Uninformed & Assuming

Tue, Aug 26, 2014 - 10:00am

I used to think I was on the cutting edge of the news because I read the NYT, Atlantic Monthly, WJS, and listened to NPR each morning and afternoon. I figured that I was finally educated enough to understand their erudite vocabulary. Indeed I was better informed than the electricians I formerly worked with, and indeed those news sources are more “sophisticated” than the daily newspaper in Phoenix AZ or the pablum fed to us by Peter Jennings and his colleagues each evening. But nevertheless, the news produced by either source—dumbed down or sophisticated—that news is still controlled by those same gatekeepers that OWN all the news media.

Surely they are benevolent and want what is best for me.

So I was listening to NPR a couple of mornings ago, and they had an expert guest discussing Russia. She sounded young--too young to provide the kind of perspective and wisdom that we have come to expect from NPR. Her name is Julia Ioffe, a senior editor at New Republic (a respected liberal News publication). But I give people a chance, so I set her youthful voice aside and listened with an open mind as she explained why Vladimir Putin is likely to face trouble from within Russia this year. Maybe she is right, maybe not. What became apparent was a certain bias:

Even though she claims (warranted) to be expert on Russia, her conclusions betrayed several misconceptions about the United States as she built her logic on deeply held assumptions that too few people question.

If I may digress for a moment…

I hope that most of you recall the structure of logic that you should have learned in school: Do you remember the Syllogism—the thought formula that leads us from truth, through the available data to sound conclusions?

Given a major premise (truth), and considering a minor premise (fact), we can conclude that…

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  • All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
  • Lawbreakers try to escape the police. OJ Simpson ran from the police. Therefore, OJ broke the law.
  • Men have wider shoulders than women. Michele has wide shoulders. Michele is really a man.
  • Normal trading patterns reflect the randomness of human psychology and news events. Metals charts are displaying regularity in downward moves. Therefore, human agency may be unduly influencing the price of metals.

Are those "givens" really true? It is the “givens” that cause problems, not the logic. Our confidence in the truth of the major premise determines the likelihood the conclusion is true. In the examples above, we can question the major premise to a greater or lesser degree, extending doubt into the conclusion. Moreover, there are always conditions that can negate the major premise altogether. We must consider these conditions before pronouncing our conclusion valid, e.g., a man could claim to be the son of God, some lawbreakers want to be caught, many women have masculine physical attributes… And with gold? Well, let’s move on…

The logic always works! The problem come in when one does not test or question the major premises, when we ASSUME that these are true without examination or at least recognizing there nearly always conditions that can negate them.

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We build our lives on these major premises—collecting a set of “Truths” that guide our decision making, our evaluations, our judgments for our entire lives. As a person sets up their foundation of major premises, they rarely come back to question them, ever. We believe truths taught by our parents when we were babes. Our schools from Kindergarten up to very high levels teach and reinforce faulty major premises. College could have provided some truth, but too often education is either too narrow, as the chemist stuck in a lab for 9 years mixing magic potions who never reads outside of his discipline, or professors with an agenda simply not teaching all they know. Getting a broad-based, high quality education is difficult.

Literally, we are at the mercy of the truths we believe. And it is a matter of belief. Many argue that there is no “Truth.” These social constructionists have some firm ground to stand on in arguing that claim. I take the position that “belief is what matters and that truth exists, but is difficult to know.”

But when you build your life on assumptions that are arguably false, then you have some problems and will say and do things that lead to personal disaster.—lead a community disaster if you are a leader.

  • Fiat money is as good as gold.
  • The news media is free.
  • Democracy is the best form of government.
  • War is necessary and normal.
  • The US government tells the truth.
  • Government officials of other nations tell the truth.
  • The news media tells the truth.
  • The US government represents the people.

Then when an old fart like me starts disbelieving the “standard account of how the world is” I am called a cynic, a whacko, conspiracy theorist, or worse (if there is anything worse). But maybe that cynicism is merely wisdom that comes with experience. If there is any negativity, it is due to the attitude, not the knowledge of the cynic.

(Down goes gold even as I type, as the French government is falling apart, as San Francisco deals with an earthquake, as The US Services PMI numbers miss again, as CITI sells off their dollar holdings, as we have an active shooter at Fort Lee, and as we learn that 50% of loans in Cyprus are in default, new home sales drop and the Dallas Fed plunges, Ukraine destroys more imaginary Russian tanks and the S&P is at 1999)

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So getting back to Julia, I had to listen to her comments in light of the interviews with Dr. Cohen. Julia is competent, educated, outspoken, confident, but still operating with deeply held assumptions about the US and, its history, and its current policies. Dr. Cohen seems to have lost any illusions about the nature of the US and provides a more insightful perspective of events in the Ukraine. Cohen has told quite a different story, a story with deeper levels of narrative fidelity and probability. I urge everyone to listen to the podcasts if you want to understand the big picture in Ukraine.

But Julia has said the following about Putin and Russia: link link

  • “Putin’s reckless policy in eastern Ukraine”
  • “Ruthless”
  • "He … eviscerated … the fledgling forms of democracy and free speech”
  • “Vladimir Putin isn't very good at thinking long-term. … started this mess, but he didn't, necessarily, start it with an exit strategy prepared.”
  • “But before the West celebrates the possibility of Putin being forced from the throne, we should consider what might come after him.”

In that series of statements I hear that the US foreign policies are superior to whatever Russia has, I hear that Putin is evil and not very smart, that the US supports democracy while others do not, and that all she had been taught about US and Russian history was correct--all from an American perspective, reinforced by a selective vision that sees Russian corruption, to be sure, but interprets all their actions through the lens of Soviet imperialism.

What about American Imperialism? Victoria Nuland? Bringing you "democracy," whether you want it or not!

If what Furguson, MO experienced was democracy, I may need to rethink all this...

I can tell you from experience that Journalism majors are only required to take two history classes and no economics, in most programs. Any expertise one gains in an area must be gained on your own. The problem here is not Julia’s competence or journalistic ability (she is actually quite fearless and impressive), but the problem is her set of major premises that is beset with ignorance about American history, the relationship between world bankers, governments and their designs for the future, the nature of money. With such assumptions, and given the evidence she has uncovered, her conclusions are logical. But with the knowledge many of us here have embraced, Putin actually seems to be doing what is best for Russia--especially in light of his comments about ending dollar hegemony. He gets it.

The problem is in those pesky major premises.

Ignorance in America is by design—in the news media and in the citizens. No doubt our political leaders are ignorant as well, as they accept their bribes perks as payment to pass legislation. Truth is sometimes taught in areas that do not threaten the political-banking power structure. But when it comes to what makes this nation and economy tick, the truth is obfuscated with complexity, or just buried.

The data we can see is this: our economy is broken, living a lie on QE life support, the US is instigating wars to boost its economy, the bankers are pillaging what they can as the situation declines, the Dollar is being marginalized, and Russian leaders are no worse than our own (ruthless, no exit strategy), and America is neither democratic nor a Republic any longer, see this and this. Given that data, logic will not allow you to move forward with optimistic conclusions. Nor can you work backwards to uncover major premises about the nature of our leadership and power structure that are not absolutely repugnant.

But back to metals... Are you having trouble building that stack due to this tough economy (I am these days)? Well, an education is probably worth more than silver and gold (though having both is nice and certainly possible), and it is free. This, and other like-minded websites are providing education, for those who will hear it—an economic and political education. You can find specialized classes in health, medicine, gardening, prepping, organic foods, investment, and about every deep conspiracy theory you want to explore. Or if you consider such things too frivolous, you could go to the U of Texas and take “Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond.”

The problem isn’t that people are stupid, but that they are ignorant, then they defend their assumptions with tooth and nail. As children we are trained, told what and how to do things. We do not even ask why. If we do ask too many questions, we get slapped down because our parents-teachers may not know why.

We are not taught anything near the truth about American history in terms of the American power structure. And if events pull back the curtain, the news media quickly shoves a fluff story in our face to redirect our attention the other way. I recall using that tactic with my kids when they got into something.

If you want to reach your relatives and friends, educating them about the economy and world may be the best way. Appealing to greed with tales of $50 silver may get interest, but fear of loss will balance the scale and bring them back to their norm. Education about the true state of our economy only has to overcome ignorance to be effective. The conclusion to prepare will logically follow.

A wise man once said, “if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

America is in trouble and the seas are getting worse.

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