever more consumption and disposable, cheap goods. Perhaps more than the loss of jobs, if pernicious tax and trade barriers were implemented by any politician or President, we would see a revolt among the people, who more than anytime in history, want their stuff as a measure of their value.

So, we can’t stop automation, the jobs are not coming back. Where does that leave us?

I’m inclined to agree with Musk. The only way around the impact of automation is a universal basic income. That’s what we should have been debating this election cycle. Not fucking emails, walls, muslims and pussygate, let alone if somewhat left leaning Bernie Sanders proposals were socialism by the back door. Without serious discussion on these difficult topics, America will continue to into social conflict and fear.

Even if Trump gets elected today, those 5-million jobs we’ve already lost, and another 5-million are not coming back.

New York Values – Archie Bunker

Archie and his generation had grown tired of the 1960’s liberal experiment and they blamed it for tearing apart “their” America. It was where the disenchantment about the welfare system came from and how welfare had become permanently associated with the African American, and exploded out of control.

It’s quite likely Donald Trump got many of his values, and was influenced heavily by Archie Bunker. If Trump wasn’t, many of his supporters absolutely were. It was a simpler time in the 1970’s.

New York was full of men and women descended from German, Irish, Italian, Polish, Greek and Jewish immigrants who were civil servants, union members and similar. They were “middle class” only in so much as they were neither working class, nor formerly slaves.

Archie Bunker soon became the countries favorite TV character whe he appeared on TV in 1970. He is by todays standards, a man from another era. Watching episodes of All in the Family now, it’s easy to see that even back then the liberal media laughing at Archie, making fun of his customs and behavior. Archie was at heart though a democrat. Satire only really works, if it’s based on real life.

Archie and his generation had grown tired of the 1960’s liberal experiment and they blamed it for tearing apart “their” America. It was where the disenchantment about the welfare system came from and how welfare had become permanently associated with the African American, and exploded out of control.

The problem was, welfare never did anything to address the problems of ghetto life, racism, and endemic poverty. The white middle and working class saw the increasing lack of personal control of what happened to them.

You can trace many of the values held by Trump and his supporters back to this time, and Archie Bunker is their poster boy. Peter Hamill wrote in his April 1969 feature in the New York Magazine “The Revolt of the White Middle Class” .

The working-class white man is actually in revolt against taxes, joyless work, the double standards and short memories of professional politicians, hypocrisy and what he considers the debasement of the American dream.

If the stereotyped black man is becoming the working-class white man’s enemy, the eventual enemy might be the democratic process itself. Any politician who leaves that white man out of the political equation, does so at very large risk. The next round of race riots might not be between people and property, but between people and people. And that could be the end of us.

And that is, as much as anything, how we arrived where we are today. As an Englishman, I never really understood the use of term “middle class” in America, it seemed so at odds with the British middle class. Hamill put that in context, but Bunker represents the values, and thinking that has developed in the rancorous mob we see today, and that includes whatever Trump and Cruz think are “values”.

We are all anchor babies

Trump is such an ass, he typifies the greed and avarice of the last century. Despite all his boasts, he really hasn’t done much except bully his way through life.

I’m delighted to see Richard Digance has finally seen the light and allowed much of his 1970’s song and some of his poetry material to make it on to youtube. He, or his record company, had previously fought and issued take down orders for anyone trying to provide copies, and in some cases, even links to copies.

I saw Digance twice live, and was there for one of the nights at the Rainbow Theatre in 1974 when his “Live” album was recorded. Of those tracks, “How the West was lost” was pretty influential on me at the time.

A couple of years later when recovering from knee surgery after a motorcycle accident, I spent a lot of time in the library researching American history. Digance songs, and his poems were intelligent, articulate, and often funny, quite the opposite of Trump.

You’ve been Trumped

and later in 2010 was one of the backers of of Anthony Baxters “You’ve been Trumped” about the Trump organizations development of the “World’s Greatest golf course”. The film shows exactly the same behavior by Trump, grandiose claims, with little supporting detail.

I’ve still not seen a good breakdown on Trumps claim or ability to beat the Chinese.

Although today we’ve seen Trumps’ tax plan, an attempt to burn the candle at both ends by appealing to the rich and the very poor, totally torn apart as poorly thought through and likely to cost the country trillions in debt. See the Huffington post here and the NPR report here. The NPR article is worth reading because it has highlighted the get-out excuses Trump will use when confronted with the debt. He just won’t provide details until it’s either too late, or will use them later as an excuse.

The problem with debt is that it has to be paid for somehow, and that is likely through things like tax hikes down the road, cutbacks, usually as soon as the debt starts to balloon; and all those things will likely lead to rapid inflation, which is an opportunity if you are rich and have money in the bank, but if you are poor or middle class it starts by hitting your mortgage rate, your credit card rate and then hits your job as companies cut back.

You've_Been_Trumped_poster[1]I’ve had a inbuilt distrust of Trump since back in 2008, and later in 2010 was one of the backers of of Anthony Baxters “You’ve been Trumped” about the Trump organizations development of the “World’s Greatest golf course”. The film shows exactly the same behavior by Trump, grandiose claims, with little supporting detail.

The interesting thing is that while his golf course got built, Trump lost against a number of truly individual people, and the Scottish Government. At which point he declared he was done with it, and moved on. The golf course is reported earlier this year(2015) to have lost $5-million in two years, and despite claiming to create hundreds of jobs, had only 66-people working at the course.

If Trump can’t buy out a man who “lives like a pig”, and can’t beat the Scottish Government, it is really hard to imagine he can buy-out an beat the Chinese. Watch the film trailer below to get a sense of the hubris and self aggrandizement of the man. For $2.99 watching the full film on vimeo is well worth the time and money.

YOU’VE BEEN TRUMPED THEATRICAL TRAILER from Montrose Pictures on Vimeo.

You’ve Been Trumped from Cinedigm on Vimeo.