Thursday, December 1, 2016

"Fake News" peddlers have a huge asymmetrical advantage

Let me suggest another sort of inquiry into the source of our fact-polarization.  On the internet, promoters of obscure or semi-obscure misinformation have a huge asymmetrical advantage.

Tom O'Bryan, a chiropractor and self-promoted as an "internationally recognized speaker specializing in Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Disease" is quite likely the main guy responsible for the anti-gluten fad.  People with celiac disease need to avoid gluten, but that disease affects about 1 in 100 people.

Now, some experiments with Google. Thanks to the filter bubble different people will get different results from Google, unless you anonymize yourself, and "hit counts" are of very dubious value unless they are very small, so the following will give just a rough idea.

If you Google{ "Tom O'Bryan" } Google claims 330,000 hits, and you will go through many pages without finding anything critical of the good doctor.  I gave up trying.  When I did Google{ "Tom O'Bryan" quack }, I got 222 nominal hits, including and  My conclusion: he is pretty much below the radar and nearly all that ends up on the web about him comes from him and his associates or believers.  If Wikipedia had an article on O'Bryan, that would have come up on the 1st page but they don't.

If you google "GMO", you will get a reasonable distribution of pro and con articles from the start.  But when I google{ GML "pig intestines" } I get, among 22,800 nominal hits, about a 9:1 ratio of items tracing back to a probably very flawed study that summarizes as "GMO feed turns pig stomachs to mush! Shocking photos ..."

If you google{ Obama wedding ring } Google announces 3,600,000 hits and from the start it is about a 9:1 ratio of items claiming that something about Obama's wedding ring proves that he is a muslim.  There is much variety, including "BARACK OBAMA'S GAY SHARIA WEDDING RING!!!".  In the first few pages, about 1 in 10 items is a Snopes or factcheck or some such criticism of the theory.

If you google{ Obama muslim } you get a non-overwhelming majority of items critical to the idea, at least for the first few pages.

Finally, if you google{ Obama religion } you get mostly items asserting Obama is after all a Christian.  In general, the closer you get to a representative or key phrase of a supporting argument for a theory with a big or moneyed set of promoters -- and moreover the theory is ignored by most people -- the more Google will seem to confirm that it is true.

Searches that represent the headline claim will elicit more criticisms of fake facts, while searches that represent an obscure supporting claim will come up almost completely positive.

People who get the anonymous right wing emails, or go to the 2nd or 3rd tier RW sites, which circulate the rumors of the day are treated to an endless parade of "last nails in the coffin of the AGW hoax", and when they look on the web they find almost nothing but support, heightened by the filter bubble effect since Google's interest is to show them things they like seeing.

Friday, September 4, 2015

What about me, Donald Trump?

Long before he was a senator, Al Franken was a Saturday Night Live player whose special role was that of a cheerful clueless narcissist.  His sketches were monologues; he would be posed behind a desk like a serious pundit, addressing the serious issue of the day.  Then he would  pause, and say

"Now I know you're wondering what does this mean for me, Al Franken?"

That was the running joke, the monologue just kept coming back to "what does this mean for me, Al Franken?" - maybe you had to be there.

He sort of kept drawing on that basic character throughout his career as a comic, including his first book I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!: Daily Affirmations ....

Then in 1999 he wrote Why Not Me? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency.  It seems he had a political passion, and a way to express it, and the rest, we might say, is history.  He tried to influence opinion with the unsuccessful Air America radio network, then saw a chance to contest a GOP senate seat, and won it after a couple of months of vote recounts.

What About Me, Donald Trump?

Donald Trump's efforts at making a difference in the political world have consisted most notably of several considerations of becoming president or governor of New York, and as for policy, his very vocal accusations that Barrack Obama was born outside the U.S., and that Obama's Columbia grades (which neither Trump nor the public had seen) weren't good enough to get him into Harvard Law School.  He strongly backed Obama's 2009 rescue of the auto industry, and hinted that vaccines cause autism, and denigrated climate change concerns.

That seems kind of all over the place.   What about the key themes of his career thus far?  Perhaps I'm missing something, but they seems to be
  1. making money
  2. displaying his superiority to everyone else
  3. and playing a major role in a media circus.

As a candidate, his positions seem opportunistic. Is he really stupid enough to be a birther, or was that just a way of getting attention (see item 3 above)? Now, as a presidential candidate, he gets plenty of attention by saying one  inflammatory and extreme thing after another.  Then for variety, he sometimes sits down with a journalist and sounds candid, as if he's thinking things out. This too is probably a pose.

Why is he running?  Maybe he woke up thinking "Why not me?  I've done all these important powerful things, why not be president?"

What does he think he would do with the presidency? Something audacious, no doubt, and most likely reckless, because that's the kind of guy he is.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why are conservatives so enamored of Thomas Sowell?

This is from what I wrote on Quora in response to the question.

I have only read his later, awful, writing, but my impression is that his first 1 or 2 books were intelligent, and his 1980 Knowledge and Decisions very likely did a good job of popularizing Hayek's The Use of Information... or Von Mises Problem of Calculation in [socialist systems], and got him a lifetime position at the Hoover Institute.  It must have been a relief.  He got his Ph.D. in 1968 from U. Chicago under George Stiglitz, then (see wikipedia)  he taught economics at Howard University, Rutgers, Cornell, Brandeis University, Amherst College.  That's 12 years as a conservative black economist in the worst possible time in history to have done that.

His book publishing history goes like 1968 - (year of Ph.d.) - 1971 no writing; probably having a terrible struggle.
1972 a technical economics book.  1975 Race and Economics, probably an intelligent moderately conservative analysis.  1980 Knowledge and Decisions, as I mentioned, which won him the extremely prestigious place at the Hoover Institute.  From then to 2002 a book or two a year, including A Conflict of Visions -- very popular on the right today, which gives a totally out of date portrait of liberal (dreamers of human perfection) and conservative (pragmatists who understand human fallibility)  philosophies because today the right is much more dominated by (their kind of) dogmatic utopians than the left (esp. look at Clinton and Obama - Clinton way too much blowing in the wind, and Obama pragmatic and intimidated by economists maybe up to now).
From 2002-present about 2 books a year and popular articles every week.  I am sure Sowell was treated abominably by liberals esp. prior to his ascention to the Hoover Inst.  But at some point I suspect somebody started throwing lots of money at him to write right-wing hack books.  Read David Brock's Blinded by the Right:  1994 do hatchet job on Anita Hill; 1996 - offered nice advance to do hatchet job on Hillary Clinton, but halfway through becomes disillusioned with his current friends and writes a more nuanced book that fiinished him as a right wing hack writer.

I have mostly sampled his post-2002 work except for the 1987 Conflict of Visions and the already fairly vile The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy.  The late work as far as I can tell is pure pushing of right wing talking points from a bitter wounded liberal hater.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What I get for being on National Review mailing list

Title=my guess as to why this came to my mailbox.  I subscribe to  keep up with their foolishness.  Not only would Edmund Burke turn over in his grave, even Buckley would, I think.

Subject: Federal Reserve insider warns of 70% stock market crash (shocking footage)

Dear Concerned American,

I develop systems for the CIA that detect imminent threats to our national security from terrorists, rival nations, and internal weaknesses lurking inside
our economy.

I'm stepping forward today because my team and I have uncovered a series of alarming signals that point to a fast-approaching, 70% stock market crash.

And we have begun to prepare for an unstoppable $100 trillion American meltdown that will be unleashed in its aftermath.

Unfortunately, our government has already enacted measures for this coming catastrophe as well. They call it "The Day After Plan."

Because our leaders have kept you in the dark about this dangerous situation, I'm going to release all of the evidence my team has gathered.

This way you can see it for yourself.

(Warning: This footage is shocking) -

I'm not asking you to believe me now. I realize what I'm talking about is very serious.

Which is why I strongly suggest you take a few moments to view this evidence.

And then ask yourself, "what if I'm right?"

Click here to see everything...

Stay Safe,

Jim Rickards
Financial Threat and Asymmetric Warfare Advisor

Remove yourself from ProjectProphets -

"The Paranoid Style in American Politics" never mentioned Lincoln, and Yet

A brief note:

From the "House Divided" speech

We can not absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen -- Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance -- and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few -- not omitting even scaffolding -- or, if a single piece be lacking, we can see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet bring such piece in -- in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.
 Stephen A. Douglas
 Franklin Pierce
 Roger Taine
 James Buchanan

Oh, the anti-Lincoln Mises Institute Anarcho-Capitalists could have some fun with this

Friday, January 9, 2015

Obama To Disband the Marine Corps

You didn't know this, did you?

On a flight home I sat in between two individuals,  a Marine and boxing promoter.  The boxing guy was an older gentleman, and told interesting stories, such as meeting Don King.  Both men were very pleasant and that helped make time pass on the flight.  We were all combat veterans and all Southerners, so we had a lot in common.  Then the discussion, inevitably, turned to politics.

The older guy turned to the Marine and said "You know Obama is getting rid of the Marine Corps, right?"

The Marine was puzzled.  He hadn't heard this news.  Neither had I.  "Yeah, Eric Holder just had a meeting with the Joint Chiefs.  Obama is going to disband them by Executive Order."

Hooooo boy.  We are going to do this now, are we?  Putting aside for the moment why the head of the DOJ would be involved with restructuring a military department in the DoD, I said: "I don't think any president can just disband a branch of service.

                  quoting "SemDem" (Seminole Democrat) at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ways of Thinking About History, Take 2 (part 1?)

History and Systematization

I will always be enticed by the dream, of a grand system for discovering, from history, how to make a better world.

At the same time, nearly all experience tells me this is a foolish, often dangerous, chimera.

To systematize, seems to be an irrepressible urge, evident in many people, and a part of the design of human beings. This urge has given rise to religions, cults, literary salons, 'think tanks', universities, philosophical societies and their journals, those arrogant 'master narratives', grand unified field theories, scientific and historical conferences, and paranoid fantasies.