Believe Every Word!

All we’re doing is passing our savings on to our client base.
It’s a proprietary strategy. I can’t go into it in great detail.
But take my word for it, for the most part
you can ignore those market swings.
Bernie Madoff responding to his clients, 2001

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Lesson 1: Why lying well or sounding truthy can be self-nurturing and very lucrative. I am not saying that one needs to be a conspiracy theorist 24/7. What I am saying is that much of the time you need to stay sharp and not take everything at face value, especially when it is all dressed up looking and sounding pretty. Here are four more examples that beg for fools and fun, or painful trouble, depending on which side of the result you’re on.

  • In order to become old and wise, you must first be young and stupid.
  • The most dangerous animal out there is the shy, silent man.
  • Wouldn’t it be great to have a six-month vacation twice a year?
  • Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life.

The art of verbal flatulence is alive and well today. In all honesty, it has been quite well and thriving for many centuries and likely several millenia. Only today, it is sometimes dressed up and symphonious then other times so audaciously in your face and eccentric that the gullible audience begins to consider “Well, maybe it IS true.” Take for another prime example last evening’s State of the Union address to Congress.

Thanks to the Poynter Institute’s commitment to excellent journalism and its unparalleled non-profit service in providing a resource for anyone who aspires to engage and reliably inform all citizens. They serve 21st-century democracies, around the globe for people who honor all human rights, self-government, and freedom of expression (speech) coupled with a speaker’s or writer’s ownership of truths or lies. They also provide the invaluable Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checking website PolitiFact.com.

Here are some of [President Trump’s] comments [during the SoU address], fact-checked or with additional explanation or context. This report includes information on three accurate statements and 12 claims that are inaccurate, exaggerated or lack context.

Because 25% (to be kind) is such a horrible score at telling the truth, I am picking eight of Trump’s 12 wrong, overblown, and lacking good context comments to illustrate that not every word can be believed by Bernie Madoff President Donnie Trump.

On the Economy

President Trump:  “Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades.”

Wages are indeed rising, but they began their upward trajectory under President Barack Obama, and wages actually rose a bit faster under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

One common measurement of wages is median usual weekly real earnings for full-time wage and salary workers 16 years and older, an inflation-adjusted figure.

During Trump’s presidency, this figure has risen from $351 to $355, an increase of 1.1 percent over the better part of two years.

But the current wage increase began in earnest in the second half of 2014, when Obama was still more than two years away from leaving the White House. Overall, wages increased by 7.5 percent over that period, from $330 to $355.

This rise in wages wasn’t as steep as the country saw in the 1990s. Between the fourth quarter of 1997 and the first quarter of 2002, wages rose from $314 to $341, an increase of 8.6 percent.Louis Jacobson

President Trump:  “African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.”

This was accurate in 2018, but is out of date. Unemployment levels for each group reached record lows under Trump’s watch.

African-American unemployment fell to a record of 5.9 percent in May, and is at 6.8 percent as of January. Asian unemployment fell to 2.0 percent in May, and is now at 3.2 percent. Hispanic unemployment reached 4.4 percent in December 2018, and is now at 4.9.

But these trends began under former President Barack Obama, and economists say presidents don’t deserve either full credit or full blame for the unemployment rate on their watch.Manuela Tobias

President Trump:  “Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion, domination, and control.”

This is a variation on misleading attacks Republicans repeatedly made on Democrats during the 2018 midterms.

The narrowest definition of socialism is where the state owns all the means of production. Democrats have not called for the government to take over business.

American politicians such as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., or U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have used the term to call for a dramatic expansion of the social safety net, including already available health care programs. They typically propose much higher tax rates to pay for the programs.

That resonates with the systems in place in Europe, not Venezuela.Amy Sherman

President Trump:  “We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs.”

Trump is close on overall job creation but less accurate on manufacturing jobs.

The United States has added 5.3 million jobs since Trump was elected in November 2016. Counting from when he took office in January 2017 makes the figure a bit smaller, at 4.9 million.

As for manufacturing jobs, the number rose from about 12.4 million in January 2017 to 12.8 million in January 2019, or an increase of 454,000. We should add that the increase in manufacturing jobs under Trump followed a rise under Obama that began in 2010, when the worst of the Great Recession had passed.Louis Jacobson

On Foreign Policy

President Trump:  “For years, the United States was being treated very unfairly by friends of ours, members of NATO — but now over the past couple of years, we have secured a $100 billion increase in defense spending from NATO allies.”

This could [might] be true two years from now.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that’s what the European members expect to spend, and he credited Trump’s “clear message.”

“By the end of next year, NATO allies will add 100 — 100 billion extra U.S. dollars for defense,” Stoltenberg said on Fox News Jan. 27.

In constant dollars, NATO member defense spending has gone up about $24 billion since 2016. In current dollars, the amount is $48 billion. While we don’t know Stoltenberg’s starting point, $100 billion requires a steep rise, and we won’t know if it comes true until many months from now.Jon Greenberg

On Abortion

President Trump:  “Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”

This distorts the circumstances covered by the law signed Jan. 22 by New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

Previously, women in New York could only get abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if their lives were threatened. Under the new law, women can also get an abortion after 24 weeks if their health is threatened or the fetus isn’t viable.

The law codifies for New York the same standards established by the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.

Jen Villavicencio, an ob-gyn in the Midwest who provides abortions, told PolitiFact recently that late-term abortions are rare and usually due to medical crises. The Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both report that slightly more than 1 percent of all abortions occur after 21 weeks.

“Abortions are not performed at 40 weeks on healthy, viable pregnancies,” Villavincencio said. “Overwhelmingly, abortions that occur at this point in pregnancy are pregnancies where lethal fetal anomalies have been diagnosed.” —Jon Greenberg and Ciara O’Rourke

On Immigration

President Trump:  “Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.”

We can’t specifically document how many U.S. citizens have been killed, because there is no national database on murders committed by immigrants in the country illegally. There also is no national data or study tracking the nationality of the victims, experts have also told us.

And while some immigrants here illegally have committed murders, research indicates that immigrants are less likely to engage in criminal behavior than the native-born population. —Miriam Valverde

On Energy

President Trump:  “We have unleashed a revolution in American Energy – the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.”

This is mostly accurate. The United States ranks first in both, but that’s only new for crude oil.

In 2017, the United States ranked first in the total production of petroleum and other liquid fuels as well as natural gas. Within the subset of crude oil production, the United States edged past Russia and Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration, the federal office that collects energy statistics.

But the United States has been the world’s largest oil producer since 2012, and the largest natural gas producer for years.Manuela Tobias

Lesson 2: Lying better and sounding sensational doing it can also be very self-nurturing, very lucrative, and somewhat bumpy stepping on and over the many imbecile suckers in your wake of destiny. To the patient, experienced critical-thinker the minute you have to embellish, to sensationalize, hype it up and (try to) push people’s buttons and triggers… you are showing all your cards. Game over. But not everyone understands the con-man’s, showman’s game. Otherwise this man would not be in the White House in the first place.

That said however, Americans are not hard to figure out. The Land of Capitalistic Opportunity” or anything goes unless you get caught does enable the massive egos of the clinically psychiatric to thrive. Many Americans love (are obsessed with?) a great bombastic rebel. Our national history is without a doubt replete with them.

Fyi Nan, the clip is only 2.5 minutes. 😉

To read the rest of PolitiFact.com’s fact-checking on President Trump’s February 5th State of the Union speech, click here. It deserves noting too that the immediate Democratic response to the President’s speech by Stacey Abrams was also without context and more specific facts — hence, leaning to rhetoric and propaganda.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Look Deeper for Your Own Good, Please!

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Chiefs, Indians, Slavery & Tocqueville

Leonard R. Rogers was the subject of a 1954 article called “Boss Of Million Dollar Firm At Age Of 21 Is No Pipe Dream.” Rogers, whose company was responsible for 75 per cent of America’s business in tobacco pouches, was radically revamping the mega-corporation. When Rogers took over the company founded 50 years earlier by his grandfather he quickly realized that some of the long time company executives knew nothing about anything that was happening outside their department (bubble). Thus, he made the decision to re-organize the company by rolling heads and dissolving positions, i.e. Too many chiefs and not enough indians.

Catalan human-towers

Human towers in the traditional Catalan Festival

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians” was also the phrase my father liked to use. When we were down in Brazoria County, Texas, working my paternal grandparents cattle and land during one or two of the 3-4 holidays of the year, every one of my cousins, myself, and all my uncles and one aunt of the family had/wanted to accomplish all the needed and necessary work and never-ending repairs as efficiently as possible given the usually short few days everyone had while there. With so many cousins running around wanting to play or do our own “work tasks,” that was when he’d often use the phrase on us. I have to note here, however, that with his family the chief-indian concept reflected more the later 1996 concept “It Takes A Village” by Hillary Clinton. His family had rotating or periodic leadership and supporting roles. Everyone had to do and know all positions and their functions. Dad said it many times during my school and select-league soccer games he’d attend when we’d play bad or lose.

In the exceptional 2008 animated film WALL-E, Earth has become a trashed garbage planet due to unfettered free-enterprise which led to human hyper-consumption of everything corporate manufacturers and retailers convinced and sold the poorly educated masses they HAD to have to be “truly happy.” The upper-echelon executives left Axiom starliner people_1Earth on giant starliners and charged lower-echelon humans the same type of prices they charged for all their earthly GNP goods. As a result of the never-ending, rising land-fills from impulsive, Keeping Up with The Jones consumers they ironically created, Earth was no longer inhabitable. The starliner Axiom returns to Earth to retrieve another garbage compactor EVE that is not functioning. WALL-E becomes a stow-away onboard the Axiom and when he finally sees his predecessors/creators, humans. Every single one of them are grossly obese, immobile, and totally dependent on automation to do everything for them — the consequence of widespread chief-dome and no one wanting to rotate into the support roles, the blue-collar roles, the farmer roles, the plumber and garbage roles, or janitor roles. The ‘indians‘ roles.

All the chieftain-humans on the starliners had become slaves to convenience, leisure and having anyone or everything robotic perform all the daily, humdrum labor they themselves were too lazy to do. It was below them and their pay-grade.

Slavery. Oh the irony. In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian and political scientist, wrote a book about the young United States of America while examining a spreading trend of democracy and equality in Europe as well as North America. The book was Democracy in America and Tocqueville was intrigued by America’s system of governing and its nurturing of individualism. He thought the U.S. was a leading example of liberty, equality, a stable economy, and governing in action. He noted too how popular its churches were to social life. Yet, with all those “good marks,” he couldn’t help but notice how a freedom-loving nation despicably treated Native American Indians and African slaves. With all the theoretical perks of democracy, capitalism, and individualism, Tocqueville warned that too much equality would or could lead to intellectual dilution and a mediocrity of majority rule. Regarding independent, provocative thought, theory, and debate he wrote:

The majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it, not that he stands in fear of an inquisition, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness in every day persecution. A career in politics is closed to him for he has offended the only power that holds the keys.

alexis de tocquevilleOn the other hand, the pendulum can swing too far the other way to plutarchy and oligarchy if there is an insufficient, low-quality public education system and lack of economic opportunities/mobility to hedge against such tyrannies. If or when that occurs, some “individualized” Americans independently wealthy and above a struggling majority — what is currently the case in America today — often have the delayed pragmatic realization that looking after the welfare of others is not only good for the soul, but actually is equally good for their business and wealth. Those individualized elite who never realize this profound truth, eventually watch their empire and ivory towers crumble. Just ask the Roman Empire’s aristocracy, ask the 18th century opulent French monarchs such as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, or ask those executive heads of Leonard R. Rogers’ mega-tobacco corporation, or let’s ask a modern, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz:

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this has been something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Often, however, they learn it too late.

Tocqueville had a lot to say about the bright and dark sides of “democracy” in 1835. I think he still has a lot to say about it today, along with WALL-E, Leonard Rogers, and my Dad. Everyone deserves the right to be well-educated, helped and prepared by a team/village for their rotation as a chief and as an indian. When you stand-in and walk in someone else’s shoes, that is when understanding begins. That is when appreciation begins. That is when compassion and empathy begins. That is when true empowerment with humility begins.

(paragraph break)

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Excursion to Perversions – III

This continued blog-journey from Part II was inspired by and liberally borrowed from a classic book and well-known 19th century American writer you may recognize. I’ve added some modernized twists.

EtP_divider

Pilgrim Life, Amusements, and Opinions At Sea

For a week or so there were no conflicts of jurisdiction between the many various captains onboard, surprisingly on such a pleasure ship at sea. However, there was as much sameness as there was intrigue. Many pilgrims began acquiring sailor terminology:

“Half-past six was no longer half-past six to these pilgrims from New England, the South, and the Mississippi Valley, it was “seven bells”; eight, twelve, and four o’clock were “eight bells”; the captain did not take the longitude at nine o’clock, but at “two bells.” They spoke glibly of the “after cabin,” the “for’rard cabin,” “port and starboard” and the “fo’castle.””

I feared we’d soon have as many Ensigns as we had Captains and most were still miserably seasick. Where is the pleasure in that? Many found various games to play such as dominoes and identifying distant ships through opera-glasses. One very popular game was “Horse-billiards,” though popular I suppose only if winning or as a casual spectator. Horse-billiards “affords good, active exercise, hilarity, and consuming excitement. It is a mixture of “hop-scotch” and shuffleboard played with a crutch.” What makes the game so entertaining is scientific timing and calculations. With a long gangly crutch players vigorously thrust their wooden disks forward — right, not what you’re thinking — for different points in different squares; no points if your disk stops on a line. You must cross the line or stop short of the line. Easy, right?

starlight dancingNo. One must account for the reeling of the ship starboard, port, fore, or aft. Many a scientific calculation resulted in a disk going off the entire hopscotch board, down a gangway, or worse slip back to where you thrusted… or apparently not. The ladies seemed to enjoy this mishap the most.

By half-past 7 o’clock when the bell tolled for… prayers, we pilgrims would promenade to the handsome saloon, otherwise known as the “Synagogue” by the unregenerated. Our “hymns were accompanied by parlor-organ music when the sea was smooth enough to allow a performer to sit at the instrument without being lashed to his chair.” Not too unlike those twitchers in front of long-winded ministers I suppose.

“Several times the photographer of the expedition brought out his transparent pictures and gave us a handsome magic-lantern exhibition. His views were nearly all of foreign scenes, but there were one or two home pictures among them. He advertised that he would “open his performance in the after cabin at ‘two bells’ (nine P.M.) and show the passengers where they shall eventually arrive”—which was all very well, but by a funny accident the first picture that flamed out upon the canvas was a view of Greenwood Cemetery!”

On the upper deck we performed what should appear as ballroom dancing underneath the canvas awnings with rows of lanterns hung from the ship’s deck-posts. But with all the brilliant lighting underneath the glittering stars, the dancing was not so brilliant nor graceful.

“Our music consisted of the well-mixed strains of a melodeon which was a little asthmatic and apt to catch its breath where it ought to come out strong, a clarinet which was a little unreliable on the high keys and rather melancholy on the low ones, and a disreputable accordion that had a leak somewhere and breathed louder than it squawked—a more elegant term does not occur to me just now. However, the dancing was infinitely worse than the music. When the ship rolled to starboard the whole platoon of dancers came charging down to starboard with it, and brought up in mass at the rail; and when it rolled to port they went floundering down to port with the same unanimity of sentiment. Waltzers spun around precariously for a matter of fifteen seconds and then went scurrying down to the rail as if they meant to go overboard.”

In order to save some level of dignity, we gave up dancing.

It seemed quite appropriate that what should follow our meager attempts of ballroom music and dancing would be a mock trial. Naval tradition dictates a dummy crime, law-enforcement, an accuser and defendant, a courtroom, a judge, and of course witnesses. Witnesses that are unsure of what they witnessed which makes for gripping amusement onboard a presently mundane pleasure excursion on the high seas. The judge hammers his gavel.

“The purser was accused of stealing an overcoat from stateroom No. 10. A judge was appointed; also clerks, a crier of the court, constables, sheriffs; counsel for the State and for the defendant; witnesses were subpoenaed, and a jury empaneled after much challenging. The witnesses were stupid and unreliable and contradictory, as witnesses always are. The counsel were eloquent, argumentative, and vindictively abusive of each other, as was characteristic and proper. The case was at last submitted and duly finished by the judge with an absurd decision and a ridiculous sentence.”

mock trialShortly after the guilty purser was catapulted overboard for his overcoat crime, a debate club was formed to argue the benefits of human catapults. But it failed. It was no less successful than the evening’s dancing, for there were no oratorical talents to be found anywhere on the ship. Perhaps the fear of being catapulted into the raging sea for lack of oratory skill or grasp of an elementary vocabulary — reminiscent of an American President who can’t read a teleprompter — dashed their ambitions.

Had the debate club been successfully created, the first issue addressed would most certainly be the singing. There are some passengers that question the quality of song, myself included, and its consequences during our precarious voyage. Many a superstitious sailor and unregenerated passengers would attribute our strong head-winds to unhappy muses of Apollo. Should this mockery of song and dance continue, there could be retribution to pay:

“There were those who said openly that it was taking chances enough to have such ghastly music going on, even when it was at its best; and that to exaggerate the crime by letting George help was simply flying in the face of Providence. These said that the choir would keep up their lacerating attempts at melody until they would bring down a storm some day that would sink the ship.

There were even grumblers at the prayers. The executive officer said the pilgrims had no charity: “There they are, down there every night at eight bells, praying for fair winds—when they know as well as I do that this is the only ship going east this time of the year, but there’s a thousand coming west—what’s a fair wind for us is a head wind to them—the Almighty’s blowing a fair wind for a thousand vessels, and this tribe wants him to turn it clear around so as to accommodate one—and she a steamship at that! It ain’t good sense, it ain’t good reason, it ain’t good Christianity, it ain’t common human charity. Avast with such nonsense!””

EtP_divider

Land-Hoh, Sketchy Mathematics, and Cheer Restored

The twenty-four hundred nautical miles from New York Harbor to the Azores was in good naval terms:  by and large pleasant. Yes, disgruntled sea gods blew unfavorable head-winds upon our vessel and asthmatic singing. Yes, well over half our passenger manifest were seasick from the Quaker City being thrown to and fro — which ironically enough helped with our ballroom dancing. But for the most part, the first leg of our journey had temperate summer days and finer evenings under starlit heavens with a full moon that followed us at the same hour every night. “It was becoming an old moon to the friends we had left behind us, but to us Joshuas it stood still in the same place and remained always the same.” This caused quite the stir to some unknowing gazers as if we had the celestial white balloon tethered to our mast.

Then the trip’s charm ended at a most unfortunate hour.

“At three o’clock on the morning of the twenty-first of June, we were awakened and notified that the Azores islands were in sight. I said I did not take any interest in islands at three o’clock in the morning. But another persecutor came, and then another and another, and finally believing that the general enthusiasm would permit no one to slumber in peace, I got up and went sleepily on deck. It was five and a half o’clock now, and a raw, blustering morning. The passengers were huddled about the smoke-stacks and fortified behind ventilators, and all were wrapped in wintry costumes and looking sleepy and unhappy in the pitiless gale and the drenching spray.”

Why a mound of mud in the water was such a sight to sacrifice sweet slumber, I can only guess. Perhaps the fine entertainment on our tossing and turning ship had been enough to find hope and relief on land? For the unregenerated, sleep can easily serve the same purpose.

scetchy mathWe pilgrims soon moved on to the island of San Miguel and Fayal. Mr. Blucher was so overjoyed that we were finally on firm, unmoving ground that he proposed a grand feast with fine food and flowing spirits.

[Blucher] had heard it was a cheap land, and he was bound to have a grand banquet. He invited nine of us, and we ate an excellent dinner at the principal hotel. In the midst of the jollity produced by good cigars, good wine, and passable anecdotes, the landlord presented his bill. Blucher glanced at it and his countenance fell. He took another look to assure himself that his senses had not deceived him and then read the items aloud, in a faltering voice, while the roses in his cheeks turned to ashes:

“‘Ten dinners, at 600 reis, 6,000 reis!’ Ruin and desolation!
“‘Twenty-five cigars, at 100 reis, 2,500 reis!’ Oh, my sainted mother!
“‘Eleven bottles of wine, at 1,200 reis, 13,200 reis!’ Be with us all!

“‘TOTAL, TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED REIS!’ The suffering Moses! There ain’t money enough in the ship to pay that bill! Go—leave me to my misery, boys, I am a ruined community.””

All seemed lost for the Blucher lad. What prison cell awaits this pilgrim? As the clichés go, a dropped pin could be heard or a mouse sniffing in the corner the silence was so deafening. Blank stares everywhere at one another, wine glasses slowly returned to the table-top, their paletted beauty untasted. Fingers no longer held their cigars dropped into their smoke-trays. There seemed no looks of hope or encouragement about, only thoughts and glances of a quick escape, scatterment through the nearest exits. Blucher stood up and exclaimed loudly:

“Landlord, this is a low, mean swindle, and I’ll never, never stand it. Here’s a hundred and fifty dollars, Sir, and it’s all you’ll get—I’ll swim in blood before I’ll pay a cent more.”

Our spirits rose and the landlord’s fell—at least we thought so; he was confused, at any rate, notwithstanding he had not understood a word that had been said. He glanced from the little pile of gold pieces to Blucher several times and then went out. He must have visited an American, for when he returned, he brought back his bill translated into a language that a Christian could understand—thus:

10 dinners, 6,000 reis, or $6.00
25 cigars, 2,500 reis, or $2.50
11 bottles wine, 13,200 reis, or $13.20

Total 21,700 reis, or $21.70

Though one might wonder in bafflement the mechanisms of Christian mathematics, and that foreign exchange rates serve a particular purpose, and that it is indeed wise to have at least a basic understanding of these global concepts, happiness and frolicking returned to Blucher’s party and another round of drink was ordered!

Three cheers for native math and ignorant travellers! Hip-hip… HOORAY!

Now for my modern version of fine Victorian ballroom dancing as our pilgrims progress to Paris… “Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada.”

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To be continued…

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