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Decision-Making: A Primer

Decision-making – a primer

By Dennis Loo (6/2/17)

This is a slightly edited version of something Dennis Loo shared with a class recently.

Everyday we make decisions. You cannot be alive and not do it all the time.

This is not mainly due to our current POTUS's stance, although his decisions especially affect us all. This is a commentary on that process.

To accomplish seeing the architecture of decision-making is different from what mostly you have been taught, where you are often presented with is a set of conclusions and you are expected to memorize and/or accept those conclusions.

Aka Appeal to Authority: “you should accept this because I or another authority tell(s) you so.” A variant of this perspective is where Republicans consider other Republican leaders more credible than others (such as Democrats) and Democrats correspondingly are more likely to buy or accept Democratic leaders' thoughts and behavior and reject what GOP leaders are saying. In other words, the public as a whole is not really examining whether a conclusion is a) sound in its premise, b) the chain of reasoning is sensible and reasonable, and c) the rigor of the evidence is persuasive or even rises to the level of scientific or mathematical proof, but instead usually accept what they’ve been told by what their favorite authority tells them to think. As you can see, if “your truth” is their “truth” then whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you have accepted tacitly the main authorities defining what is acceptable to think about and what is not. You have accepted their terms to start with. Although it is terribly under-rated as a device usually used in governance, eliminating possible other paths and considerations from the agenda - what is considered "realistic" to consider, often described as "politics is the art of the possible" - actually is a version of determining power itself. 

There are times that this public tendency is broken, such as during the 60s when there was a “credibility gap.” This “credibility gap” was widely observed and even got its name from the phenomenon that when the government spokesman or the LBJ would say something, most of the people would not believe their government was being truthful with them. The “credibility gap” also opened up because anti-war activists told a very different story that many people eventually came to accept. As Henry Kissinger writes in his memoirs, a relatively small group of activists exerted a disproportionate influence, far greater than their actual numbers.

Read more: Decision-Making: A Primer

The New Cold War Isn’t the Old Cold War

The New Cold War Isn’t the Old Cold War

By Dennis Loo (5/29/17)

In its March 2017 issue the New Yorker magazine ran a lengthy essay entitled “Trump, Putin and the New Cold War.” In a prior article I quoted what I consider that article’s essence:

“What we have is a situation in which the strong leader of a relatively weak state is acting in opposition to weak leaders of relatively strong states [the latter being Trump leading the US],” General Sir Richard Shirreff, the former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said. “And that strong leader is Putin. He is calling the shots at the moment.” 

I am using that same quote to introduce you to a novel way to make sense of what is going on.

From the latter 1940s until 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down, we had the first Cold War between the US-led camp versus the USSR-China-led camp. This pitted the capitalist camp against the real or pseudo-socialist camp[1] and led to many things, including the John F. Kennedy effort to boost science and education after the USSR launched Sputnik – making them first in outer space - and the famous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Both decisions were designed to make the US more appealing to Third World and non-aligned nations because socialism gave people for the first time a choice between capitalism and something radically different. JFK's initiative to make Americans smarter has with the socialism's decline and thus capitalism's alternative no longer real, made bright Americans no longer a good thing. Free education (e.g., California's 1960 Master Plan) has given way to educational plans for saddling students with debt as their primary goal, credulity a plus for businesses' sales, hoodwinking people ideologically (right-wing media), and a brain drain out of the US (for example, to India rather than from).

We now have a different situation: the capitalist camp won the Cold War. Billions of people no longer can choose capitalism or socialism but have to accept whatever capitalism offers. A number of consequences flow out of that.

Read more: The New Cold War Isn’t the Old Cold War

What is Next for Trump?

What is Next for Trump?

By Dennis Loo (5/20/17)

While no one knows exactly how the next several days and months will be for Trump, there are some things we can determine based on the past. Thirteen Points to consider:

  1. Trump will continue to be his own worst enemy. Forget the press, whether you think that they are part of the problem or not. Even without the media doing its job, which in a "free society" has to include frequently citing anonymous sources' information, some of which are the Trump people themselves: the alternative would be what? A government owned media? You surely wouldn't want that, like Tass in Russia. Trump openly praises authoritarian leaders for a reason: because they are like him. When you say The Pledge of Allegiance you are asserting your support for "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." That isn't what Fox News is training you in, however, and they didn't ever tell you that "liberty and justice for all" must include the presence and tolerating of unpopular views. There must be diversity of all kinds of people and their different thoughts, including (unpaid) protestors and people who may make you uncomfortable. A lively society isn't supposed to be always comfortable, elevating fear and security over justice. Those people, including Hannity and Trump who tell you differently, do so encouraging you to accept their authority, rather than your ability to think and your sense of fair play. They are privately contemptuous of you, otherwise they would treat you, your health care, and taxes, with more respect and urge you to use your head. There is a reason why Trump won't release his taxes and he and his family and friends don't do their fair share. Instead they wrap themselves in the flag, thump their bibles, stoke your fears, and steal from you right and left (e.g., cheat on their taxes, employ undocumented labor, boast about their personal triumphs even while they falsely claim that they're suddenly interested in serving the public good). Here's a clue: most who distinguish themselves in the private sector are not going to alter their mindset of "I'm #1" when they assume public office, turn 180 degrees, and serve the collective good. They've shown they are good at serving themselves, not you or us. Trump’s disastrous policies (you can, for example, now murder a mama bear and her cubs with impunity) are exceeded by only one thing: Trump’s propensity for shooting himself in the foot, leg, or any other body part. He does this all the time because…
  2. Trump is not going to slow his pace down and gather himself or his beleaguered staff. Wishful thinkers beware. Trump wants to hog the news cycle. He likes to read about himself, and he isn’t smart enough to know when and about what he ought to be mum about. If he is your standard bearer, did you really want as your standard bearer someone who a) only really cares about himself, and b) is utterly incompetent not just about DC, but in general?
  3. This includes highly classified materials only known to a small circle and it includes his putting people’s lives in danger on top of the risks they already signed up for.
  4. Trump would rather inflate his own ego talking to Russians about his great intel than recognize that he is giving Russians data he shouldn’t and that they can easily reverse-engineer this and find out the source. He didn’t even blink meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office the day after firing Comey and lets Russian media in, but bans American media. How tone-deaf can you be?
  5. Can you even imagine what that incident alone, let alone what he did when the Chinese president was visiting a Mar-A-Lago restaurant and the North Koreans launched a satellite, Trump violating basic security when at least ordinary people – if not worse - had access to classified materials; his boasts before he took office that he didn’t need to see the PDB (Presidential Daily Bulletin) every day, just call him when there’s something urgent to discuss; his claims that Comey didn’t have the loyalty of the FBI behind him; the not-even-breaking-up-dinner to consider whether to authorize the Seal raid in Yemen, which quickly lost the element of surprise, resulted in many civilian casualties and a Seal member dead; that terrible speech shortly after his inauguration that he gave at the CIA, grandstanding in front of the CIA's memorial to honor those CIA employees who have been killed in the line of duty, boasting about his supposed inaugural crowd size and his victory, apparently tone deaf to what intelligence officers needed?
  6. What do you think, with all of this – and I am only giving you the highlights of it here – add up to for the various spy and law enforcement agencies involved? Are you going to share your most precious secrets with a Man Who Can’t Keep a Secret? Are you going to risk your life or others’ lives to boost a pro-Russian POTUS’ ego?
  7. Bureaucrats are by nature reluctant to share their secrets with other agencies. What can they be expected to do when the top person in charge doesn’t respect what they do and doesn’t understand even the most basic issues involved because his own narcissism and stupidity exceeds everything, even patriotism? Homeland Security was supposed to be the latest version of agencies sharing cross-agency information, so that 9/11 type events wouldn’t happen again. Is that going to work in the toxic atmosphere that Trump has created?
  8. Trump lives to be controversial and to have chaos around him. Trump created a White House with rival centers on purpose. His campaign was chaotic as well. He regularly undermines what his own loyalists say and what he himself said before. These trends are not going to get better but only worse. He wants the freedom to do and say whatever is in his mind at the moment, which is precisely why he doesn't want a smooth, consistent operation, driven by consistent themes and explanations. He has routinely denied the most blatant facts because he is a con man. That won him the White House and he is not giving that up easily.
  9. He could say to himself: “I am the President of the United States and I am the most powerful person on earth. I should be proud of that achievement and not get agitated by what anyone says about me. They are not POTUS. I am.” He could and should say that but he won’t do it for two basic reasons. One, he has a tremendous inferiority complex and a thinner skin than anyone. Two, he cannot rest easily because he knows that investigators, let alone a future set of investigations, will show him and his associates neck deep in Russia
  10. He knows what’s coming (From Russia With Love) and he can’t just keep on firing people, although he will keep trying, like the mortally wounded black knight of Monty Python fame. Why does Trump keep on firing people? What do the major firings all have in common: hint, it's a six letter word, starts with "R" and ends in "ussia." It is going to come out and he probably won’t be impeached – his ego won’t allow that – but he will resign, perhaps citing his family and protecting them as his cover story.
  11. It is likely that this will happen in the next six months, possibly even as short as two months. The time is so very compressed now because Trump doesn't monitor what comes out of his mouth and has no desire to slow down. The reason for his leaving office comes down to basically one thing: he is dumber than anyone thought and doesn’t have enough brains to recognize how dumb and awkward he is. On some level, in some part of him, he may recognize this weakness in some small way, and that is why he is constantly trying to put others down so that he feels better. But he can’t stop because he is what he is. And that is going to seal his doom.
  12. Those who think that Trump and his regime are proceeding from strength rather than fundamentally out of weakness are misunderstanding the situation. President Pence is not as crazed as Trump, but he is also going to reap the whirlwind.
  13. While most of Trump’s base still continue to support him because they are only listening to what Fox News says, as soon as the indictments and testimony begin to occur, then it will no longer only be through the right-wing’s filter but something to watch, enthralling the way Watergate TV hearings were. Trump stops looking like a winner and starts looking like a loser "bigly."

Read more: What is Next for Trump?

Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12