"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up."

Arthur Koestler 

Entries in Propaganda (81)


Be a He-Man: Cut the Cord

I have long ago stopped basic cable. While there is always questionable subject matter,  the main reason I stopped was the ads. I don't think we realize the large negative effect these have on us. Buy, buy, buy, and then buy some more is the goal of advertising. It used to be only eight minutes per hour in the sixties, now it is sixteen minutes.  

There is plenty to watch with minimal commercials. Even with the recent increase, Netflix still seems a bargain. I watch Hulu more. Pay the extra four dollars and get the commercial lite version of Hulu.  

While YouTube is cracking down on copyright violations, there is still a lot available. Paramount has a new channel on YouTube with lots of movies from its past. I would not call them the greatest movies in Paramount's history, but many of them are OK, especially if you are watching them the first time.

Like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.



For those interested in military matters this longish article on the current Russian military might be of interest. 

In particular I want to focus on the word chosen in the subtitle by the author for propaganda purposes.

"Vladimir Putin's brazen moves in Syria and Ukraine."

The United States destabilizes the whole Middle East--and Putin's decision to help an ally is brazen! The fact that most readers will not even notice the pejorative term "brazen" shows just how effective US propaganda has been.

No leader of Russia is going to allow its only warm-water military ports to be seized by NATO. This is exactly what was at stake in Ukraine. Victoria Nuland gave a speech a few years ago at the National Press Club where she admitted that the US was spending 5 billion dollars to destabilize Ukraine. She was also caught in an intercepted phone call planning Ukraine's transitional government. When asked what the EU might think about this her response, again caught audibly, was "Fuck the EU."

But yet Putin is the brazen one!

Naturally, nations have differing interests, and nations will do what they feel is in their own best interests. Russian and US interests are not the same. The idea that Putin wears a "black hat" and Obama a "white hat" is very humorous. What is not humorous is that the propaganda masters of the US are largely getting away with it.

So when you read articles such as the one I linked to at the beginning of this post, read critically. Think about the word choices the author of any article uses. Ask yourself the question, "Am I being played?"

Of course you are. Don't let it happen.


Amazing Grace?

 This video was instrumental in my decisions to start blogging again. While I know some will find it inspiring, I found it disgusting. 


The Problem with Experts

The problem with experts is that you can find one who advocates whatever you want. Do you think I exaggerate? Consider the case of Peter Duesberg

Peter H. Duesberg, Ph.D. is a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California. 

He isolated the first cancer gene through his work on retroviruses in 1970, and mapped the genetic structure of these viruses. This, and his subsequent work in the same field, resulted in his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1986. He is also the recipient of a seven-year Outstanding Investigator Grant from the National Institutes of Health. 

Duesberg was, and is, an expert in retroviruses, like the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Well, we lay people think that HIV causes AIDS. Duesberg is not so sure:

On the basis of his experience with retroviruses, Duesberg has challenged the virus-AIDS hypothesis in the pages of such journals as Cancer Research, Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature, Journal of AIDS, AIDS Forschung, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapeutics, New England Journal of Medicine,nd Research in Immunology. He has instead proposed the hypothesis that the various American/European AIDS diseases are brought on by the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and/or AZT itself, which is prescribed to prevent or treat AIDS.  See The AIDS Dilemma: Drug diseases blamed on a passenger virus.

I will not talk anymore about Duesberg's AIDS theories, I do not have the training, nor the desire to get that training. But Duesberg illustrates my main point: you can find an expert that believes whatever you want to be true. 

That is the rub, "Whatever you want to be true." This is called confirmation bias. Wikipedia describes it:

Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses.[Note 1][1] People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations). 

So if you do not like meat, you quote Dr McDougal; if you do like meat you quote Dr Perlmutter. If you think saturated fat is bad for you, there are many doctors that will agree with you, like Dr Barron at UCSF's obesity center. If you like saturated fat, then you can quote Dr Davis or Dr Sinatra, both expert cardiologists. I do not expect you to know who any of these doctors are, but as the weeks go on, if you stick with me, you will. 

So we will then rely on the consensus of the medical community. Well, er, no. According to Thomas Kuhn in his book  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, one cannot rely on that. Here is Wikipedia's description of his theory. 

Kuhn made several notable claims concerning the progress of scientific knowledge: that scientific fields undergo periodic "paradigm shifts" rather than solely progressing in a linear and continuous way; that these paradigm shifts open up new approaches to understanding what scientists would never have considered valid before; and that the notion of scientific truth, at any given moment, cannot be established solely by objective criteria but is defined by a consensus of a scientific community. 

In other words, sometimes the consensus is dead wrong. 

The best example of this is the replacement of butter by margarine that started in the 60's. I special-ordered a used book written by a doctor in the 1960's. He wrote very much against the consensus of the time and advocated that people use margarine and not butter. Gradually his position became the consensus and butter was said to be a very bad food. (Sorry for being vague about this doctor's name, the book is in another state.) Just a few short years ago if you said margarine was not healthy, you would have been ridiculed. Well, the consensus has changed again! 

Wikipedia sums it up:

Although trans fats are edible, consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of the lipoprotein LDL (so-called "bad cholesterol") and lowering levels of the lipoprotein HDL ("good cholesterol").

In science circles this is called a whoopsie. In fact, trans fats are so bad that the FDA may ban them. The same Wikipedia article tells us: 

The FDA has issued a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (which contain trans fats) are not "generally recognized as safe", which is expected to lead to a ban on industrially produced trans fats from the American diet.

(Note that many margarines have been reformatted and no longer contain trans fats. And also note that any deep-fried food will contain a small amount of trans fats from the frying process and the fact that fat is only changed once a week in a restaurant.) 

Of course the conclusion we should draw is to eat more butter. Well, again no, not necessarily. In the logic field this is called the fallacy of the false dilemma. It may be that both are unhealthy. I do not know. In fact my guess is that the evidence is inconclusive and no one knows. Since margarine is a fake food, I avoid it. But I also limit my butter use.  I think that a far better choice is olive oil. (This will be a blog post at a later time.) 

So you can conclude that I will not be following the current fad and adding butter to my coffee. 

I think the best way to conclude today's post is comedy. In the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, Woody, a hypochondriac Health Food store owner, is frozen. When he is revived, his doctors are shocked by his request for health food. 


I’ve Abandoned Free Market Principles to Save the Free Market System.

Two basic questions that I like to ask about governments is who owns the means of production and who controls the means of production.  I use this basic definition to list the four possibilities and name them.

Socialism is basically defined as the government owning the means of production and controlling the means of production. This is the standard definition. 

Communism is where the government owns the means of production but the people control the means of production. There is some measure of egalitarianism. 

Capitalism is where the people own the means of production and control the means of production. 

Fascism is where the people own the means of production but the government controls the means of production. 

There is no form of government that was ever 100% one or the other. It is always a matter of degree. One of the most socialist of all governments, the Soviet Union, still allowed the people to "own" and control private plots of land, and they really had to as that is where most of the food was produced. Note that in the 70's even with the breadbasket of Ukraine, the Soviet Union had to import grain. Yet after the end of Socialism, Russia, without Ukraine, became a grain exporter. Socialism does not work, so when Bernie Sanders says he is one, I lose whatever little interest I had in him. 

There has never been a pure communist society. In fact it is really more of a utopian illusion of Marx who felt that socialism would be an intermediate stage on the path to his real goal–a golden age of communism where the common man would change himself to a new man capable of living in such a world. Obviously in the case of the Soviet Union this did not work. There are two interesting examples of a communist-type system. One was when God took the Israelites out of Egypt and they took over Palestine. God, as the government, owned the means of production, the agricultural land. Yet the people controlled it as they farmed the land God owned in family groups. No family could dominate the land, as while the land could be rented from the family groups, the land would be returned to them every 50 years. Slave farming, the Egyptian model, was difficult as the land would be held by various family groups. Another example of communism is the early church where the people voluntarily added all their assets together and it was distributed by the early deacons. Make of it what you will that the only examples I could think of for historic communism were Biblical. 

While I do not want to make the error of "no True Scotsman," (see this link for an example I have used before) I can think of few examples of capitalism in history. The Irish before they were conquered by the English is the main example I can think of. We in the US do not live in a capitalist society. 

What kind of society do we live in? Yes the only one left, a fascist society. Note that I am not using any of these terms pejoratively.

While I would prefer a capitalist type of society, I am not naive like Marx and think that such a golden age will miraculously appear. You will always have a mix of the types like Corporate Socialism of China, Corporate Fascism of Mussolini, or the Corporate Capitalism of the US that ends up being fascist. 

So when I hear the call for more regulation, like I did on a forum I am on, I hear a call for a more fascist society. At least the trains will run on time, as they do in the socialist train system of Russia. But on the other hand if I hear a call for less regulation, I see a train wreck coming as our modern corporate capitalist system is so top heavy I doubt it could survive without regulation, see the 2008 crisis. Basic reforms must precede deregulation. We just regulate the deregulation in order to save the regulation. Yes we must destroy the village in order to save it. Or as former President Bush said it: "I've abandoned free market principles to save the free market system." 

Doing the basic reforms needed is difficult as that would hurt those who are paying our politicians. So rather than doing that we will put band aids over the body politic and hope for the best. 

It will not end well.